by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
In what looks to be the strongest card that the UFC has put together in some time; two title fights and a grudge match highlight UFC 73: Stacked. In the grudge match, Tito Ortiz faces off with The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner Rashad Evans. Sean Sherk defends his lightweight title against Hermes Franca. Anderson Silva defends his middleweight title against Nate Marquardt. Also, former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira makes his UFC debut against Heath Herring.
UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP:
ANDERSON SILVA VS. NATE MARQUARDT
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva defends his title for the first time against former Middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt. Anderson Silva has an 18-4 record in MMA and trains out of Black House with Vitor Belfort. Nate Marquardt has a 25-6-2 record in MMA and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Joey Villasenor. Silva recently submitted Travis Lutter at UFC 67. Marquardt put a beating on Dean Lister at UFC Fight Night 9 to become the number one contender.
Out of all the fights on the card, this is one of the more intriguing fights because it could literally go either way. Silva was supposed to defend his title against Travis Lutter at UFC 67, but Lutter failed to make weight and it was deemed a non-title fight. Silva had a shaky start but eventually submitted Lutter. Marquardt gave Dean Lister an absolute beating as he dominated on the feet and on the ground with relative ease. Silva has the distinct advantage on the feet, while Marquardt has a slight advantage on the ground. The difference in the fight will be how aggressive Marquardt will be on the ground. He has been somewhat passive on the ground in recent fights, staying content to ground and pound instead of improving position and going for submissions. Silva will no doubt be aggressive on the feet and on the ground and I feel that is what will be the difference in the fight. Silva is going to push the pace of the fight and that will be the downfall for Marquardt as won’t be able to keep up with Silva’s pace. Look for Silva to pick Marquardt apart on the feet as he tires late in the fight.
Prediction: Anderson Silva by TKO in the fourth round.
UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
SEAN SHERK VS. HERMES FRANCA
UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk defends his title for the first time against the dynamic Hermes Franca. Sean Sherk has a 30-2-1 record in MMA and trains out of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy with Nick Thompson. Hermes Franca has an 18-5 record in MMA and trains out of The Amory with Rich Crunkilton. Sherk dominated Kenny Florian at UFC 64 to become the UFC Lightweight Champion. Franca knocked out Spencer Fisher to become the number one contender at UFC Fight Night 9.
Sherk makes his first title defense and it won’t be an easy one at that when he takes on the more than capable Franca. Sherk looked like a beast in his domination of Kenny Florian and he could very well hold on to the title for quite sometime. Franca has gone 3-0 since returning to the UFC, finishing all three of his opponents within the distance. Franca’s best chance at winning will be to keep the fight on the feet and land one of those big punches that could very well put Sherk onto queer street. Sherk wants this fight on the ground, where he can pound out a decision over Franca with his effective ground and pound from the top. I give Franca a puncher’s chance to win the fight, as Sherk will just maul him on the ground if he gets a chance to end up on top. Look for Sherk to take the fight to the ground and maul out a decision over the always-tough Franca.
Prediction: Sean Sherk by decision.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
TITO ORTIZ VS. RASHAD EVANS
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz faces off with The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner Rashad Evans. Tito Ortiz has a 16-5 record in MMA and trains out of Team Punishment with Ivan Salaverry. Rashad Evans has a 10-0 record in MMA and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Keith Jardine. Ortiz comes off an unsuccessful attempt at becoming UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, losing to former champion Chuck Liddell at UFC 66. Evans viciously knocked out Sean Salmon at UFC Fight Night 9.
Both fighters have a serious hatred for one another as they have been taking turns at hurling insults in the media. Ortiz hasn’t shown much improvement in the past several years and has probably peaked as a fighter. In contrast, Evans keeps improving with every fight. He was knocked in the past for his lack of finishing skills, but in his last two fights has shown that he indeed has it in him to get the job done. The one thing that you can’t deny about Ortiz is that he always shows up when it matters. Bottom line is that Evans is a younger and more talented version of Tito Ortiz as both fighters have a very similar style in the way that they fight. The drama between the two fighters will alone make this fight exciting, but I see Evans edging Ortiz on the feet and on the ground en route to the victory.
Prediction: Rashad Evans by decision.
ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUEIRA VS. HEATH HERRING
Former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira takes on Heath Herring for a third time. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has a 29-4-1 record in MMA and trains out of Brazil with brother Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and for this fight, Anderson Silva and the other fighters at the newly formed Black House. Heath Herring has a 27-12 record in MMA and trains out of the Las Vegas Combat Club with Ricardo Pires. Nogueira comes off an impressive decision victory over Josh Barnett at Pride Shockwave 2006. Herring took a lackluster decision over Brad Imes at UFC 69.
There isn’t really much to write about this fight, Nogueira has already beaten Herring twice in Pride and it wasn’t close in either fight. Nogueira is still one of the best heavyweights in the world, while Herring hasn’t improved in the last several years. Its obvious that the UFC wants a safe debut for their new big signing and Herring will make it exciting until Nogueira catches him and defeats him for the third time.
Prediction: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission in the second round.
KENNY FLORIAN VS. ALVIN ROBINSON
UFC lightweight contender Kenny Florian takes on Ring of Fire Lightweight Champion Alvin Robinson. Kenny Florian has a 5-3 record in MMA and trains out of Boston. Alvin Robinson has an 8-1 record in MMA and trains out of John Crouch’s Royce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu affiliate in Colorado. Florian recently submitted Shooto legend Dokonjonosuke Mishima at UFC Fight Night 10. Robinson comes off a submission victory over Oliver Bradstreet at Ring of Fire 28.
This is one of the more intriguing fights on the card as we have an up and coming fighter taking on an established veteran. Florian has fought in three different weight classes in the UFC and has found his home in the lightweight division. Robinson is a young and hungry fighter looking to make a name for himself in his UFC debut and he will no doubt achieve his goal. Although Florian is a good fighter, he hasn’t had the most impressive performances in his last two fights. He lost a lopsided decision to Sean Sherk at UFC 64 and was nearly submitted by Mishima in his last fight before catching a tired Mishima late in the fight with a choke. Robinson has finished all of his fights by submission and his only loss he nearly did the same before gassing out. Florian is overrated and he will be exposed by a younger and more talented fighter in Robinson, who will out hustle him on the ground and catch him in a submission late in the fight.
Prediction: Alvin Robinson by submission in the third round.
MARK BOCEK VS. FRANK EDGAR
ADCC North American Trials Champion Mark Bocek makes his UFC debut against Rhino Fight Team lightweight Frank Edgar. Mark Bocek has a 4-0 record in MMA and trains out of Kombat Arts Training Academy in Canada and has also recently started training with Greg Jackson’s fight team in New Mexico. Frank Edgar has a 6-0 record in MMA and trains out of the Rhino Fight Team with Kevin Roody. Bocek comes off a fairly easy submission victory over Garrett Davis at King of the Cage: Capital Chaos. Edgar returns after an impressive decision victory in his UFC debut over Tyson Griffin at UFC 67, in what is a candidate for fight of the year.
Here is the sleeper fight of the night. Both guys match up really well and their styles should make for a memorable encounter. Bocek is a wizard on the ground and is probably one of the more talented ground fighters in MMA. Edgar is an amazing wrestler and proved that he is a force to be reckoned with after his excellent performance against Tyson Griffin. Edgar proved that no one should write-off a relatively unknown fighter and the same should be said about Bocek. This fight is going to be fought on the ground and the key will be who can out hustle the other fighter. Bocek will be throwing submissions from every position possible, while Edgar will look to use his wrestling in pounding out Bocek. In a close fight, Edgar should use his previous Octagon experience over the newcomer Bocek to eek out a close decision.
Prediction: Frank Edgar by decision.
JORGE GURGEL VS. DIEGO SARAIVA
The Ultimate Fighter alumni Jorge Gurgel takes on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Diego Saraiva. Jorge Gurgel has a 10-2 record in MMA and trains out Team Gurgel with Dustin Hazelett. Diego Saraiva has a 9-4-1 record in MMA and trains out of Velocity Kickboxing in Georgia. Gurgel comes off a disappointing decision victory over Danny Abbadi at UFC 63. Saraiva dropped a decision to Gurgel’s student Dustin Hazelett at UFC 67, coming in as a late replacement.
Gurgel hasn’t been very active in the past two years because knee injuries have hindered his UFC career. Saraiva now gets another crack at the UFC, this time having ample preparation time for his fight. Both fighters are ground specialists, so expect this fight to be played out on the ground and whoever can dictate the pace of the fight on the feet will be the winner here. Although he hasn’t been as active as Saraiva, expect Gurgel to use his superior technique to come out on top.
Prediction: Jorge Gurgel by decision.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
MIKE NICKELS VS. STEPHAN BONNAR
The Ultimate Fighter 3 veteran Mike Nickels faces off with the returning The Ultimate Fighter 1 finalist Stephan Bonnar. Mike Nickels has a 4-1 record in MMA and trains out of Colorado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Denver. Stephan Bonnar has a 9-4 record in MMA and trains out of Carlson Gracie Fight Team in Illinois. Nickels quickly dispatched of Carpaccio Owens at Ring of Fire 29. Bonnar last saw action at UFC 62, dropping another decision to Forrest Griffin.
This seems to be a loser leaves town match, neither fighter appears to be in the good gracious of the UFC management for different reasons. Bonnar tested positive for steroids back at UFC 62 and has just finished his suspension. Nickels literally pulled out hours before his scheduled fight at UFC 64 against Keith Jardine. The winner lives to fight another day in the UFC, while the loser must evaluate their MMA career. That being said, Bonnar has the advantage on the ground and both match up similarly on the feet. Look for Bonnar to prove a point and dominate this fight on the ground.
Prediction: Stephan Bonnar by submission in the first round.
CHRIS LYTLE VS. JASON GILLIAM
The Ultimate Fighter 4 finalist Chris Lytle squares off with late replacement Jason Gilliam. Chris Lytle has a 22-14-5 record in MMA and trains out of Integrated Fighting Academy with Jake O’Brien. Jason Gilliam has a 9-1 record in MMA and trains out of Team Wolfpack in Indiana. Lytle recently dropped a decision to former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes at UFC 68. Gilliam suffered his first loss at the same event, being submitted by Jamie Varner.
This is the third opponent for Lytle as he was first scheduled to face Jeff Joslin and then Drew Fickett, but both had to withdraw due to injuries. Gilliam steps in at the last minute to face Lytle. Gilliam is moving up in weight and will be the smaller fighter come fight time. Lytle is superior to Gilliam in every aspect and much like Varner did, he should be able to finish Gilliam quickly.
Prediction: Chris Lytle by submission in the first round.