After a dry spell that only a married man could understand, Zuffa is due to finally put on UFC 152 next Saturday. No need to go into a shame spiral and get drunk sitting through subpar MMA matches in One FC and women's MMA. We're finally going to be able to get drunk and watch elite MMA again. But that means a number of things are going to have to happen in preparation.
First, we're going to explain to our wives that we're busy that day and that no, we can't take her shopping at Winner's. That free ride is over and that MMA will be the reparations for the horrible suffering we've endured the past six weekends. Maybe a blowjob, too.
Second, we're still going to have to get distractions, like wives and children, out of the house. That means shelling out for some all-day event where we can get rid of them, while we sit in front of the television in our underwear balancing a beer bottle/bong on our bellies. It's an art form, don't knock it.
Third, we're going to have to make our MMA Playground picks. Don't worry, that's where I come in. I guarantee I'm absolutely 100 per cent right in my predictions at least 49 times out of every 85 fights. And when I'm wrong, which is almost never, it's because the refs/judges are fucking cheating pricks.
Betting Favourite: Brenneman -215 (BetDSI) to -240 (SportsInt)
After dropping two in a row, Australian fighter Kyle Noke is dropping down to welterweight to see what he can do down there. And although he's actually got a pretty underrated game, you've got to think "The Spaniard" is planning to put a blanket clinic on him.
The gameplan for Brenneman is never a secret. Go apeshit trying to get a takedown for every second of every minute of every round, and then flop around on top of the guy with his crazy white boy 'fro bouncing up and down as he throws deadly shoulder strikes and groin thrusts.
Noke's capable on the ground, as evidenced by submission wins over Chris Camozzi and Rob Kimmons, but Brenneman has been caught just once in 19 fights by way of the tapout. You've got to think this one ends up being a hot and heavy man-on-man humpfest with Brenneman doing most of the work on top of Brokeback Mountain.
Prediction: Brenneman by unanimous lovemaking
Betting Favourite: Walel Watson -175 (Sportsbook) to -235 (SportsInt)
This one isn't easy to pick. Watson has a ridiculous reach advantage at 135, and his skinny ass is difficult to finish as anyone who watched T.J. Dillashaw beat him like a redheaded stepchild for three rounds can attest. Watson also has a great ground game if anyone tries to clinch with him after getting outstruck. His long limbs have locked up triangles, guillotines, and anacondas.
The Canadian fighter, meanwhile, looked pretty good in a losing effort to Bryan Caraway at UFC 149. After putting it on Caraway for two and a half rounds, Gagnon wilted to Miesha Tate's boy toy. But he demonstrated some great hands and more than enough capability on the ground. In fact, all eight of Gagnon's wins have come by way of the tap out.
I see this playing out with some initial success on the feet by Watson, followed by a grappling match with Gagnon on top. He'll have to look out for sudden triangles and other submissions, but ultimately he should get enough top time to ride the judge's decision.
Prediction: Gagnon by unanimous decision
Betting Favourite: Seth Baczynski -138 (Pinnacle) to -155 (Bovada)
As expected, this is the hot bout on Playground. Simeon brings an inflated record from Europe's pro circuit, including a win over England's John Maguire and his Gypsy Jiu-Jitsu. But other than that, his record isn't a who's who, but more like a who's that?
Thoresen brings a dangerous ground game, stopping 15 fighters by way of tapout and going to the judges just twice. TUF alumni Seth Baczynski, meanwhile, has been no slouch in the North American circuit, following up his 2010 TUF Finale loss to Brad Tavares with five straight wins, three of those in the premier division.
What Seth brings to table is a more rounded game than Thoresen. Not only does he have 10 submission wins, he's scored six stoppages with his fists, and lands heavy leather. You've got to think that although this fight is going to the ground, Baczynski is going to test the Norwegian's chin plenty.
Prediction: Baczynski by TKO in round 2
Prelims on FX
Betting Favourite: Jimy Hettes -410 (BetDSI) to -490 (SportsInt)
To say Hettes has been impressive in his UFC fights is an understatement. After six consecutive first round submissions in the minor leagues to start his career, he continued with two more submissions before being granted a debut fight against TUF alumni Alex Cacares.
When he subbed Cacares in the second round, some people mistakenly believed it was the lack of talent from the cocky "Bruce Leeroy", rather than the ground supremacy of the purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But Hettes left no doubt after a three round destruction of BJJ black belt Nam Phan, the first to survive 15 minutes with the kid.
Marcus Brimage is another TUF scrub, who throws wild punches and thinks a great deal about himself. He was involved in one of the worst fights of 2012 when he defeated Maxim Blanco in April, a match in which both fighters seemed more interested in throwing high kicks and doing back flips than actually winning the fight.
I think you can see where this one is headed.
Prediction: Hettes by very early submission in round 1
Betting Favourite: Sean Pierson -145 (Sportsbook) to -175 (SportsInt)
Both fighters have something in common by beating Matt Riddle. But Pierson has faced a higher level of competition in the UFC, losing to Jake Ellenberger and Dong Hyun Kim, surviving to a decision with the latter.
Pierson has demonstrated able standup ability, good takedown defence, and a win over Jake Hecht showed he's not some overrated Chris Cope. The likely scenario in this fight will be Pierson's ability to stop the takedown and outpoint Benoist on the feet.
Prediction: Pierson by unanimous decision
Betting Favourite: Evan Dunham -186 (SportBet) to -280 (SBG Global)
Evan Dunham is a huge favourite in this fight, but it's hard to understand why. Grant has fared very well in the UFC, taking top-ranked welterweight prospect Johny Hendricks to a split decision in 2010, and is 2-0 after dropping down to Lightweight, handling Shane Roller on the ground, and dominating veteran Carlo Prater.
Dunham has great hands, is a very good kickboxer, and isn't terrible on the ground either. Having said that, he's had trouble against elite wrestlers before, losing a split decision to Sean Sherk. It was a fight he arguably won, but staying off his back will be the toughest test for Dunham.
He passed that test with flying colours against Nik Lentz, though "The Carnie" realized he was too small for the division and dropped down to 145 after the fight. Grant, meanwhile, is a huge lightweight, and should have little problem handling Dunham if he gets his hands on him. But getting his hands on him is a big if.
Prediction: Grant by split decision
Betting Favourite: Igor Pokrajac -225 (Sportsbook) to -178 (Pinnacle)
Vinny's the favourite in this fight, just going to show that Fedor-syndrome is alive and well in 2012. Can crushing gets you hype, just ask Hector Lombard about that one. The last time Vinny fought a guy you've ever heard of was UFC 97 when he lost to Eliot Marshall, who aint exactly top of the food chain. It was his third loss in a row, after getting knocked out by Ryan Bader in the TUF Finale.
Vinny has put on a nice little 7-1 run since then, against superstars like Robert Scott and Jake Doerr. I think I've made my point. It's true his BJJ is elite and his boxing has improved a lot since 2009. But Igor Pokrajac has some of the heaviest hands at 205.
Although I think Pokrajac lost his fight against Fabio Maldonado, if he lands the kind of punches on Vinny that he threw in that fight, I have no doubt, whatsoever, that Vinny will be sleeping.
Prediction: Pokrajac by KO in round 2
UFC 152 PPV
Betting Favourite: Charles Oliveira -220 (Sportsbook) to -280 (SportsInt)
There's no denying Cub Swanson is a dynamic and exciting fighter. That's been obvious ever since his three round war with Mackens Semerzier at WEC 52. But although he's been on a bit of a streak, I think the Brazilian is going to be too much for him to handle.
Oliveira has shown improved standup and power since dropping to 145, earning two submissions in a combined 4:25. His only losses came against guys who could be considered at the top of the food chain at 155, with Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller.
Swanson has two impressive TKOs in a row, although I think the Pearson stoppage was premature, showing he can definitely bang. But he was also choked out by Ricardo Lamas, and I'm of the opinion Oliveira will do the same.
Prediction: Oliveira by submission in round 1
Betting Favourite: Matt Hamill -340 (Sportsbook) to -435 (SportsInt)
Although Hamill is coming off two losses and a retirement, you've got to assume he's a big favourite in his tuneup fight. It doesn't help Hollett that he has no wins over significant fighters and hasn't fought since last November either.
Hamill's two losses were against elite fighters in Rampage Jackson and Alexander Gustafsson (and Jon Jones, if we're being serious). But he has impressive wins over Mark Munoz, Tito Ortiz, and Tim Boetsch. He's a legitimate top-15 Light Heavyweight, and uses his wrestling in reverse to punish guys on the feet.
Hollett is probably overmatched in this one. In order to win he'll need to pick Hamill apart, and move quickly on his feet. Hamill is a plodder who wings punches and would rather bang than take it to the ground. But if it does go south, the three-time NCAA division III National Champion doesn't exactly suck.
Prediction: Hamill by TKO in round 2
Betting Favourite: Michael Bisping -165 (BetOnline) to -190 (Bovada)
I think it's obvious that Stann is the underdog in this one, and if you don't agree then you should probably look at the track record of both. Stann has managed some impressive knockouts, but against guys who like to stand and bang like Alessio Sakara and Chris Leben.
Against Chael Sonnen, Bisping put in a far stronger showing, showing he's more than capable of wrestling with the best in the division. Stann, on the other hand, folded like a Wal-Mart chair made in China. What that tells me is that Stann only has one way to win: the knockout.
Stann can't take Bisping down because he won't be able to control him, and probably would lose a wrestling match with the British fighter. On the feet, you've got to assume Bisping is better everywhere except in the power department. The only fighters to ever catch Bisping are Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva, and the latter was in the last 10 seconds of their fight, stealing the decision.
Prediction: Bisping by unanimous decision
Betting Favourite: Joseph Benavidez -265 (BetOnline) to -300 (BetUS)
This one is a foregone conclusion I think. Benavidez has more power, better hands, better wrestling, and is better overall. "Mighty Mouse" might be a bit quicker, and is wily enough to get out from under the Alpha Male fighter. But you've got to imagine he'll be put there once or twice.
Although my hunch is that Benavidez is going to catch him with a punch and finish him, history shows us that Johnson is hard to finish. I can't see how Johnson wins this fight though.
Prediction: Benavidez by unanimous decision
Betting Favourite: Jon Jones -675 (Sportsbook) to -1,000 (5Dimes)
Although it's always possible Vitor Belfort lands a lucky strike, I think the more likely scenario is that after a feeling out process, Jones takes him down and stop him with elbows. If Vitor can land the punch it would qualify as the biggest upset since Serra vs GSP.
Prediction: Jones by TKO in round 1
Vitor Belfort is +702 at SportBet, $10 pays $70
TJ Grant is +210 at SBG Global, $10 pays $21
Marcus Brimage is +370 at Pinnacle, $10 pays $37
Parlay: Hamill, Oliveira, Brenneman, $10 pays $17