A year after the death of Lance Hahn, UFC commish Dana White couldn't bring himself to approach the podium to address the Ol' Blighty media.
This event is hard for me to call as it features a bunch of European fighters that I know by name but whose abilities I haven't seen tested against known commodities. Nevertheless:
Eklund vs. Shiavo: Eklund is well rounded. Kind of awkward. I support him. Eklund by decision.
Baron vs. Miller: Baron is on a run. Miller kind of is. Miller is American. Baron is 5'5" and French. I really don't know. The momentum is behind Baron. I am picking Miller for no particular reason.
Stout vs. Etim: Stout is a much better striker but has a non-existent ground game. I can't trust that. He probably can get the KO but I can't back a guy with no ground game. Etim by sub in the 2nd.
Liaudin vs. Bielkheden: Bielkheden is a very interesting story. Leaving Scandinavia for Brazil and getting his black belt. That should put me for him. He can win, but...I just don't think the wrestling ability is there. I think Liaudin pulls of a decision. Could be a good fight.
Carwin vs. Wain: This fight is set up for Carwin to get a 1st round KO. He will.
Gono vs. Hardy: This is probably the fight that I am most looking forward to. Gono, the showman, has the most impressive resume on this card. He has fought everybody forever and won enough to stay relevant. Hardy is a compelling young British fighter. I think this could be the best real test, in the UFC of 10th Planet, rubber-guard jiu-jitsu. Gono has every chance to win this fight. He has a strong, strong top game and could pin Hardy and pound him out. I still believe in Eddie Bravo and his system. I think Hardy will implement it to back up his solid stand-up. I have Hardy by a TKO in the 2nd. However, it will not be shocking at all if Gono wins. He is a good, good fighter.
Davis vs. Kelly: I am also very much looking forward to this fight. Davis, The Irish Hand Grenade, probably has the best boxing in MMA. He has transitioned it over to be practical enough to compliment his new found sub ability. Kelly has been impressive, but his game is ground and pound with little wrestling to help it out. I see Davis by KO in the 1st. Not because Kelly is bad, but because they are both aggressive. Should be a good fight and could go deeper if Kelly's wrestling has improved.
Lytle vs. Taylor: Lytle is one of my favorite fighters ever. If this was a video game he would be an 80 out of 100 in everything (except wrestling.) Lytle has the strange talent to fight his opponents game to a decision. I expect this fight to be the same. Lytle by decision. Should be a good fight.
Sokoudjo vs. Cane: Sokoudjo is a freaky athlete. I think Cane has the ability to sub him, but I don't think he has the ability to take him down. I think Cane can KO him but I don't think his striking is as good. Sokoudjo by vicious 1st round KO.
Vera vs. Jardine: Vera is one of my favorites and I stick by him in these tough times. He finally moved down to 205 and should be running over folks. His kick-boxing is superb. His grappling is out of this world. He is really, really solid. Jardine is a wild-card. If you were a coach, you would want to correct everything he does, if it wasn't for the fact that it works. He has wins over Liddell and Griffin. He is an interesting cat. I see him frustrating Vera, but Vera clinching and then striking for a decision. An awkward decision.
Bisping vs. Leben: Wait...this is the top of the card. Ok. Ok. I am liking Bisping a lot more at middleweight. He still doesn't have natural power but his speed and movement is looking very good. I am assuming his stamina is solid as well because I have never seen it falter. Leben is an odd cat, in many ways. He can be fighting like complete garbage and wake up long enough to knock somebody out. Really knock them out. He has freaky natural power and an absurd chin. That makes things tough to call. He could be losing a fight for all but the two seconds he throws a nutty knock out punch. I am not crazy about his ground work even though he is rumored to have some. He is supposed to be a changed fighter...we'll see. I think Bisping will Rich Franklin this one and out stamina and movement and combo Leben to a decision. The one equalizer for people with out power is knees. I am interested to see if Bisping goes to the knees, from the clinch or otherwise.
That's it. Order your fish and chips and put on the Billy Bragg. Call Arash Markazi and tell him I've met his deadline for him. Salute Lance Hahn.