When the UFC first created the farm system known as The Ultimate Fighter reality TV series, while on one hand I enjoyed the cartoonishness that the show reveled in, on the other I doubted the long terms potential of the show winners and top prospects. I was skeptical to the possibility of it producing viable contenders and champions. But here we are a scant few years later with proof that the series does in fact do that. Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans endured “the house” and the military barracks/’Animal House’ lack of privacy, replete with the constant scrutiny of the cameras, to both emerge victorious in separate seasons with the almighty “six figure contract.”These two gentlemen have traveled very different paths to this point, the pinnacle of the career(s). Rashad has always showed ahead-of-the-pack athletic abilities and has an unusually fast learning curve. Early critics who pointed to his lack of killer instinct were silenced by his razor efficient knockouts of Sean Salmon (head kick) and Chuck Liddell (overhand right). Forrest is the charming and likeable quick-witted average Joe who, when the money was on the table, could always exceed expectations, like when he beat “Rampage” Jackson to win the title. Both men struggled with doubters but here they are at the top of the game. It’s a scene that will surely inspire athletes for years to come.
Rashad has the edge in terms of just being faster and more naturally gifted. Where Forrest evens the score is in his mental strength. But Evans is no slouch in this department either. It’ll be a great contest and I pick Rashad Evans to win the UFC light-heavyweight championship by unanimous decision. Evans will make a solid, if not calm champion, which should cause some in management to want to tear their hair out. Regardless of who wins, I think Lyoto Machida deserves a title shot next.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir’s talks a good game. As a matter of fact I feel he has established his commentary voice well on the Versus broadcasts of WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting). There’s not much he doesn’t know about the sport. But trust me, he can also walk the walk, as he has shown with submission victories over champions like Brock Lesnar (by heel hook) and Tim Sylvia (by armbar, ouch).
But Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a completely different animal than those two brutes. He’s probably as good if not better at Brazilian jiu-jitsu than Frank is. So a submission win for Mir seems highly unlikely.
Nogueira definitely has the edge in quality of opposition: while Mir has faced Lesnar and Sylvia, “Minotauro” has wins over Josh Barnett (decision), Sergei Kharitonov (decision), Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (submission), Sylvia (submission) and more, as well as having clashed with Fedor Emelianenko three times (two decision losses to the Russian and one no-contest).
Frank Mir possesses a good deal of conversational knowledge of striking, but Nogueira has stood in the trenches with lots of name people with heavy hands (Cro Cop, Sylvia, Kharitonov) and never been KO’d. This would cause me to give “Big Nog” the nod in this area.
So long story short, I feel Rodrigo Nogueira will best Frank Mir, most likely by decision. I actually don’t expect this to be a fight for the ages, but both these guys have truly earned their reps with blood, sweat and tears and I hold them in very high regard with top respect.
This is one of the greatest rivalries in MMA history. It’s real. Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson butted heads twice in “the organization formerly known as Pride” and the results were nothing short of hostile, the kind of fights that shorten a man’s career, especially for the loser, who in this case was Jackson. After giving a spirited accounting of himself both times, Quinton was KO’d...brutally.
Jackson was a different person then: brash, foul-mouthed, rebellious and the king of the bad boys. His speech was full of provocation and taunts towards his enemy, and that enemy took the bait and took it personally. Silva was, and still is, a heat seeking missile, a fistic one-way ticket, firing his will with the motivation to destroy with old and new emotions. This is one fight where you can check the box that reads “C: These Guys Don’t Like Each Other” with a clear conscience and never look back.
Quinton Jackson’s rise in the UFC universe was quick. In his first fight for the UFC he set things right when he avenged his loss to Marvin Eastman (QJ dropped a decision to ‘The Beastman’ in 2000 at King of the Cage) with a KO in round two. Then, in his second appearance in ‘The Octagon,’ it was another rematch, this time giving Chuck Liddell an opportunity to do the same thing to Jackson, get revenge (Rampage had KO’d Chuck when they fought in 2003 in “Japan”). Of course Quinton destroyed Chuck in the first round and then went on to decision Dan Henderson. He was finally at the top, but began teetering on the edge, flirting with all the distractions of “new friends” and changing allegiances.
Then “Rampage” Jackson fought Forrest Griffin. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Quinton would emerge victorious. But he didn’t. Griffin handed Jackson a loss by decision that infected Quinton’s mind. Soon a mentally distraught Rampage was on the now famous high-speed chase with police and then under arrest. Like most humans, his mind has always been his best friend and/or his worst enemy. In life, if one can control his mind he can control his destiny.
Which brings us to “The Ax Murderer,” Wanderlei Silva. I’ve been in the game for a while and have rarely ever seen the kind of focus Silva has, focus on the violent destruction of his opponent. There is no acting career, no companies to run, no deep seated need for camera time, only the singularity of annihilating who stands before you when the bell rings. In this department, Wanderlei is superior to Quinton.
The punching edge goes to Jackson because of quality of opposition, although Wanderlei has 23 TKOs compared to Quinton’s 13. But let’s remember, punches are controlled by the mind. Will Jackson fight the same way he did in his most successful engagements (Liddell 1 & 2, Randleman) or will he think first and therefore be slow on the draw like he was in other outings (Wanderlei 1 & 2, Shogun). Jackson has just changed trainers and managers (again) and that is never a good thing to do before you enter a fight where the odds are creeping up against you. But one thing I know about Quinton Jackson, he seems to do well when he has his back to the wall and no place to turn too, when his has to fight for his livelihood.
To beat Quinton Jackson the third time, Silva doesn’t need to change much, especially his Muay Thai clinch game. That was the deciding point in the first two collisions (in Pride). Jackson is dangerous at mid-range with punches. Silva should not stand and slug with QJ because if Jackson has proven anything, it’s that he can take you out with one wallop.
I haven’t seen any evidence in Quinton Jackson’s game since his last fight with Silva four years ago that would cause me to believe he can deal with the plum clinch and knee attack. His key to winning is to stay out of the clinch and find Wanderlei’s chin with one of those enormous punches of his. Otherwise this match will be a repeat of the first two.
The pace in the first two contests was nothing short of frightening. It was not one of endurance; it was full throttle, 0 to 100 mile per hour as fast as possible. The physical conditioning these men will have to be prepared for will be easily as intense as the combat techniques themselves. Silva is known to push the pace, and he will do that once again. The blitz is something that everyone knows will come from Wanderlei; it’s just surviving it that takes guts...and smarts. Meeting force with force has never a good prescription for survival in this circumstance. But many, including Jackson have been sucked into this. Of course promoters love when fighters abandon strategy for the train wreck. A shotgun jab, combined with side-to-side movement, would come in real handy for Rampage right about now...
Three times won’t be a charm for Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Wanderlei’s striking is slightly improved, but his overall game has grown, especially after he put the roughest patch of his career, the back-to-back KO losses to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Dan Henderson, along with his decision miss against Chuck Liddell. Silva is just not one of those warriors to dissolve quietly into the night. He will be the guy carried out on his shield (and hopefully never on a stretcher). But he will be standing upright at the end of this. Silva will go 3-0 against Jackson by KO.