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Josh Barnett vs Pedro Rizzo
A battle of former UFC Heavyweight Champions, and a rematch of one of the greatest fights in UFC history. In their first encounter, Barnett and Rizzo traded violent shots back and forth extensively before Barnett was finally finished with a brutal combo that sent him sprawling to the canvas. Unfortunately, the passage of time has removed some of the luster from this rematch.
In the time sense their last fight, there is no denying that Barnett’s game has improved. He is a much more complete fighter than he once was, and his submission attack has become one of the most formidable in the Heavyweight division. His record is sterling, with his only losses coming at the hands of Rizzo, current UFC Heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and the once dangerous Cro Cop. Barnett also holds wins against Noguiera, Randy Couture, Olympic gold medalist Pawel Nastula, Aleksander Emelianenko, and K-1 World Grand Prix champions Semmy Schilt and Mark Hunt. Barnett is dangerous in every aspect of the game. He has powerful, clean striking, good takeowns, and excellent submissions.
Rizzo, on the other hand, has seen his better years pass him by since the last time these two men met. Rizzo has only fought 4 times since returning to the sport in 2005, with a 2-2 record and both losses coming by way of knockout to opponents who are not on Barnett’s level. Rizzo’s reflexes and power have been unfortunately weakened over the years, and Barnett now holds a sizable advantage in the striking category in addition to his clearly superior ground game.
Look for Barnett to trade shots early in an attempt to avenge the knockout loss, but settle for the takedown and eventual submission midway through the second round.
Alexsander Emelianenko vs Paul Buentello
The younger Emelianenko brother, Aleksander, is set to tangle with former UFC Heavyweight Paul Buentello in what is likely to be an extremely explosive standup war. Both men will definitely be looking to stand and trade shots, and it is almost guaranteed that the judges won’t be needed when this one comes to an end.
Buentello, who trains out ofAmericanKickboxing
Academy, is pretty much a pure brawler with extremely heavy hands. Despite his seemingly impressive 25-10 record, the fact is that Buentello has never defeated an opponent who would be ranked in the Top 20, and every top-level fighter he has ever faced has handled him with relative ease, most notably Andrei Arlovski who ensured his place in UFC highlight reels for decades to come with a vicious knockout.It’s bad news for Buentello, then, that Emelianenko has faster and more powerful hands than Arlovski.
In fact, Emelianenko has faster hands than anyone in the Heavyweight division. The speed with which he can throw accurate shots would be remarkable for a fighter half his size, but on a physical specimen like Aleksander it is absolutely freakish. The most notable hole in Emelianenko’s game has always been his grappling, but Buentello is tailor-made for him in that regard, as he has even less prowess on the ground than Aleks does. Aleksander is the superior striker, and has superior mobility, so except him to have easy pickings with the slow-moving Buentello.
First round knockout for the Russian.
Matt Lindland vs Fabio Negao
Former UFC Middleweight standout Matt “The Law” Lindland faces off against relative unknown Fabio Negao in a matchup that is honestly not overly intriguining. There is a very clear difference between the two when it comes to experience and level of competition.
Lindland, a former Olympic silver medalist Greco Roman wrestler and founder of the legendary Team Quest, has fought many of the best fighters in the world, including widely-regarded #1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. With wins over such names as Pat Miletich, Jeremy Horn, Joe Doerkson, and Falaniko Vitale, Lindland’s fighting pedigree is unquestionable. He is unpopular with many fans for his “lay and pray” style, but it is impossible to deny that Lindland is effective at controlling his opponent and executing a gameplan.
Negao, a relative unknown, holds an 8-3 record with his only notable win coming against Roan Carneiro, who has had mixed results so far in the UFC facing low to mid-level competition. A striker who has won the majority of his fights by KO or TKO, Negao has lost to both of the top-level grapplers he has faced in the form of Demian Maia and Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares. Lindland’s wrestling is by far his best weapon and he should have no trouble imposing his will on the reatively inexperienced Brazilian.
Look for “The Law” to control Negao on the ground en route to a no-brainer unanimous decision .
Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs Mike Whitehead
Two former UFC fighters face off here, in the form of former Light Heavyweight title contender Sobral and former TUF contestant Mike Whitehead. Both men have something to prove, as Whitehead’s UFC tenure was a major disappointment, while Sobral’s time in the octagon was cut short when he was fired for refusing to release a rear naked choke on opponent David Heath.
Despite his disappointing performance on The Ultimate Fighter, Whitehead is currently riding a 12 fight win streak highlighted by wins over UFC veteran Vernon “Tiger” White and a depleted Mark Kerr. In addition, the former Pat Miletich student is now training out of Las Vegas with the hugely successful Xtreme Couture team.
Whitehead’s career record of 21-5 is definitely impressive, but Babalu is possibly the worst style matchup possible for him.For one thing, Whitehead’s plan will almost certainly be to take the fight to the ground. More than half of his wins have come by submission, and more than half of the remainder were stopped due to ground and pound. Unfortunately for Whitehead, the ground is exactly where Babalu wants the fight to go. Like Whitehead, the huge majority of Sobral’s wins have come by way of submission. Whitehead is a good grappler, but Babalu is quite simply on another level. While Whitehead is probably stronger than Babalu, and definitely has better wrestling, Sobral is more than capable of submitting Whitehead from his back or any other position.
Sobral’s standup is also better than Whitehead’s, so his options are going to be fairly limited.The other thing to consider is that Mike Whitehead’s five career losses have come in the five fights where has faced Top 10 level fighters. He is a solid fighter, but not quite ready to take on world class opposition. Babalu is nothing if not world class. When you consider that Babalu has fought and won at a much higher level than Whitehead, and that both are grapplers but Babalu is better, it becomes clear that Sobral is an easy favorite to take this one.
My pick is submission in Round 3 once Whitehead’s cardio is depleted.