On April 7, 2007 MMA’s largest company Zuffa brings its crown-jeweled event the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the Lone Star State of Texas. The event, appropriately labeled UFC 69 – Shootout is set to take place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. On April 7, 2007 MMA’s largest company Zuffa brings its crown-jeweled event the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the Lone Star State of Texas. The event, appropriately labeled UFC 69 – Shootout is set to take place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The UFC did its best to please the local fans by adding native Texans Heath Herring, Pete Spratt, Leonard Garcia, and Roger Huerta to the card, as well as local Houston hero Mike Swick as part of the main event. The main event, which will air on pay-per-view includes a title fight between welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre and TUF 4: The Comeback winner Matt “The Terror” Serra. Despite this being the headliner and only title fight, in many experts estimation it should be an uncompetitive affair with the champion easily retaining his title.
Matt Serra vs. Georges St. Pierre
This is St. Pierre’s ninth fight in the UFC already, and his first title defense since his domination of Matt Hughes at UFC 65 and resigning a new six-fight contract with the UFC that is estimated to reach nearly seven figures if all the added incentives and clauses are met. St. Pierre holds a 13-1 MMA record (7-1 in the UFC) with his lone loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 50 in October 2004. St. Pierre made his UFC debut way back in January 2004, defeating Karo Parisyan by unanimous decision. Since then GSP has reeled off six consecutive wins, including a devastating KO of the then champion Matt Hughes, whom some people thought was unstoppable. According to Dana White, GSP is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today and I would have to agree. In my mind there’s nothing here that makes me think St. Pierre isn’t going to cruise to his seventh consecutive UFC victory.
The UFC is going out of its way to highlight Matt Serra’s supposedly “dangerous” submission skills. Serra has nine fights in the UFC, with a mediocre 5-4 UFC record (8-4 MMA overall). Of those nine UFC fights, Serra has exactly one win by submission – way back in March 2002 at UFC 36 against a relative nobody to the sport in Kelly Dullanty (0-1 in the UFC). Beyond that submission victory five years ago, Serra has four other UFC wins: a majority decision (meaning two of three judges scored the fight with Serra the winner), two unanimous decisions, and in his most recent UFC appearance, a split decision win (which many disagreed with) over Chris Lytle at The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale on November 11th of last year. To say the least, Serra’s resume and skill set is less than impressive when matching up with GSP and really has no business being in the Octagon against St. Pierre with the level of qualified welterweight talent waiting in the wings, such as Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Karo Parisyan, Jon Fitch, Nick Diaz, as well as the recently dethroned champions Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn. I understand this fight was a condition of winning the welterweight class of The Ultimate Fighter 4. However, Serra has essentially no chance of making this fight remotely competitive, let alone winning it. Look for St. Pierre to put on even more of a clinic than he did against Matt Hughes at UFC 65. St. Pierre will take this fight easily by TKO in the first round.
Leonard Garcia vs. Roger Huerta
The lightweight confrontation between “El Matador” and “Bad Boy” could actually be the best fight of the night. Roger Huerta is a highly regarded Miletich fighter with a 16-1-1 MMA record (2-0 UFC). Huerta made his UFC debut on the undercard of UFC 63 in September defeating Jason Dent by unanimous decision. He followed up that success at UFC 67 in early February with a 19 second TKO win over John Halverson. Huerta is going for his third UFC win in a row and faces fellow Texas-based fighter Leonard Garcia.
Garcia is a submission fighter and UFC newcomer that holds a 9-1 MMA record, mostly in the Colorado-based Ring of Fire, where he held the organization’s lightweight championship. He was originally scheduled to face Spencer Fisher back at UFC 60 in May 2006. However, Garcia suffered a broken fibula in training for that fight and was replaced on the card by TUF 5 cast member Matt Wiman. This is Garcia’s first fight back from the injury and he hopes to capitalize on the opportunity in front of his hometown crowd. Garcia recently signed on with one of the better MMA camps to prepare for this fight, Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he was impressive enough to be signed to become an official member of Jackson’s team.
Huerta is very explosive and very well rounded, possessing serious strikes on his feet and a solid submissions game. However, Huerta is also known as a very aggressive fighter and Garcia probably feels that he’s found a hole in Huerta’s game. He probably feels like he can attack counter Huerta’s aggressiveness with his ground skills and secure a win by submission. I agree and will take Garcia by submission in the third round in what should likely be a great fight.
Josh Koscheck vs. Diego Sanchez
Josh “Kos” Koscheck versus Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez is already being nominated “Fight of the Year” by everyone from Joe Rogan to every member of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Suffice to say, that there is some serious hype, some serious bad blood, a serious rivalry, and some serious expectations on both of these young up-and-comers.
Koscheck is a former NCAA wrestling All-American standout that trains with the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) team out of San Jose, CA. He comes into the fight with a solid 8-1 MMA record (6-1 in the UFC). Kos was a strong competitor on the first season of TUF. After making a strong run on the show, he was ultimately beaten by Sanchez in the second semi-final match of the show’s middleweight bracket. Koscheck has shown marked improvement in several of his recent fights, where he was once known as a one-dimensional and boring “lay and prey” fighter.
Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez was the winner of the middleweight division of the first season of TUF by knocking out Kenny Florian in the first round of the TUF 1 Finale. Sanchez has built an impressive 17-0 MMA record (6-0 UFC), with wins over Nick Diaz, John Alessio, Karo Parisyan, and most recently, a dramatic first round knock out of Joe Riggs at UFN 7 in December. Sanchez is the golden boy of Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico and also trains with the same conditioning coach Rob Garcia, as boxing super-star Oscar De La Hoya. For this fight, Sanchez has also spent some time training with De La Hoya in Puerto Rico. Sanchez holds a black-belt in Greg Jackson’s martial arts style known as Gaidojutsu, has competed very well in some of the world’s premier submission grappling tournaments including the ADCC, and has held the welterweight title in the King of the Cage.
This is a really tough fight to call. Koscheck has tremendous takedowns and an elite wrestling ability, while adding strikes on the ground and submission defense to his arsenal. Sanchez is highly skilled in submissions, while being an incredibly strong and fast striker on his feet. Koscheck certainly has a very good chance of winning. He can probably get Sanchez down and can certainly control him there to an extent, but Sanchez still has a dangerous guard with the ability to submit Koscheck from his back and certainly has the explosiveness to sweep or scramble out. Koscheck could regress back to his former “lay and prey” tactics through out the entire fight, just to squeak out a victory and put the first blemish on his bitter rival’s record, but Sanchez has an iron will, a personal vendetta from all of the smack talk he’s had to endure from Kos, and I don’t see anyone stopping him just yet. I’m going to predict Sanchez wins the fight in the third round by TKO.
Yushin Okami vs. Mike Swick
This is a fight involving two explosive middleweights with the winner of this fight likely seeing a title shot in the near future. Both Okami and Swick are undefeated in the Octagon with Okami winning all three of his fights, while Swick has been flawless at 5-0.
Yushin Okami is a teammate of Caol Uno fighting out of the famed Wajyutsu Keisyukai Tokyo dojo. He’s a gifted ground-and-pound fighter winning by unanimous decision over Alan Belcher in his UFC debut last August. He then TKO’d former TUF 3 cast member Kalib Starnes in October and most recently he defeated Starnes’ TUF 3 castmate Rory Singer via strikes at the end of December. Okami has had fights against some strong talent, including Anderson Silva and a very tough Jake Shields. He sports a healthy 19-3 MMA record overall and was 6-1 in MMA in 2006 with his only loss a split-decision to the afore-mentioned Shields at Rumble On the Rock 9 in May.
Mike “Quick” Swick sports a 10-1 MMA record with his most recent wins over Joe “Diesel” Riggs by guillotine choke in May and David “The Crow” Loiseau by unanimous decision in September. He is known for his hand speed and has a well-deserved reputation for aggression in the ring, winning his first two UFC fights in just 20 seconds and 22 seconds, and his following two UFC fights in 2:09 and 2:19. Like Koscheck, Swick trains with the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). He damaged ligaments in his right hand during the fight with Loiseau and this will mark his first fight back after a six-month layoff.
Personally, I think this fight is too close to call. Swick did not look great in defeating Loiseau. He looked okay for the first two rounds, but Loiseau made a very strong push in the third round and looked like he might be able to pull out a victory in the end. However, this might have been due to the ligament damage Swick sustained during their fight. We do know that Okami is a slower paced, methodical fighter, and seems to get stronger as the fight goes on. Swick could very easily end this fight early, but I feel if Okami can weather the initial rush from Swick and frustrate him early and often, we could very well see Okami pull out the upset in the third round. Yushin Okami will beat his third TUF alumni in a row, winning by TKO in the third round.
Alan Belcher vs. Kendall Grove Alan “The Talent” Belcher is a young, heavy-handed fighter with a 9-2 overall MMA record (1-1 in the UFC). A native of Biloxi, Mississippi, he fights out of Team Voodoo along with TUF 4 member Rich Clementi. Belcher lost a unanimous decision in his debut in August against Okami, but most recently KO’d American Top Team’s Jorge Santiago at UFN 7 with a powerful head-kick. He’s also another large middleweight, like Franklin, Lutter, Swick, MacDonald, Tanner, etc. that should really be fighting at 205. Belcher also tried out for TUF 3 (the season that Grove won), but didn’t make the cut for the show, which adds an interesting back-story to this fight.
Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove is the middleweight winner of TUF 3 and is a member of Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai Academy in Las Vegas, while also training with Tito Ortiz’s Team Punishment up at Big Bear. He sports a 7-3 MMA record, but is 2-0 in the UFC and has made tremendous improvement in the past year, which was even noted in each of his exhibition fights through out the show. Grove is also very long for a middleweight standing at 6 foot-6 inches tall. Grove has four inches of height on Belcher and a decent reach advantage. I’m a friend and fan of Grove, and will admit that Belcher is certainly his toughest test to date. However, Kendall always comes in to a fight in great shape and very well prepared. I think we will see Grove take another step forward in his career here defeating a solid opponent in Belcher. Kendall Grove wins by unanimous decision.
Brad Imes vs. Heath Herring
Heath “Texas Crazy Horse” Herring previously said that one of the main reasons he left the PRIDE organization (originally for the WFA, before his contract was purchased by the UFC in December) was that he wanted to fight in the America again, in front of his hometown fans. The Texas native gets his wish tonight, facing down former TUF 2 heavyweight runner-up and former University of Missouri football player Brad Imes.
Imes is another huge heavyweight standing 6’7″ and weighing in around 260 lbs. He has a 5-2 professional MMA record (all 5 wins outside of the UFC and two losses inside the UFC), including his defeat at the hands of the much smaller Rashad Evans on the finale of TUF 2. After, Imes subsequently lost to Dan Christison (Evan’s teammate) via armbar on UFN 4, he was bounced from the UFC.
Herring has a respectable 26-12 MMA record, but is 0-1 in the UFC after his disappointing debut loss to Jake O’Brien in January. Herring has made a name for himself in MMA with his crazy hair-dos, creatively shaved eyebrows, and detailed facial hair designs, but you probably might know him better as the fighter who knocked out his opponent pre-fight, after getting kissed on the lips during the pre-fight introductions. Herring’s MMA experience goes all the way back to 1997, yet he’s only 28 years old and still very much in the prime of his career.
Herring has faced top-tier opponents in organizations as diverse as PRIDE, K-1, and Pankration. In PRIDE, Herring has had the honor of losing to the three best heavyweights of all time: twice to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, once to Fedor Emelianenko, and once to Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic. Herring holds wins over some serious names as well: Mark Kerr, Giant Silva, Hirotaka Yokoi, and most impressively he won a unanimous decision over the legendary MMA fighter Igor Vovchanchyn.
Herring has an obvious edge in MMA experience, having almost 40 fights to his name and also having fought top-tier talent all across the world. Herring is also very quick and very agile for a big man. Despite how bad Herring looked in his first fight, Herring is a well-rounded fighter that is now training at Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai Academy to help improve his jiu-jitsu. In a nutshell, Imes is being brought in here, pretty much to lose to Herring. The UFC made a decent investment in Herring to steal him away from PRIDE (prior to the buyout, obviously) and Imes should be a pretty easy fight for Herring. Imes will get taken down and Herring will attack those long limbs. Herring wins by submission in the first round.
Pete Sell vs. Thales Leites
Thales Leites is a well-regarded jiu-jitsu fighter with a world-class ground game. He holds the rank of black-belt in jiu-jitsu and is a training partner of former UFC welterweight champion and TUF 5 coach B.J. Penn. Leites came in to the UFC with a 9-0 record, however, he was defeated in his UFC debut by Martin Kampmann (15-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at TUF 4 Finale back in November.
Pete “Drago” Sell was a cast member of TUF 4, where he was defeated in the semi-finals by series winner Travis Lutter. Sell has a 7-2 record overall, but is 1-2 in the UFC after knockout losses to Nate Quarry at UFN 1 and Scott Smith at TUF 4 Finale, after winning his UFC debut against Phil “New York Badass” Baroni. The loss to Smith was one of the more memorable fights in recent UFC history. Sell caught Smith with a hard shot to the body, doubling him over. As Sell rushed in to capitalize, Smith unleashed a wicked right hook and knocked Sell out clean, before he collapsed to the floor unconscious.
Sell has decent ground skills, holding a brown-belt in jiu-jitsu under Matt Serra. However, Sell’s ground game is nowhere near that of Leites. Sell should have the edge on the feet, so it’s only really a matter of seeing if Leites can take the fight to the ground without getting knocked out on the way in or caught in a quick submission during the first takedown. Once the fight goes to the ground, Leites should be able to submit Sell. Leites by submission in the first round.
Pete Spratt vs. Marcus Davis
Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis comes in with a 10-3 MMA record (2-1 in the UFC) and possibly the coolest nickname in all of combat sports. In his UFC debut, he lost to Melvin Guillard due to a cut at TUF 2 Finale. Davis then left the UFC, wrapping up five wins in smaller shows, before bouncing back to defeat Forrest Petz with a first round submission in October. Davis, who most recently handed Shonie Carter a unanimous decision loss at UFN 7, is a former pro boxer with a pro boxing record of 22-1-2 with 17 knockouts. He’s added a decent ground game to round out his MMA skills.
Pete “Secret Weapon” Spratt is a local, fighting out of Sherman, Texas and living in San Antonio. He holds a 15-7 MMA record (3-2 in the UFC) with wins over Zach Light, Robbie Lawler, and TUF 4 veteran Jeremy Jackson, while losing to Josh Koscheck and Carlos Newton. Pete Spratt was a cast member on TUF 4 and was defeated in the first round of the tournament by Chris Lytle. Spratt is being coached by Team Punishment up at Big Bear for this fight and will have Team Punishment trainer Saul Soliz in his corner.
This isn’t too crazy or interesting of a match-up, but does have an interesting back-story. Can recently switching over to train with Team Punishment give the 36-year-old Spratt the edge he needs to notch another win? Neither fighter has looked tremendously impressive overall. The 33-year-old Davis took it to Shonie Carter at UFN 7 in December, but still couldn’t put him away. I’ll pick Spratt to pull out a decision victory.
Luke Cummo vs. Josh Haynes
This is a battle of mediocre, .500 average, former runner-ups of TUF fame. This fight happens to open the night and hopefully it isn’t a total bore fest. Haynes is 0-2 in the UFC (7-7 MMA), after getting the living bazheezus beaten out of him by Michael Bisping at TUF 3 Finale in June and four months later he lost a unanimous decision to Rory Singer. Haynes trains with Team Quest and will have Nate Quarry in his corner. Luke Cummo is 1-2 in the UFC (4-4 MMA), after losing to Joe Stevenson at TUF 2 Finale, beating Jason Von Flue at UFN 4, and then losing to Jonathan Goulet at UFN 5. Cummo, like Sell, trains under Matt Serra and holds a blue-belt in jiu-jitsu.
I have no real significant thoughts on this fight, as I’ve never seen two fighters with identical .500 records fighting each other on a major UFC card. Moreover, Cummo has lost three of his last four and Haynes has lost four of his last five. Well considering Cummo does have one win in the UFC, I guess that might give him the edge. Cummo by excruciatingly tedious and boring decision.
So there you have it:
-Georges St. Pierre over Matt Serra (Round 1 via TKO)
-Leonard Garcia over Roger Huerta (Round 3 via submission)
-Diego Sanchez over Josh Koscheck (Round 3 via TKO)
-Yushin Okami over Mike Swick (Round 3 via TKO)
-Kendall Grove over Alan Belcher (Unanimous Decision)
-Heath Herring over Brad Imes (Round 1 via submission)
-Thales Leites over Pete Sell (Round 1 via submission)
-Pete Spratt over Marcus Davis (Unanimous Decision)
-Luke Cummo over Josh Haynes (Unanimous Decision)