I'm a huge MMA fan and the upcoming UFC 82 promises to have some outstanding matchups.
Here are the matches with official weigh ins for the main card tomorrow night:
UFC Middleweight Championship
Dan Henderson (184.5) vs Anderson Silva (185)
[ev type="youtube" data="8L5Fsp_qLWk"][/ev]
Check out Silva's elbow knockout at 2:27. It's science.
This is a dream match up, featuring the two best middleweights alive. The fight will be determined in three areas:
Stand-Up Henderson's straight right hand is epic, his chin donkey stubborn. He'll mix it up with anyone, occasionally to his detriment. Henderson's striking is about forward movement and pressure and his roots are solidly based in dirty boxing. It won't be confused with Silva's slick scientific Muay Thai. Silva's striking is highly adaptable: he's comfortable picking you apart with surgical leg kicks and well-placed punches as easily as wading in and applying relentless pressure with fists, knees, elbows, unorthodox flying knees, and spinning backfists. His confidence level is so high, he doesn't mind putting himself in a bad position. That makes him a completely uninhibited, incredibly dangerous, striker. His ultimate goal is the Muay Thai clinch and that's where this fight will be determined...Advantage: Silva
The Clinch Never has a Muay Thai fighter used the clinch so effectively in the MMA environment. His plum (when a Muay Thai fighter interlocks their hands at the base of their opponent's neck and steers their opponent like a fatted calf into crushing knees) is responsible for some of the most horrendous beatings in recent UFC history. Former champion Rich Franklin still searches his Wheaties every morning for parts of his cheekbone. Silva's movement and balance in this position are extraordinary and he controls his opponents so adeptly that his knees seem to come out of the back of his opponent's head. However, the odds of him landing this clinch for any prolonged time period on former Greco Roman Olympian Henderson is approximately slim and none. Greco-Romans are human leverage machines and locking up with one is precursor to a quick viewing of the ceiling lights. Henderson won't allow space. If Dan can take down Rampage with ease, Anderson Silva isn't a problem. Silva's greatest weapon is completely neutralized by Henderson's ability to exert freakish leverage...unless he dazes Henderson in an exchange, locks in, and does his work before Dan can revive. Advantage: Henderson
The Ground Silva's jiu-jitsu - particularly his guard - is underrated and though Henderson is an adept ground and pounder, I don't see him passing it like Travis Lutter did. Henderson's best chance for ground success is a clinch slam where he lands on Silva at advantage. Otherwise, I'd expect a dull ground game with Silva tying up Henderson and the referee standing them up quickly. There will be pressure to not let allow Henderson to ride the clock. Advantage: Push
X-Factors: Henderson finally gets to fight near his true weight. He should be stronger than Silva who, despite his lean build, is sneaky strong. Henderson is also 37 years old; the wear is starting to show on his tread. He has lost some hand speed and though he's still freakishly powerful, his quickness in the scramble - a real strength - may not be what it used to be. Silva is 32 and at the height of his physical powers. Both guys are true pros and should show up in great cardiovascular shape. Silva has almost no ability to simulate Dan Henderson's Greco dirty boxing while training in Brazil; Henderson cannily brought in several Muay Thai fighters to his camp to prepare.
Henderson is a bad match-up for Silva since he so effectively negates a number of Silva's strengths. That written, Silva is bleeding confidence right now. He'll lose the first two rounds, but he'll get Dan in trouble when they head out to deep water. Eventually, Henderson's stubbonness in exchanges will work against him and, over time, Silva will begin to deny the clinch with movement and pick him apart. Or at least that's what I've convinced myself in a true pick 'em scenario. These are two elite fighters and the winner will be decided on a razor's margin. I'll go Silva. Here's a different very solid opinion.
Winner: Silva by Decision
The plum is a bitter fruit
Heath Herring (248) vs Cheick Kongo (233.5)
Herring is a respectable experienced journeyman who can never quite break through. Even when he has Nogueira nearly unconscious laying on the ground in front of him. Cheick Kongo keeps getting better and though he is not exactly fluid, his striking is powerful. I'll be interested to see how he handles a guy his size. Herring should close the distance, take Kongo down, and work the ground a bit. Unfortunately, Crazy Horse is a good Texas boy and he doesn't follow gameplans so well when the artillery starts firing.
Mad Dog is not Kongo's strength coach
I'll take Kongo, TKO 3. I'm not sure if Kongo is good so much as Herring is unlucky. He'll probably be winning the fight, slip, and impale himself on his own footstool walking back to the corner.
Yushin Okami (184.5) vs Evan Tanner (185)
Should be interesting. Evan Tanner, like Herring, came up through the Amarillo shootfighting circuit, and he's another stubborn Texas boy. He's a damn fine wrestler with nice knees and elbows. He's spent the last two years trying to run a foundation for disadvantaged mixed martial artists. Or something. Okami is a deliberate fighter who starts as slowly as Tanner does, so both fighters should consider jumping rope for the first two rounds to spare the crowd any boredom. Tanner has just been out of real competition for too long.
Dropping bombs like a Zero
I like Okami's deliberate ground and pound to carry the day. Ref stoppage 3.
Chris Wilson (169.5) vs Jon Fitch (170)
Jon Fitch will not a pay a lot for this muffler
Fitch by Decision.
Alessio Sakara (185) vs Chris Leben (185)
My hatred of Chris Leben could best be expressed in guttural Norse war chants. This will be an extremely entertaining fight and someone is going to get KTFO in relative short order. I like Sakara, the underdog, to tag an overconfident Leben. Call it an illogical hunch. Picking an Italian in a fight hasn't worked out too well since 200 AD, but Legionarius has lots of tats, so he must be tough. I'm just hoping that none of them are tramp stamps.
Beware Legionarius, Leben is tougher than Ethiopia
Sakara TKO 2.