UFC 88 Preview and Predictions


September and October are shaping up to be exciting months for Mixed Martial Arts fans. The UFC has four events planned, Elite XC and Kimbo Slice are returning to CBS, and Affliction will be hosting their sophomore show. That’s a lot of quality fighting, folks.

UFC 88 is first and will take place on September 6. The card features some of the marquee names and best talent in all of MMA. Chuck Liddell is slated to headline against undefeated Ultimate Fighter alum, Rashad Evans, in what Liddell hopes will propel him to a title shot. Well-known fighters like Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Karo Parysian, Matt Hamill and Nate Marquardt will do battle as well.

With so many promotions gaining media attention, the UFC seems poised to lead MMA further into mainstream culture. UFC 88 is geared toward getting this major push started smoothly. And, with so many excellent fighters, it’s difficult to imagine this show disappointing.

Ultimately, this main event may very well determine the future of the Iceman. If Liddell is to lose this fight, reclaiming his former belt and elite stature could be out of reach. Another loss would be Liddell’s third in his last four and would be an indication that his dominance has begun to wane. However, a win would put him right back into title contention and could set up a fight the UFC badly wants, a clash between two of their biggest stars, Liddell and champion Forrest Griffin. September 6 will mark a critical juncture in Chuck Liddell’s career and how he fares will have far reaching ramifications for the light heavyweight division itself.

Side Note:
All of us are MMA enthusiasts who clearly enjoy the sport. But, who amongst us are real experts? As of this article, I will start keeping track of my prediction statistics, to see how I fare. I encourage all of you to do the same so we can all see whose analysis and betting abilities are best.

Chuck Liddell vs. Rashad Evans

The Iceman has big plans for the future. He wants to regain his title, which would mean beating Forrest Griffin. He also wants to avenge his two losses to Rampage Jackson. The former champ has also hinted at a move to heavyweight. All these goals will be within reach if he defeats underdog Rashad Evans.

If Evans wants to pull off the major upset and ruin Liddell’s future plans, he must let his hands go early and often. Evans, a notoriously slow starter, cannot be tentative against the heavy-handed Iceman. His advantage lies in his hand speed. When Evans commits to his striking, he has incredibly quick hands and some elusive movements. He is going to need to bring his A-game into the match in order to defeat the legendary Liddell.

Chuck Liddell is one of the most revered fighters in the history of the sport. He has beaten some of the world’s best including, Wanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz, Renato Sobral, Randy Couture and many others. Liddell not only has knockout power in both hands and can put opponents to sleep going forward/backwards, but also can do so from literally any angle. That unique power makes him a difficult striker for anybody to deal with.

Critics are counting Evans out, but the fight could wind up being more competitive then people think. Ideally, Evans would like to use his go-to tactic, his wrestling, in order to take Liddell down. But, few have been able to do so. Liddell has developed a stellar takedown defense in order to keep fights where he wants…standing.

I foresee this being a hard fought battle for Evans, with him eventually losing out. Liddell has proven to be the more proficient striker and there is a very real possibility that Evans will not be able to take him down. Regardless of the outcome, this fight presents an opportunity for Evans to look good in losing. If he can perform admirably and keep the match competitive, it will go a long way to increase his standing in the UFC.

Despite the possibility of an upset, I see Liddell winning the fight. I think Liddell realizes how much is riding on his victory and will be able to use his experience and grittiness to win this fight. This victory should return Liddell to prominence. He would once again be in the driver’s seat, headed straight towards major fights.

Prediction: Chuck Liddell by Decision

Rich Franklin vs. Matt Hamill

When a fighter amasses a 23-3 record in MMA, one could easily equate that with an elite fighter. While Rich Franklin has long been considered a solid competitor, his career has been marred by mediocrity. He ruled the UFC’s weakest division for several years, but was never able to notch a victory over an elite opponent.

After his second loss to Anderson Silva, Franklin’s career was in limbo. It became clear beating Silva was not possible, so instead of becoming the middleweight gatekeeper, Franklin decided to move back up to light heavyweight.

There is a plethora of meaningful fights for Franklin at 205, but first, he must get past Matt Hamill. Beating Hamill will not be easy. Hamill gained notoriety as the deaf fighter on the Ultimate Fighter. The exceptional wrestler has done well in the UFC, going 4-1, with his only loss being a controversial split-decision to Michael Bisping (which I believe was the worst officiating decision in recent UFC history). More importantly though, Hamill has improved with each fight.

Hamill appeared on the Ultimate Fighter as a one-dimensional wrestler, but has come a long way. His stand up is much improved; he can set up takedowns by using his one-two combo. Furthermore, he has established a competent and powerful jab. Despite these improvements, Hamill’s strength remains his power. Simply put, the guy is incredibly strong and powerful. When he explodes into a takedown, it is nearly impossible to prevent.

In order for Franklin to win, he better hope Hamill gasses out, which he has come close to doing before. If not, his best chance will be to counter punch the slower more plodding Hamill. Franklin has fast hands and good footwork, circling Hamill and peppering him with leg kicks and jabs will go a long way in tiring him out.

Ultimately though, Hamill will be too strong for Franklin and will be able to secure takedowns. He will control him on the ground and avoid massive damage on his feet. If he can achieve victory it would be Hamill’s most impressive performance to date and would elevate him up the rankings.

Prediction: Matt Hamill by Decision

Nate Marquardt vs. Martin Kampmann

Make no mistake; despite Marquardt losing his last fight to Thales Leites (a fight he was controlling after the first round, but lost due to deducted mistakes), he is still one of the top middleweights in the world. His recent setbacks are no indication of his immense talent. Marquardt is still relatively young (29) and has a legitimate chance to rule the middleweight division if Anderson Silva decides to stay at 205.

Kampmann is an up-and-comer who has slowly worked his way into title contention. The kid is tough as nails. He was taking a shellacking against hard-hitting Drew Mcfedries, but managed to maintain his composure and still secure a submission.

After countless injuries and re-scheduling, Kampmann is finally making his return to the octagon. But, he is not experienced enough to deal with all the tools Marquardt possesses. Nate the Great will begin by striking, attempting to see if he feels comfortable. If not, he will take Kampmann down.

Either way, Marquardt will get a tough win, by dissecting a quality opponent. He can almost always be counted on to perform at a high level and be a part of an exciting bout.

Prediction: Nate Marquardt by TKO round three

Dan Henderson vs. Rousimar Palhares

The lesser talked about sub-plot of this event, is the return of Dan Henderson. After beating Wanderlei Silva and holding two Pride belts simultaneously, Hendo re-entered the UFC with his star shimmering.  After a hard-fought loss to Rampage Jackson, followed by a disappointing performance against Anderson Silva, Henderson’s star has dimmed. His upcoming bout is a brilliant opportunity to recapture some of the allure he had only months ago. A dominant performance would reinvigorate his career and help to build a meaningful fight. However, losing will put Henderson’s career in serious jeopardy.

Henderson is the better striker with the heavier hands, while Palhares is more adept at submissions. With that being said, it’s no surprise that Palhares will try and take the fight to the ground. Whether he can take the former Olympic wrestler down remains to be seen.

There is simply too much fight left in Henderson for him to lose to Palhares. Hendo will be able to defend the takedown and punish his opponent on their feet. In fact, Hendo might feel so confident that he could end up taking Palhares down. Eventually though, this fight should redeem Henderson’s previous two blemishes and set him up to fight a contender in the near future (could he fight Michael Bisping if he gets past Chris Leben?).

Prediction: Dan Henderson by TKO round one

Karo Parisyan vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida

It seems as though whenever Parisyan is one win away from a title shot, he just can’t seem to seal the deal. Parisyan is a very good fighter who has yet to ascend into greatness. He has been unable to transition into that next tier of fighter.

Coming off a disappointing loss against Thiago Alves, Parisyan looks to get back to his winning ways. He should be able to do so decisively against his 34-year-old opponent, Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Although Yoshida is undefeated in the UFC (he beat War Machine), Parisyan has some distinct advantages over him. Aside from his plethora of experience and higher level of competition, Parisyan also happens to be way better rounded. Yoshida’s strength is his judo, but both fighters excel at it and use it as their bread and butter. Parisyan appears to be the stronger of the two, which should make his judo more effective.

When Yoshida last fought, he was able to take War Machine down from the clinch position. This also happens to be where Parisyan got caught with a knee from Alves in his last bout. Karo must be weary of the clinch and work his stand up. During bouts in which Karo has looked well conditioned (like against Josh Burkman), Parisyan is one of the top welterweights in the world. A focused and disciplined Parisyan is a difficult fighter to beat and the colorful Parisyan will put on a show en route to dominant victory over Yoshida.

Prediction: Karo Parisyan by Unanimous Decision *Fight scraped due to injury