Hughes vs. Gracie…we’ve seen this before, right? In fact, it was at UFC 60 nearly four years ago that Matt Hughes vanquished UFC pioneer Royce Gracie in decisive fashion. Now, Royce’s cousin Renzo, who most feel is more well-rounded than the original UFC Gracie, will take up the defense of his family’s honor against the Illinois farm boy. It should be an interesting clash of styles.
Matt Hughes (43-7) vs. Renzo Gracie (13-6-1-1): The multi-time former UFC Welterweight Champion is, simply put, one of the legends of the sports. It can be said that MMA would not be where it is today without men like Matt Hughes. But the man is clearly on the downside of his career. His devastating top-control, mixed in with brutal ground-and-pound and an underrated submission acumen, has carried him to a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Unfortunately, his game has never developed much beyond that. As the sport has grown and evolved, Hughes has not. His striking is barely adequate. Still, he is nearly impossible to submit at this point in his career. And facing a Gracie, that is what he’ll likely be on the lookout for in this fight.
It’s been three years since Gracie graced the MMA world with his fighting presence. Has the sport passed him by in his absence? UFC 112 will go a long way towards giving us the answer to that question. Never the best of the Gracie clan on the ground, he has nevertheless developed better striking skills than most of his brethren. Against a wrestling machine like Hughes, it is unlikely that this fight will stay vertical for long. How will Gracie deal with that?
I don’t think he’ll be able to. Hughes hasn’t finished an opponent since B.J. Penn in September of 2006 (which was his next fight after his bout with Royce). He is no longer the TKO/submission finisher that he once was. So it’s unlikely that he’ll stop Renzo, a fighter that’s only been finished twice in his 21-fight career. Look for this fight to go to the ground, with Hughes keeping control from the top and doing enough to keep things in his comfort zone. He’ll never get close to ending the fight, but he’ll do enough to get another unanimous decision victory. Perhaps not as sweet as his annihilation of Royce, but hey, a victory is a victory – Prediction: Hughes via decision
Here’s the full card for UFC 112:
• Champion Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia (for UFC Middleweight title)
• Champion B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar (for UFC Lightweight title)
• Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie
• Terry Etim vs. Rafael dos Anjos
• Kendall Grove vs. Mark Munoz
• Phil Davis vs. Alexander Gustafsson
• John Gunderson vs. Paul Taylor
• Nick Osipczak vs. Rick Story
• Brad Blackburn vs. DaMarques Johnson
• Paul Kelly vs. Matt Veach
• Mostapha Al Turk vs. Jon Madsen