With their second event in as many days, the UFC are taking the unusual step of putting out what is essentially a TUF finale as a pay per view event. After the loss of the Silva vs Sonnen rematch in Brazil, this event was being sold on the back of the coaches fight between Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort. However the UFC’s injury curse struck once more and Belfort broke his hand. Ever the company man, Rich Franklin has stepped into the breach once more for his second outing in the Octagon with the Axe Murderer in a catchweight match.
After the epic-ness of the previous UFC PPV in Brazil, a few fans are feeling a little put out that they are having to pay for a TUF finale that contains a lot of fighters they never heard of. For sure this will sell well in Brazil, but everywhere else the UFC top-brass will be bracing themselves for this to be one of the worst selling PPV’s in the companys recent history. The Silva vs Franklin fight, whilst sure to be entertaining, has nowhere near the impact the grudge match with Belfort had and has little divisional relevance. The Werdum vs Russow match could have relevance in the Heavyweight title picture but only in so far as it is likely to move the winner one more fight closer to a #1 contender spot. With Velasquez and JDS dominating the heavyweight landscape, and talk of Overeerm making a (clean?) return to the division, the winner will still have a lot to do to get in the title mix.
Fans who haven’t managed to catch any of TUF Brazil or followed Brazilian MMA religiously over recent years, are likely to struggle with exactly who 90% of the fighters on this card actually are. As I count myself among those fans who arent exactly the foremost authorities on Brazilian MMA right now, this post is only going to contain predictions for the fighters I actually know of, so apologies in advance for that!
Rich Franklin 28 – 6 – 0 vs. Wanderlei Silva 34 – 11 – 1 – Catchweight (190lbs)
It has been 3 years since these two men first met in the Octagon. In that time, both have had 3 fights with Franklin going 1-2 and Silva going 2-1. Fair to say I think that with Belfort/Liddell/Griffin, Franklin had the harder three opponents than the Bisping/Leben/Le trifecta faced by the Brazilian. You can’t talk about a rematch without looking at the first fight and in that FOTN matchup Franklin dominated. In the first two rounds he was teeing off almost at will on Silva and it was only towards the end of the third that Silva seems to find his groove.
Silva will have had a really good camp for this match, as he was training hard for the grudge match against Belfort. There is a danger that the motivation will have dropped off a bit now he is ‘only’ fighting Franklin, but he needs a good performance nevertheless. A 3-4 record since his return to the UFC isn’t terribly impressive when held up against the Pride-era incarnation of the Axe Murderer, and he will have a hard job improving that against ‘Ace’. Franklin, although the older of the two, appears to have aged much better than his opponent. He has suffered less damage over the course of his career and remains in great shape for a man in his late thirties.
The key in this fight will be the smarter more measured aproach to the striking game that Franklin takes, versus the often wild style now favoured by Wanderlei. Silva headhunts an awful lot and this will give Franklin the opportunity to exploit openings left in Silvas defence. If he fights more like the Wanderlei of old, with chopping leg and body kicks, short hard punches on the inside and dominating the clinch, Silva actually has a real good at shot at taking this. However, I see him being really fired up to fight again in his home nation and desperate for the win, playing right into the hands of the cerebral style of Franklin.
Franklin will use his reach and tight straight punches to pick Wandy off, peppering him with body kicks when the opportunity presents itself. If he is able to wrestle this to the mat he should have an advantage, although it is pretty rare that we see either man spend any length of time on the floor. As they are both approaching their twilight years in MMA terms, a flash-KO from either man is possible. We see it all the time with older fighters that their chins don’t hold up as well as they used to and both men are capable of landing a fight ending punch. The fact that this fight will play out over 25 minutes this time, is also significant. I don’t recall ever seeing Franklin flag and despite being the older fighter, he is the one I would expect to have the bigger gas-tank. If this was a 3 rounder, I would have picked a decision again, but given that they will go for 5 I think Franklin gets a stoppage as they enter the championship rounds. Franklin TKO rd 4
Fabricio Werdum 15 – 5 – 1 vs. Mike Russow 15 – 1 – 0 – Heavyweight
Werdum will open as a strong favourite in this one. A decorated grappler with a string of high profile MMA fights, he is a tough proposition for any heavyweight. He isnt one dimensional and has a decent muay thai game, as displayed in his fight against Roy Nelson. Obviously though it is the ground game where he excels, arguably besting all of his peers in the UFC Heavyweight division right now and he is especially dangerous off his back.
Russow is a decorated wrestler famed for his amazing comeback KO against Todd Duffee where he was getting battered for almost the entire fight. He knows his way around a submission or two, but he is way off the level of his opponent. Attempting to match Werdum on the mat is going to get him into big trouble. Things don’t get much better for him in the stand-up phases of the fight too, as he isnt the quickest and most dynamic striker the 260lb division has ever seen. In Russows favour is the fact that he is incredibly durable and possess enough power to turn the lights out on Werdum given the chance, but that outcome seems unlikely.
Russow is going to need to make this a slow boring match and grind out the time from top position if he is to win it. But I see this one playing out with Werdum using his striking to get to a clinch and Russow taking this to the mat, only realising his mistake too late as Werdum latches onto a submission sometime in the second round. Werdum sub round 2
Yuri Alcantara 28 – 3 – 0 vs. Hacran Dias 20 – 1 – 1 – Featherweight
Dias actually tried out for TUF Brazil but skipped the show and was signed up on the spot on a 3 fight deal. He draws Alcantara who is 2-0 in the UFC and on a 13 fight win streak. Both men are extremely well rounded and experienced fighters and this one has the look of an excellent match.
Dias is a Nova Uniao fighter, a camp famed for their blend of aggressive muay thai and outstanding jiujitsu. Dias seems to favour the submissions game, but as you would expect his striking game is more than serviceable. Alcantara has a pretty even split of wins betweeen Ko’s and submissions but his best chance of taking the win inside the distance is on the feet. Expect to see a frenetic fight with the action taking place at all ranges. It’s pretty hard to split these two and I can see it going the distance. I think the experience and superior striking of Alcantara might steal this fight for him, but fans who like a flutter shouldn’t sleep on a Dias submission win here. Alcantara decision
Milton Vieira 13 – 7 – 1 vs. Felipe Arantes 14 – 4 – 0 – Featherweight
Most grappling fans will be aware of Vieira as the man credited with creating the anaconda choke. A luta livre and BJJ blackbelt, he is a phenemonal grappler who can hit his trademark chokes from just about anywhere. The excellent BJJ Hacks did a feature on him recently and as a side point for grappling fans reading this, you should check it out! Clearly Vieira is going to want this on the ground as quickly as possible. He has never stopped anyone with strikes, and when his fights go the distance they often go against him. That said in 21 fights he has never been stopped and has fought a much higher level of opponent than Arantes.
In Arantes faour is the fact that he has been more active than Vieira and that as long as this is on the feet he is likely to have it pretty much his own way. If Arantes can use his sprawl effectively then he should take this pretty comfortably. All that said, my inner grappling fan boy is screaming at me to pick Vieira and so thats what I’m doing. This is his shot at the big show in front of his home crowd. The slightest mistake on the ground by Arantes will be pounced on and I think Vieira latches onto his foes neck around the mid way point of this fight. Vieira submission round 2