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UFC Fight Night 14 Preview
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Anderson Silva (22-4 MMA, 6-0 UFC)
James Irvin (14-4-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC)
When Affliction announced its first ever MMA Pay-Per-View card featuring Fedor Emelianenko as the best "pound-for-pound fighter in the world" the UFC threw a powerful counterpunch. They decided to put the true pound-for-pound champ, World Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, on Spike TV for free. But, here's the rub. Silva is fighting for the first time in his UFC career at light heavyweight, facing one of the hardest hitters in the 205 division, James "Sandman" Irvin.
What can you say about Silva that hasn't been said already? He is the most accurate, technical striker in mixed martial arts, has vicious knees (ask Rich Franklin's nose) and is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under the Nogueira brothers. He has been utterly dominant since coming to the UFC, taking a total of 17 minutes to win all of his six fights, none went past the second round.
In that stretch he dismantled former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin twice, submitted Pride middleweight and light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson in the second round and took former King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt in round one. The only question mark is how Anderson will stack up at 205.
James Irvin has a puncher's chance to beat Anderson Silva but don't take that to mean he has no chance. Irvin is widely regarded as one of the heaviest hitters in the 205 division. Just ask his last opponent, Houston Alexander, who found himself knocked out in just eight seconds, a tie for the fastest knockout in UFC history.
While Anderson clearly has an advantage if the fight goes to the ground and will be able to land a greater number of blows, he has to be careful not to be on the other end of James' right-hand.
The other concern I have with James in this fight is that he is coming off a broken ankle that he suffered while training to face Rashad Evans at UFC 85, a fight that had to be scratched. It's hard enough to face Anderson at 100% and anything less than that is downright unfair.
Brandon Vera (8-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC)
Reese Andy (7-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
In a tale of fighters going in two different directions, while Anderson is moving up to 205, Brandon Vera is moving down to 205 from the heavyweight division. Interestingly, his opponent Reese Andy is doing the exact same thing and making his UFC debut.
Reese was 5-1 in the IFL and is on a 4-fight win streak. He was a 3-time All American wrestler and is a strong, aggressive fighter. However, the number that stands out to me when I look at this fight is his height, 5-10. Reese will give up 4 inches to Brandon which plays right into the most impressive part of Vera's arsenal, his amazing Muay Thai skills.
At 205, assuming his first cut goes well, Brandon should be lightning fast and will now have a size advantage in the fight as opposed to the disadvantage he's worked with as a heavyweight. The height differential sets up a perfect scenario for Brandon to both pepper Reese with leg kicks from the outside and knees while in the clinch.
If his light-heavyweight debut is successful, will Brandon stay in the new division, go back up to heavyweight as he's expressed an interest in doing or try to compete in both classes? Time will tell, but he has to beat Reese first.
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Hermes Franca (19-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC)
Frankie Edgar (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC)
This one has Fight of the Night written all over it. Hermes makes his first appearance back in the Octagon after losing to Sean Sherk in their title fight over a year ago.
Both fighters tested positive for performance enhancers raising the question of whether ring rust will affect Franca in this fight. Hermes has exceptional BJJ, good cardio and an unorthodox striking style that often gives fighters fits (ask Spencer Fisher). Before losing to Sherk, Hermes was on an 8-fight win streak that spanned almost two years.
When Edgar made his debut as an unknown fighter from New Jersey against then undefeated Tyson Griffin not too many people gave him a chance. He displayed a fantastic striking, great wrestling, a solid BJJ and super conditioning thanks to his trainer, Martin Rooney.
Frankie went on to win his next two fights against Mark Bocek and Spencer Fisher but then dropped a unanimous decision in his last fight against Gray Maynard.
Expect fireworks as he and Franca both try to get back in the win column in the ultra competitive lightweight division. If Hermes is able to use his size advantage to take the fight to the ground he should have a significant advantage. However, Frankie is a great wrestler with solid takedown defense will have a significant advantage if the fight stays on the feet. Let the chess match began.
Anthony Johnson (4-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Kevin Burns (6-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
If the Franca-Edgar fight has "Fight of the Night" written all over it, this one has BOTH "Knockout of the Night" and "Submission of the Night" potential. While these two fights don't have the biggest names on the card, they could both be highlights of the evening.
In his short stint in the UFC, Anthony has already established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the welterweight division. His two wins have both been first round, vicious knockouts that took a whopping 64 seconds combined! However, the one loss on his record wedged between those two knockouts was a second round submission at the hands of an undersized Rich Clementi right before Rich moved down to the 155 division.
Here's where it gets interesting. Kevin Burns may have pulled off the biggest upset of the year when he shocked the world at UFC 85 and submitted BJJ black belt Roan Carneiro in his Octagon debut on just nine days notice!
Given that Carneiro was happy to take the fight to the ground rather than strike, we really don't know what kind of striker Kevin is and whether he will be able to withstand Anthony's striking while trying to take the fight to the ground. On the other hand, given Kevin's amazing performance against Carneiro and Anthony's submission lost to Clementi, Kevin will have a huge advantage if the fight hits the floor.
Jesse Taylor (6-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
C.B. Dollaway (6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
This is the fight that looked like it may have been the TUF Final until Jesse let his relationship with alcohol screw up the opportunity of a lifetime and CB got submitted, not once but twice, by eventual champ Amir Sadollah. Now the two wrestling-based fighters meet just one month after the TUF finale. This one isn't for the 100k contract, but it is for redemption.
Don't expect a lot of standup in this fight, although CB has a clear advantage on the feet. Both CB and Jesse favor wrestling and ground and pound. Jesse appears to be the stronger of the two, while CB would have the better overall technique. One interesting tidbit ... one of Jesse's losses came by submission to TUF alum Jesse Forbes, another wrestler, in 2007.
Brody Farber (13-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Rory Markham (15-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Markham is one of three IFL fighters on the card making their UFC debut and could be a solid addition to an already loaded welterweight division. He was 6-2 in the IFL with all eight fights ending by KO/TKO. He's a banger who doesn't know the meaning of a boring fight, so don't be surprised if he becomes a fan favorite.
Farber is a well-rounded fighter on a 6-fight, 2-year win streak also making his UFC debut. He hasn't fought high-level competition through that streak (although he does have a 2004 loss on his record to Sean Sherk), so Markham should be a real test.