The UFC loves Canada: UFC 113 in Montreal last month, the announcement of UFC Toronto a few weeks back, and now they move into the unchartered waters of British Columbia for UFC 115: Liddell vs. Franklin in Vancouver. Despite buzz being a bit low for the event and second-hand tickets supposedly dropping dramatically in price, there are a few interesting questions posed by this card: Is Rory MacDonald the real deal? Can Ben Rothwell survive enough so we can see a rematch with Roy Nelson? Is Chuck Liddell‘s fancy new six-pack and dance moves from ABC’s Dancing With The Stars an indicator that he’s given up his partying ways and could fight a few more times? I don’t have all the answers, but I have some opinions (like all of my pick ‘ems, please feel free to debate, berate, or adulate in the comments section below).
SPIKE PRE-LIMS QUICK PICK
Mac Danzig over Matt Wiman via decision
Evan Dunham over Tyson Griffin via submission, R3
Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald
The only Canadian on the main card, welterweight Rory MacDonald, was brought into the UFC in January and submitted Mike Guymon in R1. There’s some great buzz around the King of the Cage standout’s undefeated 10-0 record as he heads into the cage against Carlos Condit, a Greg Jackson camp fighter who, after going on a 5-0 tear in the WEC & winning the WW belt, was absorbed into the UFC and is 1-1 (split decision loss to Martin Kampmann in his debut & recently won a split decision over Jake Ellenberger at UFC 108). Despite a questionable start, Condit’s experience will be the deciding factor against the rookie, but I think “The Waterboy” has enough in him to not get taken out by Condit. Sorry, Canada, I see you 0-1 on the Main Card
Jay Pick: Condit via decision
Ben Rothwell vs. Gilbert Yvel
[adinserter block=”2″]This HW matchup that could produce the KO of the Night if Yvel has his way. The controversial Muay Thai specialist is 1-2 in his last 3 fights, losing to Josh “Fighting In The States Is Hard Because I Can’t Beat a Piss Test” Barnett, knocking out Pedro Rizzo at Ultimate Chaos last June, & most recently getting TKO’d by Junior dos Santos at UFC 108 this past January. Rothwell, the IFL standout who holds victories over Big Country & Krzysztof Soszynski (or K-Sos, if I wanted to be lazier), lost his UFC debut against HW title-contender Cain Velasquez at UFC 104 and will be looking to rebound hard since an 0-2 start in the UFC is the fast track to the unemployment line. Oddsmakers give Big Ben the slight edge, but he may want to not come out swinging for the fences against the veteran Dutchman. If he’s smart, he’ll use his size and take wear Yvel down on the ground before pounding him out. Cheers to hoping for Rothwell vs. Nelson II!
Jay Pick: Rothwell via TKO, R2
Paulo Thiago vs. Martin Kampmann
Moving on down to the Welterweight division, Paulo Thiago looks to prove he’s a legit threat in the division against Kampmann, who’s 7-2 in the UFC with notable wins over Jacob Volkmann & Carlos Condit since moving down to WW. The Dane has good submission wrestling but Thiago poses a huge threat on the ground as well with black belts in judo & BJJ (most recent victory over Mike Swick via brabo choke at UFC 109 in February). I hate picking the favorites (Thiago is -215 to Kampmann at +170 with the oddsmakers) but I think Thiago has more tools, his only loss was getting decisioned by #3 WW Jon Fitch, and a better ground game to nullify Kampmann’s attempts. If GSP beats Koscheck late this year/early next & Thiago rolls off a win or two, I’d definitely like to see a rematch.
Jay Pick: Thiago via TKO, R2 (Fun pick on the finish)
Pat Barry vs. Mirko Cro Cop
The fan favorite on the rise, Pat Barry, fights the perennial fan favorite in Pride legend Mirko Cro Cop. Both men are kickboxers with brutal leg kicks, so I wouldn’t expect a jiu-jitsu clinic or grappling match. Basically, if Yvel/Rothwell doesn’t provide the KO of the Night, this fight will. Barry is 5-1 with all 5 wins coming via TKO or KO (his lone loss was to Tim Hague via submission at UFC 98). Despite his height (5’11”), Barry is a 255 lb. beast with K-1 experience and a silver medal in the Kung Fu World Championship. If you leave a leg out, Barry will kick it…and kick it very very very hard. As for Cro Cop, he’s 2-1 since returning to the UFC a year ago, but it has not been easy. After controversially finishing Mostapha Al-Turk at UFC 99, Cro Cop lost to (you guessed it) Junior dos Santos at UFC 103 and then was slated to fight Ben Rothwell at this past February at UFC 110 before Rothwell withdrew due to illness. On short notice, Aussie Anthony Perosh stepped in and, to his credit, made it to R3 before Cro Cop opened him up and the fight was stopped. I think Cro Cop still has a knock-your-head-clean-off kick left him, but I don’t see it coming against a younger, stockier game kickboxer like Barry, despite Barry’s shorter size making a headkick a little easier to get around.
Jay Pick: Barry via TKO, R1
Main Event – Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin
[adinserter block=”1″]And now, fight fans, our Light Heavyweight main event: Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell vs. Rich “Ace” Franklin. Both have dominated divisions, won gold, and are fan favorites. Both are also on the downside of their careers as they grapple with struggling records and Father Time. With Franklin stepping in late for Chuck’s nemesis Tito Ortiz in the most recent installment of The Ultimate Fighter, the heat for this fight is not exactly there, but any sort of relevance in the LHW food chain hangs on this fight. Liddell’s bread and butter is his patented multi-angle power counter punches being dropped a plenty like napalm, which worked like a charm during his heralded LHW title run a few years back (unfortunately, partying like there’s a shortage in the world’s alcohol supply and lowering your hands during a fight against younger opponents earns you a 1-4 record as of late with three losses via KO). Former MW champ Franklin is 2-2 in his last 4 fights with a TKO over Matt Hamill in his LHW debut, a decision loss to Dan Henderson, a UD win over Wanderlei Silva (195 Catchweight), and recently getting KO’d hard in the first round by Vitor Belfort in another 195 lb Catchweight fight at UFC 103. He has the edge in terms of agility and is more of the technical striker with good leg kicks. He’s favored slightly over Liddell on the line, hovering around -140 to Liddell’s +120…but I am breaking with my line of picking favorites on this card and going with Ol’ Chuck on this one. He looks to be in the best shape we’ve seen maybe ever and with his back against the wall of retirement, I think he’ll take this one.
Jay Pick: Liddell via TKO, R2
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