Matt Erickson writes for MMAFighting.com and is overall a pretty cool dude that I follow on twitter. I wanted to get him on the site to give his predications and thoughts about UFC 123 tonight. Hopefully we’ll get Matt to contribute to the site more.
Q: Before we get to UFC 123, I have to ask you this. Is Fedor still a top 5 fighter?
A:I believe Fedor is still in the top five, no question about it. I was never of the camp that he was the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, even before he lost. And I had a hard time saying he was the best heavyweight because of the quality of competition he has faced the last few years. But to drop him out of the top five after the Werdum loss is a little extreme. I think Cain Velasquez is without question No. 1 right now. I’d put Lesnar No. 2, Fedor No. 3, dos Santos No. 4 and Overeem No. 5. Hovering not far behind would be Carwin, Werdum and Barnett. But that’s why these ranking discussions are so great – there’s really no right or wrong and they elicit some great debates.
Q: Onto UFC 123. In my opinion, the fight of the night could be the George Sotiropoulos vs. Joe Lauzon fight. How do you see that one going down? Both guys are good on the ground.
A: I think you’re spot-on: Sots-Lauzon has Fight of the Night written all over it. And with a lot of focus all of a sudden on whether or not Sots has an unfair advantage with the knee and ankle braces he wears, and whether Lauzon will ask the commission to disallow them, there’s some head games going on, too. I agree that both guys are good on the ground, but Sotiropoulos is better there.
Lauzon has the advantage on the feet, so I think Sots will want to look for takedowns early and try to work for a submission or to score points with ground-and-pound from on top. Unless Sotiropoulos makes what I think would be a mistake of standing and trading, I don’t know there are that many ways for Lauzon to win this fight.
Q: Does the Matt Hughes BJ Penn fight have any intrigue for you? Matt has shown that he’s not done recently and BJ is going off of two loses to Frankie Edgar where he just got handled. Who do you think wins this one and do you think either fighter could seriously make a run at a title again?
A: The Hughes-Penn fight has tons of intrigue for me and I was really excited when the news broke that it was going to happen. Both guys are legends, and it’s pretty rare that we get to see all-time greats squaring off like this. Hughes makes it a point to always remind us that he just takes one fight at a time and he’s not thinking about title shots or chasing records. But I don’t fully believe that. I think with a win over Penn, Hughes is very close to getting another crack at the welterweight title. And you can better believe Dana White would give it to him since Hughes has always been a company man. I think both guys have title runs left in them, but Hughes is obviously the closest. If he wins, we could finally see him against someone the caliber of a Jon Fitch sometime next year – and a win against someone of that level could get him another crack at the belt.
Penn, on the other hand, still has plenty of work to do with a win. One win at 170 doesn’t mean he should get a title shot. He’d need several more, and that could take a couple years. If he goes back to 155, again, he’s several wins away from being back in that mix. Hughes has a lot more to gain from a win than Penn does, I think, and I think his strength and wrestling will help him win on points.
Q:Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida is our main event of the night. They have vastly different styles. Jackson is a striker and has a fierce clinch game. Machida is a classic martial artist, quick strikes, in and out “I can beat 4 men at once” type of fighter. Boring main event or good enough to headline a card?
A: I love this main event because of the implications it will have on either fighter if they lose. Neither guy has ever lost two in a row. I think this could be boring if Rampage plays a strictly counter-punching game. That will mean Machida is picking his spots for his strikes and ducking right back out with Rampage trying to catch him on the way back. But if Rampage is aggressive, it could be a lot of fun to watch him trying to chase down Machida.
We all know Rampage has enough power to drop anyone, and we know Machida can be dropped thanks to Shogun. Rampage has been talking all week about how he thinks Machida is a boring fighter, and he doesn’t fancy himself boring – he fancies himself a FIGHTER. So I fully expect Rampage to be aggressive, almost to a fault. But I think he’ll eventually catch Machida and put his lights out. Good enough to be a main event? You betcha. I think this has the kind of potential to be one of the most talked-about fights in a while.
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