by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
On Saturday night, for the first time ever, MMA fans will see a unification bout as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson faces off with Pride Middleweight Champion Dan Henderson.
The fights air in the United States on a tape-delayed basis at 9pm ET on Spike TV.
UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT & PRIDE MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
QUINTON JACKSON VS. DAN HENDERSON
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on Pride Middleweight Champion Dan Henderson in a unification bout. Quinton Jackson has a 27-6 record in MMA and trains out of Big Bear, Calif. with Juanito Ibarra. Dan Henderson has a 22-5 record in MMA and trains out of Team Quest with Matt Lindland. Jackson comes off a knockout victory over Chuck Liddell at UFC 71 to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Henderson knocked out Wanderlei Silva at Pride 33 to become the Pride Middleweight Champion. Despite differing naming conventions, both titles are for the 205-pound weight class.
This is the most important fight in MMA history because this is the first time that two champions from major organizations put their titles on the line in one fight. Jackson has proved that he indeed can still be the Quinton Jackson of old with two impressive wins in the UFC. Henderson avenged his loss to Wanderlei Silva and looked good doing it, as he schooled the former champion for all three rounds before ending it with a big right hand. Henderson is coming off a serious hand injury, but this isn’t first time, so look for him to be the same Henderson of old.
Jackson is ready to fight and will no doubt look to knockout Henderson. Henderson seems to show up only when he is fighting bigger fighters and this fight won’t be any different. Look for Henderson to keep this fight on the feet with his superior wrestling and to clock Jackson with his devastating right hand.
Prediction: Dan Henderson by TKO in the second round.
MIRKO “CRO COP” FILIPOVIC VS. CHEICK KONGO
Pride Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic takes on French striker Cheick Kongo. Cro Cop has a 22-5-2 record in MMA and trains out of Team Cro Cop with Gilbert Yvel. Cheick Kongo has a 10-3-1 record in MMA and has recently been training in Big Bear, Calif. with Michael Bisping. Cro Cop comes off a devastating knockout loss to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70. Kongo won a decision victory over Assuerio Silva at UFC 70.
The question on everyone’s mind is how Cro Cop will recover from his devastating loss. Kongo is another strong striker and will be looking to put himself in the hunt for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Cro Cop has recovered impressively after each one of his losses and this shouldn’t be any different. Kongo needs to clinch up early in the fight and use those effective knees in order to overcome Cro Cop’s quicker strikes. Cro Cop will be focused and looking to prove a point with a knockout of the much bigger Kongo. Look for Cro Cop to come in and quickly dispatch of Kongo and get back on track.
Prediction: Mirko Cro Cop by KO in the first round.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
MICHAEL BISPING VS. MATT HAMILLL
Ultimate Fighter 3 rivals collide, as Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Michael Bisping takes on fellow cast-mate Matt Hamill. Michael Bisping has a 13-0 record in MMA and has recently been training in Big Bear, Calif. with Quinton Jackson. Matt Hamill has a 3-0 record in MMA and trains out of Team Punishment with Tito Ortiz. Bisping comes off a stoppage victory over Elvis Sinosic at UFC 70. Hamill stopped Rex Holman at UFC 68.
This is plain and simple a grudge match between two fighters that didn’t like each other while they were on The Ultimate Fighter 3. Bisping was pegged as the favorite to win the competition and he didn’t disappoint, he thrashed the entire competition.
Hamill is an excellent wrestler, but he is still very green as an MMA fighter and it will be apparent in this fight. Bisping is on another level compared to Hamill and he should put him away fairly easy with strikes early in the fight. Although he won’t win here, look for Hamill to take this as a learning experience and improve as an MMA fighter.
Prediction: Michael Bisping by TKO in the first round.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
HOUSTON ALEXANDER VS. ALESSIO SAKARA
Midwest slugger Houston Alexander takes on Italian fighter Alessio Sakara. Houston Alexander has a 7-1 record in MMA and trains out of Nebraska. Alessio Sakara has an 11-5 record in MMA and trains out 360 Combat Club in Italy. Alexander comes off a surprising knockout victory over Keith Jardine at UFC 71. Sakara was impressive in a stoppage victory over Victor Valimaki at UFC 70.
This fight has fireworks written allover it as both fighters like to slug it out on the feet. Alexander was a complete unknown when he made his UFC debut against Keith Jardine, but he quickly caught the attention of fans by impressively knocking him out. Sakara has been in several wars since joining the UFC and has become a feared striker with his previous boxing experience.
Don’t expect this fight to hit the ground, as both guys want to knock the other’s head off. Jardine lacked defense and Alexander took full advantage of it, but don’t expect Sakara to make the same mistake. Look for Sakara to use his superior striking and turn off Alexander’s lights in an exciting slugfest.
Prediction: Alessio Sakara by KO in the first round.
MARCUS DAVIS VS. PAUL TAYLOR
Ultimate Fighter 2 alumnus Marcus Davis takes on Englishman Paul Taylor. Marcus Davis has a 12-3 record in MMA and trains out of Team Jorge Gurgel with Jorge Gurgel. Paul Taylor has an 8-1 record in MMA and trains out of his native England. Davis comes off a stoppage victory over Jason Tan at UFC 72. Taylor stopped Edilberto de Oliveira at UFC 70.
Both fighters are looking to slowly build themselves towards a possible title shot several fights down the road in a crowded UFC welterweight division. Davis has been impressive in the UFC as of late, stringing together several wins.
Taylor looked good in his UFC debut and will be tested for the first time against Davis. Davis has the edge on the feet with his prior boxing experience and on the ground he has vastly improved his ground game since training with Jorge Gurgel. Look for Taylor to give Davis a hell of a fight, but Davis should be able to wear him down over time and lock on a fight ending submission.
Prediction: Marcus Davis by submission in the third round.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
THIAGO SILVA VS. TOMASZ DRAWL
Chute Boxe prodigy Thiago Silva takes on Polish striker Tomasz Drawl. Thiago Silva has a 10-0 record in MMA and trains out of the Chute Boxe Academy with Jorge Patino. Drawl has a 14-1 record in MMA and trains out of the German Best Team in Germany. Silva comes off a stoppage victory over American James Irvin at UFC 71. Drawl submitted Andre Fyeet at Fight Club Berlin 9.
This one is going to be an awesome stand-up fight between two up-and-coming strikers that are looking to make a name for themselves. Silva has been on a tear since late last year, winning an eight-man tournament in Brazil and making a successful Japanese debut in Pancrase earlier this year. Drawl has an impressive record, but he hasn’t faced the same competition as Silva has in his career.
Drawl will be making his UFC debut and the nerves might get to him, especially if Silva comes out looking for the kill. Look for Silva to use his polished striking and previous Octagon experience to overwhelm Drawl with strikes.
Prediction: Thiago Silva by TKO in the first round.
GLEISON TIBAU VS. TERRY ETIM
American Top Team lightweight Gleison Tibau takes on British lightweight Terry Etim. Gleison Tibau has a 14-4 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Marcus Aurelio. Terry Etim has a 10-0 record in MMA and trains out of his native England. Tibau comes off a fairly easy submission victory over Jeff Cox at UFC Fight Night 10. Etim made a successful UFC debut at UFC 70, submitting American Matt Grice.
This could end up being the fight of the night as both fighters can be rather exciting when matched up with the right opponent. Tibau has been successful in the UFC since moving down to lightweight against fighters his own size. Etim showed a well-rounded game in his UFC debut against Matt Grice, landing crisp punches and ending the fight by submission.
Etim will want to keep this fight on the feet as Tibau will be the best grappler that Etim has faced and he won’t want to test out that theory. Tibau will get this fight to the ground and will need to keep it there unless he wants to be put on queer street. At the end of the day, it should be Tibau to win a decision over Etim, as he will be able to keep Etim grounded.
Prediction: Gleison Tibau by decision.
NAOYUKI KOTANI VS. DENNIS SIVER
ZST ace Naoyuki Kotani takes on German based fighter Dennis Siver. Naoyuki Kotani has a 17-6-5 record in MMA and trains out of Rodeo Style in Japan. Dennis Siver has a 10-4 record in MMA and trains out of the OC Fight Team in Germany. Kotani comes off a decision loss to Brazilian lightweight Thiago Taveres at UFC Fight Night 9. Siver comes off a submission loss to Jess Liaudin at UFC 70.
Both fighters are looking for their first UFC victory in this fight. Kotani is a veteran of several different organizations, but hasn’t fared too well outside of ZST. Siver may have been a little over confident in his UFC debut, leading to his surprising submission loss at the hands of Liaudin.
Kotani will not want any of Siver’s stand-up, just like Siver doesn’t want anything to do with Kotani’s ground game. Kotani hasn’t had any success when fighting outside of the comfy confines of ZST and look for it to continue here, as Siver should be able to stop Kotani with strikes early in the fight.
Prediction: Dennis Siver by TKO in the first round.
JESS LIAUDIN VS. ANTHONY TORRES
Native Frenchman Jess Liaudin takes on tough Hawaiian fighter Anthony Torres. Jess Liaudin has an 11-8 record in MMA and trains out of Team Quest with Dan Henderson. Anthony Torres has a 5-0 record in MMA and trains out of Team MMAD in Hawaii. Liaudin comes off a successful UFC debut, submitting Dennis Silver at UFC 70. Torres hasn’t seen action for a year since submitting Pat Healy at UFC Fight Night 6.
Liaudin has been impressive as of late, stringing together several wins that have him where he is today. Torres has pulled out of two recent fights due to injuries and it’s hard to know whether or not he is completely healthy coming into this fight. Liaudin recently made the trek to Temecula, Calif. in order to train with Team Quest, to round out the rest of his overall MMA game.
Both fighters are well versed on the ground, so expect the fight to eventually make its way there. Look for the slick Frenchman to out hustle Torres on the ground and submit him early in the fight as Torres comes into the fight with too many question marks about his health.
Prediction: Jess Liaudin by submission in the first round.