Tonight, UFC 147 is live from Mineirinho Gymnasium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as two former champions and current legends square off in a main event that promises to be intense, explosive, and perhaps for one of them a watermark of why they are still relevant and worthy of a title hunt. Let's take a closer look.
Wanderlei "The Axe Murder" Silva (34-11-1 1 NC) versus Rich "Ace" Franklin (28-6 1 NC)
Between the two of these guys is a bevy of statistics that belays greatness and Hall of Fame careers. They have accomplished UFC and Pride championships, 39 knockouts, and numerous legendary fights against opponents whose names will sit next to theirs in the UFC's Hall of Fame. The real question is who haven't they fought and what haven't they accomplished? But here they are, Silva at 36 and Franklin at 37, with 82 professional MMA fights under their respective belts, fighting now to stay relevant, fighting now for the pure love of the sport and one more chance at a title. Silva's struggles have been slightly more telling as he's lost 6 of his last 10, including 3 of his last 5 fights (2 of those by knockout). His November knockout win over Cung Le at UFC 139 seemed to show that he was a more strategic fighter now and is using his numerous skills set with more reserved energy and calculation as opposed to the wild, windmill-like, Tasmanian devil style that made him a champion and garnered his nickname.
Still, one has to contemplate his opponent? Cung Le is no longer one of the premier strikers in the middleweight MMA world and didn't look to be in his best shape, as he was visibly gassed by the 2nd round.
Franklin, on the other hand, has won 6 of his last 10. He lost a close 3-round split decision to current number 2 ranked light heavyweight Dan Henderson at UFC 93. Then he beat Wanderlei in a 3-round brawl, a decision win at UFC 99, only to be knocked out by Vitor Belfort at UFC 103. Since then, he's knocked out Chuck Liddell and lost a boring decision to Forrest Griffin that neither fighter seemed too interested in finishing.
The questions though persist. Are both or either of these two guys still worthy of being considered in the top tier of the middleweight division? Certainly part of that answer lies in tonight's confrontation. If one of them can secure a decidedly dominant win, then it will parlay him into a bigger fight with a higher ranked opponent and one more shot up that ladder to title contention. For the other man, it may be the beginning of the end. One thing's for sure, if you thought the first fight was intense, look for this one to be even more so. Both men have improved since then, both are healthy and rested, and both understand the consequences and potential turning point this fight brings.
The Pick: Wanderlei in another close, hard-fought battle. He simply looks like he's adjusted to knowing when to explode and when to pick his spots and conserve energy. Although I truly don't think this is usually a factor, there is the home court advantage. Brazilian fighters seem to have another worldly focus when fighting in front of their home crowd, and this guy has always fought with great passion.
The X Factor: Rich Franklin is a very cerebral fighter and no one is better at understanding where the fight is and what he needs to do to adjust during a fight than him. He never seems to panic. If the fight progresses into the latter rounds, he has that ability to out-strategize his opponent.
Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum (15-5-1) versus Mike Russo (15-1 1 NC)
At UFC 90 in 2008, after two impressive wins over Brandon Vera and Gabrielle Gonzaga, Werdum was shocked by newcomer Junior Dos Santos as Dos Santos clearly and easily knocked him out in the first round. Fast forward two years and Werdum accomplishes the unthinkable as he submits the man many consider the greatest MMA heavyweight ever, Fedor Emelianeako, on his way to both the Strikeforce Submission of the Year and Upset of the Year. Now he's back in the UFC and after an impressive dismantling of Roy Nelson is looking for revenge against the current UFC Heavyweight Champion, that same Junior Dos Santos. However, he'll need to get past fast-rising and unpredictable Mike Russo, as well as a few other bigger named opponents, before that happens. Russo's pretty much an unknown, and on paper, this looks to be a mismatch for a fighter like Werdum that posseses excellent Muay Thai skills and world championship caliber Jiu Jitsu. However, many a fight has been lost by a man looking past a seemingly lesser oppo
nent by focusing on a bigger prize.
The Pick: Werdum will win this. His skill set is too diverse and his experience tpo vast. Mostly he's on a mission to get back in the cage with Dos Santos and that kind of focus brings all kinds of malice.
The X Factor: Russo is much stronger than he looks and posseses one-punch knockout power, even when he's hurt.
In other key match-ups:
Rory Jason (11-3) beats Godo Redo Pepy (9-0).
Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira (5-2) beats Segio "Serfinho" Morales (6-2).
Thanks for reading and supporting. Have a Powerful Day!