Sherdog Preview: Gearing up for “Art of War”

Sep 1, 2007



ANARCHY! WATER! GANGSTER-FU! 80'S CARTOON SUPERSTARS!

If only SUN Management had focused on an "Art of War" marketing campaign like that, more people would be plunking down their hard earned cash for this card and ignoring that silly unification match the UFC keeps on advertising.

Those who do spend the greenbacks however will get to see whether or not wind really can slice open Pedro Rizzo (Pictures)'s skin, the effects of water poisoning on PPV audiences and the match that will hopefully lead to Jason Maxwell (Pictures) finally getting his shot at B.J. Penn (Pictures). People, am I the only one who thinks this needs to happen?

Read on for more delusional attempts at matchmaking, baseless accusations of witchcraft and as always, some solid MMAnalysis thrown in for all you fans that actually expect me to add something worthwhile.

Long known as MMA's favorite -- and only -- anarchist, Jeff "The Snowman" Monson has made a career out of using a more authoritarian approach come fight time. Against Pedro "The Rock" Rizzo, Monson would be best served keeping the Pierre-Joseph Proudhon dissertations to himself. Never known as a lightning rod for controversy, Rizzo is instead known for rearranging more faces than the riot police at a NAFTA protest.

One of the few active mixed martial artists left who was forged in the fire of actual Vale Tudo competition, Rizzo has seen a career once marked by great potential fall into a tailspin. Boatloads of anticipation accompanied Rizzo's debut for PRIDE FC but one-sided losses to Sergei Kharitonov (Pictures) and Roman Zentsov (Pictures) had many wondering whether, at just 33 years old, Rizzo had seen his best days.

Although a recent unanimous decision win over Justin Eilers (Pictures) saw Rizzo claim the Art of War heavyweight title and bring his record to 15-7, the hourglass may be running out of sand as Monson looms large on the horizon. A gifted grappler who is known for his suffocating top control style, Monson will have to overcome Rizzo's sprawl and still potent striking if he is to add another win to his 23-6 ledger.

There was a time when this match would have been a glorified tee-ball session for Rizzo who always seemed to thrive against opponents either too foolish to take him down -- paging Josh Barnett (Pictures) -- or simply incapable of doing so (Dan Severn (Pictures) still feels those leg kicks). Time has taken its toll on Rizzo, while Monson appears to be as strong as ever at 34 years old.

Not known for having a particularly aggressive style, Rizzo won't enjoy the luxury of waiting for Monson to throw the first punch as he is far more likely to charge headfirst in search of a takedown. While I wouldn't be surprised to see Rizzo land a few of those trademark leg kicks, Monson will gladly take them if it means scoring consistent takedowns and controlling the fight on a round-to-round basis.

This fight will be about as exciting as a four-hour lecture on anarcho-syndicalism, so as the bout wears on look for Monson to impose his will on Rizzo with takedowns and steady, if unspectacular, ground-and-pound. Keeping in mind Rizzo has more facial scar tissue than Seal, this could quickly turn into a Rob Zombie movie.

In keeping with the western philosophy theme, the melting snow will erode the immobile rock. Monson takes home the title thanks to a doctor's stoppage TKO in the third round. First the heavyweight title, then the capitalist pigs….at least Monson has his priorities in order.

Jeremy Horn (Pictures) vs. Jorge Santiago (Pictures)

Looking to make his debut in MMA's century club, Jeremy Horn (Pictures)'s already impressive record of 79-15-5 has earned him his status as one of the sport's preeminent veterans. The man looking to spoil the occasion for Horn will be fellow UFC veteran Jorge Santiago (Pictures) who would love to pull a John Wilkes Booth and take out an elder statesman.

Known by many for his time as a welterweight in King Of The Cage, Santiago actually managed to find success in the middleweight division despite having the kind of wiry physique that would make Ronnie Coleman contemplate suicide. Luckily, MMA is not about flexing your muscles regardless of what Ryuta Sakurai (Pictures) thinks.

With a 13-7 record to his name, Santiago has proven his worth against quality competition and is coming off an impressive win over Red Devil product Andrei Semenov (Pictures). Horn has stayed true to his reputation as MMA's premier nomad, bouncing around the map and building a name for himself as a middleweight despite coming up short against the likes of Matt Lindland (Pictures) and Anderson Silva.

Considering Santiago lacks a singular attribute he can use to overwhelm Horn with, he'll find himself dealing with Horn on Horn's terms. When Horn is able to gauge his opponents and pick them apart, he becomes one of the most efficient fighters in the sport. While Horn was known for the occasional brain lapse early on in his career, we've seen a much more focused version of Horn over the past few years.

If Santiago is going to make something happen against Horn, he'd likely be best served trying to keep Horn at a distance where the size disparity would not play a role. Ideally, Santiago would stand just outside the pocket and patiently chip away at Horn with a steady diet of jabs and leg kicks.

What makes that scenario unlikely is Horn's improved striking and the fact that if pressed, Horn has the option of taking this fight to the ground since Santiago is lacking when it comes to defending the takedown. This fight will unfold like a John Carpenter movie for Santiago, as the occasional bit of hope is quickly snuffed out by the oncoming existential horror of a well rounded Midwest boy.

This should be an entertaining fight early on but look for horn to start neutralizing Santiago's offense and in turn, take over the fight. The Century Club will accept its newest member with a victory as Horn puts away Santiago with a rear naked choke late in the second round.

Ron Waterman (Pictures) vs. Mario Rinaldi (Pictures)

Not only does Ron "H2O" Waterman own one of the most redundant nicknames in all of sports, he is also one of MMA's senior citizens clocking in at 41 years old. This time around, Waterman's opponent will be someone unfamiliar with the shuffleboard circuit as Mario "Big Hurt" Rinaldi is looking to send Waterman to the local retirement center.

Dubbed the "Big Hurt" for a reason, Rinaldi tips the scales at 280 pounds and looks more like a sumo than mixed martial artist. While Rinaldi may appear as if he headed down a few buffet lines in his time, he has compiled a solid 5-1 record and surprised many with his athleticism and strong jiu-jitsu skills -- think Chris Farley, just replace the drugs with some jiu-jitsu training.

Physically, Waterman is more gym rat than SNL star thanks to a vigorous training regimen and a background in bodybuilding. Already more than eight years into a MMA career that has seen him fight all over the world, Waterman knows full well that adding another win to his 13-5-2 record could be another step towards establishing himself as one of the sport's top super heavyweights.

While Waterman is looking to cement his reputation, Rinaldi is simply looking to steal a win and make a name for himself in front of a PPV audience. To do so, Rinaldi will have to overcome Waterman's notoriously passive style, which has frustrated both fighter and fan alike. The most obvious route to overcoming Waterman's top control-athon would be to avoid the takedown altogether but this may not be an option considering Rinaldi isn't a particularly strong wrestler and relies more on his jiu-jitsu and striking to get by.

The key here is whether or not Rinaldi can either find a way to hurt Waterman on the feet or use his jiu-jitsu game to dictate the action on the ground. Normally, I'd take the guy who actually has more than one offensive option available to him but this is the world of super heavyweight MMA. The standard rules do not apply when you're dealing with guys who should probably just hit a treadmill and compete as heavyweights.

Why a matchmaker would ever put Waterman on a PPV main card is beyond me, but whoever is responsible will get their just desserts, just like any other super heavyweight.

Expect Waterman to put on a performance that will leave young fans crying, old fans dying and those of us in the middle simply bored. This one ends with Waterman the winner via uneventful unanimous decision.

Carlo Prater (Pictures) vs. Keith Wisniewski (Pictures)

This month's entry from the department of off kilter matchmaking comes in the form of a rubber match, minus the rubber, between Keith Wisniewski (Pictures) and Thugjitsu disciple Carlo Prater (Pictures).

Having already lost a pair of unanimous decisions to Wisniewski, Prater needs to get over the hump and take out his rival if he ever expects to escape the MMA rat race and establish himself as a bankable commodity.

Long known as one of Yves Edwards (Pictures)' top students, Prater has actually collected an impressive array of wins over fighters who would go on to find success under the Zuffa tree of MMA organizations. Then again, with a 20-4-1 mark, the problem with Prater has never been finding wins, just avoiding the losses. It seems as if though every time Prater is ready to make a splash, he comes up just short.

One of the beneficiaries of Prater's Alex Rodriguez Syndrome has been Wisniewski who was actually signed to the UFC after beating Prater a second time. Unfortunately for Wisniewski, the win over Prater was followed by four straight losses that have dropped his record to 21-11-1.

My sources tell me that Prater actually resorted to witchcraft after losing to Wisniewski a second time and both Wisniewski's losing streak and the sudden interest in the Geico cavemen can be traced back to Prater's dealings with the occult.

Once fight time comes around however, Harry Potter impersonations won't get Prater anywhere against a man who has all the reason in the world to believe that a win is well in hand. In their past dealings, Prater has simply been incapable of controlling the rhythm of the fight thanks to Wisniewski's well rounded skills and willingness to drag out fights.

We've seen Wisniewski falter against opponents who can pressure him but Prater has been unsuccessful in that regard. This match seems to have all the makings of a showdown between the old Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees where you can't help but root for the Dodgers while knowing the Yankees will win. Now, Wisniewski may not be MMA's answer to Mickey Mantle but he has proven time and time again that he has the game plan to take out Prater.

The one troubling thing about Wisniewski headed into this fight is the losing streak he is on but if he's looking to get himself back on track, fighting someone he's beaten twice is not a bad idea. The past two encounters between these men have been short on fireworks and long on bathroom breaks so count on Wisniewski adding one more methodical win over Prater to his record. That is unless Prater has unlocked the secrets of the eye of Agamotto in which case, we're all doomed.

Undercard fights

While the main card has the expected mix of veterans and … veterans, the under card actually has a mixed bag of surprises for the willing MMA fan. First up is a showdown between Lion's Den member Alex Andrade and Fabiano Capoani (Pictures) of the Brazilian Top Team. The knee-jerk reaction here is to pick the BTT member but Capoani couldn't even beat Yasuhito Namekawa (Pictures). If that isn't a red flag then I don't know what is.

Training with BTT won't get you anywhere if you don't have the skills it takes to succeed in MMA and while Andrade is hardly the zenith of the sport, he is a solid fighter who has feasted on the Fabiano Capoani (Pictures)s of the world. Watch for that trend to continue as Andrade scores an uneventful TKO due to ground and pound late in the second round.

Next up on the menu is a light heavyweight tussle between up-and-comers James Damien Stelly and Luis Arthur Cane. A student of the infamous Ryan Gracie (Pictures), Cane has accumulated a strong 6-0 record while Stelly has remained close to his native Georgia in putting together a 2-1 record as a professional. This is really more of a launching pad for Cane than anything else who enters this fights regarded as a fine prospect.

Granted, Stelly doesn't plan on rolling over for anyone but Cane simply has too much for Stelly who will fall victim to a rear-naked choke courtesy of his Brazilian counterpart. Afterwards, count on Ryan Gracie (Pictures) to act in a classy manner and acknowledge his pupil's opponent in a most respectful fashion.

In another match-up of Brazil and the South, Chute Boxe product Cristiano Marcello (Pictures) will put his camp's vaunted Muay Taekwondo style up against Texas' own Hector Munoz. Despite never becoming a strong Chute Boxe representative at lightweight, Marcello does have a solid ground game and sharp knees that he has been known to use to great effect.

Against Munoz, it just seems like a matter of putting it all together for Marcello since Munoz seems to lack anything he can use to beat his Brazilian opponent. In typical Chute Boxe fashion, expect Marcello to steal the undercard with a strong performance and put an end to Munoz's PPV debut with a triangle choke in the first round.

No MMA undercard is complete without a feMMA match and Art of War delivers with Franita Gathings making her MMA debut against Lana "Lethal" Stefanac. Not much is known about Gathings outside of she's a woman and most likely enjoys fighting. I'll err on the side of caution and take the girl who has actually competed before, Stefanac via unanimous decision.

While the days of constant style clashes in MMA may be over, we do occasionally get to relive the past and the match-up between Anthony Njokuani and Keyon Mike Jackson is a great example of this.

Njokuani is a slick Muay Thai practitioner while Jackson has made a name for himself thanks to a strong jiu-jitsu background. Both men have actually compiled strong records against local talent and are looking to enter the deep side of the pool with a win. Count Njokuani avoiding the takedown just long enough to light up Jackson like something that is in need of lighting.

Known more for his shock KO win over Jens Pulver (Pictures) than anything else, Jason Maxwell (Pictures) is on the road to rebuilding a career that fell apart after what appeared to be the biggest win of his career. This time, it will be Thomas Schulte (Pictures) of FitNHB who will look to keep Maxwell from turning things around.

I'll give Maxwell the better shot of victory in this one considering Schulte has consistently come up short in big spots while Maxwell can at least say he knows how to notch a big win. Expect Maxwell to take home a decision and demand that Art of War put together a super-fight between him and B.J. Penn (Pictures).

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