Yes, it’s the return of the column that’s currently 4-1, thanks to Rick ‘Bedtime’ Story. I’m if anything less confident about this week’s picks, but sheer luck dictates that I ought to get two right. So. The big question for Saturday is: has anything in Lyoto Machida’s notoriously karate-saturated upbringing prepared him for a fighter like Jon Jones? The part of me that saw Bloodsport when I was seven wants to say yes: it seems impossibly unfair that you could be trained in the martial arts from birth by a disciplinarian father and still get trounced by a big tall man who’s only been fighting professionally for three years. But…it’s tricky. Machida fights best when he’s out at range, and Jones’ pterodactyl-like wingspan can only cause him problems there. Machida knocks people out best when he catches them and then lets rip with the karate flurry, and I can see that being difficult with Jones. Jones’ striking isn’t the Anderson Silva-level stuff some believe - he leaves holes, he doesn’t like being in the pocket, and he literally turned his back and ran at one point in the Rampage fight - but against a counter-fighter, I think he’s less likely to be pressured into the sort of mistake that can take him out. I think Machida’s still much more dangerous than his fights against Shogun made him look, but I’ll say Jones, stoppage, round 3. I will, however, be praying to the karate gods that Lyoto’s been saving his secret exploding-fist punch for exactly this fight.
As for the other fights…staph or not, Nogueira is a much better fighter than he looked in his first bout against Mir, and I don’t think Mir’s smart enough to stifle him to a win. Lil’ Nog is trickier - he’s probably a better fighter than Ortiz, but he’s characteristically happy to let the fight happen wherever his opponent likes, Ortiz is tougher to sweep than Jacob Volkmann, and American judges think whoever’s on top is winning. Unless Ortiz decides to slug it out/let Antonio use his head as a pinata, he should take the ground-and-pound win. I can’t tell if Claude Patrick’s being built up as the next Canadian Hope or Ebersole’s being rewarded for forearm-smashing Dennis Hallman’s tiny dancer off pay-per-view, but whichever it is I think Ebersole’s just unconventionally vicious. And much as I would love to see Chan Sung Jung drop a locoplata on Hominick, I think the Canuck’s got the experience edge on him.
Final picks? Jones, Big Nog, Ortiz, Patrick, Hominick. May Fumio Funakoshi, badass inventor of all things shotokan, prove me wrong.