This Saturday night, in Rio, The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, will match up its finalists to determine the final winner. In addition, the coaches, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort, will face off in a rematch of the ages.
Or it would be one, except that Belfort broke his hand in training.
Instead, we have Wanderlei Silva against Rich Franklin, the big middleweight/small light heavyweight that currently struggles to find a place in the UFC. Like the original bout, it is also a rematch, one that Franklin captured via decision a few years ago at UFC 99.
The problem with this fight is that it doesn’t really matter. It matters more for Silva than for Franklin; Silva really needs this win. His UFC record is pretty lackluster, only 4-6 and 3-4 in his last 7. Of those 4 losses, 2 of them have been savage, early knockouts.
Franklin has already cemented his legacy, and he’s already been a UFC champ. At middleweight, he’s got no shot at being a champ again after being completely savaged by Anderson Silva.
So, the question is: Who wins this fight?
It’s actually a pretty tough question. The last fight was a pretty fun scrap; I’d definitely check it out if you get the chance. (UFC 99) I think the question really is whether or not Wanderlei Silva has any interest in letting the fight go long. I think he should; his chin has only gotten more suspect over the last couple years, and his propensity for wading in early to do that damage goes to waste when he can’t take the return salvos.
The problem with going long is that I think it’s a gameplan that favors Franklin. He’s plenty good at kickboxing at range and just kind of periodically brawling; he’s in that Forrest Griffin school of being solid all around but not super great at anything. But I think Franklin is kind of favored in a fight where Silva should be playing for the long haul peppered with periodic battles.
If they go to the ground, I have no idea what will happen. I really don’t see either being a whiz on the ground. And sure, I know Joe Rogan is quick to mention Silva’s black belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, but let’s play in the real world for a minute. The last time The Axe Murderer landed a submission victory was 12 years ago, and I don’t think anyone who has seen him fight only in the UFC could possibly identify him as a submission fighter. And the same is pretty true of Franklin. If it goes to the ground, it’s anyone’s game. And Silva can just go into Beast Mode sometimes. But I feel like “Ace” has way more ways to win than Wanderlei.
The Pick: Rich Franklin
The other important fight here is Fabricio Werdum vs. Mike Russow. These are pretty much the two heavyweights who didn’t fight last month at 146. Werdum is starting off his new run in the UFC in style, absolutely decimating Roy Nelson with some savage muy thai knees. This was a great improvement for someone whose biggest shortcoming in the recent past has been a lackluster striking game.
Mike Russow has been going on a tear recently, going 4-0 recently. Werdum is going to be a really big step up in competition for Russow; Werdum’s jiu-jitsu is WAY too dangerous for Russow’s takedowns. He’ll have to be VERY careful with those in this fight.
Momentum is definitely on Russow’s side, but Werdum is a higher caliber fighter. Werdum looks to have cleaned up his striking deficiencies a bit, and his submissions game is as dangerous as anyone else in the Heavyweight division.
Both fighters need this fight. This is really important for both of them; a win here would place either man in “the mix” and get them to contender status. A win here would be much stronger for Russow; he’s much newer to the game and didn’t get decapitated in the current Champion’s debut (check out Werdum’s fight against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 90 for one of the most brutal knockouts I’ve ever seen). But, if Werdum wins, I think he can get a matchup against a Travis Browne or someone similar and really get back on the track for a title.
As I said, momentum is definitely on Russow’s side, but I think Werdum will have his number. His jiu-jitsu is aggressive, and I don’t know that Russow will be able to go smoothly from “blitz takedown” to “submission defense”, and I don’t think it’ll be easy for him if he keeps it standing. If Werdum can get on top, or even if he pulls guard or some such, he’s at a substantial advantage.
The Pick: Fabricio Werdum
So there you have it folks! The other fights I can’t really provide too much info on because they have to do with The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, and I haven’t seen any of those episodes. BUT, even though the main event doesn’t really matter at all, it should be a really fun scrap and it’ll be worth watching.
Comments welcome! (Please don’t hesitate to give me some feedback guys; I’d love to figure out what works and what doesn’t for these articles.)