Inside Fights Roundtable: UFC 73: Stacked

The Rev was unavailable, so I’m pinch hitting here putting together the iFights predictions for UFC 73: Stacked. Joining me, Kevin the Reality TV guy, are boxing afficionado Trent Pusey, columnist Mike Nichols and Broken Dial editor Shawn M. Smith.

Anderson “The Spider” Silva (C) vs. Nate “The Great” Marquardt (Middleweight Title)
Trent: I am not on the Marquardt bandwagon. I don’t even know if there is one. I just know that Silva ruins people. From what I do know about Marquardt, he is a person. So my logic dictates that Marquardt will be ruined.

Kevin: If there’s someone that can counter Silva’s devastating striking, it’s “Narco” Nate Marquardt. We saw a physically drained Travis Lutter take down and control Silva until he gassed and tapped out to a triangle choke. However, Silva was also not at 100% as he’d undergone surgery to both knees after winning the belt from Rich Franklin. That he was able to fight again (at a high level no less) in less than 4 months is quite impressive.

But back to Nate Marquardt. In my opinion, he’s the second most boring fighter in the UFC, after Lyoto Machida. That he’s fighting for the title pretty much says it all about the UFC’s middleweight division, and why Dan Henderson isn’t fighting at 185 is beyond me. Nate’s got the ability to win, but I don’t think that grinding it out for 5 rounds will excite the fans a whole helluva lot. So look for Nate to try to exchange with Silva, get caught doing so, and head back to the list of not-ready-for-prime-time middleweights.

Mike: I was reading an interesting piece about this fight on the UFC’s website, and my jaw just about hit the floor when I read that Rich Franklin’s three-fight title reign is the longest for any UFC middleweight champ. For some reason or another, this belt is damn near impossible to hold onto, and Silva’s going to have a difficult time bucking that trend in this fight.

Marquardt has good hands, an excellent clinch, and a superb ground game; while Silva’s a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Travis Lutter was able to take him down at will, and Marquardt’s faster, stronger, and a better wrestler than Lutter. Silva’s fantastic knockout power and speed are always going to make him the favorite standing up, but Marquardt’s standup isn’t exactly weak.

I don’t know what Wong was talking about when he called Marquardt boring: the Doerksen and Lister fights were terrific, and this one should be no different. Then again, Wong did pick Andy Wang to win at the Ultimate Fighter finale, so maybe his judgment’s a little clouded. Silva’s a great fighter, but Marquardt is the worst possible matchup for him: think Matt Lindland with striking skills.

Shawn: There IS a Nate Marquardt bandwagon. I am part of it, but the upsetting thing is that he was pushed into a title shot because of the lack of depth at Middleweight. He’s been in UFC long enough to garner 4 victories, but I don’t feel as though anyone is cheering for the dude because his style wins, it doesn’t always dazzle. Three of his wins (Salaverry, Doerksen, Lister) were via unanimous decision. His lone stoppage was over Crafton Wallace who is definitely not a top UFC fighter. I cannot figure why Zuffa wouldn’t want Nate to be the dude to warm-up Dan Henderson (as throwing him in with Rampage isn’t the way to show your commitment to his career) but if he’s ready enough for them, he’s ready enough for me. Silva had those two knee surgeries before the Lutter fight that hampered his ability to finish that encounter, but I don’t seem that being a problem here.

Trent: Silva by 2nd round TKO
Kevin: Silva, TKO R3
Mike: Marquardt by decision
Shawn: Silva, KO (Knee) R2

Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk (C) vs. Hermes Franca (Lightweight Title)
Trent: Franca finally gets his wish. After pleading to Dana White for a title shot, Franca draws a jacked up 155-pounder. Franca is fun to watch and easy to root for but for Sean Sherk, Franca will also be easy to control. Sherk will use his wrestling advantage to gain the ‘ol ground and pound stoppage.

Kevin: The All Access feature on Sherk revealed two things – he’s a nutter who trains really hard, and Rachelle Leah is somehow hotter in regular clothing. Sadly, it did not show the reason why he’s in the lightweight division – mainly, he got messed up real good by one Georges St. Pierre. Actually, there’s another reason – at 170, Sherk was small. At 155, the guy is the Matt Hughes of the division. Well, minus the part where Hughes is a jerk. Regardless, two losses in 36 fights is impressive, and they can’t even be considered blemishes when you consider that he lost to GSP and Hughes.

Hermes Franca was the WEC Lightweight champion up until Zuffa purchased WEC. Since losing a decision in 2005, he’s been on quite the roll, winning eight straight fights by either submission or knockout. Casualties along the way include Spencer Fisher, Nate Diaz, Jamie Varner, and the guy who once jobbed to cake. He’s only been stopped once, losing by decision on four other occasions. Unfortunately for Franca, Sherk is a big 155er who has the ability and cardio to grind out a five round decision, and while I don’t see Franca in danger of getting stopped, Sherk is probably going to have to make a mistake for Franca to slap on a submission for the win.

Mike: For all the flak that the keyboard warriors give him, Sean Sherk is a hell of a fighter–a phenomenally strong wrestler with excellent technical striking and terrific conditioning. He fought some of the toughest guys that the UFC has to offer at 170 pounds and smothered the hell out of Kenny Florian to claim the lightweight belt after moving down in weight, so he’s no stranger to big fights.

I enjoy Franca’s fights: between his bizarre hairstyles, his crazy punches, and his out-of-nowhere submissions, he gives me the impression that I’m watching something of a mad genius at work, and his utter unpredictability in the octagon is crazy fun to watch. Still, his best chance for a win is with his jiu-jitsu, and Sherk’s not going to be an easy target for that.

To slap on a submission from the bottom, you have to create a little space between yourself and your opponent, and no one in the lightweight division is better at eliminating that space (and keeping pressure on the fighter on the bottom) than Sherk. Throw in his non-existent neck (there goes your chokes) and his massive but very short T-Rex arms (guess the armbars and oma platas are out), and Sherk can take pretty much any submission guru out of his game. Hermes is going to be game, but Sherk’s going to take this fight by ground-and-pound.

Shawn: Franca plead for his title shot because he deserved a chance. Now he is getting his wish against a brick wall named Sean Sherk. I like him about as much as Matt Hughes, which isn’t very much, but you have to respect him. If you saw the Road to UFC 73: Stacked show on Spike, Sherk has the ability to train like a lunatic. He’s fighting for the welfare of his family; if he wins, they keep making good money. If he loses, he knows that he will have to work his way back up the card to bigger money. Sherk needs this win or he is slipping down the card. Franca is a BJJ nut and is a super charismatic little guy that I feel really has a nice opportunity to surprise a few people.

Trent: Sherk by TKO in 3rd.
Kevin: Sherk, Decision
Mike: Sherk by TKO in the 3rd
Shawn: Franca, Submission R1

“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans
Trent: Evans is still improving and he’s even finishing fights now, as shown by his crumbling of Sean Salmon. Tito Ortiz needs a credible win. Evans will have to do. Ortiz will add another TUF winner to his resume as his big fight experience will prove to be the key. It’s one thing to headline an Ultimate Fight Night. It’s another to be in one of the main bouts on a pay-per-view event titled Stacked.

Kevin: Look at Rashad Evans, and you’re probably looking at what Tito Ortiz would’ve been like had his MMA career started in 2004 rather than 1997. Tito of course competed in an era where MMA as we know it was still in it’s infancy. Rashad has had the luxury of being able to find trainers to help him transition into becoming a true Mixed Martial Artist. But he’s still learning, and in his last fight, Sean Salmon actually dominated Rashad in the first round. Tito might not have as high a wrestling pedigree as Salmon, but you can be sure that he took notes on that fight.

A loss won’t hurt Tito one bit, but he knows that he needs a win here if he’s going to get a shot at the Rampage/Henderson winner, or at the very least a big money fight against Chuck Liddell/Wanderlei Silva/Shogun Rua. The question, really, is whether his love/hate relationship with Eric BischoffDana White has affected his training at all. Personally, I don’t think it has. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rashad came out of this for the victory here, but I’m still going with the veteran Ortiz.

Mike: The major questions framing this fight are what make it so damn intriguing: namely, can Tito stave off obsolescence and his history of catfighting with Dana White long enough to land one last UFC contract? And can Rashad use Tito’s name to springboard himself from potential superstar to bonafide contender?

For the first time in ages, Tito won’t have his security blanket of superior conditioning, which should be lethal against an opponent who’s younger, faster, and every bit as strong as Tito is. This is Rashad’s coming-out party, whether Tito likes it or not.

Shawn: Tito and Rashad are two of the most athletic fighters in the UFC today. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy, the most unnecessarily long nickname in MMA history, was the prototype for the academy that Greg Jackson runs: work ridiculously hard all the time, at elevation, and you will be in great shape. That’s a deliberate way to increase one’s stamina, but also shows that you are super badass. So we know that both fighters are coming into this fight in spectacular shape, the X factor has to be experience here. Tito knows how to fight on such a large stage and while Rashad has quietly built a resume in the octagon, he doesn’t have the experience necessary to intimidate his opponent. Rashad needs a mistake from Tito and Ortiz probably won’t make one of those until the third round. If this fight is still going on by that point, I would be very surprised.

Trent: Ortiz by unanimous decision
Kevin: Ortiz, Decision
Mike: Evans by TKO in the 2nd.
Shawn: Ortiz, TKO R2

“The Texas Crazy Horse” Heath Herring vs. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira
Trent: Nogueira has met Herring before in PRIDE. A little research showed me that they have in fact fought twice before. Both were wins by Big Nog. I think Dana White is still pissed about Herring’s debut and just riding out his contract.

Kevin: Herring wears a cowboy hat and trenchcoat to the ring. He might as well be sporting a yellow jockstrap on his head here. Herring is here to put on an exciting match to help showcase an opponent that the UFC audience is probably unfamiliar with. I’m not gonna say that he’s going to lie down for Nogueira, but obviously, that’s the idea here. Herring has a chance if this goes to the judges, as submission attempts are not as highly rated in the scoring as they are in Pride, but if Minotauro knows this, he’ll be trying for the stoppage.

Mike: American fans have been waiting roughly a million years to see Nogueira on a regular basis, and the UFC couldn’t have found a better first opponent for him than Herring, a tough guy who’ll just be completely outclassed. Herring’s not weak on the ground by any stretch of the imagination, but at this stage in his career, I can’t see him pulling off the upset.

Shawn: It’s dangerous to assume that because of Herring’s disappointing loss to Jake O’Brien and his boring-as-hell decision over “Slow Motion” Brad Imes that Dana wants to ride out Herring’s contract. Heath came over from WFA with Rampage and is still a dangerous heavyweight. Minotauro is not losing in his debut. If that happens so soon after Cro Cop’s horrible loss to Gabriel Gonzaga, you might as well wipe with your old PRIDE merchandise. I don’t want to do that and one thing Dana knows is that Nog had Herring’s number two times in PRIDE. Phew. No more high profile upsets.

Trent: Noguiera by submission in round 3
Kevin: Nogueira, Submission R2
Mike: Nogueira by submission in the 2nd.
Shawn: Nogueira, Submission R2

Kenny “KenFlo” Florian vs. Alvin “Kid” Robinson
Trent: I don’t know who Robinson is so let me use this time to say that the abbreviated “A-Rod” style nicknames don’t work for everyone. Kenny Florian is one of those people. So am I. I recall Leben dubbing him “Ginsu” during TUF 1 and that’s far better than Ken-Flo. It’s stupid and I hate it.

Kevin: As Trent noted, “KenFlo” is a horrible nickname, and if “The Maine-iac” were not in play, I’d call it the worst in the UFC. But I might be biased there, since I can’t stand Tim Sylvia. Anyway, we know that Florian has some vicious leg kicks, and he’s used those kicks to set up his ground game, where he’s earned a black belt in Gracie-Barra Jiu-Jitsu. Robinson, meanwhile, has a normal nickname (“Kid”), and has earned a brown belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. All eight of his wins have been via submission, with his one loss coming by TKO, so Florian is likely to unleash some of those kicks and elbows that he’s known for to earn the victory.

Mike: Florian absolutely dominated Dokonjonosuke Mishima, whose resume is about a mile long, and spent the time since sharpening up his muay Thai skills even more with Mark DelaGrotte and Stephan Bonnar. While it’s hard to judge on the results of just one fight, Kenny’s reinvention of himself was pretty damn impressive, and if he keeps it up, it may not be too long before he gets another title shot.

Speaking of impressive resumes, Robinson’s a star protégé of Royce Gracie, who doesn’t exactly hand out black belts to just anyone. Still, Florian’s jiu-jitsu and grappling should prove to match up fairly well with Robinson, and he’ll have an obvious edge in striking and ground-and-pound. For Robinson’s sake, I hope that someone other than Royce trained him in striking, but I don’t think it’ll help him here.

Shawn: Kenny is so sickly looking, but I assume that this will be the fight we see blood in. Robinson isn’t a pushover though as all 8 of his wins (with only 1 loss by TKO) are by submission. If Florian tries to stop the fight in the first round, we might see a quick sub by either of these two. I wish Florian didn’t love his razor sharp elbows, but we know he does and he is going to mess this dude’s face up.

Trent: Kenny “Ginsu” Florian by unanimous decision
Kevin: Florian, TKO R3
Mike: Florian by TKO in the 3rd.
Shawn: Florian, Doctor Stoppage R3

“The American Psycho” Stephan Bonnar vs. Mike “Tomko” Nickels
Trent: Bonnar needs a win. His best performance was in a loss. Good thing he’s fighting a guy that I saw lose to a deaf, one-armed wrestler that refused to wrestle. And Nickels lost badly. Bonnar should be able to beat that guy, right?

Kevin: Obviously, Nickels is not to be confused with our own Mike Nichols. He’s got a three fight win streak going. Unfortunately this was at the rate of one win a year, partially due to being on The Ultimate Fighter. And of course that win streak does not include his loss on the show to the guy that hopefully Bisping will pummel. Bonnar, meanwhile, went to Thailand in February. Photos show that it was for training, as Florian and Dellagrotte were with him, so hopefully he learned something there, although against a Jiu-Jitsu fighter like Nickels, he’ll probably want to keep things standing and try his usual crap.

Mike: Bonnar makes his UFC return against another TUF alum in Nickels, and we’ll get to see whether his layoff help him sharpen his skills or just gave him a thicker layer of ring rust. I like Mike–how could I not with that name?–but unfortunately for him, Bonnar’s just better than him at every aspect of MMA.

As a striker, Bonnar’s light-years ahead, though Mike did knock someone out in seven seconds in a regional tune-up fight; hey, maybe Mike finally threw that flying knee that Ken Shamrock spent ten minutes screaming at him about. In the clinch, Bonnar’s bigger, stronger, and just returned from a trip to Thailand, while on the ground, both fighters have a stalemate at best. I’m not ruling out the possibility that Nickels could catch Bonnar with a quick and nasty submission, but Bonnar’s probably going to make the most of his second chance and pick up the win here.

Shawn: I don’t care if Nickels lost to a midget; Bonnar is useless. I hate Tim Sylvia for juicing and Stephan has to do quite a bit to regain my respect. His biggest “victory” was in his first loss to Forrest Griffin, and he didn’t adjust his gameplan and got owned by his the second time. He also got embarrassed by the more athletic Rashad Evans and Nickels’ only professional loss is too a gentleman that recently lost on WEC 28: WrekCage to Brian Stann on strikes.

I hate the horse faced piece of steroid using crap, so I will reluctantly pick Nickels and I hope big, big “steroid” chants break out and the fans boo Bonnar. Cheating scumbag. Chin tattoo takes this by “severe emotional abuse from fans.”

Trent: Bonnar by submission in round 1
Kevin: Bonnar, Decision
Mike: Bonnar by TKO in the 2nd
Shawn: Nickels, TKO R1

Jorge Gurgel vs. Diego “The Octopus” Saraiva
Trent: Sweet. I don’t know vs. I don’t care. Let’s go with I don’t care.

Kevin: Rich Franklin’s Good Friend Jorge takes on Saraiva in a lightweight fight. Oddly enough, both guys come from the same town in Brazil and this should motivate both guys. Unfortunately for Gurgel, he tends to get a little TOO excited and deviate from the expected game plan. This cost him in his fight against natural bantamweight Mark Hominick and probably led to his gaining a decision victory over Danny Abbadi, a guy he should have rolled over. But then again, with Gurgel and Josh Rafferty on his team, maybe Franklin’s boys are simply better trainers than they are fighters.

Mike: Gurgel’s UFC career has been miserably snakebitten, whether through injuries (various knee problems), uninspiring opponents (Danny Abbadi, anyone?), or through no fault of his own (the travesty that was the Gurgel-Hominick fight). All of which is a shame, because Gurgel’s a genuinely talented fighter: still, can he finally jumpstart his UFC career with a big win, or is he only destined for fame as Rich Franklin’s lil’ buddy?

For his part, Saraiva’s got some great skills but had a lot of difficulty with a bigger lightweight in his fight against Justin Hazelett, and I don’t expect that to change against Gurgel.

Shawn: This is a chance for Jorge to show that his knee is healed and isn’t going to prevent him from becoming a top flight fighter at 155.

Trent: Gurgel by unanimous decision
Kevin: Saraiva, Decision
Mike: Gurgel by submission in the 2nd
Shawn: Gurgel, Submission R1

Chris “Lights Out” Lytle vs. Jason “The Gizzard” Gilliam
Trent: Lytle was from the comeback season of The Ultimate Fighter. You know, the boring one. Lytle seemed like a decent fighter but more importantly a nice guy and in the end, being a nice guy is all that really counts.

Kevin: I suppose I should care more about this fight, but really, I don’t. Lytle seems like a nice guy though.

Mike: Gilliam’s got a great record in regional shows, but Lytle’s defensive skills are unbelievable; I mean, the guy is the epitome of the whole ‘wily veteran’ cliché. Of course, the flip side of that is that Lytle sometimes focuses so much of his energy into frustrating his opponent that he forgets to actually go on offense. Even so, I don’t see Lytle being overly defensive against a guy without a big win under his belt, and that should be enough to help him grind out a decision win.

Shawn: Lytle is a nice guy. That’s really all I know about him from the Ultimate Fighter 4: The Boring Show That Sunk TUF Ratings. I could cares less about his opponent, and that sucks. Hopefully this wins Match of the Night and everyone loves the guys involved forever. I doubt that will happen, this isn’t earmarked as a classic, but it sure would be nice.

Trent: Lytle by split decision
Kevin: Lytle, TKO R2
Mike: Lytle by decision
Shawn: Lytle, Submission R1

“The Answer” Frankie Edgar vs. Mark Bocek
Trent: I didn’t want anything to do with UFC 67 so I don’t know any of the buzz about this Frank Edgar guy. And, I DO NOT trust people with two first names. That being said, I’m pretty sure I’ve been picking chalk all night long so there’s no way I’m stopping now.

Kevin: Bocek is apparently pretty good at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he made it to the quarterfinals of the ADCC, so good on him. He’s finished all four of his fights in the first round, and has been training with Greg Jackson in preparation for his UFC debut. Edgar, meanwhile, has a perfect 6-0 record, with his last fight an upset of sorts over Tyson Griffin. As usual, when given a tough choice, I’m siding with the Canadian.

Mike: Edgar’s like the Energizer Bunny–you know, if only the Energizer Bunny was 155 pounds from New Jersey and barely gave his opponent enough room to breathe. Great wrestlers know how to control their opponents on the ground, and Edgar’s three-round chess match with grappling prodigy Tyson Griffin pegged him as one to watch in the lightweight division. Edgar’s opponent, Mark Bocek, is basically in the same place Edgar was before the Griffin fight: an obviously talented but obviously unproven fighter looking for his big break.

In a year filled with upsets, can Edgar handle coming in as the favorite? Bocek’s jiu-jitsu is fantastic, but Edgar should be able to control him and stay out of sweeps, joint locks, and chokes. Position over submission means Edgar by decision, and ‘The Answer’ moves up one more notch on the suddenly very crowded lightweight ladder.

Shawn: Frank Edgar is best known as the young, undefeated fighter that stopped the undefeated streak of Tyson Griffin at UFC 67. This is really a chance for him to continue his growth as a lightweight, so here’s to hoping he can deliver.

Trent: Edgar by unanimous decision
Kevin: Bocek, Submission R1
Mike: Edgar by decision
Shawn: Edgar, TKO R1