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UFC 136 Picks And Predictions From The Staff

UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard III goes down tomorrow night from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. writer Dana Becker (@DanaBecker), head writer Mark Wayne (@_MarkWayne), and President Raj Giri (@RajGiri_303) preview the top fights and offer their predictions for the show.

Also, don’t forget to check back at Saturday afternoon for our live, ongoing coverage of UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard III.

Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard

UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar will be putting his title on the line for the third time this Saturday night – the second time against Gray Maynard – and it will be the first time in all four of his title fights that he’s considered to be the betting favorite.

Edgar’s last title defense was a rematch against Maynard, the only man to hold a victory over the New Jersey native, and it was technically not a successful title defense. The two battled for five rounds, with The Answer astonishingly rallying from a clear 10-8 first frame to take back the fight’s momentum. When all was said and done though, the judges ruled the entertaining scrap a draw. Edgar kept his belt on a technicality and Maynard was sent home empty handed.

The two will now meet to settle things for good, with the winner taking the series and the belt. From their first fight, in which Edgar was soundly out-wrestled by the bigger, stronger Maynard, to their second, it was clear that the champion had made adjustments in his game to deal with The Bully. Edgar used sharp footwork and spacing to avoid Maynard’s takedowns and scored points by striking from the outside and moving away before Maynard could load up and tag him with a counter. Look for the champ to have shored up his defenses even more this time around, especially in the striking department, where Maynard took it to him early on in their last fight.

For the rubber match, Maynard will likely still be looking to swing on Edgar, since he’s proven the ability to hurt the champion, but will be taking a more disciplined, patient approach in that regard. The Bully gassed himself out trying desperately to finish Edgar last time and will do his best to keep his head and take his time should he get the champ in trouble tomorrow. Maynard should also look to take a page out of his coach Randy Couture’s book by making this fight uglier than their last. Maynard favored his boxing entirely too much last time and let Edgar score away on him for having little fear of getting hurt. Tomorrow, he needs to cut off the cage and get in the champ’s face, light him up with dirty boxing and try to land big shots on the break.

Mark: It’s hard not to root for Edgar, the little champion that could, as The Answer inspires almost every time he competes. He can win a decision if he can employ his hummingbird-style attack, mixing strikes and takedowns and staying on the outside to avoid damage, but it’s more likely that Maynard will be able to take the fight to the champ and finish what he started in the first round of their last meeting. Maynard via third-round TKO

Dana: Yes, Frankie Edgar is the champion. And yes, he has defeated the legend B.J. Penn twice. However, I feel that after their meeting in January, Maynard knows what it is going to take to finish Edgar. Maynard is a much bigger lightweight, and that will make the difference in this one. Watch for “The Bully” to remain more in control of himself and not leap in to try and finish Edgar at every opportunity. Maynard via third-round TKO

Raj: I actually picked Maynard to win their second meeting earlier this year. What impressed me so much about the champion was how much he had improved since their first fight. Maynard dominated their first bout, utilizing his size and strength to secure a unanimous decision win. After not only taking Maynard’s best shot in the first round of their January rematch, but arguably winning the following four rounds, it would seem that Edgar is progressing at a faster rate than his opponent. I expect Edgar to steal this fight, ending the series — at least for now — at 1-1-1. Edgar via unanimous decision.

José Aldo vs. Kenny Florian

In the second title fight on tomorrow’s card, José Aldo Jr. will square off against Kenny Florian to attempt his fourth straight title defense in what will be Florian’s third attempt to capture a title.

25-year-old Brazilian phenom José Aldo showed cracks in his armor for the first time in recent memory during his latest title defense against Mark Hominick. Due to an exceedingly difficult weight cut after a long layoff, Aldo tired down the stretch and was out-worked by The Machine in the later rounds; prior to that however, Aldo was putting on a clinic against the noted striker. The champ possesses fearsome Muay Thai with a solid ground game to boot. He’s shown a proficiency in the takedown department and the ability to end fights at any time with his hands, knees, elbows or feet.

A longtime UFC staple, having appeared as a middleweight on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Kenny Florian hovered near the top of the lightweight division for years before moving south to featherweight in hopes of finally capturing UFC gold. Florian’s entire skill set was on display in his first 145lbs. fight (which came against Aldo’s teammate Diego Nunes): technical, precise striking, able takedowns and solid ground work. Florian is a real student of the game, who has picked up his share of tricks over a long UFC tenure; he has technique for days and a finisher’s instincts and is as motivated as ever heading into what could be the 35-year-old’s last title shot ever.

Mark: Florian is another guy who’s hard to pick against; he’s affable, intelligent and a real warrior in the cage. When he’s on, he’s as fun as anyone to watch. It feels like he deserves a title just based on his continued efforts to win one – unfortunately, UFC titles go to the better fighter, not always the most deserving. Aldo does most everything Florian does, but he does it with a violence rarely exhibited by Ken-Flo. Aldo via third-round TKO

Dana: I respect Kenny Florian for what he has been able to accomplish in the UFC, and for changing his ways to allow for a drop to the featherweight division. That being said, Jose Aldo is a beast, and this is Aldo’s best opportunity to show why people call him the next Anderson Silva. I see “Scarface” bruising Florian with kicks and jabs before finishing him off on the ground with his ever-improving submission game. Aldo via second-round submission (rear-naked choke)

Raj: I think the real question here will be how much the weight cut affects Aldo. It appears to be more and more of a factor which each fight, and if Florian can weather the early storm, he has a good chance of pulling off the upset. My gut tells me that it won’t go down that way, and Aldo will dominate the early rounds and submit Florian before the championship rounds. Aldo via third-round submission.

Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann

The main card’s middleweight contest between surging American war hero Brian Stann and the returning Chael Sonnen is one of the most intriguing of the night and carries with it likely title implications for the winner.

Having turned in mixed results at light heavyweight, former U.S. Marine Corps Captain Brian Stann dropped to middleweight, where he’s gone on an absolute tear. The All-American has finished all three of his fights at that weight, beating Mike Massenzio by submission, Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago by knockout. Stann has clearly improved during his time spent training with the crew at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s, adding sharp footwork, timing and a much more astute perception of distance to his already heavy-handed striking game. Sonnen likely represents the toughest opponent that Stann has faced (with the possible exception of Phil Davis), but the 31-year-old is always up for a challenge.

Despite having a somewhat spotty record thanks to a very clear lack of submission defense, Chael Sonnen is widely regarded as one of the best middleweights in the world. In August of last year, Sonnen thumped champion Anderson Silva for five rounds in a way which no one had before, but was eventually submitted with a triangle choke. Since then, however, Sonnen has been on the sidelines thanks to suspensions by the California State Athletic Commission and trouble with the U.S. federal government. A powerhouse wrestler with basic, but effective striking, Sonnen’s relentless onslaught has proven to be too much for any opponent without a submission game.

Mark: I’m not sure why the UFC decided to load UFC 136 up with the nicest guys on their roster, but it’s making my job difficult. If Stann’s defensive wrestling has improved significantly from his bout with Phil Davis and Sonnen’s layoff has slowed him down or dulled his skills, the All-American can win this one. If not, Sonnen takes home a unanimous decision via his usual methods of busy ground work and top control. My guess is the latter. Sonnen via unanimous decision

Dana: Cage rust is going to affect Chael Sonnen some in this fight, but his skill level is still much better than Stann’s. The key for Stann is to get to Sonnen early, before he wears that rust off and finds a groove. I just think Sonnen will avoid taking any big risks and wait for Stann to make a mistake and control the fight on the ground. This one won’t have the explosive, crazy fireworks that the co-main event and main event will likely have, but it will be a very interesting mat battle. Sonnen via majority decision

Raj: If this fight was six months ago, I would put my money on Sonnen in a second. However, it has been a long layoff for Sonnen and he hasn’t been shy about hiding the fact that he feels that cage rust will have an effect on his performance. I see Sonnen taking the first round, but Stann tiring him out and keeping the fight on the feet to secure the last two. Stann via split decision.