Saturday's UFC 117 is one of the deepest cards in UFC history. It features a much-anticipated middleweight championship fight between the quiet champion (Anderson Silva) and the brash challenger (Chael Sonnen), a battle of top welterweight contenders in Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves and a fight to determine the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight championship between Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson.
Here are what your fearless prognosticators at MMAForReal.com see happening come Saturday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.
Middleweight championship: Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
Matt Bishop: Congratulations to Chael Sonnen for getting people to care about a fight that I don't see being close. Silva is going to dance, Silva is going to trash talk and he is going to
knock out Chael Sonnen punish Chael Sonnen. I wish for this to be a competitive fight because I want to see Silva get challenged, but I really only see Vitor Belfort, because of his speed, as being someone to even remotely give Silva trouble at 185 pounds. Sonnen is tough, I give him that. He's always in the fight, but toughness only gets you so far when facing someone like Silva. This could be a repeat of the 2008 fight between Georges St-Pierre and Jon Fitch. Real tough guy gets his brains beat in for 25 minutes. Silva via decision.
Kelvin Hunt: Well, I think Sonnen is the last guy that poses a real threat(if you want to call it that) to Silva. He's got the wrestling ability and cardio to pose some problems for Silva. He can definitely take him down. However, can he avoid the mental lapse of getting submitted? Can he go 25 minutes without getting KTFO? Probably not, but Silva loves that body triangle when he's on his back and Sonnen will be more than happy to just stay there and grind him out. Which means there's less chance of Sonnen getting subbed from there after the takedown. What type of mindset with Silva have after all the trash talk from Sonnen? Will he want to humiliate him Demian Maia style or Forrest Griffin style? I'm go with the latter as Sonnen will come right at him agrressively. I'm say Sonnen lasts till round three before getting TKO'ed. Silva via TKO, round 3
Charles Walker: This fight is similar to Dan Hardy/GSP from earlier in the year in that the challenger doesn't stand a chance but through the gift of gab has heightened the intrigue more than maybe it should be. While Sonnen has a little bit more of a chance than Hardy did, unless Anderson Silva completely forgets how to fight, he'll have very little problem putting Sonnen away. I doubt Sonnen's striking has gotten that much better, so Silva will know what to expect, he'll be big enough to not be absolutely manhandled by Sonnen and his guard is active enough to give Sonnen fits...so all signs point to a Silva TKO in Round 2.
EVeezy: There has been a lot of one-sided talk in the lead up to this fight. Few thoughts I have that I don't think have been talked about yet. Remember when everyone was mad at Silva? Neither do I. I think Silva has garnered a lot of fans simply because people dislike Sonnen. Will this effect his PPV numbers in the future? Next has Anderson Silva become humble? Silva has been strangely quiet since the derogatory remarks he made to Demian Maia. Sonnen has taken down good counterpunchers in the middleweight division, but none of them have the power, skill, and athleticism Silva brings to the cage. I don't see Sonnen taking down Silva. Sonnen looks so awkward when closing distance against opponents. Every time Sonnen comes forward, Silva will throw a straight cross and back up Sonnen. I can only hope Silva laces a Tony Fryklund-type elbow to Sonnen's face. Silva TKO Rd. 2
Welterweight title eliminator: Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves
Matt Bishop: Excellent fight here. I'm sure both fighters badly want another shot at the welterweight championship (as both were completely blown out) and now they have their opportunity to do so. We all know what Fitch wants to do: Take Alves down and grind out a decision. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. The story here is if Alves can avoid the takedown. I think he can. He'll keep Fitch at bay with strikes, avoid takedowns and win a decision.
Kelvin Hunt: A lot has changed since they fought years ago and I think Alves has made more improvements than Fitch. Fitch clearly needs to get the take down to win this fight. I can see him catching an Alves kick to get it done, but if not he's going to have a long night of getting beat up with strikes as his standup is basically wack. I hope Alves takes this, but the long layoff has made me cautious. I'm still going with Alves via TKO Rd. 3.
Charles Walker: Just forget their first fight because while Fitch has seemed to stay the same, Alves has gotten much better. With that said, I can't see this fight not looking like Alves/Koscheck from last year or '08, one of those years. I think Fitch survives Alves' barrages but has trouble taking and keeping him down and will eventually fade in the closing round thus giving Alves the decision win.
EVeezy: Dana White said the winner of this fight is getting a title shot with GSP. I have serious problems about that but I will address it later. Fitch says he has improved his striking. This is a common phrase used by many AKA members and yet I rarely witness "improved" striking. Alves is not an opponent Fitch wants to show off his improved striking. I think the ball is in Alves' court. The majority of Alves' takedown defense is basically being so big and powerful. Is that enough to stop Fitch's takedowns? I question Fitch's chin, but I also question how "great" a striker Alves is. It is a very well matched fight. Ultimately I see Fitch taking this one, but I expect it to be an entertaining affair. Fitch Decision
Clay Guida vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Matt Bishop: I have a hard time envisioning Guida losing this fight. It should be the usual up-and-down barnburner. I don't think dos Anjos can submit Guida, which is going to lead to a vintage Guida performance. Guida via decision.
Kelvin Hunt: Y'all know I'm a dos Anjos mark. He has the edge in stand up and BJJ, but Guida will probably be able to take him down. I pray for a dos Anjos submission and it's definitely possible, but more than likely Guida will get the blanket win. Guida via decision
Charles Walker: This will more than likely be a pure grappling contest. Guida's pace may make it difficult at times but dos Anjos has shown to be extremely skilled wherever the fight goes. So I'm picking the mild upset of dos Anjos via decision.
EVeezy: Dos Anjos best weapon in the striking department are his kicks. Add that to the fact that he can't wrestle very well makes me think Guida is going to pick up an easy decision in this one. Guida is a different grappler than Tyson Griffin. I don't see Guida getting caught in any exotic submissions. Since dos Anjos is such an aggressive grappler I think this is going to be a sloppy, but exciting grapple fest. Guida Decision
Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida
Matt Bishop: I'd be shocked if Matt Hughes wins this fight. Time and the evolution of the game has taken its toll on the former welterweight champion and he's not the fighter he once was. Almeida is a very good fighter who is dangerous in many aspects. I think Almeida submits him. Almeida via submission, Round 2
Kelvin Hunt: Man...interesting fight. Hughes strength will be nullfied by Almeida's size(former MW). The striking is comparable, but Almeida should have a reach advantage and Almeida has the edge on the ground. Can Hughes take him down and will Hughes want to? My only concern is Almeida's conditioning with the weight cut...if that's not a factor. I like him via decision. If not Hughes takes the UD.
Charles Walker: This fight I think will actually be good, no matter how past his prime Hughes is, his style keeps him in the game and Almeida isn't exactly the type of fighter to try to out kickbox Matt, so we'll see lots of grappling and submission attempts. With that said, Almeida WILL catch Hughes in something before the fight is over and take that limb home as a trophy. I say either late 1st, early 2nd round.
EVeezy: Matt Hughes has showed us he does not have much left. Almeida is an all-around better fighter and should mop up Hughes within two rounds. Almeida Submission Rd. 2
Heavyweight title eliminator: Junior dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson
Matt Bishop: I feel like I'm either saying or thinking this for everything here: Great fight. We've seen Nelson throw around his heavy hands in his two UFC fights, but that is absolutely not the game he should be playing here. We don't know about Junior's ground game, but it certainly goes without saying that Nelson needs to test it. Nelson needs to put his size on dos Santos and try to wear him down. I have a hard time envisioning Nelson submitting dos Santos, but he certainly could win a decision. But the smart money, and mine, is on the Brazilian. Dos Santos via TKO, Round 2.
Kelvin Hunt: Eww...I LOVE this fight. Both hit hard and both are big agile guys. Nelson has the edge on the ground, but can Nelson take him down and keep him there? We saw Gonzaga take JDS down, but he popped right back up with the quickness. I gotta go with JDS as I still have flashbacks of AA/Nelson in my head...minus the bogus standup from the ref.
Charles Walker: Man, I want to just flat out say dos Santos but Roy Nelson has been on a tear and is a guy that is durable and is savvy enough to bring the fight to dos Santos. I think they'll be a feeling out process, Nelson will try to close the distance and clinch, this will continue for a while and Nelson will end up on the wrong in of a big hook and KO'd in the 2nd round.
EVeezy: This fight has really gone under the radar and that is quite unfortunate. Despite what Franklin McNeil says, dos Santos has never been properly tested on the ground by high-caliber fighters. Roy Nelson has the ability to put dos Santos on his back. Nelson will cut through dos Santos' takedown defense, but I am unsure about what will happen when Nelson gets inside his guard. Beyond the ground game, Nelson struggles against good strikers. I think dos Santos will struggle in the first round, but as the fight goes on I see him landed punches on Nelson and forcing a stoppage. Dos Santos TKO Rd. 3
Dustin Hazelett vs. Rick Story
Matt Bishop: Story via unanimous decision.
Kelvin Hunt: Story via UD as his wrestling will be too much for Hazelett's ground game.
Charles Walker: Hazelett via submission in round 3
EVeezy: Hazelett has a subpar chin and can wrestle. Story's best attributes as a fighter is his wrestling and power. This is not going to end well for Hazelett, I see Story fighting with strategy and keeping this fight on the feet and working Hazelett. If Story does decide to mess with Hazelett's guard I think Story is powerful enough to avoid Hazelett's submissions and really hurt Hazelett with his ground and pound. Story Decision
Phil Davis vs. Rodney Wallace
Matt Bishop: It will be interesting to see how Davis looks here taking the fight on short notice. But at least he has a fight. Davis via submission, Round 2.
Kelvin Hunt: Davis via conditioning/wrestling and then submission in the 3rd round.
Charles Walker: Davis via submission in round 1.
EVeezy: Phil Davis is fighting on like two weeks notice. I don't like it for him but Wallace is not a difficult style match-up for him. Wallace is ultra tough and I don't think Davis will finish him, especially on two weeks notice. Davis Decision
Tim Boetsch vs. Todd Brown
Matt Bishop: Here's hoping for the return of the famed Boetsch Slap. Boetsch via TKO, Round 1.
Kelvin Hunt: Ehh...Boetsch FTW.
Charles Walker: Boetsch via decision
EVeezy: Tim Boetsch is going to beat up Todd Brown. Boetsch TKO Rd. 1
Johny Hendricks vs. Charlie Brenneman
Matt Bishop: If Hendricks wants to take it to the next level, he needs a win here. These are fights he can't afford to be losing. Hendricks via decision.
Kelvin Hunt: Hendricks via UD.
Charles Walker: Hendricks via decision.
EVeezy: Two really good wrestlers fighting each other. Brenneman is more of a lay and pray type of guy while Hendricks is pretty well-rounded. I want to see if Brenneman can take down Hendricks. If he can, I doubt he can keep Hendricks from sweeping. Very interesting battle, I got the more experienced fighter in this one. Hendricks Decision
Stefan Struve vs. Christian Morecraft
Matt Bishop: Struve via submission, Round 1.
Kelvin Hunt: Struve via Submission.
Charles Walker: Struve via submission.
EVeezy: Morecraft is not a UFC level fighter. Struve is. Struve submission Rd. 1
Ben Saunders vs. Dennis Hallman
Matt Bishop: Saunders via TKO, Round 1.
Kelvin Hunt: Saunders via TKO Rd. 3.
Charles Walker: Hallman (upset) via smothering decision.
EVeezy: Hallman has no power and an iffy chin. Saunders should be able to best Hallman no matter if it is on the ground or on the feet. Saunders TKO Rd. 2