It will be Saturday night for those of us stateside, but February 27, 2011 at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia will play host to UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch. The fights will be aired primarily on Facebook, but undercard fights will also be show on Facebook and Ion Television.
The card overall is not particularly strong, particularly as compared to UFC 126 or UFC 128. There is no title up for grabs - par for the course for overseas fights - and because media interest in North America is hard to come by, the pay-per-view buyrate is likely to be south of 300,000.
Still, the main event is compelling. It's an intriguing match-up on its own made more important by UFC President Dana White's claim that the winner will receive a title shot. If current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre defeats Jake Shields at UFC 129, thereby leaving the 170lbs division, this main event tonight be a good early indication of how the welterweight division will reorder itself in St. Pierre's absence.
Anyway, onto the predictions.
When the fight was first announced, I thought this was a squash match for Fitch. He's too big, his pressure too unrelenting, his ability to exploit the size differential with capable clincing and wrestling too much to deny. But with news that Fitch's new diet has him down to sub-180lbs weeks out from the fight, I'm not so sure. Penn's training with Matt Hughes and Floyd Mayweather, Sr. provides a nice tweak to his game, but I'm ultimately not sure that's enough to keep Fitch off of him. Penn's jab is good, but not enough to keep Fitch at bay for a full three rounds. The x-factor for me is Fitch's size, but he should still be able to lean on Penn enough to make it a Fitch fight. Jon Fitch by decision.
This is a tough fight for Rivera. He'll have to blitzkrieg Bisping like he did Grove, but Bisping has serious recuperative powers. If this fight stays on the outside, it's Bisping's fight to lose. Rivera does possess the power to put Bisping away. But for all his chinniness, Bisping's physical conditioning and guts allows him to storm back from most major strikes or attacks. Rivera can get it done, but the odds aren't in his favor. Bisping by TKO.
I know some believe Siver will be able to defend the takedown or at least has enough defensive grappling to prevent the submission, but even if that's true, he's going to get controlled by a dominant, attacking, position-hungry Sotiropoulos. Sotiropoulos by submission.
Ebersole's got a ton of experience, but his best recent win is Carlos Newton. It would take a miracle for him to win Saturday. Lytle by TKO.
Noke's got too many weapons for the outmatched Camozzi in virtually every dimension of the game. I believe Camozzi is a large guy for middlweight who is very durable, but I don't know if he has enough skills - other attacking or control - to give Noke much of a run. Noke by submission.
Preliminary Bouts (On Ion Television):
Ross Pearson vs. Spencer Fisher
Two years ago this would be a close fight and I'd even favor Fisher. He's still got decent speed, but so does Pearson. Moreover, Pearson is a physical bruiser who can keep Fisher off balance with takedowns or positional control in the clinch. Pearson by decision.
Even when he's lost I've been impressed with Gustaffson. Strong willed, much more well-rounded than he's given credit, calm in the pocket or bad spots, etc. He's got exactly the type of skills to deal with a first-round destroyer like Te Huna. The New Zealander might still be able to turn off the lights, but I suspect he'll get dragged into later rounds where the poise and skill of the Swede take over. Gustafsson by TKO.
There's no telling what Ring's injuries have done to his ability. All things being equal, he's more talented than Fukuda, but the Japanese middleweight has been more active. Fukuda by decision.
Preliminary Bouts (On Facebook.com/UFC):
Tom Blackledge vs. Anthony Perosh
Blackledge and Warburton are being grandfathered in because of their Wolfslair association. Perosh isn't anything to write home about, but he's got enough submission skills to give the Brit trouble. Perosh by submission.
The UFC is giving their sole Chinese fighter a chance to improve in the Roger Huerta track of matchmaking against the world's most accomplished journeyman. Zhang by TKO.
Preliminary Bouts (Non-Televised):
Mark Hunt vs. Chris Tuchscherer
As bad as Hunt is or has become or maybe always was, I still think there's upset potential here. Hunt could and should get kimura'd in a round, but maybe he'll pull one off for the hometown crowd. If there is such a thing, he's got a higher upset quotient than other fighters. I'll be brave and say Hunt by TKO.
Warburton is going to get creamed by one of the best European lightweights competing in the sport today. Jewtuszko by KO.