The staff weighs in on UFC 132
Here are our picks for UFC 132:
Matt Wiman versus Denis Siver
Dundas: Wiman by decision. If Wiman is smart -- and I think he is -- he'll want to put this fight on the mat for the duration and, unlike George Sotiropoulos at UFC 127, will have spent at least part of his training camp figuring out how to get it there. The victory will boost him to one of the UFC's more under-the-radar, four-fight win streaks and at least technically keep him among the gaggle of contenders for the lightweight title. Still it'll take a couple more wins before anybody really starts to buy into either of these guys as a serious threat to the Frankie Edgars and Gray Maynards of the world.Gross: Siver by decision. Siver, like Wiman, comes into this fight in the midst of a three-fight win streak. Siver defeated a higher class of fighter than Wiman in that stretch, but stylistically none presented the kind of physical grappling presence that should test him on Saturday. While Wiman can wrestle enough to present problems for Siver, I think the German will avoid long stretches on his back. Over three rounds, Siver should have an edge in striking exchanges, giving him the fight.
McNeil: Siver by decision. The timing of this fight makes it very appealing, as Wiman and Siver are both on three-fight win streaks. But during this span, Siver has been more impressive. His win over fast-rising George Sotiropoulos in February proved that he is a force to be reckoned with at 155. Siver's aggressive style and physical strength will eventually wear down Wiman. It's difficult to envision Wiman being stopped, but Siver will be in full control of this bout at the midway point of Round 3.
Mindenhall: Wiman by decision. Siver shocked the (niche) world when he derailed the George Sotiropoulos locomotive headed for a title shot. Now he's a favorite against Matt Wiman, who literally dominated Cole Miller for three rounds (and could have gone on for another seven). Unlike Sots, Wiman will get Siver to the ground and work as a pestle grinding him out.
Okamoto: Siver by decision. As impressed as I've been with Wiman during his win streak, I simply don't consider him to be in that upper echelon of guys at 155 just yet. To me, Siver is and this is actually a less difficult fight than having to face George Sotiropoulos in Australia the last time he was in the Octagon. Siver's variety of strikes trumps that of Wiman and I'd also venture to guess he'll be the physically stronger of the two during grappling exchanges. I see Wiman's win streak coming to an end and Siver setting himself up for a big-name fight.
Dong Hyun Kim versus Carlos Condit
Dundas: Condit by decision. The velvet rope to the welterweight VIP area is suddenly wide open for Condit after Rick Story and Nate Marquardt both got unceremoniously bounced at UFC Live 4 last Sunday. With a win over the underrated Kim on Saturday, the Greg Jackson fighter could conceivably seize something close to No.1 contender status by virtue of the fact he'll be the top-ranked fighter at 170 pounds that Georges St. Pierre hasn't decimated yet. Condit should be wary, though. As we learned over the weekend, it only takes a moment to go from being up in the exclusive club, popping bottles and kicking it, to working in the valet lot outside.
Gross: Condit by decision. Divergent styles clash in an important welterweight showdown. Condit will be the aggressor, though he must avoid excessive forward pressure that allows Kim to clinch with underhooks or drop levels for double-leg takedowns. Condit represents a big uptick in competition for Kim, and I think the Korean will struggle to control one of the more talented and experienced fighters in the division.
McNeil: Condit by decision. Kim is undefeated as a pro, but has not faced anyone quite like Condit. The former WEC welterweight champion poses too many problems in the cage -- he is a vicious striker and equally dangerous on the ground. Condit also wants a 170-pound title shot, and beating Kim impressively just might land it. Kim has a way of avoiding danger, but if Condit gets him in a vulnerable position, the fight will end early.
Mindenhall: Condit by TKO. Kim has found a way to win against the likes of the TJ Grants and Amir Sadollahs, but Carlos Condit has that flash knockout power that seems deployable here. As human Velcro, Kim will try and close the distance and work some throws, but Condit is an opportunist who knows exactly when to toss caution to the wind, and I think he clips Kim early.
Okamoto: Kim by decision. Kim has yet to gain a lot of traction with U.S. fans, in part due to his at-times slow fighting style. That style, however, has kept him unbeaten in his mixed martial arts career and should carry him to a decision win over Condit. Kim is going to minimize his risks against an opponent as dangerous as Condit. His standup has improved enough over the years and he's got the ability to take Condit down. Once he gets there, I think he postures in the guard and rides it out. It won't be pretty, but I think it will get the job done.
Tito Ortiz versus Ryan Bader
Dundas: Bader by decision. It's hard to imagine what further degradation could be heaped on Ortiz at this point. The once proud UFC champion has suffered through nearly five years without a win, several failed attempts at commentating, umpteen public spats with girlfriend Jenna Jameson (at least one of which led to his arrest) and, most recently, a nude photo leaked on the Internet. At some point something, somewhere just has to break Ortiz's way, but it won't be this Saturday. Bader is too young, too strong, too athletic and too talented.
Gross: Bader by decision. Do or die for Ortiz. Make or break for Bader. Cage savvy keeps Ortiz in the fight, but cage wear and tear ensures he won't have the speed or power to contend with Bader's physical presence. Bader is the better wrestler, and far and away the more damaging puncher. This could very well be Ortiz's last mission in the Octagon.
McNeil: Bader by decision. This should not be a difficult fight to predict, Ortiz just isn't the fighter he used to be. But Bader is coming off the first loss of his mixed martial arts career, a second-round submission to Jon Jones in February. How Bader responds to that loss could play a significant role in determining the outcome of this fight. The belief here is that Bader has learned valuable lessons losing and will have a solid performance against Ortiz. As for the former light heavyweight champion, experience and a desire to stop his current skid at three won't be enough against Bader.
Mindenhall: Bader by decision. People, including Bader himself, are treating Ortiz as a sort of limited edition collector's item that is about to go back into the vaults. Could be, but this fight has a stylistic parity that might surprise that camp. It's been four years, but can't shake the memory of the Rashad Evans draw where Ortiz was docked for holding the fence. Even with the hunch of a close fight, Bader still ekes by with a split.
Okamoto: Bader by decision. A question to me, regarding Ortiz, is does the guy truly want to fight anymore? Of course, he's had to pull out of a few fights but also just his demeanor recently in the cage -- it's not the same Tito in there. Call me a sucker, but I believe he'll come out with more passion in this fight. He doesn't want to get shown up by a younger guy, I believe he's finally healthy and he needs a win to keep his job. I think he comes out aggressive and makes this an interesting fight, but Bader's youth and athleticism proves too much.
Wanderlei Silva versus Chris Leben
Dundas: Leben by TKO. There's so much pressure being put on Silva and Leben to have a fight-of-the-year-caliber brawl that it almost borders on tampering. If these two guys do what they say they're going to do, barrel out of their corners, go toe-to-toe and set about punching each other in the head for 15 minutes, then this fight becomes a coin flip and we're essentially wasting our time trying to pick a winner. Yet, I can't help but think if Leben actually comes to this bout with a game plan, he'll beat a declining, 35-year-old Silva who hasn't fought in 16 months.
Gross: Silva by TKO. Everyone expects an all-out war between these middleweights, and for good reason. While Silva is nowhere near as dangerous as he was during his prime years as champion in Pride, it's not difficult to picture him scoring on Leben with regularity. This fight could just come down to how sharp Leben looks. He needs to be at his best to survive over 15 minutes, and if that's the standard I have to lean the other direction.
McNeil: Leben by TKO. Either top fight or knockout honors will come from this bout. These two love slugging and there is no reason to assume that won't happen in this bout. Leben claims he wasn't 100 percent during his KO loss to Brian Stann in January; he's totally healthy now. Silva is also healthy after undergoing successful knee surgery, but this will be just his second fight at 185 pounds. Plus, Silva's chin has looked vulnerable in recent fights. One of these fighters will get KO'd. And right now, Leben takes the better punch.
Mindenhall: Silva by TKO. If anything, the fact Leben and Silva are going around trumpeting this as the fight of the century will make for some pretty lofty expectations. Here thinks they live up to the billing, too. Neither man is overly concerned with title runs or any of that high-minded hooey; they just want bonuses and crowd satisfaction. Silva will land the curtain-closer at some point, just as he did with Keith Jardine at UFC 84.
Okamoto: Leben by TKO. So impossible to predict Leben fights. Who's going to show up? I was disappointed in his last performance against Stann, but after hearing he was throwing up prior to the fight due to a few ill-advised nutrition choices following the weigh-in, I'm more optimistic "good Leben" shows up Saturday. Bottom line, it's highly likely these two engage in a slugfest during certain points in the fight and every time it happens you have to hold your breath for Silva, as his chin has faded over the years. If I didn't have to make predictions for ESPN, I wouldn't on this fight. But I do, so I'm taking Leben.
Urijah Faber versus Dominick Cruz
Dundas: Cruz by decision. During the four years and four months since Cruz and Faber first fought, just about everything has changed except the bad feelings between them. They're still arch rivals, but Cruz is now the indomitable champ of a new weight class, while Faber is an aging former great who needs this win to prove his best days weren't spent laying the foundation of a house he'll never get to live in. Faber is easy to like, no doubt about that, but the evolution we've seen from Cruz in seven fights since dropping to bantamweight makes it impossible to pick against him here.
Gross: Cruz by decision. This has all the elements of a great fight and I'm anticipating it'll deliver. Coming in I have more questions about Faber than Cruz. The most important: How will "The California Kid" neutralize Cruz's ability to dictate range? Cruz is so fast and so agile, plus he's taller and longer than Faber, I just can't imagine Faber having success over 25 minutes if he's unable to put the UFC bantamweight champion on his back and keep him there. Faber must start strong and prevent Cruz from establishing an early lead on the scorecards, because once Cruz builds momentum he'll maintain that edge the rest of the way.
McNeil: Cruz by decision. This will be Faber's third fight in his natural 135-pound class, but he has yet to show the greatness displayed at featherweight. Faber owns a victory over Cruz, but the champion is a much better all-around fighter than the guy who suffered his only pro loss in March 2007. The roles are reversed this time, with Faber playing challenger. This will be Faber's toughest test yet at 135, and it isn't clear if he has fully adjusted to the weight. These two also don't get along and that favors Cruz, who has more invested emotionally in this fight. Cruz needs this win to gain the respect that has eluded him as bantamweight champion, and will put on his best performance to date.
Mindenhall: Cruz by decision. Both of these guys are downright protective of their hatred toward the other, which makes for a good lead-up. Once the cage door closes behind them, Faber will be looking to get the fight into his world (on the ground) while Cruz will be splitting before his eyes like mercury in several directions. This is the hell of the modern day Cruz, who will flicker, piddle and sting for five rounds.
Okamoto: Cruz by decision. Cruz feels like a fighter at the peak of his game. He made guys like Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen, two amazingly talented fighters, look silly. He lacks finishing capabilities and he's a 135-er, so he really hasn't gotten the attention he deserves as one of the best fighters in the world. But that's what Cruz is, man; one of the absolute best right now. This should be a good one and Faber is dangerous, but I think July 2 is Cruz's day.
You've read what we have to say. Now, it's your turn. Vote for the last men standing at UFC 132 here.
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at Franklin_McNeil.
Chuck Mindenhall covers MMA for ESPN.com and is a features writer at FIGHT! magazine. He can be followed on Twitter at @ChuckMindenhall.
Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.
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