Chuck Liddell refers to UFC 71 as the moment he's been waiting for since 2003. I'm happy to say he's not alone. In one of the biggest main events in recent memory, Chuck/Rampage has the makings to be the year's best pay-per-view.
And the rest of the card is not too shabby either.
Karo and Burkman battle to see who has the bigger ego, Keith Jardine gets to toy with another newcomer, and Chris Leben hopes to have a job after Saturday night (see comments).
As you've come to expect, I usually go head-to-head with UFCmania the day before an event to offer different perspectives on the match-ups. Well with Mr. Mania on maternity leave, I took this act on the road and enlisted help from some of our faithful readers.
For odds and betting tips on UFC 71, check out this column from our very own Desert Dog. To watch me battle our fan base, simply read on!
Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell (20-3) vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (26-6)
UFCmaniac "UFCcountdown": Rampage Jackson "put an ass whoopin" on Chuck Liddell back in 2003 and hasn't looked back since. Since that fight he lost three times and two of those were to the dominating Wanderlei Silva. Of course since that 2003 fight Liddell has moved onto become the UFC's Light Heavyweight Champion beating rather large names such as Tito Ortiz (twice), Randy Couture (twice) and Jeremy Horn. With that said we are looking at one momentous fight with two very skilled opponents. I would look to see Jackson move the pace up on this fight and be in Liddell's face as much as he can. We all know that Liddell is a very technical striker with great takedown defense and I look for him to land some devastating punches but Rampage is hungry to show "his peoples" that he is more than just a name. In the 2003 fight Jackson simply dominated every aspect of Liddell's game and I don't expect anything less this time around. I predict that the fight will go into the second round with Liddell being pinned on the ground at the end of the first. Most people don't give much notice to Rampage's ground game which is top notch at the least. In the second round Liddell will do his usual stand-back-and-wait-to-punch and Rampage will go in for the kill and land a few nice punches throwing Liddell on his stomach at which point Rampage will finish him off with his signature head slam rendering Liddell unconscious.
Jesse Holland: How good is Chuck Liddell? Since his defeat to Rampage four years ago, The Iceman has gone on to win his last seven fights by (T)KO. He may be getting up there in years but like so many things he only gets better with age. His confidence is at an all-time high, and he knows that he needs this fight to cement his legacy as the world's top 205lb fighter. A lot of people give Rampage the edge because of their first fight, but Chuck is a much different fighter than he was in 2003. Unfortunately, so is Rampage. Whether it was the devastating losses to Silva and Shogun Rua or the fact that he was "saved" by the man upstairs, Jackson has lost some of his killer instinct. He may try the same bag of tricks from the old days of PRIDE, but this time Liddell will be ready for them. There is no other possible ending: Chuck by brutal KO.
UFCcountdown: Jackson by KO
Jesse Holland: Liddell by KO
Karo "The Heat" Parisyan (16-4) vs. Josh "The People's Warrior" Burkman (8-3)
UFCmaniac "Chris Valentine": One could say that Burkman is going to destroy Karo – oh wait no they can't. Honestly, I think this fight could have the makings of fight of the night. They both have good GnP, and stylistically a good wrestling background vs. a good Judo background should make for some great takedowns and Judo throws. For Josh to win this he has to take some Judo throws and be willing to go the distance. With that said, Josh's last two fights both went to a decision, showing he can keep up until the end of the fight. Karo believes that Josh has only a "punchers chance," but if Josh can use Karo's Judo throws to his advantage then he may have a very good chance. Josh has a good wrestling background, and he is physically stronger than Karo, so if he can take a Judo throw and then use his wrestling to gain a good top position, he has a chance to show the new ground and pound that he's been learning from Tito. I think the longer the fight goes, the better chance Burkman has to take the win. I have a good feeling we will get to see some major GnP, and some good Judo throws. If we are really lucky this fight will make the distance but end just before a judge's decision.
Jesse Holland: Karo Parisyan may be making headlines for his mouth, but he could just as easily make them for his talent. At 16-4, Karo has only lost to the best with two defeats at the hands of Sean Sherk, one to GSP and the last to Diego Sanchez. His Judo is legendary and he ends more than half of his fights by submission. Burkman can throw down but he's susceptible to the choke as we've seen in his losses to John Fitch and Jeremy Horn. I think the Judo will cancel out the wrestling and Burkman will be on the defensive most of the fight. He may be strong enough to stay out of the submission but he won't have time to mount any kind of real offense. I see Parisyan cruising to a unanimous decision.
Chris Valentine: Burkman by TKO
Jesse Holland: Parisyan by Unanimous Decision
Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine (12-2-1) vs. Houston Alexander (6-1)
UFCmaniac "Luppers": Why will Houston beat The Dean of Mean? Alexander is a hardened veteran with a record of 6-1. How can a fighter be a hardened veteran with only 7 fights? He's been fighting since 2001. And as he said in his recent interview with UFC.com: "I see a lot of passion being lost and it seems there are so many fighters being brought in that it's like an assembly line." We all know that any given fighter can beat any other given fighter if they have more passion. Alexander has a track record of beating opponents within the time limit via TKO – and only has one loss (to Jason Median - a MFS sparring partner). These factors, coupled with the rash of recent upsets and I seen The Dean of Mean going down from underestimating Alexander. Houston will bring the flash, and win in the second round via KO.
Jesse Holland: Keith Jardine is on his way to the top. He's rewriting the book on leg kicks and as we learned from the Forrest Griffin fight, his hands are steadily improving. I'm not sure if he's ready to hang with guys like Liddell and Jackson, but he's certainly above up-and-comers like Alexander. And it's no secret that Jardine can take punishment. I agree that Alexander is talented, but being in the cage for the first time is a battle unto itself, and he's fought so sporadically over the last six years that it's hard to believe he's ready for the big time. Like many of Jardine's fights, I expect the first round to be a feeling-out process, but round two will bring the fireworks and an end to the debut of Houston Alexander.
Luppers: Alexander by KO
Jesse Holland: Jardine by TKO
Chris "The Crippler" Leben (16-3) vs. Kalib Starnes (7-1-1)
UFCmaniac Geoffrey: Hidden in the oversized shadow being cast by Liddell vs. Jackson II, is a fight I believe is showing the potential to be really good. I will get right to my prediction – Chris Leben wins three minutes into the second round with a referee stoppage because of strikes. Both men enter the Octagon coming off a loss and both men have something to prove. I believe that Kalib is going to get beat because he's recently stated that the "hole" in his game is his stand-up, and he has gotten better sparring partners to improve his skill. The one thing we see time and time again is when a fighter focuses on one part of their game and tries to apply all the "new" training in their very next fight. Kalib is going to try and stand with Leben for the first round of this fight, before he realizes that he is just outclassed by Leben's stand-up. Going into the second round, Kalib will then try and take Leben to the ground where the fighters are more evenly matched, or at least they were more evenly matched. However, Leben will have the advantage there too because Kalib will be feeling the abuse he took from the first round as well as not having a "full head of steam." On the ground both men have decent skills but if these two men stand up for all or most of the first round, this fight will go to Leben.
Jesse Holland: Leben can hit, and he can hit hard. But unfortunately he's had a run of bad luck against better opponents. The fight against Anderson Silva I can't hold against him because Silva is a killer, but I was disappointed in his loss to a sluggish Jason MacDonald (who Starnes stopped via TKO back in 2005). Starnes is also great at submissions and I think he'll be looking for Leben's back. I doubt he's foolish enough to try and stand with him so look for the shoot early and often. Aggression will be the key in taking advantage of what I perceive to be a lack of confidence in Leben. He's already talking about rival promotions when his contract ends before this fight even takes place. Not such a savvy business move. Like Pacino once said in Glengarry Glen Ross: "You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is." Starnes by rear naked choke.
Geoffrey: Leben by KO
Jesse Holland: Starnes by Submission
Terry Martin (15-2) vs. Ivan Salaverry (16-4)
UFCmaniac "Tha Spida": Terry Martin is 17-2 overall in MMA. He's clearly an all or nothing fighter with all but one of his fights ending before the final bell. He's going to bring it right to Ivan Salaverry and look to end the fight early as usual and I don't think Salaverry is going to be able to handle Martin's power. Martin is an accomplished wrestler and has serious power in both hands. He wrestled at NIU and has been boxing for years and trains with Andre Arlovski. The stand up is clearly in favor of Martin from his years of boxing and if the fight goes to the ground I think Martin will be too strong for Salaverry and be able to use his wrestling to control the fight. Salaverry is a good all around fighter but I think he is plain and simple out matched in power in this fight standing up and on the ground and I believe Terry Martin is going to knock him out.
Jesse Holland: I'm going with Ivan Salaverry in this fight for the simple reason that his style is Pankration. Gotta respect a guy who spits in the face of 2000 years of evolution. When he said he was getting back to basics, he wasn't kidding. But all joking aside, Salaverry has skills. Of his twelve wins, five were (T)KO, four were submissions, and three were decisions. Simply put, Salaverry can win in any situation. He'll have to be careful however because as Spida indicated, Martin is incredibly strong. Ivan needs to stay out of range and work the leg kick. I see this one going the distance with a gassed Martin giving it away in the third round.
Tha Spida: Martin by KO
Jesse Holland: Salaverry by Unanimous Decision
Agree or disagree? Let us know what you think and share your picks in the comments section. And much love to the UFCmaniacs who took the time to pitch in during my time of need.