UFC 72 Victory Preview

For the second time in three UFC “PPV” events, the Octagon comes from overseas, as UFC 72 takes place this Saturday from the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Ireland. This is not exactly the most loaded of cards, but there are some “hidden” gems here that are probably worth looking out for. Don’t look for Tom Murphy to fight though – the TUF 2 alumni was scheduled to fight for the first time in nearly a year and a half, but first Jake O’Brien, then Justin McCully were unable to fight, and thus there are now only eight fights on the card. Since it was an undercard fight, it’s no big loss for us, but you have to feel for Murphy losing a payday here.

Hopefully, you’ve already read Matt “the New Guy” Bankston’s article talking about the live fights.

Still, there are eight fights to talk about, so let’s get to it. As always, fight records are from Sherdog.com’s Fight Finder unless otherwise noted.

Yushin Okami (Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, 20-3) vs. Rich “Ace” Franklin (Cincinnati, OH, 21-2, 1 NC)
Franklin looked good in his UFC return against Jason MacDonald, pummelling him for two rounds before MacDonald’s corner threw in the towel. Originally scheduled to face Danish fighter Martin Kampmann, Franklin is now taking on an arguably tougher opponent in Okami.

Okami has thus far been undefeated in the UFC, with his last win coming just two months ago against Mike Swick – and his last fight just 5 weeks ago at the ADCC World Championship. While undersized for a Middleweight (he could probably fight at 170) Okami is surprisingly strong and while his victory column doesn’t include a Tanner or Shamrock, he does hold a victory (albeit by DQ) over mutual opponent – and current UFC Middleweight champion – Anderson Silva. Still, I’d have to consider this a step up in competition for Okami.

Both fighters are known for winning via strikes, so I’m not expecting much in the way of a ground battle. It probably comes down to gameplan. “Ace” has stated that his gameplan was not about to change, and I suppose we can take that any way we want. But I don’t think that he planned properly for Anderson Silva either, and look what happened there. Common sense says that Ace pulls this out. Unfortunately, I’m not a real sensible guy.

Prediction: Okami, Decision

Light-Heavyweights: Hector “Sick Dog” Ramirez (Norwalk, CA, 6-2-1) vs. Forrest Griffin (Las Vegas, NV, 13-4)
Ramirez’ UFC debut was a loss at the hands of James “One Punch” Irvin, and now he steps in against Forrest Griffin, who is making his return after a resounding defeat at the hands of Keith Jardine. Most people (including myself) are expecting Griffin to win here, but the one-sided ass-kicking that Griffin got can have a lasting effect mentally. Witness Matt Hughes not being his incredibly dominant self against Chris Lytle. On the other hand, Rich Franklin had a dominating fight against Jason MacDonald, so really, it’s up to the fighter. Griffin is a positive, funny guy, but could he be using humour to disguise some insecurity? If so, he’d better watch out – Ramirez, like Griffin, likes to throw leather, and if he’s underestimating Ramirez, he’ll be KTFO again. In essence, it’s make or break time for Forrest Griffin.

Prediction: Griffin, TKO R1

Middleweights: Rory “Outburst” Singer (Athens, GA, 11-6) vs. “The Athlete” Jason MacDonald (Edmonton, AB, 18-8)
Well, lookie here, another “reality fighter” for the “TUF Killer” to take on. Singer, to be honest, hasn’t really impressed me at all, so he’s probably here a) as a favour to Forrest Griffin, and/or b) as a stepping stone for MacDonald. He beat Ross Pointon via “silly submission”, but his last fight saw him lose by submission to headliner Okami. His long legs have helped him in the striking department, most notably in his TUF 3 fight with Solomon Hutcherson, but MacDonald is a tall guy so kicks to the head may not be in the cards here. MacDonald also comes into this fight off of a loss – to the other card headliner, Rich Franklin. Jason was, understandably, upset with his performance in that fight, and he’s looking to redeem himself. I think that Singer has the advantage standing up, but Macdonald is a much more accomplished BJJ practitioner than Rory, so Rory is probably not looking to take the fight to the mat. If things head to the ground, I don’t think Singer will be able to cope with MacDonald’s submissions. But then again, I’m Canadian, so I’m probably biased.

Prediction: MacDonald, Submission R2

Lightweights: Tyson Griffin (Las Vegas, NV, 8-1) vs. Clay “The Carpenter” Guida (Johnsburg, IL, 21-7)
Clay Guida looks a bit like a crazy man, and seems to act the part in the ring. He’s a relentless fighter who took Din Thomas the distance, and is looking to bounce back from that loss by defeating another tough fighter in Tyson Griffin, also coming off a loss (this seems to be a trend with this card) to Frankie Edgar. Guida’s record doesn’t look great, but don’t let that fool you – the most recent losses have come against quality fighters like Thomas, Yusuke Endo and Gilbert Melendez. Also, Tristan Yunker… um, yeah. Griffin, meanwhile, holds victories over Duane “Bang” Ludwig and Urijah Faber. If this were all about past performances, Guida would’ve already lost. Fortunately, it’s not.

I’m looking at this as the fight of the night – both guys love to push the pace so we should see a ton of action here. This, by the way, is the usual way of saying “both guys are evenly matched so don’t expect a stoppage unless someone makes a huge mistake”.

Anyway, it’s cliche, but I see the winner as the fighter can impose their will more often on the other.

Prediction: Griffin, Decision

Welterweights: Jason Tan (Liverpool, England, 4-1) vs. “Not The Irish Hand Grenade” Marcus Davis (Bangor, ME, 11-3)
Davis came into The Ultimate Fighter 2 more boxer than mixed matrial artist. Since then, he has reinvented himself and has won five of his last eight fights by submission. And apparently, his nickname isn’t such a good idea in Ireland – I guess they’re sensitive to grenades and bombs and such. Can’t imagine why. So he’s going by “The Celtic Warrior” for this fight. Tan is a replacement for Paul Taylor, and is making his UFC debut. According to UFC Junkie Tan is experienced in Muay Thai and boxing, which is great for Davis since boxing is also his background. Davis has an impressive win streak going, and expect it to continue.

Prediction: Davis, Submission R2

Heavyweights: “The Manic Hispanic” Eddie Sanchez (Temecula, CA, 6-1) vs. “Big C” Colin Robinson (Antrim, Northern Ireland, 8-2)
Last time out, Sanchez was a sacrificial lamb for the debuting Mirko Cro Cop. This time, he gets a man from Northern Ireland, but there’s no mystique built around Robinson – unless you’re talking about the ability to beat down a bunch of cans (his last four victories came against fighters with a combined 12-9 record – 11 of those wins by the same fighter). Both fighters are willing to strike, and I think that they’ll be both looking for that one punch to knock the other guy out.

Prediction: Sanchez, TKO R2

Middleweights: Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith (Elk Grove, CA, 11-3) vs. Ed “Short Fuse” Herman (Portland, OR, 12-5)
I don’t think Herman is all that great a fighter, but since the UFC has invested a bit in him “Short Fuse” gets fellow TUF alumni Scott Smith. Is Ed better than, say, Chris Leben? Definitely, but Herman is sometimes too aggressive, and I think that worked against him in losing to Jason MacDonald. Four of Herman’s five losses were via submission, so I suppose it’s “lucky” for him that Smith is pretty much a striker. Smith (similar to James Irvin) is living off of that one punch, last ditch KO victory over Pete Sell, and his last fight featured him and Patrick Cote fighting not to lose. He’ll be looking to show that he does have the ability beyond the one punch this time around, but you have to figure that “Short Fuse” will try to take this to the ground ASAP.

Prediction: Herman, Submission R2

Welterweights: Dustin Hazelett (Cincinnati, OH, 8-3) vs. “Smiling Assassin” Stevie Lynch (Antrim, Northern Ireland, 4-0)
Lynch is a relative newcomer to MMA at the spry age of 36. I really can’t tell you much about the guy except that he’s a mate of Colin Robinson, and that he’s giving the “just happy to be here” interviews, which is great in baseball, not so much in MMA. Hazelett is a teammate of Rich Franklin, and is a BJJ brown belt under Jorge Gurgel, which I think will serve him well against a striker like Lynch. He did lose to the bearded wonder, Tony DeSouza in his UFC debut, but in his defence he took the fight on short notice, and DeSouza is one tough veteran. I don’t know that the competition is all that great in Ireland, so I’m going with Hazelett for this one.

Prediction: Hazelett, Submission R1

Enjoy the fights!