UFC 134 staff picks

 The ( staff weighs in with their thoughts and predictions on each of the UFC 134 main card bouts. The action goes down tonight LIVE on Pay-Per-View from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with middleweight champ Anderson Silva taking on Yushin Okami in the main event.

Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami

JOSH CROSS: Lets get this out of the way first. Yes Okami holds a win over Silva, but that is only because Silva used an illegal knee. That’s it. Now moving on to this fight, the only way I believe Silva is going to be beaten is if Okami were to out-wrestle Silva like Chael Sonnen did. The thing is that Okami isn’t as good of a wrestler as Sonnen and I don’t see Okami winning this fight. If Okami does win I would say he is one of the luckiest people alive. Pick: Silva via Any Way He Wants.

RICHARD MANN: Okami does have the skill set to follow the blueprint laid out by Chael Sonnen. However, fighting with a strategy has never been one of Okami’s strengths. When he has a striking advantage he sometimes stays on the outside and does not throw. When he has a wrestling advantage, he is sometimes hesitant to go for takedowns. Even if Okami has some success, Silva should be able to do enough from the outside to score a dynamic knockout. Silva by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Anderson Silva.

KELVIN HUNT: Okami’s only chance is to get Silva down and control him for 25 minutes and that’s a LONG time to go without getting hit with an Anderson Silva scud missile strike. Also, Okami lacks the aggressive nature that Sonnen used to apply pressure on Silva. Okami may get him down a couple of times, but I think Silva ultimately blasts Okami with strikes and puts him away via TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Hasn’t the biggest knock on Yushin Okami always been his lack of aggressiveness? That’s a recipe for disaster against Anderson Silva. There is nothing I have seen to date that would leave me to believe Okami can pull this off. It’s possible we could see another highlight reel KO here and when that happens Brazil’s applause is going to shift the Earth’s axis. Spider via venomous knockout.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Forrest Griffin

JOSH CROSS: I’m a little bit surprised that from what I’ve seen Rua is a strong favorite going into this fight. I think Rua do just fine on his feet, but the problem I think he will run into is when the fight goes to the ground. Shogun has had cardio issues when the fight goes to the ground and he did lose by submission to Griffin in their last fight. I think Forrest will take Rua to the ground and he will be able to grind out the win that way. Pick: Griffin via Decision.

RICHARD MANN: There is a lot of revisionist history surrounding UFC 76. Apparently Forrest Griffin came out and simply wiped the floor with “Shogun.” However, if you watch the fight, that is not what happened. Rua scored several takedowns and threw some nasty elbows from the top. In the end, he gassed completely and gave up the choke. It is almost ridiculous to expect “Shogun” to come into this fight in shape and without any injuries. However, if he does, he should win this fight, because he is the better striker and grappler. Rua by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

KELVIN HUNT: I’m not buying the story that Griffin is trying to sell in that he’s lacking motivation to fight. I think Rua is healthy, but even so I think Griffin’s size and ability to put Griffin on his back will be the difference in this one. Griffin will weather the early storm and grind out a 3 round decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Shogun seems to have taken this fight and his training for this fight very seriously as he actually left Brazil and came to the U.S. to train. I think what is going to happen in this fight is what everyone thought was going to happen in their first fight, Shogun is going to knock Forrest out. First or second round TKO via Shogun.

Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

JOSH CROSS: There are some unknowns going into this fight regarding Nogueira that make it difficult for me to feel like he will come away with the win. The first unknown is just how much of an issue ring rust will be for Nogueira who has been out of action for more than a year-and-a-half. Another unknown is the status of Nogueira’s chin following his knockout loss to Cain Velasquez. Is it still as tough as it once was or will he go out when Schaub connects with it? For me, there are just too many unknowns for Nogueira going into this fight to pick him as pulling out the win. Pick: Schaub via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: In a lot of ways, Schaub showed some serious holes in his game against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. However, everyone forgets that, because he scored a finish. At this point in his career, Nogueira really does not have a chance. His chin has left him, and there might not have been a fighter who relied more on their ability to sustain punishment than Big Nog. One big shot should come from Schaub at some point over the three-round fight. Schaub by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Brendan Schaub.

KELVIN HUNT: Man, I’d almost pay to see Nogueira submit Schaub as that’s his only way to win. I think Schaub keeps this one standing and puts Nogueira away via TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Nogueira admitted he rushed his rehab to be able to fight on this card. That seems like a terrible plan when you are coming off THREE surgeries. One surgery is bad enough, but three… Having said that, Nogueira does appear to be in good shape. However, Schaub is coming in with a ton of confidence and some big heavy hands. He really amped up his training for this fight, moving around to various camps and even went to Brazil to train for a time with Gordo where our buddy Dennis Asche teaches and trains. Although it gives me no pleasure to say this, I expect Schaub to take Big Nog out with punches; probably in the first or second round.

Ross Pearson vs. Edson Barboza

JOSH CROSS: Barboza is known for his devastating leg kicks and powerful punches.. That’s why I think that the best chance Pearson has to win this fight is to take Barboza to the ground and try for the submission. That being said, if the fight goes to the ground I don’t think it will stay there long and I don’t see Pearson being able to get the job done. Pick: Barboza via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Pearson is at his best when he can clinch guys against the cage. Barboza’s striking game should prevent Pearson from the closing the distance. In order to get inside, Pearson will have to eat kicks to the head, body and legs. Even if Pearson has success early, leg kicks from Barboza will ultimately tell the story. Barboza by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Edson Barboza.

KELVIN HUNT: I think Barboza’s standup and speed is going to be too much for Pearson. Pearson is a gamer and tough and he might be able to grind out a decision, but I think the leg kicks from Barboza will slow him down and then Barboza will finish him via TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Pearson is another guy who made the trek to America to train for his fight having spent time working with the guys at Alliance Training Center in San Diego (see our exclusive pre-fight interview). I just don’t see him being able to stand with Barboza who remains undefeated. As a former kickboxer, Barboza has stopped more than one opponent with those powerful leg kicks — expect Pearson to eat at least a few before it’s over. Barboza wins via TKO.

Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov

JOSH CROSS: I don’t think this fight will last very long. The overwhelming majority of Cane’s fights have ended in the first round and I don’t think this one will be any different. It has been more than 15 months since Nedkov’s last fight and I think ring rust won’t allow Nedkov to be as fast as he needs to be to avoid Cane’s heavy hands. Pick: Cane via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Several factors are working against Nedkov in this fight. He has not fought in over a year. He is really a middleweight. He is also rather short for light heavyweight. Cane will handle this fight on the feet. Nedkov is the better wrestler, but his size disadvantages will hurt him in the grappling game and allow the fight to stay on the feet. Cane by TKO.



JACK BRATCHER: Nedkov remains undefeated but he has been out of action since May 2010. He is fairly well-rounded but Luiz Cane is one of those BJJ black belts that carries some heavy hands and rarely even needs to rely on his submission game. Look for Cane to keep it standing and batter Nedkov. Cane via TKO.

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