UFC 127 comes to us this Saturday night, February 26th, from the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. The stage is set for a huge welterweight showdown between two polar opposites, the legendary BJ Penn (16-7) and tough as nails Jon Fitch (26-3). Penn, after two straight losses to Lightweight Champ Frankie Edgar, got back into the win column by jumping up a weight class and stopping another legend and hall of famer, Matt Hughes, with a 21 second knock out.
Penn sent a message to the welterweight class that he is here and he wants to fight. So Dana White and company did just that. They gave Penn a fight. However, this fight could prove to be a tough one for Penn. The UFC has given Penn the task of fighting Jon Fitch, one of the grittiest fighters in all of MMA. “The Prodigy” will certainly have his work cut out for him in this one. Seeing as how Penn has only fought 21 seconds during this run in the welterweight division, we will see which Penn shows up.
Jon Fitch's only loss in the last eight years was at the hands of Welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre. In fact, the last time Fitch lost a fight before the GSP title bout was all the way back in 2002. This guy is a scrapper. While he may not always finish fights, his ground and pound is some of the most brutal in the sport. If Fitch gets on top of you, you are in big trouble. He's not the most exciting fighter today, but he gets the job done.
Fitch has not finished a fight since 2007 at UFC Fight Night 10, when he choked out Roan Carneiro in the second round. All of Fitch’s fights since then, including the thumping from GSP, have all gone the distance. This could work in the favor of Fitch as he is set to face a man with one of the most questionable “gas tanks” in MMA -- especially when jumping up to welterweight. The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Fitch.
Penn needs to keep this fight standing as he is the better striker of the two and should definitely be faster. Landing a takedown here and there, as GSP did against Fitch, could prove to be worthwhile as well. While Penn may also have the edge in the grappling department, Fitch’s outstanding wrestling will not likely net Penn too many points in the judges eyes. The grappling/wrestling skills possessed by both men should neutralize each other so keeping the fight on the feet will be the key for Penn to win this contest.
Should Fitch land any takedowns, as we saw Edgar do against Penn, and end up on top of BJ, it could be a very long night for Penn. However, I do see Penn stuffing many of Fitch’s takedown attempts. After the beating Penn received from GSP, he was not even able to come out of his corner for the final round. Fitch’s ground and pound assault is just as dangerous as GSP’s. This fight should be an exciting chess match of sorts. Watching these amazing athletes fight for position and trading strikes should make for an action packed main event. I’ll pick Fitch by another gritty decision win.
There will be no shortage of action for the rest of the main card either as we will see a middleweight battle between Michael Bisping (21-3) and Jorge Rivera (18-7). The war of words has escalated pretty high in this one and both of these fighters love to throw their hands so expect to see some bombs dropped in this fight. Should this one spill to the mat, I would give the edge to Rivera as he has the better rounded ground game. With that being said, I believe this fight stays on the feet and Bisping will win by decision.
Another stellar match-up, in the lightweight division this time, is the bout between George Sotiropoulos (14-2) vs. Dennis Siver (17-7). Siver is a striker and Sotiropoulos is a submission expert. Siver can hurt you standing up and he also has great takedowns so he can hurt you on the ground too. Sotiropoulos is a very well rounded fighter with a pretty slick ground game of his own. Siver will want to keep this fight standing and try for the KO, but Sotiropoulos’ hands have improved tremendously over his last few fights. This one will be exciting and fast paced so try not to blink too much. I expect Sotiropoulos to come away victorious by submission.
The next fight on the card brings a wealth of experience to the table. Between Chris Lytle (40-17-4) and Brian Ebersole (46-14-1) they have fought over 120 fights. I cannot remember the last time Lytle was in a boring fight and this one will not be the first. Lytle, even when he loses, is a fight of the night candidate and Ebersole’s unorthodox style always makes for an entertaining fight. These two warriors could steal the show on Saturday night. Lytle is the better rounded of the two and I see him coming away with a decision victory in a fantastic showdown.
Rounding out the main card is a middleweight battle pitting Kyle Noke (18-4-1) against Chris Camozzi (14-3). Both these fighters are extremely well rounded, but their strength lies in their striking, so expect to see some fancy footwork and a lot of punches. Camozzi has some pretty good Muay Thai and BJJ skills so he may try to take this fight to the ground early to avoid Noke’s hands. This is a great match-up and, on paper, is very close to call. I will pick Camozzi by decision.
The main card is stacked, not necessarily in household names, but with some fantastic match-ups and this card should be very exciting to watch. You may not see a lot of first round finishes, but you will see some entertaining and competitive contests. The undercard for this show should also be explosive so between the ION network and Facebook, make sure you tune in to watch the preliminary fights as well. It all goes down this Saturday night, February 26th at 10pm ET on Pay Per View.