by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Light Heavyweight Bout:
Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva makes his light heavyweight debut against Californian slugger James Irvin.

Silva is coming off of a submission victory over former Pride middleweight champion Dan Henderson at UFC 82, while Irvin knocked out Houston Alexander at UFC Fight Night 13.

This whole card was put together on late notice with the majority of the fighters having only one month to prepare for their respective fights. Silva is one of the UFC’s biggest draws and he moves up in weight for this fight to test the waters in the light heavyweight division.

On their feet, Silva is the more technical and precise striker of the two and is better at mixing in knees and kicks into his combinations. Irvin will have the advantage in size and strength over the smaller Silva. It won’t be one punch that wins the fight for Silva, but a series of strikes that will break down the bigger Irvin.

If the fight hits the ground then Silva has a big edge over Irvin. He is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and has shown that he has excellent submission defense to boot. For Irvin to win the fight he will need to avoid going to the ground and utilize his size advantage.

Irvin needs to lure Silva into an exchange where he can land that big power shot that will have him on the defensive. It will be a tough task, but if he can close the distance and force Silva to make a mistake, he can take advantage of.

This is a dangerous, yet winnable fight for Silva. Don’t count out Irvin who will have a significant size and power advantage over the champion. Either way, don’t expect the fight to go past the first round.

Lightweight Bout:
Frank Edgar vs. Hermes Franca

East coast wrestler Frank Edgar faces off with former UFC lightweight title contender Hermes Franca in what looks to be an exciting lightweight scrap.

Edgar recently suffered the first loss of his career, dropping a decision to Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 13. For Hermes Franca, this will be the first time he’s seen action in over a year after serving a suspension from the California State Athletic Commission. Franca tested positive for steroids after losing a decision to former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk at UFC 73.

This fight was originally scheduled to happen at UFC 87, but was moved ahead due to the last second nature of this card. These two have the potential to put one of the best fights of the night as they both fight at an incredible pace.

Edgar is the better wrestler of the two and has shown that he isn’t afraid to mix it up on his feet either, as evidenced in his last fight against Maynard. One disadvantage for Edgar is that he is undersized and that may pose a problem in the future since many fighters cut weight to make the 155-pound limit. Franca will undoubtedly look to test Edgar’s submission defense.

Standing, Franca will look to land a big shot. If it goes to the ground, he will actively throw submission attempts at Edgar. Franca is one of the better lightweights in the UFC, but the one category he lacks in is his wrestling, something that was displayed in his last fight.

One thing that will be different in this fight will be that Edgar won’t be able to hold Franca down like Sherk did because of his small size. The fight will be one of the best of the night, but neither fighter wants to drop two in a row, especially in a crowded lightweight division.

Light Heavyweight Bout:
Brandon Vera vs. Reese Andy

Brandon Vera will be making his light heavyweight debut as he takes on International Fight League veteran Reese Andy.

Vera suffered a controversial stoppage loss to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 85, while Andy hasn’t seen action in over a year since winning a close decision over Krzysztof Soszynski at an IFL show in Washington.

Many people have urged Vera to move down to light heavyweight as he is considered a small heavyweight and has consistently weighed less than his opponents on fight day. He will face a big and strong wrestler in Reese Andy, who will be making his UFC debut.

Vera is the better striker by far with his arsenal of punches, knees and kicks. On the ground, Vera is the better submission fighter, but the big concern in this fight will be whether or not he can stop Andy from taking him down and mauling him from the top. He will need to use low kicks to keep Andy at bay and open up more opportunities standing.

Andy has a tough task ahead, but his strategy is plain and simple; take the fight to the ground and maul Vera with strikes or control him. He needs to keep Vera off balance both on his feet and on the ground, where he’ll be able to slow the pace of the fight down and impose his will.

Vera has dropped two fights in a row and he needs a win here or he’ll find himself at a crossroads in his career. Maybe a change of scenery will motivate him and we’ll see the Vera of old that impressed everyone with his talent.

Welterweight Bout:
Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns

Young and athletic striker Anthony “Rumble” Johnson faces off with Midwest fighter Kevin Burns in an intriguing welterweight fight.

Johnson is coming off of an impressive knockout over Ultimate Fighter 6 runner-up Tommy Speer at UFC Fight Night 13. Burns stunned many fans by submitting decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Roan Carneiro with a triangle choke at UFC 85.

This is an interesting fight between two up and comers that have a bright future ahead of them. Johnson has a wrestling pedigree, but we haven’t seen much of that, as he prefers to strike and knock people out. Burns was a late replacement and he made the best of the situation by upsetting Carneiro in his UFC debut.

Johnson has the edge on their feet, using both powerful punching combinations and swift kicks to put his opponents out on their backs. Although we haven’t seen much of it, Johnson does have a ground game and will be ready if the fight happens to go there. Burns will look to get the fight to the ground quickly and use his grappling to either grind out a decision or get his second submission victory.

This will give one fighter a shot in the arm, as he will move up the welterweight ladder, but the loser won’t have to worry too much as a loss shouldn’t hurt either fighter drastically at this point in their careers.

Heavyweight Bout:
Cain Velasquez vs. Jake O’Brien

NCAA wrestling standout Cain Velasquez faces off with the previously released Jake O’Brien in an important heavyweight scrap.

Velasquez made an impressive UFC debut by stopping Brad Morris at UFC 83. O’Brien looks to rebound after his first professional loss when he was stopped by former UFC heavyweight champion Andre Arlovski at UFC 82.

Both fighters wrestled in the NCAA before entering mixed martial arts, but they had different careers in college with Velasquez being the more accomplished wrestler. They are both young and will no doubt be the future of the UFC heavyweight division.

Velasquez is a freak of nature. He has only been training for two years, but his talent and natural ability have made him one the top prospects in all of MMA. He is the better striker of the two on the feet with both technique and power. On the ground, he is the better wrestler. Neither fighter is too well versed in submissions.

This is going to be a tough task for O’Brien who is out-matched in every aspect of the fight by the more talented Velasquez. A win for Velasquez could signify a huge coming out party and make him known to the masses.

Middleweight Bout:
Jesse Taylor vs. C.B. Dollaway

Original Ultimate Fighter 7 finalist Jesse Taylor gets a second chance in the UFC as he faces off with the man who replaced him in C.B. Dollaway.

Prior to The Ultimate Fighter, Taylor earned a stoppage victory over Jorge Ramirez at MMA Xtreme 15. Unfortunately for Dollaway, he was recently submitted once again by Amir Sadollah at the Ultimate Fighter 7 finale.

Taylor lost the biggest opportunity of his career due to a night of drinking and immaturity, but he has been given a second chance. Hopefully he takes full advantage of it. Dollaway has now dropped two straight to Sadollah and needs a win or his UFC career could be short lived.

Taylor is the better striker of the two and is the stronger of the two. Dollaway has the advantage on the ground, as he is the better wrestler, but his cockiness in his abilities has hindered him in past fights. The fight will come down to which fighter wants it more and is willing to take more risks to win.

The Undercard

This show was put together on short notice, so the undercard is made up of UFC newcomers. In a lightweight match-up, Midwest fighter Dale Hartt takes on Californian fighter Shannon Gugerty. Nor Cal Alliance fighter Nate Loughran takes on Johnny Rees in middleweight action. IFL veteran Brad Blackburn takes on newcomer James Gibbo at the welterweight limit. In another welterweight match-up, IFL standout Rory Markham takes on Californian Brodie Farber. Ultimate Fighter 7 cast mates Tim Credeur and Cale Yarbrough finally face off in a fight that was suppose to happen last month.