It’s UFC time again, just a couple of weeks after Randy Couture amazed us again against Gabriel Gonzaga. I’m having a hard time believing that this card will live up to the sheer joy of rooting for Randy Couture in a bar full of his fans, but who knows. The best part is that it’s entirely free on Spike. It’s really weird that a card this stacked would be totally free, while Chuck Liddell’s next bout is not a title fight, but it’s on pay-per-view. Go figure.
Here’s our preview of the three main fights of the night with our predictions and predictions for the other three fights that caught our eye. We’ll also be live-blogging the entire thing on Saturday. So turn your phone off, light some candles, and enjoy the action.
Dan Henderson vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – Light-Heavyweight unification bout
If this fight took place in PRIDE, it’d be huge, huge news. Henderson (22-5-0) is the PRIDE light-heavyweight champion. Jackson (27-6-0) is the UFC light-heavyweight champion, after knocking Chuck Liddell out to win it. This really ought to be a more exciting fight than it has been hyped to be. MMA fans will love it because Henderson has been a good fighter for a long while now and Jackson is always exciting when he actually shows up. Part of the problem is that both fighters have spent the most productive parts of their careers in Japan fighting for the PRIDE organization. Either way, this is a much better match up than anyone is really talking about. It’s such an even fight that it’s hard to even make a prediction. Not that it’ll stop us.
Henderson is definitely the more anonymous of the two fighters here. Yet, he’s probably the more well-rounded guy. He has that weird calm personality thing that a lot of the great fighters like Couture have. Rampage is a bit of a talker, by contrast. Not that he can’t back it up, but he definitely has more personality. They also have opposite styles, even though both are veterans and good at pretty much all facets of the game. Both were wrestlers at one point, but Henderson has a decided advantage on the ground. He’s an excellent wrestler and if the fight goes to the ground, it’s doubtful Jackson will be able to get a submission. Rampage’s strength is his striking and intensity. He’s aggressive and powerful in the octagon, but all Henderson has to do is not get caught like Liddell did. If the pace is slow, it’s Henderson’s fight. Then again, it’s tough to get to a decision in these five-rounders.
Matt Hamill vs. Michael Bisping
The deaf guy versus the British guy from Liverpool. Bisping (14-0-0) will have the home crowd on his side, not that it’ll matter to Hamill (5-0-0). OK, last deaf joke there, I promise. Bisping is also another in a long line of British athletes who look like hardasses, but have disarmingly quaint voices and accents. Hamill is a good fighter and a good wrestler, but Bisping is on fire right now and seems to be in a zone in his fights lately. Hamill has looked a little sloppy in his last few matches, especially his boxing skills. The real story for this fight is these two would have faced each other on The Ultimate Fighter 3 finale, but Hamill got hurt and had to leave early. Things are different now and Bisping is a different fighter, but so is Hamill. Both are more well rounded and more experienced, so this should be a war.
Mirko Cro Cop vs. Cheick Kongo
Our hero and possibly our favorite figure in all of sports, Mirko Cro Cop is in another tough fight against an up and coming fighter in Cheick Kongo. If Cro Cop (22-5-2) is going to do anything in the UFC, then he has to win Saturday night. He does that, then he might be Randy Couture’s next opponent. He’s still got to get through Kongo (20-3-1), who is athletic and well-rounded enough to be a real challenge. It’s all going to depend on how Cro Cop recovers from getting his head kicked in by Gabriel Gonzaga. If he’s tentative after getting knocked out, Kongo might get the best of him. We all know what’ll happen if the old Mirko Cro Cop shows up (full disclosure: half the reason we linked that last video is for the soundtrack). The good news on that front is Cro Cop has been training in an octagon for the first time, so there’s very little chance of a repeat of the Gonzaga fight. I think. Cro Cop should win this fight. He’s difficult to take down and even more difficult to stand and fight with, since he is THE striker in the MMA world.
Prediction: Cro Cop. Please God, Cro Cop.
Houston Alexander vs. Alessio Sakara
Tomasz Drwal vs. Thiago Silva
Marcus Davis vs. Paul Taylor