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The UFC has a slew of great fights coming up over the next several months, and this card is a great way to kick things off. Not only is GSP putting his welterweight crown on the line, but he'll have an opportunity to make his case for being the top pound-4-pound fighter in the world. Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar returns and looks to avoid a disastrous 0-2 start to his UFC career, one that he nor the company can afford. And to top it off, we get two of the top lightweight contenders in the UFC going toe-2-toe for their shot at UFC gold. With further ado, here are the picks, Keefe's first, then mine. We did them separately then put them together, so let us know what you think, who you agree with and who you like coming out on top on Saturday night.

Televised Bouts

Keefe’s Picks

Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch (Welterweight Championship Bout)

GSP and Fitch truly are the two best welterweights in the world.  The 170 pound division is dominated by UFC fighters and this is the match up every fan wants to see.  The only hick-up St. Pierre has faced was the stunning loss to Matt Serra.  Since then he has defeated fellow Top 10 guys in Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes (for the second time), and took care of business against Serra.  Along with those names, how about B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg, Jason Miller, Jay Hieron, Karo Parisyan, and Pete Spratt being on GSP’s resume.  Why not add Jon Fitch to that list?

I understand Fitch has rattled off 15 straight victories including a perfect 8-0 in the UFC with wins over Diego Sanchez, Thiago Alves, and Josh Burkman, but I’m still not convinced.  Half of Fitch’s victories in the UFC have come via decision, and St. Pierre has never lost when it comes down to the judges.  He usually doesn’t let it go that long.  Fitch is a great wrestler.  That’s a fact.  But GSP out wrestled Fitch’s training partner and 4 time All-American wrestler Josh Koscheck.  Maybe Fitch can submit GSP?  He has finished 3 fights in the octagon by submission.  Don’t count on it.  Besides that armbar by Hughes in 2004, GSP won’t let that happen either.  I truly believe the only way to defeat GSP now is a fluke knock out a la Serra.  I think this is a solid fight for 2 and a half rounds but than St. Pierre, one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet, ends it.        

Georges St. Pierre def. Jon Fitch via (T)KO in the 3 rd round

Roger Huerta vs. Kenny Florian

These two are not Top 10 lightweights in the world, but they are Top 5 in the UFC.  The winner could find him self in line for a title shot down the road, the one problem being that the current champ B.J. Penn has his sights set a little higher, on a rematch with Georges St. Pierre.  I think Penn will be watching this night of fights pretty closely.  After a busy 2007, Huerta has not fought in 8 months.  He can’t afford to have any ring rust against a guy like Ken-Flo.  (I’m still upset I didn’t tell Florian he had a good flow when I took a leak next to him in a Somerville bathroom, damn.)  Either way I like Florian to catch “El Matador” in one of the 5,000 submission holds he knows.

Kenny Florian def. Roger Huerta via submission in the 2 nd round

Heath Herring vs. Brock Lesnar

Will big Brock Lesnar last more than 90 seconds this time around?  For the paying fans I hope so, for Herring’s face, different story.  Lesnar proved he’s an absolute monster who just has a lot to learn.  Mir got a title shot out of defeating Brock, in his 1 st UFC fight no less, you figure that out.  Meanwhile Herring is coming off a victory over Kongo.  Heath has yet to have a fight in the UFC not go the distance, but I think this will be different.  Herring’s only chance here is to find a submission, where most of his Pride victories came from, and slap it on early a la Mir.  Upset alert… if this is an upset. 

Heath Herring def. Brock Lesnar via submission in the 1 st round

Demian Maia vs. Jason McDonald

A pair of fighters here who find themselves on the outside looking in, on the true contenders list at 185.  Both guys hold victories over Ed Herman, of course so does Besse and I.  McDonald’s best win is over Leben, but anytime he’s gotten a shot a one of the elite, he has lost (Franklin and Okami.)  This is a huge fight for Maia.  Where does he stack up?  He’s 7-0 in his career and 2-0 in the UFC.  McDonald, owner of the worst nickname in sports “The Athlete” (aren’t they all athletes?), needs this win.  In fact, I feel like it’s a great win for one fighter, but a bad loss at the same time, if that makes since.  The loser here is a long way from a title shot, the winner may only need another fight or two, much like Patrick Cote who went on a nice run.   

Demian Maia def. Jason McDonald via submission in the 3 rd

Manny Gamburyan vs. Rob Emerson

Not sure why this is a televised main event bout, I’ll be honest.  I can understand the die hard fans who say enough with the TUF crap being pushed down our throats.  Yes there have been many great and entertaining fighters from the past shows like Forrest Griffin, Chris Leben, Diego Sanchez, etc., but there’s been many more who don’t belong on TV.  I’m not saying Manny and Emerson are bad fighters.  They could both be solid some day.  If you watched Dream 5 last month you saw some incredible lightweights.  This is an undercard fight.  Manny’s had a nice run of quick finishes, and I think it continues.

Manny Gamburyan def. Rob Emerson via submission in the 1 st

Undercard Bouts

Cheick Kongo def. Dan Evensen via decision Ben Saunders def. Ryan Thomas via (T)KO in 1 st Luke Cummo def. Tamden McCrory via (T)KO in 2 nd Andre Gusmao def. Jon Jones via decision Chris Wilson def. Steve Bruno via (T)KO in 3 rd

Besse’s Picks

Televised Bouts

Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch (Welterweight Championship Bout)

Finally, GSP is clear of the whole Matt Hughes/Matt Serra shenanigans and can finally begin truly defending the welterweight crown. His first test since regaining that title is against a guy who is on quite a roll in Jon Fitch. Fitch has won 15 straight, but he looked a bit off target in his fight with Chris Wilson. Don’t get me wrong, Fitch clearly deserves this opportunity as he’s beaten some talented and fairly big name fighters along the way. He’ll be relying on the strength of his wrestling and jiu-jitsu in this fight, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him.

That’s because he’s taking on MMA phenom Georges St. Pierre, who is truly exemplary of the new generation of athletes in the sport. GSP is athletic and well-rounded, and you could argue that he is never at a disadvantage in any facet of the game against any fighter. Formally you would have pointed to his wrestling, but after his decisive win over Josh Koscheck, he put that to rest; he’s also training with the Canadian National team. His striking will be far superior to that of Fitch, and I expect GSP to come out and get comfortable on his feet. While I think he can hang with Fitch on the ground, he’ll want to score points standing and wear down the challenger, who will be going for five rounds for the first time in the UFC. In the end, GSP will simply be too much for the game, but outclassed Fitch.

GSP remains your Welterweight Champ via (T)KO in the 3 rd round.

Roger Huerta vs. Kenny Florian

This is the fight that I’m most excited about on this card. Florian and Huerta are two of the top lightweights in the UFC and I think this could be an opportunity for one of these fighters to establish himself as a top 10 lightweight in the world. Dana White should be taken seriously when he says this has the potential to be a Fight of the Year candidate.

Huerta is returning to action for the first time since his win comeback win over Clay Guida last December. He posted an impressive 6-0 campaign in 2007, and while I argue that his opponents weren’t top caliber fighters, his aggressive, all-action style makes for great fights and his win over Guida showed he is dangerous at any point during a fight. While he should be compared to GSP in terms of talent level, he’s similar in that he’s an athletic, well rounded competitor. He’ll need to apply pressure for all 3 rounds and not allow Florian to gain control on the ground.

For Florian, his biggest challenge will be sticking to his gameplan. I’m confident that due to his experience at a championship level, he’ll be able to do this, but he needs to avoid getting into a fast paced, all-action brawl with Huerta. Florian’s striking is very good, don’t get me wrong, but Huerta is more athletic and rangier, so Florian will need to utilize angles and his Muay Thai clinch. If he control the action and eventually take Huerta down, I think he can work his way to the mount and go for the finish.

Kenny Florian wins via (T)KO in the 3 rd round

Heath Herring vs. Brock Lesnar

I hate this fight because I’m actually a fan of both fighters. Herring HAS to be one of everyone’s favorite fighters simply because the guy will fight anyone, anytime, anywhere. That and his infamous YouTube clip in which he knocked the guy out for kissing him during the stare down. That scores points with me any day of the week.

Yet interestingly enough, you have to respect Brock Lesnar because he’s not taking any cupcakes for opponents. This guy has stated he wants to fight tough, credible opponents, and he got that in Frank Mir and he’s getting that again in Herring. I thought Lesnar was mighty impressive against Mir, inflicting serious damage and relentless attack before being caught in a submission. Meanwhile, Herring is coming off an impressive win over Cheick Kongo, a match that many thought would go the other way. But Herring has revamped his training and dedication to the sport, and he looked very tough, durable and much improved in grinding out the decision win.

There’s no question that the biggest hole in Lesnar’s game is his submission defense, and Herring has captured 16 of his 28 victories via just that. However, a lot of those have been submissions that come as a result of being on top of his opponents. I simply don’t see him finding a way to control Lesnar on top and work his way to a mount, taking the back, acquiring a choke, etc. While he may be able to roll Lesnar or work out of Lesnar’s guard, it’s my contention that Brock will simply be too big, too strong and too powerful. Herring will put in yet another gritty, impressive performance, but Saturday’s fight will show why he is the Chris Lytle, Chris Leben and Marcus Aurelio of the heavyweight division.

Brock Lesnar wins via (T)KO in the 2 nd round

Demian Maia vs. Jason McDonald

Maia and McDonald could be a ton of fun to watch. Both are sick submission specialist, and I thank them both for their respective embarrassments of Ed “Short Fuse” Herman. Maia has come out of nowhere and is off to a modest 7-0 start to his career. McDonald, meanwhile, has shown flashes of brilliance at times, earning him fights with Yushin Okami and Rich Franklin. He fell flat on his face both times, however, and is slowly developing into a guy who will always fall just a bit short.

A lot of times when two guys with similar backgrounds go at it, the fight is won by utilizing other facets. It’s a matter of who is more comfortable in other areas and can keep it there. I don’t think that will be the case here. Maia seems to have jiu-jitsu skills that are unparalleled, and I think his will simply outclass McDonald’s in scoring a late submission win.

Plus his submission over Ed Herman was much cooler than McDonald’s. That and I also have trouble picking a guy with the nickname, “The Athlete.”

Demian Maia wins via 3 rd round submission

Manny Gamburyan vs. Rob Emerson

Joe Silva is pitting a pair of TUF 5 alums against each other here. Interestingly enough, Emerson is an alum of something else, as well: The Lords of South County. Pretty hardcore, eh? Not if you watch the video in which he and his boys ambushed some poor guy at a gas station filling up his car. Pretty weak. I’m not a fan of Gamburyan, either, but I’ll take him over some spoiled, rich kid punk. Not only do I expect Manvil the Anvil to run right through Emerson, I’m hoping he gets hold a limb and goes Babalu on that ass.

Manny Bamburyan wins via 1 st round submission

Undercard Bouts

Cheick Kongo def. Dan Evensen via decision Ben Saunders def. Ryan Thomas via 1 st round submission Tamden Mcrory def. Luke Cummo via decision Andre Gusmao def. Jon Jones via 1 st round submission Chris Wilson def. Steve Bruno via decision

-Besse and Keefe

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