Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air on PPV at 10 p.m. ET.
To get us pumped for the event, MMAmania.com Editor and Senior Writer, Jesse Holland (that’s me), has once again rallied the troops for a breakdown of the televised main card fights. All your favorite contributors are here, bringing you an in-depth look at each contest.
One of the big stories coming into this event is of course the headlining fight between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez. Will "Minotauro" return to greatness by dispatching the talented up-and-comer?
And what does a victory for Velasquez do to the already crowded title picture? Is he more deserving of a shot at division champion Brock Lesnar (with a win) than the winner of Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir at UFC 111?
There are also a lot of unanswered questions regarding the future of Wanderlei Silva. Does the "Axe Murderer" still have the goods at his new weight of 185-pounds? And what happens to Michael Bisping's career if he suffers yet another KO loss to a former PRIDE legend?
There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning.
I’ve also included the current betting lines for each fight so that you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.
Now, enough with the formalities … let’s get cracking.
265 lbs.: Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez
Derek Bolender predicts: The big boys will be on display in the main event of the evening. The winner gets a new feather in his fedora, a Keith Urban greatest hits CD, and the right to take a number behind Frank Mir and Shane Carwin in the pecking order.
Cain is currently riding a seven fight win streak and beaming with confidence. He appears to have all the tools including youth, athleticism, a phenomenal wrestling base, and improving jiu-jitsu and boxing. Honing his craft at the American Kickboxing Academy doesn’t hurt either.
"Nog," on the other hand, is a legend of the sport and the only man ever to win both UFC and PRIDE championship belts. He has very solid, technical boxing skills, arguably the best jiu-jitsu in the world in the division, and an unrivaled will to win. Although I feel strongly it will be an extremely competitive fight there are two factors I foresee ultimately deciding the outcome.
1) Nog is the more well-rounded fighter.
2) Nog has more ways to win.
Nog should win the stand-up battle as Cain’s footwork and head movement still need seasoning. His fight against Cheick Kongo at UFC 99 went a long way in exposing the flaws in his boxing. What Cain will look to do is take Nog down and ground and pound his way to victory, or take him down and squeak out a decision.
There are issues with these scenarios for Cain, even though I do feel he will be able to get Nog on the ground. For one, Nog has only been stopped due to strikes once in 39 career professional fights. Ask Bob Sapp how hard it is to put him away. Frankly, Cain had a lot of trouble finishing a dazed and confused Ben Rothwell at UFC 104. He was essentially using a Nick Diaz-esque pitter-patter approach to his ground and pound. How is he going to finish off a guy like Nog who has nine lives like a koala? Did I say that wrong?
Furthermore, Nog is right at home on his back working for sweeps and attempting submissions. His guard is extremely dangerous. Cain has never faced a guy who has anywhere close to the level of Nog’s submission skills in training or in a real fight.
All that said, I fully expect the best version of Cain we have ever seen, which should turn it into an active war of attrition. Now cue the outro and let’s get this party started …
"Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover."
Nogueira by split decision!
Betting lines (as of Feb. 19):
Nogueira: -110 ((Bet Now))
Velasquez: -120 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Nogueira via split decision
Nostradumbass here with my two cents: This has shades of Nick Diaz vs. Diego Sanchez from the TUF 2 Finale back in 2005. "Minotauro" is the better striker and the better grappler, but he won't be able to score enough points to win. He'll be too busy defending the constant onslaught from the younger and quicker foe and he can't sweep like he could five years ago. Breaks my heart to say it but...
Velasquez via unanimous decision.
185 lbs.: Michael "The Count" Bisping vs. Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva
Eduardo Cruz predicts: The middleweight battle between Michael "The Count" Bisping and Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva promises to be the one of the most exciting attractions of the card in Australia this weekend.
"The Count" has made a respectable career in the UFC scoring eight victories and two losses and was expected to get the title shot until facing Dan Henderson at UFC 100, where he was knocked out in the second round. The British star came back at UFC 105 and got back into the win column again versus Denis Kang with a second round technical knockout in a fight that Bisping showed off his heart after withstanding hard times in round one.
"The Axe Murderer" hasn’t had an easy life in UFC. Silva was defeated by Chuck Liddell, Quinton Jackson and Rich Franlin - all of them former champions. His only victory was a brutal stoppage over TUF grad Keith Jardine. After facing criticism for only giving good shows (and not wins), Wanderlei split from Rafael Alejarra and came back to train with master Rafael Cordeiro, former coach in Chute Boxe. Mr. Pride also changed his tone of just putting on entertaining match-ups and has stated he "must win" this time.
Bisping owns a good background in boxing and proved in the past fight that he is able to perform on his back on the ground. From the other side, Wanderlei is aggressive every time he steps into the Octagon, that is, this is going to be literally a striking fight in which the Brazilian veteran will hunt the Brit who will counter-attack with punches all the time. I predict Wanderlei Silva winning this fight by unanimous decision. It won’t be hands down, though.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 19):
Bisping: +125 ((Bet Now))
Silva: -155 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Silva via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass back with another unwanted opinion: Hard for me to pick a guy who's dropped six of seven while debuting at a lower weight class. Wandy is the sentimental favorite, but I believe Bisping plays keep-away for three rounds like he did against Chris Leben at UFC 89. Prepare for some heavy-duty booing.
Bisping via stick-and-move unanimous decision.
205 lbs.: Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine vs. Ryan "Darth" Bader
James Kimball predicts: The only light heavyweight contest scheduled to be broadcast features an interesting match up between two fighters heading in opposite directions, Ryan "Darth" Bader and Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine.
While Ryan Bader needs the win to join the top level of guys in the division, Jardine likely needs the win just to keep his job. Usually when a fighter loses three fights in a row and four of his last five as Jardine has, a pink slip is waiting for him right around the corner. Though his losses are far from bad – dropping contests to Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, and Thiago Silva – it’s the way he’s losing them that has fans thinking his career is on the decline.
Bader on the other hand seems to have bright future in the sport. Winner of TUF 8 and owner of a perfect 10-0 record, the Arizona Combat Sports product will be looking to win his fourth consecutive fight under the Zuffa banner.
As to who has the edge coming into the fight …. it’s gotta be Bader. The way Jardine has gone out in his last couple fights doesn’t inspire much confidence in his chances. Though Bader obviously doesn’t possess the striking tools that Rampage and Thiago Silva do, I think the one clear advantage that he holds over Jardine, his wrestling, will prove to be enough to get the job done.
And as we’ve seen before, along with elite wrestling credentials, Bader does have the ability to finish a fight with one punch, (see: Magalhaes, Vinny).
The only way Jardine wins this bout is with a finish on the feet. If the fight goes the distance, Bader will have controlled enough of the position with his wrestling throughout the three rounds to get the decision.
But I don’t even see it going that far. After doing just enough on his feet to keep Jardine honest, Bader takes him down when he wants and finishes the fight with some serious ground and pound. Ryan Bader gets the win, and earns the respect, with a second round stoppage.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 19):
Jardine: +130 ((Bet Now))
Bader: -160 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Bader via technical knockout
Nostradumbass chiming in yet again: See ya' later Bader. This one-trick pony with a hard right hand is going to be dissected by Jardine's ruthless leg kicks. Forget about shooting, he won't even be able to stand after round one. He's got heart and endurance but against Jardine's experience he's going to the back of the line.
Jardine via unanimous decision.
155 lbs.: Joe "Daddy" Stevenson vs. George Sotiropoulos
"The Mexicutioner" predicts: The fight between Joe "Daddy" Stevenson and George Sotiropoulos is significant in the fact that the Stevenson is looking to get back into title contention, while Sotiropoulos is trying to show that he deserves to be mentioned among the top names in the UFC 155-pound division.
Sotiropoulos is coming off a pretty impressive win over Jason Dent and is on a five fight win streak (four wins via submission, one via TKO) with his last official loss being against Shinya Aoki due a groin strike disqualification in 2006. To say he has a good ground game would be an understatement. Plus he has the home team advantage.
AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE!!!!
Stevenson is 3-3 in his last six fights, but those losses were to the division’s top three fighters: Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez and champion BJ Penn. With strength, experience, a better than descent ground game and Team Jackson on his side, Stevenson will be a true test to see where Sotiropoulos really stands in this division.
The way I see it: Stevenson is pretty susceptible to rear naked choke's, as evident in two of his last three losses. So in my opinion, the only way Sotiropoulos wins this is if he is able to get Stevenson’s back. With that being said, when this fight does go to the ground, I think the physically stronger Stevenson will be able to maintain control from the top and be able to pull out a pretty dominating and decisive victory.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 19):
Stevenson: -260 ((Bet Now))
Sotiropoulos: +200 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Stevenson via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass with an upset special: I originally expected this to mirror "Daddy's" win over Nate Diaz at the TUF 9 Finale when he just bullied his way to a unanimous decision. Then he started talking about fighting for the title again by the end of the year. Doesn't sound like he's too worried about the Aussie, who won't self-destruct mentally like Diaz did, making Stevenson a prime target for an out-of-nowhere submission.
Sotiropoulos via submission.
265 lbs.: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Anthony "The Hippo" Perosh
Akimitsu Kuwabara predicts: Aussie veteran, Anthony "The Hippo" Perosh, steps up on a day's notice to fight on the main card of UFC's inaugural event in his home country against a legend of the sport. How can Perosh resist the opportunity, especially after helping his business and training partner, Elvis Sinosic (who, coincidentally, was also forced off the fight card due to injury) prepare for his fight?
Unfortunately, taking the fight on such a short notice in less-than-full fighting shape bodes ill for "The Hippo."
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, former Pride Open Weight Grand Prix champion, has suffered an ignominious fall from grace since he first joined the UFC.
With 2-3 record in UFC and no victory over a top-ranked opponent since defeating Josh Barnett in September 2006, he is in the midst of a prolonged downturn that threatens his legacy. After his loss against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 103, he confessed that he lost passion for the sport and even contemplated suicide.
Nevertheless, he stated in a recent interview that he has been training with Ivan Hippolyte and regained his focus. As difficult as it may be to believe in a rejuvenated Cro Cop, his chance of victory has been given a boost, now that he will face Anthony Perosh, instead of the hulking mauler, Ben Rothwell.
Even in his devastating loss against Dos Santos, Cro Cop managed to land some hard shots, especially in the first round. Perosh has demonstrated a detrimental habit of leaving himself dangerously open in a stand-up battle.
During his previous stint in UFC, he succumbed to Jeff Monson via TKO and was staggered by Christian Wellisch during their UFC 66 encounter. Unlike Junior Dos Santos, Cheick Kongo, and Gabriel Gonzaga, Perosh does not possess the technical acumen to exploit the hole in Cro Cop's stand-up. While Cro Cop has struggled against opponents with forward pressure who forced him on the back pedal, the characteristic tentativeness of Perosh's stand-up further tilts the fight in his favor.
To his credit, Perosh holds a second degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Carlos Machado and has proven to be a capable grappler. Hence, his best chance of victory lies in forcing Cro Cop to the ground. Cro Cop's physical decline has affected his athleticism and explosiveness that once helped him stay upright against grapplers; if Perosh can exercise top control and land elbows on the ground, he may be able to flatten Cro Cop and open up an opportunity for submission.
Perosh simply does not stand a chance against Cro Cop in a striking exchange. Will he be able to force Cro Cop into a grappling battle? We shall see, but Cro Cop has a very good chance of scoring a highlight-reel KO that his fans the world over have been craving.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 19):
Prediction: Filipovic via technical knockout
Nostradumbass with no real surprises: It's sad that it takes Anthony Perosh on two days notice for the public to overwhelmingly agree that Cro Cop is the fight night favorite. I hear rumors that he's been cut and stitched back together but it won't matter. "The Hippo" will quickly gas and get pounded out in a win that means nothing for the Croat. Too bad too, I really wanted to see him fight Rothwell.
Filipovic via technical knockout.
That’s a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 110: "Nogueira vs. Velasquez."
What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for Saturday’s event.