| Article Summary:
UFC 86 will be highlighted by the two coaches from TUF Season 7, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and the original TUF Champion, Forrest Griffin, doing battle for the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship of the World. The rest of the card is loaded with intriguing stylistic match ups and what should be some evenly matched fighters and interesting fights.
The event will take place in Sin City on Independence Day weekend. Let the fireworks begin!
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Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (27-6 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Forrest Griffin (15-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC)
The UFC's most colorful champion is on a 6-fight win streak and hasn't lost a fight in more than three years. That loss came at the hands of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, who knocked Rampage out in the first round.
Performances like that are exactly why no one gave challenger Forrest Griffin much of a chance when he was Shogun's first fight after signing with the UFC.
In storybook fashion, Forrest proved the naysayers wrong and choked Shogun out in the third round for the biggest victory of his young career. And to be clear, Forrest was dominating that fight from start to finish, so don't think this was a case of a lucky submission to pull out a victory. It was just icing on an already sweet cake.
In all fairness, Shogun looked terrible when he fought Forrest. He was uncharacteristically sluggish and gassing early and has had knee surgery since that fight, but a win is a win and he was no contest for Forrest that night.
Neither fighter has fought since September, 2007, so ring rust is a draw. Between the two, Rampage has a huge advantage on the feet and is widely regarded as the heaviest hitter in the light-heavyweight division.
With brutal punching power, ground and pound and crazy slams, Rampage clearly has advantages in those areas. Forrest, on the other hand, is the more well-rounded fighter, with solid submission skills, good stand up and strong takedown defense.
The downside for Forrest may well be his chin. It's hard to forget the images of Keith Jardine's brutal first round TKO over Forrest 18 months ago and Jardine's punching power isn't in the same league with Jackson's. I'm not counting Forrest out, especially after his performance against Shogun and his heart and conditioning, but I'm not sure that will be enough to offset the onslaught that Rampage will be bringing to the cage.
Ricardo Almeida (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC)
Patrick Cote (13-4 MMA, 3-4 UFC)
Welcome to a classic battle between two of the best middleweights in the UFC ... one a great striker, the other a world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt. They say styles make fights and that couldn't be more true with this one.
Patrick Cote, aka "The Predator", is on a 4-fight win streak, with the last three by impressive first-round knockouts over Jason Day, Drew McFedries and Kendall Grove. To say the least, he has heavy hands and holds a big advantage over "The Big Dog" if the fight stays standing. However, if the fight hits the ground, and I suspect that Cote will not be able to prevent that from happening, the entire tone of the fight reverses, big time.
Ricardo is a world-class BJJ stylist who has won multiple ADCC Submission Grappling Medals and is amazing on the ground from every position. His advantage on the ground over Patrick is much greater than his disadvantage on the feet.
When Cote went on his recent string of knockouts, his opponents were all bangers who were going to stand with him until someone got the better of it. Almeida has no intention of doing that and Cote will have to catch him in the stand up and display great takedown defense or he's in for a long night.
The last time Cote lost a fight was to Travis Lutter at the TUF Finale from Season 4. Almeida is more akin to Lutter in terms of fighting style, so the question will come down to how much he's improved in those key areas since then.
Joe Stevenson (33-8 MMA, 5-2 UFC)
Gleison Tibau (27-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
This is Stevenson's first fight since losing his attempt to claim the UFC Lightweight Championship against the best lightweight in the world, BJ Penn. Joe has great strength, great submissions and a ton of heart and will be coming out in this fight loaded for bear to try to get back to his winning ways.
In his way and coming off a 3-round decision loss to Tyson Griffin is Gleison Tibau, one of the biggest lightweights in the UFC, who will have significant height and reach advantages and could actually be the stronger of the two.
His longer arms and legs could cause problems for Joe when trying to take him down and he has a great BJJ game. However, most of his UFC fights have gone to a decision and if this fight goes the same way, it's more likely that the always busy, aggressive Stevenson will do enough to get a decision. But will it go to a decision? That's the question.
One other thing to keep in mind ... Joe's only other UFC loss besides BJ was at the hands of Josh Neer, a former welterweight who dropped down to lightweight with longer arms and legs and a big height advantage, similar to Gleison.
Josh Koscheck (13-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC)
Chris Lytle (35-15-4 MMA, 4-7 UFC)
What a difference a round can make. Go back to the TUF Finale of the Comeback Season where Chris "Lights Out" Lytle loses a controversial split decision to Matt Serra and who knows where Chris' career would be right now.
Go back to his recent loss to welterweight rising star Thiago Alves when the fight was stopped after two rounds because of a cut when he was winning the fight and things might look a little different for him. But, in facing Koschek, he has the opportunity to put himself back into the welterweight mix.
A former pro boxer, Chris has one punch KO power (just ask his last opponent, Kyle Bradley, if he remembers anything from the 33 second beatdown) and has never been submitted in his pro career.
That being said, I think Kos' intelligence holds the key to this fight. If he is smart and uses his superior wrestling to control Chris, keep him down, ground and pound and score points, I think he wins the fight. However, if he falls in love with his improving stand up and plays into Chris' strength, the advantage and the outcome of the fight can change in an instant.
If you don't think that can happen, more experienced MMA superstars with top-notch wrestling skills have fallen prey to the same mistake. Maybe you remember a guy named Matt Hughes who chose to stand with GSP in their second fight and found himself getting pounded out in the second round?
Tyson Griffin (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC)
Marcus Aurelio (14-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
After losing his UFC debut against Clay Guida, Marcus has reeled off two highlight reel first-round submissions coming into this fight. No one should be surprised ... he's a third degree BJJ black belt out of American Top Team, 2-time Brazilian champ in BJJ and two-time Pan American champion as well.
To say he has a submission advantage in this fight would be an understatement. His loss to the always active Guida was by split decision while Griffin beat Guida by a controversial split decision (many thought Guida won the fight).
Griffin has great ground and pound, strong wrestling and great strength with solid stand up. Hey, he's not 11-1 for nothing. Where this fight gets particularly interesting is the chess match that should take place on the ground. I've never seen a Griffin fight that didn't involve a lot of time on the floor and that's exactly where Aurelio is most dangerous. Which will win out ... Tyson's ground and pound or Marcus' submissions?
Are you ready?!