UFC 98 is less than a week away, and the beginning of the UFC's jam-packed summer events are underway with this weekend's clash between Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans.
Evans will look to avoid what Forrest Griffin and Quinton Jackson both succumbed to as the last champions, and keep the Light Heavyweight title around his waist for a while, whereas Machida will attempt to keep the trend going and dethrone the new champ in his first title defense.
From Evans-Machida, all the way down to Dave Kaplan vs George Roop, UFC 98 can be characterized as a bunch of fighters looking to take the fight to their opponent. The event, though expected to be highlighted by Evans-Machida and Hughes-Serra, has exciting bouts both on and off the main card, and all fights likely will have more exciting moments than dull.
David Kaplan vs George Roop
Both are TUF Eight vets, and are coming off of losses at the finale. Kaplan has just four fights to his credit, with Roop coming into the fight with three times as many bouts in his young career.
If experience was a factor, it's Roop's to lose. However, wins and losses don't always tell the tale, and for my money...I'll take the guy willing to drink human urine any day.
Brandon Wolff vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Both are coming off of very tough losses, with Yoshida taking one of the worst KO's a fighter has ever taken in the UFC, and Wolff taking some of the deadliest muay-thai knees to the head at the hands of Ben Saunders.
One will rebound, and the other will not.
Expect Yoshida to rebound with a good decision win.
Andre Gusmao vs. Krzysztof Soszynski
Soszynski is coming off a very good, short notice win over a tough competitor in Brian Stann, and is riding a five-win streak in the Octagon. Gusmao, on the other hand, is looking to rebound after the first loss of his career against UFC newcomer Jon Jones.
To Gusmao's credit, he went three rounds with Jones, who is highly touted amongst UFC fans as the next big thing. If Gusmao can game-plan Soszynski correctly, he has a chance to win.
Otherwise, notch another win for "The Polish Experiment."
Brock Larson vs. Chris Wilson
Brock Larson was one of the toughest competitors the WEC had, and since his long career began in 2002, he has a mere two losses both coming to top-tier competitors in Carlos Condit and Jon Fitch.
Wilson has also fought great fighters with losses coming to John Howard, Nick Thompson, and also Jon Fitch. Odds are that Larson will continue his dominance and should handle Wilson with relative ease.
Pat Barry vs. Tim Hague
Pat Barry had a very nice outing in his first UFC contest against Dan Evensen, displaying his hard hitting leg kicks and his heavy hands. Tim Hague will make his UFC debut after showcasing a 9-1 career record, with a King of the Cage belt to show for it.
Not too much is known about either fighter, but if Barry can keep it standing, he may have good chances with those heavy hands and bruising kicks.
Kyle Bradley vs. Phillipe Nover
Phillipe Nover was proclaimed by Dana White to be the next Anderson Silva and to have skills reminiscent of Georges St. Pierre.
Anyone with those type of comparisons should have been able to handle a lowly fighter such as Efrain Escudero, right?
Still, I give Bradley a puncher's chance in this one, bringing Nover back to the pack at Lightweight.
Xavier Foupa-Pokam vs. Drew McFedries
Not much is known about the French Foupa-Pokam, yet his fight career thus far says so much about his ability. With losses to Chael Sonnen and Dennis Kang, Foupa-Pokam must have been doing something right to get fights with those fighters.
McFedries is looking to get back to his winning ways, and this fight should help him do so if he can let his hands go against a relative newcomer to the UFC.
Dan Miller vs. Chael Sonnen
This might be the submission of the night between two submission aces in Sonnen and Miller. Both know what they're doing when it goes to the ground, and unlike other fights on this card, expect this one to be a submission fest...at least until things get real slippery.
I like Sonnen to win this, but Miller's got an 11-1 record for a reason.
Frank Edgar vs. Sean Sherk
Fight of the Night.
You heard it here first, and it should hold true with the pace these two fighters keep. No doubt Sean Sherk is a man possessed and looking to get back to the title picture after Penn and Florian duke it out in August.
Edgar is looking to build on his win over Hermes Franca a little less than a year ago, and wants to take Sherk's spot in the division with a win. Regardless of who comes out on top, expect fireworks early and often.
Sherk by third rd. TKO.
Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra
The long awaited grudge match between the Matts is finally happening with no injuries or hold-ups to set it back. Serra and Hughes can be likened to Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, just without the extra weight.
Serra and Hughes are both past their prime, but Serra still retains the last belt between the two. It's really tough to see how either fighter will come out after such long layoffs, but if Hughes can wrestle Serra to the ground much like GSP did, then it'll be a long night for Serra.
Rashad Evans vs Lyoto Machida
The cream of the crop, and likely the Knockout of the Night.
These two are complete opposites.
Evans is a wrestling phenom, with dangerous hands and swagger. Machida is a conserved counter-puncher, with great defense and warrior mentality. The two styles will come together Saturday night, and the simplest way to put it is this: the winner will be determined by who can execute their game plan the best.
Personally, I think Evans has a dangerous advantage when it comes to the standup, but I think Machida's planning for the fight will be more strategic and overall better than Evans.
I'll go with Evans just to be decisive, but if Machida dodges and counters, Evans will be on the ground much like Thiago Silva.