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UFC 86: Griffin V Rampage! A Giant Preview!!!

It’s like Christmas morning!

In what has become a trademark of the 3SS it’s time for another giant UFC preview.

UFC 86 comes to you live July 5th from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The headline bout is the culmination of this season of the Ultimate Fighter as the coaches, Forest Griffin and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, battle it out for the Light Heavyweight title.

Main Card Bouts:

Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin

If Griffin was a baseball player he would be Kevin Youkilis, a tough guy, without the best natural athletic ability, who just finds a way to get it done. If you were scouting Forest Griffin in a football sense he’d be a “high motor guy.” It’s that characteristic that has helped Forest become a fan favorite. While he’s not the biggest, the strongest, the fastest or the most technically sound he’s going to bring it every single time he steps in the Octagon. He’s a warrior in the truest sense of the word.

Griffins rise to fame begun on the first Season of the Ultimate Fighter. His fight against Stephan Bonnar (to determine who the first winner of TUF would be) is now the stuff of legend. In fact that fight single handily put the UFC on the map and gained the sports a countless number of fans. If you haven’t seen that fight you need to see it now.

After his first UFC victory he picked up wins over veterans Elvis Sinocsic and Bill Mahood. At UFC 59 he squared off against Tito Ortiz, a drastic jump in competition. Griffin lost a close split decision (in another classic fight.) Griffin rebounded by besting Bonnar in a rematch but could not get on a roll. He was stopped in the first round against Keith Jardine in his next fight.

Griffin seemed to be running out of chances before an improbably run catapulted him into the title picture. After beating Hector Ramirez, Griffin faced his biggest challenge to date Mauricio ' “Shogun” Rua. Rua isn’t a household name (he’s mainly fought in Japan) but I would argue that at the time of this fight he was the top 205 pound fighter in the world (Rua holds a dominant knockout victory over Rampage by the way.) The UFC was going to use Griffin as a stepping stone for Rua. What better way to get Rua publicity than to have him knockout a well known (and respected) fighter. Unfortunately Forest Griffin had other plans. Griffin, a giant underdog, submitted Rua in the third round and shocked the world.

Rampages rise to the top is another impressive underdog story. For anyone who watched Pride back in its prime Rampage was a household name, however to the American public he was an unknown. I always knew that Rampage was going to be a mega star in America. In fact when his contract ran out with Pride I was shocked that he didn’t jump to the WWE. He has a marketable look (complete with giant chain and howl) and personality (if you can escape any interview with Rampage without laughing I’ll pay you.) Landing Rampage was a coup for the UFC. If anyone was going to dethrone Chuck Liddell it needed to be someone who was just as marketable.

Just over a year since his UFC debut, Rampage is the face of the sport. UFC fans remember his knockout debut over Marvin Eastman, his impressive knockout of Chuck Liddell and his grueling and dominant decision victory over Dan Henderson. What they don’t remember however, is before the jump to the UFC it looked like Rampage was done.

Rampage had a nemesis in Pride and it was the Chute Box camp, lead by Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva

By 2005 he had lost to Silva in devastating fashion for the 2 nd time. He also lost to Shogun Rua and “won” a razor thin split decision to Murilo “Ninja” Rua in a fight I believe he lost. 2006 brought more victories to Rampage but he certainly didn’t look any better in the ring. He narrowly squeezed out decision victories against Don Sik Yoon and Matt Lindland (who had moved up in weight for the fight.) Needless to say I was stunned when he knocked out Chuck Liddell. His victory over Dan Henderson proved it wasn’t a fluke, the Old Rampage was back and he was here to stay.

How do Griffin and Rampage match up? Rampage has an advantage in every single facet of the MMA game (except maybe cardio.) Rampage is stronger, a much better wrestler, better ground and pound and boxing. The problem for Griffin is that he’s very good at a lot of things but not excellent. That’s why Rampage has a significant advantage in this fight.

Rampage will look to close the distance and slam Griffin. Though his boxing is better than Griffins standing with him will give Griffin a chance for a knockout.

Sorry to Forrest fans but he’s getting manhandled in this one.

Rampage Wins via Unanimous Decision. -Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Lytle

MMAWeekly believes Koscheck is the number four welterweight in the world. I say he’s number two. During the Ultimate Fighter, Kos was about as raw as humanly possible. He was a mixed martial artist in name only; he was a wrestler that was trying to learn MMA on the fly. And you have to be impressed how quickly Kos picked up the sport. His sports an impressive 10-2 record with his only loses against Drew Fickett, in a fight he dominated and George St. Pierre.

Lytle is a good opponent for Koscheck. He’s a boxer but he has a very well rounded game. I predicted he would win his season of the Ultimate Fighter (the Comeback) with ease. I was shocked (and so was my bank account) when Matt Serra beat him in the finale.

If you want a blueprint of how this fight is going to go look no farther than Lytle vs. Hughes at UFC 68. Lytle couldn’t stop Hughes takedowns and he won’t be able to stop Koschecks either. Lytle’s only hope is to knock out Koscheck standing or hope Koscheck makes a mistake on the ground.

Koscheck is such a ridiculous natural athlete. If anyone is going to dethrone GSP it’s either going to be BJ Penn or Koscheck. Koscheck should win this fight easily.

Koscheck wins via T.K.O Round 2. -Joe Stevenson vs. Gleison Tibau

Last time you saw Stevenson he was bleeding…a lot. B.J Penn, as he’s done to many great fighters, made Stevenson look totally foolish. Stevenson is a strong wrestler and ju-jitsu fighter. He’s also a very big and strong fighter for 155 pounds.

Tibau is no chump. While Stevenson is the name casual fans know Tibau is just as accomplished. He’s 15-5 overall, 3-2 in the UFC. His debut came in 2006 against Nick Diaz and while he lost he gave a very tough fighter a hell of a challenge. His other loss was to Tyson Griffin, who is talked about in great detail below. He’s moved down from 170 to a more natural weight and has great size for his weight class. Tibau is a ju-jitsu fighter but also has great striking.

While I expect Stevenson to win don’t expect him to walk over Tibau. This is going to be a tough fit for Joe but in the end I think his wrestling will be too much.

Stevenson wins via Unanimous decision. -Tyson Griffin vs. Marcus Aurelio

Don’t blink; this is going to be fight of the night. America’s obsession with heavyweight fighters bothers me. Sure they have one punch K.O power but they are also generally slow and tend not to have the greatest stamina.

Lightweight fighters are just the opposite. Quick, exciting and generally seem to have a never ending amount of energy.

Griffin has an incredible MMA record at 11-1. His only loss was to Frank Edgar in a closely contested fight. Griffin is also the only man to hold a win over Urijah Faber. Griffin is a well rounded fighter his biggest strength is his wrestling ability, he loves to ground and pound.

Griffin is a 3-1 to one favorite in this fight which shocked me as his opponent is no slouch. Marcus Maximums Aurelio, besides having a B.A. nick name is one hell of a fighter. He sports a 16-5 record, 2-1 in the UFC, with a split decision loss to Clay Guida as his only blemish. Marcus is the only man in the past five years to beat Japanese Lightweight sensation Takanori Gomi, winning with an impressive choke out none the less. If you watched Ultimate Fight Night 13 you saw Aurelio win, by one of the most beautiful arm-bars I have ever seen, in 16 seconds. Aurelio in 21 fights has never been stopped (KO’d, TKO’d or submitted.)

Now you see why the odds of this fight surprised me. Auerlio is a big fighter for 155 so I would give him a strength advantage. I would also give Auerlio and advantage in submission skills. Griffin is a better striker and wrestler. Both have superb cardio.

Aurelio has never been stopped and I don’t see that trend breaking in this fight. The winner of this fight will be decided by takedowns and ground position. If Griffin controls the ground game I expect Griffin to hand Auerlio his 6 th decision loss. However Auerlio’s best chance to win is by submitting Griffin and I expect that to happen.

Aurelio wins via Rear Naked Choke Round 2. -Patrick Cote vs. Ricardo Almeida

Cote is an enigma. Still young (28) his career has been a roller coaster ride. He ran up a 5-0 in Canada and became a super prospect. The UFC snatched him up and immediately thrust him into a fight against Tito Ortiz, who was still in his prime. Oh yea, did I mention he also moved up in weight, took the fight on short notice and still gave Ortiz a run for his money?

He lost his next two UFC fights, including a rather questionable split decision loss to Chris Leben. He found himself out of the UFC until he took a spot on the Ultimate Fighter the Comeback. He made it to the finals of the show before getting submitted by Travis Lutter and being made to look total amateur in the process. Lutter took him down with total ease and sunk in an arm bar. It was than and there I wrote off Cote.

Needless to say I didn’t expect him to rattle of a four fight win streak (3-0 in the UFC) with wins over Scott Smith, Kendall Grove and Drew McFedries.

Almeida is a tough test for Cote. He is a third degree black belt in BJJ under Renzo Gracie. Almeida is a veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, PRIDE Fighting Championships, and a former Middleweight King of Pancrase. In Pancrase he had notable wins over Nathan Marquardt and Kazuo Misaki.

For Cote to win we need to see Tito Ortiz Cote, not Travis Lutter Cote. You know Almeida is going to test his take down defense and with Almeida’s vast BJJ experience you know if he gets Cote down there’s a good chance he’ll submit him. Cote must, must, must keep this fight standing.

I’ve counted out Cote before and he made me look foolish. And while I’d like to see Cote get a win under his belt and become a title contender I just don’t see it happening.

Almeida wins via Arm Bar round 1.

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