UFC 111 predictions, preview and analysis

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This UFC 111 preview is brought to you by Comcast.

UFC 111: "St. Pierre vs. Hardy" is set to go down this Saturday, March 27, 2010 from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, 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 welterweight title fight between Georges St. Pierre and Dan Hardy. The "UFC Primetime" special has done a convincing job of portraying "The Outlaw" as a worthy title contender, but will "Rush" prove he was all bark and no bite?

In heavyweight action, Shane Carwin looks to continue his quest to usurp the division title currently held by Brock Lesnar. Will he be exposed by the veteran Frank Mir before he ever gets the chance?

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.

170 lbs.: Georges "Rush" St. Pierre vs. Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy

MMAmania predicts: There is no secret to success for either fighter in this bout, which has received the lion's share of marketing from the promotion to start the 2010 campaign. St. Pierre will likely look to overwhelm "The Outlaw" with a powerful mix of strikes, takedowns and ground and pound en route to an early stoppage or yet another dominating performance.

Hardy, meanwhile, will try and survive 25 minutes to land just one punch -- scoring a (technical) knockout appears to be his primary strategy. And he hasn't been shy about making it known, either. In fact, he enlisted the help of former 170-pound kingpin, Matt Serra, to help him prepare for "Rush." Serra, of course, shocked the universe when he punched out St. Pierre several years ago to capture the belt. He proved, emphatically, that St. Pierre is not only beatable, but could be stopped if the right punch finds its mark.

But will it?

Maybe, in the future, but not this Saturday night. St. Pierre learned a great deal from that loss to Serra. And it's only motivated him to train harder and perform better, which is scary considering how naturally gifted he is in the first place. Hardy likes to take his time, pick his spots and unload big counter punches. That's a recipe for disaster against a hard-charging, relentless animal like St. Pierre.

Expect St. Pierre to slip whatever punches do come his way, dive for a double leg and smash Hardy on the ground ad nauseam until he either quits, the referee saves him or he goes to sleep ... all before the start of the championship rounds.

Betting lines (as of March 26):

St. Pierre: -700 ((Bet Now))

Hardy: +450 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: St. Pierre via TKO

265 lbs.: Frank Mir vs. Shane "The Engineer" Carwin

Nostradumbass predicts: Do you wanna be an F'n striker? Brock Lesnar told the gang at SportsCenter that he "felt bad for Frank Mir." So do I. Not because I'm rappelling from his yam-bag like many of these Johnny-come-latelys, but because I know the former champ would tool "The Engineer" on the ground. Yeah, Shane-O has a few belts in the grappling drawer but Mir has been mastering jits under some of the top guys for years. You just can't compensate for that kind of experience. So what better gameplan than to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Mir has decent hands, but I wouldn't classify them as anything that's gonna give Klitschko Ukrainian night sweats. Okay, he stopped Nogueira with his fists. But so did Velasquez. Is that a credit to their striking? Or a sign that "Minotauro" is done? Let's just say if the Brazilian's defense was any stiffer he'd be driving a Johnny Cab in Total Recall 2.

I expected Mir to get a wake up call against Kongo, but the Parisian failed to give him any respect and went ass over tin cups in the first minute. That's probably the worst thing that could have happened to Mir because those kind of wins can be very seductive -- and I believe that he thinks he's a top level striker based on those performances.

He's not.

Now anyone who's ever followed the Dumbass gospel knows I'm no Carwin card-carrier. I thought he unfairly leapfrogged more deserving talent to get his spot against Lesnar at UFC 106 and while his wins have been impressive, his resume is fairly underwhelming. Neil Wain and Christian Wellisch? Most MMA fans couldn't pick them out of a police line-up if they were wearing 5oz gloves. And I know a handful of you are racing over to the Fight Finder right now to redeem yourselves.

Too late.

You want to tell me the Gonzaga win was enough to anoint him heir to the throne? Okay, but let's not forget he had his nose caved in by the Brazilian yeti -- who also took him down at will. What does Carwin have? He's got retard-strength and hands the size of a Passover Challah. Sometimes that's all you need when your opponent plays right to your strengths.

And Mir will.

You can bet on it. I did, and look forward to three months of mind-numbing hype as the media shoves Carwin vs. Lesnar down our throats until we regurgitate the excitement on July 3. So let it be written, so let it be dumb.

Betting lines (as of March 26):

Mir: -155 ((Bet Now))

Carwin: +125 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Carwin via TKO

170 lbs.: Jon Fitch vs. Ben "Killa B" Saunders

Akimitsu Kuwabara predicts: Rising welterweight, Ben Saunders steps up to face Jon Fitch as a last-minute replacement for Thiago Alves, who was forced to withdraw from the UFC 111 fight card after pre-fight CT scan detected an anomaly in his brain. Originally slated to face Jake Ellenberger on the preliminary portion of the same card, Saunders now commits himself to a high-risk/high-yield proposition.

A victory over one of the toughest competitors in the ultra-competitive welterweight division will immediately vault the American Top Team prospect from an up-and-comer to contender. In preparation for the original bout against Ellenberger, he must have undergone rigorous drills of takedown defense and guard work; against a fighter who bulldozes through his opponents with wrestling-based attack and ferocious power, stuffing takedowns and working efficiently from the guard are imperative.

Since wrestling is Fitch's bread-and-butter, the grappling-centered training camp has at least sharpened the right tools for Saunders to take on the American Kickboxing Academy member. Unfortunately, Saunders is walking into a brick wall in Fitch. Though a rangy striker with snappy kicks and eviscerating knees, Saunders has not developed the optimal striking acumen and takedown defense to fend off Fitch's bullying offense. Given Fitch's durability and chin, it is a matter of time before Saunders has his offense neutralized and put on his back. Saunders may have demolished Brandon Wolff and Marcus Davis with savage knee strikes from the clinch, but securing Thai clinch on Fitch will be a tall order.

On the mat, Saunders will be hard-pressed to successfully cope with Fitch's stifling top control. Though all signs point to Fitch's grinding out another decision, one interesting twist to the fight is his willingness to finish the fight. After his decision victory over Mike Pierce, Fitch stated that he needs to start finishing his opponents lest he becomes a perennial top contender who struggles to clinch his second title shot. Should he become desperate for a finish, he may leave himself vulnerable for an upset.

In his last fight, he found himself in danger late in the final round against the unheralded Mike Pierce; similar mistakes may prove fatal against Saunders. That said, Fitch's steadfast adherence to his game plan should carry himself past Saunders.

Betting lines (as of March 26):

Fitch: -350 ((Bet Now))

Saunders: +250 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Fitch via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Mark Bocek

James Kimball predicts: New Jersey native Jim Miller and Dana White's former jui-jitsu instructor Mark Bocek are set to collide in a lightweight battle between two guys looking to take the next step in becoming a legitimate contender in the UFC's deep 155 lbs. division. Both men are currently riding three-fight win streaks coming into their UFC 111 bout, though the younger of the two Miller brothers comes in as a pretty heavy favorite.

And for good reason.

Owning a professional record of 16-2 with the only two losses coming to top dogs Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar, Miller's stock has been slowly rising over the last couple years. He'll be looking to build upon the momentum he gained after submitting Duane Ludwig in the first round of their UFC 108 contest.

Bocek (8-2) is coming off a first round submission of his own when he tapped out Joe Brammer at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale en route to earning "Submission of the Night" honors. Six of Mark's eight victories have come via submission while ten of Jim's sixteen wins have ended with his opponent tapping out, so clearly both gentlemen feel comfortable on the ground.

While conventional wisdom would tell you that they're propensity to submit opponents would cancel each other out and most likely lead to a stand-up battle, I just don't see it. So if the fight plays out on the mat, I look for Miller to use is superior wrestling to maintain a dominant position for the majority of the match. Another key factor to look at is the fact that Miller has never been finished, and while Bocek brings an elite submission game to the table, I don't think he has what it takes to be the first guy to stop the man from Sparta.

When it's all said and done, I got to believe that Miller is just too strong and relentless for Mark to handle. Jim will dictate the pace and come away with the victory.

Betting lines (as of March 26):

Miller: -400 ((Bet Now))

Bocek: +300 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Miller via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino vs. Fabricio "Morango" Camoes

James Iannotti predicts: Pellegrino has said that he wants this thing to go the full fifteen minutes so he can put all his hard work in training to good use. Unfortunately for him, and even more so for Camoes, I don't think this fight reaches that final bell.

Instead I think "Batman" is going to dispose of the Brazilian a lot faster than that.

Camoes has already dealt with the first time UFC jitters that so many other fighters making their first appearance in the Octagon have had trouble with. But that doesn't mean the pressure is off him. In fact, he's probably feeling the heat even more this time around since he's still searching for his first win under the promotion's banner.

"Batman" on the other hand, is making his tenth start for the UFC, and having won three straight and six overall for the company, his job appears to be safe at the moment.

But even if I had to put the mental aspect aside, I'd still have Pellegrino winning this fight. He's basically just the better all around mixed martial artist.

Some may look at the submission loss to Nate Diaz and think Pellegrino is in for similar fate in this fight if he chooses to take Camoes to the mat. But "Batman's" submission defense and his ground and pound have both improved dramatically since they backfired on him on that night two years ago. You don't need to look any farther than the way he manhandled Josh Neer his last time out to see the evidence of that.

The truth is, Pellegrino's jiu jitsu is at a very high level and he's easily good enough to stalemate Camoes in that area. The loss to Diaz was more of a credit to how crafty and sneaky Nate is. And let's not forget that Kurt was dominating that fight before the triangle. I don't see "Batman" getting caught like that again, at least not in this fight. I think he sticks to what's been working with the ground and pound, only this time I think the pounding part will lead to an early TKO.

Betting lines (as of March 26):

Pellegrino: -230 ((Bet Now))

Camoes: +180 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Pellegrino via TKO

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 111: "St. Pierre vs. Hardy."

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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