UFC 75 Previewing the Undercard
Sept. 4th, 2007
by Bryan Teal
At the top of the UFC 75 undercard is Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic versus Cheick Kongo. Both fighters are known for their superb kickboxing skills. Cro Cop (6’2″ 220 lbs. 22-5-2) hails from Croatia and holds notable wins over Kazushi Sakuraba, Heath Herring, Igor Vovchanchyn, Alexander Emelianenko, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett (three times), Hidehiko Yoshida, and Wanderlei Silva. Kongo (6’4″ 240 lbs. 20-3-1), from France, possesses much less experience on the big stage, but holds wins over Assuerio Silva and Christian Wellisch. Odds supplied from 5dimes (offering MMA parlays and over/under total rounds)
Kongo is the 2004 and 2005 Federation King of the Ring World Champion Netherlands, 2004 Muay Thai World Champion Kosovo, and 2005 Federation King of the Ring World Champion Croatia kickboxer. His training for this fight has been with Michael Bisping, Brandon Vera, and the UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, among others. Cro Cop, on the other hand, although widely considered to be the better of the two kickboxers, doesn’t hold any championships in kickboxing. He did, however, win the Pride FC 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix in very convincing fashion, disposing of Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett in about eleven minutes total at Final Conflict Absolute. Cro Cop has been training with Remy Bonjasky, Dean Lister, Ivan Hyppolite (his new coach) and Gilbert Yvel, who beat Kongo a few years ago. The training has been focused mostly on stand up fighting which seems like a smart strategy considering both fighters’ backgrounds. The fight will probably be a striking war, with neither fighter having to worry about subs, although Lister is one of the best BJJ guys around, so it kind of seems like Cro Cop could be going for the unexpected submission. I see Cro Cop taking this fight. As for betting; Kongo (+320) is the better value bet, having the ability to end the fight quickly, but Cro Cop is probably the safer bet, even at -390.
In a fight that many TUF fans expected to see at the end of the third season, Michael Bisping (6’2″ 205 lbs. 14-0) takes on Matt Hamill (6’1″ 205 lbs. 5-0). On paper and in many’s minds, this fight is a mismatch of skill sets with Bisping known as the striker and Hamill the wrestler, but each have improved in their respective weaknesses. In my opinion, neither fighter holds any impressive victories, but some would argue that Eric Schafer and Elvis Sinosic are solid wins for “The Count.”
Hamill, who trained with Tito Ortiz at Team Punishment for a while, is now at his own gym in Utica, New York. This move doesn’t give me much confidence in a victory for Hamill, especially considering that “The Count” has been training with top level fighters such as Cheick Kongo, Brandon Vera, and “Rampage” Jackson, among others in Big Bear and at Wolfslair Academy in England. Jackson’s wrestling should give Bisping a lot of help in neutralizing Hamill, and Vera’s Muay Thai and BJJ should help round out his arsenal.
This will definitely be Hamill’s toughest fight to date. Bisping has said that he sees this fight as a step down in competition. I believe if he can stay focused and take the fight seriously, he will win and hopefully will get to fight someone everyone can agree is a top LHW contender.
Houston Alexander makes his return to the Octagon after knocking out Keith Jardine to face Alessio Sakara. Sakara, who fights out of the 360 Combat Club, is known for his boxing, but is also versed in BJJ. Alexander, who fights out of Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing and Fitness Center in Omaha, is primarily a kickboxer, but can also wrestle. These two fighters’ styles seem to match up well and should result in an exciting fight. Personally, I think Alexander (-200) will win, but if you are a bettor, Sakara (+170) might be your man in this one.