Rich Franklin (26-3-1) vs. Dan Henderson (23-7-0)
One of the most intriguing middleweight match ups in UFC history will take place at UFC 93 to much less fanfare than it would have received had the bout happened a few years back when both were champions. Once upon a time Rich Franklin was the unstoppable force in the UFC 185 division, Dan Henderson was the immovable object in Pride, and fans clamored for a fight that has finally come. Much like Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 1, I suppose it is better late than never, and while there is no championship on the line, it is rumored that a coaching spot on the Ultimate Fighter 9 is up for grabs. With both fighters losing recent bouts to the new unstoppable force and immovable object of the middleweight division Anderson Silva, some of the luster of this bout has been lost, but it remains strong matchmaking on the part of Joe Silva none-the-less. I fully expect this one to be a very competitive and interesting showdown. Here is the breakdown as I see it.
Wrestling: It will be tough not to go with Henderson here, in what I expect to be a very well-matched bout, this is the one area where Henderson will clearly be the superior of the two. A two-time U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team member, his pedigree is hard to argue with, and as such I feel his superiority in the clinch could be the difference maker in an otherwise close bout. Franklin lost the fight to Silva twice, both in part due to the superior clinch work of the Muai Thai technician. This could be one of the roads to victory for Henderson who I expect to work stand up and a ground-and-pound attack with takedowns and dirty boxing coming via the clinch. Advantage: Henderson
Striking: While both fighters have some impressive knockouts on their resume, Franklins boxing appears to be the cleaner of the two and he should have a height and reach advantage on top that. The southpaw also has kicks in his arsenal he has used to good effect in the past, most notably against David Loiseau. While Henderson has never shown a propensity for throwing effective leg strikes, the power he possesses in his right hand is well known for putting his opponents on the road to recovery. While I feel like Henderson hits harder and has the superior one-punch power, Franklins cleaner kick boxing is more well rounded and should be the sharper of the two. I expect to see him hit and move and prove to be an elusive target on the feet. Advantage: Franklin
Jiu Jitsu: Neither fighter is considered a candidate for Jiu Jitsu practitioner of the year, or shown a propensity for submission victories, but Franklins ground game appears to be slightly more polished then that of the Team Quest standout Dan Henderson. I dont expect a lot of reversals, sweeps and submission attempts in this fight, but this is MMA and anything can happen. If I have to pick a fighter, (and I do) I am going with Advantage: Franklin. ( But I dont think it will play as big a factor as striking and wrestling.)
X-Factor: Both fighters are former champions and both have a recent loss to Anderson Silva. I think one of the telling factors will be conditioning. Henderson has a history of slowing down as the fight goes on while Franklins tank is well known for being one of the best in the business. Since this is only a three-round fight I feel it will be to Hendersons advantage as his tank could have been suspect in the championship rounds. Advantage: Draw
Prediction: This is a coin-flip fight for me and the hardest on the card to pick, early on in the bout I feel like Henderson will be very tough. He won the first rounds of his three previous UFC bouts to Anderson Silva, Quinton Jackson and Rousimar Palhares despite going on to lose the first of the three aforementioned bouts, and I feel it will be more of the same. Dan Henderson will start strong, start to wear down Franklin with control from the clinch, dirty boxing and ground-and-pound work, slow down in round three, but do enough to secure a unanimous decision victory over Rich Franklin after three rounds.
Mark Coleman (15-8-1) vs. Mauricio Rua (16-3-1)
This is a rematch of a Pride bout where Mauricio Rua suffered a freak arm injury from posting on his arm off a Mark Coleman takedown attempt that resulted in a first round TKO victory for the elder statesman Coleman. Make no mistake, Rua was supposed to win that fight and be Put Over with a victory over the former Pride Grand Prix champion. It didnt turn out that way, and numerous serious injuries later Rua is back in the Octagon two years removed from a loss to Forrest Griffin.
This fight will mean a lot for Rua and could very well be a make-or-break fight for a man who was one of the prized acquisitions of the UFC following their purchase of the Pride organization. Despite his youth and past championship victories, many questions remain about the health of the former Pride champion who was once considered one of the crown jewels of the light heavyweight division. In fact when the UFC first took over the Pride contracts, the disappointment of not having Fedor Emelianenko under contract must have been lightened with the services of Rua locked up to a contract. With only one disappointing loss since then, Ruas days of being considered a top 3 LHW seem like a lifetime ago.
Rua seriously injured his knee in his bout with Griffin and re-injured it before a scheduled bout with Chuck Liddell, major surgeries have followed and he will now fight the remainder of his career with the specter of those injuries looming over him. With such long layoffs and recovery periods, questions of long-term health and ring rust will assuredly abound, and how could they not?
Coleman for his part has also been noticeably absent from MMA competition of late, he was scheduled to fight Brock Lesnar but bowed out due to injury, paving the way for Heath Herring to step up in his place. Long layoffs are nothing new to Coleman either, surely a factor in the UFCs matchmaking thought process for this bout, so neither fighter will have an assured advantage in the ring rust department as both fighters wont likely be as sharp as they might under normal circumstances.
Striking: Rua by a landslide, there is no way that Coleman will want to keep this fight standing, if he does he will lose, it is that simple. 14 of Ruas 16 victories have come by way of KO or TKO due to strikes standing and on the ground. It is no fluke, Coleman will want to take this fight to the ground at his earliest opportunity. Advantage: Rua
Wrestling: Coleman is the grandfather of ground-and-pound, a title and style of fighting that will be linked to his name until the end of time. It is what he does best, some say it is all he can do
Jiu Jitsu: Not even close, Shogun Rua will be the superior jiu jitsu practitioner but has only one submission victory to his name, a kneebar over Colemans training partner Kevin Randleman. Ironic
X-Factor: Because of the long layoff for both fighters there could be a serious feeling out process early in the bout, but Ruas aggressive nature should eventually put him on the offensive. I feel like although his past fights have shown a natural aggressiveness that fans have grown to love, but it may take a fight or two, or at the very least a round or two to see it again. Conditioning will play a factor in this fight if it goes late into the second and third rounds, it is here that Ruas superior conditioning will show itself and leave Coleman more susceptible to submissions, sweat or no sweat. Advantage: Rua
At this stage of Colemans career he has very little to offer outside of what he has offered before. The grandfather of ground-and-pound will work for a takedown and work within the guard looking for a ground-and-pound victory. Rua should work hard from his back keeping Coleman off balance and eventually catch a gassed Coleman with a submission, possibly an armbar late in the fight. Rua will seize his second chance to be Put Over Mark Coleman and get back on the winning track.
Prediction: Mauricio Rua will wear Coleman down and win via submission in the third round after Coleman gasses out.
Denis Kang 31-10-1) vs. Alan Belcher (12-4-1)
Denis Kang is making his long awaited UFC debut and will see his stock rise in a fight that appears to be tailor made to give Kang a tune-up victory in his first foray into the Octagon. Alan Belcher has had a checkered UFC career as his 3-4 record will attest to and the kickboxer has traditionally fared poorly from his back, a place that the Marcus Soares jiu jitsu black belt is well accustomed to putting his opponents.
I dont believe that Belcher has the jiu jitsu skills to compete with Kang on the ground or the wrestling base to keep the fight standing and get back to his feet if it goes to the mat. Kang should be able to use his hands to keep Belcher off balance long enough to take him to the mat, and work his jiu jitsu into a submission or ground and pound victory early in the bout.
Kang too has fought inconsistency in the past and despite recent mis-steps against Misaki, Akiyama, and Mousasi he is back on the winning track with two straight victories including a fiery knockout of UFC veteran Marvin Eastman and should be back on the winning track with a victory over Alan Belcher.
Kang has made it very clear that he wants a shot at Anderson Silva, and while the middleweight champion is surely in the sights of several fighters he may be one of only a handful of fighters with the stylistic match-up that would work well against Silva but that will probably be a few fights down the road, I would also not be surprised if Kang is matched up with one of the other middleweight winners on the card in his next UFC bout.
Prediction: Denis Kang over Alan Belcher via ground-and-pound TKO from the mount, Rd 1.
Rousimar Palhares (17-2-0) vs. Jeremy Horn (88-18-5)
From here it looks like Rousimar Palhares, a talented young jiu jitsu ace with solid wrestling is on the way up, and when one fighter moves up, inevitably another fighter gets dropped down a rung. The Murilo Bustamante black belt was impressive in his debut taking Salaverry out with one of the slickest armbars in recent UFC memory, but stumbled in his follow up losing a decision to Dan Henderson who headlines this card.
While his second UFC appearance against Dan Henderson was less successful he showed that he was able to compete favorably with the best in the division, right here right now he might be the slickest jiu jitsu practitioner in any weight class in the UFC. That is saying a lot with the likes of Rodrigo Nogueira the interim heavyweight champion in the mix and despite this slip, I expect him to be a major contender in this division for years to come.
I have been a big believer in Jeremy Horn for a long time but it looks like Jeremy Horns MMA career is on the decline and despite a successful career spanning over 100 fights and a record that could match up with entire MMA teams, his recent MMA exploits have been disappointing. One of the issues might be MMA burnout, Horn has gone on record saying as much in the past and can you blame him? When a fighter has competed as often as Horn has how long can you keep going before you get burnt out? To make matters more disheartening, he has been losing bouts by submission, losing via the very techniques that were considered his strength.
That is not to say he doesnt have what it takes to win at this level, he does but I just dont know if he is having as much fun in the sport as he once was. I hope he proves me wrong. One of the pioneers of the sport, Horn fought Frank Shamrock in the UFC back before the Fertitta brothers and Dana White took over the reigns of the biggest MMA promotion in the world. It has been a long time, and the former Militech pupil appears to be firmly on the downside of his career. Horn remains one of the great trainers in the sport and will always have a strong stable of fighters working with him but it appears that his exploits in the ring and cage are close to being over regardless of the outcome of this fight.
Prediction: Rousimar Palhares via submission Armbar Rd 2.
Marcus Davis (20-5-1) vs. Chris Lytle (36-16-4)
In many ways these two fighters remind me of each other. Both are former boxers with improved ground games and never say die attitudes. Neither fighter is a particularly strong wrestler but both are known as entertaining stand up fighters so this could be a really entertaining bout. Despite this, I have a hunch this fight may be won on the ground. Lytle looks to be the more seasoned jiu jitsu practitioner and could catch Davis if the fight spends an extended period on the ground, but ground control could be the key in this bout.
Davis will probably look to slug it out on the feet as he has done many times in the past, scar tissue be damned, but his tendency to cut and somewhat suspect ground game could be his undoing. Either Davis could win with a stunning knockout, or Lytle could win by decision by controlling the ground aspect of this bout. I am going with the latter.
Prediction: Chris Lytle by Decision Rd 3.
In other action:
Martin Kampmann (13-2-0)over Alexandre Barros (13-5-1) TKO Rd 3
I think that Kampmann is a wonderful addition to the welterweight division and barring injury, I fully expect the he will be a standout in this division for years.
Eric Schafer (12-=3-2) over Antonio Mendes (14-3-1) Submission Rd 1
Tomasz Drwal (14-2-0) over Ivan Serati (10-2-1) TKO rd 2
John Hathaway (10-0-0) over Tom Egan (4-0-0)
Nate Mohr (8-5-0) over Dennis Siver (12-6-0)TKO rd 2