The UFC returns this weekend after only a two week lay off. UFC 115 will be the fourth show in Canada for the organization and the first one held in Vancouver which just sanctioned the sport in December of last year.
The main event was originally going to be Liddell vs Tito Ortiz 3 as the two had been the original coaches of The Ultimate Fighter Season 11. However, Ortiz pulled out with a neck injury and Rich Franklin has stepped in to fill his place. While this match up doesn't feature the pure hate it should actually be a more interesting fight as Franklin isn't as washed up as Ortiz is.
The rest of the card is filled with up and comers and plenty of fighters looking to bounce back or break through. Let's break it down:
Chuck Liddell vs Rich Franklin
Liddell is 21-7 with 14 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with solid wrestling. Chuck has fought the best of the best and held the UFC light heavyweight title for over two years.
Franklin is 26-5 with 23 wins by stoppage. He is also a striker but with a more advanced jiu jitsu game. He has also fought the best of the best but most of those fights were at middleweight where he held the UFC belt for over a year.
Both of these guys are living legends. One is already in the hall of fame and one is on his way. However, both have fallen on hard times recently. Franklin has been fluctuating between 205 and 195 for his last four fights just to get fights outside of 185 lbs. He also was recently destroyed by Vitor Belfort in the first round almost nine months ago.
Liddell hasn't fought in over a year after contemplating retirement and is riding his own two fight losing streak both by (T)KO. Both of these fighters claim they're not done but Chuck needs this much worse than Franklin. Chuck is five years older, hasn't fought in a longer time, and is riding a longer losing streak.
Whether or not this turns into greater motivation one can only hope. Either of these guys could easily knock out the other and I'm sure that's what they both plan on doing. I think Chuck is the bigger fighter and harder puncher. But I think Rich will be in better shape and has the better technical striking.
This could totally go Chuck's way but I'm leaning toward Rich ending Liddell's career for good. I'm picking him to win by TKO in the second round.
Mirko Cro Cop vs Pat Barry
Cro Cop is 26-7-2 with 23 wins by stoppage. He is a pure kickboxer. He has fought some of the best fighters in the world and was the Pride open weight grand prix champion in 2006.
Barry is 5-1 with all five wins by KO. He is also a pure kickboxer. Barry has not fought any tough competition yet.
Much like the main event this may not be the best fight you'll ever see but it should be fun to watch! Cro Cop's career is in even worse shape than Liddell or Franklin having not won a meaningful fight since 2006 and going 3-3 in the UFC against less than stellar competition.
Barry is on the rise in the UFC going 2-1 and coming off a KO of the night victory over another noted striker Antoni Hardonk.
I personally feel that Cro Cop shouldn't even be licensed to fight anymore. He could pull off the spectacular but my bet is on Barry to end his night with a KO in the first round.
Paulo Thiago vs Martin Kampmann
Thiago is 13-1 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a noted grappler but has really come a long way with his striking. He has fought some tough fighters and his only loss is to Jon Fitch who everyone loses to but GSP.
Kampmann is 16-3 with 13 wins by stoppage. He is a very good striker with an underappreciated ground game. He has fought some tough fighters but can't seem to get over the hill to a title shot.
This is a very interesting match up. Kampmann will want to stand but he should not underestimate Thiago's striking. Thiago probably wants to take the fight to the mat but he shouldn't underestimate Kampmann's grappling.
This should make for a very interesting chess match where the slightest mistake at any level could end one of their nights. I like Kampmann but Thiago has really impressed me since coming to the UFC. I'm picking Thiago to win by TKO in the first round.
Ben Rothwell vs Gilbert Yvel
Rothwell is 30-7 with 28 wins by stoppage. He is a striker first with a better than you would expect ground game. Rothwell has fought some tough fighters but usually with less than stellar results.
Yvel is 36-14-1 with all 36 wins by stoppage. He is a noted kickboxer. Yvel has fought some tough guys as well but also hasn't usually come out on the winning end.
On paper this looks like an interesting fight but I'm not sure Rothwell is going to trade with Yvel. If he does it could be a quick night for either one of them. If Rothwell is smart enough to take it to the ground he'll grind out a decision victory.
I could be very wrong but I'm picking Rothwell to win by decision. I hope this ends this farce of a signing. Yvel doesn't belong in the same cage with the rest of the UFC heavyweight roster.
Carlos Condit vs Rory MacDonald
Condit is 24-5 with 23 wins by stoppage. He has a nice blend of striking and BJJ. He has fought a few tough guys with mixed results.
MacDonald is 10-0 with all 10 wins by stoppage. He also has a strong mix of striking and BJJ. This is far and away MacDonald's toughest fight to date.
MacDonald might be undefeated but I don't see that record staying unblemished for long. Both fighters have a very well rounded game but Condit is the better fighter at this point of his career in my opinion.
I'm picking Condit to win by submission in the first round.
Preliminary Card on Spike:
Tyson Griffin vs Evan Dunham
Dunham will want to take this fight to the ground but Griffin's wrestling is too good for that to happen. Expect Griffin to hurt Dunham on the feet and then ride out the decision victory in top control to end Dunham's unbeaten streak.
Mac Danzig vs Matt Wiman
This is a very tough fight to pick and really could go either way. I think Wiman's wrestling will be the difference. Danzig is good on the ground but I don't see him taking Wiman down. I expect Wiman to take down Danzig and grind out a decision victory most likely ending Danzig's UFC career.
David Loiseau vs Mario Miranda
Loiseau has been brought back from the UFC dead more than Jason and Freddy Kruger combined (okay not really but it's been at least three times now). This is another tough fight to call. Loiseau is a very good striker and has experience against tough fighters. However, he hasn't won a fight in the UFC since 2005.
Miranda had an awful UFC debut and has never fought anyone of note. He is a grappler first and I tend to rely on the grapplers in these tough calls (esepcially ones with a strong wrestling background). I'm picking Miranda to grind out a tough decision victory.
James Wilks vs Peter Sobotta
Wilks, the TUF 9 champion, is looking to rebound from a tough KO loss. Sobotta is looking to notch his first win in the UFC after a less than stellar debut. Wilks has the better ground game while Sobotta is probably the better striker.
In this case I'm actually going to go with the striker since they might cancel each other out on the ground. I'm picking Sobotta to win by TKO in the third round.
Ricardo Funch vs Claude Patrick
This is another tough fight to call. Funch has a strong grappling background but enjoys to strike. Patrick is more of a pure grappler. Neither has fought great competition but Funch at least has gotten his first UFC fight jitters out of the way.
I'm picking Funch to win by decision.
Mike Pyle vs Jesse Lennox
This fight should be interesting. Lennox loves to wrestle and ground and pound while Pyle is a jiu jitsu fighter. As experienced as Pyle is compared to Lennox (and he has a lot more experience against better competition) I don't think he'll hold up on his back. I'm picking Pyle to win by TKO in the second round.