Dan Morgan with UFC Expert/Insider Paul Hartey
Gabriel Gonzaga (7-4 UFC) VS Brendan Schaub (2-1 UFC)
Even though Gonzaga has been on a losing streak, it’s been against top UFC fighters. His last two fights have been losses to Junior Dos Santos (next in line for Lesnar/Velasquez) and Shane Carwin. Still, even losing to credible opponents, a losing streak can be a tough mental hurdle to overcome.
Both Gonzaga and Schaub are very good strikers, but Gonzaga has the advantage in wrestling and jiu-jitsu. This fight may be looked at as an upset either way, but we feel Schaub is slightly favored. That being said, we like Gonzaga as a slight upset, thinking his history and experience with top UFC fighters, plus being more well-rounded in the octagon will lead to a victory.
Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez (10-4 UFC) VS Paulo Thiago (3-2 UFC)
Same as Gonzaga, Sanchez comes in on a bit of a losing streak, and again, we like that streak to end Saturday night. However, this one is not considered an upset. Sanchez’s past two fights were losses, first to BJ Penn in the lightweight division for the title, where Penn performed well above the level he showed in his past two fights with Frankie Edgar, and then he lost his first fight back in the 170 class, which can be to blame to some extent, but an early knee to the head that Sanchez never fully recovered from (yet still went the entire distance in the match) didnt help his cause either.
Thiago is also coming off a loss, a KO by the man waiting for George St. Pierre/Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann. Thiago’s only clear cut advantage is in submissions, and at the same time, Sanchez has never lost by submission. Sanchez’s advantages in striking, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu make him the favorite to us, and our pick.
Matt “The Hammer” Hamill (8-2 UFC) VS Tito Ortiz (14-7-1 UFC)
Ortiz is the favorite, and that’s who we’re going with. Both guys feature wrestling and striking. Ortiz is a former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, holding it for over 3 years, a main eventer, and has faced the best in the world. He has the advantage in striking, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. Ortiz has the power to end this early, and that very well may happen.
Hamill however, is the modern day definition of the underdog. Obviously you need determination, strength, and heart to make it to and at this level, but that shows how much of all of it Hamill has, since even amongst all his UFC counterparts he is ranked at the top of the list in these “intangible” qualities.
A guy like Hamill can frustrate any opponent, and if he can frustrate Ortiz early, this could get interesting. But unlike some matchups where the length of the match can switch the advantage, even if Hamill can make it the distance, Ortiz should win.
Interesting note: Hamill is on a 4 match win streak, which he has done one other time in his career, which he then lost his next bout (to Michael Bisping in a split decision, UFC 75)
Jake Shields (0-0 UFC) vs Martin “The Hitman” Kampmann (8-2 UFC)
#1 contenders match
Another upset on the way, as we’re taking Kampmann. This is Shields’ first UFC fight, and while he has plenty of MMA experience (a former middle-weight champion in Strikeforce), including a win over former UFC and MMA legend Dan Henderson in Shields’ final Strikeforce appearance. It seems like fighters haven’t had great results in debut UFC appearances. Combine that with the fact that he’s moving down a weight class, and this could prove to be a difficult task.
Shields is favored based on his previous MMA experience, but translating that to the top tier UFC is difficult, especially adding in the switch on weight class.
Kampmann has been in UFC since mid 1996, has already made the move from middleweight to welterweight (at UFC 93, January 2009), and since then has faced top welterweight contenders. He holds wins over Paulo Thiago and former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
While we think they are even as strikers, Shields holds the wrestling advantage while Kampmann holds the advantage in jiu-jitsu. Kampmann however, has proven though that he finds ways to land hits and win fights even against reputable strikers. Going with the punchers chance and Kampmann for the win, and a shot at GSP (early prediction of course).
UFC Heavyweight Championship
Cain Velasquez (6-0 UFC) VS Brock Lesnar – (C) (4-1 UFC)
If there’s anyone at this moment who can match up and possibly even end the impressive run Lesnar has been on, it’s Velasquez. 8-0, (6 of 8 in UFC. His last 3 wins have been devastating to say the least. Defeating Cheick Congo by unanimous decision, Ben Rothwell by TKO (punches), and Antônio Nogueira by KO (punches). Velasquez is the only fighter to KO a fully healthy Nogueira.
(Frank Mir also did, but Nogueira went into the match sick from a staph infection and hospitalization 2-3 weeks before the match, and a bad knee. He verified this months later, still giving much praise to Mir)
A vicious striker and a prestigious wrestler (two-time All-American), Cain is very versatile. Speed, technique, striking, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu all go to Cain, but as always, size and strength will go to Lesnar. Cain is a well oiled machine and whether it be by lucky blow or the scoring table, Cain can steal this fight, and the title.
With all that said, this is Brock Lesnar. If we take the several categories we basically just split between these two, it looks 5-2 Velasquez. This will almost always be the case for Lesnar. However, the incredible amount of size and strength he has will always make him a factor, not to mention he can get on a real mean streak. He will always be doubted, and there will always be reasons he can or should lose. With every match this happens, he will only become stronger. So far he had given no reason to believe he can be beaten, and until then, I won’t believe he can be.
Is this match a huge test? Yes
Is this arguably the biggest challenge Lesnar has/will face(d)? Yes
Can Cain win? Yes (and he is Paul’s pick)
Will Cain win? No
My pick: Brock Lesnar
The reigning WWE…i mean…UFC Heavyweight Champion