By Stephen Quinn
PATRICK COTE VS. ALAN BELCHER
Once a top the middleweight division, where he won four straight fights against Scott Smith, Kendall Grove, Drew McFedries, and Ricardo Almeida, Patrick Cote was given his shot to fight for UFC gold at UFC 90 against Anderson Silva. Like all the opponents Silva has faced in defense of his crown, Cote was sent away without the belt. But unlike Silva’s other title opponents, Cote was forced out of the fight due to a knee injury. Having not fought since October of 2008 due to this injury, Cote would like nothing more than to win in his own country and move a step closer to fighting Silva again. Cote knows that a victory will move him in that right direction.
Fighting out of Biloxi, MS., Alan Belcher knows the significance of fighting on a UFC Pay-Per-View card. With a solid performance, especially when fighting a high-caliber opponent like Cote, a victory will go a long way in establishing himself in the middleweight division. With notable wins over Denis Kang, Ed Herman, and Wilson Gouveia, adding Cote to that list will put him right in the middle of the middleweight division pack.
The biggest question entering this fight is how Cote will respond from an eighteen month layoff. Look for Cote to try and keep the fight standing – trying to finish the fight with a knockout. For Belcher, due to Cote’s layoff from fighting, look for him to push the pace to test the cardio of his opponent. Also for Belcher, look for him to quickly go after Cote’s knee by trying to test his takedown defense. With such a long layoff, it will be interesting to see what Cote has left in his gas tank if the fight goes into the final round.
KIMBO SLICE VS. MATT MITRIONE
On Saturday night, two former contestants on season ten of The Ultimate Fighter will have their chance to make a name for themselves in the heavyweight division. With a combined record of 5-1, both of these fighters know the importance of getting a victory at this stage in their career. The fighter who comes up short in this bout will be left with a lot of questions regarding their future inside of the Octagon.
Originally from the Bahamas, Kimbo Slice, who was born Kevin Ferguson, became an instant Internet sensation thanks to dozens of aired fights that he won in dominating fashion. After becoming a star all over the Internet, Slice decided to put his skills to test by becoming a professional fighter, although being a successful street fighter doesn’t mean you’ll become a successful MMA fighter, and Slice will be the first to tell you that. Since becoming a pro, he has been working vigorously to become a complete MMA fighter – and that’s exactly what people saw the last time he was in the Octagon at the finale of TUF 10. With the reputation of being a fighter that would want nothing to do with bringing the action of the fight to the canvas, Slice showed everyone that he’s truly evolving into a more complete fighter. The buildup of his fight with Houston Alexander led people to believe that it would be nothing more than a standup war, but Slice took that opportunity to show the type of fighter that he’s evolving into. He took the action to the ground and showed an ever-improving ground game that people didn’t think they’d ever see out of the former Internet sensation. By winning a unanimous decision, Slice showed that his opponents need to be ready for more than just a toe-to-toe battle. With a win on Saturday night, he knows that it will be another opportunity to show his critics that he is becoming a force in the heavyweight division.
Appearing on season ten of The Ultimate Fighter, Matt Mitrione wants to show everyone watching on Saturday night that he is a more improved fighter since leaving the house on TUF 10. After winning his first bout, Mitrione was submitted in the first round by James McSweeney. After being sent out of the competition, he returned to fight on the TUF 10 Finale by knocking out Marcus Jones at the start of the second round – a bout which was his first official professional fight. Once again, Mitrione has the opportunity to show everyone the abilities he has by putting on a strong performance on PPV.
Prior to Slice’s last outing inside the Octagon, it wasn’t hard for his opponents to try and figure out the game plan he’d come into the fight with. Known for wanting to stand and trade punches with his opponent, Slice was a one-dimensional fighter. After his win over Alexander, which saw him take the fight to the mat, it will be interesting to see if he tries to do the same with Mitrione – who has no problem keeping the fight standing.
SAM STOUT VS. JEREMY STEPHENS
With Knockout of the Night honors written all over this fight, expect nothing less than fireworks between these two fighters when the Octagon gate closes. With both fighters always looking for a knockout each time they fight, the pressure will only be added for Sam Stout, who is fighting in front of his countrymen. For Jeremy Stephens, he’d like nothing more than to win by knockout when fighting in his opponent’s backyard.
Fighting out of Ontario, Sam Stout is looking to move his winning streak to three straight fights. By beating Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon in his last two fights, Stout knows that by winning three straight fights, he will move himself near the top of the lightweight division. Stout has recently turned his UFC career around. Prior to his current winning streak, Stout had a dismal 2-3 record inside the Octagon.
With a 4-4 UFC record, Saturday night will undoubtedly be the most important fight of his career. Although Stephens has shown glimpses of excellence - which included what many considered to be the best knockout of 2008 against Rafael dos Anjos, he has had a hard time stringing multiple victories together with regularity in his UFC career. However, Stephens believes that his matchup with Stout is just what he needs to put multiple victories back together once again.
Look for both fighters to feel confident that they have the advantage in the standup department. It will be quite surprising if either fighter looks to bring the fight onto the canvas. Along with this fight to see little time on the canvas – don’t be surprised if it also goes all fifteen minutes.
JOSH KOSCHECK VS. PAUL DALEY
For Josh Koscheck and Paul Daley, it’s pretty simple for both fighters to know where they stand leading up to this fight – a win could put the winner in line for a shot at the welterweight title and a defeat will put the loser right back in the middle of the welterweight pack.
Fighting out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Josh Koscheck knows how close he is to once again getting a shot at Georges St-Pierre – this time for the welterweight belt. After appearing on season one of the Ultimate Fighter, where he lost to Diego Sanchez, Koscheck put together a 7-1 record that included notable wins over Pete Spratt, Dave Menne, Jonathan Goulet, and Diego Sanchez. After putting the first loss on the record of Sanchez, Koscheck fought St-Pierre – with the winner getting a shot at the title. Although he went the distance with St-Pierre, Koscheck came up on the short end by losing a decision at UFC 74. Since that fight, Koscheck has put together a 5-2 record, which includes a two fight-winning streak. A 2001 NCAA Div. 1 national champion in wrestling, Koscheck nonetheless continues to show a more improved stand up game in every fight. Although he’s not looking past the task at hand on Saturday night, Koscheck believes that being a much more complete fighter will lead to a different result if he fights St-Pierre the second time.
British star Paul Daley hasn’t wasted any time showing fans of the UFC that he’s a force in the welterweight division. With his first two fights inside of the Octagon not making it out of the first round – with wins over Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett - Daley now sees himself on the verge of fighting for a world title. At only 27 years old, Daley knows that getting a shot at the welterweight title is motivation itself to get the job done come Saturday night.
Look for Koscheck to return to his wrestling roots by trying to bring the action of the fight to the canvas. Also look for Koscheck, who is known for his excellent conditioning, to test the cardio of Daley by continuously pushing the pace. For Daley, look for him to come in throwing bombs to test Koscheck’s chin.
LYOTO MACHIDA VS. MAURICIO RUA
Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua first stepped inside of the Octagon at UFC 104 in a razor close fight that went all 25 minutes. In the UFC, it’s rare to see two fighters get an immediate rematch but after the controversial nature of the first verdict (a unanimous decision in Machida’s favor), it was the only scenario that made sense. With a little over six months since the last time they fought each other, it will be interesting to see what adjustments each fighter will make entering Saturday’s main event.
Known for his technical fighting style, all sixteen of Machida’s opponents have one thing in common – the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion defeated them all. A Black Belt in Machida karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Machida has become a master at luring his opponents in – waiting for them to make a mistake that he can capitalize on. Quite possibly one of Machida’s greatest attributes may be his patience. Machida has the ability to not get frustrated during the fight – knowing that a mistake from one of his opponents is nearly inevitable when facing a fighter with the accuracy that he possesses. Although people may criticize him for the majority of his fights going the distance, he just keeps winning, and he has finished off the likes of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Thiago Silva, and Rashad Evans.
Fighting out of Curitiba, Brazil., Mauricio Rua is looking to make sure that the outcome of Saturday’s fight is not left to the three judges that will be scoring the main event. Like many, Rua believes that he beat Machida in their last bout, and finishing the fight before the 25 minute mark is the only way for him to make sure that he doesn’t have to rely on the judges again. Prior to making his debut in the UFC, Rua made a name for himself in PRIDE by winning the PRIDE Grand Prix title in 2005. During that tournament, Rua took out Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona. When Rua moved over to the UFC, his success in Japan didn’t immediately follow him. In his debut at UFC 76, Forrest Griffin submitted Rua. Like many of the fighters that moved from PRIDE over to the UFC, it took a while to get accustomed to the different rules and the Octagon. Since being submitted by Griffin, Rua has gone 2-1 – beating Mark Coleman, and Chuck Liddell, with his only loss coming in controversy to Machida.
When the Octagon gate closes on Saturday night on Canada, look for Rua to go about the fight the same way he did the first time – by coming right after Machida with a mix of punches and devastating kicks to the body. For Machida, on the other hand, look for him to go into the fight with his traditional methodical game plan and to take his time in order to get his timing down for a potential takedown. If Machida is able to bring the fight to the ground, he will certainly be careful to not get caught in a submission at the hands of his opponent. Both fighters know that the one who makes the first mistake may leave the arena with a defeat.