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UFC 84 predictions, preview and analysis

UFC 84: "Ill Will" is set for tomorrow, Saturday May 24, from the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card action is set to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.

Remember: will provide LIVE updates and blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action throughout the telecast. As usual, it promises to be a great discussion during an exciting night of fights.

To get us pumped for the festivities, contributor and mixed martial arts zealot Adam Wagner will try and make his presence felt by going toe-to-toe with senior writer and turgid egomaniac Jesse Holland with predictions for the upcoming event.

The mission: Forecast which fighters will leave the Octagon with their hands raised later on during the featured fights of the evening.

It’s important to note for the predictions that while someone may be lauding a certain fighter, he isn’t necessarily the guy who he thinks is going to win.

Basically, we never want this to come out sounding repetitive. At the end of each analysis, therefore, you will see the individual picks at the conclusion of the write ups.

Let's get to it:

B.J. Penn (12-4-1) vs. Sean Sherk (32-2-1)

Adam Wagner: It’s quite possible that we will see the angriest Sean Sherk we have ever seen come Saturday night. Fights drenched in bad blood are nothing new. Tito vs. Shamrock, B.J. vs. Pulver, B.J. vs. Hughes, the upcoming (hopefully) Hughes vs. Serra … the list goes on. But don’t mistake "fight hype" for genuine hatred. Sean Sherk has been insulted by B.J. Penn and just like Daniel Larusso, he is now fighting for his honor. Penn likes to hate his opponent. It’s how he psyches himself up for a fight. But this is new territory for Sherk, who feels that he was thrown to the wolves. Say what you want about the Sean Sherk steroid situation: This fight analyst believes that whatever was in his system, he didn’t intentionally take banned substances — or at least he’s convinced himself that he didn’t know. While Sherk’s emotion might work against him, it also might work for him. He’ll look to steamroll B.J. with brutal takedowns to set up his ground and pound and outwork B.J. on the ground for five rounds. It’s really his only option. B.J. has the reach advantage and has better balance than a prima donna ballerina. But how effective is balance when you’re being charged by a bull? That’s what Sherk is: An angry bull seeing red. You can’t beat Sherk’s cardio and if anyone could, it certainly wouldn’t be B.J. Penn. Just like we saw in his fights against Hughes and GSP, the longer this fight goes, the worse off for Penn.

Jesse Holland: Thank you Adam, for comparing Sean Sherk to Daniel Larusso in your fight prediction. I agree with that assessment in that like Larusso, Sherk is a fictional character. He honestly believes that he is going to defeat BJ Penn yet for my money has not shown anything in his history that would indicate he is capable of doing that. Like I’ve said in my previous predictions, the best way to compare the two is by like competition. Both Penn and Sherk have faced Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre. While it’s true both have lost, look at the contrast in performances. Sherk was tooled by Matt Hughes and beaten to a pulp by Georges St. Pierre. Yet BJ Penn destroyed Matt Hughes in their last fight before being injured and made GSP look like the victim of an angry Rottweiler after just one round. Why would Sherk fare any better? If Sherk wants to shoot and take him down, can he honestly tell me that BJ’s guard is a safe place to be? I agree that cardio has always been Penn’s Achilles heel, but his transition to lightweight and recent one-sided drubbings of Jens Pulver and Joe Stevenson are proof enough to me that he’s ready to go. Well, for at least two rounds that is.

Final predictions:

Adam Wagner: Penn via submission
Jesse Holland: Penn via submission

Tito Ortiz (15-5-1) vs. Lyoto Machida (12-0)

Adam Wagner: Unless his opponent is named Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz is not used to being the underdog. But he is here (+165, vs. Machida’s -210). Tito feels he’s gone from UFC poster boy to UFC whipping boy, all thanks to Dana White. Now on the last fight of his contract, he’s out for revenge and truly has nothing to lose. With a loss, Tito will bounce back in EliteXC or another fight promotion, going on to reap the financial benefits of free agency. With a win, however, Tito takes a great deal of pride with him knowing that he holds a win over yet another UFC star (add that to Forrest Griffin, Wanderlei Silva, Patrick Cote, Evan Tanner, and a draw on Rashad Evans’ otherwise perfect record). What’s better than pride? Leverage. Specifically, Tito can use a win over these guys to leverage a return to the UFC later on down the road — and you can bet he will. Like Chuck, Machida’s strength is his pinpoint accurate counter punching. However, unlike Chuck, Machida’s style can be a little boring, as he backpedals very, very quickly. For Ortiz to win, he cannot let Machida’s style dictate the fight. He has to close the distance on Machida, push him up against the fence and look for the takedown. Once there, Ortiz will look to leverage his size advantage to get on top and stay on top. Ortiz is one of the most gifted fighters while on top of his opponent because he doesn’t need to pass his opponent’s guard to inflict serious damage. If he can take Machida down at least once in each round (and keep him there for a minute or more while inflicting damage), he can pull off the win.

Jesse Holland: The greatest thing about this match is that it will be Tito’s last under Dana White. I am so tired of them going back and forth over who the bigger jerk is. In fact I haven’t seen a fight dragged out this long since Roddy Piper and Keith David beat the snot out of each other in They Live. With that in mind, Tito’s legacy won’t live past this fight. The simple reason is that he’s matched up against someone who stylistically, is his complete opposite. Was that on purpose? Perhaps. This may be one time the UFC wants Machida to crank out another boring decision because that’s how they want Ortiz to be remembered. As far as offense, if Tito can’t shoot, he can’t score. And trying to shoot on Machida who has a very unorthodox stance will not be easy. Tito may try to strike, but his hands are average at best and not on par with Machida’s. Rounds two and three could be very boring if all we see is Tito shoot and Machida retreat, ad nauseam. Machida has to give him the Liddell treatment: Circle the cage and pepper him with strikes from the outside. Machida is undefeated for a reason and his list of opponents is a who’s-who of MMA talent. Tito however hasn’t done anything of any consequence in the last five years of fighting except bitch-slap Ken Shamrock. I don’t see this fight being any different.

Final predictions:

Adam Wagner: Ortiz via decision
Jesse Holland: Machida via split-decision

Wanderlei Silva (31-8-1) vs. Keith Jardine (13-3-1)

Adam Wagner: Styles make fights, and if this were a boxing match, it’d be a classic out-fighter vs. in-fighter. The out-fighter (ala Muhammad Ali) uses his reach advantage and speed to dance around an opponent and keep the distance. The in-fighter (ala Mike Tyson) recognizes his reach disadvantage and works to close the distance, often times taking a lot of punches along the way. Typically, the out-fighter has the advantage. Like an out-fighter, Jardine keeps the distance, only he does so with powerful and consistent kicks to both legs and ribcage. Like an in-fighter, Silva has short arms and tries to work inside to utilize the clinch. Despite back-to-back KO losses, Silva remains a difficult opponent to knock out (if he wasn’t, Chuck — a classic out-fighter — would have iced him in their three-round slugfest). Silva will need to work his way inside Jardine’s comfort zone and away from those kicks. He’ll look to engage Jardine in the clinch and land solid hooks, uppercuts and elbows. Jardine will look to escape by pushing Silva away or taking him down (Jardine is heavier and taller, which he can leverage to impose his will via ground and pound). That said, Silva is difficult to take down, so expect the vast majority of this fight to stay on its feet. This is a very tough match to call, although Silva remains the favorite (-185, vs. Jardine’s +145). It will certainly be a war!

Jesse Holland: Wanderlei Silva may be one of the great light heavyweights of our time, but I’m not convinced that he’s been able to recover from the knockouts he suffered at the hands of Cro Cop and Hendo. I’m also not entirely sure he feels comfortable in the cage and he’s facing a guy in Jardine who feels right at home. People are reluctant to recognize Jardine (like they were Forrest Griffin) as a top contender but don’t let the loss to Houston Alexander fool you: This guy is for real. He has a win over former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. How many people can say that? In addition, Jardine leans towards the larger end of the light heavyweight scale whereas Silva is on the smaller end. That size makes a huge difference when you talk about inside fighting. Jardine is not going to be held in the clinch or tossed around very easily and his devastating leg kicks could eliminate the inside game altogether. Jardine ended his fight with Kerry Schall via TKO with leg kicks. Again, how many people can say that? Wanderlei has been fighting for a long time, taking punishment for years in Vale Tudo before even making it big in PRIDE. I’m afraid that mileage is wearing him down and his fight against Jardine may be his last at light heavyweight unless he comes alive and delivers a classic "Axe Murderer" KO. Not likely.

Final predictions:

Adam Wagner: Jardine via unanimous decision
Jesse Holland: Jardine via unanimous decision

Thiago Silva (12-0) vs. Antonio Mendes (14-2)

Adam Wagner: If by some miracle, you haven’t heard of Thiago Silva by now, you might want to crawl out from whatever rock you live under and put this guy on your radar. That’s because he’ll be challenging for the light heavyweight title one day soon. If you ask me, Rashad Evans dodged a bullet when he was asked to back out of this fight to fill in for an injured Shogun Rua (not that Chuck was an easier opponent, but Silva is a beast). Silva’s unbeaten in his 12 professional fights and faces what could be a tough opponent in Antonio Mendes, who himself is riding an 11-fight win streak (the last nine of which came in 2007). Both men have KO power, so this fight has all the makings of a war. Silva hails from America Top Team; Mendes fights with Europe Top Team. Formerly with Chute Boxe, Silva is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with strong Muay Thai. His fights don’t typically make it out of the first round, and watch for the same thing here. Always calm and collected, Silva will look to engage early, work from the clinch and punish Mendes until it hits the floor. Once there, he’ll look to pass Mendes’ guard and work the ground and pound. If given the opportunity, he’ll take a neck, arm or leg, break it off, take it home and mount it on his wall like a 13 foot marlin.

Jesse Holland: Speaking of Marlins, nobody thought they would defeat the mighty Yankees in the 2003 World Series and you see how that turned out. Sure, Silva is 12-0. Sure Silva has 10 (T)KO’s. But since when does any of that stuff matter? Ok well maybe it does but that shouldn’t stop Antonio Mendes from giving it the ol’ college try. Mendes has nothing to lose here and Silva may be getting a big head with all these dominating wins. Sorry to regurgitate another tired baseball reference, but remember what happened to Casey in Casey at the Bat? Silva can make a mistake and if Mendes is alive long enough to see it he could capitalize. But seriously, this is MMA, and Mendes is an accomplished fighter and may be the hardest working guy in MMA. Mendes fought nine times in 2007 and is riding an eleven-fight winning streak. Unfortunately there’s nowhere to go. You don’t want to go to the ground with a jiu-jitsu black belt, and who wants to stand with a guy that wins 80% of his fights by (T)KO? Mendes needs to go Buster Douglas and will this one. Anything can happen.

Final predictions:

Adam Wagner: Silva via TKO
Jesse Holland: Silva via TKO

Goran Reljic (7-0) vs. Wilson Gouveia (10-4)

Adam Wagner: Goran Reljic will make his Octagon debut against a formidable Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner with KO power in Gouveia. But Reljic is no slouch when it comes to jits. The 23-year-old from the Gracie Berra UK team usually splits time between his native Croatia (where he’s trains with Cro Cop) and England (where he trains with Roger Gracie). But for this fight, the Croatian relocated to Vegas to train with Xtreme Couture. At 6’3", he has a slight height advantage over Gouveia, but he’ll likely rely on his jiu-jitsu. He’s finished five of his seven fights via submission (typically armbars) and won the 2007 European Gracie Championship in the 93-kg (205-lb.) weight class. In a recent interview Reljic said that he’s not impressed with Gouveia, who he thinks has gotten lucky in most of his recent fights. Expect a technical showdown when this fight hits the mat.

Jesse Holland: Wilson Gouveia has been flying under the radar for quite some time but that’s soon going to change. Not only has he won four consecutive fights, he’s won them convincingly. Only one of his ten wins has gone to the judges and with five submissions and four (T)KO’s it’s obvious he can win it anywhere the fight goes. Even his loss to Keith Jardine was a lot closer than people may remember thanks to his relentless leg kicks. Reljic may have a perfect record but he hasn’t faced very stiff competition. Gouveia gets that edge as he’s been in there with some tough guys and even holds a TKO victory over the 17-2 Jon Fitch. Gouveia has to control the pace from the start of the fight and never let Reljic find a comfort zone. I predict he will soften him with leg kicks and stop him with strikes somewhere in the second round. Expect to be seeing a lot more of Wilson Gouveia.

Final predictions:

Adam Wagner: Gouveia via submission
Jesse Holland: Gouveia via TKO

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and our coverage of UFC 84: "Ill Will."

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for UFC 84.

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