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Here are the predictions for this Saturday night's UFC 82 card, courtesy of Keefe and Besse at The Sports Brief. We have each broken down the five main card bouts that will be televised and also offered predictions on the preliminary fights, as well.
Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson
RK: Here it is. A dream match up of sorts as the UFC Middleweight Champ (Silva) takes on the 185 pound Champ from Pride (Henderson). You’re probably thinking, didn’t Henderson just fight in another unification bout back in September. The answer is yes. He held 2 Pride titles, and lost a hard fought 5 round decision to UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The UFC middleweight division is garbage so Henderson gets the call to take on Silva without even fighting at 185 in the cage since coming from Pride. One reason the middleweight division looks so bad is the effortless victories that the Spider has wracked up over the “big” names. Silva is 5-0; with wins over Chris Leben, Rich Franklin (2), Travis Lutter, and Nathan Marquardt. 4 of those wins came by KO with 3 of them in the very 1st round, while the other was a submission victory over a ju-jitsu expert in Lutter. Despite facing the top fighters in his weight class Silva has yet to be really tested. This, I feel is going to change Saturday night. Dan Henderson has never been knocked out. Read that again. And who’s to say if Silva will be the first. He’s been in the ring/cage with the likes of Rampage, Wanderlei Silva, Ricardo Arona, and Vitor Belfort to name a few. Hendo is fighting at his more comfortable weight class. How can he get knocked out now? But how can you bet against Anderson Silva at this point? I’ve been looking forward to this fight for a long, long time. Final verdict: Henderson gets rocked a few times, Silva gets pushed to the limits and wins in a close decision for the first time in his UFC career.
RK: Anderson Silva by decision.
TB: I agree and disagree with you here, Keefe. Silva has yet to be challenged in the UFC, part of the reason everyone discredits any depth the middleweight division may have. But Henderson is a top-2 fighter in two weight classes in the world, and his game is tailored to be more successful against a fighter of Silva’s caliber and expertise. Against Rampage, he showed how well rounded he is against a naturally bigger, stronger opponent. It was a close decision that could have gone either way, a classic battle of attrition. Silva has technical striking, but Hendo may hit harder (he knocked Wanderlei out cold). Silva’s Muay-Thai is lethal (just ask “Ace”), but Henderson’s is in close, thus neutralizing it. Silva is a jiu-jitsu black belt, but Henderson is an Olympian Greco-Roman wrestler and is one of the best at submission defenses. Silva, however, hasn’t been past the 2nd round since joining the UFC. I expect he’ll rock Hendo early, possibly have him in trouble. But “Dangerous” Dan will survive and take this into the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds, imposing his will while “Spider” gasses down the stretch.
TB: Henderson by decision.
Chieck Kongo vs. Heath Herring
RK: Intriguing heavyweight battle here with Kongo coming off his greatest victory ever over Mirko Cro Cop, and Herring fresh off what could have been his greatest, losing a decision to now Heavyweight Interim Champ Big Nog. Herring has been a disappointing 1-2 since entering the octagon, while Kongo just elevated his career with that decision win over Cro Cop. But how valuable is that win now? Cro Cop has bolted out of the UFC after a couple losses. Both guys have a lot to prove. All three of Herring’s UFC fights have gone to decision, and I don’t think this one will be any different.
RK: Herring by decision.
TB: So yesterday I was fairly convinced Kongo would win an absolute snoozer by split decision. But last night I tuned into the replay of UFC 82 Countdown on SpikeTV. The second half of the countdown profiled Herring and his re-dedication to the sport. He hired a new team and moved out to Vegas. He's working with a nutritionist full-time and his conditioning has improved immensely. Meanwhile, it's well known thanks to his loss to Carmelo Marrero that any one of us could beat Cheick Kongo on the ground. You can point to Herring's inability to put away Nogueira as an example why the fight won't go there. But I beg to differ. Just ask Tim Sylvia. If you see Big Nog laying on his back, it's advised you don't come within a zip code of him. He'll submit you that easily. So in hindsight I don't blame Herring for getting up. I thought Kongo looked lackluster in his decision win over Cro Cop, and his last three fights have gone to decision. That won't happen here. Herring's experience gives him the edge in what become some violent exchanges. He'll catch Kongo, then finish him on the mat, re-establishing himself as a top contender in the UFC and a legitimate beef with the current champ for a re-match.
TB: Herring by KO in the 2nd round.
Chris Leben v. Alessio Sakara
TB: This is Sakara’s first fight since dropping down from light heavyweight and Leben’s first since signing a new deal with the UFC. Both are dangerous strikers who love to throw. Leben’s last fight against Terry Martin symbolized why he is such a big draw and exactly why he is on the televised portion of the card over the likes of Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez and former Heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski. He was wearing bombs from Martin and trailing on all cards before charging forward and throwing a beautiful left hook on the button that sent Martin to sleep. While Sakara can strike, he can’t do it with accuracy like Anderson Silva, who blew Leben out of the ring. For that reason, Sakara will likely control the striking but not be able to put Leben away. Leben keeps coming until scoring a TKO midway through the second.
TB: Leben by (T)KO in second round.
RK: Leben is one of my favorite fighters, since moving to and training in Hawaii he has vastly improved his cardio and overall game. In a middleweight division that has Silva and now Henderson at the clear cut top, Leben could make his way back into title contention. If Silva wins does he fight Franklin for a 3rd time? Does Franklin want to get back in there with him? Not saying Leben gets a title shot, but with a win here over a big 185er he’s on his way. I still picture Sakara getting worked over by a dangerous Houston Alexander, a fighter Besse can’t watch with the lights off. In the end Leben continues his way back up the middleweight ladder, and starts his new contract with a KO.
RK: Leben by KO in 1st round.
Evan Tanner v. Yushin Okami
TB: The former middleweight champion returns after a long layoff with drugs, alcohol and various other sins of which we can only imagine. Yushin Okami continues his quest to prove he deserves a title shot. If this were Tanner in his prime, I’d say he grounds and pounds his way to a (T)KO. But he’s going to have “cage rust” and Okami is the middleweight version of Lyota Machida: nothing spectacular, but continues piling up wins. Tanner will have his moments, but Okami will position himself better throughout the fight, much like he did against Mike Swick.
TB: Okami by decision.
RK: Ok Tanner hasn’t fought in nearly 2 years I know that, but I think he’s got something left in the tank. He’s well rested. Right? Okami, like Bess said, is not the most exciting fighter to watch, but piles up wins. Tanner will probably have ring rust. He’s a crafty veteran though, so I think he will overcome it in a huge upset, and a shakeup that the middleweight division (which is on grand display on this card) really needs. Okami will be put to sleep, just before he was about to do the same to the audience. In a shocker…
RK: Tanner by submission 3rd round.
Jon Fitch v. Chris Wilson
TB: Here’s the first example of what I don’t like about this card. A few notable, marketable studs fighting guys we’ve never heard of. Nothing against Chris Wilson, he may shock everyone on Saturday night for all we know. But Fitch should be fighting Parysian for a mandatory title shot, bottom line. He’ll take care of business here, landing on his feet to set up a takedown and ground and pound before locking in a rear naked choke.
TB: Fitch by submission in the 2nd round.
RK: I agree completely with you Bess. Karo is on the Fight Night card? And you have Fitch, Koscheck, and Diego all on this card, but not fighting each other? The UFC is in a lose-lose scenario here. If all this guys win, good they’re supposed to. If any of them lose, there goes one of the big name welterweights. It’s an opportunity for Chris Wilson to make a name for himself… don’t count on it. Fitch is riding a 14 fight win streak with the last 7 in the UFC, he’ll make it 15 and 8. '
RK: Fitch by submission in the 1st round.
Diego Sanchez v. David Bielkheden
TB: Sanchez by submission in 1st round.
RK: Sanchez by TKO in 2nd round.
Jake O’Brien v. Andrei Arlovski
TB: Arlovski by KO in 2nd round.
RK: Arlovski by TKO in 1st round.
Josh Koscheck v. Dustin Hazelett
TB: Koscheck by Decision.
RK: Koscheck by submission 1st round.
Luigi Fioravanti v. Luke Cummo
TB: Cummo by submission in 3rd round.
RK: Cummo by decision.
Jorge Gurgel v. John Halverson
TB: Gurgel by hometown decision.
RK: Gurgel by submission in 3rd round.
Please send any comments, thoughts or suggestions to The Sports Brief at email@example.com. You can also read more from The Sports Brief at sportsbrief.blogspot.com.