We’re less than 48 hours away from seeing whether or not Frankie Edgar’s first win over BJ Penn was nothing more than a "fluke", whether boxer James Toney can step up to the plate and take out one of mixed martial arts’ most well-respected fighters in Randy Couture, and whether or not Kenny Florian can beat a "bigger and better Sean Sherk" in undefeated wrestler Gray Maynard – which would get him his third shot at the UFC lightweight title. UFC 118 is a stacked event from top-t0-botton, and features seven fights that the fans are guaranteed to see – two on SpikeTV, and five on the Pay-Per-View broadcast. This is a highly anticipated event due to the co-main and main events, but don’t expect those two fights to carry the card on their own. Alright, lets get this ball rolling with the predictions.
Nik Lentz vs. Andre Winner – Spike TV broadcast:
This match-up is between a precision-striker in Winner and a wrestler who likes to strike in Lentz. Nik will clearly need to get this fight to the ground if he wants to win the fight, as Winner’s stand-up is just plain nasty – as seen in his first round destruction over Roli Delgado last November. I foresee this fight being a stand-up battle until Lentz eats one of Winner’s fists flush on the chin, then I think he’s going to clinch and try to work for a takedown. If Winner can stay quick on the feet and keep Lentz on the outside, expect him to finish him off impressively in the first or second round. If he can’t keep Lentz from getting in close and clinching, I think Nik could draw out a lackluster decision in the same way Randy Couture defeated Brandon Vera.
My prediction – Andre Winner via TKO, round 2.
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger – Spike TV broadcast:
Season five cast-members of the Ultimate Fighter who didn’t get the opportunity to battle on the show are finally getting their fight. Joe Lauzon, aka "Creepy Joe", is looking to rebound from a unanimous decision loss to Sam Stout, while Ruediger is looking to get back on the main-stage and prove he’s a top lightweight fighter – not just some fat shit-head who likes foreign objects shoved up his ass-pipe like most people currently think. I like this fight, it’s no Rampage vs. Machida, but it’s a good match-up between two evenly-skilled fighters who both want to make big statements. Honestly, I like Gabe in this fight. He’s on a 6-six tear, all fights ending via submission or TKO in under three rounds, he looks physically prepared and extremely motivated to be back in the UFC, and I think that he’s going to pull the upset in what will be an excellent fight.
My prediction – Gabe Ruediger via decision.
Marcus Davis vs. Nate Diaz – Pay-Per-View Broadcast:
Kicking off the main card is a welterweight meeting between seasoned UFC vet Marcus Davis, and Ultimate Fighter winner Nate Diaz. Davis is obviously going to try and make this a fight on the feet, something I’m sure Diaz will be happy to do as well. What we get here is a tall boxer in Diaz fighting a short boxer in Davis. Can Nate use his reach advantage the same way Mike Swick did when he fought (and beat) the Irish Hand Grenade? I think he can. Can Davis get on the inside and land some bombs, breaking Nate down over the course of three rounds? I think he can. This fight is a toss-up for me, with the "X factor" being Nate’s ability to get the fight to the ground and work his submission game. If he can’t get Marcus to play the grapple game with him, and if Davis can break through Nate’s reach, I have no doubt Marcus can continue his rise back up the welterweight ladder with a decision win.
My prediction – Nate Diaz via decision
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda - Pay-Per-View Broadcast:
Maia is a grappling wizard. His submission skills are the best in the middleweight division, and possibly the world. Miranda’s an up and coming fighter who’s shown that he has the skills to compete in the UFC, but in this fight, I think he’s fucked. Although Maia’s striking has drastically improved since his UFC debut, he’s still a grappler at heart, and I expect him to look to finish this fight as fast as possible by getting Miranda to the ground where he can lock on one of his crafty submissions. Miranda should be expecting the shot from Demian, and if he isn’t, this fight won’t make it past the first round.
My prediction – Demian Maia via submission, round 1.
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard – Pay-Per-View Broadcast:
This is the fight I’m looking forward to the most. I’ve been a devout Florian fan since he showed up on the Ultimate Fighter, he improves after every fight, and is in my opinion one of the best lightweights in the sports history. Gray Maynard is a wrestling behemoth, who knows exactly what needs to be done in order to beat Florian – plant him on his back or against the cage and hug him for three rounds. Maynard cannot finish Florian with strikes or a submission, the only way for the "Bully" to get his long-awaited UFC title shot is to take Florian the distance and pray to the judging gods that he did enough to merit a decision victory. Can Maynard do that? I don’t think so. I think he’s going to get shut down by the Boston native and taste real defeat for the first time in his MMA career.
My prediction – Kenny Florian via decision.
Randy Couture vs. James Toney – Co-Main Event:
Boxing vs. MMA, MMA vs. Boxing, that’s all we’ve been hearing since this fight was announced. I’ll be glad when its over, and although Toney stands a "punchers chance", I don’t think we’ll see it happen. Don’t get me wrong, Toney has knockout power, Randy’s been shut down multiple times before, but Toney knows jack shit about mixed martial arts and the disciplines it involves aside from boxing. I think he’s way over his head, and will get brutalized by Couture – who is still one of mixed martial art’s poster boys.
My prediction – Randy Couture via submission (strikes), round 1.
Frankie Edgar vs. BJ Penn – For the UFC lightweight title:
Even as the division title-holder who already holds a decision victory over BJ, Frankie’s being counted out by pretty much everyone on Earth. BJ once again maintains that this is going to be the best BJ Penn we’ve ever seen, something he’s spit out after every single loss in his career. Is BJ more skilled that Frankie? Yes, hands down. Can BJ dominate Frankie and finish him? Yes, hands down. Will he do it? Nope. Not tonight, not ever. Frankie is going to once again out-work BJ. Frankie’s to quick on the feet, and is a much more polished boxer than BJ is. BJ doesn’t have the wrestling to get Frankie on his back, and Frankie isn’t going to enter BJ’s guard. What we’re going to get is another 25 minutes on the feet, where Frankie runs wild around BJ, picking his shots and getting in and out before BJ can get off. Bet on that. Frankie Edgar will defend his UFC lightweight title. I can’t wait to see what BJ’s fans say after he drops his second straight fight to the same guy, in the exact same way as their first meeting.
My prediction – Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision, AGAIN.
**And as far as the un-aired prelims go, I’ve got Dan Miller beating John Salter and getting out of the three-fight slump he’s in, Nick Osipczak beating Greg Soto with a submission, and Mike Piere stopping UFC newcomer Amilcar Alves sometime late in the fight with some ground and pound.