UFC 108 will go down Saturday, January 2nd in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first UFC of the new year sees the roster in disarray, with many of its top draws out for a number of reasons. But Heavy.com will have full coverage of the event, starting with our preview and predictions below.
Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva
An unprecedented string of injuries to UFC 108 participants resulted in this bout being tabbed as the main event to what is traditionally the UFC's biggest show of the year. And while it's not an ideal main event to hook pay per view buyers, this fight does have implications for the light heavyweight title picture.
A victory for both Evans and Silva virtually ensures they are no more than one bout away from a rematch with champion Lyoto Machida. Win or lose, Evans will face Rampage Jackson in a long-awaited grudge match after this bout, but a victory here would likely turn that bout into a contender's match. A Silva victory probably won't ensure a title shot in his next fight, but it puts him near the top of the list.
Evans will seek to keep this fight standing. He's a fantastic wrestler, but his jiu-jitsu is nowhere near the black belt Silva holds. Evans has been training jiu-jitsu with Renzo Gracie in preparation for this fight, but a few months of training, even with one of the legendary Gracies, won't prepare him for what Silva brings to the table in the grappling department.
Despite his ground skills, I suspect we'll see Silva gladly accept a striking war with Evans. "Sugar" will no doubt be the much faster fighter here, but Silva hits incredibly hard and with great precision. He also has an immense killer instinct and is an absolute predator in the cage. Rashad Evans is a better athlete and perhaps even a better overall fighter, but I think we're going to see a reinvigorated Silva take the fight to Evans and finish this early.
Prediction: Thiago Silva by TKO (round two)
Dustin Hazelett vs. Paul Daley
Semtex is a general-purpose plastic explosive that is used in commercial demolition and military applications. It's the perfect nickname for Paul Daley, a British fighter who may be the best pure striker in the welterweight division. Daley made his UFC debut in September with a shocking TKO victory over Martin Kampmann in a bout many believed to be nothing more than a stepping stone for Kampmann on the way to a title fight with Georges St. Pierre.
Daley will be in the cage with Dustin "McLovin" Hazelett, a submission wizard with a knack for earning "Submission of the Night" honors. The Jorge Gurgel black belt holds a significant advantage on the ground over just about any fighter, but even more so over Daley. If he's able to get the fight to the ground, Hazelett would instantly become a gigantic favorite to get the victory.
Unfortunately for Hazelett, I don't see him withstanding Daley's ferocious striking attacks long enough to take the fight to the mat. Daley's striking game is too technical, too accurate and too powerful for Hazelett to overcome.
Prediction: Paul Daley by KO (round one)
Joe Lauzon vs. Sam Stout
The eldest of the fighting Lauzon brothers comes into this bout riding a two-fight win streak. His last loss came at the hands of Kenny Florian in early 2008, but he defeated Kyle Bradley and Jeremy Stephens to get back to his winning ways. The Ultimate Fighter season five contestant has career victories over Jens Pulver and Mike Thomas Brown.
Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout has been a UFC mainstay since 2006, when he defeated Spencer Fisher in his debut fight for the company. Stout has won a few and lost a few, but is a virtual lock to have one of the most exciting fights on any card he participates in.
Stout is a strong competitor and has plenty of heart, but he's no match for the tools Joe Lauzon brings to the cage and will lose a decision. Stout won't go home empty-handed, however, as this fight should be a candidate for Fight of the Night honors.
Prediction: Joe Lauzon by decision
Jim Miller vs. Duane Ludwig
This bout is a perfect example of just how badly the UFC 108 card was plagued by injuries. Miller was originally booked to face Tyson Griffin in the show opener, but Griffin pulled out of the fight with an injury. Griffin was replaced by Sean Sherk, but Sherk pulled out of the bout due to a nasty cut on his forehead that required stitches. Needing a late replacement, the UFC turned to Duane "Bang" Ludwig, a UFC washout known equally for having the unofficial fastest UFC knockout in history (four seconds) and for losing as often as he wins.
The Bas Rutten-trained Ludwig may be an exciting fighter, but even Jim Miller should easily outgun him here.
Prediction: Jim Miller
Junior dos Santos vs. Gilbert Yvel
This should be the most exciting fight on the card, and it will probably be the shortest. Junior dos Santos has left a trail of destruction in his wake during his brief tenure in the UFC. The Rodrigo Nogueira-trained Brazilian sent Fabricio Werdum packing from the UFC and nearly sent Mirko Cro Cop into retirement.
But he's stepping in the cage with the man known around the world as "the dirtiest player in the game." Seriously, Ric Flair has nothing on Gilbert Yvel. During his 36-13 MMA career, Yvel has:
1. Been disqualified for biting an opponent
2. Raked his fingers across Don Frye's eyes. Also pushed his thumb into Frye's eye to avoid being taken to the ground.
3. Punched a referee in the middle of a fight
It's a miracle that Yvel is able to fight in Nevada at all. He was denied a license back in 2007 because of his history of poor conduct, and many assumed that Yvel would never fight in Nevada again. The NSAC changed their mind in October, however, granting Yvel a one-fight license.
Yvel is a devastating striker. He's one of the best heavyweight strikers on the planet, and there's a distinct possibility that he could knock dos Santos out cold. But I suspect that Nogueira has prepared "Cigano" to take the fight to the ground, where he'll have a huge advantage in the grappling department. Nogueira has been saying for months that dos Santos has a killer ground game, but we haven't seen it. If dos Santos is smart, we'll see it early and often in this fight.
Prediction: Junior dos Santos by submission (round two)