UFC 80: "Rapid Fire" is set for tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon on January 19 from the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England. The pay-per-view (PPV) event airs LIVE at 3 p.m. ET and via tape delay at 10 p.m. ET.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates and blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action throughout the telecast. As usual, it promises to be a great discussion during a solid line up of fights.
To get us pumped for the festivities MMAmania.com contributor Jesse Holland and site veteran "PhilQNY" went toe-to-toe below to try and predict the fighters who will leave the Octagon with their hands raised tomorrow during the featured fights of the day.
It's important to note for the predictions that while someone may be lauding a certain fighter, he isn't necessarily the guy who he thinks is going to win. Basically, we never want this to come out sounding repetitive. At the end of each analysis, therefore, you will see the individual picks.
Let's get to it:
Wilson Gouveia (9-4) vs. Jason Lambert (23-6)
Jesse Holland: Jason Lambert is 9-1 in his last 10 fights and is fresh off an upset victory over Renato "Babalu" Sobral at UFC 68. Aside from riding that momentum, Lambert needs to do two key things to win this fight: He must avoid the leg kicks of Gouveia and keep the fight standing. Lambert has decent submission skills but I think Gouveia is a little too wily to be fooling around with on the mat. Lambert is a better striker than most people give him credit for and continues to improve. Knowing that three of Gouveia's four losses are by (T)KO, I'm sure "The Punisher" is refining his striking and hopefully improving his cardio. Lambert also has the edge in experience with more than double the fights of Gouveia. Stay off the mat and this one is all Lambert.
MMAmania.com reader "PhilQNY:" This fight was supposed to go down UFC 76, but Wilson had to withdraw because of a broken nose. Now it's finally time will bang it out -- don't be surprised if both fighters have some cage rust from time spent away from fighting. Wilson is another version of Babalu with heavy hands and some nasty leg kicks. Wilson has five submissions and three knockouts to his credit. He is also a member of the American Top Team, which is a well rounded and respected camp. Wilson does not want to fight off his back with Punisher`s top game -- a vicious ground and pound attack. Wilson will look to stay standing and not force the fight to the ground. Both will bring something different into the Octagon. Jason is a game fighter and will try to come out aggressive with striking to set up his takedowns to straight up ground and pound. Wilson will maintain his distance and touch him up with his hands, as well as soften him up with some leg kicks. And if Jason gets the takedown he is still in the danger zone with Wilson`s Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. If Jason thinks his fight with Wilson will be like his fight with Babalu, he is in for a bad night. I expect to see highly aggressive up tempo first round maybe a second round if needed.
Jesse Holland -- Lambert via technical knockout
PhilQNY -- Gouveia via technical knockout
Jorge Rivera (14- 6) vs. Kendall Grove (8-4-1)
Jesse Holland: Jorge Rivera has been around the block long enough to know how to prepare for a fighter like Kendall Grove. "Da Spyder" is coming off a huge loss to Patrick Cote at UFC 74 and for a young and inexperienced fighter that kind of loss can still linger. Rivera would be wise to put the pressure on early and often. If Rivera can make Grove fear the knockout, he can control the fight and possibly end it early. If Grove does show up, like the fighter we saw dismantle Alan Belcher, then Rivera needs to swing for the fences. Jorge does not do well against accurate strikers as indicated in his losses to guys like Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva and Chris Leben, but can weather the storm if he fights intelligently like he did against David Loiseau. The deciding factor will be which fighter has learned the most from their last loss.
MMAmania.com reader "PhilQNY:" Kendall Grove is 6' 6", athletic and boasts a crazy reach. He also has good Muay Thai skills and brings some nasty elbows to the fight. This will be size and quickness against experience and power. Kendall got knocked out by Patrick Cote in his last outing in the UFC. He will have a fight plan that will not keep him in the pocket trading blows with Jorge. He will use his reach to stay on the outside, punch to set up a takedown where his long lengthy frame puts Jorge in numerous danger zones. Both fighters are coming off losses and want to move back in the right direction toward the title in another ultimate fighter inter-class reunion. Jorge by all means wants to stand and strike while Kendall will strike till he sees an opening to takes this fight to the deck.
Jesse Holland -- Grove via technical knockout
PhilQNY -- Grove via submission
Jess Liaudin (12-8) vs. Marcus Davis (13-3)
Jesse Holland: Jess Liaudin is probably a much better fighter than his 12-8 record suggests. He was hot out of the gate winning his first five fights before losing his way and going 2-8. Since then he's won five straight and hasn't been defeated since 2005. He's got great submissions but has also shown knockout power in three of his last five fights. Marcus Davis has transformed himself into a tremendous fighter but "Joker" can use that momentum against him with a well-timed submission. Davis has a tendency to get over-anxious and that mistake could be all Liaudin needs. Liaudin does not want this to turn into a stand-up war where he has a distinct disadvantage against the boxing background of Davis. Patience is what Liaudin needs as well as the ability to endure some punishment.
MMAmania.com reader "PhilQNY:" I smell Fight of the Night written all over this one. Both fighters are coming into UFC 80 on fire. Jess "Joker" Liaudin -- with three knockouts and eight submissions to his credit -- is riding a five-fight win streak (2-0 UFC). Against Davis, he would be better off taking this fight to the ground against. The "Irish Hand Grenade," on the other hand, is on a 10-fight win streak (7-0 UFC) of his own. The former pro boxer is looking to screw up the Joker`s game plan if he wants to stand and bang with him. Even though Jess is fighting out of London, Marcus is no stranger in England. He has fought twice before in Europe in 2007. In fact, the Brit`s probably remember his last fight with Paul Taylor during which Marcus was on the brink of losing after Paul connected with a head kick from hell`s kitchen with a fight- ending type flurry (thanks Yves Lavigne for not stopping it). Marcus composed himself and broke Paul down into his guard flipped the script to tapout Paul with a nice back mount arm bar transition. This will be an exciting, high-paced and explosive bout with crazy strikes, and entertaining ground work. Overall, this should be one hell of fight to watch.
Jesse Holland -- Davis via technical knockout
PhilQNY -- Davis via technical knockout
Gabriel Gonzaga (9-2) vs. Fabricio Werdum (9-3)
Jesse Holland: Gabriel Gonzaga will tell you he's not the same fighter that lost to Fabricio Werdum back at Jungle Fight in 2003 but I'm not sure I believe him. Gonzaga is a hulking menace that does best when he's pouring it on but like we saw against Couture and originally Werdum, can get easily overwhelmed. Werdum is no slouch himself having never been knocked out or submitted in thirteen fights. He knows how to stay out of submissions and can avoid the big strikes. While his snoozer against Arlovski was nothing to write home about, he's gone toe-to-toe against some of the sport's best including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Sergei Kharitonov. More importantly, he's already faced Gonzaga -- and won. Look for history to repeat itself on Saturday.
MMAmania.com reader "PhilQNY:" Gabriel Gonzaga is heavy-handed, has sick ground and pound, crazy leg kicks and world class jiu jitsu. He blew up on the MMA scene in 2007 with a Cro Cop-type kick that knocked out, well, Cro Cop himself. The win earned a title shot against Randy Couture, which turned out to be tough loss via technical knockout. That loss and experience in the title match will pay off big time against Werdum because he now knows what it takes to be a UFC champion. He faced Fabricio five years ago and lost via strikes (at the time Gonzaga was 2-0 and Werdum 3-0). Today that fight will not give Fabricio an edge coming into the rematch at UFC 80. Both have evolved, but Gonzaga has caught the attention of mainstream MMA America and Werdum has not done so yet. Both are coming off loses (Fabricio`s being a very boring UFC debut fight against Andrei Arlovski) and need to win this fight to get back on track. Werdum, before moving to Curitiba to train with ChuteBoxe, was training with Cro Cop. Therefore, he should know how to properly defend Gonzaga`s leg kicks. Gonzaga is looking for the knockout, but Werdum has never been submitted or knocked out in his career. With the storyline, history and what this fight means to them, it should be a recipe for a good fight. The flip side is if this turns into a NAGA fight and their Brazilian jiu-jitsu cancels each other out, which is a very good possibility.
Jesse Holland -- Werdum via technical knockout
PhilQNY -- Gonzaga via unanimous decision
BJ Penn (12-4-1) vs. Joe Stevenson (28-7)
Jesse Holland: It's hard to believe that Joe Stevenson has 35 fights or that he's 18-2 since 2001. But that's a testament to the kind of fighter "Daddy" is. He may be an underdog, but he certainly can't be overlooked. Since moving to lightweight he's never looked better and his strength and conditioning will give BJ plenty of problems. It's not unheard of for Penn to lose or go to a decision and if his conditioning is not 100 percent he could end up in a similar situation like Penn/Hughes II. Stevenson will have to be absolutely perfect to win it and keep his sub defense at the forefront of his strategy. BJ is not the best at stuffing the takedowns so Joe can easily rack up points. Takedown, a little ground and pound, rinse and repeat. I don't have any money on this one so you heard it here first -- Stevenson with the upset.
MMAmania.com reader "PhilQNY:" BJ "The Prodigy" Penn will step into the Octagon in the best shape ever to claim his lightweight UFC title once and for all at UFC 80. He failed twice before, and Penn has gained MMA knowledge throughout the years that will slingshot him further into the ranks of the MMA legends. BJ has for many years not focused in dieting, training and cardio when preparing to fight, relying just on talent alone. The question is, which BJ Penn will show up? The out of shape BJ or the BJ who can go all five rounds going for submissions non stop? "The Prodigy" has grown up in the world of MMA and I believe this is his time. He should and will not underestimate his opponent, Joe Stevenson. Joe is a the season two winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) at 170 pounds. He owns a strong ass guillotine and masterful leglocks. Joe will try to attack BJ`s weakness: Cardio and takedown defense. Now if Joe gets BJ down to the mat he has to be 100 percent accurate with no mistakes, avoiding BJ`s flexibility and All-World jiu jitsu skill. This is the biggest fight of his MMA career, on the biggest stage that for the UFC lightweight title. The question I have on Joe is: Will he crack under the pressure? Penn fighting Stevenson is the reason this will be a great fight that no one should miss out on watching. Penn is cut from a different cloth and is one of the best pound-per-pound fighters in the world. Come time for UFC 80 and BJ will be in predator mode as he stalks down Joe. He will end up putting and locking Joe in a dead zone that will either set up a technical knockout or submission. BJ will then be one of only two men to hold UFC belts in two different weight classes as of Saturday January 19, 2008.
Jesse Holland -- Stevenson via technical knockout
PhilQNY -- Penn via technical knockout
That's a wrap, folks. For the complete UFC 80: "Rapid Fire" fight card click here. Remember to come check us out this weekend for the latest results, recaps and thoughts on the first major UFC event of 2008.
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for UFC 80.