It's the culmination of BROCKTOBER. The moment everyone has been waiting for. Yes, we are a day away from the long-awaited UFC heavyweight championship bout between champion Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. That fight headlines an interesting five-fight main card which also features the UFC debut of former Strikeforce and EliteXC champion Jake Shields and the return of "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz.
Here's what your fearless prognosticators from MMAForReal.com see happening come Saturday from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Heavyweight championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez
Charles Walker - The big fight, the one everyone's been talking about, there gets no higher than when Brock Lesnar enters the Octagon. This time around he's going to meet possibly his stiffest competition to date in Cain Velasquez, who has been unstoppable in his stay in the UFC. To me, this fight seems bigger than it should be. Watching Brock get his head knocked in by Shane Carwin's boulders and then proceed to have his way with him, let me know one important aspect that we hadn't seen before...his heart. I think that is the key in this fight. Brock proved to have a huge heart and I have a strong feeling that will be the x-factor in the outcome of this fight. Not at all taking anything away from Cain, but he's never been in a scrap where his back has literally been against the wall. I see this starting out as a stand up fight with Brock keeping a good distance and Cain working his way inside with combinations and that I think will be Brock's gameplan, suckering Cain into coming in where he can use his massive body to clinch and wear down the smaller fighter. I think in the clinch, Brock should be able to bully Cain around and use the fence for takedowns and to keep Cain from being able to unload on him. Once on the ground, I think the simple pressure Brock can apply and his massive shots will take its toll. I see this having glimpses of excitement before trailing off into a beatdown via the former pro wrestler. Brock Lesnar via TKO in Round 3.
Rich Wyatt - Brock Lesnar is one of the most dynamic heavyweight fighters that I've ever seen. His combination of size, speed, wrestling ability and aggressiveness helped catapult him to become the heavyweight champion of the world and it may well help him retain that title for quite some time. Having said that, I just have a feeling that Velasquez is going to come in with a gameplan to give Brock problems in this one. I look for Cain to stay patient and try to catch Brock coming with combinations coming in. If Lesnar is able to get Velasquez to the canvass and execute his top control and ground strikes, this will be a successful defense. I'm going with my instinct on this one, though. I'll take the challenger. Velasquez via TKO, round 2.
Anthony Pace - This fight is so confusing. Velasquez has all the tools to beat Lesnar: exceptional cardio, superior wrestling, and dynamic striking. I believe that if he can withstand the bull-rush of the first two rounds, he takes a clear decision. Problem is, I don't believe he can. Lesnar via TKO, Round 2
Jake Shields vs. Martin Kampmann
Charles Walker - So basically this is the coming out party for Jake Shields. I think if anyone can spoil his debut it is Kampmann. Say what you will about him but he's well rounded enough to pose a threat wherever this fight goes. Most people have said that he falters in the big fights but he faltered against heavy hitters (Marquardt/Daley), he won't have to worry about that with Shields and grappling I can see Kampmann causing many scrambles throughout the course of the fight. I think though that Shields has enough weapons and the style of fight to win over a judge just enough to eek out a victory. Therefore, I'll say Shields via decision, hard fought though.
Rich Wyatt - Some fans are describing this bout as a bit of an easier "showcase" fight to introduce Jake Shields to the UFC fanbase. I don't consider this to be the case. Martin Kampmann has some real standup ability, which doesn't bode well for Shields since many in the industry consider his chin to be suspect. I look for Jake to get some real scares in this one, perhaps even sustaining some cuts and swelling. I see him surviving an early Kampmann onslaught, however, and settling in and getting this fight to the ground frequently, where he'll outwork Kampmann and earn the victory. Shields via decision.
Anthony Pace - Kampmann is a criminally underated fighter. Though he doesn't have the exceptional submission wrestling of Shields, he's generally pretty good at everything. I think enough of this fight will take place on the feet to outweigh any points Shields can score on the ground, and Kampmann plays spoiler once again. Kampmann via decision.
Paulo Thiago vs. Diego Sanchez
Charles Walker - This should be a gem. Both guys like to attack and both are coming off of tough loses. The only problem I see here is that Diego Sanchez almost always does horrible against guys with long reaches. We saw that with Fitch, we saw that with Hathaway, and Thiago seems to have fairly long limbs. However, Thiago's striking while heavy, isn't exactly the most technical and with the right type of gameplan (see what Kampmann & Fitch did) Thiago can be bullied for the course of a fight. I just think Diego is a bit undersized in the welterweight division and doesn't possess the power to really neutralize a guy like Thiago. I see this being a valiant effort by both but neither being able to control the other. With that said, I have to give the nod to Paulo Thiago for a possible split decision win.
Rich Wyatt - This is a very important fight for Diego Sanchez. Having lost a tough fight in his return to the welterweight division and coming off of two straight losses, he'll be looking to earn a hard-fought "W" this Saturday. Joe Silva has done him no favors, however. Paulo Thiago is, in my opinion, one of the more underrated 170 pound fighters out there. My best guess is that Diego comes out strong earlier, getting the better of his opponent in the standup department, only to have Thiago rally late and earn a decision by a razor-thin margin. Thiago via decision.
Anthony Pace - I think Thiago is hard on himself for the bout with Kampmann and comes out looking to make a statement here. Hopefully he showcases some more of that crisp standup we saw in the Mike Swick bout. Thiago via TKO, Round 3
Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamill
Charles Walker - Don't write Tito off, that's all I'm saying. Many have pointed out how Tito hasn't won a legit fight in years, but he has fought some serious competition in that time. Matter of fact, since '07, Tito has fought nothing but former light heavyweight champions (Rashad, Machida, Forrest) and he has not been finished by any of them. In fact, I'd say Machida was the only one that really was semi-dominant. Hamill has looked decent but is pretty much never going to break away from the gatekeeper role he's currently in. His slow, plodding attack style I feel feeds into Tito's strengths of grabbing a guy, taking them down, and beating them up. I can't see Hamill landing a big bomb on Tito and equally I do not see Tito being able to bully his way to a stoppage, so I am going to flip a coin and pick Tito Ortiz to get one final hurrah. Ortiz via decision.
Rich Wyatt - Most fans don't think that Ortiz has anything left to offer at this level anymore. It's up to Tito to now make fight fans take interest in him. My guess is that this won't be the prettiest fight on the card and I would be shocked if there were not some sloppy standup action. For all of the lack of form and precision that is Matt Hamill's striking, I will say that the kid has decent enough power. I'm guessing that Ortiz will steer clear of it enough, though, to take this one. I think that Tito will try to score with knees to the body when in the clinch and will try to stick and move away rather than standing in the pocket with Hamill. Ortiz via decision.
Anthony Pace - Call me an idiot (many of you already do) but I think Tito makes one last grab at relevance and gets Hamill on his back at least once a round to land his patented bruising GnP... as long as his skull isn't fractured. Ortiz via decision.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Brendan Schaub
Charles Walker - Another good fight and both these guys are heavy hitters. Gonzaga's one of those guys that should be higher up the ranks than he is but just falls apart whenever he's put in harm's way. Schaub has been stellar so far, but this is a huge leap in competition with Gonzaga. The way Roy knocked him out, I'm leaning toward Gonzaga landing something heavy early and really throwing Schaub off. However, the speed and accuracy of Schaub will likely play a big part as well as we saw how dos Santos was able to beat up on Gonzaga. Therefore, I have to go with Schaub via TKO victory in the 2nd round.
Rich Wyatt - The thing I keep hearing from most experts is that Schaub will take this victory by outstriking Gabriel. I definitely think that, if Schaub is ready to take that next big step, then this is a fight that he should win. My guess, though, is that Gonzaga will play spoiler in this one. Gabriel's back is against the wall coming into this matchup and he likely cannot afford another loss and still hope to have his next bout be on a UFC card. When you look at some of the names that Gonzaga has lost to you'll see an impressive list of fighters. I think that Gonzaga will survive the first round against Brendan but will tighten up his game in the second round and finally catch Schaub with punches standing in the 3rd, at which point he'll follow him to the canvass and lock on a submission for the win. Gonzaga via submission, round 3.
Anthony Pace - Gonzaga has been getting KO'd like it's his job. If he's smart (re: tired of getting KO'd), he takes the still-developing Schaub to the mat and, for once, uses his superior BJJ. Gonzaga via Submission, Round 2