The Ultimate Fighting Championship invades Minnesota tonight, for UFC 87: Seek And Destroy, and MMARising.com breaks down the card, which features a UFC Welterweight Championship bout between Georges "Rush" St. Pierre and Jon Fitch.
In contender bouts, Roger "El Matador" Huerta takes on Kenny "KenFlo" Florian and Brock Lesnar returns to the Octagon against "The Texas Crazy Horse" Heath Herring.
Beginning with the main event of the evening, we have Georges "Rush" St. Pierre once again looking to make his first successful title defence when he takes on Jon Fitch in a UFC Welterweight Championship bout.
Unlike St. Pierre's previous battles with Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, Fitch is on a level where he can truly compete with St. Pierre in almost all aspects of the sport. Fitch is a very talented wrestler and has excellent cardio and solid striking. He should be able to hold his own, whether the fight goes to the ground or stays on the feet.
As for St. Pierre, this is a pivotal test for him. He must convincingly win this fight against Fitch, who is undefeated in the UFC, to prove that he is truly deserving of the accolades bestowed upon him. The UFC is currently looking at setting up a rematch between St. Pierre and current UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn. St. Pierre must win this fight if that is going to take place, and Fitch will be no pushover.
I see Fitch surviving early aggression from St. Pierre, and maybe even scoring some offence of his own, but I do think that St. Pierre will eventually get the fight to the ground and trap Fitch in a situation where he is unable to defend himself. I don't see Fitch submitting and I don't see him being knocked out, either. Don't be surprised if Fitch pulls off the upset victory, though, as he is certainly capable of doing so. Prediction: Georges St. Pierre by TKO in round three.
The co-main event of the evening pits former WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar against the ever-tough veteran Heath Herring, better known to many as "The Texas Crazy Horse."
This is a make-or-break situation for Lesnar, who looked extremely impressive in the opening minute of his UFC 81 bout with Frank Mir but fell victim to a heel hook soon after. He desperately needs a dominating victory to prove that he's serious about competing in the UFC, or his days inside the Octagon may be numbered.
For Herring, it's like he said in interviews leading into the event. He's already faced all of the toughest heavyweight fighters in the world, spanning back many years, and has done well in most of his fights. Even in defeat, at least when he's healthy, Herring always puts on an exciting performance. He will need more than that against Lesnar, however, who will hold a significant size and strength advantage.
It's very tough to call this fight one way or the other. If the fight ends quickly, it's likely going to be a TKO victory for Lesnar. If the fight goes into the second and third rounds, Herring will probably score a submission victory. It's up to Herring to survive the early onslaught that had Mir scrambling to regain his senses. If he can do that, he's got this easily. If not, it'll be the first UFC victory for Lesnar. Prediction: Heath Herring by Submission in round two.
The third bout of the evening is a lightweight contender fight between Roger "El Matador" Huerta and Kenny "KenFlo" Florian.
While I don't have a lot of faith in Huerta's ability to compete with the best lightweights in the world - of which the UFC has incredibly few these days - this is one time where I will be solidly cheering him on, as Florian is in absolutely no way deserving of a title shot. Watching Florian fight, and be proclaimed as a top-10 lightweight in the world, is incredibly frustrating.
Huerta struggled badly in his last fight, losing the first two rounds to Clay Guida before coming back with a fury in round three. However, he has looked very impressive in most of his other fights, while Florian has not. Since losing a title fight - which he had no business being in - to Sean Sherk at UFC 64, Florian has only faced two contenders in the lightweight division.
He defeated Din Thomas after Thomas tore numerous ligaments in his knee and could not continue, and then defeated Joe Lauzon earlier this year. The victory over Lauzon was impressive, but a single quality victory really isn't enough to justify a spot in a #1 contender's bout. By comparison, Huerta has won all six of his fights in the UFC, and all but one were very impressive and entertaining wins.
This fight comes down to who wants it more. Judging from the interviews going into the fight, that's Huerta. If he can avoid submissions from Florian, he shouldn't have too much trouble in scoring a TKO victory in whichever round he likes. If he falls into a Florian trap, however, we'll be forced to endure many more months of nonsensical commentary that tries to convince people that Florian is a legitimate top-10 lightweight. Not even close. Prediction: Roger Huerta by TKO in round two.
Next up is a lightweight battle that has absolutely no business being on the main card, as Manny "The Anvil" Gamburyan takes on Rob "The Saint" Emerson.
My interest in this fight is incredibly low, as Emerson will never be a contender and Gamburyan is too prone to injury. This should be an easy and dominant victory for Gamburyan, barring another fluke shoulder separation, and I don't see Emerson having much of a chance. Emerson is lucky to even be in the UFC, after being handed a gift by the judges in his last fight, which he should have lost. Prediction: Manny Gamburyan by TKO in round one.
Next up is a middleweight bout between Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald and undefeated submission wizard Demian Maia.
This will be decided entirely on where the fight goes. If Maia can score a takedown early on, his remarkable Jiu-Jitsu skills should award him with a quick submission victory. If MacDonald can keep the fight standing, his striking is good enough that he can damage Maia and possibly catch him with a knee as Maia shoots for a takedown.
As much as I would like to see MacDonald win this, I think that Maia's submission game is simply too great for MacDonald to combat, and I think Maia will move one step closer to a future title shot with another impressive victory. Prediction: Demian Maia by Submission in round one.
The first undercard fight pits "The Silent Assassin" Luke Cummo against the returning Tamdan "The Barn Cat" McCrory.
I almost feel bad for Cummo in this fight. McCrory is coming off of his first career loss, to Japanese legend Akihiro Gono at UFC 78, and his reach and aggressive striking are going to pose endless problems for Cummo here. Barring a huge upset, McCrory will handily win this bout and probably injure Cummo quite badly in the process. Prediction: Tamdan McCrory by TKO or Submission in round one.
Next is a heavyweight striking showdown between Cheick Kongo and UFC newcomer Dan "The Viking" Evensen.
On paper, this seems like it could be a dangerous comeback bout for Kongo, as Evensen has racked up numerous TKO victories in his career. However, he has only faced notable opponents twice and has come up short both times. Kongo, on the other hand, manhandled Cro Cop, who is arguably the best striker in all of MMA.
Kongo needs a big win after coming up short against Heath Herring, and he'll get it here. Look for an early finish. Prediction: Cheick Kongo by KO in round one.
Moving on, we have a light heavyweight bout between two UFC debutants, as IFL veteran Andre Gusmao takes on Jon "Bones" Jones.
This is a tough fight to call, as Jones is a complete unknown, but Gusmao has two extremely impressive knockout victories over high-touted former IFL competitor Mike Ciesnolevicz. He has been in against some tough competition and will look to keep his undefeated record intact. Jones, also undefeated, will look to show that he belongs among the top fighters in the UFC.
Both of these fighters have knockout power in their hands, as well as their knees, and both will be looking for dramatic early knockouts. Whether either can do so remains to be seen. Prediction: Andre Gusmao by TKO in round two.
Next is a welterweight fight between Chris "The Professor" Wilson and Steve "Hollywood" Bruno.
Not much is known of Bruno, who makes his UFC debut. He is a veteran of Spirit MC in Korea and holder of the promotion's Middleweight Championship, but was knocked out in less than two minutes by Bart Palaszewski in his lone IFL bout in 2006.
Wilson wreaked havoc in the IFL, repeatedly beating fighters that he was solidly favoured to lose to, and gave Jon Fitch all he could handle at UFC 82. He has to be seen as a favourite to emerge victorious in this fight, but it's likely to be another long fight for him. Prediction: Chris Wilson by Unanimous Decision.
The final fight is a largely meaningless lightweight bout between Ben "Killa B" Saunders and the debuting Ryan "The Tank Engine" Thomas.
Horrid nicknames aside, these fighters are both looking to establish themselves in the UFC. Saunders hasn't looked overly impressive lately, and he's facing a fighter who has never gone to a decision in his career. Saunders will need to step up his game if he is going to compete with Thomas, but I think that he will rise to the challenge this time. If not, he's unlikely to be back in the UFC. Prediction: Ben Saunders by Submission in round one.
The action of UFC 87 is just hours away, and has the potential to be a reasonable card for the UFC. Especially so, after the disaster that was UFC 86.