UFC 61 Preview

Preview of UFC 61: Bitter Rivals
July 7, 2006
By J.C. Weyand

If you look at UFC 61 in comparison to UFC 59 it seems a lot the same. Tito Ortiz is fighting an underdog. Jeff Monson is fighting, and Tim Sylvia is taking on Andrei Arlovski for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. However, there is one big difference - this card is better. At UFC 59 Tito Ortiz fought Forrest Griffin. That was an underdog match-up just like Shamrock, except there wasn't the intense hatred that Tito and Ken share for each other. That feud in itself trumps Ortiz-Griffin. Also, at UFC 59 Arlovski was expected to simply smash Sylvia. Now that Andrei enters as a challenger, it makes for a much more interesting match-up. When you throw in a great Lightweight battle between Joe Stevenson and Yves Edwards, it makes for a great card. With that said, onto the fight breakdowns and predictions.

Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski
Some people have called Tim Sylvia's win at UFC 59 "a lucky punch." I think this is a little unfair to Sylvia. In the words of Bas Rutten, "When you aim a punch, throw it, and connect - where's the luck?" I think that Sylvia's win was a legitimate victory and that he is a legitimate top 10 heavyweight. However, I think that Arlovski is just the better fighter. Up until Andrei got careless, he was dominating Tim on their feet. On the ground is even a worse situation for Sylvia. Arlovski is just too quick and too well rounded for Sylvia. I see Andrei hitting Tim with leg kicks and jabs before dropping him with a big shot and going for the submission. Of course The Maine-iac does have a chance of landing a big shot like in their previous encounter, but I just don't think Andrei will make the same mistake as last time. When Arlovski wins, I think that puts him back in the top 5 world heavyweights. As for Sylvia, I see him having to beat quite a few up and coming heavyweights, like Brandon Vera and Jeff Monson, before seeing a rematch with The Pit-bull.
Winner: Andrei Arlovski by Submission

Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock
If people thought Hughes vs. Gracie was a brutal beat down, wait until this fight. I know there are still people who think Shamrock has a chance, but there were also people who thought Royce would catch Matt in a submission; and we saw how that ended up. Tito is much better since the last time they met, and Ken is just older. Another factor you might want to consider is the fact that this time around Ken doesn't have the "noble good guy" thing going for him. After TUF 3 most people view Tito as the respectable one and look at Ken as the moron. No matter the intensity of the feud this fight will end in classic Tito Ortiz, brutal Ground N Pound. Winner: Tito Ortiz by TKO

Yves Edwards vs. Joe Stevenson
This might just be the fight to bet on. Top 10 lightweight Yves Edwards is obviously the favorite, but hasn't looked that sharp as of late. Stevenson, now at his natural weight, is looking to redeem himself after a crushing loss to Josh Neer. This fight really boils down to who wants it more and who can impose their will. If Stevenson can take Yves down, he'll win. If Yves can avoid the takedown, he'll win. Stevenson is not yet proven, so I will have to pick Edwards in the fight, but he just might surprise people.
Winner: Yves Edwards by KO

Josh Neer vs. Josh Burkman
If Josh Neer wins this fight he might just have to change his name to Josh "TUF Killer" Neer. Neer defeated highly touted TUF 2 prospect Melvin Guillard and spoiled the UFC debut of TUF 2 winner Joe Stevenson. This fight looks like an academic win for Josh Neer, but one word comes to mind when thinking of Josh Neer: inconsistency. Neer is on a hot streak with recent wins over Stevenson and Guillard, but he's also the guy he lost to Nick Thompson and Drew Fickett right before that. If Neer is on, he will win; if not, Burkman takes it. Win or lose let's hope this MFS member doesn't spit on Burkman after the fight.
Winner: Josh Neer by Unanimous Decision

Frank Mir vs. Dan Christison
This fight makes me nervous. I must admit that Frank Mir is one of my all-time favorite fighters. I think that he is wise beyond his years in the world of MMA and a good ambassador for the sport. However, this fight scares me. For Frank Mir, this is it. If he loses, this may be his last competitive appearance in the UFC. He obviously took the fight with Cruz to soon to be fully recovered - but what if he never fully recovers? With some injuries, you never can get back to 100%. If he's dominated again, like he was against Cruz, he may have to call it quits. For Dan Christison, this is a proving ground as well. He's been on a hot streak of late, but this is the guy who lost to Dan Severn…twice. This may just be the true story of UFC 61. As a Mir fan, I hope that he's fully recovered and can pull off a win - we'll see this Saturday.
Winner: Frank Mir by Submission

Jeff Monson vs. Anthony Perosh
Can we say Braden Lee Hinkle? This fight is just on the card to build up Monson for a title shot. In fact, I hope they don't even televise it. Even though its at like -500 odds, this is still a sure bet to take.
Winner: Jeff Monson by Submission

Hermes Franca vs. Joe Jordan
I know the obvious bet here is Hermes Franca. He makes sense in every category. On paper, he seems to be the better fighter. He's faced (and beaten) better competition. Jordan even accepted the fight on short notice. However, I've seen Joe Jordan fight at MMA Cage Fights in Quincy, IL and he shocked me. I remember I was covering the event and after seeing the brutal KO/TKO he just got over his opponent, I wrote down, "Winner: Joe Jordan by Murder." The smart choice here is a decision win by Franca, but I'm going out on a limb on this win.
Winner: Joe Jordan by KO

Drew Fickett vs. Kurt Pellegrino
I like Drew Fickett, but I honestly can't get that excited about this fight. As great as Fickett is for stopping the Lay N Pray fest of Josh Koscheck and as impressive he was with his victory over Josh Neer, I just can't see Fickett being a true title contender. He was on such a hot streak and then lost to Josh Burkman, who then lost to Jon Fitch. That being said, I say Fickett taking this fight without much problem.
Winner: Drew Fickett by Submission

Gilbert Aldana vs. Cheick Kongo
I thought that Aldana might be future contender until he was recently stopped by Paul Buentello at UFC 57. However, I think this could be the fight of the night. Both fighters love to bang and have knocked out 11 people between the two. I see this one being a stand-up battle with Kongo coming out on top. If Kongo has the brutal knock out I expect, he could be in line for a fight against one of the UFC's top heavyweights.
Winner: Cheick Kongo by KO

Although this PPV doesn't have a Super-Fight feel like Hughes-Gracie or Liddell-Couture, I think it's one of the more solid cards the UFC has put together in awhile. As always, feel free to drop me a line with any questions, comments, concerns, or predictions of your own. Also, be sure to check back after UFC 61 for my review of the event only on MMAFURY.TV

For feedback email: jcweyand@mmafury.tv

Be sure to check out our exclusive Pre-UFC 61 Interview w/ UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia

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