UFC 110: Nogueira vs Velasquez, Acer Arena, Sydney, Australia
The UFC's first visit to Australia has seen the second fastest sellout in the history of the promotion, behind only its Canadian debut in Montreal. This pays testament to the quality of this fight card - five of the most evenly matched fights the UFC has produced in a while. The main event pits Cain Velasquez against one of all the all-time greats in the heavyweight division, Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira in a fight which should decide who challenges the next title holder, be it Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin or Frank Mir.
Also on the card, Brit Michael Bisping takes on another legend of the Pride fighting championships in the Axe Murderer, Wanderlei "Violence" Silva. It may not be on his birth certificate but there's no doubting his true middle name. We also get to see Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic's latest attempt to mount a genuine run at the title, facing Velasquez' last opponent, Ben Rothwell.
"Big Nog" has a mixed record since joining the UFC; an edgy decision win over Heath Herring, a comfortable submission victory over Interim Champ Tim Sylvia, and a Fight Of The Night decision over Randy Couture on one side of the equation, and a TKO loss to Frank Mir on the other. Velasquez has been awarded his shot at the 8/11 priced Minotauro as part of the heavyweight mini-tournament taking place in the illness-enforced absence of Brock Lesnar, and is available at evens - his 251 landed punches against Cheick Kongo evidently not impressing the odds-makers, likely due to his failure to finish the Parisian. Read the full preview here.
Clitheroe, Lancashire native and TUF 3 winner Michael "The Count" Bisping has everything he wanted and didn't want in front of him in Wanderlei Silva. A big, marquee name, a fighter sure to sell the fight, an intense stare down... And, a man famous for his brutality, his knockout power at light-heavyweight, and his dominant run in Pride of 17 fights without loss... The Axe Murderer. Thankfully for Bisping, Silva has since gone 1-3 in the Octagon and looked to struggle with the weight cut to 195lbs last time out against Rich Franklin, which begs the question, how will he fare cutting to 185 for this fight? His price of 8/13 suggests it isn't expected to take too much out of him, but at 6/5 I think the value lies with the Brit. Read why here.
Since joining the UFC, Pride Openweight Grand Prix Champion of 2006 Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has suffered similarly to fellow Pride great Wanderlei Silva; losses to Gabriel Gonzaga, Cheick Kongo and recently Junior Dos Santos punctuated only by wins over lesser threats in Eddie Sanchez and Mostapha Al-Turk. Yet, he is priced at 4/6 against recent Velasquez victim Rothwell, who stands over Cro Cop at 6ft 4" and 265lbs, and is available at 11/10. Rothwell, as a newcomer of just one fight in the UFC nevertheless has a lot of experience and wins over Andrei Arlovski and recent TUF10 winner Roy Nelson on his record of 30-7. Read the full preview here.
The remaining fights on the main card consist of Joe Stevenson facing Aussie representative George Sotiropoulos in a lightweight bout, and the erratic Keith Jardine versus TUF 8 winner Ryan Bader at light-heavyweight. Bader faces a step up in class to stand opposite Jardine, who counts wins over Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin as his proudest moments in the cage, but Ryan goes in as 4/6 favourite. At 11/10 I think Jardine represents great value but his chin is not to be trusted with serious money.
Sotiropoulos will look to please his home crowd with a fourth submission win in five fights within the UFC, and an eighth in 15 overall, but Joe "Daddy" Stevenson has the strength to make up for his slight inferiority in BJJ, though as a black belt himself he won't rely on his upper body musculature unless truly necessary. At 2/5, the more experienced fighter Joe ( 31-10) will go in feeling confident but faces an improving fighter who lacks a marquee name on his resume. At 7/4, Sotiropoulos will be looking to lure Stevenson to the mat but I feel his lack of quality opponents and experience at 155lbs will see him beaten.
The prelims see Bonnar - Soszynski, Lytle - Foster and Te-Huna - Pokrajac all as potential slugfests and I hope to see these on the broadcast. We also have a fight with UFC veteran, Aussie-born Croat Elvis Sinosic facing Chris Haseman, and TUF alumni C. B. Dolloway fighting Goran Reljic, who completes the Croatian foursome fighting in Sydney.