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Home MMA Portland Hosts UFC 102
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Portland Hosts UFC 102

ufc_102August 29th will see two MMA legends finally square off to see who will bounce back into contention in the heavyweight division. Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira are looking to erase the memory of their last fights, coming off losses to Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir respectively. The winner may be in line for a title shot, while the loser may start to consider calling it a career. The co-main event features an exciting match up between feared strikers Keith Jardine and Thiago Silva. Both are also coming off losses and are looking to re-assert their positions at the top of the light heavyweight division. Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia clash to determine the #1 contender spot in the middleweight division and Brandon Vera looks to continue his climb up the light heavyweight ranks against up and comer Krzysztof Soszynski.

It’s not very often you see a man closing in on 50 still competing at the highest level of any sport, let alone one as physically taxing as MMA, but Randy Couture is no ordinary man. Couture started competing at 34, an age when many fighters are starting to consider retirement but that didn’t slow him down. In only his fourth professional fight he won the UFC heavyweight championship. Since that time he has won the heavyweight title on two other occasions as well as the light heavyweight championship twice. He has competed in fifteen title fights and is largely responsible for helping the UFC and MMA become mainstream. It’s true that all fighters reach a point where their abilities start to decline, so it’s only logical to think that Couture’s time is coming. But “The Natural” has been known for his phenomenal conditioning and a knockout at the hands of the much larger physical specimen Brock Lesnar is by no means a sign that he’s on his way down, yet. Chances are he won’t be around for too many more fights, but you can guarantee his last bouts will be just as competitive as the first.

Couture will have his s full Saturday night however, as his opponent is another legend in the sport: Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogeuira. The former PRIDE champion has been around almost as long as Couture and is the only fighter to hold championship belts in both PRIDE and the UFC. Nogeuira ruled PRIDE’s heavyweight division for two years until he ran into consensus #1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. Following continued success in PRIDE Nogeuira decided to try his luck in the UFCand in his second fight he won the UFC interim heavyweight championship. He was unable to defend the title against Frank Mir, but many attribute that to illness and injury during his training camp that left him unable to fire on all cylinders. “Minotauro” is known for his ability to sustain large amounts of punishment before locking in one his trademark submissions, although this trait may be called into question after being finished for the first time back in December.

This should be a close fight, but look for Couture to employ a similar strategy as Mir and keep the fight standing. Nogeuira will have hard time taking the Greco Roman wrestler to the mat and Couture’s advantage in the clinch and his devastating dirty boxing tactics should be the difference in this fight.

The co-main event will feature former Ultimate fighter contestant Keith Jardine. The “Dean of Mean” is coming off a very close decision loss to Quinton Jackson and is in desperate need of a win if he hopes to once again be considered one of the best in the light heavyweight division. His UFC career has been up and down. Following an upset of Forrest Griffin it appeared Jardine was ready to take the next step, however Houston Alexander had other plans and defeated Jardine in only 48 seconds. Then in an even bigger upset, Jardine pulled out a split decision win over UFC superstar Chuck Liddell, but once again Jardine couldn’t keep the momentum going and was knocked out in his next contest by Wanderlei Silva. The story continued in his last fight when he was once again unable to string two wins together when he was defeated by “Rampage” Jackson.

Thiago Silva will be another tough test for Jardine. The Brazilian was undefeated in his pro career before suffering his first loss to Lyoto Machida in his last bout, and although beginning his career as a Jui Jitsu specialist has become known as a feared striker. His ground and pound is especially devastating and has been his means of ending numerous fights. Before his stoppage by Machida, Silva had recorded wins against notable opponents James Irvin and Houston Alexander, but Jardine will be one of his toughest tests yet. A win over the UFC veteran would put Silva right back at the top of the heap in the light heavyweight division.

Jardine has more UFC experience and has faced more talented opposition, so some would see him as the favourite. But Silva’s striking has developed immensely since his debut and he should have the advantage on the ground. Silva should be able to hold his own standing and if he can get the fight to the ground he could very well finish.

The middleweight #1 contender spot is on the line when Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia square off. Marquardt has been competing in the UFC since 2005, fighting the best in the division. A string of five victories earned him a title shot against middleweight champ Anderson Silva. Although he was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, he has posted a 3-1 record since and is one win away from potentially getting a chance at revenge. Marquardt is well versed both standing and on the ground, but he known for his free wheeling exciting striking and should look to keep on the feet.

His opponent, Demian Maia, is widely regarded as one of, if not the best Brazilian Jui Jitsu practitioner in all of MMA. He makes no bones about the fact he likes to take the fight to the ground and should look to do that early in the fight against the talented striker. Since entering the UFC Maia is undefeated in five fights, finishing all of them by submission and wining four submission of the night honours along the way. Maia is currently undefeated at 10-0 and will surely get a title shot with a win against the experienced Marquardt.

Experience is on Marquardt’s side and he is easily the toughest test for Maia thus far. But Maia’s Jui Jitsu is unmatched in all of MMA, giving him an advantage in pretty much any fight. All Maia has to do is get the fight to the ground and the victory will be in the bag.

Brandon Vera and Krzysztof Soszynski will also face off in a bout that could vault either fighter into the top ten of the division. Soszynski is on a roll since leaving the Ultimate Fighter, but he is yet to face someone of Vera’s calibre. This isn’t to say the fight is out of his reach, but it could go either way, with neither fighter having an easy road to victory. Chris Leben will also look to rebound from a loss against Michael Bisping when he takes on Jake Rosholt and Gabriel Gonzaga looks to become a factor again in the heavyweight division when he faces Chris Tuchscherer.

 

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