That’s right, it’s time to preview the UFC’s sixth installment of an event on Fuel TV, a channel that most UFC fans probably don’t know exists. As is typical for such events, the main card is much less than something worthy of a pay-per-view, but still has some potentially entertaining and worthwhile fights. Here are my thoughts on how it will go down:
MAIN EVENT: 185 LBS – Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le
Franklin: 2708 ELO
It’s always entertaining to watch Cung Le fight. His fighting style of throwing a wide array of kicks at his opponent is very unique in mixed martial arts. This kicking style is supported by Le’s background in Sanshou, where he displayed a very strong base, which has translated to very tough takedown defense. If Le’s opponent is unable to get through his kicks, a daunting task to begin with, he’s faced with having to take down a fighter with excellent throws. Le is very good at keeping the fight where he wants it, and using his kicks to punish an opponent’s body until he can’t take it anymore.
There are two critical problems with Le’s game, as far as fighting at a high level is concerned. One is that Le doesn’t have particularly good hands; he’ll whip out a spinning backfist, like he did against Wanderlei Silva, but he’s not a boxer at all. An opponent with good hands and knees can get inside and do some serious damage. The other problem is that throwing as many kicks as Le does takes a ton of energy. Le has been known to fade late in fights, which was the likely cause of his shocking TKO loss to Scott Smith earlier in his career.
Unfortunately for Le, his opponent in this fight, Rich Franklin, both has good hands and has great conditioning. In what will be a five-round fight, Franklin will not fade, and he will be a constant threat to punish Le with his hands. Franklin has never been a fighter who aggressively seeks to take his opponent down, so I anticipate this will be a striking war. Le might do well in the first round, but the longer the fight goes, the better I see it getting for Franklin. I think Franklin, the former UFC middleweight champion, will eventually capitalize on an exhausted Cung Le to land some punishing strikes and win by TKO.
CO-MAIN EVENT: 205 LBS – Stanislav Nedkov vs. Thiago Silva
Thiago Silva enters as a faded fighter. After building a lot of career momentum en route to a 13-0 record, Silva has really fallen apart, getting knocked out by Lyoto Machida, losing to Rashad Evans, losing to Alexander Gustafsson, and with a drug-related suspension right in the middle of it. But look at those names. Machida, Evans, and Gustafsson are three of the very best light-heavyweight fighters in the world. Now, I think Silva is an overrated striker, but he does have punishing hands, good takedowns, and very good ground and pound. So while Silva hasn’t had a lot of recent success, he’s still the fighter who built the 13-0 record to begin with.
His opponent, Stanislav Nedkov, has a 12-0 record himself, but… he’s a fraud. Nedkov was getting picked apart by Luiz Cane before landing a sudden overhand right that led to a TKO. He won by split decision against a faded Kevin Randleman. And Nedkov’s only other quality win was over Travis Wiuff, a KO that took place after Nedkov landed about 37 knees to Wiuff’s groin. Nedkov is a quality wrestler out of Bulgaria, but he’s not so good that he should be able to dominate with takedowns. I see Silva punishing him with strikes early and often and winning by TKO.
170 LBS – Dong Hyun Kim vs. Paulo Thiago
This is a nightmare matchup for Paulo Thiago. Thiago’s primary strength as a fighter is his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and so he’s at his best when he can land takedowns. That’s unlikely against the very strong Judo fighter in Dong Hyun Kim. Thiago is left with a choice of either winning a striking match or trying to submit Kim from bottom position. Both scenarios strongly favor Kim in my opinion.
155 LBS – Mac Danzig vs. Takanori Gomi
I know, I know… Gomi is totally washed up, right? Here’s the thing – Gomi still has tremendous KO power and a very tough chin. His striking defense and submission defense are both sloppy. His conditioning is questionable at best. This is merely a shadow of the fighter who was once the world’s #1 lightweight. But I’m picking Gomi to win this in an upset, because I don’t think Mac Danzig is well equipped to capitalize on Gomi’s weaknesses. Danzig lacks the strong wrestling needed to take Gomi down reliably, and while he’s a decent striker, he’s at serious risk of being knocked out in this one.
135 lbs – Alex Caceres (2138) over Motonobu Tezuka (2311): I was a Caceres naysayer for a long time, but I have to respect his high-volume striking and submission skills. I still think his upside is limited, but he’s good enough that he should be able to beat an opponent making his UFC debut on short notice in Motonobu Tezuka.
145 lbs – Jon Tuck (2231) over Tiequan Zhang (1971): All Zhang has is a guillotine choke. Tuck is a better fighter than he showed in one round against Al Iaquinta, and should be able to fend off the guillotine and win this one.
125 lbs – Yasuhiro Urushitani (2347) over John Lineker (2141): Lineker had a lot go against him in his UFC debut, including not having his coaches with him, but his performance against Louis Gaudinot was troubling. If Gaudinot could land a ton of strikes on him, I don’t see why Urushitani won’t be able to.
185 lbs – Riki Fukuda (2249) over Tom DeBlass (1988): Fukuda really is a quality fighter, with good boxing and wrestling. He’s had an unlucky UFC run thus far, but I think he should be able to stuff DeBlass’s attempts to get the fight to the floor, and easily win a striking match.
135 lbs – Takeya Mizugaki (2209) over Jeff Hougland (2230): I correctly identified Mizugaki as a fighter who wouldn’t survive in the top 10 of the bantamweight division, but he’s still a quality fighter. He should be more than good enough to beat Hougland, whose best accomplishment to date is beating Donny Walker.
170 lbs – David Mitchell (2152) over Hyun Gyu Lim (2159): Mitchell is a ground specialist with limited striking. Lim is a striker with multiple submission losses.
But Lim is coming in on short notice, so I have to pick against him. No, it’s MITCHELL who’s fighting on short notice. That’s enough to swing my pick in favor of Lim.