UFC 137 Preview and Predictions: Nick Diaz vs. BJ Penn
By: William Holmes
This Saturday, former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz takes on former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight Champion B.J. Penn. This card takes place of the former main event of Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit after Georges St. Pierre got injured and the fight had to be scrapped. Also featured on the undercard is former TUF winner Roy Nelson, former Pride superstar Mirko Cro Cop, newly signed Japanese featherweight sensation Hatsu Hioki, and rising heavyweight contender Matt Mitrione. A preview of Saturday’s main card bouts is as follows.
Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2) vs. George Roop (12-8-1); Featherweight
Hatusu Hioki is the former featherweight champion of the Shooto organization in Japan, is probably one of the most legitimate fighters to come out of Japan and into the UFC in recent memory. He has gone 9-1 in his last ten fights, and 12 of his victories have come by submission. He holds victories over Marlon Sandro, Takeshi Inoue, Jeff Curran, and Mark Hominick. His only loss in his last ten fights was to current UFC fighter Michihiro Omigawa by a close split decision. He comes into this matchup with some high expectations, and is the assumed next challenger to Jose Aldo’s belt if he is victorious.
George Roop has a deceptive record, he was able to upset former number one featherweight contender Josh Grispi in his last fight, and has a memorable head kick knockout over the Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung. However, half of George Roop’s losses have come by submission, which happens to be Hioki’s strength. If Hioki can negate Roop’s obvious reach and height advantage he should win this by submission early in the fight, but the longer the fight stays standing, the better the chances are of Roop pulling off another upset.
Scott Jorgenson (12-4-0) vs. Jeff Curran (35-13-1); Bantamweight
Former number one bantamweight contender Scott Jorgenson takes on the veteran Jeff Curran. Jorgenson has gone 6-1 in his last seven fights, and had a first round KO in his last fight. In his bantamweight title fight, he lost to Dominick Cruz by decision, and was never really in that fight. Jorgenson is known for his strong wrestling and his ability to grind out a victory, as half of his wins have come by decision. This will be his second fight in the UFC since the WEC merged into the UFC.
Jeff Curran is a long time veteran of the sport, and had previously challenged for the featherweight belt when it was in the WEC. While in the WEC, Curran went 1-4 before deciding to drop a weight class down to Bantamweight. Since then he has gone 4-1 and makes his return to the big stage. Curran first fought in 1998, and is a pioneer of the lighter weight classes in MMA. Nineteen of his victories have come by decision.
Expect Jorgenson to win this fight by decision, but he needs to be careful when the fight goes to the ground as Curran is no slouch with his jiu-jitsu.
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (27-9-2) vs. Roy Nelson (16-6); Heavyweight
This should be an entertaining fight between two fighters who desperately need a win. Both Cro Cop and Roy Nelson have lost their last two fights. Cro Cop will probably never be as feared as he was when he fought in Pride, but he still remains a very dangerous opponent for any heavyweight fighter, especially if the fight stays standing. Cro Cop has gone 2-3 in his last fight fights, and he lost his last two fights by KO. Cro Cop is certainly in the twilight of his career, but Roy Nelson is the perfect opponent for Cro Cop to get his career back on track.
Roy Nelson is a former TUF winner, and the former heavyweight champion of the IFL. Nelson’s cardio and conditioning has always been questioned, but he is allegedly in great shape since training with Extreme Couture and Frank Mir in Las Vegas. Roy Nelson is also 2-3 in his last five fights, and he looked awful in his last loss to Mir in May of this year. Twenty of Cro Cop’s victories have been by KO or TKO, and eight of Nelson’s victories have been by KO or TKO, so the chances of this fight ending by KO is high. If Cro Cop can stay out of the way of Nelson’s power shots, he should win by KO.
Cheick Kongo (26-6-2) vs. Matt Mitrione (5-0); Heavyweight
Saturday’s co-feature is a heavyweight matchup between Cheick Kongo and Matt Mitrione, with the winner likely to be under consideration for a future number one contender fight. Kongo has gone 2-2-1 in his last five fights in the UFC, and has been inconsistent while fighting for the UFC. At times he looks like a dominating contender for the belt, and at other times he looks like a one dimensional fighter. Kongo was able to take Cain Velasquez to the distance and hurt him several times before losing by decision. He KO’d Pat Barry in June of this year, and was severely hurt before pulling off the victory. Kongo has all the physical abilities in the world to be a great fighter, he just hasn’t seemed to put it all together yet.
Mitrione is most famous for his KO victory over Kimbo Slice in May of 2010. He has finished all of fights except for one by KO or TKO. He hasn’t fought anyone with the ability or name value of Cheick Kongo, but to go 5-0 in the UFC is still a very impressive feat. Mitrione has strong power in his hands and can end the fight at any minute. However, Kongo has the technical advantage over Mitrione in the standup department of MMA. The chances of this fight going to the ground are slim to none, and Kongo should win this matchup by KO or TKO.
B.J. Penn (16-7-2) vs. Nick Diaz (26-7-1); Welterweight
Nick Diaz was previously penciled in to fight Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title before Diaz no showed several press conferences to hype the fight. Dana White was considering cutting Nick Diaz from the UFC, but instead matched him up against the legendary B.J. Penn.
Nick Diaz has been on a tear recently, going 10-0 with his last loss coming in 2007 against K.J. Noons. Diaz has beaten some quality opposition in those fights, including Frank Shamrock, Paul Daley, and K.J. Noons. However, some of those opponents that Diaz has beaten are not high quality opponents, and none of them are on par with the high level wrestlers you often see in the UFC. Diaz trains out of Cesar Gracie’s camp, but it would be wrong to assume that Diaz’s only specialty is his jiu-jitsu. Diaz has been to known to train his boxing with Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward, and thirteen of his victories have come by KO or TKO. Diaz’s weakness is his wrestling, and his prior run in the UFC was due to his struggles against high level wrestlers.
B.J Penn is a hall of fame caliber MMA fighter, who has held both the UFC lightweight and welterweight belts. Penn has gone 2-2-1 in his last five fights, and his losses were to current UFC Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Penn fought Jon Fitch to a draw in his last fight, but he was thoroughly dominated by Fitch in the last round. Prior to that he had a quick knockout of Matt Hughes in the first round. B.J. Penn is known for being the first non-Brazilian to win the black-belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, Penn also has excellent boxing and has trained with both Freddie Roach and Floyd Mayweather Sr. Seven of Penn’s victories have come by KO or TKO, and like Diaz, he is a complete MMA fighter.
This matchup is a very tough one to pick, as both have very strong jiu-jitsu and boxing. Both fighters have also competed in the lightweight division and have impressive resumes throughout their career. Diaz has been the hotter fighter of the two, and shows improvement each time he fights. B.J. Penn however appears to be declining in his skills, but is still a very dangerous opponent. Penn has stated that his camp has been focused on wrestling, and he is probably looking to take advantage of Diaz’s struggles against high level wrestlers. However, Diaz’s biggest strength is B.J. Penn’s biggest weakness. Diaz is a fighter who is known to have competed in iron man triathlons, and B.J. Penn is a fighter who is known to gas in the later rounds of big fights. Diaz should win by decision, provided he is able to avoid the power of B.J. Penn.