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UFC 137 Spike TV Prelims preview and predictions for 'Penn vs. Diaz'

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Whoever told Georges St. Pierre to "break a leg," thanks for nothing.

With the welterweight champion out of commission, the world's largest fight promotion has turned to high octane contenders B.J.Penn and Nick Diaz to headline Saturday night's (Oct. 29, 2011) UFC 137 pay-per-view event from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Joining them on the card will be knockout machines like Cheick Kongo, Matt Mitrione, Mirko Filipovic and Roy Nelson playing backup.

That's not to say the preliminary card is anything to scoff at. There are still a solid bunch of fights to keep us entertained without having to fork over any coin.

Yesterday, we examined the four Facebook fights that will kick off the event. Today, let's take a look at the Spike TV bouts.

155 lbs.: Dennis Siver (19-7) vs. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (16-3)

Sometimes all you need is a little time off to get your head on straight.

After an unimpressive 1-3 start in the UFC capped off by a 36-second obliteration at the hands of Melvin Guillard, stocky Deutsch dervish Dennis Siver won a quick fight on the regional circuit and was invited back into the ZUFFA fold.

He hasn’t looked back since.

Siver is 7-1 during his current UFC run and is coming off big wins over Matt Wiman and George Sotiropoulos. A kickboxer by trade, Siver has demonstrated very effective takedown defense and a more-than competent ground game in the past. He’ll be looking to bring all his weapons to bear against his Stetson-toting foe.

WEC contender Donald Cerrone, whose only losses have come at the hands of current or future champions, has been on a rampage since he and the rest of the WEC lightweight division were absorbed by the UFC. He stopped Paul Kelly in his debut and wiped out Charles Oliveira in dramatic fashion (not to mention beating Vagner Rocha into a limping wreck).

Cerrone possesses vicious kicks to complement a dangerous guard game, and since his guillotine loss to Ben Henderson, has shown a steadily-improving takedown game. Riding these skills to victory over Siver would certainly put him that much closer to a third crack at "Bendo".

I’m desperately torn on this fight. On the one hand, Cerrone is the bigger man by a fair margin. On the other, Cerrone’s primary defensive tactic is to break his opponent’s fists with his face. On the one hand, Cerrone is miles beyond Siver on the ground. On the other hand, so was George Sotiropoulos.

After juggling these myriad conundrums, I’m going to have to pick Siver on this one.

Cerrone has definitely improved his all-around game since the WEC days, as demonstrated in his complete domination of Jamie Varner, but that fight also showed me that his preferred takedown method seems to be to just to plant his feet, duck down, and grab his opponent’s legs as they come in, which, like most of what Cerrone does, leaves his head wide open. Plus, Siver’s takedown defense has looked outstanding in his past two fights and he’s very good at generating power without overcommitting to a punch.

Cerrone has solid power, but Oliveira was his first TKO, and while Siver does have more submissions than knockouts, I have a bit more faith in the power of his hands than in the power in Donalds. Of course, Donald’s kicks are murderous, and if he brings them to bear properly, he could ruin Siver’s night with them.

The image my mind keeps coming back to is this: whenever Cerrone throws a standing knee, his hands and arms immediately move to the side, leaving his entire head and torso open for violence. Those defensive liabilities are what make me lean towards the German.

It’s not going to be pretty, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Cerrone stormed back late in the fight and laid down the hurt, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Siver wins the first, ekes out the second, and survives the third for a narrow decision win.

Prediction: Siver via split decision

145 lbs.: Tyson Griffin (15-5) vs. Bart "Bartimus" Palaszewski (35-14)

You play with fire …

Tyson Griffin was on top of the world after his UFC 103 stoppage of Hermes Franca, the first time the colorful Brazilian had ever been finished. Unfortunately, things went south shortly thereafter, as he was dominated by Evan Dunham at UFC 115. Attempting to reignite his momentum, he signed on to replace Joe Stevenson against Takanori Gomi at UFC on Versus 2 and was practically decapitated by a hellish right hand.

A questionable decision loss to Nik Lentz later, and Griffin decided to move to 145, picking up a hard-fought win over Manny Gamburyan in his debut. While said victory was a good start, Griffin will need a decisive trouncing to prove that he belongs in the upper echelon of the featherweight division.

Impressively unpronounceable Bart Palaszewski, a Team Curran fighter and WEC import, had a bit of a rocky start to his ZUFFA career, falling to the wrestling prowess of Ricardo Lamas and the absurd Muay Thai of Anthony Njokuani. Thankfully, he’s rebounded nicely, winning four straight before narrowly falling to Kamal Shalorus at WEC 53.

Originally scheduled to face Gleison Tibau at UFC 130, "Bartimus" decided to cut down to featherweight after injury nixed that bout. Defeating a longtime contender like Tyson Griffin would go a long way towards proving that Palaszewski is more than just a hard puncher with a few too many syllables.

Maybe it was the weight cut, maybe it was the pressure of being on a losing streak, but whatever the cause, Griffin looked pretty darn mediocre against Gamburyan. His striking technique looked miles beyond Manny’s, but the whole affair was rather lackluster.

As usual, I’m wary about choosing fighters making their first weight cut, but I’m liking "Bartimus here." He’s got solid power in his hands and, despite being a slow starter, has proven astoundingly resilient. Against Shalorus, from about the middle of the second round on, he effectively stuffed practically every shot and hit Shalorus with about half a dozen blows that would have knocked a normal human being out.

That said, Palaszewski hasn’t fought in ten months, and never at 145-pounds. Griffin’s current underwhelming streak and the Pole’s big power are enough, though, to get me to call the upset. Look for "Bartimus" to drop the first round before controlling the second and third with his striking. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a stoppage, but it’s hard to get a gauge of how well Tyson’s chin will hold up.

Either way, WEC represent.

Prediction: Palaszewski via unanimous decision

It may not be UFC 136, but it'll do, ladies and gentlemen. Just four days to go until showtime. Sound off in the comments below with all your thoughts on the preliminary card match-ups.

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