The UFC will pull the trigger next Saturday on its most anticipated fight of the summer when Quinton "Rampage" Jackson puts his 205-pound belt on the line against Forrest Griffin.In this week's edition of the Friday Night Throwdown, we're going to take a look at the UFC 86 main card, which has some "Fight of the Night" nominees written all over it.
In fact, there are two 155-pound fights that are literally lightweight title eliminators, as well as a classic "striker vs. grappler" match up in the welterweight division. Then, in the co feature of the night, we have a middleweight showdown with title shot implications rounding out the televised card.
It's perhaps one of the most explosive, evenly matched and underrated main cards in sometime.
Let's take a closer look at these intriguing match ups to see who could have the edge heading into next Saturday night.
Tyson Griffin vs. Marcus Aurelio
In the first of two lightweight fights that will take place at UFC 86, Tyson Griffin will look to cash-in another "Fight of the Night" bonus when he goes against mixed martial arts veteran, Marcus Aurelio.
Griffin -– who trains at XTreme Couture -- is one of the toughest lightweights in the division. And an impressive win here could cement his status as next in line for the 155-pound title behind the winner of the bout between Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta. However, has been unable to finish fights – his last four contests have all gone to the judges scorecards. Remember that his opponents in those fights, including Frank Edgar, Clay Guida, Thiago Tavares and Gleison Tibau, are no slouches.
Let's give credit where credit is due.
Regardless, Griffin has to feel the pressure to dominate if he wants to advance to that next level. Unfortunately for him, his next opponent is no stranger to the spotlight and has never been finished in a fight.
Marcus Aurelio gained superstar status in Japan by being the first man to ever defeat Takanori Gomi in PRIDE. Not only did he defeat Gomi, but he put the "Fireball Kid" to sleep with an arm triangle in the very first round.
He dropped his Octagon debut to Clay Guida, but since that time he has reeled off two straight wins. Furthermore, Aurelio finished both fights against Luke Claudillo and Ryan Roberts in the first round. And in those fights he demonstrated that he has become a much more well rounded fighter – he's not just a Brazilian jiu-jitsu threat.
In short, he has all the tolls to give Griffin a run for his money next Saturday night.
Edge: This is a very tough fight to call. "Maximus" likely has the advantage if this fight hits the floor because of his tremendous jiu-jitsu skills. Griffin has great wrestling and will more than likely be able to takedown Aurelio at will. However, being inside Aurelio's guard is a very dangerous place to be. Griffin has better boxing and perhaps can neutralize Aurelio's jiu-jitsu with good wrestling, ground and pound and sound submission defense. He's got it.
Joe Stevenson vs. Gleison Tibau
Joe Stevenson is looking to get back on track after being stopped in his lightweight title fight against current champion, BJ Penn, back in January. Despite the humbling loss, "Daddy" still has all the tools to become a champion in the UFC. His first fight back, however, will not be a walk in the park when he squares off with American Top Team-trained fighter, Gleison Tibau.
Tibau -- who at one point fought at welterweight -- is a scrappy fighter with good striking and great jiu-jitsu. What also makes Tibau dangerous is the fact that he will have significant height and reach advantages, which will help him defend the takedowns that Stevenson will likely look for throughout the fight.
Edge: Tibau will make Stevenson work hard to get takedowns. Nonetheless, "Daddy" has a ton of heart and he will do whatever it takes to take Tibau to the ground and pound him out. Keep in mind that Tibau has the height and reach advantages, which can help him whether the fight is vertical or horizontal. And if he uses them to put Stevenson in bad positions he could walk away with the victory. It's just not going to happen.
Chris Lytle vs. Josh Koscheck
This is a huge fight for Chris Lytle, who seems like he's been in the UFC forever but has never been considered a top contender. In fact, "Lights Out" is winless (0-2) in big fights inside the Octagon. He was on his back for three rounds against Matt Hughes and was winning the fight against Thiago Alves until a cut put a stop to things.
The third time, however, could be the charm against Josh Koscheck.
Koscheck's chin will be tested in this fight because Lytle has the power to knockout dudes cold. That is, of course, if he intends to keep it standing rather than relying on his super wrestling skills to dominate the fight. His stand up has come a long way since the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and it cannot be underestimated.
Indeed, the result of this fight will depend on which Koscheck shows up at UFC 86. Koscheck was more than willing to stand with Diego Sanchez, Georges St. Pierre and Dustin Hazelett his last three times out. But it's safe to say that none of them have knockout power like Lytle.
Edge: If he doesn't stand and bang then it has to go to Koscheck. He needs to take this fight to the ground, considering Lytle's power when upright and suspect takedown defense. Of course, this fight can go either way, but it's going to be Koscheck's gameplan that will determine the winner of this fight.
Patrick Cote vs. Ricardo Almeida
In a division desperate to find contenders to Anderson Silva's crown, Patrick Cote and Ricardo Almeida meet in a fight that puts one man closer to annihilation.
Patrick Cote is on a three-fight tear and is the front runner to meet Silva if he can win this fight and for some reason Yushin Okami gets leapfrogged. For Almeida, this will be his second fight back in mixed martial arts since his long hiatus from the sport; however, that didn't stop him from submitting Rob Yundt in the first round of UFC 81: "Breaking Point" in February.
This is a real bad match up for Cote because Almeida has made it no secret that he wants to submit "The Predator." Cote clearly has the advantage in the striking department, but Almeida can submit Cote any day of the week and twice on Sunday if he makes even the slightest mistake.
Almeida's jiu-jitsu is that tight.
In addition, Cote has shined in his last three wins. But all of them have come against strikers, which is a good style for the heavy-handed Canadian to match up against. Keep in mind that two of his three losses in the UFC have come by way of submission.
Almeida proved against Yundt that he hasn't lost a step since returning from his self-imposed hiatus several years ago. And he can increase his stock exponentially if he can go out and submit Cote in short order vis-à-vis Travis Lutter. Of course, he'll have to be careful of Cote's power -- Andrei Semenov landed a clean shot on the button back at UFC 35 that set up an Almeida loss via technical knockout.
It can certainly happen again if he's not careful.
Edge: Ricardo's strength (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) is stronger than Cote's (Striking). Almeida's standup is average but good enough to weather any storm that Cote will bring early in the fight. Having said that, this is a super easy fight to analyze: If Cote can keep the fight standing, he wins this fight. If it hits the ground, it's going to be a wrap for Cote.
MMA news and notes
Evan Tanner needs change: Someone needs to break it to Evan "Kimbo Beard" Tanner that he needs to hang up the gloves or perhaps toil in another organization against lesser competition to get re-acclimated. He continues to look rusty in the cage after a two-year break from the sport. Kendall Grove beat him to the punch in every aspect this past weekend. However, he was much more aggressive in this fight than his UFC return against Yushin Okami. It just was not effective.
Amir Sadollah is TUF after all: What else can you say about Amir Sadollah that hasn't been said already? Amir could truly be a diamond in the rough for the UFC and in a couple years could be a force in the middleweight division ... if that's where he decides to remain. For a fighter who was 0-0 in MMA before getting on the show, he truly didn't fight like a 0-0 fighter. As for C.B. Dolloway, he has a bright future in the sport but clearly "has some growing up to do."
Diaz-Denny to headline July 26 Elite XC show: Nick Diaz has coasted since his win (later ruled a no contest) over Takanori Gomi at PRIDE 33 in 2006. He has looked lethargic in all of his fights since then; therefore, it's unsurprising that Gary Shaw and company are keeping Diaz and KJ Noons apart until the fall. In all honestly, Diaz needs to finish Thomas Denny in impressive fashion to add to the intrigue of Diaz-Noons II later in the year.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thompson could be the lightweight fight of the year: If there is one lightweight fight besides BJ Penn and Sean Sherk in terms of hype and anticipation it is the battle that takes place tonight. Both Melendez and Thompson are longtime friends and training partners, which makes tonight's fight that much more exciting. "El Nino" is in virtually every Top 10 lightweight rankings list and Thompson is not that far behind. Both men are well versed on not only the ground but on the feet as well. There's no telling how this fight is going to end. The best part of all this is the fact that this fight is for a belt and is going five rounds! The real question will be if it does goes five rounds or not. I'm leaning towards "El Nino," however to win this fight in the third round.
That about does it for this week's edition of the Friday Night Throwdown and I've had a blast talking MMA every Friday (and sometimes Saturdays) with you guys. Thanks for the comments and the support is appreciated. Next week, I'll cover the main event of UFC 86 when Rampage Jackson meets Forrest Griffin for the UFC 205-pound strap. Until next week I'll see you guys right back here in the Throwdown!