The Ultimate Fighting Championship brings the Octagon to San Diego Sports Arena this Sunday night for its second live card on Versus. Its main attraction is Jon Jones, who fractured Brandon Vera’s right cheekbone in three places while headlining the UFC’s first Versus installment in March. Here are FIGHT!’s picks for Sunday night’s bouts with odds courtesy of bodog. We are 70-40 with our picks in 2010.
Kryptonite for a hot young prospect in combat sports is an underappreciated veteran. Vladimir Matyushenko plays that foil to Jones. “The Janitor” has lost just four contests in his 13-year, 28-fight career, half of which were to former UFC champions. Matyushenko is experienced enough to consistently avoid bad positions and his calculated takedowns keeps momentum from ever favoring his opponent. Unfortunately for the Belarusian wrestler, Jones has a rare blend of ranginess, explosiveness and strong clinch work. Speed needed to deal with those issues is not in the former IFL Light Heavyweight Champion’s repertoire.
FIGHT! Pick: Jones
When Yushin Okami and Mark Munoz meet center cage, each combatant will be staring down a fellow bully. Both enjoy pushing opponents around with their stellar wrestling and size. Okami’s experience edge is key against “The Filipino Wrecking Machine.” The Japanese southpaw is patient and utilizes that to incur little damage while scoring points with to-the-point counter-punches. Munoz is a powerhouse yet still rough around the edges and he’s not likely to hold “Thunder” down long enough to score big ground and pound points—his main weapon.
FIGHT! Pick: Okami
John Howard wagers his devastating punching power is enough to stop promising welterweight prospect Jake Ellenberger. The Bostonian is dangerous at all times, however, Ellenberger’s swift wrestling will minimize his time spent in harm’s way. Howard scrambles well but it won’t be enough to avoid Ellenberger’s steamrolling persistence for 15 minutes.
FIGHT! Pick: Ellenberger
Former PRIDE champ Takanori Gomi was rudely welcomed to the Octagon with a Kenny Florian rear-naked choke. His next opponent, Tyson Griffin, accepted the fight on short notice after a demoralizing decision loss to Evan Dunham. With talk of title contention quieted for now Griffin hopes to rebound and his motivation – something Gomi seems to have lost – should be enough to carry him to victory.
FIGHT! Pick: Griffin
Brian Stann is a stellar soldier and citizen but he’s middle of the pack among the MMA elite. Phil Davis exploited his stiff, upright style in Stann’s last stand at 205-pounds, taking the former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion down at will. Stann wasn’t able to mount much offense from his back, which could mostly be attributed to Davis’ All-American wrestling pedigree but it doesn’t bode well for Stann’s debut at middleweight. In Mike Massenzio Stann will find a wrestler with far less name recognition than Davis but a nearly equally impressive grappling pedigree. Combine the likelihood that Stann will get put on his back with the likelihood that the cut to 185 will leave Stann atypically weak and depleted and you’ve got yourself a strong case for the upset.
FIGHT! Pick: Massenzio
FIGHT! Pick: Jones Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Mark Munoz (+160) vs Yushin Okami (-200)
FIGHT! Pick: Okami Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Jake Ellenberger (-175) vs. John Howard (+145)
FIGHT! Pick: Ellenberger Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Tyson Griffin (-325) vs. Takanori Gomi (+250)
FIGHT! Pick: Griffin Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Brian Stann (+140) vs. Mike Massenzio (-170)
FIGHT! Pick: MassenzioResulting Outcome: INCORRECT