Four former UFC champions step into the cage Saturday night when the Ultimate Fighting Championship presents "UFC 123: Rampage vs. Machida" which is headlined by a light-heavyweight bout between Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida and a third meeting between Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn in a welterweight bout.
Here's what your fearless prognosticators from MMAForReal.com see happening Saturday night from The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich.:
Charles Walker - Well, everyone knows I'm probably the biggest Rampage fan on MMA4Real, so that should be a huge disclaimer here. While most people feel that Machida's elusive style is going to be too much for Rampage to handle, I do believe that Shogun revealing the way to hit Machida effectively could streamline it's way into this fight. It all depends on Rampage and his team to put all that together. With that said, Machida is obviously the more technical fighter of the two but as we've seen before technique sometime falters to brute power. The speed though is a big factor and Machida is the quicker of the two and as we saw at 114, Rampage had trouble figuring out which way Rashad was going to go at times throwing him off. I'll put away all my bias this one time and pick Machida to win via decision in a 'not as one-sided as everyone is making it out to be' way.
Rich Wyatt - Fight fans in the Motor City have a great main event headlining the card on Saturday night. It isn't often that you get a main event where both participants have recently been ranked # 1 in the world in the sport's marquee division. The recent loss to Machida has me thinking that Quinton has a legitimate chance here. Jackson is a fighter that I usually pull for and, even though he has lost a couple of steps over the years, his power is still a real threat to anyone in the division and he is certainly capable of beating just about anyone in the world when he's on. Still, I foresee Lyoto doing what he does best: using distance and lateral movement effectively, striking from angles and doing enough to get the victory. Maybe I'm putting too much stock into the fact that "The Dragon" is one of the few fighters at this level to hold a victory over every fighter he has ever faced. I'm hoping that I'm wrong, but ... Machida over Jackson by decision.
Anthony Pace - We all now know the recipe for defeating Machida is a low attack predicated on speed. The way he spaces his legs provides for his fluid lateral movement, but also leaves him susceptible to leg kicks as Shogun famously demonstrated. Rampage fights flat-footed, because in the pocket there probably isn't a better striker in MMA. The problem is that he might never get Machida in the pocket. Jackson will not be knocked out, he can only be out-pointed here. Everyone seems to be picking Machida, but I have never picked against Jackson and won't start now. I think he's still athletic enough to muscle Machida in the clinch and land some uppercuts and hooks. All it takes from Rampage is one shot, and we still don't even know how Machida will come back from being brutally stopped by Shogun in his last fight. I also don't think Rampage will be nearly as fatigued as he was in the Evans fight, so I think he's going to make this a brawl. Jackson by TKO, Round 3
Stay with us after the jump for the rest of the card, including the co-main event of Matt Hughes against BJ Penn.
Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn
Charles Walker - This fight is really weird, normally BJ Penn would be the unanimous choice by most but due to two bad outing against the much quicker Frankie Edgar, folks are questioning Penn's heart and focus. I think that even if you factor in his bad performances he STILL should beat Hughes. He's much quicker, he's not easy to take down, and he's heavy handed. All three things are things that will give Matt Hughes fits. The problem will come in the way of if BJ can get the job done early or not. If this fight reaches the 3rd round expect Matt Hughes to have his arm raised. However, I think Penn will overwhelm him early and Matt will really have nothing for him and get beat up enough for Penn to take a 2nd round TKO.
Rich Wyatt - The fight between former world champions Penn and Hughes definitely holds some interest for the fans. Like everyone else, I view Hughes as well past his prime and Penn is certainly in the latter stages of his career also. It would not surprise me to see Matt start off well in this one, perhaps getting Penn to the canvass and doing some nice work. However, I think that "The Prodigy" will catch Hughes standing with a combination later in the fight, follow him to the mat and lock on a submission to seal the deal. In my eyes it won't tarnish Matt's legacy at all, much like it wouldn't to see someone finish Penn when he's that far past his prime. It should still be fun to watch, though. Penn over Hughes by submission in the 3rd round.
Anthony Pace - I actually think this fight is going to be decided on the feet, unlike the previous two iterations. Hughes has upgraded his boxing to mediocre over the years, but Penn is still quicker and sharper. It's a three-round fight, and that's a considerable aspect of how I think this is going to go. Penn by Decision.
Charles Walker - I don't see this being much of a stand up fight and if it were I'd heavily favor Joe Lauzon but I believe this will be lots of grappling and lots of reversals and submission attempts. I feel Sotiropoulos is the better grappler and should be able to outmaneuver Lauzon en route to a decision win. Sotiropoulos by decision.
Rich Wyatt - George has yet to lose in the land of 155 pounders and I don't see him starting here. Joe is a talented kid and a very good lightweight but my guess is that George takes a competitive decision in what could be a strong candidate for Fight of the Night, in my opinion. Sotiroupolous over Lauzon by decision.
Anthony Pace - Lauzon looked excellent in his dismantling of Gabe Ruediger, but Sotiropolous won't be so helpless. I can see Lauzon using quick in-and-out striking to rack up points on Soto, but the Aussie isn't a terrible striker himself. This reeks of being a beautiful grappling match, though. In that area, I see George taking a clear victory. Sotiropolous via Decision.
Charles Walker - Jason Brilz murdered Tim Boetsch and I wouldn't put him on the same level as Phil Davis when it comes to wrestling. Expect Davis to grind Boetsch down repeatedly and I'm pretty sure we'll see a stoppage in this one. Davis via round 3 TKO.
Rich Wyatt - Tim Boetsch is a big, powerful and tough lightheavyweight, but I think that he's overmatched in this fight. Davis has very solid technique for a young fighter and his wrestling ability and athleticism are very impressive. Lloyd Irvin and his team have done a really nice job with Phil and I expect to see him become a regular in the top 10 rankings over the next few years. I see him winning a shutout decision, though Boetsch likely has the toughness to see the final bell. Davis over Boetsch by decision.
Anthony Pace - I don't want to count out Boestch, but I will. Mr. Wonderful by Submission, Round 2.
Charles Walker - As I've studied, sure Falcao could land a big shot and put Harris away, Harris' chin is decent but Amir Sadollah was able to TKO him. That said, look for more Harris highlights. Harris via TKO round 1.
Rich Wyatt - If Gerald's mind is right for this fight, I just see him being too much for Falcao. Gerald has some pop in his strikes, but if things don't go well for him standing, he shouldn't have to struggle too much to take the fight down. This is the big stage that Harris has wanted to fight on for quite sometime. I'm hoping to see him breakthrough as a legit player in the division this weekend. Harris over Falcao by TKO in the 3rd.
Anthony Pace - Admittedly, I haven't seen much of Falcao other than what I can round up on YouTube. From what I can tell, he's a Muay Thai brawler living up to his camp's heritage, exhibiting a hyper-violent style that is very entertaining; he's probably a little closer to Evangelista Santos than Shogun Rua, however. I think Harris, with his very bizarre but effective stance, takes Falcao to the mat and has his way with the Chute Boxe product. Harris via decision.
UFC Prelims Live:
Charles Walker - This should be a solid scrap, I think Foster has a few more tools than Brown, so I think this will be a barnburner but Foster gets the decision.
Rich Wyatt - Matt Brown is a very tough guy and a fighter that fans enjoy cheering for but I think that Foster has his number in this one. Matt's toughness will help him survive early but he goes to sleep late in the fight. Foster over Brown by TKO in the 3rd.
Anthony Pace - Slugfest? Probably. I think Brown's wild punches will impress the judges more than Fosters. Brown via Decision.
Charles Walker - Good fight! Lots of people are on Munoz's bandwagon but I think Aaron Simpson should do well in this one. I don't see Munoz's wrestling being that much better, so I could easily see Simpson stuffing shots and landing bombs in the duration. I really don't see either guy finishing the other, so Simpson via upset decision.
Rich Wyatt - I feel like this is a fight that makes sense for both of these fighters at this point in their progression. Simpson, the older fighter, likely does not have time on his side to the degree that "The Philipino Wrecking Machine" does. Mark is a capable fighter and with more experience and good coaching he could continue to be a winning fighter at the UFC level. I think he catches Simpson late in this encounter for the win. Munoz over Simpson by TKO in the 3rd.
Anthony Pace - I'll take Simpson just because I've never been impressed with Munoz. The guy just never seems to improve and has some of the laziest shots of supposedly "elite" wreslters that I've seen. Simpson via TKO, Round 3.
Charles Walker - This is a fight Karo could really lose, Hallman isn't that bad. However I'll pick 'The Heat' via decision.
Rich Wyatt - Parisyan over Hallman by decision. That is, assuming that Karo doesn't pull out of the fight between now and Saturday night.
Anthony Pace - Parisyan via Submission, Round 1
Charles Walker - Barboza destroys Lullo via TKO
Rich Wyatt - Judging from what little I have seen, I like Barboza's chances of picking up the win this weekend. I think that he might play it safe early but pour it on later to take the decision. Barboza over Lullo by decision.
Anthony Pace - Barboza via Submission
Charles Walker - Kelly via decision
Rich Wyatt - Kelly does not want to go back to England with a loss on his record to a fighter named O'Brien. The kidding would last for weeks. Kelly over O'Brien by decision.
Anthony Pace - Kelly via Decision
Charles Walker - Griffin plays it safe and takes home a decision win
Rich Wyatt - I see Tyson winning by a narrow margin in this matchup. Griffin is still upset about the stoppage loss to Gomi and this is his opportunity to get back in the win column. Griffin over Lentz by decision.
Anthony Pace - Griffin via Decision