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UFC 60 ‘Hughes vs Gracie’ – Preview and Analysis

By Al Yu | May 19, 2006

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By Al Yu

Event Date: 05.27.06
Location: Staples Center (Los Angeles, California)

Fight Card (In No Particular Order):

Jeremy Horn (76-14-5) vs Chael Sonnen (14-7-1)

Jeremy Horn is one of the most experienced active fighters today. The former Miletich fighter has fought in many different organizations including the UFC, PRIDE, and RINGS. Horn holds wins over Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Dean Lister, and David Loiseau. At UFC 56, Horn won a close decision over Trevor Prangley. Chael Sonnen is a wrestler who trains with Team Quest. Sonnen is coming off of a win over Trevor Prangley at Ultimate Fight Night 4. Sonnen is a late replacement for Horn’s original opponent, Evan Tanner.

This will be the third time that these two guys meet. Horn has already defeated Sonnen twice. I have been impressed with Sonnen lately as he has shown a lot of improvement. Even in his loss to Renato Sobral, he displayed good positioning and composure. On the other hand, Jeremy Horn has lost some of his luster of late. He was battered in a rematch with Chuck Liddell and arguably lost his fight against Trevor Prangley. As much as Sonnen has improved, I feel he still doesn’t possess what it takes to defeat Horn. Chael has got good takedowns but that’s the only advantage I see him having over Horn. Jeremy is more than comfortable fighting from his back and has favored that position in many of his previous fights. Sonnen will have a good first round against Horn but will fall victim to a submission in the second, possibly by heel hook. Hopefully it will be the last time these two need to face each other.

Prediction: Jeremy Horn submits Chael Sonnen RD2

Gabriel Gonzaga (5-1) vs Fabiano Scherner (5-2)

Gabriel Gonzaga is a four time national BJJ champion and a veteran of Jungle Fight. At his UFC 56 debut, he knocked out Kevin Jordan in a heavyweight snoozer. Fabiano Scherner trains with American Top Team and is the current IFC Americas heavyweight champion. He is also a six time world champion in BJJ. In his UFC debut, Scherner was defeated by Brandon Vera.

Both fighters hold a black belt in BJJ so they are good on the ground. I’d have to give the edge to Gonzaga because I feel he’s a better grappler than Scherner, particularly without a gi. Scherner stated he was disappointed with his striking so he has been training with Melvin Manhoef, Lloyd Van Dams, and Thiago Alves. I don’t think training for such a short time will improve Scherner’s striking. Gonzaga is not known for his striking either but I think he will have the advantage on their feet. Aggressiveness, ground control and striking will be the key factors for the victor as I foresee a stalemate on the ground. Gonzaga should earn a decision in what could be a tactical but boring fight.

Prediction: Gabriel Gonzaga decisions Fabiano Scherner

Alessio Sakara (8-3) vs Dean Lister (7-4)

Alessio Sakara is a BJJ/Vale Tudo fighter who has fought around the world. He made his debut at UFC 55 against Ron Faircloth. Sakara was well on his way to winning that fight until an accidental kick to the groin ended his night. At UFC 57, Alessio bloodied Elvis Sinosic over three rounds to earn a decision. Dean ‘The Boogeyman’ Lister is a former King of the Cage middleweight champion and a PRIDE veteran. Lister is an accomplished grappler and holds many titles. In 2003 and 2005, Dean won the Abu Dhabi championship in the absolute weight division. This will be Lister’s UFC debut.

It’s good to see Dean finally make his UFC debut. They certainly picked a tough opponent in Sakara as Dean will have his hands full. A former professional boxer, Sakara has a big advantage when the fight is standing. I don’t think he’ll knock out Lister because Dean has a good chin. It’s no secret that Lister wants to take the fight to the ground. Dean may be an accomplished grappler but he has shown to be too passive and unable to effectively use his superior grappling against better opposition. At PRIDE Bushido 4, Lister struggled against UFC veteran Amar Suloev. Dean was unable to execute his game plan because of Suloev’s superior striking. In order for Lister to win, he must be very aggressive and not be afraid to exchange with Sakara. Dean doesn’t have the best takedowns so he may need to rely on takedowns from the clinch and utilize the fence.

As much of an advantage he has on the ground, I don’t think Lister will submit Sakara. Alessio trains with the Nogueira brothers and holds a brown belt in BJJ. He has a pretty good guard and I feel that he’s competent enough to avoid being submitted. In his last fight against Elvis Sinosic, Sakara took the match to the ground and stayed high in Sinosic’s guard. Sakara scored points with strikes while being safe from submissions. I think Sakara will use a similar strategy if the fight goes to the ground. The UFC has been standing fighters up to their feet more often. This could be a disadvantage for Lister as it may not allow him time to fully execute his ground game.

I think Lister’s accomplishments as a grappler haven’t carried over into MMA well. Yes, all seven of his wins have come by submission. However, those submission wins were over sub par opponents (an arguable exception would be Akira Shoji). If Dean is going to win, he needs to take a page out of Paulo Filho’s book and be very aggressive. I think that’s easier said than done against an opponent like Sakara. Look for Sakara to execute a safe but effective strategy en route to a decision victory.

Prediction: Alessio Sakara decisions Dean Lister

Spencer Fisher (17-2) vs Matt Wiman (6-2)

Spencer Fisher has made three UFC appearances and trains with Miletich Martial Arts. Fisher holds notable wins over Josh Neer, Thiago Alves and Aaron Riley. At UFC 58, Fisher became a late replacement for the injured Kenny Florian. In that fight, Spencer lost a close decision to Sam Stout. Matt Wiman trains with Tulsa Top Team and will be making his UFC debut. Before joining Tulsa Top Team, Matt Wiman trained with the Lion’s Den for over three years. Wiman is a late replacement for Spencer Fisher’s original opponent, Leonard Garcia. The injured Garcia broke his leg during training.

Wiman is fulfilling his dream of fighting in the UFC. I have to give him credit for taking a fight on such a short notice. Wiman is coming off of a loss to Nick Agallar at MFC – Boardwalk Blitz. He’s a well-rounded fighter but I don’t think he’s ready for Fisher. Both fighters are pretty good on the ground but Fisher is the better striker. Spencer has defeated some solid competitors while Wiman has fallen short to the first two credible opponents he’s faced. Wiman will probably struggle to get past his UFC debut jitters. Look for Fisher to take advantage of Wiman’s inexperience and finish him with strikes in the second round.

Prediction: Spencer Fisher TKO Matt Wiman RD2

Melvin Guillard (19-5-2) vs Rick Davis (3-0-1)

Melvin Guillard is a former contestant on the Ultimate Fighter season 2. This will be his third appearance in the UFC and he is looking to rebound from a loss to Josh Neer at Ultimate Fight Night 3. Rick Davis trains with the Las Vegas Combat Club, also home to former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. In his last fight, Davis fought Henry Matamoros to a draw. This will be Rick Davis’ UFC debut.

Either this is poor matchmaking or the UFC is looking to build Guillard. Rick Davis is relatively unknown and hasn’t fought since 2004. He has a total of four professional MMA fights and yet he’s getting a shot in the UFC? Guillard has a lot of athleticism, can be explosive, and is very marketable. He reminds me of a smaller version of Kevin Randleman. Guillard is a striker and he looks to finish his fights. Apparently Rick Davis is also a striker. Four of Guillard’s five losses have been due to submissions so his main weakness is apparent. I’m not sure if Davis can take advantage of his weakness as not much is known about his abilities on the ground. With his experience and exciting style, Guillard should have no problems dispatching Davis.

Prediction: Melvin Guillard TKO Rick Davis RD1

Diego Sanchez (14-0) vs John Alessio (16-7)

Diego Sanchez is a former King of the Cage Welterweight Champion and the winner of the Ultimate Fighter season 1. He is coming off of his biggest victory yet, earning a decision over Nick Diaz in the main event of the Ultimate Fighter 2 finale. John Alessio is also a former King of the Cage Champion. He hasn’t fought in the octagon since UFC 26, where he was armbarred by Pat Miletich in an unsuccessful title attempt. Alessio has enlisted the help of Jeremy Horn and current UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes with his training.

These two were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 58 but Diego had to pull out due to illness. This will be a good test for Alessio as he has rarely faced a fighter with the strength of Sanchez. Standing up, Alessio will have the striking advantage. He has stated that his game plan is to neutralize Diego’s takedowns and submission attempts. I don’t think he’ll be able to suppress Sanchez’s shots and clinches. On the ground, I think both fighters are well versed in submissions but I would give the edge to Alessio. I feel that Alessio’s Jiu-Jitsu is better but it’s going to be Diego’s strength that will dictate this fight. Sanchez is going to take Alessio down at will and wear him out with his ground-n-pound. After two rounds of ground control, the referee will save Alessio from any further punishment.

Prediction: Diego Sanchez TKO John Alessio RD2

Mike Swick (8-1) vs Joe Riggs (24-7)

Mike ‘Quick’ Swick is a former contestant of the Ultimate Fighter season 1. Swick has been making short work of his recent opponents. At UFC 58, Swick submitted Steve Vigneault with a guillotine choke. Joe ‘Diesel’ Riggs is a very active fighter who has fought in many MMA organizations. At UFC 56, Riggs lost his shot for the UFC welterweight title when he succumbed to a kimura at the hands of Matt Hughes. Riggs rebounded from his loss with a decision over Nick Diaz at UFC 57. Riggs has been training with Jeremy Horn and John Alessio. This fight will take place at the middleweight limit of 185lbs.

It looks like Mike Swick will face his toughest and most experienced opponent yet since losing to Chris Leben. Middleweight is a better division for Riggs because he’ll have more power behind his punches and he doesn’t have to cut as much weight. Both fighters are great on their feet. I’d have to give the edge to Swick because of his hand speed. ‘Diesel’ is the harder puncher, in my opinion. Riggs has a good chin and I can’t see Swick knocking him out. However, I think Mike’s chin is suspect and Riggs will put it to the test.

If Riggs has a weakness, it’s his susceptibility to submissions. Joe handled himself pretty well against Nick Diaz and I feel that Diaz has the best ground game in the UFC. Training with Jeremy Horn and John Alessio will also help Riggs’ submission defense. This fight has the potential to be a good stand-up war. Swick’s hand speed may cause problems for Riggs early on but look for Joe to throw powerful counter punches. In the second round, Joe Riggs will drop Swick and finish him off on the ground.

Prediction: Joe Riggs TKO Mike Swick RD2

Brandon Vera (6-0) vs Assuerio Silva (10-4)

Brandon ‘The Truth’ Vera is a young heavyweight who made his debut at Ultimate Fight Night 2, defeating Fabiano Scherner with knees. Vera holds a win over the Ultimate Fighter Season 2 contestant Mike Whitehead. At UFC 57, Vera knocked out Justin Eilers with a kick to the head. A former member of Chute Boxe, Assuerio Silva is a Jungle Fight and PRIDE veteran. He made his UFC debut at Ultimate Fight Night 3 where he lost a decision to Tim Sylvia. Silva holds notable wins over Alessio Sakara and Fabiano Scherner.

Vera is coming off of the biggest win of his short six fight career. The high kick he gave Eilers is certain to be on many highlight reels. Vera is young and looking to make an impact in the heavyweight division. However, he has to get by Assuerio Silva first. Assuerio had a difficult fight with Tim Sylvia. The current UFC heavyweight champion’s height and reach made it tough for Silva to land clean shots. Against Vera, he’s more evenly matched. On their feet, both fighters are good strikers. Silva’s striking is more technical than Vera but Brandon has a solid kickboxing background and will have a reach advantage. On the ground, I have to give the edge to Silva. Assuerio will probably be the most aggressive fighter Vera has yet to face. Having never fought past two rounds, can Vera withstand the pressure that Silva may bring? Look for Silva to press the action against Vera and possibly take the fight to the ground. After wearing Vera down, Silva will finish him off in the third round.

Prediction: Assuerio Silva TKO Brandon Vera RD3

Matt Hughes (38-4) vs Royce Gracie (13-2-3)

Matt Hughes is the current UFC welterweight champion and is considered the most dominate welterweight in UFC history. Since his shocking loss to BJ Penn, Hughes has won four straight fights. Most recently at UFC 56, Matt submitted Joe Riggs via kimura in the first round. Royce Gracie needs no introduction. A pioneer of MMA, he helped make the UFC what it is today and put Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the spotlight. In his last fight, Royce faced Hideo Tokoro at K-1 Premium Dynamite, a bout that was ruled a draw. Gracie has not stepped into the octagon since he fought Ken Shamrock at UFC 5.

Here we have the much hyped ‘epic’ battle between the legend and arguably the best welterweight today. Both fighters aren’t known for their striking abilities. I would give the advantage in striking to Hughes as Gracie typically uses his strikes to setup his ground game. Hughes is well-versed in submissions. However, the likelihood of Matt submitting Gracie is next to none. If Matt had a weakness, it would be fighting against submission fighters. When Hughes fought Renato Verissimo at UFC 48, he was almost submitted on a few occasions. Many have argued that Hughes didn’t deserve the decision victory over Verissimo. Of Hughes’ four losses, three have come by way of submission.

Royce Gracie has only fought five times since 2000. In his last fight against Hideo Tokoro, the bout was ruled a draw because of special rules that Royce negotiated with K-1. If the fight went to a decision, it was automatically ruled as a draw. I’ve watched that fight many times and I feel that Gracie would have lost had it gone to a decision. At UFC 60, there will be no special rules. Look for Hughes to control the fight standing and on the ground. He will use his superior strength to control Royce and avoid/power out of submission attempts. It’s possible that Hughes could win by ref stoppage but I think the champion will play it safe and retain his title. Hughes wins by decision, Gracie gets a big payday, and the UFC enjoys the high ratings.

Prediction: Matt Hughes decisions Royce Gracie

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