Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
FINALLY…..your resident MMA guru, Jimmy Mac, has come back to Replay MMA! I know I’m ripping off the Rock’s line but since he seems to be in every other movie released over the next few weeks it seemed fitting. After over a year layoff while the site underwent a ton of changes, which all look outstanding by the way, we are back up and running. I hope everyone’s bank accounts didn’t suffer too much without my preview and picks column as I did end 2011 with a 42-25-1 (62%) record so let’s dive right into 2013 and see if I can’t top 70% this year.
1) Josh “Kos” Koscheck vs. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler – Remember when “Kos” was the next big thing in the welterweight division? If it seems like a long time ago that’s because it was. After losing a lopsided decision to reigning welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre in December 2010, Koscheck has only fought a total of 3 times in those 2+ years going 2-1 over that span. Hardly impressive since one of those 2 wins was against Matt Hughes who at that point was at least 2 years past being over the hill. Kos seemingly went from rising contender to a just good enough to be a top level gatekeeper in quick order. At 35 it certainly seems his window to win a title has come and gone and he’s reaching a point in his career where his single greatest advantage over other fighters, his outstanding athleticism, is beginning to fade.
His opponent in this fight, Robbie Lawler, is approaching a similar crossroads in his career. Lawler has been in the sport so long, debuting professionally in 2001, that he seems much older than just 30. But it is always a matter of the miles on the odometer and not so much a fighter’s age that starts to take its toll and Lawler has a ton of tread on his tires. The consummate stand and bang in the middle of the cage fighter, Lawler’s fights have for the most part been wildly entertaining if not frustrating for his fans. Blessed with great hand speed and knockout power in both his hands and legs he has never been able to build his grappling game to a similar level and it has been his downfall with 5 of his 9 career losses coming via submission. Unfortunately for Lawler fans this fight will be more of the same as there really couldn’t be a much worse matchup for him then a dominant wrestler like Koscheck.
Pick – If Koscheck doesn’t try to prove that he can stand and bang with Lawler and he uses his superior grappling it will be a relatively easy win. Koscheck via 2nd stoppage
Handicapping Play – None. The link on Koscheck is currently -500 which is just too high of a line here.
2) “The California Kid” Urijah Faber vs. “The Pride of El Salvador” Ivan Menjivar – Urijah Faber, a former champion and pride of the Lightweight division in the WEC and later the UFC, is now working two full weight classes below that division. He really has been the victim of unfortunate circumstances. At lightweight he was fighting at a weight class above his ideal fighting weight and ran into a bigger, powerful wrestler in Mike Brown that he just couldn’t handle. So he drops to featherweight at 145lbs and runs into one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, Jose Aldo, as the reigning king of that division. Aldo pummeled a game Faber with so many vicious leg kicks that honestly I don’t know how Faber was still walking after that fight. It was so bad that even Aldo so how bad it was getting and eased off the leg kicks in the final round. As a result Faber drops to bantamweight at 135lbs and loses a title matchup with champion Dominic Cruz in a fight that is just a stylistic nightmare for Faber. So where does that leave the Kid? Well it appears that staying at bantamweight and earning a rematch with Cruz is the plan. A win over Menjivar, who Faber already owns a win against back in 2006, would be the way to get that title quest back on track after a unanimous decision loss back at UFC 149.
Menjivar will be looking to avenge that prior loss to Faber, which came via disqualification when he kicked Faber when he was in a down position, and improve to 5-1 in his last 6 UFC fights. Menjivar is the consummate professional with a good all-around game without really excelling or dominating in any one area. For instance, his 25 career wins show 9 TKO/Kos, 10 submissions, and 6 decisions. Can’t get much more balanced then that. He is equally hard to put away in a fight having suffered 6 of his 9 losses via decision. That speaks to his ability as a well-rounded fighter as well as his heart and intelligence. While those attributes have always served to keep him in fights then aren’t enough to beat the best in the division and that’s going to be the case again on Saturday night.
Pick – Faber via unanimous decision. Menjivar will be game enough to stay competitive but Faber’s quickness, athleticism, and grappling will just be too much.
Handicapping Play – None. Faber is -400 and as
you know I just don’t recommend taking lines higher than -350 so my advice is to stay away.
3) Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs. Dan “Hendo” Henderson – Machida is coming off an impressive 2nd round knockout of Ryan Bader back in August and is looking to continue his climb back up the light heavyweight ladder for another shot at Jon “Bones” Jones’ title. A move up that ladder would come at the expense of the highly decorated, former champion Henderson. Machida is the single best fighter in the sport at controlling both distance and angle using both to confuse and frustrate his opponents with a style that used to be called boring but with 4 of his last 5 wins coming via KO that perception has changed. A cerebral, calculating striking game that includes great accuracy and above average power would make him a dangerous fighter but when combined with a black belt level BJJ ground game it produces one of the elite fighters in the sport today.
The 42yr old Hendo seems on a mission to take Randy Couture’s “I’m fighting into my late 40s and still have the potential to beat your ass” title and riding a 4 fight win streak into this fight who is in any position to argue with him. The only man to hold titles in two different weight divisions at the same time could very well put himself in position for another title shot with an upset over Machida. Henderson has built his career around dominant wrestling, mauling his opponents against the cage, and an over hand right hand, perfectly named the “H-Bomb”, that absolutely puts people to sleep. However, speed and quickness are not…I repeat NOT…part of Hendo’s game and that will likely be his downfall in this fight.
Pick – Machida via unanimous decision. Machida needs to stay off his back, keep Hendo at range, avoid an “H-Bomb”, and use his superior quickness, mobility, and striking accuracy and it should be a decisive victory. Hendo has a chin made of granite having never been knocked out and only stopped via submission 3 times in 37 fights so chances are this one goes the distance
Handicapping Play – Machida -230. This is the only real value on the main card so take this line and run with it.
4) Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey vs. Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche – The history making first women’s title fight in UFC history will take place Saturday night makes for a compelling match up. Rousey is quickly building up a mythical quality around her budding young career which started as an amateur back in 2010. She is undefeated in 3 amateur fights and 6 professional fights with all of those victories coming via submission, specifically arm bars, and all of them in the 1st round. As a matter of fact only one opponent, Meisha Tate, has managed to last longer than 1 minute! Granted it’s a small sample size and the level of competition in the women’s division isn’t nearly as deep as the men’s but that is still a jaw dropping run of success. It goes without saying that Rousey’s ground game is superb but what takes it to the next level are her smooth transitions between positions and a lightning fast attacking style. She hasn’t had fights last long enough to really have her stand up skills or cardio endurance truly tested yet since her 9 total fights have only lasted a combined 9 minutes total, but that is what Carmouche is going to have to test in order to pull the upset.
Carmouche not only carries a fantastic nickname (Girl-Rilla) into this title fight but also a solid 8-2 professional career mark with a 2 fight winning streak. The former Marines is a powerful striker from either side and has heart and guts for days. She will need to keep this fight standing and use that striking ability to either hurt Rousey or wear her down and drag her into the later rounds to test that gas tank. If she can stuff some early takedowns, which is a HUGE IF considering Rousey is an Olympic bronze medalist in Judo, and manage to land a clean shot or combination that backs Rousey up she could gain some early confidence and the advantage to dictate where the fight will take place. Her fight back in 2011 against Marlos Coenen, another excellent submission fighter, could be a great indicator of how this fight plays out. Carmouche valiantly defended multiple submission attempts in that fight until finally succumbing to a triangle choke in the 4th round. We will see if she can apply some lessons from that fight and at least make it out of the 1st round!
Play – Rousey via 2nd round submission. I think Carmouche will have enough skill and determination to venture where no fighter has ever taken the champion but eventually will get caught in a bad position and submitted.
Handicapping Play – None. Rousey is a ridiculous favorite at -1400 so stay away from that line because as we know in this sport you could be one Carmouche right hand away from taking a gigantic loss.
I know I’m only giving you one play for the card because I didn’t see anything on the undercard that stood out to me as a great value play so feel free to lambaste me with your comments here or on twitter. I wasn’t a big fan of this card when it was announced but if the ladies can turn in an exciting main even it could turn out to be a decent card but that is still a stretch. I’ll be back in a few with a breakdown of my top 10 pound for pound rankings along with more preview and picks columns.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on twitter @jimmymac3