UFC 109 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 109: "Relentless" is set to go down this Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, live via pay-per-view.

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 Randy Couture and Mark Coleman. Will Saturday night be "Hammer" time? Or is it only "Natural" for Randy to win based on his cardio and well-rounded attack?

And does a victory for Couture put him closer to another shot at the 205-pound title?

There are also a lot of unanswered questions regarding the future of Nate Marquardt. He's one fight away from challenging for the 185-pound title (again). Would a loss to Chael Sonnen guarantee he's out of the hunt for good?

Also on tap is the welterweight scrap between Matt Serra and Frank Trigg. Which of these veterans still has a little gas left in the tank after a combined 20+ years in the fight game?

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.

205 lbs.: Randy "The Natural" Couture vs. Mark "The Hammer" Coleman

Derek Bolender predicts: The battle of "historic" dinosaurs headlines UFC 109. By dinosaurs, of course, I mean two legends of MMA with a lot of skill left over who just so happen to have the combined age of 91. It will be the first time two active UFC Hall-of-Famers have ever locked horns, but you already know that from the commercial. Both men will enter the Octagon with their well-publicized, well-decorated wrestling backgrounds they have used as foundations to their success for years and years.

Can you say stalemate? Wrestling may be the dominant theme but other aspects like physical fitness will ultimately decide the fight. Rule #1 in MMA and in Zombieland is cardio. Without it you either won’t be able to use your skill set to full potential … or you’ll get mauled by zombies during your Maurice Clarett-like 40 yard dash/escape. Couture will have plenty of cardio in a three round fight. He’s been past the fifteen minute mark four times in his career.

Coleman accomplished it once 14 years ago against Maurice Smith at UFC 14. More importantly, and more recently, Coleman struggled mightily with his conditioning against Mauricio Rua at UFC 93. As early as the first round he was showing signs of gassing. Joe Rogan even called him a "confused old man" at one point. Coleman rebounded well against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100 showing improved conditioning, but then was forced to pull out of his UFC 106 fight with Tito Ortiz because of a knee injury.

I can’t recall anyone ever coming back from a knee injury and miraculously finding their pre-injury cardio. It doesn’t happen. Even if he did have his pre-injury cardio back it wasn’t good to start with. I simply don’t see a way Coleman can win the fight. He is very predictable at this stage in his career in a sport full of rampant unpredictability. There is no secret to his plan. He’s going to try to take you down, ground and pound you, and look very tan in the process.

And spare me the talk about how Coleman has been training with ex-Couture trainer Shawn Tomkins and whispering secrets in his cauliflower ear. It’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, like Notre Dame Football or dialogue in a porn flick. Couture can simply nullify the focus of his game plan with takedown defense, plain and simply. Then what? Coleman will out-strike him? Wrong. I fully expect Couture to dictate the fight early getting the better of the exchanges and controlling the clinch game.

As the fight wears along he should also be able to get Coleman on the mat as his conditioning inevitably begins to wither. Towards the latter stages of the fight it may not be aesthetically pleasing. It may even start to remind you of those two old men at your local YMCA you saw wrestling for a loose ball on the basketball court the other day. Now that I’ve hit my old man joke quota let me wrap up by saying that I believe Couture will rise to the occasion and finish him on the mat late.

A stoppage will not only shatter the monotony, but ultimately save the day. Never fear, Captain America is still here! Couture via technical knockout

Betting lines (as of Feb. 5):

Couture: -400 ((Bet Now))

Coleman: +300 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Couture via TKO

185 lbs.: Nate "The Great" Marquardt vs. Chael Sonnen

James Kimball predicts: The co-main event is a fight that will determine the middleweight division’s number one contender. Both men have been impressive of late; so to say one man holds the momentum or confidence advantage over the other would be a stretch. The last time Marquardt was in the cage, he was only there long enough for his introduction, one filthy KO punch, and the obligatory post-fight interview with Mr. Joe Rogan.

"The Great" took his game and as cheesy as it may sound, his name, to another level with his stunning victory over Demian Maia at UFC 102. If Nate gets by Chael, which he is widely expected to do, a title shot against either Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort will surely be his. As previously stated, Sonnen has stepped up his game recently as well. Inside, and outside of the cage really. When he’s not calling out Anderson Silva for being a phony, Chael is no doubt hard at work at the Team Quest gym in Portland, Oregon.

After pulling back-to-back upset wins against Dan Miller at UFC 98 and Yushin Okami at UFC 104, an impressive victory over the heavily favored Marquardt may just earn Sonnen the chance to fight for the belt. As to how the fight will play out, I see it like this. There is no facet of the game in which I would give Sonnen the edge. Marquardt’s striking is undoubtedly on another level. And, if and when the fight goes to the ground, Nate holds a clear advantage over Chael in that department.

The only way Sonnen pulls out the victory is by controlling the position for three rounds. And that my friends, will not be the case. Nate is too strong and too athletic to find himself in precarious spots for much of the fight. It won’t be easy, but Marquardt will get it done. "The Great" gets his title shot with a third round submission over Sonnen.

Betting lines (as of Feb. 5):

Marquardt: -500 ((Bet Now))

Sonnen: +350 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Marquardt via submission

170 lbs.: Mike "Quick" Swick vs. Paulo Thiago

Akimitsu Kuwabara predicts: A clash between top-10 welterweights pits Mike Swick, who stumbled in the all-too-crucial top welterweight contender match against Dan Hardy, against fighter-cum-Brazilian elite special police force member, Paulo Thiago. Originally set as a rematch between Swick's teammate, Josh Koscheck and Thiago, Swick pounced on the opportunity to replace the injured Koscheck. Paulo Thiago emerged out of obscurity to score an upset TKO victory against Josh Koscheck in his UFC debut at UFC 95.

He has since gone 1-1 with an unanimous decision loss against Jon Fitch at UFC 100 and decision victory over Jakob Volkmann at UFC 106. Swick boasts speed and power in his hands, and is a more polished striker of the two. As evidenced by the uppercut that floored Koscheck and punch combinations that inflicted visible damage on Volkmann, Thiago also has power in his hands; however, his combinations are rudimentary and he exhibits a detrimental habit of leaving himself defenseless after throwing a punch.

Given Swick's solid takedown defense and strength in the clinch - even Yushin Okami, a hulking middleweight, was forced to work for a takedown against him - Thiago will not have an option of leveling and trying to rough him up on the ground like he did against Volkmann. Despite being billed as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Thiago has not been overly impressive in the grappling department in his three UFC fights: While capable of working himself out of tight submission attempts and reversing positions while on his back, he has not shown much offensive grappling to threaten Swick with submissions.

Swick will likely dictate where the fight takes place with his American Kickboxing Academy-honed wrestling. If the fight is contested on the feet, he holds a distinct advantage as a superior striker. Thiago, however, has shown that he is willing to let his hands go; if Swick mistakenly leaves himself open, he may suffer the same fate as Koscheck. Nevertheless, a scenario that will likely ensue is his capitalizing on Thiago's defensive flaw and rigid, predictable striking to fire a perfectly timed counter.

Thiago is a tough, durable fighter but he will succumb to a third-round TKO.

Betting lines (as of Feb. 5):

Swick: -220 ((Bet Now))

Thiago: +175 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Swick via TKO

185 lbs.: Demian Maia vs. Dan Miller

Nate Lawson predicts: Demian Maia vs. Dan Miller may not be the most anticipated match up on this card, but it is certainly one of the most intriguing ones. Maia, one of the most dominant submission artists in the entire history of the Ultimate Fighting Champion, is coming off a devastating knockout loss to top middleweight contender Nate Marquardt at UFC 102: "Couture vs. Nogueira."

Miller, who recently received his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is coming off a loss to Marquardt’s UFC 109 opponent Chael Sonnen. Each man is looking to rebound from his unfortunate last fight, but only one of them will be able to successfully do so. Prior to his loss to Sonnen, Miller was on a three fight winning streak in the UFC with two of those victories coming via submission. However, he has never faced a man of the caliber that Maia can claim, and that could be enough to continue his slide.

Maia was previously undefeated before falling to Marquardt in less than a minute. He was 11-0 with eight of those victories coming by way of submission. Two of the remaining three were knockout victories. Miller certainly poses a threat to whoever he is matched up against inside the Octagon.

However, this match up is exactly what he should fear, as Maia is one of the greatest forces at the 185-pound mark. Maia, however, should relish in this match up. He is facing a man with decent striking and good submissions. Yet Maia, while he may fall short in terms of striking, is almost unstoppable when the fight hits the floor. That fact alone should trouble Miller, who has never been that dominant of a striker.

Unless the New Jersey boy brings a new found dominance to his striking game, this fight has Demian Maia’s name writer all over it. Maia should be able to work the fight to the floor and go to work. While Miller is no slouch on the ground, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz that is Demian Maia should be able to take over. Look for Maia to work through the first round without any problems, all the way to a submission victory. Just another on his already impressive list of submission wins.

Betting lines (as of Feb. 5):

Maia: -400 ((Bet Now))

Miller: +300 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Maia via submission

170 lbs.: Matt "The Terror" Serra vs. Frank "Twinkle Toes" Trigg

Nostradumbass predicts: El Capitan is back, filling in for a grieving Adam Wagner. Now loyal Maniacs know I've always been a Serra sack-straddler and for good reason. He won first place at the Pan Am games as a jiu-jitsu purple belt under Renzo Gracie and won a gold medal at the World Games as a brown belt. Ultimate Fighter winner, Ultimate Fighter Coach -- oh, and did I mention (hate mail in 3, 2, 1) his destruction of Georges St. Pierre?

Simply put, this is a guy who has made a career out of fighting and not because he was slurping down Xyience or carrying Dana's bags, he did it through hard work and commitment. Yes, he's had some untimely losses, but what you see is what you get: A tough, scrappy New Yawker with a world class ground game and dynamite in his fists.

This is a bad fight for Trigg. He has a tendency to fall into submissions a bit too easily (Condit, Hughes) and I don't like his chances against Serra's hands. If he can use his wrestling to defend and stay off the cage, there is a remote chance he could work his way to a decision. "The Terror" likes to stand and bang in spite of his ground skills, so it's not inconceivable to think this could go to the judges.

After getting knocked out by Robbie Lawler in 2007, "Twinkle Toes" put together a nice string of victories, but he looked old in his win over Danny Babcock at "Rumble in Racetown" and he fared even worse in his Octagon return at UFC 103 back in September. He's got to forget about the physical aspects here and put together a sound strategy that includes a lot of leg kicks and plenty of distance.

Of course Serra's no spring chicken either, but he's very, very strong for a guy his size. Even with half a bicep. Though he lost a close decision to Matt Hughes at UFC 98, he still looked good enough to hang with any mid-to-upper card welterweight. I can't say the same for Trigg, who may find his fight at UFC 109 to be his last under the Zuffa banner.

Betting lines (as of Feb. 5):

Serra: -145 ((Bet Now))

Trigg: +115 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Serra via unanimous decision

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 109: "Relentless."

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.

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