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UFC 100 predictions, preview and analysis

UFC 100 is set to go down this Saturday, July 11, 2009 from The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, live on pay-per-view (PPV) starting at 10p.m. ET.

Remember: will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET.

To get us pumped for this historic event, Editor and Senior Writer Jesse Holland (that’s me) will break down the main event matches and take a closer look at the intricacies of each contest.

Like most MMA fans, I'm pumped for the main event rematch between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir -- not because it will crown an undisputed division champion -- but because it will hopefully put an end to all the back-and-forth jibber-jabber between the two hot-headed heavyweights.

Also teetering on the brink of termination is the "Rush" dynasty when GSP faces the Brazilian "Pitbull" Thiago Alves. Can the Muay Thai monster join Gracie, Fitch and Silva in the UFC's elite 8-straight win club? Or will St. Pierre administer a Canadian kibosh?

Wrestling may be the key, as it will be in the Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping fight. We know that "Hollywood" can fight the world's best and win -- but can "The Count?"

It’s going to be a great night of fights — with an undercard that could rival the televised portions of most events.

I’ve also included the current betting lines for each fight so that you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities … let’s get cracking:

265 lbs.: Brock Lesnar (3-1) vs. Frank Mir (12-3)

Backgrounds: Lesnar and Mir first met at UFC 81: "Breaking Point" in February 2008. Mir locked in a fight-ending kneebar in the very first round; however, prior to the stoppage, Lesnar had Mir on ropes and almost out with a barrage of unanswered and powerful blows. The man in charge of the action that night, referee Steve Mazzagatti, pulled Lesnar off Mir because of illegal blows to the back of the head. "The Next Big Thing" was docked a point for the infractions, and when the fight was restarted, Mir was able to pull off the electric victory. Mir went on to earn a spot (and title fight) as coach of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 opposite then interim division champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira. The pair then battled at UFC 92: "The Ultimate 2008,″ where Mir was a massive underdog. It didn’t appear to be that way after he peppered Noguiera with a stiff jab and landed several uppercuts that knocked the resilient Brazilian to the mat on numerous occasions. Mir then did what no man before him ever had, finishing the legendary Nogueira for the first time in his prestigious career and taking the title of Interim champion. And he did it with crisp stand up and not his bread and butter, the submission game. Lesnar on the other hand — a decorated amateur wrestler and former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar — went on to face mixed martial arts veteran Heath Herring at UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy" in August in another stiff test right out of the gate. He passed it with flying colors, earning a convincing unanimous decision. And, in the process, a big money championship match against Randy Couture at UFC 91 that same year when "The Natural" decided to return. He went on to defeat Couture via second round technical knockout to capture the gold.

Dumbass predicts: Frank Mir is going down. Since sucking wind against Dan Christensen en route to an unwatchable unanimous decision win at UFC 61, Mir has fought less than seven minutes in four fights leading up to Saturday's showdown. There are no transformations in seven minutes, no career-altering performances. You want to tell me that he looked like a striker extraordinaire against Nogueira at UFC 92? I'll give you that. But anyone can look good hitting the heavy bag -- and that's about all Big Nog was on that night. I'm not buying the Staph argument, because I've followed the Brazilian his entire career and for a guy who is allegedly in his early thirties he seems to be aging faster than Walter Donovan after he drank from the false grail. Remember too, that Mir had some crisp stand-up against Brandon Vera at UFC 65 -- until "The Truth" decided to punch back. So what's changed in those seven minutes? Not much, I'm afraid. But none of that really matters because everything you need to know about this rematch you already saw in their first meeting at UFC 81. In fact you already saw it with Royce Gracie in the early days of the UFC. Technique beats power until power learns technique. Brock Lesnar is twice the fighter he was in his UFC debut. Frank Mir? Probably still the same -- maybe twice the ego coming off the "Minotauro" win but skill-wise he's peaked. Lesnar on the other hand is just warming up. I expect Lesnar to do what he did in the first fight -- only this time he'll be more patient, more calculated. When you can punch like he can, there's no reason to jump into guard to finish someone. In fact there's no reason to do much of anything except connect, which I believe he will. This one isn't making it out of the first round. Lesnar by skillful destruction.

Betting lines (as of July 10):

Lesnar: -240 ((Bet Now))

Mir: +190 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Lesnar via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Georges "Rush" St. Pierre (18-2) vs. Thiago "Pitbull" Alves (16-3)

Backgrounds: St. Pierre scored a technical knockout win against lightweight champion BJ Penn at UFC 94 on Jan 31. St. Pierre dominated Penn for four straight rounds. Penn acknowledged that he had sustained such abuse that he was more than likely knocked out on his feet after the second round. His corner threw in the towel at the end of round four to save the Hawaiian from further punishment. In the wake of the victory, Penn’s camp alleged that St. Pierre illegally applied Vaseline to the shoulders and back of the 170-pound champion, giving him a unfair advantage during the fight by essentially nullifying the superb Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills of "The Prodigy" and "Greasegate" was born. Hopefully, controversy — real or contrived — will be absent on July 11 when St. Pierre tangles with the "Pitbull." Alves has been an absolute monster of late, finishing top-ranked opponents Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan, as well as outpointing Josh Koscheck on all three judges scorecards, in his three most recent performances. He has been on a two-year tear, with five of his last seven wins ending by way of (technical) knockout. Alves, in fact, has not lost since 2006, which was against another top fighter in the division, Jon Fitch.

Dumbass predicts: If you frequent my prediction columns you know how much I love analyzing a GSP fight. That's because the second I say anything remotely critical of Jesus St. Pierre, the hate mail starts pouring in. I may need to change mail accounts for this one, because I'm picking Alves for the upset. Now a lot of "experts" are going to print with CAN ALVES SHOCK THE WORLD?!? but let's be realistic, would it be that shocking if a fighter as talented as the "Pitbull" actually won? Okay, Matt Serra shocked the world, Alves will just slightly surprise it. That's not a knock on GSP, because I agree that he owns "Best (insert category here) fighter" in several different categories including endurance and MMA wrestling. But I think Alves is a bad match-up for the champ. "Rush" is an excellent fighter, technically sound in every aspect. But if there was one area he gives to Alves it's the striking. In fact, I don't even think it comparable. Thiago's Muay Thai is what St. Pierre's wrestling is in this division. Now I've never seen a fight-ending shoot, but I've seen a fight-ending strike. I've also seen Alves stop the shoot like he did against Koscheck -- just like I've seen St. Pierre get stopped by strikes like he did against Serra at UFC 69. THAT PUNCH WAS TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD AND BEHIND THE EAR AND WAS LACED WITH ETHER "Rush" fans are probably screaming. Yeah, GSP was hit in the head. Where do you think Alves will be aiming? St. Pierre is at his best when he can take fighters down and grind them into little pieces like he did against BJ Penn at UFC 94. But when was the last time he finished a fighter (besides a bewildered Matt Hughes at UFC 65) in the stand-up department? Alves looks better and better in each fight and has done nothing for the past six months except train to knock GSP out. St. Pierre will win if he can control Alves on the ground. If he can't, it would not shock me to see him stopped in the second or third round by strikes.

Betting lines (as of July 10):

St. Pierre: -300 ((Bet Now))

Alves: +220 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Alves via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Jon Fitch (18-3) vs. Paulo Thiago (11-0)

Backgrounds: Fitch has been provided with an opportunity to exact revenge — the Brazilian most recently stunned his good friend and American Kickboxing Academy training partner, Josh Koscheck, with a fight-ending first round upper cut at UFC 95: "Sanchez vs. Stevenson" back in February. Thiago came into the bout riding a four-fight win streak for the Jungle Fight promotion last year. Prior to the upset, which was perhaps more shocking because of the fashion in which he did it, Thiago stopped Luis Dutra Jr. via technical knockout (strikes) in round one of their bout in September 2008. Fitch scored a dominating unanimous decision win over Akihiro Gono in his last performance at UFC 94: "St. Pierre vs. Penn 2″ on Jan. 31, overcoming the sight of the charismatic Japanese standout and his corner dressed in drag. The Purdue University wrestler now boasts nine victories for the promotion in 10 attempts. The lone blemish on his record is to welterweight deity Georges "Rush" St. Pierre in their championship match from UFC 87 "Seek and Destroy" on August 9.

Dumbass predicts: Jon Fitch has spent the last four years in the UFC proving what kind of fighter he is. Is it an exaggeration to call him a top five welterweight? With wins over guys like Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez, I don't think it's a stretch to say he's top three. Fitch won fifteen straight fights before his five round beating at the hands of Georges St. Pierre -- and that fight proved he's not going to get stopped no matter how hard you beat on him. He deserves a higher caliber of fighter than Thiago -- which is more of a credit to Fitch than it is a knock against Paulo. The Brazilian is only here because he stopped Fitch's friend and team mate Josh Koscheck at UFC 95. And I think my biggest reason for not giving him much chance to do it again is because he looked terrible in that fight before lightning struck. The stoppage didn't bother me, but that was a flash KO win and he's going to be in for a surprise if that's what he's banking on this Saturday. Fitch is an outstanding wrestler who like GSP, knows how to control people on the ground and is very difficult to submit. So difficult that it's only happened once in 21 fights -- his professional debut back in 2002. Thiago is talented, but this isn't Jungle Fight. This is the UFC and Fitch has experience against the world's best. First round abuse followed by a second round stoppage.

Betting lines (as of July 10):

Fitch: -500 ((Bet Now))

Thiago: +350 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Fitch via technical knockout

185 lbs.: Dan "Hollywood" Henderson (24-7) vs. Michael "The Count" Bisping (17-1)

Backgrounds: Bisping — TUF 3 light heavyweight winner and current British UFC posterboy — has looked reborn since dropping down from 205 to 185 pounds, thrashing Jason Day at UFC 85: "Bedlam" and putting it on Charles McCarthy for the majority of the first round to earn a technical knockout win after "Chainsaw" could not answer the bell for the second frame. Henderson is coming off a hard-fought split decision win over Rich Franklin at UFC 93 earlier this year. He was a member of the United States Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team in 1992 and 1996 and has competed all over the world both as an amateur in wrestling and as a professional in mixed martial arts. "Hollywood" is the only the only fighter in the history of the sport to hold two titles in two weight classes concurrently in a major fight organization as he held the now defunct PRIDE’s 205 pound and 185 pound titles. In short, he has a remarkable resume. But he has slowed down a bit since the end of 2005, finishing just one opponent (Wanderlei Silva) in his last nine fights. During that span he has won six of those contests.

Dumbass predicts: On paper, there's no way Dan Henderson loses this. He's got great wrestling, KO power and more big-stage experience than most guys on this card combined. So why am I picking Bisping? Because in case you hadn't noticed, this column has the word "Dumbass" associated with it. Now, don't think I'm all high and mighty on "The Count" because I'm not. In fact I can't stand him. But hey, the guy knows what he's doing. I'm not buying all that crap about him outwrestling Hendo or all that other posturing, because come fight night he's going to pull a Leben: Part Deux. Henderson hasn't been knocked out in 31 fights -- and Bisping isn't going to be the first man to do it either. He may have knockout power -- but even a BB gun can knock over a tin can. Unfortunately "Hollywood" is going on 39 years of age and each time he makes that cut to 185 lbs he looks just a little bit older. Hendo is still a major player in mixed martial arts -- but that's in the light heavyweight division where he is better suited at this stage of his career. Yes, he can take Bisping down and yes, he can knock Bisping out, but I don't think he'll be able to catch him in order to do either of those. I expect the Brit to spend his time in reverse, with that annoying in-and-out punching that fans just love (not). He won't do much damage, but he'll do enough while Henderson wears himself out in pursuit. This one is going to be a sleeper. Not because it will surprise everyone with how sensational it was, but because it will put everyone to sleep who tries to watch three rounds of Bisping stick and move -- or being "elusive" as we now like to call it. Yawn.

Betting lines (as of July 10):

Henderson: -240 ((Bet Now))

Bisping: +190 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Bisping via split decision

185 lbs.: Yoshihiro "Sexyama" Akiyama (12-1) vs. Alan "The Talent" Belcher (14-5)

Backgrounds: "The Talent" is fresh off a comeback victory over Pride FC and Spirit MC standout Denis Kang at UFC 93: "Franklin vs. Henderson" earlier this year. Belcher was taking his lumps before Kang got sloppy and ended up in a fight-ending guillotine. It was his fourth win in his last five attempts — a surprising technical knockout loss to newcomer Jason Day at UFC 83: "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2" last year is the only blip during that span. Akiyama is fourth-generation Japanese-born Korean and has long been one of Japan’s biggest heels. That’s because Akiyama went Exxon Valdez on Japanese hero Kazushi Sakuraba at K-1 Premium Dynamite!! in 2006. His TKO victory over the legend was changed to a "No Contest" after some questions were raised about his pre-fight ritual of getting freaky with a jar of Olay and a Japanese "Grease Gate" was born. After cleaning the clock of now-UFC middleweight Denis Kang at Hero’s 2007, Akiyama made waves at Yarennoka 2007 when Kazuo Misaki turned his face inside-out with a brutal soccer kick. While originally ruled a knockout, an Akiyama complaint forced officials to review the tape and reverse the match to a "No Contest" as it was decided prior to the event that kicks to a downed opponent would be considered a foul. Fans were not pleased. Akiyama followed that up with back-to-back submission wins in DREAM prior to signing with Zuffa, where he will debut on July 11.

Dumbass predicts: Would you rather be sexy or talented? For the purposes of UFC 100 I'm going with sexy, as in "Sexyama." Belcher has been talking like he's in the hunt for the middleweight title but personally, I don't see it. In his last three fights he was stopped by Jason Day (who is no longer in the UFC), squeaked out a split-decision win against the inconsistent Ed Herman and pulled off a miracle victory in Denis Kang's UFC debut. That isn't exactly tearing through the division. And when he beat Kang, his facial expression wasn't "Welcome to the UFC motherfucker!" it was more like "Holy Shit I won!" I'm not calling Belcher a can because he isn't. He has good Muay Thai and solid submissions, but Akiyama is on another level and capable of winning anywhere at anytime — none of his twelve wins have gone the distance. In addition, he can finish in style with either a spinning back kick (Nagata) or an Ezekiel choke (Shibata, Ishizawa). I'm not picking a finish because it's his debut and I do expect an adjustment period inside the cage. Belcher may be able to use that to his advantage early in the fight but the longer this one goes, the more trouble "The Talent" will find himself in.

Betting lines (as of July 10):

Akiyama: -300 ((Bet Now))

Belcher: +220 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Akiyama via unanimous decision

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 100.

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

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