I think there are definitely some really strong matches on UFC 96. However, from a big match standpoint, there are two matches that stand out from the pack and have definite bearings on title fights down the line. The first is obviously the main event. Rampage needs a win to get a title shot and Jardine can get back into title contention with an upset special. The second is a fight that will send one guy shooting up the heavyweight rankings. Shane Carwin can prove that he’s for real with a victory over the dangerous Gabriel Gonzaga. Or Gonzaga can get back to where he was before losing to Randy Couture.
You can see the entire card at Wikipedia’s UFC 96 page.
The FGB squad has predictions for the two fights. Stevie J from AngryMarks is also back to give us his thoughts.
Stevie J and Oliver Copp did a special edition of the AngryMarks Podcast specifically talking about this show. Check it out.
Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Big D: Carwin by 2nd round TKO
Stevie J: Gonzaga by 2nd round TKO
Cactus Jim: Gonzaga by 2nd round submission
GG: Carwin by 2nd round TKO
Big D says, “Carwin SHOULD beat Gonzaga and I hope he does”
Stevie J says, “There’s a future heavyweight title shot on the line here. Nobody in UFC has said as much – not Dana White, not Joe Silva, not either of these men – but you don’t have to read between the lines to figure out that UFC is going to need new contenders after Lesnar vs. Mir in May. On a show with no title fights, these fights make all the difference to set up future main events, and each man has the “tools in the shed” as they say to hang with the winner from May. Gonzaga is coming off two straight victories over McCully and Hendricks, showcasing his versatility in each one by winning via submission and knockout. Not only is he a well-rounded heavyweight, the man is freakishly big and strong – I still get flashbacks of him weighing in at UFC 74 when I went to see Randy Couture defend the title. Carwin is a big step up in competition for Gonzaga, as he is UNDEFEATED in his MMA career including his last two UFC fights. Gonzaga will be undeniable if he’s won three straight HW fights and beaten a previously unbeaten man, while Carwin will be undeniable if he remains undefeated and finishes a former #1 contender. I see this fight going Gonzaga’s way though for three reasons – he’s more experienced, he may be the most well-rounded heavyweight in UFC today, and his training regimen is worthy of Lesnar’s in terms of stamina and endurance. Gonzaga should NOT get tired and even though Carwin is undefeated he simply hasn’t faced anybody of Gonzaga’s level, which means if he makes even one mistake or gasses out Gonzaga will pounce. Neither man winning would surprise me but I pick Gonzaga by second round TKO.”
Cactus Jim says, “Two big dudes mixing it up in this one. I think Gonzaga is just too experienced for Carwin and that heâ€™ll weather the early storm and sink a submission in round 2. Fight over, Carwin back to the prelims.”
GG says, “This is where we see what Carwin is made of. If he’s as good as advertised, he should be able to give Gonzaga a hell of a fight. Gonzaga is dangerous, but he’s also a bit inconsistent, especially with wrestlers. I think Carwin is going to be able to explode and overwhelm Gonzaga, but Gonzaga will be able to handle himself and I think the first round will be just about even. I do think Carwin catches him in the second round. If he doesn’t catch him then, I think Gonzaga wins the fight. We have no idea what kind of cardio Carwin has.”
Rampage Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
Big D: Jackson by 1st round TKO
Stevie J: Jackson by 1st round TKO
Cactus Jim: Jackson by 2nd round TKO
GG: Jackson by 3rd round TKO
Big D says, “When I first heard about Rampage vs. Jardine, this FGB preview immediately came to mind and it was honestly the first time that I knew exactly what I would write here without giving it an afterthought. Judging on seeing these fight guys so many times and quite honestly not seeing a difference in terms of gameplan, if something other than this does HAPPEN, it wouldn’t shock me.
Here’s the deal. Jardine has a suspect jaw. Legends like Wanderlei Silva and jabronis like Houston Alexander have been able to tag that jaw hard enough and early enough to send Jardine away in a stretcher. I believe Rampage Jackson hits harder than both those men. I believe if Rampage comes out in the first round (and I’m hoping to God that he does know this) with a barrage of fists, the Dean of Mean will become Cream, because yes, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” fits with Rampage to a T.
However the reason this is such a good booked fight is because of the other factor – leg kicks. Jardine throws more leg kicks than anybody in the UFC. Rampage’s big weakness is leg kicks. Forrest used the leg kicks to beat Rampage and keep in mind, Jardine has beaten Forrest in the past (like that even matters in this division). During the fight with Silva in December, I was noticing Rampage is even still not checking leg kicks. If Jardine can back away and murder Rampage with the leg kicks, he’ll win the decision.
With that said if you to ask me to pick a winner – I think Rampage is solid enough to know Keith’s weakness and to hammer it home. Rampage wins via 1st round KO.”
Stevie J says, “To quote Mike Sawyer of Tough Talk (as Oliver Copp did during my interview), “Keith Jardine is a man who wins when he isn’t supposed to win and loses when he SHOULD.” Obviously any man who has wins over Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell has to be regarded as dangerous, and Greg Jackson’s camp has a proven track record of producing winners and champions, but Jardine’s arsenal of offense is not nearly as well rounded as it should be. His biggest strength is his leg kicks, which is bad news for Rampage, because when Forrest Griffin defeated him for the LHW title he used surgically precise leg kicks to take Rampage apart at the knees. On the other hand Jardine has been shown to have a vulnerable chin, absolutely getting ROCKED by the likes of Wanderlei Silva, and Rampage is often reputed to have the hardest punch of any UFC fighter at light heavyweight today – coincidentally a punch that crumbled Silva. If you follow a simple theory of connections, the guy who KO’d Silva can KO the guy he KO’d. Jardine should not be taken lightly but I think Rampage still stops him via R1 KO. “
Cactus Jim says, “This is a tough one to call. People question Jardineâ€™s chin after being KOâ€™d by Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva. I actually think Jardine has a decent beard. I was more impressed by his chin than I was by Alexanderâ€™s punching in their fight. He took a lot of hard shots in close succession without going out before he was finally put down. Wanderlei is known for his brutal KOâ€™s, so no shame in being put down by a couple hard shots from the guy. Jackson has good punching power and I think heâ€™ll be able to land and ultimately take Jardine out which is why Iâ€™ve chosen him to be victorious. However, if Jardine can avoid Jacksonâ€™s big shots, I think he can find a home for his brutal kicks all day long. If he can land those kicks and keep Jackson on the outside I think he has a chance of taking a decision just as he did with Chuck Liddell.”
GG says, “Big D made me change my mind with his analysis. I had Rampage originally winning a decision because I thought that Jardine would be able to keep him at bay much like he did with Liddell. But then Big D mentioned that if the fight went to decision, Jardine could take the fight, much like he did with Liddell. I now agree. The way Rampage wins is by knockout. I don’t have him blowing through Jardine like D and Stevie J do, but I do have him doing it late in the fight.”
We all have Rampage winning and setting up a title fight down the line and D and I have Carwin winning, but Stevie J and Cactus Jim think Gonzaga takes out the up and comer.
We’ll be back on Saturday night for the play by play, which will more than likely be delayed as I will be attending the HBO Boxing After Dark fight card in San Jose, CA.