At UFC 93, January 17th in Dublin Ireland, former UFC middleweight champion Rich “Ace” Franklin faces off with former Pride welterweight and middleweight champion Dan “Hendo/Hollywood” Henderson. These men were both great champions, and after some setbacks to their careers, both are on a collision course chasing that championship status once again.
Rich Franklin wins this fight. Do not be surprised if he beats Henderson in a fashion never seen before, KO.
Hendo had his greatest success in the Pride Fighting organization. Hendo is the only person in MMA history to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously. Hendo is a fierce competitor who has endured countless wars in his time. Those wars seem to have taken their toll on the man. His record since returning to the UFC is 1-2. Time and constantly moving up and down in weight seems to be wearing Hendo down.
Ace, has primarily fought at MW. Recently he ventured back to LHW, due to his unmarketable role as a gatekeeper for the MW throne. Rich is no stranger to the LHW division. Ace started his career there his only loss in the division came via TKO at the hands of Lyoto Machida. He has never lost at this weight in the UFC. It is his natural, more comfortable weight.
Rich has trained from the beginning in BJJ, and has the skills to submit. I imagine Ace will avoid Hendo’s world class ground game though. Especially knowing his prowess on the feet is as good as it is. That being said, his 9 submission victories are enough to give Hendo some pause when attacking on the ground. His wrestling leaves a bit to be desired.
Hendo is a two time Olympic wrestler, but prefers pursuing the KO first. The stand up will weigh heavily on the decision to take this to the ground, but look for Hendo to initiate the take down if at all. Hendo did great for a short period against Anderson Silva, a BJJ black belt under the Nogueira brothers, on the ground. He is tactical and he is sharp on the floor to say the least.
Keep in mind though Ace recently fought Matt Hamill a phenomenal wrestler. Ace was not only able to stuff multiple take downs, he was able to get back to his feet at will, and proceeded to destroy the highly talented Hamill on the feet. Rich is ever improving, while Hendo seems to be set in ways that were once successful for him. Hendo’s wrestling is not as much of a burden to Rich as one might think.
Hendo has never been knocked out. Hendo tends to take fights to the decision, or KOs his opponent. He carries 11 KOs, and 12 decision wins. His right hand is a grenade. His wrestling is strong, but more or less for defense, control, and a compliment to his standup, which he prefers. He also wants to secure points, all the while attempting to get his licks in and stop his opponent. He fights smart. He works hard. He moves forward. Rich must be careful to avoid the right hand here. Other than that, Rich should be able to avoid too much punishment with his timely footwork and jabbing to keep Hendo away.
Prior to Ace’s two TKOs at the hands of the Spider in ’06-’07, he hadn’t lost a fight since ’03 in any fashion. Rich has a great chin, and or is great at avoiding punishment. What Hendo carries in his right hand, Rich offsets with calculated unorthodox striking. He fights from everywhere, creating strange angles, and hitting hard from those angles. Rich is also a southpaw, which is awkward by nature. Rich must keep Hendo at bay, and use his sharper stand up to methodically dismantle Hendo. If he does this, he wins the fight. If he does not, his BJJ game should keep him competitive on the ground.
Rich has 13 KOs and 9 submissions under his belt. The fact that only two of his fights have ever gone to the decision tells you he is on a mission for either of those outcomes in every fight. Rich is the better striker overall. Being that I predict this fight to stay primarily standing, you can see the advantage there. Hendo has a sense of security in the fact that he has never been knocked out, and he has an asset in that right hand that could end the fight. He will be comfortable standing. More than likely he intends to test that comfort and security. Rarely do the judges earn their dough when Rich fights. Keep that in mind.
Hendo has fought such recognizable names such as Wandy and Anderson Silva, Rampage Jackson, and both Nogueira brothers. He fought primarily in Pride where the fights are more intense, and inherently more dangerous by design of the organization. More recently a UFC rookie, Rousimar Palhares, took Hendo to a decision. Could father time and those wars be taking their toll, or was that UFC rookie good enough to take an MMA legend the distance? While Palhares is a BJJ phenom, Hendo has KO’d Wanderlei Silva. He was capable of absolute wars. I feel it is just an example of a declining legend, unable to finish an up and coming rookie. If he couldn’t stop a rookie, what makes one think he will stop a UFC veteran?
Ace’s list is not as impressive as Hendo’s. The only fighters that jump off the page at you may be Ken Shamrock, the late Evan Tanner, and of course the ever elusive Machida. Other than that, you’ve got Anderson Silva. Comparing those names for the sake of history gives Hendo the advantage hands down. The thing about a resume is it shows past experience. Hendo has a better resume because he has been around longer, which is also a detriment by default in the age and absorbed damage department.
Since 2005, Ace has fought 10 times losing only twice to the same man, the Spider (80% wins). That tells me, when Silva isn’t in the Octagon with him, Ace comes out with his hand raised. In that same timeframe, Hendo has fought 11 times losing four fights to four different men (63% wins). This supports the previous theory that Hendo is on the decline, while Ace has steadily succeeded against every fighter not named Anderson Silva.
As for my prediction, Hendo comes in too confident in his standup game, against an equally dangerous man. Hendo is carrying the burden of age and a decline in base skills such as endurance, speed, and power, typical for an aging athlete. Ace is four years his jr., and has three years fewer in the fight game, having taken less damage over that time.
The place where I feel Rich has the advantage is the one place I truly feel the majority of the fight will take place, on the feet, hands flying, banging. Both men have openly stated that stand up is their preference in this fight. That is where Rich will win this fight decisively, and he has a fair chance on the ground if and when it goes there. Winning this fight will catapult Ace into the mix of title contention within the LHW division.
Final prediction: Ace-round two-TKO ref stoppage due to strikes
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts