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UFC® 73: Stacked
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Arco Arena
Sacramento, California

By Stephen Quadros, “The Fight Professor”

The UFC® is billing this show as “the biggest fight card of the summer” and you know what, it is! Damn, this event has something for everyone: “famous” fighters (former champion Tito Ortiz), a former Pride champion (Rodrigo Nogueira), up and coming contenders who seem on the verge of being champion (TUF 2 champ Rashad Evans) and two true current champions (Anderson Silva and Sean Sherk) defending their belts against legitimate challengers (Nate Marquardt and Hermes Franca). “Stacked” is right.


Rashad Evans

Vs.

Tito Ortiz

UFC® Light-heavyweight “Non-title” Match

Fame, (fame) makes a man take things over
Fame, (fame) lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, (fame) puts you there where things are hollow

-By David Bowie

Ah yes, the double edged sword of “fame”…

“Tito, Tito, Tito”…used to be what people would chant back in the day. Then he began to struggle – Ortiz barely beat Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin, was literally spanked by Randy Couture and finally KO®’d twice by Chuck Liddell. Things were suddenly rocky for the Huntington Beach “Bad Boy”. Suddenly he had to put his “acting” career on hold and concentrate on what got him on TV in the first place, fighting.

And then there was the dodged bullet, PR fiasco (self-imposed distraction) of his “exhibition” boxing match with UFC® president Dana White. Ortiz had demanded that one as part of him re-signing with the company. Then at the last minute Tito aborted the whole thing (yawn).

Rashad’s story is a well-documented one of him coming into the Ultimate Fighter 2 and getting no respect and then earning it by defeating everyone in his path including a giant Brad Imes in the TUF Finale. Rashad’s biggest victory since then was when he stepped up his game and KO’d Jason Lambert. The Greg Jackson fighter (Evans) has steadily improved and knows what a victory over Tito would mean, a potential title shot.

Tito has battled a variety of injuries, most notably his knees. His standup has also been an area that most people point to as a weakness. Sure he has labored tirelessly to improve this section of his arsenal, but he may be forever remembered the inventor of the Team Punishment style: takedown, top control, elbows. Tito without elbows is like president Bush without a deployable army, it’s not quite fathomable.

Long story short: Rashad is hot right now and Tito is not. Evans by late TKO.
Anderson Silva (Champion)

Vs.

Nate Marquardt (Challenger)

UFC® Middleweight Championship Match

Nate “The Great” Marquardt is a 5-time King of Pancrase. What that means is that he has mucho international experience. Stylistically he brings a lot of weapons to the dance: solid wrestling, great movement and world class submissions skills (he made 14 out 25 victims tap the mat).

The only knock on Marquardt hasn’t been his resume though; it’s been in his lack of finishing as of late (4 out of his last 6 fights have gone the distance). Who could forget his snorefest with Ivan Salaverry (a dull, extended staredown that netted him a decision and a boatload of criticism)? So with the ever-present “encouragement”, A.K.A. pressure, on his shoulders to be “exciting”, he now faces someone who does have a good finishing rate, UFC® middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

So will Nate be intimidated? Hardly. Believe me, Marquardt will be the savviest fighter that Silva has yet to face in the UFC®. And that’s not a knock on either Rich Franklin or Chris Leben, both who Anderson plowed through like a jackhammer, or Travis Lutter, who the Brazilian choked out. You see Nate has a lot of practice against great fighters and deals in Silva’s on-paper weakness - submissions.

This fight will go to the ground at some point and it there where Marquardt will have the best chance to snatch the title, because standing Silva is just too damn slick. Regardless of who wins, THIS is what a title fight should be, men who are there for their fighting accomplishments first, not their “marketability”.

Sean Sherk (Champion)

Vs.

Hermes Franca (Challenger)

UFC® Lightweight Championship Match

 

Sean Sherk was so far away from the UFC as little as two years ago that the Minneapolis, Minnesota resident may have thought he might never come back. But after those two long years of what seemed like banishment for losing a decision against Matt Hughes, Sherk is not only back but he is a champion and highly respected. Coming off impressive back-to-back wins against Nick Diaz and Kenny Florian “The Muscle Shark” is eager to prove he is the best, not only in the UFC, but also in el mundo.

The challenger is familiar with Sherk’s exodus because he himself has had his own parallel trials and tribulations during a similar period. Hermes Franca, like Sherk was wandering the dusty path of fighting in smaller shows (for two years) until he was once again useful for the big show, the UFC®. He was back in the Octagon® in July 2006 and has won three straight, all without the help of the judges (two armbar submissions and a nifty come from behind TKO over Spencer Fisher).

Both Franca and Sherk are power oriented, Sean being wrestling based and Hermes coming from jiu-jitsu. But standing is where the real action will happen. Sherk is a very quick puncher who fires in combination, where Franca is the quintessential single shot, powerhouse slugger who relies on a slightly unorthodox, yet potentially paralyzing approach.

Sherk should be able to control the how and where in this one and I predict him to retain his title by decision. However he has to be very careful of the unpredictable punches that will be occasionally sailing in the direction of his skull. And if Franca puts Sherk on his back the American could be in trouble.
 

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Vs.

Heath Herring

There aren’t too many reasons for this third fight to even happen. The only commonality is that they are both veterans of “the organization formerly known as Pride”, where they faced each other twice, so I guess there’s a ‘story line’. The only problem is that “Minotauro” Nogueira handled “Texas Crazy Horse” (Herring) without too much effort in his title winning decision victory the first time they fought (November 3, 2001) and with even greater ease when he submitted Heath in the rematch (June 20, 2004).

Still the UFC is wise to milk this cow one last time. The problem is squarely on Heath Herring’s shoulders: he is on the verge of becoming even more irrelevant should he lose this fight. And the chances are very slim for him to beat the Brazilian. Of course in this golden era of upsets, I can’t rule anything out. But I still think Nogueira will take this…by submission.

And once/if Nogueira does, then what? Surely his presence is a huge boost to the UFC’s® heavyweight division. But what if Gabriel Gonzaga beats Randy Couture? Will we see an all-Brazil championship fight? Hey, what is this, the UFC®…or (“the organization formerly known as”) Pride? Hee hee…