UFC 93: Preview & Predictions

UFC 93 is a show without a home.

That’s not to say that it won’t be televised, because they’re still charging regular price for a pay per view that most of the UFC fanbase is probably going to bypass. The main card has several fights that have hardcore fans salivating; seeing Dan Henderson face Rich Franklin would have been considered a dream match three years ago, and Shogun Rua making his return to the cage after well over a year off is enough to make any hardcore fan of the sport purchase the show.

So if there are good fights on the show, then why is it flying under the radar? It’s simply a matter of timing. In November, we had Brock Lesnar versus Randy Couture. In December, we had a show with three huge main events. In two weeks, we have Georges St. Pierre facing B.J. Penn in one of the biggest fights in company history. This show, with no title match and no big grudge matches that the casual fans will care about, just seems to fall flat from a marketing perspective.

That’s not to say that I’m not excited about the show, because I am. I just don’t see it doing anything over 300,000 buys. Typically, that would be a bad thing, but with this show being surrounded by gigantic events, it really doesn’t matter.

On with the preview.

Dan Henderson vs. Rich Franklin – A few years back, this would have been a dream fight. Right now, it’s just a placeholder main event on a show that will probably be seen by few people.

It’s a placeholder because it has no real mainstream appeal, and it doesn’t really even hold much appeal for the fighters involved. The winner of the fight moves on to become the coach of Team USA in the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, but Rich Franklin wants no part of the show. He also doesn’t want to move back to middleweight so soon after establishing himself in the light heavyweight division, mostly because he knows that he’ll never get a title shot as long as Anderson Silva holds the belt.

This fight is basically a pick ’em in Vegas. I’d consider Henderson to be a slight favorite, mostly because he’s going to be much stronger than Franklin and his greco work will be able to negate many of Franklin’s strengths. But there’s no real way to pick a definite winner, and I’m not even going to try. I think this fight will go the distance, with neither man gaining a clear advantage on the other, and the end result will be a close split decision.

PREDICTION: Dan Henderson by split decision

Mark Coleman vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I think this fight is impossible to pick. Yeah, Shogun Rua should dominate Coleman like there’s no tomorrow and should finish him in six seconds…if the Shogun of old shows up. If the Shogun of late 2007 shows up in the same condition and mindset he did against Forrest Griffin, then you could very well see the upset of the century with the centigenarian Coleman upsetting the man many still feel is one of the best light heavyweights on the planet, if not the absolute best.

Coleman is a one-trick pony: he’s a wrestler, and he has no other skills. He’s historically been very strong, but he’s also historically fought in Japan, where there is zero testing on fighters for performance enhancing drugs. Coleman was absolutely gigantic in Japan; in America, he’s suddenly a light heavyweight. You do the math.

Coleman is a very good wrestler, but is at a complete loss when it comes to jiu-jitsu. He’s never cared for jiu-jitsu, so he simply doesn’t train that skillset, and that mindset is going to be his downfall in 2008.

If the PRIDE version of Shogun Rua shows up, Mark Coleman is in for a very short night. I’m betting that we’ll see a first round knockout.

PREDICTION: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by TKO, Round One

Alan Belcher vs. Denis Kang – Kang is making his UFC debut, which means he’s a virtual unknown to 85% of the people who will order UFC 93 on pay per view this weekend. To many of the other 15%, however, Kang is considered one of the best middleweight fighters on the planet, a man who could eventually dethrone reigning champion Anderson Silva.

I’m going against the grain on this fight. Too many UFC debuts have been spoiled over the past year for me to give Kang an automatic pass, and in fact, I’m predicting that Belcher will knock Kang out to finish the fight.

Prediction: Alan Belcher by TKO, Round One

Jeremy Horn vs. Rousimar Palhares – Jeremy Horn is a semi-legend in the fight business, but he doesn’t bring too much to the table in 2008. Rousimar Palhares is the prototypical one-dimensional fighter, a man with outstanding Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills but very little else. Palhares was exposed in his fight against Dan Henderson, as he displayed zero willingness to do anything but lay on his back and entice Henderson into a position where he could secure a submission.

Those jiu-jitsu skills might be enough to put away Horn, however. If Palhares were fighting someone with more dimensions (trademark Rich Franklin), then I think he’d be in trouble. Against an aging and well-traveled fighter like Horn, however, Palhares should have little trouble securing another of the fantastic submissions he’s become known.

Prediction: Rousimar Palhares by submission, Round Two

Marcus Davis vs. Chris Lytle – This is one of those fights where it doesn’t matter who wins the fight in the octagon; the fans are the true winners, especially given the “gentlemen’s agreement” between Lytle and Davis to try and win fight of the night.

Regardless of whether or not you consider the agreement to be fair or even legal, there is no question that this fight has all the ingredients for a stand-up war that won’t be equaled by anything on the rest of the show. Davis is a skilled boxer, and not only can Lytle hit harder than anyone else in the welterweight division, but he can take a punch with the best of them.

Lytle has attained gatekeeper status in the welterweight division. He’s not a contender, but anyone who wants to be a legitimate contender seemingly must go through him in order to reach the top. I think that’s the case here, too, and I believe Davis is up for the challenge. The Irish Hand Grenade isn’t a complete fighter by any measure, but he’s got the tools to dispose of Lytle.

Prediction: Marcus Davis by TKO, Round Two