Affliction: Day of Reckoning Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 01/21/2009
The UFC has a massive card coming up at UFC 94, but there is some very good MMA action to get through before we get to that. The great Fedor Emelianenko will be in action on Saturday in Affliction's second-ever card. He's clearly the headliner as he is perhaps the biggest name in all of MMA, and he tops a solid card full of interesting fights made up of UFC castoffs or guys who have resisted the allure of Dana White. With the demise of EliteXC, the pressure is very high for Donald Trump and his partners in Affliction to give us a good card. Let's look at what they have to offer.
Fedor Emelianenko (-400) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+300) - Emelianenko is a machine. The heavyweight has only lost once, and that came way back in 2000. It wasn't exactly an overwhelming loss, either. The doctor stopped the fight because Fedor was bleeding. It was his second match of the day, and he was cut above the eye with an illegal elbow punch. Other than that, he is unbeaten and he has faced many of the world's top heavyweights over the years. What makes him so scary is that he doesn't have one particular strength that stands above the rest. He is a submission machine, his jiu-jitsu is well above average, he can take and throw a punch with anyone, he can takedown almost anyone, and he is very hard to take down himself. Most fights are won because an opponent identifies a weakness and exploits it. That's a problem when your opponent has no weaknesses. Last time out, Emelianenko beat Tim Sylvia. Sylvia had a solid record, including two UFC championships, but the Russian made him look ridiculous. The submission took just 36 seconds.
Arlovski has a tough task here, but he is no pushover. He has won five straight matches stretching back almost two and a half years. If he wasn't a MMA fighter then he would probably be a boxer - he is quite likely the best boxer of any heavyweight in MMA right now. On top of that, he's strong, very hard to take down, and can apply submission moves as quickly as a cobra striking when he gets a chance. If he can keep this fight on his feet then he stands a chance of winning. If there is a big concern, though, it's that he lost the two fights before his current winning streak, and both were at the hands of Tim Sylvia. Arlovski couldn't get past Sylvia, but Emelianenko sure did.
This is one of the toughest tests that Emelianenko has faced. He's getting older, and hasn't exactly been busy in recent years. All that being said, I still don't see a good reason to believe that the big man doesn't stay at the top of the heap after this one. Arlovski at his best still doesn't measure up.
Pick: Fedor Emelianenko
Josh Barnett (-600) vs. Gilbert Yvel (+400) - This match has high stakes because the winner is likely to get a shot at the winner of the main event. Barnett was set to be a massive star in the UFC after beating Randy Couture in 2002, but a positive test for anabolic steroids derailed that dream and sent him to Japan. He a solid fighter on his feet, but he is deadly when he hits the ground. He has won his last three in a row, but lost two of the previous three, so he isn't the model of consistency. Yvel is a grizzled veteran who is a master of the knockout - 30 of his 35 wins have come that way. He has won his last seven matches, but he has 12 losses on his tally, so he's far from untouchable. He's very good standing up, but he'll be outclassed if and when the match hits the ground. The price isn't very attractive, but it's very hard to go against the favorite here.
Pick: Josh Barnett
Matt Lindland (-175) vs. Vitor Belfort (+155) - Lindland hasn't fought since last July, and only has had three fights in the last two years, so it is hard to know what kind of shape he is in. It's also unclear how committed he is to the sport - he has dabbled in politics in Oregon recently as well. He won two of the three fights, with the only loss being a convincing one against Emelianenko. He is only barely average when he is on his feet, but he is very strong as a wrestler. When he fights Belfort he will have to watch the hands. Belfort is a solid but not overwhelming Brazilian fighter, but he has incredibly fast and effective hands when he is able to use them. He has won his last three outings. I expect this match to get ugly, and the tougher fighter will come out ahead in the end in a tough and potentially long battle. I hate backing so many favorites, but I think that Lindland is tougher and will come out ahead.
Pick: Matt Lindland
Renato 'Babalu' Sobral (-150) vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (+130) - If this outcome were based on pure ferociousness then you'd have to go to Sokoudjou. The problem, though, is that he has almost no stamina. If the fight makes it out of the first round then he is in trouble. Babalu is experienced and past his prime, but he is savvy enough to last a while here. That will give him an edge, and makes him attractive here.
Pick: Renato 'Babalu' Sobral