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UFC 84: Ill Will Preview

UFC 84: Ill Will will be coming to us all live on Saturday from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once again, the UFC has outdone itself by putting together three huge fights on the same night: B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk, Lyoto Machida vs. Tito Ortiz, and Wanderlei Silva vs. Keith Jardine.

Enough said. Now let's get to the preview.

The last time we saw B.J. Penn in a cage with Sean Sherk, the legendary Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter had the following to say:

"Sean Sherk, you're dead."

Well, now it's time to show the world that he meant those words. Penn is certainly capable, as his 12-4-1 overall MMA record with four (T)KO's and five submission victories will attest to. Further, he's taken on a ton of upper echelon guys including Matt Serra (decision victory), Lyoto Machida (decision loss), Georges St. Pierre (decision victory), Matt Hughes (one win, one loss), and Jens Pulver (one win, one loss), amongst others. The reason why he's been able to hang on and in many cases defeat such stellar foes is that he's as well rounded as they come.

We're talking about some of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the world has ever seen coupled with very strong boxing skills. Heck, even his takedowns, takedown defense, and ground control skills are up there.

Inevitably, though, when B.J. Penn's name is mentioned the world begins to remind you of the way he gassed against Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes, the latter fight of which he was also suffering from an injury.

But Penn didn't look like he was about to gas against Joe Stevenson in his last fight, now did he?

Sean Sherk lost his UFC Lightweight Championship after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Up until that point, he was looking pretty unbelievable, as his 31-2-1 overall MMA record with eight (T)KO's and 12 submission victories would seem to attest to.

In the end, Sherk is a cardio freak with awesome takedowns, takedown defense, and power. He also possesses better striking than people give him credit for, utilizing his stand up to get into position to take his opponents down much like Randy Couture utilizes his famed Greco- Roman clinch to do the same.

But Sherk's problems have also been well- documented. Despite having won 15 of his last 16 fights, he has been unable to stop his last three opponents. On top of it all, people are wondering if his famous cardio will take a hit after testing positive for steroids.

In the end, expect Sherk to be the same fighter we've become accustomed to seeing. Though Penn will win the fight for as long as it's standing, don't expect this one to stay upright for very long as Sherk's takedown attempts will prove to be too much to avoid. And once this fight hits the ground, expect Penn to score points by going for submissions early on. Is it possible that he might win the fight via submission in these initial stages?

Yes. But if he doesn't, expect the third round to be the stanza to watch. If Penn has enough gas to win that round, he should win the fight via decision. If not, this one will go Sherk's way as his cardio will win out in round four and five. So. . .

It's a tough call, but Penn should win this one via decision based on his recent commitment to being the best he can be, if not by first or second round submission.

Perhaps just as alluring as the B.J. Penn- Sean Sherk bout is Wanderlei Silva's second Octagon battle, this time against Keith Jardine. The last time we saw Silva, he showed the heart we've all become accustomed to seeing. However, he also looked rather small next to Chuck Liddell.

Guess what? Keith Jardine is a pretty big guy as well. Further, he has a lot of power, is very tough, and utilizes his legs like battering rams from a distance.

Perhaps the last word from the former sentence is the key to this fight. Distance. Wanderlei Silva is widely considered to be awesome in the clinch and inside where his flurries can be very damaging, if not unorthodox. But if Jardine can keep him at a distance then the fight will go his way.

Forget ground skills in this one. No one wants to take the fight to the canvas.

This is another tough call?aren't they all?? and Keith Jardine certainly could come through with a knockout here. But Silva has been training hard?I mean hard?for this one. And the last time Jardine got suckered into a brawl against Houston Alexander, things didn't go well for him.

Figure on Wanderlei Silva winning by knockout in the second round. But don't bet on this one.

In another rather huge battle, Tito Ortiz, perhaps in his last UFC fight, is set to take on Lyoto Machida. Ortiz is still one of the best wrestlers in the light heavyweight division, possessing awesome power and some of the best takedowns, takedown defense, and ground control in the division. Further, when he gets opponents to the ground he tends to pound the daylights out of them.

But recently, he's been gassing late in fights. Could that be due to injury, his new Hollywood lifestyle, or is it simply an aberration?

From a stand up perspective, Ortiz is good technically but probably isn't going to knock anyone out on his feet.

Lyoto Machida is undefeated for a reason?he's as technical a striker and fighter as there is. Along with this, he has elite stand up skills and is able to utilize his entire body to score points while minimizing any damage that opponents can do. Furthermore, he has enough power to put you to sleep if you make a mistake.

On top of it all, Machida has solid takedown defense and better than average jiu jitsu skills.

Figure that Ortiz will have enough to put Lyoto Machida on his back in this one early. From there, we're going to find out a lot more about this man that trains with Anderson Silva. Is he tough enough to survive the onslaught? You never know until he does. But the best guess is that he will be able to.

Then the question becomes, will Ortiz tire, just as he did against Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans, so that takedowns are harder for him to come by?

Hard to know, but the best guess right now is yes. Thus, expect Machida to survive an early onslaught to win on his feet by points later in the fight.

THE REST

Wilson Gouveia vs. Goran Reljic:
Gouveia's knockout victory over Jason Lambert made me a believer. Besides, he has more experience in big market events, as this is Reljic's Octagon debut.

Gouveia wins via TKO in round three.

Antonio Mendes vs. Thiago Silva:
Expect this to be an outstanding fight. That said, Silva is one bad dude.

Thiago Silva wins via TKO in round three.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura: Nakamura is tough, but he's just not as athletic as his competitor.

Sokodjou via unanimous decision.

Jon Koppenhaver vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida: Koppenhaver is tough as nails. But he may be taking on a guy here that's just as tough with a little more skill.

Yoshiyuki Yoshida wins via submission.

Rousimar Palhares vs. Ivan Salaverry: Palhares is great on the ground. Salaverry is technically strong everywhere. But I just have a feeling that losing two of his last three will hurt Salaverry's psyche coming in.

Rousimar Palhares wins via unanimous decision.

Dong-Hyun Kim vs. Jason Tan: Kim is supposed to be very good.

Dong-Hyun Kim wins via TKO in round two.

Terry Etim vs. Rich Clementi: Etim is very good. But Clementi is one tough hombre that's been fighting with a chip on his shoulder lately. Oh yeah, and he's also the better striker.

Clementi wins via second round TKO.

Shane Carwin vs. Christian Wellisch: Tough call.

Shane Carwin wins via TKO.