Using Infallible Logic (Tecmo Super Bowl) to Predict the 2013 NFL Wild Card Matchups

Tecmo Super Bowl Cartridge

To further unenlighten you, I employ the NES classic “Tecmo Super Bowl” to predict the stats, trends and memorable moments of the opening playoff weekend of the 2013 NFL season.

After realizing that I had just witnessed the final weekend of one of the most bizarre NFL seasons in recent memory,  I decided that I absolutely had to give lock-’em-down, signed-in-Sharpie picks for the entire second season. I’m starting with the Wild Card games.

In a season riddled (or blessed) with such excessive unpredictability, I wanted to provide something sure, safe and sound for the weary watcher. And because I feel that legitimate, thoroughly reasoned playoff predictions are far less disquieting than taking taking bets on which Pro Bowlers will pop their ACLs as they vie for the Lombardi Trophy, I turned to my old pal the NES.

On Friday, January 3rd, 1014, I let this classic machine do all the thinking so you don’t have to. (Well, not all the thinking, I represented one of the squads in each contest.) You are sincerely welcome in advance.

(5) Kansas City Chiefs at (4) Indianapolis Colts, AFC Wild Card, Saturday, 4:35 EST

Expect a scoreless first quarter to foreshadow the downfall of the once 9-0 Chiefs.

After Indy defers the ball until the second half, Kansas City will waste no time filling two plates at the A-Y-C-E Jamaal Charles buffet. The boys in red will promptly march down the field on their first two drives, but will sadly flail consecutive field goal attempts. The second miss will reinvigorate a Colts crowd that had been muzzled by a stingy KC run defense and few errant throws from Andrew Luck.

The Colts QB will bounce back like Jimmy Braddock and follow the second missed KC field goal with a TD bomb to T.Y. Hilton, his first of two on the day. Then, in an unexpected turn, one of the Chiefs’ upbacks—Knile Davis, most likely—will take the ensuing kickoff to the house (for the record, in the game this unlikely feat was accomplished by none other than the Nigerian Nightmare, Christian Okoye).

(At halftime, the game will be tied at 14 and you’ll be ready to stretch your legs and fill your tums. If you’re near College Park in Orlando, grab some Hubbly Bubbly grub. If anywhere else, pre-order a Jersey Mike’s Club Supreme with five minutes left in the second quarter. Either option will effectively absorb the six-pack of Anchor Steam you should’ve halved by this point.)

The third quarter (please note that I resisted the urge to use the word ‘stanza’ here, for reasons I cannot yet verbalize) belongs to the Baby Horses. Luck looks like a guy who could show the world a thing or two, while Chiefs QB Alex Smith looks like a guy who has fooled the watching world a few too many times already. Luck will find TE Coby Fleener for an easy touchdown grab and the game will be all but locked up at 28-14.

However, MVP candidate Charles will bust open a huge TD run to give long-deflated Chiefs fans a false glimmer of real hope. Charles is often called a ‘workhorse,’ but does that term really mean anything to anyone outside of New Mexico anymore? Let’s instead call him the ‘Weekend Kitchen Staff at Bonefish,’ because without this guy, what the hell do you really have? Overpriced, underwhelming drinks (Smith)? Boring yet functional brown paper table cloths (a tough, meat-and-potatoes defense that ultimately gets overpowered by determined opponents)? Oddly named menu options like The Angler’s Steak (DT Dontari Poe)?

In the end, the Colts win 28-21. and Charles begins to wonder if he’s the latest incarnation of an all-world RB forced to suffer the fate of a terminally mediocre team (think Barry Sanders/Steven Jackson/Curtis Martin on the Jets).

Bet these Numbers:

  • 0 turnovers, combined
  • Charles accounts for 200-plus yards from scrimmage
  • Colts RB committee nets about 81 yards, but comes through at the right times
  • Luck throws for 220 yards and  3 TDs
  • Hilton scores 2 TDs on 131 yards receiving

(6) New Orleans Saints at (3) Philadelphia Eagles, NFC Wild Card, Saturday, 8:10 EST

What’s that you say? The Eagles are red-hot? QB Nick Foles is interception-proof? The Saints always fall from grace on the road and  in the cold? Psssshhhawww.

Rob Ryan’s Kenny Vaccaro-less defense will pick off Napoleon Dynamite twice in the first quarter alone, doubling his season total and dooming the Eagles in a game where yardage will be tough to come by.

Foles’s targets will struggle to get open in the snow and the Saints defense will be fixated on shutting down superhero Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. ‘Shady’ will scrap for yards but will never scrape the goal line.

Saints QB Drew Brees won’t fare much better in the far-below-fair weather. His yardage total will pale in comparison to his season averages, but his favorite target—part-human-part skyscraper TE Jimmy Graham—will give him easy conversions in the red zone. The Saints, who will be without leading rusher Pierre Thomas, will lean heavily on former Heisman winner Mark Ingram and it’ll work out just fine because the Eagles defense is as toothless as a newborn or an NHL veteran—you decide.

In Chip Kelly’s playoff debut, his team in green falls short and Mark Ingram is nearly impossible to tackle (Ingram and his family can thank Craig “Ironhead” Heyward’s Tecmo likeness for this prediction), and the Saints D will seal the win with a safety in Foles’s last dropback of the day.

To the dismay of commentators and analysts who base all predictions on too-good-to-be-true trends, Brees and company win comfortable in the cold, 30-3.

bet these numbers:

  • Foles throws 2 INTs
  • Brees throws for less than 200 yards and 3 TDs
  • Graham grabs two just-let-me-go-up-and-get-’em TDs
  • Saints Coach Sean Payton gambles on an onside kick and loses
  • Chip smiles exactly zero times

(6) San Diego Chargers at (3) Cincinnati Bengals, AFC Wild Card, Sunday, 1:05 EST

If you’ve wasted your time listening to the analysts instead of busting out the old NES, then you likely believe that both of these teams will implode through some mystical combination of futility, poor management and historically meaningless data. Do teams from beautiful locales usually do well in hideously frozen towns like MightaswellbeKentucky, Ohio? No. But is the lifetime record 0-863?

Absolutely not. Which is why we play the (NES) game.

Quick side note: In Tecmo Super Bowl, the Bengals are QBed by Boomer Esiason, who is (literally?) virtually unstoppable. He’s right up there with Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in this game. They’re QB versions of Bo Jackson, though I wouldn’t dare call them his equivalent. Meanwhile, the Chargers have B.J. Tolliver under center, who might was well be the oldest McCown brother.

Moving on, the Bengals will show up to this game with bad intentions. They’ll pick off Rivers early, and the Cincy offense will cash in immediately with a 50-plus yard touchdown pass.

Marvin Lewis—who has tired of hearing about his teams being “soft”—will go commando and let ’em dangle in the far-below-freezing windchill by calling an onside kick on the following play. The Bengals will recover and the crowd will burst into a frosty frenzy.

In true Bengals fashion, they will fail to score on the ensuing drive.

Throughout the game, both Andy Dalton and Rivers will be able to move their teams. The difference will be the ability of the fellas in orange and black to step up as the field shrinks. The offense will strike when in range, and the defense will bend without breaking.

San Diego WR (and Offensive Rookie of the Year) Keenan Allen racks up the receiving yards, but will fail to make a crucial grab in the endzone. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews will break stuff and bust big runs throughout the game, but won’t stumble upon that fancy painted section until it’s far too late. To seal the deal, the ‘Red Rifle’ will score on a bootleg just to show BenJarvus Green-Ellis how unimpressive it is to be known for holding onto the ball while scoring TDs from an inch away.

Dalton flips his switch from hot to cold (at least temporarily) while Rivers’ escalating temper melts everything around him during the second half. The Bengals get that win they’ve wanted, and in impressive fashion with a final score of 42-10.

bet these numbers:

  • Dalton throws for a neat 299 yards and 3 TDs.
  • Dalton adds that running TD (I’m banking on that one!)
  • Manti Te’o get absolutely smashed on a blindside block, and takes a moment to wonder (from his back) why he so regularly fails to recognize the crushing blows headed his way
  • A.J. Green does what he feels like, to the tune of 175 yards receiving
  • Mathews runs for 128 yards and a late TD.
  • Bonus: After the game, Chargers S Eric Weddle immediately calls Jamaal Charles and asks if he’d interested in teaming up in search of a Super Bowl. In the offseason, they both decide to take their talents to the Dolphins.

(5) San Francisco 49ers at (4) Green Bay Packers, NFC Wild Card, Sunday, 4:40 EST

If the TSB gods have decided anything, then they have decided this: The Niners will obliterate the holy hell out of the Packers. You know how I know? This is the only game that I lost, and I didn’t just lose, I was dismantled in every facet except defending PATs.

That’s right. The only thing I did successfully as the TSB Green Bay Packers was block three San Francisco extra point attempts. I could say that I also blocked a field goal, but they promptly recovered it and ran it in for their first TD of the game. I don’t even know if that’s legal in the NFL, but it happened, so it will happen Sunday afternoon. With the undoubted help of RB Eddie Lacy’s bum ankle, the 49ers will quash the Green Bay running game into some sort of hyper-regionalized myth (“I swear I saw it, officer…I saw it last Sunday with my own two eyes!”)

This game will not—I repeat, will not— be a close affair. I like Packers QB Aaron Rodgers as much as the next football fan, but I also fail to ignore TSB decivsieness. The Niners utilize the legs of RB Frank Gore and QB Colin “Chicken Run” Kaepernick and a plethora of Green Bay turnovers to dominate in a 46-0 win.

Quick side note: I recognize how terrible this makes me in terms of video game ability. To clarify how bad things were, I was playing on preseason mode. I’ll leave my pride right here, so I know where to find it in case I ever need it again.

bet these numbers:

  • Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter run for 1 billion yards
  • 49ers score 2 special teams TDs (one on their own aforementioned blocked field goal, and the second when they kickoff to the Packers, jar the ball loose and then saunter into the endzone)
  • Kaepernick completes 55 percent of his pass attempts
  • A Niners DT scores a TD on a strip-sack fumble recovery
  • 49ers WR Michael Crabtree cataches a 35-plus yard TD

Resulting Divisional Matchups

NFC

  • (6) New Orleans Saints at (1) Seattle Seahawks
  • (5) San Francisco 49ers at (2) Carolina Panthers

AFC

  • (4) Indianapolis Colts at (1) Denver Broncos
  • (3) Cincinnati Bengals at (2) New England Patriots

Oh the story lines! San Francisco and New England looking to avenge regular season losses! Peyton gets another crack at his old team! Brees and company look to continue defying the odds–and their own history–by taking down the 12th man in Seattle!

Tecmo Super Bowl has spoken, now let your voices be heard in the comments. ‘Til next time.

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Trivial ’90s: Peaches, Preston and the Phantom for Your Nostalgic Pleasure

Excuse me for playing the VH1 card, but I love the ‘90s.

The decade once-removed molded me into the all-over-the-place bro I am today (yielding both guilty pleasures and an embarrassingly self-assured love for Nicktoons).

As tribute, I shall spread the love for the decade that guided me from four to 14 with forgotten music videos, gawdawful film (clips) and other media that best represent my interpretation of the blessed ‘90s.

Music Videos You’ve Almost Certainly Forgotten

First up, I see no better way to kick off anything ‘90s-related than with some good-old ninja fighting. You’re welcome in advance.

If you’ve permitted yourself the sin of forgetting “Peaches” by the Seattle-based Presidents of the United States of America, then you’re deserved of a night-ending triple punch. The PUSA—featuring a possibly Samoan, more slender Jack Black on drums—rocked the simple chords and catchy hooks as hard as Weezer, but with a lot more next-door-neighbor style.

Hence, they received much less love. Shame.

Movies Only a Privileged Few Would Actually Enjoy

The title doesn’t make sense. The premise had been done 6,314 times (even back in the Nagano Olympics days). And it starred the ever-buxom Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Give up?

No, it’s isn’t “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, it’s the much edgier “Can’t Hardly Wait.” A film about a 1,461-day crush (math adjusted for leap year) that further segregates fictional high-school graduating classes as nerds, jock, stoners, hotties, and overzealous yearbook hounds. Thanks to Seth Green, there’s also a group of white guys doing their best impression of black guys.

Two portions of this movie always stand out to me, and neither involves Barry Manilow or LoveBurger.

Siggy from “What About Bob?” all grown up, belting out GnR’s classic “Paradise City.” Even better? The I’ll-be-the-band-dudes! guy introducing the song. Love the drum thrust.

Prestoooooooooooon.

Sadly enough, one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. Never realized Jason Segel played the guy getting down on that watermelon.

Maybe because he wouldn’t be relevant for the next nine years. Or because he wasn’t whipping out his dong. Either way.

People You Knew Existed Solely Because the ‘90s Wanted You To Know

The douchiest character from the biggest movie of the decade.

Remember Billy Zane? I’m sure you didn’t care if you forgot him, but you’re welcome again. Before playing Caledon Hockley in “Titanic,” he was “The Phantom.”

Since then?

He’s starred in “Leprechaun’s Revenge,” “Sniper Reloaded” and “The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption.” And that, kids, is why you don’t move to Hollywood.

‘Til next time.

UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans: Predictions

Image

UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans is finally happening, so I’m returning from a long layoff. Hopefully, my predictions will be on-point enough to fend off the rested-or-rusty argument that so often accompanies off- time in sports.

Enough chit-chat, let’s get all nitty gritty. Same scoring as always (3,2,1; Winner, Method, Round, respectively).

On to the fights.

From CagePotato.com

I don’t regularly involve myself with the preliminary card because I don’t have a whole lot of access to some of the guys making their UFC debuts. Predicting prelims with yet-to-be-known fighters is like ordering at a Greek restaurant for the first time, which typically makes the predictor – me – look somewhere between foolish and ignorant. I prefer to stay away.

Today, though, I’ll make an exception because I’ve been away two months-plus. You deserve some extra words anyway.

Mac Danzig def. Efrain Escudero, Submission (RNC), Round 2

A toss-up of two Ultimate Fighter champions who grew into UFC D-listers, Escudero isn’t well-rounded enough to take out the vengeful vegan. Also, I could never put my money on a dude nicknamed “Hecho en Mexico” over a ginger named Danzig. Never ever.

John Makdessi def. Anthony Njokuani, KO (punch), Round 1

When two swing-for-the-fencers get matched up, one of two paths are trod: immediate KO (yay, blood!) or eye-gougingly dull circle fests. Most title contender bang-bang match-ups become yawners. Fortunately, both these guys are far outside the 155-lb. top 10 and have little to lose. And both are coming off losses. They’ll get after it early, and Makdessi’s huge head – and strong chin – will be the difference.

Stephen Thompson def. Matt Brown, Submission (RNC), Round 2

Both fellas have boring real names, and recognizable nicknames. “Wonderboy” will land a thunder-clack anvil punch, leaving “The Immortal” at death’s door, andfrom there, will take the glassy eyed Ohioan’s back and choke him out. Immortal? Tell that to your 11 – soon to be 12 – losses.

Travis Browne def. Chad Griggs, KO (punch), Round 1

In a match-up of would-be/probably-were nightclub bouncers, I take the Hawaiian tribal tatt over the lamb chop sideburns. God help us if this gets to round three.

To the main card!

Mark Bocek def. John Alessio, Decision (Split), Round 3

Two 155-lb. grapplers to lead off a PPV? I hope they get some good rolls and transitions in, because the casual fan will be bloodthirsty coming off the Browne-Griggs tilt. I go Bocek because, unlike his opponent, he’s never lost to Jonathan Goulet.

Mark Hominick def. Eddie Yagin, Decision (Unanimous), Round 3

Burn me once, Hominick, shame on you. Burn me twice, I’m never effing picking you again. Even if Goulet drops a weight class to fight you and your hematoma.

Michael McDonald def. Miguel Torres, Decision (Unanimous), Round 3

This was a toughie. Torres,31, has fought anyone and everyone. McDonald, 21, has been fighting as pro since he was 16. Both have been KO’d once. Both have submitted, KO’d and won going the distance. The difference is that McDonald is growing and improving, while I think Torres is slipping into the Rich Franklin, gate-keeper phase of his career. He’ll face McDonald and other young up-and-comers —and defeat most of them—but those wins won’t get him back into title contention.

McDonald lands crisper strikes more consistently, opens up Torres’s scar-tissue-laden forehead and wins over the Atlanta fans and judges.

Eventually, Torres, Diego Sanchez, Jon Fitch, Nate Marquardt, Chris Leben and Cheick Kongo will retire to No Man’s Land, with only a single Toby Keith song as their collective playlist.

Brendan Schaub def. Ben Rothwell, KO (punch), Round 1

This will be a … wait for it … a Schaub-erknocker.

Despite my lover for Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt, it’s no secret what’s happened when the chubby fellers have taken on the typical brick-shithouse heavyweights. Nelson has been pummeled by every top-tier fighter he’s faced. Hunt is no anomaly: He’s a streaky brawler along the lines of Houston Alexander or Drew McFedries. He has connected in two of his last three fights, but before that he lost six straight.

Rothwell, himself a plumper, will ingest every cubic inch of Schaub’s vengeful paw, setting up a bout between Travis Browne and the … wait for it … Schaub-erknocker.

Rory MacDonald def. Che Mills, Submission (armbar), Round 1

Rory MacDonald is the scrawny pale kid in the TapOut shirt who catches shit from surly rednecks watching UFC at the Ale House to validate their own toughness. Conveniently, he’s also the scrawny pale kid who strips them of their drunken confidence by introducing their remaining teeth to drywall, tile and an oaken bar top.

Mills has a solid background and has notched consecutive KOs, but MacDonald beat himself for his only loss. He’s a beast-in-disguise who can—and will—win anyway necessary.

Rory takes an arm home, and, this summer, brings it to the Octagon for his fight with Diego Sanchez.

Jon Jones def. Rashad Evans, Unanimous Decision, Round 5

Ahh, the big one. The soap opera. The feud. The media fodder. I’ve waited so long for Jones to jar a few of Evans’ teeth loose.

It’s too bad it has taken so long because the “ESPN Effect” has taken hold. ESPN no longer provides the smartest, most informative overall sports coverage; they just provide the most coverage (read: every conceivable opinion).

Since the buildup for this fight has lasted about a year, every ESPN talking/shouting head has shat his or her opinion on this fight.

In an effort to repeat the same opinion (Jones will win!) in an original way, ESPN.com’s MMA writers have begun their predictions by saying what Suga ‘Shad must do to avoid a loss, only to inevitably pick Jones. Por ejemplo:

Franklin McNeil(2:14): (paraphrasing) Evans must close the distance, or Jones will batter him with his length. Evans will fail and thus, lose.

Josh Gross (2:57): To be effective, Evans must keep his offense simple and land quality strikes early (like Machida was able to against Jones). Gross also says people shouldn’t be so surprised if Evans pulls it off. He says that Evans has the wrestling to neutralize Jones, the footwork to frustrate him and the hand speed to hurt him. Yet his money is on Jones.

Brett Okamoto (3:57): Says Evans can win because he trained with Jones and has an insider’s advantage. Okamoto also says that, because Jones has mentioned moving to heavyweight later in his career, that he may be overlooking Evans (suuuuurrrre). Okamoto also mentions that we’ve never seen Jon Jones fight off his back. He astutely backs this up by saying, “he probably can.” Sure enough, Okamoto picks Jones as well.

I’ll keep this sweet since I can’t keep it short.

Rashad comes out looking good, Jones looks calm but Mike Goldberg calls him tentative or hesitant. Jones feels Rashad out for a round, but looks like he may be at risk at points during the first. Round 2 commences, and Jones has his range and timing down. He dominates the rest of the fight, opening Rashad’s forehead with a ghastly elbow.
‘Shad toughs it out, loses a dominant five-rounder, and looks like Jon Fitch after his title bout loss.

After the decision, they hug, say stuff us fans don’t care to believe, and I sleep peacefully knowing that surly rednecks are pissed that the “arrogant kid” is still light heavyweight champ.

‘Til next time.

UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit: Predictions and Declarations

The Ultimate Fighing Championship on Fox, while groundbreaking and conceptually awesome, is serving as little more than oddly timed commercial breaks and grounds for me to say I told you so. I nailed down each of the main card winners (scoring 15 of a possible 18), but the event was mediocre at best.

Diaz being Diaz.

A promising, mouthy Phil Davis looked skiddish against Rashad Evans. I’ll give credit where due: Evans looks like he’s reentering his own personal beast mode, even if his uppercut wasn’t connecting. Chael Sonnen underwhelmed, but still pulled a Bisping on “The Count.” I thought Bisping looked the better man, but whether it was the Peoples-Mazzagatti system of logic, revenge for Matt Hamill’s loss at UFC 75 or the lust for a Silva-Sonnen rematch, Sonnen took the decision and delivered a walk-off post-fight interview.

This Saturday, the main card has me drooling for fireworks. Reigning Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz and linear king of the WEC 170-lb. mountain Carlos Condit will scrap for the interim rights to the UFC’s welterweight strap. Fireworks, blood and middle fingers will fly. The would-be grapple fests between heavyweights Roy Nelson and Fabricio Werdum, and welterweights Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce will satisfy your Ancient Roman cravings,too.

Best part of it all? Rogan and Goldberg will have to dig deep to summon new ways to say old things.

We’ll hear “punches in bunches” and “world-class grappling” and “great chins” and “he’s rocked!” so often that the broadcast duo will bust out the reserves: “great punch volume” and “fluid transitions” and “showing great heart” and “…and he’s looking to finish!” Then those, too, will wear out, forcing the dense-on-his-feet Goldberg to say things like “he’s swingin’ like a pissed-off kitty cat” and “these dudes are all over each other” and “Is Mazzagatti fucking blind?” and “this is so much more exciting than watching GSP!”

To say the least, I’m pumped. This card has lots of promise. Let’s hope none of that potential gets wasted on Peoples’ decisions and Mazzagatti stoppages. Same scoring as always (Winner – 3 points, Method – 2 points, Round – 1 Point, get them in order to get them all).

On with the picks.

Clifford Starks def. Ed Herman, TKO (punches), Round 1
This is a toughie. Susceptible veteran against a UFC sophomore who hasn’t lost, but whose opponents have a combined 22-22 record?

Herman is versatile and experienced enough to hang with anybody, and he comes from a good team, but I can’t help but see him, stuck in a Demian Maia triangle, getting rolled onto his back until he falls asleep. Starks stays unbeaten, and earns a shot at someone known for more than being an Ultimate Fighter runner-up.

Renan Barao def. Scott Jorgensen, Submission (Armbar) Round 1
Simple: Take the guy who finishes over the guy who decisions. The younger, slicker Barao will get in tight, grab a limb and take it home with him.

Josh Koscheck def. Mike Pierce, Decision (Split), Round 3
Remember last weekend? When two wrestlers headlined? They weren’t on the ground all that much. This’ll be a lot like Evans-Davis, but Pierce – playing the role of Phil Davis – won’t slip every time he throws.

They’ll circle, Koscheck will load up his power punch, and Pierce will try to shoot. After a round of Koscheck stuffing his takedowns, Pierce will ditch the wrestling and look for the TKO.

Pierce has four losses (Johny Hendricks, Jon Fitch, Nathan Coy and Mark Muñoz, all by decision), while Koscheck has five (two to St. Pierre, Paulo Thiago, Thiago Alves and Drew Fickett).
This feels like a whoever-lands-first kind of fight, but I doubt either man will land the kill shot he wants. The wrestlers will take few risks and fight smart, with Koscheck earning the split nod and a grudge match with Hendricks, who recently tuned up perennial second-placer – and Koscheck teammate – Jon Fitch.

Roy Nelson def. Fabricio Werdum, TKO (punches), Round 1
I repeat, two grapplers does not a mat match make. If these guys want to test the BJJ against one another, they’ll do so outside the Octagon.

Nelson has six losses (one TKO, five decisions), and Werdum has four (one TKO, four decisions). Nelson’s last seven wins have been (T)KOs. Of his last seven wins, Werdum has finished six.

The difference? Werdum has been collecting limbs instead of scalps. Nelson will rebound with a victory to match his gut. Werdum won’t be able to submit the game “Big Country.” His return to the UFC’s winner’s circle will have to wait.

Nick Diaz def. Carlos Condit, Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 4

“The Natural Born Killer” against a dude who very well may be a killer. I cannot wait.

It’s for the welterweight belt and a match with Georges St. Pierre later this year. Condit has won four in a row – three straight TKOs – against upper-echelon opponents. And excluding a doctor stoppage, Diaz hasn’t been beaten since a decision loss to Sean Sherk back in 2006. Diaz has never been submitted, and Condit hasn’t been knocked out.

This one comes down to the championship rounds, and as much as I like Condit, he’s only been to the championship rounds once, and it wasn’t against a guy with Diaz’s boxing, cardio and mean streak.

Diaz will get hit, but Condit will eat punches buffet style. Condit will look good when he lands, but for every one he lands, he’ll eat four. Twenty minutes into the fight, Diaz will look battered but fresh. Condit will look bloody and fading. Diaz will wear him out in the fourth, and floor him with a combo.

Then, he’ll attack from the top until he can take Condit’s back, sink the choke and flip off the crowd as a only a Diaz can.
While Rogan asks how he felt about the performance, he’ll call GSP a pussy and us bloodthirsty fans will get all giddy when they square off in the Octagon. (Hopefully, Mayhem Miller will stay the hell out of the way.)

The good news for Condit? A Fight of the Night bonus and a bit of time off before facing a surging Brian Ebersole.

After this, we’re set for a few solid grudge matches: Faber-Cruz III, GSP-Diaz, Silva-Sonnen and Jones-Evans, not to mention Edgar-Henderson and Dos Santos-Overeem. Yup, 2012 is looking good.

UFC on Fox 2: Evans vs. Davis: Predictions, Guesses and Chael Sonnen’s UFC Championship Belt

Sonnen's manufactured belt

When reality shows and pre-fight press conferences get shoved down our throats to make us care about the personalities of guys we would rather watch simply beat the tar out of each other, there exists one problem: We actually start caring.

Why else is tonight’s card so publicly relevant? It is not because it’s on Fox. Though the second network UFC broadcast will help the sport of MMA gain even more momentum, fight fans probably care more about saving $49.95 than the possibility of having to explain side control to a clueless neighbor.

The brilliant piece of this event – and what makes us care, aww – is the number of polarizing fighters the UFC has strung together. Like them or hate them, these Ultimate Fighter alumni and press conference dominating motormouths are the reason we decide to watch. We listen to their crazy, though sometimes substantiated rants, and decide whether we’ll be this guy’s secret underdog fan, or scream at the TV for him to get clocked, go limp and try to wrestle Herb Dean as his opponent backflips from the top of the Octagon fence.

On a card full of known taints, Rashad Evans is easily the greatest of them. He’s been mainstream the longest, he fights the least and he whines the most. Sonnen’s verbal diarrhea is entertaining. Bisping’s Liverpool accent and ceaseless chatter is like a cheese grater across the kneecap. As coach on TUF, he delivered two unendingly annoying stints, but at least he was brutally KO’d by the cauliflower-headed Hendo, and then, against Mayhem Miller, he manhandled a more irritating wretch than himself.

But Evans drives me up a wall. He’ll wait for his title shot, he says, because he wants to make his fights count. Then, after sitting out more than a year, he gets hurt last minute and whines that someone else — former teammate Jon Jones —leapfrogs him. Evans, pretending to be a good teammate, says he has Jones’s back, until he wins. Then Jones becomes a “fake.” I want these two to fight already, that way Jones can shut up Evans up at least momentarily, or Evans can earn the same respect from fans that he so adoringly gives himself.

Enough. Same scoring as last time (3 points for winning fighter, 2 for method of victory, 1 for round of victory). Only three main card fights for this one, so think of this as an appetizer for Diaz-Condit Super Bowl weekend.

On with the picks.

Chris Weidman def. Demian Maia, TKO (punches), Round 3
As much as this hurts, I’m going against one of my favorite grapplers. I feel like this is a Thiago-Koscheck rerun, with Weidman playing the part of Paulo Thiago, with a bit more potential.

Weidman impressed in his last fight, putting “Filthy” Tom Lawlor to sleep with a Brabo choke. Maia, on the other hand, briefly fell in love with his stand-up since being taunted by Anderson Silva. Since losing to the champ, Maia had boxed to decisions in three straight fights, until leaning back on his grappling against Jorge Santiago. He seemed awfully unsure and guarded for someone who made his name going for broke in the submission game. He is too pillow-fisted to win consistently on his feet.

I think Weidman weathers Maia’s early storm, and manages to stay off his back. Then, late in the fight, Maia will eat a huge paw midway through the third, like when he jumped straight into Nate Marquardt’s fist back at UFC 102. Weidman gets his second huge win in three months, and step up in competition, I’ll guess Rousimar Palhares.

Chael Sonnen def. Michael Bisping, Decision (Unanimous), Round 3
Let’s say two things too few people are saying right now: 1.) Bisping’s only chance to win is to submit Sonnen, but — through 15 UFC bouts — has never had a fight end in a submission. 2.) Sonnen gets everyone on the ground, keeps them there and relentlessly pounds their faces.

Sonnen, as susceptible as he has been to submissions from the bottom, has traditionally lost to (borrowing Joe Rogan’s favorite phrase) world-class grapplers. Anderson Silva, Demian Maia, Paulo Filho, Jeremy Horn, Babalu Sobral, etc.

Given that Bisping hasn’t submitted anyone in the Octagon, this would be an nice start, but it isn’t happening. Sonnen dismantled a red-hot Brian Stann last time out. All the cardio in the world won’t help Bisping stop Sonnen.

Plus, I cannot go against a guy brings his own championship belt to the prefight presser. Sonnen’s Ali impression is nothing short of fantastic, especially when he says he stole the belt from Anderson Silva like a “gangster in the night.”

Rashad Evans def. Phil Davis, Unanimous Decision, Round 3

Unless Evans is on his game, this will be a snoozefest. Rashad will look to defend takedowns, because you know what he looks like off his back? A goner. Davis will get him there, but I don’t think he’ll make the best of it.

Rashad will jab, circle and defend the takedown well, but I can’t see him trying to mount too much offense (thank you, Greg Jackson). He wants his shot at Jones too badly to risk becoming the guy who reveals to the world that Phil Davis can actually knock somebody out cold.

Davis, while a winner, has seemed too one-dimensional. He was timid with his hands against the aging Lil’ Nog. He athletically overwhelmed Tim Boetsch. He finished Alexander Gustafsson back in April 2010, but the Swede doesn’t have Rashad’s high-level experience and background.

Rashad wins a relatively boring fight, and we all get to wait for Jon Jones to handle hip-toss his right out of the cage in July.

Prediction for UFC Rio: Aldo vs. Mendes

I won’t take too much time to thank myself for nearly calling a perfect pay-per-view last go-round. However, I will shake the hand of all waiting in line for my calling the first-round devastation of the buzzkill that is Jon Fitch. I shouted and fist-pumped right along with the rest of the TapOut-adorned crowd, and I didn’t give one tiny bit of a damn. Fitch lost, and I effin’ lost it.

With the impending retirement of “Baby Jay” Penn, limbo of Clay Guida and decline of Forrest Griffin, I seem to have room at the top of my favorite fighter list. I’m looking at you, Johny Hendricks. Tell your beard he’s invited, too.

On with the picks.

Edson Barboza def. Terry Etim, Unanimous Decision, Round 3
Unless Etim has been drinking Tasmanian devil blood, he’ll drop this one. It’ll be close, but he’ll drop it.

Etim, a Brit, has notched a number of submission victories, but most have come after he knocked the piss out his opponent, then slapped on a rear naked like a Christmas bow. As killer as his instincts ate, I’ve seen him outclassed at times in the UFC (See: Tibau, Gleason). That was a few years ago, granted, but Etim is still a middle of the pack lightweight who is a bit too slight of frame to throw death-dagger punches like a Sam Stout or a Melvin Guillard.

His opponent, Barboza, has some dirty leg kicks and his boxing is cereal-sans-milk crisp. The Brazilian last struggled with TUF Season 9 winner Ross Pearson – who has never been knocked out – but he dropped enough bombs to knock Pearson back to the days of finger painting. Barboza will weather Etim’s early storm and notch a third consecutive decision victory.

*Bonus prediction: Dead front leg, a swollen eye and Fight of the Night honors.

Erick Silva def. Carlo Prater, Unanimous Decision, Round 3
Silva last lost via decision five years ago. That ain’t changing Saturday night.
Silva is solid all-around. I’ve only seem him fight once, so I can’t really say what he’s best at. To me he fights like a stronger, more athletic Kenny Florian (without a nose beckoning to be destroyed). He impressed in his fight against Luis Ramos, but Ramos was a UFC nobody. His sophomore effort comes against a veteran – of fighting, not of the UFC — who owns a few solid wins.

Prater has 40 career pro fights, and he holds wins over Carlos Condit (2004), Spencer Fisher (2004) and Melvin Guillard (2003). He has the look and build of a fighter, but the record of an average athlete. I YouTubed a few highlight videos of him to get a sense of his fighting style. Snoozefest.

It was like watching a highlight reel for a long snapper.

Given the lack of quality footage and info on Prater, I’ll make this call as fairly as I can: Silva trains with the Nogueira brothers. Prater’s camp keenly calls itself “Thugjitsu.” Hmmm.

I’ll take the up-and-coming Silva to wreck Prater’s UFC debut. A solid, entertaining contest but a decision for Silva.

Rousimar Palhares def. Mike Massenzio, Submission (armbar), Round 1
Massenzio is one of the fellers you see in the middle of the card every few months and think,”I know the name, did I go to high school with that guy?”
Chances are if you know the name but no fights ring a bell, he’s a solid, but boring, average UFC competitor. Sure enough, he has gone 2-3 in the UFC, gaining the loss trifecta (losses via TKO, Sub and Dec) along the way. His most impressive feat was submitting Drew “My-first-fight-was-a-TKO-loss-due-to-exhaustion” McFedries by Kimura back in 2008. Massenzio will not pull to .500 with this matchup.

Palhares looks like the lovechild of Big Nog and Mark Muñoz. He has lost only three times in his career: Once was his third career fight, two were by decision and two were to former UFC middleweight contenders (Hendo and Marquardt). He submits punchers, wrestlers, kickboxers and even other Brazilians. The only folks he can’t submit are quality American grapplers (Dan Miller, Jeremy Horn). What he certainly doesn’t do is lose to also-rans like Massenzio.



*Bonus Prediction:
Submission of the Night honors.

Anthony Johnson def. Vitor Belfort, KO (punch), Round 1
I hope this slobberknocker turns in a simultaneous hook, whoever’s head hits the mat first double-KO because that’s what we’ll need on the heels of two decisions and an arm tug.

I’ll keep this as short and sweet as this KO of the night fight is sure to be: Belfort’s hands once looked Oregon fast and ‘Bama powerful, so Johnson game plan like he did for Dan Hardy and take the lay-and-pray route. I don’t think he pulls it off in the bigger weight class. Belfort with a first round KO.

Those were my initial thoughts. But after going back to some Rumble Johnson footage, my gut is telling me to take the former welterweight. Johnson smashes Belfort’s jaw with a Thor’s Hammer right, first-round KO.

Jose Aldo def. Chad Mendes, TKO (punches and kicks), Round 2
Aldo has been – for him, and what I’ve come to expect from him – less than impressive lately. He’s one of sport’s best strikers, he’s fighting in his home country and he has floored plenty of wrestlers like Mendes. His cardio will be better than it was against Hominick and his killer instinct won’t be missing like it was against Florian.

Mendes is Urijah Faber-lite. He fights on Faber’s team, in his old weight class and uses his speed and conditioning to wear other fighters down. If he wants out of Faber’s six-inch shadow, he’ll be on the lookout for the leg kicks Aldo used to chop Faber down to the booster seat bunch. Mendes’ best chance is to channel his inner Chael Sonnen, and hope Aldo comes in with bruised ribs. The Team Alpha Male standout is powerful, but if Faber couldn’t get his hands on Aldo, neither will he.

Aldo will test the waters for a round, his adrenaline will kick in as the crowd cheers his name. After Mendes attempts a flying knee, he’ll get pissed and handle his business.

If this one gets boring goes to decision, expect news regarding a change in weight class for a big-name fighter, possibly Anthony Pettis.

*Bonus Prediction: Knockout of the Night honors, and a glassy-eyed Mendes trying to wrestle the referee post-stoppage.

UFC 141 Predictions: Git you some, Brock.

The holidays ain’t no time to work on a fight-pickin’ column.

On top of ringing the register in an hectic retail setting, I battled – correction, am still battling – a daytime, sniffling, sneezing, sore throat so-I-can’t-taste-my-food sinus implosion. And then there’s travel. Drive back home to drive around the hometown seeing the friends and family who make that hometown what it is. (Sorry to all I missed, the phantom girlfriend and I shall return by the end of January. Amends will be made.) Then drive back to Orlando to take down Christmas decorations both at home and at work, continue battling cold, accommodate visiting drunkards and try to enjoy the college bowl season despite the fact that my team is barely an also-ran.

There’s my excuse, you hyenas, so now let’s make some abridged picks. We’ll score it the same as last time, unless I pick as poorly as last time, in which case I won’t tally any points and you’ll have to break a mental sweat to bust my balls.

Jimy Hettes def. Nam Phan, Submission (rear naked choke), Round 2
Phan’s a fan favorite from the Ultimate Fighter who has twice gone to war with Leonard “The Human Punching Bag” Garcia. Jim Hettes is an undefeated submission bad ass who most recently gave the anaconda treatment to Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres. I want to go with Phan because I’m more familiar with him, but he’s kind of a wild card. You could call him well-rounded, I call him all-over-the-place. And you could call Hette – who has finished all nine of his pro fights by submission – a one-trick pony. Well I’ll take a pony with a trick over trickless one. Hettes sweeps, takes Phan’s back and sinks in the rear naked.

Alexander Gustafsson def. Vladimir Matyushenko, TKO (punches), Round 1
What happens when a pinless hand grenade is dropped onto a whirring table saw? A big effin’ noise, I reckon. These two bastards are have been on a tear. Gustafsson has finished three straight in the Octagon since getting choked out by contender Phil Davis. Matyushenko KO’d two chumps since being handled by 205-lb. champ Jon Jones .

In your classic Swedish-Belarusian tilt, here’s what I foresee:
Round One:
5:00 – 4:45: Circle, circle, self-face-tap, circle, circle, duck, circle, circle, shoulder stretch, circle, circle, circle, one guy briefly jumps in place.

4:44 – 4:00: A jabless storm of leg kicks, haymakers and hooks that leaves one Gustafsson rocked, on queer street, in a world of hurt. You get the the gist. He turtles, pulls guards, and somehow survives.

3:59 – 3:32: Matyushenko slows his assault from the top, avoids half-assed submission attempts and the fight is stood up. Circle again, fellers.

3:31 – 3:28: The Swede lands a big shot – let’s guess it’s a good ol’ right hook that lands smack on Matyushenko’s ear. The Janitor drops.

3:27 – 3:06: Gustafsson trounces the older Belarusian, as Joe Rogan explains why the stoppage is controversial while Mike Goldberg asks him to clarify what a stoppage is.

Johny Hendricks def. Jon Fitch, KO (punch), Round 1
There’s sensibility and then there’s my hatred for Jon Fitch’s fights. I feel like the only way to derail Fitch’s lay-and-pray train is by catching him with a knee as he shoots or by throwing standup mediocre enough to confuse his cheekbones into hurtling into your fist. Hendricks feasibly could pull this off. So I’m going with it.

Donald Cerrone def. Nate Diaz, Unanimous Decision, Round 3
A few weeks ago, I saw a list of the best fights of 2011 and I was legitimately confused. Did this list-compiler not realize what was on the horizon? Sure Dec. 30 is pretty late in the year, but it’s still technically 2011, right? Diaz is the guy who tried to fight the entire Ultimate Fighter house. Cerrone calls fighters out pretty much every time he hits the Octagon. His hatred of Cole Miller and Jamie Varner is pretty well publicized. The only potential matchup more volatile than this would be Chael Sonnen versus Junie Browning versus Matt Serra.

Obviously this Fight of the Year list maker failed to comprehend this aspect. Lucky for me, my head isn’t buried in the sand. I was not the least bit surprised to hear that Diaz, when approached for a handshake by Cerrone, slapped Cowboy’s hand and called him a punk ass. Then, at the pre-fight press conference, Diaz swatted Cerrone’s cowboy hat clean off his head. These are two crazy bastards with Mel Gibson tempers. It shall be a good one, but I give the edge to Cerrone, who has been heating up, while Diaz can’t seem to win the big one.

Alistair Overeem def. Brock Lesnar, TKO (punches), Round 1
I can’t stomach Lesnar. He’s a massive, powerful, athletic ox of a dude — I get it, so was Tony Mandarich. But he’s not a mixed martial artist. He can pull it off if he gets Overeem on his back quick and keeps him there, but that’s it. Lesnar has shown that he can’t hang on his feet. Velasquez demolished him. Carwin bludgeoned him until the ‘roids wore off (or lactic acid, whatever his excuse was ).
Unless Overeem’s (alleged) steroids fail him as well, the Dutchman will tee off on the five-gallon bucket Lesnar calls a head and finish this bout in time to shower and catch LMFAO at his after-party. Big tree fall hard, Brock.