by Matt Rogers - 10/07/2005
Tonight the UFC returns to the Mohegan Sun Arena with UFC 55: Fury. This event features a card with more UFC first-timers than any other in recent memory, with the sole championship match being a defense of the heavyweight title by Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Paul Buentello
In the marquee bout of the evening, Belarusian fighter Andrei "The Pit bull" Arlovski (8-3) defends his UFC heavyweight title against Paul "The Headhunter" Buentello (19-8).
Arlovski is a heavy favorite in this fight at -400 versus Buentello's +320, and for good reason. This match-up is due less to Buentello's performances in the UFC than to the lack of viable heavyweight opponents for Arlovski. With former champ Frank Mir still mending a broken leg, there is no legitimate challenger currently under UFC contract.
Arlovski is superior to Buentello in virtually every facet of the game - striking, groundwork and wrestling - and is a much better overall athlete. Buentello's one shot at victory is his puncher's chance. He hits hard, has a good chin, and his punches come from a variety of angles.
But will that punch land? Probably not. Arlovski's the smart bet here, unless you're the type to play the lottery. He'll defend his title for the second time.
Forrest Griffin vs. Elvis Sinosic
Forrest Griffin (11-2), winner of the 205-pound division on the "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show, takes on former UFC vet Elvis Sinosic (6-7-2) in the co-main event. Griffin was originally scheduled to face London-based mixed martial artist Ian Freeman, but Freeman was forced to pull out due to injury. Current odds have Griffin a heavy favorite at -330, with Sinosic listed at +270.
This match-up was set to provide Griffin, a fighter the UFC wants to groom carefully, a chance to display his skills against a challenger that has some degree of fan recognition but will offer no real threat. Sinosic fits the bill perfectly.
Sinosic hasn't been seen in the UFC since July 2002, lost has last three UFC fights and hasn't been remarkably active in the meantime. His only real advantage over Griffin is that he is slightly more adept with submissions, but if Sinosic does not get the sub early in the fight he probably won't get it at all.
The UFC should get what they want with this fight - another win for Forrest Griffin.
Chael Sonnen vs. Renato Sobral
In a light-heavyweight bout, team Quest's Chael Sonnen (13-6-1) takes on Brazilian UFC veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral (25-5). This will be Sonnen's first fight in the UFC, and Sobral's sixth.
Sonnen is strong and talented and comes from an elite camp, but Sobral is clearly the better overall fighter, as the odds show: Sobral -330, Sonnen +270. Both men are talented wrestlers, but Sobral is the more effective striker and is far more advanced with submissions. In addition, Sobral has much more experience in bigger shows and has faced better competition. Sobral will find a way to beat Sonnen.
Brandon Lee Hinkle vs. Sean Gannon
In a heavyweight battle, Brandon Lee Hinkle (12-6) takes on underground fight celebrity Sean Gannon (1-0). This will be the first trip to the UFC for both fighters.
Gannon is best known for a well-publicized underground bare-knuckle brawl against street fighter Kimbo Slice in which Gannon was victorious but came out looking like Sloth from "The Goonies." The fight reportedly jeopardized Gannon's career as a police officer. Hinkle, on the other hand, has been competing professionally since 1998 and has victories against several tough opponents such Tom Sauer and Jorge Rivera.
Currently the oddsmakers have this fight even at -110 for both fighters, but a clear advantage goes to Hinkle in this fight. He is every bit as tough as Gannon, has way more experience in bigger shows, and possesses a much higher level of wrestling ability, having spent much of his career as a member of the Hammer House. The only advantage Gannon has in this fight is size, as Hinkle would probably be better suited as a light- heavy weight. The win goes to Hinkle.
Dennis Hallman vs. Jorge Rivera
In a middleweight battle of UFC vets, Dennis Hallman (34-10-2) takes on Jorge Rivera (11-4). Both men are coming off losses in their last UFC appearance, but both have been successful outside of the UFC, Hallman winning six of his last seven fights and Rivera winning three of his last four.
This match-up is a classic example of striker vs. grappler, with Rivera bringing an explosive stand-up arsenal to the table and Hallman bringing a super-slick set of submissions. If Hallman is at the top of his game he could catch Rivera in a submission, but he has a tendency to be inconsistent in his performances. Rivera, however, provides steady, workman-like performances in all of his fights.
The winner of this fight is hard to call; a slight advantage goes to Rivera. However, with the odds favoring Rivera at -220 and Hallman at +190, Hallman is the best underdog bet on the card.
Joe Riggs vs. Chris Lytle
In the sole welterweight bout of the evening, Joe "Diesel" Riggs (22-6) will battle Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (20-11-5).
Joe Riggs is the favorite in this fight at -175 to Lytle's +155, which is consistent with Riggs' advantages over Lytle. Both men are excellent strikers, but Riggs has far more power than Lytle and is much stronger. Lytle is certainly better on the ground with submissions, but he doesn't have the ability to consistently take Riggs to the ground. If Riggs is smart he will stay away from the ground, keep it on the feet, and score the knockout.
Ron Faircloth vs. Alessio Sakara
In a battle of UFC rookies, Alessio Sakara (8-3) of Brazil takes on Ron Faircloth (17-11) in a light-heavyweight match-up. Oddsmakers have Sakara as a slight favorite at -150 and Faircloth at +130.
Faircloth is a tough, hard-nosed fighter and has more overall experience but Sakara is the slicker of the two. If Sakara fights a smart fight he should get the win, but it is a very even match-up.
Keigo Kunihara vs. Marcio Cruz
Another bout of two UFC newcomers, Keigo Kunihara (3-1) takes on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz (0-0). Cruz is favored heavily at -400 to Kunihara's +300.
The presence of these two heavyweights on the card speaks volumes on the lack of depth within the UFC heavyweight division, as neither fighter has done much within the mixed martial arts world. This is Cruz's first fight, having earned a spot solely on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu credentials.
Cruz obviously possesses an excellent ground game, but many questions remain in regards to his ability to strike or take the fight to the ground. However, Kunihara's style matches perfectly for Cruz, since he is also primarily a grappler. Cruz should take this one, but there are too many unknowns about his game to support such heavy favoritism.