Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Asked to make his customary prediction for which bout would earn Fight of the Night honors this weekend, UFC President Dana White declined at Wednesday afternoon’s UFC 125 press conference at MGM Grand.
As White looked down the podium at each of the 10 fighters that will make up the five main card bouts, he couldn’t narrow it down.
“These are great fights,” White said. “I expect big things out of all of them Saturday night. This might be the first time ever I’m not picking Fight of the Night. I have no idea.”
While some have opined that UFC 125’s Main Event between lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and No. 1 challenger Gray Maynard isn’t as exciting as a usual headlining fight, no one is complaining about the quality of the card as a whole.
Chris Leben, widely considered one of the most electrifying middleweights, takes on fellow striker and ex-Marine Brian Stann in the co-Main Event. Brandon Vera and Thiago Silva will fight to keep their jobs in a light heavyweight battle.
Rounding out the pay-per view lineup are two fights with international flair. Submission guru Nate Diaz takes on unbeaten Korean Dong Hyun Kim in a welterweight bout, while former Pride legend Takanori Gomi challenges fan favorite Clay Guida.
“This is why all these guys are here,” White said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever held a press conference where I’ve had so many fighters at the conference. This is a great card with a lot of great fights that really mean something. There’s going to be some wars here, ladies and gentlemen.”
Here’s a quick breakdown of the four fights that will precede Edgar’s rematch with Maynard.
Leben feels refreshed after enjoying a full training camp in preparation for Stann.
Leben wasn’t able to do that before his last fight in July. He memorably fought twice in two weeks after Wanderlei Silva had to pull out of a scheduled fight against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 in July.
Leben filled in for Silva and won his second bout in 14 days. He hasn’t fought in the five months since and said a normal schedule has been an advantage.
“My camp was the best it’s ever been,” Leben said.
Although Leben enters as the favorite, he admitted Stann had the power to be dangerous. This weekend will mark Stann’s second fight as a middleweight after he dropped from the light heavyweight ranks last year.
In his first middleweight bout, Stann submitted Mike Massenzio via triangle choke in the third round.
“He’s an excellent fighter,” Leben said. “I like his style, and our styles are going to match up nicely. I think come Saturday night when me and Brian get in there, you’re going to have a fireworks show.”
Humbling would be an understatement for what Vera experienced his last time out.
Jon Jones knocked Vera out in the first round of a fight last March with a perfect elbow. Vera broke three bones in his face and had to take extended time off for surgery that included inserting metal plates around his eye.
“My face doesn’t hurt,” Vera joked. “I don’t even notice it unless I walk through a metal detector.”
Vera has lost two consecutive fights. Likewise, Silva has dropped two of three with losses to Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida.
“Thiago has been off for a minute and I know he’s got something to prove,” Vera said. “He’s going to come at me and I know I’m going to give it to him.”
Dong Hyun Kim keeps moving his way up the ranks and hasn’t yet lost in 13 career fights.
He’s a slight favorite over Diaz, who probably doesn’t agree with that assessment. Diaz said he looked at the bout against Kim as a stepping stone to get to where he wanted to be.
“It’s going to get me through to the next fight,” Diaz said. “But he is on a win streak. It will be a good win.”
White felt like he needed to correct that comment later in the press conference.
“Nate Diaz said this is just a fight to get him through to the next fight which isn’t true,” White said. “Diaz has been on a tear and Kim is undefeated. That’s a great fight.”
Leave it to Clay Guida to make sure UFC 125 isn’t all together devoid of any trash talk headed into Saturday.
Guida had some choice words to describe his feelings heading into the battle with Gomi.
“I’ve been looking up to him for years and now I get to look down at him when I’m helping him off the mat after some ground and pound,” Guida said.
Guida, known for his wrestling, has won two straight and says he won’t stop until he receives a title shot. Gomi is a renowned boxer who knocked out Tyson Griffin a minute into his last fight.
“It’s your classic wrestler vs. striker,” Guida said. “I’m going to take him down where I know I can win the fight. That’s what got me here.”