Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
Kaleb Kelchner - Edgar via Unanimous Decision
I think Frankie has been robbed of a ton of credit for his two wins over BJ Penn. His style is ever improving, and he's also shown that he can be a smart fighter. Going into this fight, the ball really is in Edgar's court. Maynard's game is going to rely on his takedowns, point blank, Edgar's speed will allow him to pick Maynard apart standing up, but can he use that speed to move, attack, and not let Maynard get his hands on him? It's a tough pick, but I think Frankie Edgar is winning this one, and hopefully, he can finally get some respect.
KJ Gould - Maynard via Decision
I do actually give credit to Edgar for his two wins over Penn, especially his emphatic second one - I just think this is a bad style match up for him. Edgar's shown when he's against a wrestler who's committed to getting a takedown, he gets taken down. Even when Penn on the rare occasion really decided to get Edgar down in their fights, he did. With a strength advantage as well as an experience and skill advantage in the takedown aspect of the game it's hard to imagine Edgar staying on his feet the whole time.
Penn is easily a superior striker compared to Maynard but Penn is also a bit flat footed and couldn't cope with Edgar flitting in and out and running circles around him (note: I'm not saying Edgar ran away from him, by the way). Maynard's boxing trainer assures us he'll be on his toes and match Edgar move for move but we'll have to wait and see. What we do know is Maynard can get the KO though we rarely see it but the same can't be said for Edgar. Coupled with what I've been hearing about Maynard working on his mat wrestling and submissions Maynard may impress though still likely grinds out a decision.
Chris Leben vs. Brian Stann
Kaleb - Leben via KO/TKO in the second round.
Chris Leben has been on a roll through late 2010, and I don't think this momentum is going to stop with the new year. Brian Stann can take a punch, so can Leben, but I think if the two went blow for blow, Stann gets hit more, and will eventually crack. Stann can be an emotional fighter, and definitely get sucked into a brawl, that is where Leben thrives. Stann can work on that head movement and speed all he wants, Leben has found ways to win against tougher competition, and he should be able to do the same here.
KJ - Leben vis KO/TKO in the third round
I have a bad habit of playing amateur psychologist when looking at matches; how fighters appear after weigh ins and what might be going on with their personal life. Sometimes it can play a factor in performance but I don't think it's consistently true. So, regardless of Chris Leben's recent run in with the law over an alleged DUI I think he's built speed and is cruising along the path toward a future title shot - as crazy as that sounds when Leben had been written off after losses to Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping (which Leben popped positive for 'roids for) and Jake (who?) Rosholt. I think Stann can tough it out with Leben, and while everyone has a chin-limit I think Leben's is still good enough to outlast the former Marine especially when I expect Leben to go full Zombie Fighter mode two thirds into the fight before scoring a fight ending Living Dead Haymaker late in the third. Look forward to him coming out to 'Rollercoaster' again as well.
Brandon Vera vs. Thiago Silva
Kaleb - Vera via Unanimous Decision
I should learn my lesson when it comes to picking Vera, but I won't. Thiago Silva is a double tough SOB, but I think Vera has the perfect mix of speedy Muay Thai that can keep Silva at bay long enough to edge out a decision. Vera will likely try to tie up, and work the clinch against the cage and score big on the exit. If he can find his jab, and utilize his legs well enough to keep Silva from bombing on him, he should take it.
KJ - Silva by KO/TKO in the second round.
Vera might be technically better, but he's also been one of the most inconsistent fighters that still has a job with the UFC. I just can't pick him based on previous performances especially when we have a pissed off Brazilian coming back from being out-stalled by Rashad Evans. I can see Silva landing some solid shots standing but I think a finish may come from his heavy BJJ top game in the form of Ground'n'Pound from mount. Then maybe we can see Vera put on his 'Protest Face' last seen in his fight with Werdum before later learning UFC has finally given him the boot. (Now I've said that, watch him prove me wrong!)
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Nick Diaz
Kaleb - Diaz via Unanimous Decision
Diaz's mix of boxing and grappling skills are enough to give many fighters at welterweight trouble, and I suspect Kim will be getting a taste of both worlds in this fight. Kim will likely try to close the distance early and avoid any prolonged exchanges with Diaz, but I don't think he'll be able to keep him there. Diaz can win this fight standing, and on the ground, but I predict that we'll see a little bit of everything throughout this fight, with Diaz securing a solid decision win.
KJ - DHK by Decision
I always found Diaz's move to Welterweight a bit puzzling. He's always been scrawny and I didn't see him being too emaciated to make the cut to 155lbs either. He gets dominated by wrestlers at Lightweight so he moves to the next class up who have even more dominant wrestlers a lot of whom are HUGE for that weight class. DHK is not your prototypical American Wrestler, instead he's a South Korean Judoka, but again he's HUGE for that class and definitely has the grappling skill to give Diaz a really hard time. I just see three rounds of DHK controlling Diaz with some Ground'n'Pound thrown in on his way to a lopsided decision followed by Diaz complaining Kaleb's real time blogging effected the judges' scoring.
Clay Guida vs. Taknori Gomi
Kaleb - Gomi via KO/TKO in the third round.
One, it's Takanori Gomi. Two, he just KTFO'ed Tyson Griffin. Three, Pride never die. In all seriousness, this is my favorite match up of the night. Since Gomi arrived in the UFC, this was one of the fights I really hoped to see Gomi in, and here it is. This is going to be a rough and tumble brawl, from start to finish, but I think Gomi is going to land that bomb at some point during the fight, and actually put Guida away. My mind can't quite fathom the idea of Guida getting finished, but we're going with that.
KJ - Guida by Decision
Guida is a caveman with a stone(age) head. The Carpenter doesn't know any other direction other than forward. The RV he lives in has the reverse gear stripped out because going backwards is for wimps. On a serious note not only is Guida incredibly durable and relentless (sorry Paul Taylor, that nickname should really go to Clay) he's a more than reasonable wrestler and he's refining all aspects of his game at Greg Jackson's camp. While Gomi is a decent wrestler himself with a Combat Wrestling submission background (and you know I love me some catch wrestling) I just see Guida's wrestling being that much better and only have to look at how Gomi got 'rolled' by WEC veteran Shane Roller at the UFC Expo Grapplers Quest in Las Vegas last June to cast some doubt over his ability to handle Guida in this fight.
Sorry Fireball Kid, I see you getting snuffed out in this one.
OK Seat-Peeps, who do you have winning at UFC 125 tonight?