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ProMMAnow.com UFC 117 staff picks

UFC 117: Silva vs. Sonnen” takes place Saturday night, Aug. 7, at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. The event will air live on Pay-Per-View starting at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. In the main event, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva returns once more to defend his crown. This time “The Spider” will go to war with the very entertaining and controversial Chael Sonnen, to see if the one time political aspirant can back up all his campaign promises.

Also on the card, Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves battle for a shot at their division’s title, as does Junior Dos Santos and Roy Nelson. Clay Guida will face Rafael dos Anjos,  Dustin Hazelett will fight Rick Story, and Ricardo Almeida will seek to defeat the legend Matt Hughes in a welterweight showdown.

The ProMMAnow.com staff gives their predictions and thoughts on the fights. Let us know what you think about our picks, who’s spot on and who’s off their rocker. Also, we are giving away a copy of Forrest Griffin‘s new book if you’re the first one to get closest at guessing how and when the main event will end; details here: UFC 117 pick em contest. Alright, here’s our picks:

Dustin Hazelett vs. Rick Story

BRIAN FURBY: In my recent interview with Hazelett he had some good things to say about Story as a fighter. Despite Story’s three career losses he has never been finished, and has an excellent wrestling base which could initially give Hazelett some problems. However, re-focused after his loss to Paul Daley, Hazelett is going to use this fight to both get back in the winning column and the “submission of the night” bonus column. Dustin Hazelett by submission in Round 2.

RICHARD MANN: Story is a big physical character who should rough up Hazelett in the clinch. Hazelett needs to take some time off and get back to neutral. There are no easy fights in the welterweight division, and he is going to keep learning that until he takes the time to get healthy and reset. Story by decision.

DENNY HODGE: Hazelett has some of the slickest MMA jiu jitsu in the game, and with Story’s wrestling background, Hazelett will have plenty of chances to look for submissions off his back. Hazelett by some form of innovative transition to set up yet another submission victory, and possibly “Submission of the Night.”

JACK BRATCHER: This one is a hard call for me. Story has never been finished. Plus there’s so much pressure on me to perform as Furby and I are neck and neck for second place in our staff pick percentages. Richard’s in first place (but then again he tallies the scores). How will Hazelett rebound from his last bout, a KO from Paul Daley? I’m going to go with Hazelett on this one. I know what kind of training partners he had for this camp which is more than I know about Story’s training camp. I can’t imagine Story would have the same kind of high level talent to work with at Braveheart as Hazelett has at JG MMA. Hazelett by second round submission. The odds on this fight are dead even. (-115 Hazelett, -115 Story)

Junior Dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson

BRIAN FURBY: Nelson is a slight underdog with the odds-makers on this fight, and for those of you betting out there, this could be a good opportunity to make some money. Don’t expect this fight to go very long, both guys will start swinging for the fences after some early feeling out. Nelson should get the better of the exchanges and temporarily derail dos Santos’s rise up the heavyweight ladder while taking a few steps up himself. Roy Nelson by KO in Round 1.

RICHARD MANN: If striking is all you need to be successful in MMA then Art Jimmerson and Pat Smith would have met in the finals of UFC 1. According to all the evidence, Junior dos Santos’ ground game is terrible. Of course, the only real evidence is his loss to Joaquim Ferreira back in 2007. Roy Nelson may not be athletic or explosive, but he is a plus grappler and implements a game-plan extremely well. Could Dos Santos come out and plunk Nelson in the first 30 seconds? Of course. However, it is more likely that Nelson will be on top using his crushing top game. Nelson by decision.

DENNY HODGE: I do not see Nelson wanting to play with Dos Santos on the feet. Yes he caught Schaub with a big shot for an impressive KO victory, but if he makes the slightest mistake looking to load up for the big shot, Dos Santos will work his very quick counter game for a highlight knockout of Nelson. Instead, I believe that Nelson will try to put the jiu jitsu brown belt on the ground and go for the finish there. It won’t be that simple to get the very athletic and explosive Dos Santos on the canvas. Dos Santos by KO.

JACK BRATCHER: I love Roy Nelson and I think he’s going to beat practically every run of the mill heavyweight in the world. However, Junior Dos Santos does not fall into that category. He has proven he can knock out a brick wall and considering his camp, I don’t see him getting submitted. Yes he got submitted three years ago, but that’s an eon in MMA time. I think Roy is going to try to bang with him about two seconds longer than he should and Dos Santos is going to lay him out cold. I hope I’m wrong actually. I don’t want to see Nelson get destroyed. If anything, I’d rather him lose a hard fought decision, but I think Dos Santos is the real deal and he’s going to hurt Roy. By the way, did you know Roy has trained in the Shaolin Iron Shirt technique? So possibly he can no longer be hurt. We shall see. (+250 Nelson, -350 Dos Santos)

Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida

BRIAN FURBY: There is an interesting back story to this fight. Besides the fact that Hughes more or less decimated Almeida’s teacher Renzo Gracie at UFC 112, Hughes also has a win over Almeida at the 2000 Abu Dhabis (Hughes won by points, not submission). In spite of these two things, don’t expect Almeida to lose his cool over this – it’s more a driving motivation. Hughes will come in with a decent gameplan and maybe get Almeida down a couple times or land some solid leg kicks, but eventually Hughes will make a mistake and Almeida will lock on the fight-ending submission. Almeida by submission in Round 2.

RICHARD MANN: The popular sentiment here is that Matt Hughes is basically done as a fighter. He is getting older and fighting less and less. However, he still has the skill set to beat Ricardo Almeida. Against lesser competition, Almeida is a serious submission threat. If you watch his fights, almost all of his quality wins have come when he dominates by holding positions (except his submission win over Nate Marquardt in 2003). With that being said, Hughes is not training the same way he used to and Almeida will take the decision. Almeida by decision.

DENNY HODGE: We all know what Hughes used to be as one of the best welterweights of all time. Unfortunately, he is not the same guy. He will have some success getting Almeida to the ground, but will he want to? Almeida is mad dangerous off his back, and this may end up being a kickboxing match instead of a wrestling vs. jiu jitsu bout. Almeida by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Matt Hughes is the greatest welterweight in the history of the sport. Despite his age, there are still only a handful of fighters that can beat him. Almeida is not one of them. Hughes beat Royce Gracie in 2006, he beat Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie’s student and the brother of Royce in 2009. He beat Renzo in 2010. And I believe he will beat another Renzo student on Saturday in Almeida. As Furby stated, Hughes already has a win over Almeida in Abu Dhabi. You have to remember, Almeida has not a single TKO win on his record. It’s likely Hughes has a better stand up game than Almeida. Hughes’s stand up is not awful and there’s a good chance he could TKO Almeida. I do not see Almeida submitting Hughes, which is the only way, other than decision I think he could win. Okay, so I’m going with Hughes via TKO… possibly classic Hughes ground and pound… but maybe standing up… either way TKO Hughes. (-185 Almeida, +155 Hughes)

Clay Guida vs. Rafael dos Anjos

BRIAN FURBY: As with all of Guida’s fights, expect a fast-paced fight where he’ll try to out-wrestle dos Anjos’s solid BJJ. This is definitely a fight of the night candidate, and given my propensity to pick split decisions, this seems like a great opportunity to pick one. Look for dos Anjos to be more technically sound, but look for Guida to control the majority of the fight with his frenetic pace. Clay Guida by split decision.

RICHARD MANN: Don’t look now, but Rafael dos Anjos has won three fights in a row including an impressive submission win over Terry Etim. Despite his recent success he will have a lot of trouble with Guida. “The Carpenter” may not be a top-ten lightweight, but he has the ability to get takedowns and avoid submissions. That should be more than enough to take a decision win here. Guida by decision.

DENNY HODGE: This fight will be in my opinion, the fight of the night. There is no doubt that Guida is going to bring the pain with relentless pressure and energy. Dos Anjos has won three straight including a very impressive submission win over Terry Etim, who has a pretty slick ground game himself. Guida will put him on his back, but won’t be able to keep dos Anjos there. This one will be full of hair, blood, sweat, transitions, and action. Guida by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: This is an interesting fight. We’ve got Guida, the energizer bunny and leech with gloves against dos Anjos who has never been submitted. I think it’s going to be Guida’s smothering wrestling style against the BJJ of dos Anjos, and in classic Guida fashion, he will probably win a decision. They both share losses to Tyson Griffin, for whatever that’s worth.Should be a good fight, but I don’t see either guy being able to finish. Dos Anjos has been on a good run but this is that next level of competition that will give him trouble. Guida by decision. (-120 Guida, -110 dos Anjos)

Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves

BRIAN FURBY: Fitch, the perennial “No. 2″ of the UFC welterweight division, looks to again capitalize on a mistake by Alves to pick up his second win against Pitbull. Alves has been out for a year. After having brain surgery, a lengthy recovery has postponed this fight to this weekend. First, I’m glad to see Alves back in the game. He’s a tough guy and I’m glad he’s been able to bounce back. Unfortunately, a year long layoff isn’t what one wants when one is scheduled to face Jon Fitch. The ring rust will play a factor, and while Alves would still be able to beat a number of solid welterweights, Fitch isn’t one of them. Jon Fitch by submission in Round 2.

RICHARD MANN: The new breed of MMA fans that crave excitement over anything else hate Fitch. That does not change the fact that Fitch is the second best welterweight in the world. Rumors are already floating that Alves is having trouble making weight, so cardio will probably be an issue. On top of that, Alves has been out of action for over a year. It will not be pretty, but Fitch will grind out a win with wrestling and clinch work. He will continue to annoy Twilight/TUF fans. Fitch by decision.

DENNY HODGE: Will we see something different out of Fitch, or will we see the same controlled, consistent, grinding Fitch? And Alves, who has mentioned that he has the weight cutting under control now days. Out of the two, I believe that Alves has improved and expanded more since their first meeting, but that doesn’t mean that he will be able to stop the never ending take downs of Fitch long enough to mount any sustained offensive attacks on his feet. Fitch by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Everyone is picking Fitch and for good reason. Alves has been out with the brain issue. He didn’t show up to the open workout earlier this week because he wanted to work out, supposedly so he could continue cutting weight. He’s got too many factors going against him to think that he is 100% and that’s not a good thing when you face Jon Fitch. Let’s don’t forget Fitch already holds a 2006 TKO win over Thiago. Yes, Alves has improved since then but his wrestling defense still seems to be his weakness and if Fitch doesn’t beat him on the feet, he will certainly destroy him with his wrestling. I actually think Fitch will stop Alves via TKO in the first or second round. Dana has said it’s possible Jake Shields, depending on his performance against Kampmann, could jump in front of the winner of this fight for a title shot. There’s no way Fitch wants that to happen. He will be out to prove a big point here. Fitch via TKO in Round one or two. Surprisingly the sports books have Fitch as the underdog. (-135 Alves, +105 Fitch)

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

BRIAN FURBY: This fight will be Silva’s return to the role of KO artist that fans used to know and love. Silva often fights to the level of his competition. So when he faced Demian Maia and Thales Leites, who presented no real challenge to him in the cage, he acted the fool. When he faced Forest Griffin? KO. When he faced James Irvin, who has plenty of knockout power of his own, KO. (Cote is sort of the odd man out in this equation, given his loss-inducing injury) Regardless, Sonnen does present a challenge to Silva. Therefore, Silva will KO him. Period. (And I’m not just saying that because I think Sonnen is an asshat – but take note kids, he is an asshat. Just look at all of the pre-fight idiocy that he’s been spewing.). Silva will return to his old ways in this fight and the fans will love him again, until the UFC throws in somebody else who doesn’t belong. Anderson Silva by KO in Round 1.

RICHARD MANN: When this fight was announced, no one gave Sonnen a chance to win. However, now that he has run his mouth a lot people are convinced he is a legitimate threat. Each of the five rounds will start of the feet, which will give Silva a huge advantage. On top of that, Sonnen is extremely easy to submit and Silva has a quality offensive guard. How can Sonnen win? He has not finished a fight in almost three years. Silva by TKO.

DENNY HODGE: I have no idea which version of Anderson Silva we will see this time around. If trash talking motivates him, then he should be ready to make Sonnen eat months worth of rantings and ravings once the cage door closes. Sonnen may talk have talked a lot for this fight, but one thing is for sure. He will be ready to MAKE Silva fight. The scary thing is, if he touches the chin of Sonnen, will it be over right then, or will Sonnen power through the contact and put Silva on his back? I have to say that Silva will come out and prove a point in this one. Silva by KO.

JACK BRATCHER: What can I say about this fight that hasn’t already been said? Not much. All the smack talk and blatant insanity from Sonnen is obviously a tactic to get in Silva’s head while at the same time it keeps him in the media. It is very possible Chael Sonnen could put Silva on his back and pound him into oblivion. Remember the first round of Silva vs. Henderson and Silva vs. Travis Lutter? Many think Hendo would have won his fight if he’d just stuck to the game plan. The odds are against it though for sure. (-450 Anderson Silva, +325 Chael Sonnen)

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