The main event features Rich Franklin making his fist defense of the middleweight title, against Ultimate Fighter and fan favorite Nate Quarry. It wasnt that long ago that the 185 lbs division appeared to be the UFCs deepest and the possible fight options for matchmaker Joe Silva seemed to be endless. How things can change, the division does boast Jeremy Horn and Trevor Prangley but #1 contender Matt Lindland was released from the organization for a breach of his contract...
Rich Franklin vs. Nate Quarry
The main event features Rich Franklin making his fist defense of the middleweight title, against Ultimate Fighter and fan favorite Nate Quarry. It wasnt that long ago that the 185 lbs division appeared to be the UFCs deepest and the possible fight options for matchmaker Joe Silva seemed to be endless. How things can change, the division does boast Jeremy Horn and Trevor Prangley but #1 contender Matt Lindland was released from the organization for a breach of his contract, Ivan Salaverry was let go due to a poor performance at Ultimate Fight Night 1 in August, his opponent that night Nathan Marquardts status remains in limbo with the Nevada State Athletic Commission over a positive steroid test, and Joe Riggs has moved down to welterweight. Add to that, David Loiseau and Evan Tanner were busy fighting each other at Ultimate Fight Night 2, and this created the perfect opportunity for Nate Quarry to sneak to the front of the line.
Rich Franklin is the modern day mixed martial artist, he has excellent boxing, kicking and Jiu-Jitsu, in addition to having a weight cutting technique hes perfected to a science. Franklin broke into MMA as a light heavyweight, however he made his middleweight debut at UFC 50 against Jorge Riveria and many observers were critical of Richs performance that night. Franklin was in a tough battle with Riveria but he was able to control the fight in the clinch, and eventually won by submission in the 3rd round even though he seemed to lack some of the explosiveness he displayed when he was fighting at 205 lbs. Interestingly, Rich went back up in weight for the chance to fight a legend when he fought Ken Shamrock in the main event of season ones Ultimate Fighter finale. Franklin made the most of his opportunity on the big stage, rolling out of an early submission attempt by Shamrock, and was able to stop The Worlds Most Dangerous Man when he was raining down punches that Shamrock couldnt defend from the bottom to register a 1st round TKO. Afterwards, Franklin immediately announced his intention to go back down to 185 lbs, and was promptly given a title shot against newly crowned champion Evan Tanner. Rich absolutely dominated the stand-up battle, and a doctor stoppage in the 4th round allowed Franklin to realize his dream of becoming the UFC middleweight champion.
There is no shortage of people who will say Nate Quarry is getting a title shot too soon, but he is 3-0 in the UFC with victories over Lodune Sincaid, Shonie Carter, and Pete Sell, recording first round TKOs in all three of those fights. An ankle injury cost Quarry the opportunity to compete for the middleweight contract on last seasons Ultimate Fighter reality show, however as it turns out hes in a better position then either Diego Sanchez or Forrest Griffin, being the first fighter from the show to get a shot at a UFC title. Its been said that Quarry is getting the title shot that eluded his Team Quest teammate Matt Lindland, but Nate did prove he was for real when he defeated Carter at UFC 53. Quarry showed outstanding composure to finish the veteran Carter off once he had him hurt, and followed that up with a quick flash knockout victory over Sell in his most recent outing. Quarry was known for being a very good submission specialist early in his career, but since hes come into the UFC he has gained a reputation as an excellent striker too.
Quarry seems to believe or at least hes been told by the UFCs public relations to suggest Franklin has a weak chin. If that assessment proves to be accurate, hell no doubt be looking to test Franklin with his heavy hands, who has had a tendency to look as though hes in trouble when opponents have landed big shots in previous fights (Ryoto Machida, Riveria, Tanner). However, lately Franklin has shown an improvement in his ability to recover since the KO loss to Machida. It will be interesting to see what strategy Quarry uses in this fight, as the Team Quest trademark has always been to try and close the distance, push continuously for the clinch and limit the amount of exchanges. Franklin is more then comfortable brawling in close quarters and using knees from within the clinch, so hell be more then willing to oblige whatever type of fight Quarry is prepared to engage in. Also, even though training with Team Quest will ensure that Quarry is in top physical condition, the longest any of his 3 fights inside the Octagon have gone is 3:17 so Franklin may have an advantage in being able to wear him down in a 5 round championship fight. In addition, Rich mentioned in his post-fight comments after the Tanner victory that hes using a weight cutting technique that will guarantee he will be coming into his fights as a huge 185 lbs fighter (being a natural light heavyweight). After everything is said and done, expect Franklin to join Murilo Bustamante as the only other middleweight champion in UFC history to make a successful title defense.
Matt Hughes vs. Joe Riggs
In the co-main event the welterweight championship features one of the most celebrated champions in UFC history, Matt Hughes returns to the Octagon after his role as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter reality show to defend his title against the always dangerous and extremely powerful Joe Diesel Riggs. Initially, Hughes was set to defend the title against Karo Parisyan, however 3 weeks ago Parisyan pulled out of the fight due to a leg injury, and with Riggs already scheduled to appear on the card he was inserted in Parisyans place.
Matt Hughes first won the welterweight title at UFC 34 when he defeated Carlos Newton, and then went on to successfully defend the title 5 times before he was upset by BJ Penn who had moved up from 155 lbs to challenge him. Shortly after, Penn was striped of his title by the UFC for a breach of his contract and Hughes fought for the vacant title at UFC 50 against Georges St. Pierre. In an entertaining match-up St. Pierre made one small tactical mistake and Hughes capitalized on it. While St. Pierre was attempting a Kimura, Hughes was able to counter it by stepping over Georges head and secured an arm-bar for the submission victory with only 1 second left in the first round to reclaim his belt. Hughes has so much talent, strength and confidence he just finds ways to win, and that was never more evident then in his last fight against Frank Trigg. After taking a knee to the groin, Hughes was then rushed by Trigg who landed a flurry of shots and it appeared the fight was on the verge of being stopped. Hughes was somehow able to whether the storm but Trigg was able to get his back and secured a rear naked choke, with his face nearly purple Hughes miraculously pulled out of the submission attempt. In one of the greatest comebacks in recent UFC history, Hughes picked Trigg up and carried him across the Octagon for one of his patented slams and then started working his GnP, which eventually led to Trigg exposing his back and Hughes locking in a rear naked choke for the win.
Joe Riggs is a former heavyweight who use to fight at over 300 lbs, but hes been constantly dropping weight since those days and eventually made his Octagon debut as a middleweight at UFC 49 against Joe Doerkson. Riggs is a strong wrestler, not quite as good as Hughes but he also has lethal hands and claimed before he moved down to 170 lbs that he could stand and strike with anybody in the middleweight division. In the first round of his UFC debut, Doerkson was successful shooting in on him and taking Riggs down without having to absorb a big punch. However, Riggs was able to display how dangerous he is when he rises up from his opponents guard and lands heavy punches and elbows, opening a vicious cut through his GnP that forced Doerkson to tap out in the 2nd round and in the process extended his KO streak to 6 fights. The Diesels next UFC appearance was against the versatile Ivan Salaverry, where Riggs was somewhat careless and according to Salaverry predictable when he was attempting to jump into his opponents guard. As Riggs launched himself into Ivans guard, Salaverry caught him with a kick coming in, Riggs was obviously dazed and Salaverry was able to secure a triangle for a 1st round submission victory. Most recently at UFC 55, Riggs dropped down to welterweight to fight his good friend Chris Lytle and given his opponent was also a professional boxer, you would have expected Riggs to finally get his wish to stand and strike with someone. That wasnt the case as Lytle surprisingly was able to take Riggs down in the 2nd round but the Diesel showed he was more then comfortable fighting from his back and caught Lytle with an elbow from the bottom, which led to the fight being stopped due to a cut.
Heading into this fight Riggs feels Hughes has lost some of the fire that made him a champion, and believes Hughes will be training primarily only to cut weight. One thing can be for certain though, when youre fighting Matt Hughes you can be assured youll be spending some time on your back, and as long as Riggs is within range to throw a punch, Hughes will be within range to shoot for a takedown. But holding Riggs down might be a harder task for Hughes then hes experienced with other opponents in the past, as former heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia mentioned when he was training with Riggs he couldnt hold him down. Hughes has long been considered one of the strongest pound for pound fighters in MMA, but hell certainly be meeting his match against Riggs who has stated with the help of famed trainer Billy Rush he will weigh 200 lbs for this fight when he enters the Octagon Saturday night. Since this will be a 5 round fight, Hughes will no doubt at some point take Riggs down and work his GnP, therefore the early rounds will likely favor Hughes controlling the pace of the fight. The key for Riggs will be to keep Hughes in full guard when he is taken down and not let him get side control where he can inflict more damage with his elbows. However, after enduring his fair share of punishment I think Riggs will eventually get Hughes to engage in a standup battle in either the 3rd or 4th round and if its for an extended period of time Hughes will probably get caught with a good shot. Hughes was rocked with a nice uppercut in his fight with Sean Sherk that setup a takedown, and Sherk is not known for being a striker and doesnt possess anywhere near Riggs punching power.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Sean Sherk
Matt Hughes has stated Georges St. Pierre is the future of the 170 lbs division, and that was before his dominating performance over top ranked welterweight Frank Trigg at UFC 54. St. Pierres only professional loss was in his bid to win the title against Matt Hughes, and hes mentioned he made a mental mistake in that fight by giving Hughes too much respect, but hes grown up immensely since then. St. Pierre will get the opportunity to somewhat redeem himself when he fights a Hughes clone in Sean Sherk Saturday night, who is a powerful wrestler and also has a very dangerous GnP game. Both fighters have in common that there only loss was to Matt Hughes.
St. Pierre made his debut in the Super bowl of MMA against Karo Parisyan at UFC 46 and was very comfortable grappling with someone who is known for being a superior submission artist en route to a decision victory. Aside from GSPs excellent ground skills, he can also strike which was certainly evident when he took out Jay Hieron on his feet in the 1st round in his next match. On the strength of those two wins St. Pierre earned a match against Hughes for the aforementioned vacant welterweight title. During the fight Hughes was able to take St. Pierre down, however what was impressive was how GSP successfully used the cage to get back to his feet. He could find himself in a similar position against Sherk, and GSP remained very calm when Hughes had him pinned down. However, in the end St. Pierre came up short and was caught in an arm-bar and tapped out at the end of the first round. St. Pierre got himself back on the winning track at UFC 52 when he dished out a brutal beating to the wild and unpredictable Jason Mayhem Miller to register a unanimous decision victory. But St. Pierre may never have looked better then he did in his last fight against Frank Trigg. A slight underdog going into the fight he completely dominated Trigg and made if hard for the casual fan to believe those were two of the top welterweights in the UFC. Trigg, who has a strong wrestling background was never in the fight, as GSP controlled the tempo from the onset and passed Triggs guard with ease and eventually secured the rear naked choke for a 1st round submission victory.
Sean Sherk is an absolute powerhouse, hes a great wrestler and has a vicious GnP attack, which is the reason hes been compared to Matt Hughes. In addition, Sherk already owns two victories over the highly touted Karo Parisyan that preceded his UFC debut. After the wins over Parisyan the UFC came calling and the undefeated Sherk racked up wins over Tiki Ghosn, Jutaro Nakao and Benji Radach inside the Octagon, which put him in line to get a shot at Hughes title. Against Radach at UFC 39, Sherks GnP was on display as he opened a vicious cut that forced the fight to be stopped. In the main event at UFC 42, Sherk got his chance to show what he could do against Hughes, but for the majority of the bout Hughes was able to control the fight. The lone bright spot for Sherk was in the third round when he took Hughes down and later in the round rocked Hughes with a nice uppercut that setup another takedown. Sherk certainly showed he had heart lasting the entire 5 rounds, but he unfortunately lost a unanimous decision. However, after that loss (the only of his career) Sherk was banished from the UFC, but since has since compiled a 12 fight-winning streak.
If Sherk can get St. Pierre down it will certainly be interesting, especially because this is a 3 round fight and if he can hold GSP down by imposing his will he might be in a position to steal a couple of rounds should the fight go to a decision. However, given St. Pierre is so much taller then his opponent, Sherk will have a tough time passing GSPs guard when its closed. Therefore, as strong and explosive as Sherk is, St. Pierre is probably just too athletic to be controlled for an extended period of time and his solid standup will likely lead to him getting a dominant position to finish the fight with a submission or earning a decision.
Prediction: St. Pierre
Jeremy Horn vs. Trevor Prangley
MMA veteran Jeremy Horn made his long awaited return to the UFC when he challenged Chuck Liddell for the light heavyweight title at UFC 54. Horn lost that bout but proved he could take a sledgehammer punch and still get back up. Horn was noticeably smaller then Liddell in that fight, so hes decided to return to his natural fighting weight of 185 lbs where he will be fighting Trevor Prangley. Horn will be looking to overcome the fact he was stopped for the first time in over 100 fights against Liddell, but he more then likely has the experience to help him deal with that loss. In preparation for this fight Horn has been working on his jiu-jitsu, wrestling and boxing and been training with the likes of Joe Doerkson, Ultimate Fighter Mike Whiteboard, and conditioning specialist Billy Rush. Prangley is probably going to be one of the stronger middleweights hes fought, but even if hes taken down Horn will be able to work his submission game from his back.
Trevor Prangley will be making his 3rd appearance in the UFC, as he debuted against noted striker Curtis Stout and was successful using his strong wrestling background to control the majority of the fight, eventually setting up a neck crank for the submission win. Prangley has only suffered two MMA losses, the most notable was to Babalu Sobral who he felt was just too big and powerful and ended up losing a decision. Since hes been fighting at middleweight Prangley claims he has never had anyone overpower him or had someone match his strength at 185 lbs. His last fight at UFC 54 was a decision victory over jiu-jitsu specialist Travis Lutter.