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UFC 106 predictions, preview and analysis

UFC 106: "Ortiz vs. Griffin 2" is set to go down this Saturday, November 21, 2009 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, live via pay-per-view.

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 the event, Editor and Senior Writer, Jesse Holland (that’s me), has once again rallied the troops for a breakdown of the televised main card fights. All your favorite contributors are here, bringing you an in-depth look at each contest.

One of the big stories coming into this event is of course the headlining fight (and rematch) between Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin. It's the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy's" first bout at light heavyweight since coming up short against Lyoto Machida back in May 2008.

Is the former UFC light heavyweight champion still a viable threat at 205-pounds?

There are also a lot of unanswered questions regarding the future of the welterweight division. Is Josh Koscheck the final test for Anthony Johnson before he becomes a serious title contender?

And does "Rumble" stand a chance against "Rush" if he passes?

Also on tap is a defining match between Luis Cane and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Can "Banha" solidify himself as  the next big thing at 205-pounds? Or will the well-traveled "Lil' Nog" overcome the rising star with his unique balance of boxing and jiu-jitsu?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning.

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:

205 lbs.: Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz (15-6-1) vs. Forrest Griffin (16-6)



Record (last five fights): 2-2-1
Notable wins: Beat the geriatric Ken Shamrock into exile...hardly "notable."
Notable losses: The last guy to be finished by Chuck Liddell, the aforementioned "Dragon" loss.
Strengths: Powerful wrestler, good cardio, ton of experience.
Weaknesses: Hasn't fought in over a year. Hasn't won in over three.


Record (last five fights): 3-2
Notable wins: Shocked the world with back-to-back wins over "Shogun" Rua and "Rampage" Jackson.
Notable losses: Then lost all the accolades with back-to-back defeats to Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva.
Strengths: Great cardio, good fundamentals, comes to fight.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent, questionable chin, not a lot of power in his hands.

Derek Bolender predicts: Here is a battle between two former UFC light heavyweight champions and two of the most beloved fighters in UFC history. It's basically a mainstream fans' wet dream and the perfect UFC 106 main event filler for the defunct Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin title fight.

Last time we saw Forrest he was busy getting obliterated by Anderson Silva at UFC 101, however, there is no real shame in losing to a guy who is the caliber of Silva. Everyone has had a bad night against him at one time or another in the UFC it seems like.

On second thought it was a severe ass kicking, borderline embarrassing, and he probably still wakes up in a cold sweat thinking about it, but let's move on.

It's been a bit longer since Tito has graced the octagon. He has not fought since May 2008 at UFC 84. We all remember. That was the weekend he donned his infamous "Dana is My Bitch" T-shirt at the weigh-ins as his UFC contract was coming to a close. Then the following evening Lyoto Machida proceeded to make Tito his bitch en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Since that time Tito has had major back surgery to repair an old injury, kissed and made up with UFC President Dana White, and as a result, signed a new UFC fight contract.

His first comeback fight against Forrest will be a rematch of their UFC 59 match in which Tito squeaked out a controversial split decision victory. Needless to say, a lot has changed since April 2006.

At the time Tito was in his prime having fought in eight championship bouts already. Forrest, on the other hand, was fighting in just his fourth UFC fight overall. He would not sniff a title fight for another two years until he fought Quinton Jackson in July 2008 at UFC 86.

Now Forrest is in his prime and Tito is past his while attempting to resurrect his career at the age of 34.

I expect to see the same qualities from Tito that we have seen in the past; great cardio and wrestling, solid ground and pound, and a phenomenal tan. The problem is that he is still largely a wrestling-based martial artist in a new world stocked full of well-rounded mixed martial artists.

The good news for fans is that there is a good chance this fight will be standing for the majority of the time as both will likely try their best to put on a show in the form of a slugfest.

For me the deciding factor in the fight will be Forrest's ability to land damaging leg kicks similar to how he defeated Quinton Jackson. They will be crucial in order to take power away from Tito's punches and take away his base in order to hamper his ability to shoot for takedowns. Once that is taken off the table Forrest should be able to slowly chip away at Tito with his hands.

I know Tito has been looking great in camp, his motivation is through the roof, and he's done some training with Freddie Roach. I get all that, however, that sounds eerily similar to what people were saying about Andrei Arlovski before Fedor Emelianenko played Rock Em' Sock Em' robots with his cranium.

I did not think Tito beat Forrest at UFC 59, so how can I pick him to win now that he is an aging fighter coming off both a long layoff and a major surgery? I cannot and I will not.

Betting lines (as of Nov. 20):

Ortiz: +105 ((Bet Now))

Griffin: -135 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Griffin via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Anthony "Rumble"Johnson vs. Josh "Kos" Koscheck



Record (last five fights): 4-1
Notable wins: Finished his last four wins by way of scary knockout.
Notable losses: Eye-poke loss to Kevin Burns -- that he quickly avenged with a brutal head kick KO.
Strengths: Enormous for a welterweight, ridiculous power, athletic.
Weaknesses: Untested against upper-tier fighters, questions surround his ground game.


Record (last five fights): 3-2
Notable wins: Stopped a returning Frank Trigg by way of TKO, deported "Zenko" Youshida via knockout.
Notable losses: Embarrassing TKO loss to an unknown Paulo Thiago, nearly crippled by Thiago Alves.
Strengths: Great cardio, outstanding wrestler, durable.
Weaknesses: Good but not great, may not have the stand-up to compete at the highest level.

James Iannotti predicts: Koscheck practically begged the UFC matchmakers to line him up with an opponent who would want to fight and push the pace with him. Unfortunately for him, the UFC did just that by pairing him up with Anthony Johnson, who is perhaps the most dangerous striker on the promotion's roster, having knocked out five of his seven opponents inside the Octagon.

"Rumble" does really well against fellow strikers, but we don't know yet how he'll handle being put on his back. We don't even know if there's anyone in the 170 pound division who's capable of putting him on his back. But if there is a UFC welterweight that may be able to negate that ridiculous striking with a strong wrestling attack (besides the champion of course) it's Josh Koscheck.

"Kos" has been working hard to improve his stand-up over the past few years, which he's done a nice job with, but if he wants to win this fight he's going to have to return to his roots and try to score points with his wrestling, because if he opts to stand with Anthony Johnson, he won't last long. With that said, Johnson is a gigantic welterweight and someone even the most skilled wrestlers at 170 pounds could have a hard time dealing with physically.

Add that with his devastating power and that equals a really bad match-up for not only Koscheck, but a lot of other 170 pounders. I like Koscheck and part of me feels like he's got a few tricks up his sleeve for this fight, but "Rumble" is on a roll and his confidence is high. I've got "Kos" taking a nap in this one, probably early in the second.

Betting lines (as of Nov. 20):

Johnson: -120 ((Bet Now))

Koscheck: -110 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Johnson via technical knockout

205 lbs.: Luis "Banha" Cane (10-1) vs. Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira (17-3)



Record (last five fights): 4-1
Notable wins: Ended the Sokoudjou experiment at UFC 89.
Notable losses: Bizarre DQ loss to "Sandman" Irvin at UFC 79.
Strengths: Scary striking, underrated jits, finishes his fights.
Weaknesses: Fought just once in the past 13 months.


Record (last five fights): 5-0
Notable wins: A busy 2008/9 saw him avenge a 2002 "Janitor" loss.
Notable losses: Hasn't seen the lights since Sokoudjou shocked the world at PRIDE 33.
Strengths: May have the finest balance of boxing and jiu-jitsu.
Weaknesses: He's a Nogueira: A lotta miles on these tires....

Adam Wagner predicts: UFC 106 marks the long-awaited promotional debut of 10-fight PRIDE FC veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (17-3). With 20 MMA fights under his belt, "Minotouro" brings tremendous experience to the cage, having bested such legends as Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem (twice), Vladimir Matyushenko and Kazushi Sakuraba.

And while the Black House team member is both a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and a Pan Am bronze medal-winning boxer, what concerns me most about this fight is Nogueira’s propensity to go to a decision. Yes, he can withstand punishment, but can he withstand Luis Arthur Cane?

Cane (10-1, with 1 NC) is undefeated, for all intents and purposes, having his only loss come from a disqualification due to an illegal ass-kicking of James Irvin. And while Cane has never faced anyone close to the caliber of Nogueira, he has a habit of crushing his opponents early and often, having seen the second round just twice and the third only once.

While Cane went to his first decision at UFC 97 in April against Steve Cantwell, he showed he can take a punch in the process. Nogueira, on the other hand, has only been knocked out once, by the over-rated Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, who Cane TKO’d in the second round of their fight. This has all the makings of the Fight (or Knockout) of the Night. And while Nog has shown a recent improvement in his tenacity, having finished fighters in five of his last six victories, something tells me this is the coming out party for Cane.

Betting lines (as of Nov. 20):

Cane: +120 ((Bet Now))

Nogueira: -150 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Cane via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Phil "New York Bad Ass" Baroni (13-11) vs. Amir Sadollah (1-1)



Record (last five fights): 3-2
Notable wins: Beat three people you've never heard of on the independent circuit.
Notable losses: Finished by Joey Villasenor, outworked by Joe Riggs.
Strengths: Decent hands, lots of experience, big heart.
Weaknesses: Hasn't had a meaningful win in five years.


Record (last five fights): 1-1
Notable wins: Captured the TUF 7 crown by subbing CB Dollaway.
Notable losses: Then got smoked by Dan Miragliotta at UFC 101 (with an assist from Johnny Hendricks).
Strengths: Crafty, good cardio, tricky submissions.
Weaknesses: Has a lot to prove coming into the big time.

Akimitsu Kuwabara predicts: Amir Sadollah enters the contest after a devastating 29-second knockout loss to Johnny Hendricks in his official UFC debut after his TUF stint at UFC 101. The momentum following his cinderella run through the seventh season of TUF has been diminishing, and he must announce his presence to the world with a victory over New York Bad Ass.

Phil Baroni inexplicably returns to UFC following a decision loss to Joe Riggs in June at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields. Riggs outworked Baroni throughout fifteen minutes of action, and showed superiority in striking and grappling. With his win-loss percentage teetering on the brink of 50% and former charisma chipping away, Baroni could use an emphatic victory against Sadollah.

Baroni is at his most lethal when swarming his opponents with power punches in bunches. Having fought as a middleweight for a large portion of his career, the NYBA has wised up and dropped to welterweight -- a more suitable weight class for him, however late it may be to salvage his career. Presumably, his move to a lower weight class accentuates the power in his hands. On a more somber note, his last fight against Joe Riggs demonstrated that, despite looking leaner and meaner than eva, the all-too-familiar flaws in his game remain out in the open: Though his infamously atrocious conditioning improved somewhat, he is still terribly one-dimensional with mediocre grappling and striking that precipitously turns anemic once his power runs out along with his gas tank.

The key factor in this fight is which Sadollah shows up: The patient and durable fighter who emerged victorious from the throes of defeat during his stint in TUF 7 or the one who could not withstand the barrage of punches once stunned at UFC 101.

Baroni's knockout power is a threat to anyone while his gas tank lasts (a round and half at most). If Baroni comes out guns blazing and succeeds in penetrating Sadollah's less-than-airtight striking defense, he will score an emphatic knockout victory.

Sadollah needs to stay patient and survive the early onslaught. In addition to the patient, methodical grappling he displayed against CB Dollaway in TUF, he possesses decent footwork, a nice repertoire of kicks, and much better technical striking than Baroni. His knockout loss to Hendricks probably strikes caution in him and make him gun-shy, especially early in the fight: If he can stick and move to stay busy on the feet while keeping Baroni at bay, it is a matter of time before Baroni's gas tank starts to deplete.

Betting lines (as of Nov. 20):

Baroni: +175 ((Bet Now))

Sadollah: -220 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Sadollah via submission

170 lbs.: Paulo Thiago (11-1) vs. Jacob "Christmas" Volkmann (9-0)



Record (last five fights): 4-1
Notable wins: Stunned Josh Koscheck with a TKO at UFC 95.
Notable losses: Had no answer for the wrestling of Jon Fitch at UFC 100.
Strengths: Ridiculous grappling credentials, strong for a welterweight.
Weaknesses: Striking leaves a lot to be desired, can be controlled on the ground.


Record (last five fights): 5-0
Notable wins: Nice submission win over Kevin Knabjian in Bellator last May.
Notable losses: Perfect through nine.
Strengths: Tremendous wrestler, great cardio, durable.
Weaknesses: Untested on the big stage.

Nate Lawson predicts: The last time Paulo Thiago entered the Octagon he was introduced to the advanced wrestling pedigree of former welterweight top contender Jon Fitch at UFC 100 this past July.  After his scheduled bout with another former top contender and Georges St. Pierre’s most recent victim Thiago Alves fell through, the Brazilian submission ace landed a UFC newcomer in Jacob Volkmann.

Volkmann brings a solid grappling game to the fight, with a strong wrestling base and effective jiu-jitsu. Six of his nine professional fights, all of which are wins, have come via submission. “Christmas’” last fight ended in a Brabo choke at Bellator Fighting Championships 6 over Kevin Knabjian.

However, whatever ground game Volkmann brings, the jiu-jitsu wizard Thiago will certainly have an answer, at least in terms of submission defense. Thiago boasts a nearly unblemished record at 11-1, with seven of those victories coming by way of submission. His ground game is phenomenal, but submitting Volkmann will not come any easy way, making Thiago’s ability to finish the fight exceedingly difficult as the three round bout wears on.

While the three-time NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler will not be able to control Thiago on the ground in the same manner that Jon Fitch did, Volkmann’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu will be enough to stifle anything that the Brazilian grappling machine tries to throw at him, while leading to effective ground and pound.

When the submission game falls short, Thiago will run out of options for finishing the fight. Look for the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy member to work his wrestling and ground and pound en route to a unanimous decision upset.

Betting lines (as of Nov. 20):

Thiago: -260 ((Bet Now))

Volkmann: +200 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Volkmann 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 "Ortiz vs. Griffin 2."

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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