UFC 127: "Penn vs. Fitch" is set to go down tomorrow night (Feb. 26, 2011) live from the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
MMAmania.com 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 on pay-per-view (PPV).
Former UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn has returned to the welterweight division (again) after coughing up his 155-pound title to Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 last April -- and then failing to get it back in their UFC 118 rematch.
Set to welcome him to the Octagon "Down Under" is perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch, who will be looking to last a little longer than Matt Hughes did when he was creamed by "The Prodigy" back in November.
Joining them in the promotion's return trip to the Outback will be trash-talking middleweights Michael Bisping and Jorge Rivera. "The Count" is trying to cement his place on the very short list of 185-pound title contenders while "El Conquistador" looks to win his fourth consecutive fight for just the second time in his 10-year career.
Rounding out the televised portion of the PPV fight card is a lightweight scrap between hometown submission specialist George Sotiropoulos and German kickboxer Dennis Siver, a 170-pound brawl featuring Chris Lytle vs. Brian Ebersole and the middleweight mash-up between Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 11 vets Kyle Noke and Chris Camozzi.
I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so 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:
170 lbs.: BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (16-7-1) vs. Jon Fitch (23-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Brrr, Fitch 'Em, ha-ha-ha Fitch 'Em. I feel bad for BJ Penn fans who believe the Hawaiian has any kind of chance on Saturday night. He doesn't. Yes, "The Prodigy" is a fantastic lightweight fighter, but he's crippled by yes-men and an oldfangled fight camp.
I know the big talk coming into this contest centers on Penn's striking ability, but am I supposed to get excited because he pasted Matt Hughes at UFC 123? This is 2011 folks. I don't want to say Hughes is done, but he's the only competitor whose fight-finder record auto-scrolls like the end credits to a made-for-TV movie.
In order for BJ to win this fight he has to convince Jon Fitch to abandon the takedown, which is like asking Michael Bisping to abandon his accent. Ain't gonna happen. Then again, with his grappling pedigree, Penn could easily submit Fitch off his back like he did to ... uh ...who was the last guy he submitted off his back?
Go ahead, I'll wait.
This match-up almost seems like it's a punishment. But I'm not sure who UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is punishing here, the headliners or the fans. Fitch is clearly the bigger, stronger fighter and his greatest strength happens to be his opponent's biggest weakness.
In fact, the only reason Penn's in this main event is because he puts asses in the seats. In what other scenario is it acceptable to pair a welterweight with an Octagon record of 2-3 against a fighter who is 13-1 in the same division?
Penn has the first ten seconds of every round to land cleanly and put this thing away (that gives him exactly three chances for the arithmetically impaired). If not, he'll be slammed and jammed en route to yet another Fitch unanimous decision win.
And if you're that Penn fan who's clinging to the hope that somehow Fitch's new Vegan diet is going to tip the scales in your favor, ask yourself, has it really come to this?
Betting lines (as of Feb. 25):
Fitch: -210 ((Bet Now))
Penn: +165 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Fitch via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Michael "The Count" Bisping (20-3) vs. Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera (19-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: Wow, I never thought I'd see the day where I was rooting for Michael Bisping, but lo and behold somebody done messed up and gave Jorge Rivera a camcorder. I don't mind the pre-fight trash talk, but you'd think "El Conquistador" was setting the world on fire over the past few years.
Three straight victories is nothing to sneeze at but let's also keep things in perspective. Rivera barely squeaked by Nissen Osterneck who is no longer in the UFC, then beat up Rob Kimmons who owns a .500 winning percentage inside the Octagon before his last win over the now-retired Nate Quarry, whose endoskeleton looks like a Maryland crab trap.
Bisping is 2-1 over his last three but has faced much tougher competition. The Dan Miller fight was a one-sided affair but his war with Wanderlei Silva and Yoshihiro Akiyama were much closer and that's not necessarily a bad thing as adversity is an integral part of growth as a fighter.
I also think the Brit deserves some credit for being able to get back on his horse after Dan Henderson mummified him at UFC 100 back in 2009. A lot of fighters can't recover from such a high-profile knockout and let's face it, Bisping to this day still gets a lot of heat from the fans for what was clearly an embarrassing moment.
Yet he's still here knocking on the door of title contention.
"The Count" is 20-3 and those three losses were all to former world champions (Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva). He's crushed his share of cans but he's also battled tested and my prediction for this fight is that he'll employ the same run-and-gun offense he did against Chris Leben.
Rivera is a rugged, crafty veteran with knockout power but I'm picking Bisping because I believe he's the more polished fighter with cleaner and more refined striking. I also think this will serve as his coming out party. I'm not sure I've ever seen him this pissed off and I expect him to be throwing with bad intentions on fight night.
"El Conquistador" made plenty of statements heading into Saturday night's co-main event. Now it's time for Bisping to make his.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 25):
Bisping: -375 ((Bet Now))
Rivera: +275 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Bisping via technical knockout
155 lbs.: George Sotiropoulos (14-2) vs. Dennis Siver (17-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: This has upset written all over it. I'm still taking the Aussie by submission, but I'm doing it while crossing my fingers behind my back. I'm not sure if this holds true for other fight fans, but anyone else get that ominous feeling when a fighter racks up a bunch of wins and then heads into a fight they should win nine times out of 10?
That's kind of where I'm at here.
My problem is I'm easily rattled, and while it may be ancient history, I can't shake the sight of Sotiropoulos heading south for the winter at the hands of Tommy Speer way back in the days of TUF. Too far? Okay, how about the end of round three in his fight against Kurt Pellegrino?
And Siver hits a lot harder than "Batman."
The big question here is how quickly "Sots" can get his German foe to the ground. I can't imagine that a fighter of his intelligence and one so close to a title shot will want to dick around on the feet any longer than necessary, but the scrappy kickboxer has shown he's not the easiest guy to take (and keep) down.
Four submission losses are certainly a red flag and with three of them coming by way of arm lock, I expect to see Sotiropoulos focused on a dangling limb. Maybe he can do the Clay Guida-Surfin' USA offensive stance to knock Siver out of rhythm or perhaps a Lesnar bearded-bumrush is in order.
Whatever his strategy, I think he gets it done with a second round submission and if the stars align, he should be fighting Jim Miller for the division number one contender spot later this year.
Unless Miller's upcoming opponent, Kamal Shalorus, has anything to say about it on March 19.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 25):
Sotiropoulos: -400 ((Bet Now))
Siver: +300 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Sotiropoulos via submission
170 lbs.: Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (30-17-5) vs. Brian "Bad Boy" Ebersole (46-14-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Wee-woo-wee-woo-wee-woo! Damn dawg, you just got pulled over by the upset police. That's right disloyal readers, the official Nostradumbass upset special is now on the menu, which allows me to reach my required word count for this hastily-assembled preview by typing inane drivel such as this.
Anyone who's been reading my stuff over the past few years (all three of you) have already heard me say that Chris Lytle is fighting on borrowed time. It's not a knock against the Indy firefighter because he's one of the good guys. Devoted family man, integral part of the community and more importantly (to us, anyway) a bona fide badass inside the cage.
Is he the man to dethrone Georges St. Pierre?
No, but who cares? When is the last time you heard someone boo a Chris Lytle fight? Exactly. Unfortunately his reckless, balls-to-the-wall style (which he's toned down a bit in favor of slick submissions) has a way of rapidly deteriorating your shelf life. No matter how tough you are, there's only so many times you can get punched in the head before it starts to catch up with you.
Lytle turns 37 this year and I believe we're about to see the beginning of the end.
I saw a rare flash of vulnerability in the Kevin Burns fight that was quickly masked by the Foster and Brown subs and the fact that he was a foot taller than Matt Serra made his UFC 119 homecoming a big success. But somewhere in my gut I just have that dreadful feeling the party's over.
And if it makes you feel any better you can blame it on Carlos Condit.
There is only one thing that rattles my picks more than a streaking fighter facing a perceived "gimme" fight (See Sotiropoulos vs. Siver), and that's the ol' switcheroo a few weeks before an event.
Ebersole is not Carlos Condit, and I don't mean that as an insult to the "Bad Boy."
He's a dangerous veteran with 60 fights who is very Lytle-like in his approach to MMA. Ebs has never been knocked out and hasn't been submitted since 2005. He's won his last seven and while Carlos Newton is the only name you'd recognize of the bunch, the fact is he's kept himself busy and won the fights he's supposed to.
Somehow in my convoluted method for picking upsets this elevates Brian Ebersole to my official pick for UFC 127 spoiler. Before you start shaking your head just remember my moniker and the hard work I did to earn it: By predicting dumb shit and having it come true.
And keep it in the back of your mind there was a time when no one thought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would be stopped either. Besides, you know what they say about a broken clock -- and I have a cumulative main card average of 3/5.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 25):
Lytle: -280 ((Bet Now))
Ebersole: +210 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Ebersole via technical knockout
185 lbs: Kyle "KO" Noke (18-4-1) vs. Chris "Kamikaze" Camozzi (14-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Kicking off the televised portion of the UFC 127 pay-per-view is a battle of Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 11 veterans who may not be lighting the fire under your kiester but do deserve a closer look as both Kyle Noke and Chris Camozzi are talented middleweights.
Unfortunately they're also both lacking a breakout win.
That needs to happen here for one of them to be taken seriously in the UFC's crowded middleweight division. Noke hasn't lost since 2008, but it was a brutal knockout to Scott Smith under the Elite XC banner. He rebounded nicely by stringing together four consecutive wins and to date has been perfect inside the Octagon.
Camozzi, like Noke, has been flawless over his last four and hasn't tasted defeat since being outworked by Jesse Taylor at "King of Champions" back in 2009 and is also 2-0 as a Zuffa employee.
I don't want to dwell on their TUF resumes because I don't think they're relevant in this fight. I'm taking Noke because he's been the stronger fighter over the past two years, finishing three out of his last four opponents while Camozzi had trouble with Dongi Yang and needed the judges to award him the win over James Hammortree.
I also think "KO" has the better all-around skill set and while I can't be sure he'll secure the finish, I think he'll be the busier and more aggressive fighter wherever this battle unfolds.
One thing I can predict is this won't be a boring fight.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 25):
Noke: -210 ((Bet Now))
Camozzi: +165 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Noke 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 127: "Penn vs. Fitch."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.