This Saturday the UFC makes its first trip to Germany as UFC 99 emanates live from the Lanxess Arena in Cologne. There has been a lot of controversy over there about the merits of the sport and the local government has gone so far as to prohibit minors from coming to the show. Fortunately this controversy has done little to mar my excitement across the pond about some potentially great fights.
Taking a cue from Strikeforce that catch weight bouts are not the end of the world the UFC has let two of the world’s most feared strikers meet at a catch weight of 195 lbs as one moves up to light heavyweight and the other moves down to middleweight. Rich Franklin, former UFC middleweight champion, takes on Wanderlei Silva respectively, former Pride light heavyweight champion, in a fight that should produce fireworks.
Franklin is moving up to light heavyweight permanently but is taking a bit of a detour to take on a formidable opponent in Silva who is working his way down to middleweight. These two vaunted strikers should put on quite a clinic and the chances of this making it to a decision are slim.
Also on the card is much hyped heavyweight Cain Velasquez taking on his first real test in the UFC against fearsome kick boxer Cheick Kongo. Welterweight contender Mike Swick takes on up and comer Ben Saunders. In a bad blood match Marcus Davis takes on the next British sensation Dan Hardy. And UFC 99 also marks the return of Caol Uno and Mirko Cro Cop to the UFC.
All that and we haven’t even made it to the undercard! Let’s start to break this bad boy down:
John Hathaway v. Rick Story: Hathaway is 10-0, 1-0 in the UFC, with eight wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Story is 7-2, making his UFC debut, with four wins by stoppage. He is a striker and wrestler.
I think Hathaway has the advantage here in terms of striking and in UFC experience. While Story could be the better wrestler I think Hathaway will pick Story apart and avoid the ground game. I like Hathaway to stay undefeated with a win by decision.
Denis Stojnic v. Stefan Struve: Stojnic is 5-2, 0-1 in the UFC, with two wins by KO. He is a striker with a background in karate and sambo. Struve 16-3, 0-1 in the UFC, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with some striking.
This is a cutting the fat fight as both guys are 0-1 in the UFC and most likely the loser of this fight will get cut. This is a great match up of striker v. grappler. I usually go for the grappler in this situation and I’m not veering away from that here. I’m picking Struve to get the fight to the ground where he can control it and earn the decision victory.
Paul Kelly v. Rolando Delgado: Kelly is 9-1, 2-1 in the UFC, with seven wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some submission ability. Delgado is 6-3-1, 1-0 in the UFC, with five wins by stoppage. He is a jiu-jitsu fighter.
Again this is a striker v. grappler match up. Kelly has more experience against better competition and Kelly is coming down from welterweight so he should have the power advantage. Normally I would pick the grappler but I like Kelly’s chances in this fight. I’m picking Kelly’s heavy hands to get him the win by TKO in the second round.
Paul Taylor v. Peter Sobotta: Taylor is 9-4-1, 2-3 in the UFC, with seven wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some submission ability. Sobotta is 8-1, making his UFC debut, with all eight wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some submission skills.
This should be a fairly even match up however I think there is a lot of pressure on Sobotta being at home in Germany and making his UFC debut. With that in mind I’ll give Taylor the slight edge and I’ll pick him to win by TKO in the second round.
Denis Siver v. Dale Hartt: Siver is 13-6, 2-3 in the UFC, with nine wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with some striking. Hartt is 6-1, 1-1 in the UFC, with all six wins by stoppage. He is a striker.
Siver would be smart to get this fight to the mat quickly. While Hartt’s record says he’s 1-1 in the UFC that win came via Corey Hill’s gruesome injury so Hartt hasn’t had any success in the UFC really. I think Siver can do enough on his feet to get the fight to the ground where he should have a decisive advantage.
I’m picking Siver to win by submission in the first round.
Terry Etim v. Justin Buchholz: Etim is 12-2, 3-2 in the UFC, with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with solid muay thai. Buchholz is 7-2, 1-1 in the UFC, with all seven wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with solid striking.
This should be a fairly even match up. Both these guys are submission fighters at heart but I think that will cancel each other out and it will come down to who is the better striker. In my opinion Etim should have the advantage. Due to that I’ll pick Etim to get the TKO win in the first round.
Mostapha Al-turk v. Mirko Cro Cop: Al-turk is 6-4, 0-1 in the UFC, with all six wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Cro Cop is 24-6-2, 1-2 in the UFC, with 21 wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer.
This is a match tailor made for Cro Cop’s return. Al-turk is simply a striker and is definitely not on the level of a Gonzaga or Kongo who beat Cro Cop in his last run. I don’t see Cro Cop having much trouble here. I’ll pick Cro Cop by TKO in the first round.
Spencer Fisher v. Caol Uno: Fisher is 22-4, 7-3 in the UFC, with 19 wins by stoppage. He has good striking and submissions. Uno is 27-11-4, 3-3-1 in the UFC, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with good wrestling and submissions.
Uno makes his first appearance in the UFC in six years. Uno has been working his way back up the lightweight ladder and is not taking any cupcakes in his return to the UFC. Fisher has won two fights in a row and is always dangerous on the feet and the ground.
The key here is can Uno get the fight to the ground or can Fisher keep it on the feet. Both are solid wrestlers so it will come down to who can impose his will. I think Fisher is good enough on the ground to survive with Uno but I don’t think Uno’s striking can compare with Fisher’s.
I think Fisher has the decided advantage in one area and will use it to his advantage. I’m going to pick Fisher to win by TKO in the second round.
Marcus Davis v. Dan Hardy: Davis is 16-4, 8-2 in the UFC, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a boxer with good jiu-jitsu. Hardy is 21-6, 2-0 in the UFC, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with a background in muay thai, tae kwon do, and has some jiu-jitsu skills.
If Davis was smart he would get this fight to the mat but I know he loves to strike and wants to beat Hardy at his own game especially after all the smack talk between the two. I do think Davis has the advantage on the feet but obviously it’s a dangerous game playing right into Hardy’s hands.
I’m still going to pick Davis to win by decision. Hardy is a tough kid so I don’t see him getting KO’d. This should be a fantastic war and possible fight of the night.
Mike Swick v. Ben Saunders: Swick is 13-2, 8-1 in the UFC, with seven wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer with some submission skills. Saunders is 7-0-2, 3-0 in the UFC, with six wins by stoppage. He is a striker with a kickboxing and karate background along with some submission skills.
Saunders hasn’t faced anyone at the level of Swick yet and it will be interesting to see how he compares to a true contender. I think Saunders would be best served taking the fight to the mat but I’m not sure he could get it there even if he wanted to.
I think Swick will get the win here easily living up to his nickname “Quick.” I’m picking Swick by KO in the first round. I would love to see Swick take on either Jon Fitch or Martin Kampmann for a shot at the title after Thiago Alves.
Cheick Kongo v. Cain Velasquez: Kongo is 19-4-1, 7-2 in the UFC, with eight wins by KO. He is a muay thai fighter. Velasquez is 5-0, 3-0 in the UFC, with all five wins by KO. He is a wrestler with strong hands.
This will be Velasquez’ first real test in the UFC. Kongo will be the best striker Velasquez has seen and Velasquez has to be careful on his feet and in the takedown. However, Kongo is not a top level grappler as was proven against Heath Herring and Carmello Marerro who can’t hold a torch to Velasquez’ wrestling.
Velasquez should be able to hang in with Kongo on the feet until he can take him down and rough him up. Kongo is a tough guy so I don’t see Velasquez stopping him but he should do enough to rack up points. I’m picking Velasquez to win by decision. I’d like to see him go to the next level against a Randy Couture or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira after this fight with Shane Carwin taking on whoever doesn’t get Velasquez.
Rich Franklin v. Wanderlei Silva: Franklin is 24-4, 11-3 in the UFC, with 22 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some submissions. Silva is 32-9-1, 1-2 in the UFC, with 26 wins by stoppage. He is muay thai fighter with jiu-jitsu skills.
We all know that this will be a toe to toe war. No one is looking to duck the other guy’s punches. Someone is getting knocked out here the question is who?
Silva’s striking is more diverse but he also has the weaker chin. Franklin is tougher but for whatever reason is really susceptible to the muay thai clinch. Both guys should be about the same size as Silva is moving down and Franklin was always a huge middleweight so the power factor here should be negligible.
If Franklin can stay outside where he has the reach advantage he should be able to pick his spots and land the KO after he’s worn down Silva a bit. If Silva can get inside in the clinch and deliver some punishing knees and punches he could end this fight quickly.
I hate to say it because Silva may be my favorite fighter of all time but I think he’s been in too many wars and his body is breaking down. His chin appears softer and he doesn’t have the same burst that he used to. Franklin has really only been beaten by the best of the best in Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, and Lyoto Machida. Franklin has also done a better job of staying out of those wars that take such a tremendous toll on the body.
I think Franklin will stay outside and use his length to keep Silva at bay. He will wear Silva down and eventually finish him late in the fight. I’m picking Franklin to win by TKO in the third round.
Silva is in no danger of losing his UFC contract even with his third loss because he’s such a big draw. However, he should really ask himself if it’s worth fighting anymore and maybe it’s time to move on to training. For Franklin this win doesn’t do much for his standing at light heavyweight but it puts him back at the top of people’s minds in terms of popularity.
My pick for submission of the night goes to Denis Siver. My pick for KO of the night goes to Mike Swick. And my pick for fight of the night goes to Marcus Davis v. Dan Hardy.
This should be a really great night of fights as the UFC treats us to an unusually large card of 12 fights including an unheard of six on the main card. I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out!
Stay tuned for No News Barred every Weds. on InsideFights. Until next time,
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