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UFC 87 quick preview, analysis and predictions

UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy" is set for tomorrow (Saturday) night, August 9 from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The pay-per-view (PPV) event airs LIVE at 10 p.m. ET.

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 amazing line up of fights.

To get us pumped for the festivities, Editor and Senior Writer Jesse Holland (that's me) will be breaking down the main event matches and revealing each fighter's keys to victory.

If you're looking for an unbiased and objective examination of each contest, then I'm happy to report you will be extremely disappointed.

Why else do you think I would depose the former contributors and take this act solo like the selfish blowhard you already know me to be?

But enough about me, at least for the time being.

Let’s get cracking:

Demian Maia (7-0) vs. Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald (20-9)

Jason MacDonald is a big, strong middleweight who has good striking and good submissions. And therein lies the biggest disadvantage for "The Athlete". He is good, but not great. While he can and often has beaten average to above-average fighters like Chris Leben and Ed Herman, he also loses to them as we've seen against Patrick Cote and Kalib Starnes. MacDonald falls in love with his ground game much too easily and that could be his undoing against Demian Maia. In my book, Maia is second only to Rousimar "Toquinho" Palhares in pure jiu-jitsu talent at 185lbs. Still, MacDonald has three times the experience Maia does and is certainly no pushover. If he can stay on his feet and by all means avoid the mount, he has a good chance of taking the decision. Elbows are his friend - though I'm not sure he can win via stoppage with a smart offense, because one of his keys to victory is to keep Maia at striking distance. Conversely Maia needs to lull MacDonald into a false sense of security, where he can capitalize on a mistake and tangle him up in guard or even catch his back during a transition.

Keys to victory:

MacDonald: Long distance relationships usually don't work. Still, it's worth a try if you want to keep your joints intact. Repeated viewings of Machida vs. Ortiz may be of benefit.
Maia: Don't look for trouble, let trouble come to you. What a shame it would be if you landed in MacDonald's guard. Just don't pull a Nick Serra and try to get there from forty-feet away.

Prediction: Maia via submission

Manvel "Pitbull" Gamburyan (8-2) vs. Rob "The Saint" Emerson (7-6)

Manny Gamburyan was steamrolling his way through The Ultimate Fighter contestants - including Joe Lauzon before losing via injury at the TUF 5 finale. So why are people so down on him? Mostly because of his one-dimensional style - that has improved dramatically since his return at UFC 79. He still does his share of lay-n-pray, though it's now his opponents that are praying after seeing how quickly he submitted Nate Mohr and Jeffrey Cox. He's earned the name "Pitbull" by his relentless attack, sort of Sherk's Mini-Me and that's bad news for Rob Emerson. "The Saint" is a wily competitor, having never been finished in any of his six losses. He favors his hands, but how much will he get to use them against Gamburyan? Emerson is going to be taken down at will and how long he survives all depends on his submission defense. I'm not sure he's matured enough as a fighter to score any points or make any kind of progress on his back and this may turn out to be a rather dull affair should it go the distance. I'm trying to stay optimistic, but when you have one fighter who likes to take people down and finish them against another fighter who finds a way to stay alive, the best you can hope for is a ref like Mazz who stands people up like he's constructing a chain of dominoes.

Keys to victory:

Gamburyan: It hasn't failed you yet. Ram 'em and slam 'em and try to make it three straight subs.
Emerson: Submission defense and elbows from the bottom. And watch out for a spinning back-kick when you go to touch gloves.

Prediction: Gamburyan via unanimous decision

Kenny "KenFlo" Florian (9-3) vs. Roger "El Matador" Huerta (20-1-1)

Fight of the night? How about fight of the year? As painful as it is for me to use the term "Hell-bows", I can't deny their effectiveness. And Florian is fast - even for a lightweight. You want to talk about a dangerous fighter? All nine of his wins have been by (T)KO or submission. Note to Huerta: Finish or be finished. Florian may have had the tougher road and has already felt the pressure of fighting for the title, but Huerta isn't 20-1-1 by accident. You can question his opponents and even his performance but the guy finds a way to win. He was being planished by Guida and smothered by Evans - and still came back to finish. I like Huerta's striking over Florian's as well. It's a little more polished and his combinations are vastly superior, but his style is a bit too elegant for the tenacity of a fighter like KenFlo. I'm reminded of the difference between fencing and Kendo. How well Huerta does is directly related to how well he can weather the storm - of which there are bound to be many. For my money that's how Roger can pull off the win. It's time to take all the talk about being a softy, about being the golden boy and turn it into pure, unbridled rage.

Keys to victory:

Florian: Keep the pressure on and keep him flustered. Don't allow him any room to find his rhythm or you may find yourself eating combos - and not the ones that will cheese your hunger away.
Huerta: Fight fire with fire. The only way to win is to be as angry and as aggressive as Florian - without compromising your edge in skill. Hulk destroza!

Prediction: Huerta via unanimous decision

Heath "Texas Crazy Horse" Herring (28-13) vs. Brock Lesnar (1-1)

Two big heavyweights who came into the UFC with high expectations, two big heavyweights who have yet to meet them. Unfortunately it's Brock who has more to lose. A large part of his appeal and more importantly his ability to draw fan interest is his billing as a superior athlete, an unstoppable freight train on heavyweight tracks. The loss to Mir is forgivable based solely on Mir's world-class jiu-jitsu and history of punishing big men (Sylvia's arm comes to mind). But against Herring? I'm a believer that Lesnar's takedown is unstuffable and what better way to silence the critics then with a Rampage-esque slam on the Texas Crazy Horse? Still, the mount doesn't guarantee victory. Herring has executed more than a few submissions in his career - and not just the standard rear naked choke. Nothing says "ouch" like a keylock (ask fellow wrestler Kurt Angle) and Herring has two to his credit. Training insiders also reveal that Brock does not like to get hit in the face and fortunately for Herring, Lesnar's head is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. But like Rob Emerson, will he be able to stay on his feet long enough to aim for it? This one's going to the ground Heath, what are you going to do when you get there?

Keys to victory:

Herring: In Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, the easiest way to KO Bald Bull was to wait for him to shoot and land a body blow. Practice your timing and you could end it in 30 seconds with a perfectly placed knee. See Cro Cop vs. Fujita for a demonstration.
Lesnar: Don't jab, don't bob and weave, just pick him up and dump him on his head. Herring has adequate submissions so don't spend any time playing footsies. Show the world the true meaning of ground-and-pound.

Prediction: Lesnar via TKO

Georges "Rush" St. Pierre (16-2) vs. Jon Fitch (17-2)

Georges St. Pierre seems to have finally exorcised his demons and that couldn't have come at a better time for the champ. A lot of people are discounting the kind of threat Jon Fitch really is but like GSP said, this could be his stiffest test yet. Fitch has won fifteen straight, including wins over top five welterweights Diego Sanchez and Thiago Alves. He may not have the flash or the "It" factor like St. Pierre, but he knows how to win. His size and wrestling background will make it difficult for GSP to control him on the ground. Fitch also has solid striking and enough tools on his feet to make this fight a lot closer than many people think. I truly believe Fitch can hang, but five rounds is almost an eternity when trying to keep pace with one of the world's finest. "Rush" has never looked better, even before the Serra incident. I'm trying to find a weakness for Fitch to exploit but I'm having trouble coming up with one. It used to be the mental game but GSP looks to have that conquered. Of course anything can happen, but St. Pierre already had his upset. I don't see him losing for a very long time, even to a talented and deserving fighter like Jon Fitch.

Keys to victory:

St. Pierre: Show up.
Fitch: Bring your A-game. Have a plan for wherever the fight goes. It's not enough to be better than you've ever been. You have to be on another level entirely. A four leaf clover or monkey's paw wouldn't hurt.

Prediction: St. Pierre via TKO

That’s a wrap, folks. For the complete UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy" fight card click here. Remember to come check us out this weekend for the latest results, recaps and thoughts on Saturday’s fights.

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let's have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for UFC 87.

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