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UFC 89 predictions, preview and analysis

UFC 89: "Leben vs. Bisping" is set go off from The National Indoor Arena (NIA) in Birmingham, England., on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET October 18.

Remember: will provide updates and blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card bouts, beginning with the 9 p.m. ET special free tape-delayed Spike TV telecast. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the LIVE action earlier that afternoon.

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:

Michael "The Count" Bisping (16-1) vs. Chris "The Crippler" Leben (18-4)

This to me seems like a battle of the 2.0's. Bisping never quite made the run at light heavyweight many of us expected him to after barely squeaking out a victory at UFC 75 against the durable but green Matt Hamill and then trudging his way through a main event loss at UFC 78 against Rashad Evans. Leben on the other hand was close to losing three straight until a Hail Mary late in round three flattened an unsuspecting Terry Martin at Fight Night 11. Bisping has since dropped to middleweight and looked rather impressive against Charles McCarthy and Jason Day. "The Count" has a striking style that is more elegant than technical, but it should be enough to outpoint Leben. Based on what we've seen coming into this fight, "The Crippler" has never looked in better condition. However I don't think he has enough weapons outside of his looping bombs to win it. Which fighter has evolved and which fighter is just more of the same? If Bisping can keep the footwork moving, I expect him to walk away with the decision.

Keys to victory:

Bisping: Use some of that fancy footwork and stay out of the pocket - or as we're now calling it in the MMA community "being elusive". Let him empty the tank trying to end it with one punch and fire at will.

Leben: Prove you're more than a one-trick pony. Everyone expects you to go out there to try and knock him silly, which is why you should take him down and out of his comfort zone. How about a little Hendo mouth smothering to shake up those English nerves?

Prediction: Bisping by unanimous decision

Brandon "The Truth" Vera (9-2) vs. Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine (13-4-1)

Like Bisping vs. Leben, this is a bout that will be very telling about what the future has in store for each fighter. There was a time when Vera looked invincible until back-to-back losses against Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum forced him to light heavyweight. His performance against Reese Andy was nothing to be proud of, and he needs to make a statement against Jardine. "The Dean of Mean" has already beaten two people that have held the light heavyweight title: Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin. But after getting knocked out twice on the inside against Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva, I have to wonder if he can survive the clinch against someone with Vera's Muay Thai. Jardine likes the leg kick, as does Vera, but Jardine is also susceptible to it as we saw in his bout with Wilson Gouveia at Ultimate Finale 3. Vera needs to be comfortable and aggressive, and watch for the sometimes bewildering style of Jardine's striking. The clinch could lead to a stoppage, but there is a risk of getting knocked out trying to get there. With so much at stake we could have a thriller or a stinker. I'm taking Vera on points, but not by much.

Keys to victory:

Vera: Like Doc told Little Mac, stick and move! Unfortunately Vera can't press Select in between rounds so the first half of the fight should be all legs. Frustrate him ala Bonnar and pick your shots.

Jardine: He's sure to use the jab and the distance to try and pick you apart. Avoid the clinch and show him you know a thing or two about kicks yourself. Watch out for the guillotine and the rear naked choke.

Prediction: Vera by split decision

Rameau Thierry "The African Assassin" Sokoudjou (5-2) vs. Luis "Bahna" Cane (8-1)

Sokoudjou was a Brazilian smashing machine over in PRIDE and was supposed to be the next big thing at light heavyweight until Lyoto Machida crashed the party and choked out him out in his UFC debut at UFC 79. He followed that up with a win against the apathetic Kazuhiro Nakamura at UFC 84 but his unwillingness to commit to his strikes left a lot of fans wondering what all the hype was about. Was he to be PRIDE's Houston Alexander? Hardly. He faces Luis Cane, who showed his ignorance for the rules at UFC 79 when he was DQ'd against James Irvin. Cane has a jiu-jitsu background but prefers to keep things standing. That's a bad thing. While he has talent and a very competent stand-up attack (as we saw against Jason Lambert at UFC 85), he's going to be in for a rude awakening against "The African Assassin". I believe that Sokoudjou is back. With the Machida loss behind him (and a valuable lesson learned), we're about to see why he is so dangerous. He has a stellar Judo resume but won't need it. I predict a brazen Cane will go in and try to establish the jab, and will have his head firmly planted in the third row courtesy of a Sokoudjou bomb.

Keys to victory:

Sokoudjou: You're a better all-around fighter and a vicious striker. All you need is your confidence. Believe in your offense and this one is in the bag.

Cane: Like Luke told the Emperor: Your overconfidence is your weakness. If you have good jits, now is the time to use it. If you want to end up on the floor like a CPR dummy in ugly shorts, try and exchange.

Prediction: Sokoudjou by KO

Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (25-16-5) vs. Paul "Relentless" Taylor (9-3-1)

God Bless Chris Lytle. Going into his thirteenth UFC fight, you have to give the man credit. He's been fighting for ten years and is not only durable, but making a true career out of mixed martial arts. My favorite Chris Lytle stat? In 46 fights he's never been submitted. He took a beating against Josh Koscheck at UFC 86, but prior to that had a nice TKO against Kyle Bradley at UFC 81. Lytle was also ahead on the judges scorecards against Thiago Alves at UFC 78 until a cut ended the bout after two rounds. He'll try and go back to the win column against Paul Taylor, who is 2-2 since debuting at UFC 70 in April of 2007. Taylor is coming off a split decision win against Jess Liaudin at UFC 85 after two losses, and I'm not sure he has what it takes against the wily veteran. Taylor likes to keep it standing where he has power and ferocious energy, but if it goes to the ground nobody outside of Rousimar Palhares is submitting Lytle. Taylor has never been knocked out which leads me to believe he will willingly engage with Lytle - which may be a good thing if Lytle goes for broke and gets caught. I see this fight going the distance, with Lytle using his experience and edge in technical striking to take the decision.

Keys to victory:

Lytle: You're a workhorse. Go out and do what you always do: Throw hands and keep yourself off the ground. Nobody at your level does it better.

Taylor: Submissions are out of the question, so let Lytle throw the one-two combo he loves so much and make him pay for it. The longer the fight goes the less chance you have of winning. Go for the stoppage.

Prediction: Lytle by unanimous decision.

Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (14-4) vs. Paul "Tellys" Kelly (7-0)

What do both Marcus Davis and Paul Kelly have in common? Wins over Paul Taylor. Yet I think the way those two fights ended says a lot about the direction of this fight. Taylor went to a decision whereas Davis stopped it in round one. More importantly, Davis showed how well rounded he's become since his short-lived stint on The Ultimate Fighter 2. Primarily known for his vicious striking, Davis was in a world of trouble and pulled out the armbar to win it. That's bad news for Kelly who is more comfortable on the ground. Kelly has little chance on his feet and if he has to worry about a Davis submission, where does he go? Davis is coming off a decision loss against Mike Swick at UFC 85, but the last time Davis rebounded from a loss he went on to win eleven straight, with nine stoppages. It's amazing how far he's come and how good he continues to be at this stage of his career. Kelly has a bright future but is just not in the same league as Davis and will bow out not-so-gracefully in the first round.

Keys to victory:

Davis: No surprises here. Stuff the takedown and beat him to a pulp. You seem to do your best work on foreign soil. Ever think about joining the Army?

Kelly: No one will fault you for not being able to defend against a southpaw like Davis. You have a strong ground game but how do you intend to get there? It may be time to pull a Tiger Chung Lee and resurrect the lost art of throwing salt in someone's eyes when the ref is distracted.

Prediction: Davis by TKO

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 89: Leben vs. Bisping.

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