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UFC 85 Analysis
by Franky Redzepi

Davis vs Swick | Vera vs Werdum | Kampmann vs Rivera | Leites vs Marquardt

Thiago "Pitbull" Alves vs. Matt Hughes:

UFC 85: Bedlam finally has a set main event. Originally it was Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. "The Iceman" Chuck Liddell, but "Shogun" had to pull out due to a knee injury. Then we were set for a showdown between Rashad Evans and Liddell, but an injury forced Liddell off. Now former UFC Welterweight Champ Matt Hughes (-200) will take on Thiago Alves (+160), who is coming of a knockout of top contender Karo Parisyan. Hughes really hasn't looked good in a long time, and Thiago has looked pretty dominant since his loss to Jon Fitch. When this fight was first put together, I thought it would be an easy win for Alves . When you look at past fights though, it really isn't easy to pick a clear winner in this one. Hughes has had some tough losses lately, but they've only been to GSP- it isn't easy to look good against GSP. This is a very close fight and I think the odds are right where they should be.

The one fight that stuck out to me in breaking this down is Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves. Alves did hurt Fitch early, but after that he was put on his back over and over again. Matt HughesAlves didn't have much of an answer for Fitch's takedowns. He couldn't defend them, and he also couldn't threaten off his back. Fitch is one of the top guys in the division so it isn't a bad loss, but I don't think his wrestling is on par with Hughes'. Fitch was never really a great college wrestler, and he hasn't overly impressed me with his wrestling in MMA. Fitch is a great fighter, but I do think his wrestling has been a bit overrated. I think if Fitch can take Alves down frequently, then so can Hughes. That fight between Fitch and Alves was pretty long ago, so it might not mean much today, but there are other examples of Alves showing a weak takedown defense game. Another example being Alves' fight against Parisyan. Parisyan is much more of an upper body clinch takedown artist compared to his leg takedowns, but Karo was still able to take Alves down easily with a leg attack. Alves won that fight against Parisyan so he can obviously pull it off against Hughes, but Alves' weakness in takedown defense plays into Hughes' game.

Thiago Alves has a very, very big striking advantage. If Hughes plans on taking weak shots like he did against GSP, he'll probably be met with a nice knee to the face. Hughes can't try and "display" his boxing skills against Alves, if he does he will get knocked out despite his good chin. When Hughes goes for takedowns he must commit 100%, they can't be half-hearted attempts. Hughes is in danger of losing the fight every second he is on his feet. Hughes also can't mess around in the clinch with Alves too long. If they clinch, Hughes needs to go for takedowns as fast as possible. We saw what happened to Karo when he messed around in the clinch with Thiago for too long, Hughes doesn't want that to happen. Hughes never really bothered to defend any kicks GSP threw, if he does that against Alves it will be bad news. Alves probably has the best kicking game in MMA. Hughes can't let Thiago get into his kicking game. If Hughes wants to win, he should never allow Alves enough distance to throw those kicks. Matt needs to be in Thiago's face all night long, he needs to put Thiago on his back.

Matt hasn't looked dominant in a long time, but this is a fight where he can be dominate if he fights the right fight. You kind of have to wonder how much Hughes wants it though. Constant talk of retirement and all that makes you question his will a bit, although I think he'll be confident in this fight. He was in Spencer Fisher's corner when Spencer beat Thiago , so I think he feels he might be able to pull something off. That probably isn't thing to look at when breaking the fight down, but it does give him some confidence. I think Hughes wants to prove he's still in it, he still wants to be considered one of the best .Thiago has shown one glaring hole in his MMA game, and that's his takedown defense in my mind. Hughes is a dominate wrestler than can expose that type of weakness, which I think he will. I don't see Hughes stopping Thiago, but I do see Hughes controlling the fight like he did against Lytle. Thiago is a beast, but this fight doesn't favor him stylistically.

Matt Hughes wins by Unanimous Decision. (top)

Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis vs. Mike "Quick" Swick:

Marcus DavisMarcus Davis (-115) will face his toughest test yet when he faces off against Mike Swick (-115) at UFC 85. Davis has been on a knockout spree in England and has become a favorite over there because of it. Most people thought he wasn't fighting the best competition, and that might be true, but he is definitely taking a step up now. Mike Swick is coming off a very lackluster debut in the Welterweight Division against Josh Burkman, but he had a very solid career at Middleweight. Swick is one of the quicker guys in the division and can land fight ending combinations in seconds. Swick's performance against Burkman makes me worry for his chances against Davis though. Swick seemed afraid to engage a guy who was supposed to be below him in the striking game. Swick was worried about takedowns, which is unlikely against Davis, but he still didn't use his striking and reach advantage to its fullest. This is a big fight for both guys and has potential to be a very exciting striking battle.

If it does turn into a striking battle, Swick will lose. Marcus has a pretty clear boxing and power advantage over Swick. Marcus Davis might be the best boxer in his division, and maybe even in MMA. If Swick wants to fight on his feet he needs to explode with quick combinations and then move away from Davis. Swick was last knocked out against Chris Leben, and he was winning that fight until he got caught. I could see something similar happening in this fight, except Marcus is a much more technical striker than Leben so I'm not sure he would let Swick score on the feet so much. Swick needs to try and use his reach to keep Davis at bay if he wants to win a striking battle. Swick should try to use a kicking game if he keeps it standing. He has a nice headkick and Liaudin was able to land it on Davis. I just don't see Swick being effective on the feet though. Davis is too smart of a striker to let someone else control the tempo in a striking battle, if anyone is controlling the fight on the feet it will be Davis. Swick has the reach but I don't see him being able to effectively use it. It might be in Swick's best interest to take this fight down to the ground and testing out Davis' ground game.

Swick trains with good wrestlers like Fitch and Koscheck so you have to think he has somewhat of a wrestling game. Swick should have the ground game advantage, but he needs to take Davis down to use it. Swick is coming down from 185 pounds to fight at 170 pounds, but he still looked skinny and weak against Burkman. I see Davis being the stronger and more physical fighter Saturday night which means Swick should struggle to get Davis down. This is just a bad fight for Swick in every way possibly. The best part of Swick's game is his striking, and Davis is just better there, in my mind. I'd love to see Swick win because hearing Davis constantly remind us that he hits harder than heavyweights is getting old, but I see him winning this fight. I see Davis hurting Swick early in the fight and finishing it soon after. This is a step up in competition for Davis, but the matchup favors him. Someone who is mostly a striker will usually lose to a better striker. Lets see Davis fight a good wrestler in his next fight to see how good he really is.

Marcus Davis wins by First Round KO. (top)

Brandon "The Truth" Vera vs. Fabricio Werdum:

This fight will most likely decide who will fight for the UFC Heavyweight Title after Nogueira and Mir face off. Vera (-185) is coming off a lackluster decision loss to Tim Sylvia, but he proved he could hold his own against the bigger heavyweights. Everyone always says Vera is too small for the heavyweights, and he probably would be better off fighting at Light Heavyweight, but he's had a good run at Heavyweight so far. Werdum (+155) is coming off an "upset" win against Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga, which was also in England. Many people considered that fight an upset, but it went exactly as I thought it would go. Werdum is a very under-appreciated Heavyweight and has only lost to the elite in the division. Vera has never fought an elite Heavyweight grappler like Werdum, so it will be interesting to see how he performs against Werdum. Vera will probably have the striking advantage, but Werdum has lasted against guys like Andrei Arlovski and Sergei Kharitonov, fabricio werdumso I don't think Werdum will be overly concerned with Vera's standup game. Werdum's standup isn't terrible, and we saw what he did to Gonzaga with his knees last time out. Mir is fighting Nogueira, but it should've been this fight to decide Nogueira's next opponent.

I think this fight comes down to one thing. Werdum can stand with Vera, but I'm not so sure Vera wants to mess around on the ground with Werdum. Vera does have a good BJJ game, but Werdum is on a totally different level. We really haven't seen much of Vera's submission game besides his guillotine win over Assuerio Silva, and Silva basically gave him that guillotine. Werdum will also be the bigger guy, so if he gets on top of Vera it'll be bad news. Having a 240 pound guy on top of you with world class BJJ is never a good situation in the world of MMA. Werdum is good at closing the distance when he decides to explode with his hands and throw combinations. His hands are a decoy, they might not have a lot of power but delivering power isn't his plan really. Werdum just wants to get close so he can take you down. I can see Werdum bullying Vera against the cage and landing on top sooner or later. Vera has proven he can hang with top heavyweights, but he hasn't proven he can beat them yet.

Vera needs to keep this fight standing, that's pretty obvious. The best part of Vera's striking game are his kicks, and if he kicks he's putting himself in danger of being taken down. Gonzaga landed a lot of devastating kicks on Werdum, but Werdum lasted. I can see Werdum staying competitive with Vera in a battle of hand striking. I don't see Vera finishing Werdum even if he does keep the fight standing. I believe Vera can only hope for a decision and nothing else. I just can't see Werdum not getting in a position he likes throughout the whole fight though. Werdum will be able to put Vera in a bad situation, and I think he can keep that position when he gets it. That's how I see the fight going. Werdum will put Vera on his back and get some near submissions, but Vera will be able to fight them off. Werdum won't get the finish, but he'll be able to control the fight and dominate on the ground throughout the entire match. Vera will show us again that he can hang with the best, but he can't beat the best at Heavyweight. If Vera does lose this fight, which I think he will, he should check out the Light Heavyweight scene. I see a Nogueira and Werdum rematch in the future.

Fabricio Werdum wins by Unanimous Decision. (top)

Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann vs. Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera:

This fight has potential to be very exciting and I see it getting at least one of the fight bonus awards. Kampmann (-260) has been out of action for a long time due to some injury issues. We last saw Kampmann pull off a very slick side choke submission victory over Drew McFedries, which was over a year ago. We last saw Rivera (+200) absolutely destroy Kendall Grove, which was also in England. Many people didn't give Rivera a chance in that fight, although I was one of the few who picked him to actually beat Kendall. Rivera has been knocked out a few times and has been labeled as someone who has a weak chin. I don't buy the weak chin thing at all. Terry Martin and Chris Leben aren't guys who have pillows for hands. Both of those guys are two of the harder punchers in the Middleweight Division, so getting put down by those guys isn't terrible. Martin actually broke Rivera's jaw in half...Jorge Riverathere really isn't much someone can do about that. People seem to forget that Rivera lasted pretty long against both Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva. Everyone seems to think this is an easy fight for Kampmann, and I just don't see it that way.

Both of these guys are strikers. I really don't see either guy having much of an advantage in other areas. I do know that Rivera will be the bigger guy, and I also know that Rivera hasn't been out of action for over a year. Kampmann is a pretty small guy for his weight class, and I think Rivera can take advantage of that. Look at the pressure Rivera put on Grove, he smothered him, giving Grove no chance. I see Rivera doing the same thing to Kampmann. Just applying pressure the whole time and overpowering Kampmann all along. I don't see Kampmann knocking Rivera out, honestly. Kampmann is a good striker but he doesn't seem to have much power. McFedries walked right though Kampmann's strikes like they were nothing, and Kampmann was forced to take McFedries down. I don't think Rivera will do that exactly, but I do think his chin is good enough to take Kampmann's strikes. Kampmann, in my opinion, has a better chance of submitting Rivera than he has of knocking him out. Kampmann is a good fighter, but I really don't understand why everyone is picking him so easily in this one. Does he really have any clear advantage in this one? If he does, I can't see it.

I see Rivera's size and strength becoming a factor in the fight. After seeing Rivera manhandle Grove against the cage I have to give him that advantage over Kampmann. Rivera has openly said he only has a few fights left in MMA, which I think that has motivated him in some weird way. A year long layoff due to injury is a long time to be out of the fight game. It isn't like Kampmann has been training that whole time, he had serious injuries to attend to. I'm not so sure he will be completely the same come fight time. I see Rivera winning a very decisive decision in this fight. I don't see Kampmann being so much better in any area of the game. I mean...is Kampmann a better striker than Franklin? Does Kampmann hit harder than Franklin? I don't think so, and Rivera did more than hold his own in a striking battle against Franklin. It won't be Kampmann blow out like so many people think it will be. Rivera will prove a lot of people wrong in this fight, just as he did in his destruction of Kendall Grove.

Jorge Rivera wins by Unanimous Decision. (top)

Thales Leites vs. Nate "The Great" Marquardt:

Another Middleweight bout will take place at UFC 85, because we all know the UFC badly needs some contenders in that weight class. nate marquardtThis is the hardest fight to call in my opinion. This fight was supposed to happen already, but injuries pushed it back a bit and now it's on. I'm glad it's happening because, this is a very good, technical fight between two top contenders. We last saw Leites submit Ryan Jensen at UFC 74 with a slick arm-bar, and he did it after being hurt with a punch. This guy's ground game is no joke. We last saw Marquardt (-165) at UFC 81 where he submitted veteran Jeremy Horn with a brutal guillotine choke. Both these guys have good ground games, but Leites definitely has the edge. Marquardt has fought people with better ground games before and came out successful, so it will be interesting to see what Leites (+135) has for him. Lister dominated Marquardt when they had their grappling match, and Marquardt returned the favor in MMA. I do believe Leites is a better than Lister at the MMA game though.

Leites has decent standup, but he has the tendency to get caught and dropped a lot. Marquardt was able to beat-up Lister on his feet when they fought, and he completely neutralized Lister's ground game. He wouldn't mess around in Lister's guard too much and just fought a smart fight getting the decision win. I could see Marquardt doing the same to Leites, but I don't think he'll be as dominant over him. Marquardt has better striking and better wrestling, so I believe Marquardt will control where the fight is fought for the majority of the time. Thales will be forced to stand with Marquardt, and that won't be good for Leites. I see Leites being dropped again and again, but I don't see Marquardt following him down to the ground to go for the kill. Messing around in an opponents strength is never a smart thing to do. I don't think Leites has the skills in his striking game to win a striking battle against Marquardt. This means he will have to take Marquardt down, and I don't see that happening much in this fight.

Nate Marquardt wins by Unanimous Decision. (top)

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