For the second time in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the leading mixed martial arts organization in the world arrives at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles to once again bring fight fans the best fighters the world has to offer. For UFC Fantasy League players – it’s time to begin the breakdown of Saturday’s UFC 104 main card.
ANTHONY JOHNSON VS. YOSHIYUKI YOSHIDA
Fighting out of San Jose, Anthony Johnson is looking to extend his first winning-streak in the UFC to three straight fights and continue to attract new fans along the way. Johnson has started quite a buzz around him for his fighting ability and explosive finishes and at only 25, and with an overall record of 7-2, there are not many people out there who would argue that there isn’t a future title shot on the horizon for Johnson.
Coming off of a recent win over Brandon Wolff, judo black belt Yoshiyuki Yoshida would like to tame the current hype surrounding his opponent, Anthony Johnson. With an 11-3 record at the age of thirty-five, Yoshida knows that he needs to start to make a serious run at UFC gold, starting on Saturday night.
Look for Anthony Johnson to try and live up to his “Rumble” nickname by keeping the fight standing – hoping to end the fight with a highlight reel knockout. For Yoshida, look for him to try and keep the tempo of the fight slow in an attempt to frustrate Johnson. Also, look for him to try and bring the action to the canvas in order to try for a victory by submission.
JOE STEVENSON VS. SPENCER FISHER
On Saturday night, Joe Stevenson is facing what could possibly be the biggest fight in his UFC career. Although he holds an impressive record of 35-10 and is still under the age of 30, Stevenson has only won two of his last five fights. After going 4-1 in his first five fights after being a contestant on season two of The Ultimate Fighter, many believed that he had the ability to become champion. But after losing that chance at the hands of BJ Penn, Stevenson has had his ups and downs. It will be interesting to see which Joe Stevenson shows up on Saturday night.
With an impressive 24-4 record, Spencer Fisher knows that an impressive performance by him on Saturday night may put him at the top of the food chain in terms of getting a shot at becoming a lightweight champion. For Fisher, who is currently riding a three fight winning-streak and has already beaten the likes of Caol Uno, Sam Stout, Dan Lauzon, and Thiago Alves, it’s hard to deny what “The King” has accomplished in the UFC.
From the second the bell rings, expect to see an exciting, fast-paced war. For Fisher, look for him to come out swinging in order to score a quick, impressive victory. And although Fisher may have the edge standing, don’t be surprised if Stevenson can stun him with a jab and bring him to the canvas to finish the fight with one of his impressive submissions.
JOSH NEER VS. GLEISON TIBAU
Having lost four of his last six fights, Josh Neer has put himself in a nearly must win situation. In the UFC, due to the talent of fighters on the roster, it’s hard to move back up the ranks after suffering two straight defeats – and that is what he’s facing on Saturday night. On the other hand, the quickest way to move up the ladder is to win fights in dramatic fashion. With a record of 25-8-1, Neer has had plenty of those in his career.
A native of Brazil, Gleison Tibau is looking forward to nothing more than getting back into the Octagon. The last time he fought, Tibau lost to Melvin Gullard and he wants to get the taste of losing out of his mouth. With a record of 29-6, he has accomplished more than most in his career, but there’s still one major thing left on that list – to win a UFC title. In order to one day make that wish come true, he must beat Neer on Saturday night.
In this fight, look for Neer to come out looking for a knockout, where Tibau will be looking to bring the fight on the ground. Despite owning a jiu-jitsu black belt, Tibau needs to be careful if he does go to the canvas with Neer, as ‘The Dentist’ has been known to pull off surprising submissions when opponents least expect it.
CAIN VELASQUEZ VS. BEN ROTHWELL
Despite 30 professional fights separating Cain Velasquez and Ben Rothwell, both of these fighters know the importance of winning this fight. Ben Rothwell wants to quickly introduce himself to the UFC by putting on a good performance, while Cain Velasquez, on the other hand, is looking to keep his perfect 6-0 record intact.
Having won all four of his fights inside the Octagon, two-time All-American wrestler Cain Velasquez knows that with a victory this weekend, he may very well put himself in line for an eventual heavyweight title shot. With notable wins over Jake O'Brien and Cheick Kongo, it didn’t take long for the entire UFC heavyweight division to take notice of the fighting ability that he possesses. Although he is unbeaten, the San Jose resident knows that he still has something to prove each time the Octagon gate closes.
It’s rare that you see a fighter who already has 36 professional fights under his belt making a debut for the UFC, but that’s exactly what Ben Rothwell will do on Saturday night. Having won ten of his last eleven fights – with the only loss coming to Andrei Arlovski, Rothwell wants to make an instant splash in the heavyweight division with an impressive victory. Not only would a victory put him right in the middle of the division, but being in the co-main event, Rothwell will have the chance to show some UFC fans, who may not know exactly who he is – exactly what he came to the UFC to accomplish.
It’s always interesting to see a fight where both fighters have completely different game plans from one another stylistically. For Velasquez, look for him to try and bring the action to the canvas as quickly as possible – working his ever improving ground and pound to hammer out a victory. For Rothwell, on the other hand, look for him to come out as the aggressor – trying to stay away from the takedown attempts that Velasquez will try. If Rothwell is successful is stuffing those takedown attempts, he will look to use his strong standup ability to try and finish the fight by knockout.
LYOTO MACHIDA VS. MAURICIO “SHOGUN” RUA
Both natives of Brazil, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will take center stage in the main event on Saturday. Although both fighters claim to have nothing but respect for one another – even sitting next to each other on a recent flight from Brazil to Los Angeles to promote their fight - once the Octagon gate closes come fight time, they will put their friendship aside for what may end up being a 25-minute war.
With a perfect record of 15-0, Lyoto Machida is looking to keep his unbeaten streak alive. Machida’s UFC career started slow when he strung together three straight unanimous decision victories over Sam Hoger, David Heath, and Kazuhiro Nakamura. Although Machida won all three of these fights and fans saw the talent that he possessed, they also wanted to see a little more action from a fighter with his talent. Being reckless is not his style, however. A black belt in Machida Karate, he forces his opponents to bring the action to him, while he waits to explode on a mistake made by his opponent. After other fighters started to see how Machida sits back, his next couple opponents thought the best way to beat him was to bring the action to him – that turned out to be a mistake as well. After finishing his third consecutive decision victory, Machida has gone on to finish Rameau Sokoudjou, and Thiago Silva – with the only other decision victory coming when he fought former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.
After winning seven straight fights in the Octagon, Machida finally got his chance to fight for the title, something he had been seeking since he was a little boy in Brazil. Going into that fight at UFC 98, his opponent Rashad Evans vowed that he would not be the aggressor and would make Machida engage first. And although the fighting style that Machida learned from his father dictates that he isn’t likely to be the aggressor, with Evans holding true to his vow of making Machida bring the action to him, Machida eventually was the first to seriously engage. And once Machida found the opening that he liked, he sent Evans to the canvas – winning by knockout in the second round. With the year 2009 starting to wind down, it’s hard to argue that Machida’s knockout of Evans hasn’t been the best of the year thus far.
Fighting out of Curitiba, Brazil, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is facing his toughest test to date on Saturday night. With an impressive 18-3 record, Rua has truly fought some of the biggest names the sport of mixed martial arts has to offer. After starting his fighting career in Brazil, Rua quickly made a name for himself by beating four of the five opponents that were put in front of him. After those victories, Rua moved over to the PRIDE organization, where his success in the ring followed him over to Japan. After beating the likes of Quinton Jackson, Ricardo Arona, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and Alistair Overeem, Rua become known to the fans in Japan as one of the most feared knockout artists PRIDE had to offer. After his victory over Overeem, Rua moved his successful mixed martial arts career over to the UFC, although his journey in the Octagon didn’t start out as planned when Forrest Griffin submitted him at UFC 76. After his loss to Griffin, Rua went on to beat Mark Coleman for the second time in his career, and most recently beat former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Rua has continued to look more and more comfortable in each trip to the Octagon. Much like his opponent, Rua is hoping to head back to Brazil with UFC gold around his waist.
Lyoto Machida has never lost a single round on the judges’ scorecard in his UFC career – that’s a total of seventeen total rounds. In fact, you have to go back two years to find a single judge that gave a round to his opponent. This is something Rua is hoping to change early in their fight. It will be interesting to see if Machida changes his meticulously-paced fighting style if he goes back to his corner early in the fight knowing that he is behind on the scorecards. In all of Machida’s fights, he’s been nearly perfect while fighting on his feet, but at the same time, Rua has as well. For Rua, expect him to try and bring his foe to the ground to test an aspect of Machida’s game we haven't seen much of.