Back in black (tights).
Surgically repaired and rarin’ to go, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre makes his return to the Octagon this Saturday night (Nov. 17, 2012), headlining UFC 154 from the fan-friendly Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, taking on interim 170-pound champion and destroyer of worlds Carlos Condit.
Yesterday, we previewed the first four bouts that comprise the initial UFC 154 Facebook portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining four that will air live -- and for free -- on FX before the pay-per-view (PPV)-televised event starts at 10 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
185 lbs.: Patrick Cote vs. Alessio Sakara
After dropping three consecutive fights, former title challenger, Patrick Cote (17-8), was released from the UFC, whereupon he immediately set out to make Dana White and Co. see the error of their ways by winning four straight. Unfortunately, his triumphant return wasn’t, as he lost a fairly dull decision to Cung Le at UFC 148.
Alessio Sakara (15-9) has been a member of the UFC since 2005, going 6-6-1 during that time. Despite putting together three straight victories after his loss to Chris Leben, including one over Thales Leites, "Legionarius" has found himself with his back against the wall, having lost a decision to Chris Weidman in 2011 and getting knocked cold by Brian Stann earlier this year.
Sakara, who has professional boxing experience, has knocked out nine opponents.
In terms of pure striking skill, Sakara spanks Cote so bad it’s not even funny. His combinations are excellent, both with his hands and feet, and he has some lead in those hands. It’s just too bad his chin makes balsa wood look like adamantium.
The fact is, no matter how slick Sakara’s offense is, his defense isn’t anywhere near good enough to protect that flimsy jaw of his. He has a history of losing to technically-inferior (though heavy-punching) foes, a category in which Cote most certainly falls. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him run circles around "The Predator" in the early going, but Cote's cast-iron jaw is more than enough to survive the punishment long enough to land one of his own.
And he only needs one.
Prediction: Cote by first-round knockout
205 lbs.: Cyrille Diabate vs. Chad Griggs
One of the most decorated strikers in the UFC, 6’6" Frenchman Cyrille Diabate (18-8-1) has gone 3-2 in the world’s largest fight promotion, most recently upsetting Tom DeBlass in Sweden. Diabate, who owns a win over Rick Roufus in kickboxing, turns 40 next year, having competed in mixed martial arts (MMA) for more than 13 years.
Chad Griggs (11-2) proved himself far more than just a slick pair of muttonchops during his Strikeforce tenure, upsetting Bobby Lashley and Gian Villante before crushing Valentijn Overeem in short order. His Octagon debut was less successful, as the much larger Travis Browne wrangled him to the mat and slapped on an arm-triangle less than three minutes into the first round.
All 11 of Griggs’ wins have come by way of strikes and he has not seen the third round since 2007.
"The Grave Digger" is funny, entertaining, and is finally fighting in his proper weight class. He hits damn hard and has plenty of cardio, too. Griggs, however, is also three inches shorter than "The Snake," making his first cut to 205 pounds, and isn’t anywhere near Diabate’s level on the feet. Plus, he doesn’t have the wrestling to take advantage of Diabate’s historically-weak ground game.
I have questions about Diabate’s durability, but with his size, length and striking ability, I doubt he’ll have much trouble keeping Griggs off of him. Considering the flying knee from Browne that Griggs ate like it was nothing, a knockout is unlikely for the Frenchman, but a 15-minute game of matador seems about right.
Prediction: Diabate by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Sam Stout vs. John Makdessi
After losing a close decision to Thiago Tavares on the latter’s home turf, Sam Stout (18-7-1) managed to get back into the win column with a wrestling-heavy defeat of longtime rival Spencer Fisher. The longtime UFC veteran, proud owner of five "Fights of the Night" awards, owns wins over the likes of Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon, and Yves Edwards.
Nine of his wins are by way of (technical) knockout, but only one has come during his time in the UFC.
After raising eyebrows with his kicking clinic against Pat Audinwood and dropping jaws with his spinning backfist knockout of Kyle Watson, John Makdessi (9-2) has found himself in a desperate situation, losing two straight to Dennis Hallman and Anthony Njokuani and missing weight in the latter fight.
Makdessi, a Tristar representative with seven knockouts, was betrayed by his takedown defense against Hallman and his tentative style against Njokuani. And one more loss may mean the temporary end of his UFC career.
The biggest weakness of "The Bull" -- one I touched on when predicting his fight with Njokuani -- is that he is way, WAY too passive. He goes beyond patient into the realm of ridiculous, even when he has his opponent clearly outgunned.
Stout, meanwhile, seems to have trouble with guys that get in his face, but he has no threat of that with Makdessi and also has a huge wrestling advantage. While I don’t anticipate another finish from "Hands of Foam," he can win this fight wherever he chooses and Makdessi’s odds of knocking him out before he can are slim.
Clear 30-27s across the board for Stout and a pink slip for Makdessi.
Prediction: Stout by unanimous decision
An understudy of the great Marcelo Garcia, Mark Bocek (11-4) has consistently proven himself one of the more dangerous grapplers in the lightweight division. He has won six of his last eight, four by submission, including a beautiful mounted triangle over fellow black belt Dustin Hazelett.
He is currently on a two-fight winning streak, both by top control-based decision, and has not been stopped since 2008.
Though long known for his grappling ability, dos Rafael dos Anjos (17-6) has developed into a lethal fighter wherever the fight may go. Since losing to Gleison Tibau by the skin of his teeth, dos Anjos has won two straight, dropping and subbing Kamal Shalorus before outgrappling and, impressively, outstriking Anthony Njokuani this past July.
Like Bocek, dos Anjos has won six of his last eight, the only losses to Tibau and Clay Guida.
What this fight will come down to is dos Anjos’s takedown defense. And while I don’t doubt his ability to survive on the ground, I’d say that his bottom game isn’t a match for Bocek’s top game. On the feet, he’s a level above Bocek, but he’ll have to keep it there to make it work.
Luckily, I think he can.
Tibau, an enormous lightweight, had all kinds of trouble getting dos Anjos down, as did Clay Guida for the early portion of their bout. Dos Anjos’s wrestling has improved along with his striking, sufficiently so that I consider him more than capable of stuffing Bocek, who is quite a bit slower than "RDA." Expect a steady dissection, with Bocek’s shots getting increasingly slow and desperate as his lead leg is taken out from under him.
Prediction: dos Anjos by unanimous decision
Not Turkey Time yet, but there’s nothing like some quality violence to make the time fly.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 154: "St. Pierre vs. Condit," beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 5:45 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming Saturday, starting promptly at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV).