FIGHT! Picks: UFC 111 & Strikeforce Challengers VII

Here are FIGHT!’s Picks for this weekend’s bouts with odds courtesy of bodog – we’re currently 28-12 with our picks in 2010.

UFC 111: St-Pierre vs. Hardy

The UFC continues its assault on The Big Apple by causing a ruckus in neighboring Newark, New Jersey as two title fights and gritty contenders hit center cage at UFC 111. In typically generous fashion, SpikeTV features preliminary Octagon action leading into the pay-per-view.

Georges St-Pierre (-625) vs. Dan Hardy (+425)

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Pound-for-pound staple and UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre risks all his acclaim against British striker Dan Hardy, a fighter questioned about his no. 1 contender status despite a 4-0 UFC mark.

The French-Canadian is widely considered a prototype for the modern mixed martial artist—an athlete, fighter and technician. Standing, clinching and grappling, he’s demonstrated only one weakness—a vulnerable chin against Matt Serra at UFC 69 in April 2007.

“The Outlaw” is a counter-puncher—a difficult and uncommon style in the sport. What makes St-Pierre’s takedowns so successful is his striking threat; however, Hardy won’t be worried about that since that plays into his game. He’s not a low kick fighter either and looks to stand up if he’s on his back. Head kicks, which are never thrown at St-Pierre, and his dangerous left hook give the Nottingham native a chance better than his long shot odds indicate. Every fight starts standing and the champion must close the distance at some point; both factors favor Hardy.

Unfortunately for the challenger, St-Pierre is supreme at implementing his strategy and minus the hiccup against Serra, no one has been able to stop him from doing so for a very long time.

FIGHT! Pick: St-Pierre

Shane Carwin (+130) vs. Frank Mir (-160)

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A full year has passed since Shane Carwin last saw action at UFC 96 in March 2009, where he knocked out Gabriel Gonzaga to earn a title shot. He’ll have to settle for an interim title bout against former heavyweight king Frank Mir due to champion Brock Lesnar’s extended absence. The layoff does no favors for the relatively inexperienced fighter, a guy who has never seen a second round, entering a 25-minute battle versus a tested champion. The Las Vegas-based fighter’s movement standing, improved strategy and killer instinct will carry him past Carwin’s initial threats.

FIGHT! Pick: Mir

Jon Fitch vs. Ben Saunders

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(Mike Pierce slugs it out with Fitch.)

Originally slated to face Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch gets last minute replacement and Alves teammate Ben Saunders, who was originally scheduled to face off with Jake Ellenberger earlier in the night. Saunders’ height and reach present difficult last minute adjustments for the American Kickboxing Academy fighter; however, his positional game, resilience and experience negates Saunders snowballing clinch.

FIGHT! Pick: Fitch

Fabricio Camoes (+190) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (-250)

Bumped up from unaired action thanks to the Alves situation, hometown boy Kurt Pellegrino stands across from Jiu-Jitsu ace Fabricio Camoes. The Brazilian’s winging punches and less-than-full gas tank allows for “Batman” to employ superior takedowns and straighter punches while holding his own in the submission game.

FIGHT! Pick: Pellegrino

Mark Bocek (+325) vs. Jim Miller (-500)

Nova Uniao’s Mark Bocek, one of Canada’s top Jiu-Jitsu exports, faces Jersey’s own Jim Miller. The AMA Fight Club fighter is heavy-handed with solid wrestling and jiu-jitsu. The IFL veteran’s work rate and stellar UFC resume suggests he’s too much for a steadily improving Bocek.

FIGHT! Pick: Miller

Nathan Diaz (-300) vs. Rory Markham (+240)

Nate Diaz’s jump to 170-pounds pits him against Rory Markham, an injury bitten fighter who hasn’t competed since a KO loss to Dan Hardy at UFC 95 in Feb. 2009. Markham is an explosive sprawl and brawler, but Diaz’s reach, slick submissions and natural weight class capitalize on Markham’s extended layoff.

FIGHT! Pick: Diaz

Ricardo Almeida (-160) vs. Matt Brown (+130)

Matt Brown has made his living in the UFC beating up technically superior fighters. That’s the story when he meets Ricardo Almeida, a former middleweight King of Pancrase hoping to revive UFC title aspirations. In front of his adopted New Jersey brethren, “Big Dog” likely stifles “The Immortal” before Brown turn it into the dogfight he prefers.

FIGHT! Pick: Almeida

RECAP
Georges St-Pierre (-625) vs. Dan Hardy (+425)
FIGHT! Pick: St-Pierre
Shane Carwin (+130) vs. Frank Mir (-160)
FIGHT! Pick: Mir
Mark Bocek (+325) vs. Jim Miller (-500)
FIGHT! Pick: Miller
Fabricio Camoes (+190) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (-250)
FIGHT! Pick: Pellegrino
Nathan Diaz (-300) vs. Rory Markham (+240)
FIGHT! Pick: Markham
Ricardo Almeida (-160) vs. Matt Brown (+130)
FIGHT! Pick: Brown

Live Dogs: Hardy, Carwin, Markham

Strikeforce Challengers VII

Strikeforce Challengers makes its third trip in seven outings to the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., serving up a usual dish of local fighters with star potential, up-and-coming combatants and a hint of world class competitor.

Lavar Johnson (-155) vs. Lolohea Mahe (+125)

Last May 15, Fresno-based fighter Lavar Johnson arrived on the sport’s bigger stages with an 18 second uppercut highlight reel KO over Carl Seumanutafa at Strikeforce Challengers 1 on Showtime. He hasn’t seen action since though due to a bullet wound sustained on Independence Day at a family party in Bakersfield, Calif. where teenagers linked to gangs shot him. He dropped 50 pounds off a frame that earned him the nickname “Big,” but has since got back to 241-pounds.

His opponent Lolohea Mahe is a big puncher with fair athleticism for a man that tilts the scales higher than the allotted 265-pound weight. Johnson’s wrestling and experience add more than just heavy hands to the equation. His X-factor is the hometown crowd and defying adversity after such a life-altering incident.

FIGHT! Pick: Johnson

Luke Stewart (+280) vs. Andre Galvao (-360)

Andre Galvao enters the Strikefore cage for the first time against longtime promotion standout Luke Stewart. Stewart hasn’t fought since a Nov. 2008 TKO loss to Joe Riggs that left him with a broken nose, while Galvao ended up on the wrong side of a split decision against Jason High in July.

Stewart’s rounded his game enough to give Galvao, still a jiu-jitsu fighter transforming into a mixed martial artist, a hard time on the score cards as the Ralph Gracie black belt can survive Galvao’s world class submission skills by wearing him out with standing and grounded strikes.

FIGHT! Pick: Stewart

Miesha Tate (-155) vs. Zoila Frausto (+125)

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A style clash between muay Thai fighter Zoila Frausto and wrestler Miesha Tate is the lone female contest of the night. Pre=fight back-and-forth layered the bout with more intrigue. “Takedown” Tate will live up to her name against a dynamic but overzealous striker in Frausto, who opens herself up to takedowns. Tate’s favorable style and quality of opponents delivers a win.

FIGHT! Pick: Tate

RECAP
Lavar Johnson (-155) vs. Lolohea Mahe (+125)
FIGHT! Pick: Johnson
Luke Stewart (+280) vs. Andre Galvao (-360)
FIGHT! Pick: Stewart
Miesha Tate (-155) vs. Zoila Frausto (+125)
FIGHT! Pick: Tate
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