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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
UFC 109 is set to air live on pay-per-view Saturday night from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV, and for the first time two current UFC Hall Of Famers will face off against one another. In addition to Mark Coleman vs. Randy Couture, the event features a number one contender bout in the middleweight division as Nate Marquardt faces off against Chael Sonnen. There's a total of eleven fights scheduled for the event, however, so let's get to our fight previews!
Rolles Gracie vs. Joey Beltran Rolles Gracie may only have three fights under his belt, but the 2nd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with the famous last name in this sport is making his UFC debut with a lot of intrigue. The heavyweight grappler will take on a UFC newcomer taking this fight on a week's notice in Beltran. Beltran comes into the UFC with a 10-3 record, with two losses by decision and one by submission. He's coming off a TKO victory over Houston Alexander at a 5150 event last month and also holds a KO victory over former UFC fighter Sherman Pendergarst. This is a bit of a classic striker vs. grappler fight, but while Beltran has the hands capable of putting away many an opponent, taking this fight on such short notice does not bode well for his ability to hold off the excellent submission skills of Gracie, who has submitted all three of his opponents in the first round. Gracie makes quick work of an ill-prepared Beltran with a first round submission, but we'll see more of Beltran in the future.
Tim Hague vs. Chris Tuchscherer: Brock Lesnar training partner Tuchscherer had an unfortunate debut in the UFC. Having compiled a 17-1 career record before his UFC debut with victories over multiple UFC veterans, Tuchscherer drew Gabriel Gonzaga in his debut fight. He wasn't really given a chance in that fight to perform to his potential, as a terrible low blow early in the fight did a lot of damage and, believing he would have to take a loss if he did not continue, he fought on in a clearly weakened state. Gonzaga blasted him with a vicious head kick and finished him off on the ground shortly thereafter. Tim Hague is coming off of the official fastest knockout in UFC history, but he was on the wrong end of that. The loss to Todd Duffee in August followed his debut victory over Pat Barry. Hague's got some skills, but Tuchscherer's superior wrestling is more than enough to give him the advantage in this fight. He's a decent striker and can ground and pound well, and that bodes well for him in this matchup. I like Tuchscherer to get his first victory in the Octagon with a second round TKO.
Brian Stann vs. Phil Davis: Former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion and Marine Brian Stann looks to push his UFC winning streak to three fights when he meets UFC newcomer Phil Davis on Saturday night. After a loss to Steve Cantwell in his final WEC appearance and a consecutive defeat at the hands of Krzysztof Soszynski in his UFC debut, Stann got back on track with a victory over Cantwell in their rubber match and another against Rodney Wallace in December. Davis, a jiu jitsu blue belt and student of Lloyd Irvin, makes his debut riding a 4-0 start to his professional career. In addition to his jiu jitsu background, the 25 year old is also a D-1 National Champion wrestler from Penn State University. In his last three fights Davis has not left the first round, and this light heavyweight prospect is poised to make a splash in this debut. I like him with the second round submission in this one.
Rob Emerson vs. Phillipe Nover: Phillipe Nover was one of the more surprising fighters on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, and was the favorite to win the finale after receiving massive praise from Dana White and more during the airing of the show. Following two straight losses in the Octagon and a freak seizure-like event that canceled his last scheduled fight hours before the event, there are nothing but questions surrounding what he may have left in his career. Similarly, Rob Emerson is on a two fight losing streak that has moved his record back to .500, and he's fighting for his UFC career to continue. This is a fight that could legitimately be taken by either fighter, and the loser is likely out of the UFC. At this point I still think Nover's got the bigger upside provided his health doesn't fail him and prematurely end his career, and I think he'll get on track a little bit in this one with a second round submission victory.
Spike TV Prelims
Melvin Guillard vs. Ronnys Torres: Ronnys Torres will finally make his UFC debut against the man he was originally set to debut against almost a year ago. The Nova Uniao fighter is a highly touted prospect, entering his Octagon debut with a 14-1 record, twelve of which have been stoppage victories. Melvin Guillard is looking to finally make good on the promise that his physical gifts have brought his fight career after moving to Greg Jackson's camp. Guillard gave up a victory by nearly handing Nate Diaz a guillotine in their bout last September, a fight he had been winning with his solid stand up. This is a fight for him to prove he's improved his ground defense, because he will likely be challenged there by Torres, and for him to prove he's simply a better fighter than he's shown. Torres has a lot of praise coming into this debut, but Guillard needs to come out and have a great fight in this one for his sake, and I think the move to Jackson's camp will show here. I like Guillard to hand Torres a loss after Torres' lengthy injury layoff in the first round by TKO.
Mac Danzig vs. Justin Bucholz: Mac Danzig is in desperate need of a victory in this fight. There's no two ways about it, the season six winner of The Ultimate Fighter needs to defeat Justin Bucholz or he will no longer be in the UFC. That's just a simple fact that he realizes coming into this fight, and he's said as much, telling MMAJunkie.com that if he can't beat Bucholz in this fight he doesn't belong in the UFC. For Bucholz, he is only 1-3 in the Octagon himself, having lost two straight after picking up his only UFC win over Corey Hill. This is the definition of a "loser's out" fight, and at this point a loss is even more damaging to Danzig. The TUF 6 winner needs to get back on track in a big way, and he needs to get back to finishing fights. Bucholz is an opponent that he can very well do just such a thing against, and he'll absolutely need to finish him after two decision victories in his last three. Danzig gets back on track with a first round submission in this one to give us some more undercard fights on Spike.
Main Televised Card
Matt Serra vs. Frank Trigg: The former Welterweight Champion takes on "Twinkle Toes" in what has been a very entertaining war of words thus far. Both fighters are no stranger to trash talk, and both still have a little something left in the tank after losses in their last fights. This really comes down to which fighter has more. Outside of the famous Shonie Carter spinning back fist, Matt Serra's only been finished by Georges St. Pierre, whereas Trigg has been finished in all seven of his career losses, most recently to Josh Koscheck in August. Trigg is very capable of outpointing Serra in this fight, but I don't think he can finish him. At the same time, Serra very much has the tools to either knock out or submit Trigg. Serra looked good in his loss to Matt Hughes last May, and if he comes into this one fully prepared this is his bout to lose. I very much like Serra in this fight, and think he'll put Trigg away in the second by submission.
Demian Maia vs. Dan Miller: This bout pits two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts against one another (Miller received his just last month), but Miller is not on the level of Maia when it comes to the submission game. Both fighters had been on massive unbeaten runs before their last fights, losing to the two men fighting for a Title shot later on this card. Miller's run came to an end by decision, getting manhandled by Chael Sonnen, while Maia lasted just over 20 seconds before getting knocked out by Nate Marquardt. Miller has never finished anyone by strikes, but this fight isn't likely to be contested on the feet with such talented grapplers. This should be a very fun contest, with a submission all but guaranteed. Should that not happen, it could very well challenge the cageside judges to score a bout that's not contested primarily on the feet. Of course, they could always go the route many others have in a grappler vs. grappler fight and stand and trade with each other, but I don't think that will be the case with these two. If it goes as one would expect, Miller's going to put up a fight, but he's not submitting Maia. Demian gets back on track with a third round submission after a great battle.
Paulo Thiago vs. Mike Swick: Swick steps in for injured teammate Josh Koscheck to face the man that knocked Koscheck out in shocking fashion last spring. Following that knockout victory, Thiago has posted a split record in decisions to Swick's other teammate Jon Fitch and Minnesotan Jacob Volkmann. Swick, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from a loss to Dan Hardy in a fight that would have earned him a shot at Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre. Before the loss to Hardy, Swick had been on a four fight win streak at welterweight following his middleweight loss to Yushin Okami. He has not been overpowered the way he was by Okami since then, and that's not likely to happen in this one. Thiago's a strong grappler and will test what Swick has said is his underappreciated ground game, but if Swick can land some early strikes he'll test Thiago's chin for the first true time. Swick is the favorite for a reason in this fight, and by the second round he'll find a way to connect on the kill shot and put Thiago out for the first time.
Nate Marquardt vs. Chael Sonnen: The number one contender's bout for Anderson Silva's Middleweight Title gives Chael Sonnen a chance to pull off a huge upset and take that shot as his own. That's going to be a huge task, however. Nate Marquardt has improved dramatically since the first time he faced Silva, and he is poised to challenge Silva like no other has in the UFC if he gets past a very tough and very legit top ten middleweight in Sonnen. His performance against Yushin Okami was spectacular and earned him this spot against Marquardt, but in "Nate the Great" he's got a more well rounded opponent with the grappling acumen to hang with him and the striking ability to put him down and out. Marquardt is the better fighter coming in, and the betting lines have him as a major favorite for good reason, but that doesn't mean Sonnen can't win this fight. I don't think he will, but he's very much capable of pulling the upset off. However, Marquardt knows a victory here will finally get him the rematch with Silva he's wanted since that loss to "The Spider" in 2007. There's not a chance he's going to let this opportunity pass him up, and he's going to go for the impressive victory on Saturday. Marquardt puts the beatdown on by the third round, taking this one and his Title shot with a TKO.
Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman: The battle of Hall of Famers comes to Las Vegas on Saturday, and both Randy Couture and Mark Coleman are fighting to prove that they are far from done with their fighting careers. For Coleman, a bad performance will simply lend credence to the notion that he's well past his time and that he does not have what it takes to continue one of the sport's longest and most storied careers. On that note, a Couture victory, at least an impressive one, will give the five time Champion an opportunity to be a six time Champion, as he'll likely earn a Title fight against the winner of May's UFC 113 main event between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Coleman doesn't have the same upside should he look good in a victory, but an impressive win on his part would allow him to get another fight with a high level light heavyweight, and another win there may be enough to put his name in the hat for a Title shot. This is not the most exciting fight the UFC has put on in a main event, and in a bout with two very high end wrestlers we may be in for a less than exciting grappling matchup. Then again, it may be an extremely exciting grappling matchup or both fighters may just put on an extremely exciting back and forth stand up battle. I believe it will be one of the latter two, and that we'll be in for the best of what these two have to offer come Saturday night. Despite the fact that Couture is the elder, Coleman has been beaten and battered more in his career his body shows the wear and tear more than does Couture's. This is another bout where the major favorite is that way for a reason, and at this point in their respective careers Randy Couture is the better overall fighter. Coleman may just pull out a performance hearkening back to his Pride Grand Prix victory and UFC tournament victories, but it will take him fighting like he hasn't fought in the last ten years to get past "Captain America." Both fighters deserve respect from fans everywhere for what they've done in the sport and for what they can still do, but on Saturday night Randy Couture is going to leave Las Vegas with his hand raised. I'll take Couture with a close decision in what will hopefully be a very good fight.
For our betting contest, here are my picks:
$500 on Nover
$200 on Tuchscherer
$200 on Serra
$100 on Guillard
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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Frank Hyden - Rich Hansen
Chris Park - Matt Pelkey
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