UFC 137: "Penn vs. Diaz" is all set to go down tomorrow night (Oct. 29, 2011) live from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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 at 9 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (with Facebook and Spike TV "Prelim" fights beginning at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. ET, respectively).
In the headlining bout, B.J. Penn welcomes Nick Diaz back to the Octagon in what is widely considered a title contender's elimination bout. Which one of these two gladiators will earn the right to face the winner of Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit in 2012?
Our co-main event pits Matt Mitrione, in what is clearly his stiffest test to date, against the technical striking of French kickboxer Cheick Kongo. Does a win for "Meathead" put him into the 265-pound title hunt?
There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning.
I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so 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:
Nostradumbass predicts: I have no problem calling B.J. Penn the second best fighter in his entire weight class. Unfortunately that weight class is 155-pounds. Why does this man compete as a welterweight? Because it's both convenient and comfortable, even if it robs the fans of seeing what a truly special fighter he is at 155.
I'll be the first guy to tell you the Hawaiian is good enough to compete in any division he wants, but can you show me a welterweight fight since his UFC return in 2006 where he doesn't run out of gas? Okay, great, he mummified Matt Hughes at the 21 second mark of their rubber match. That doesn't really do anything except prove that Hughes is aging like he drank from the false grail.
Over his last ten fights, Diaz is 10-0 with nine finishes. He could fight 15 rounds if you asked him to. Unfortunately the only time Penn has cardio is when he fights as a lightweight, simply because he has to get in shape to hit the 155-pound limit.
In tomorrow's headliner he'll be trying to win on skill alone, which means from a conditioning standpoint, he's got one round to finish it -- against a fighter who survived a direct hit from Paul Daley.
Overall, both Penn and Diaz are pretty evenly matched. Good strikers, great grapplers, chins of steel. But we already know how the fight unfolds: Penn comes out and dominates the first round. He answers the bell for the second stanza, can't catch his breath and gives away rounds two and three to what has to be the busiest puncher in all of mixed martial arts.
Betting lines (as of Oct. 29): Penn (-130) vs. Diaz (+100)
Prediction: Diaz via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: This fight reminds me of the Cheick Kongo vs. Heath Herring fight way back at UFC 82. The same outcome wouldn't surprise me, either. That's because Kongo is the same fighter he's always been and I don't envision that changing much in the foreseeable future.
The easiest opponent to prepare for is the one who wears his gameplan on his sleeve. You know what to expect and can spend your entire training camp working on the solution to overcoming it. That's one of the things that makes Jon Jones so difficult to prepare for: The unknown.
It's also why I give Mitrione a slight edge here as well.
My biggest gripe is that yes, he's looked good and yes, he's steadily improved, but he really hasn't beaten anybody. I don't mean that as a sign of disrespect to guys like Joey Beltran, but Brendan Schaub, another big, athletic heavyweight with good hands, found out the grass is always redder on the other side.
Cheick Kongo is the 265-pound equator. There's equal talent on either side, as in equally good or equally bad. We'll find out tomorrow night what side of the line "Meathead" lands on. I'm picking former, as I expect him to be busier, faster and more athletic than the Parisian, who will land a few stunners but fail to do enough to convince the judges he was the better man.
Betting lines (as of Oct. 29): Mitrione (-150) vs. Kongo (+120)
Prediction: Mitrione via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Every time I watch a pre-fight interview and see Cro Cop talking the talk, I think "Yeah! He's back!" Then he gets laced in his fight and I feel like a fool for letting him dupe me, yet again.
Not this time, Mirky.
My love affair with his body of work in PRIDE has led me afoul one too many times and even now as I write this, I think "Man, the way Nelson lumbers in, he's prime meat for that left leg." Then I get off the bus to Fantasy Island and realize that this is not the Croatian Cop who was electric in Japan. This is a broken down athlete who gets paid big dollars to show up in checkered shorts.
I know Nelson's stock plummeted after his last fight against Mir, where he huffed and puffed his way to a unanimous decision loss, but "Big Country" had the flu or was sick or his cat died, I dunno, somethin' was bugging him. I also don't care if he was pinata'd by Junior dos Santos because let's be honest, who wasn't?
At this point in their respective careers, Nelson has a chin and Croppy doesn't. Filipovic has never looked comfortable inside the cage and Nelson's a master at using his grappling to stymie long-range offenses and work for the sub.
He won't need it in this fight, as the Croat will try to show us why he was so great in 2006 -- only to get KTFO in the process.
Betting lines (as of Oct. 29): Nelson (-240) vs. Filipovic (+190)
Prediction: Nelson via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: One guy is great at submissions and one guy has some long-ass limbs. I think you know where I'm going with this. Hioki via submission? Duh.
At featherweight, Roop can be a dangerous fighter. If you thought his head shot on the "Korean Zombie" was just a "Fluke," he proved otherwise by crumpling Josh Grispi. But his fight against Mark Hominick proved that he still plays to his opponent's strengths, which is why he loses to Hioki.
Historically it's been hard to get excited about Japanese imports because they fall flat inside the Las Vegas cage; however, Hioki hasn't been crushing tuna cans over the past ten years, he's been beating up world class talent and has wins over Marlon Sandro, Mark Hominick and Jeff Curran.
In 28 fights he's never been knocked out or submitted and three of his four decision losses have been splits.
Roop is a tough guy with a ton of heart, but he's simply outclassed here. Hioki is going to do enough on the feet to get himself in good position so that he can get this thing to the ground.
From there, it's academic.
Betting lines (as of Oct. 29): Hioki (-400) vs. Roop (+300)
Prediction: Hioki via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: When did Scott Jorgensen become Anderson Silva? I understand he's probably at a better place in his career than Jeff Curran is at this particular point in time but -450? Whateva...
In fact, that irritates me so much I'm picking "The Big Frog."
Jorgy has serviceable hands but his real strength lies in his wrestling. I expect Curran to spend a lot of time on his back, but he's not going to be Ken Stone'd or beaten bloody, he's got too much experience and is too crafty a veteran for that.
He also hasn't been knocked out in ten years and while his WEC exit was a tough pill to swallow, he was faced with the top of the food chain in both divisions including Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and Dominick Cruz. That's a pretty tall order for any fighter.
And heart? Curran broke his arm against David Love last December and still hung on to win the fight.
Jorgensen is going to have his way with Frogger for most of the first two rounds, which may lead to him getting a little too comfortable in guard as the clock ticks away in the final frame. That's when he gets triangled and tapped before he even realizes he's in trouble.
Betting lines (as of Oct. 29): Jorgensen (-450) vs. Curran (+325)
Prediction: Curran via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 137: "Penn vs. Diaz."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.