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The Three Biggest Fights of 2008 UFC Fans Want to See

By Robert Rousseau, ExtremeProSports.com
When the PRIDE organization went under, a surplus of mixed martial artists became available. Since the UFC is the number one MMA organization on the planet today, of course, many of these fighters ended up signing with them. What did this do?

It left us with tons of matchups to consider.

In fact, there are so many MMA matchups available, it's really hard to knock things down to only three. But that's what ExtremeProSports.com is after. So let's just say that these matchups are ones that no hardcore MMA fan would turn their back on.


Sean Sherk vs. B.J. Penn for the UFC Lightweight Championship

Sean Sherk has the best cardio in the UFC Lightweight Division. He's as strong as an ox. He's also got fast hands and underrated boxing skills.

That said, he's about ground and pound, a style that lends to his outstanding wrestling skills.

But then came the suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Now there are a lot of questions that need answers.

B.J. Penn has excellent, top five caliber, boxing skills for the lightweight division. He's also very tough and always looks to end fights, not win them via decision. But it's his ground skills that make you shake your head in awe.

Penn is an elite jiu jitsu/ submission fighter. The best in the business at this weight. He also possesses some of the best takedown defense, due to balance and flexibility, in the division.

The negative? In the past, he's gassed against bigger fighters like Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre. That said, it's looking like he's been taking training seriously in recent days as his dominant victories over Joe Stevenson and Jens Pulver would seem to attest to.

If B.J. Penn were to win: If we assume that Sean Sherk will come back to this fight in the same kind of shape he's always been in, a decision will be difficult to take home. These guys are both pretty good on their feet and are very tough. So a knockout is always possible, but unlikely. Thus, it's going to boil down to Penn's submission skills versus Sherk's takedowns and ground control.

If Penn wins, it will likely be by submission within the first three rounds.

If Sean Sherk wins: We're talking a ground and pound decision victory here where Penn wilts under the pressure in the later rounds.


Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Randy Couture is currently holding out on the UFC, as everyone knows. Still, this was the fight that the organization offered him. So, let's break it down.

Randy Couture is the best in this division at taking opponents down and controlling them, period. In other words, he's a ground and pound nightmare that somehow continues to be able to dominate people in this fashion even at his advanced age.

Couture is also one of the best in the clinch. In terms of submissions/ jiu jitsu, he's improved. . . however, this would represent a relative weakness. His stand up at a distance is solid, particularly from a defensive perspective. But he's not as dangerous from there as he is in close.

Thus, if you can make Randy Couture fight from a distance on his feet, as Chuck Liddell was able to do twice, you have a chance. Further, he's also proven susceptible in the past to fatiguing against larger fighters in the past.

That said, Couture's been nothing short of amazing during his career.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is tough as nails. He's extremely good on his feet, as he has trained with the Cuban National Boxing Team. He's also got great cardio.

And he's as good as there is in his guard with submissions and jiu jitsu.

Here's the thing about Nogueira, though. He was dominated by Fedor on two separate occasions. Even manhandled. Couture is not as strong as Fedor. But he does have better wrestling skills. So could Randy Couture do the same to the Brazilian fighter?

If Randy Couture were to win: He would close the distance quickly, get Nogueira in the clinch where he couldn't utilize his boxing skills as effectively, and maul him there. Eventually, he would take Nogueira down and dominate him in ground and pound fashion, avoiding submissions along the way.

We're talking a decision victory or TKO due to a cut borne form elbows on the ground, a weapon that Nogueira still isn't used to seeing or using.

If Nogueira were to win: Unless he gets off a big time punch, which is doubtful as Couture is good defensively, Nogueira will end up on his back in this one. That's where the chess match would begin.

Nogueira could win this match up in two ways. First, by getting a submission from his back, something that he is fully capable of. Second, by turning his opponent over in the later rounds and getting one from that position.


Takanori Gomi vs. B.J. Penn: Just for kicks, let's go old school: PRIDE (former, anyway) vs. UFC. Gomi lost the first fight between these two. Would he lose one now?

Takanori Gomi is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, stand up fighters in the lightweight division. His reflexes are cat- like and his power is legendary.

Further, Gomi has solid wrestling skills, including takedowns and takedown defense. When he has someone in trouble due to something he did while standing, Gomi is certainly capable of ending the fight via submission. However, his weakness can be found on the ground where he has only good submission defense, not great. Further, he is not impossible to take down, even if he does make it hard.

B.J. Penn-well, we said it all before on him. He's got excellent hands. But his bread and butter are his outstanding submission and jiu jitsu skills.

If B.J. Penn were to win: The last time these two fought, Penn took Gomi down at will and had him in trouble with submissions almost the entire fight. That's how it would look if he won this time, as well. Further, don't be surprised if Penn got in some good shots standing as Gomi would be tentative- concerned with being taken down- which would hurt him on his feet.

If Takanori Gomi were to win: There's only one chance. Takanori Gomi's takedown defense has improved since these two fought last. If he were able to thwart Penn's takedown attempts and keep this one standing, eventually he would likely gain the advantage (though Penn is not an easy out on his feet, either). Gomi has the power to end almost any fight with one punch, even one against one of the tougher guys in MMA in Penn.

But it's no doubt a tall order keeping B.J. Penn off. Thus, that's where the battle would likely be fought.

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