“Each of the Five Points is a finger,” said Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the film Gangs of New York. “When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.”
Twenty-two of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s mixed martial artists will enter the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee on Dec. 12 for UFC 107, make fists, and turn them against each other. Here are five points to watch for on Saturday night.
“Nightmare” Lightweight Showdown
Diego Sanchez is the greatest threat B.J. Penn has seen at 155-pounds. His endless desire to be the better man and the dynamic skill set he’s crafted to ensure he will be are the right blend to challenge the world’s best lightweight in B.J. Penn.
Penn silenced critics by finishing Kenny at UFC 101 in August and appears as comfortable and dangerous as ever. More importantly in Penn’s case, his work with Marv Marinovich carried him into the championship rounds well—evidence that the champion may have finally patched up the one leak in his titanic talent.
While Sanchez wears his opponents down, Penn beats and chokes them into submission. This is a fight of wills between two of the sport’s toughest lightweights. The winner not only has to execute perfectly, but they have to do it first. Both combatants roll downhill once they get going, so victory is a matter of who gets off first and hardest.
Mir Further Marred?
Frank Mir gets a favorable style match-up when he faces French striker Cheick Kongo—at first glance. A heavyweight with an action figure’s physique, Kongo surprisingly has not been submitted despite ground deficiencies losing him key fights in his UFC career. The fight is all Mir if he can time his takedowns well. His jiu-jitsu won’t serve him well off his back and his striking also won’t be able to withstand Kongo’s power if the Frenchman is in control.
AKA’s Opposite Ends
Jon Fitch is a general at the American Kickboxing Academy and seen as a contender in his division. Paul Buentello is currently suspended from AKA and reentering the UFC’s heavyweight division for the first time since 2006.
Fitch takes on fellow tough wrestler Mike Pierce. The Purdue Boilermaker has been searching for finishes to speed up his rematch with Georges St-Pierre. He needs to – and should – find it against Pierce, an opponent with little name recognition, or another slow climb is on the horizon.
Conversely, Buentello stands across from an entirely different opponent—a kickboxer and jiu-jitsu fighter, two styles that have posed problems for the boxer/anti-wrestler in the past. At 21-years-old, Struve is on the rise after proving resilient and dangerous at all times in his last two outings against Denis Stojnic and Chase Gormley. A win over a respected veteran like Buentello, who has lost just twice in the last six years (both times in title fights), would be a major break at a minor crossroads in his career. “The Headhunter” has one-shot knockout power, though, and chances he puts his game on Struve before the Dutchman does it to Buentello are likely.
Losing Never Looked So Good
There’s no shame in losing to B.J. Penn. The consummate technician, Florian couldn’t handle a down-and-dirty contest with Penn. Clay Guida is a down-and-dirty fighter coming off a loss to Diego Sanchez. A hellacious pressure wrestler, Guida must cut off the ring to limit Florian’s movement, laying the foundation for his kind of fight. Florian’s key to victory is control and damage in the clinch.
In preliminary action, UFC 100 standout Alan Belcher tests his strengths against middleweight dark horse Wilson Gouveia, Matt Wiman hopes to rebound after decision losses to Jim Miller and Sam Stout versus Shane Nelson and Kevin Burns attempts to continue grasping for prospect status by cutting down highly-touted Canadian import T.J. Grant.
Welterweight’s Genuine Hope
Johny Hendricks is one of mixed martial arts’ most decorated collegiate wrestlers with two national championships, four All-American honors and three Big 12 conference titles. At UFC 101 in August, he demonstrated killer instinct in taking out Amir Sadollah. Team Link prospect Ricardo Funch will be at the mercy of Hendricks’ wrestling and chaining together submissions and hoping Hendricks’ mat work still has holes is the Brazilian’s best bet. If Hendrick’s puts Funch away convincingly, he may start climbing the ladder to championship contention.