Tap Selections - UFC 77: Hostile Territory

Here are our predictions for tomorrow night’s UFC 77: Hostile Territory.

Our usual picks are included along with some thoughts from a slew of fellow fighters and MMA media on the main event - Anderson Silva vs Rich Franklin in a rematch for the UFC Middleweight Title.

Jonathan Goulet, UFC Welterweight: I’m sorry to write this but I saw the countdown last night and because of Silva’s confidence, this will be the worst fight ever for Rich Franklin. Silva by KO at the end of the 2nd round. Seriously, I didn’t like Franklin’s eyes during the interview. I understand that he’s scared. I think Silva has better tools than him.

Elvis Sinosic, UFC Veteran: I think that Rich’s best chance is to stay in the punching range. Moving in and out trying to work Silva there. I think if Rich stays too far on the outside, he will wear Silva’s kicks. If he gets to close, he will once again feel the wrath of Silva’s clinch. He could try to take Silva down and work him with GnP, but I think Silva is too good on the ground for that to work. I think Silva’s takedown defence is the only area he is really lacking. But he more than makes up for it with his great standup and very effective ground work. Silva via TKO in the 3rd

Adam Kastner, TKO Bantamweight: I think if Franklin can get Silva down and out wrestle him, he can get the win. But if it stays standing I think Silva will put on a clinic and end it quickly.

Shawn Tompkins, Xtreme Couture: Silva’s body make up is too much for Franklin to adjust too. This with the combination of Silva’s striking expertise and great defensive ground work will win the fight for Silva. Silva by KO 2nd Round

Jay Hieron, IFL Welterweight: Franklin’s first loss to Silva is going to be too much for him to overcome mentally. Silva by TKO in the second round.

Jamie Varner, WEC Welterweight: I have Silva by unanimous decision.

Maurice Smith, Former UFC Heavyweight Champion: Silva’s striking is just too dangerous. Silva by TKO.

Jason Lambert, UFC Light Heavyweight: I’m pulling for Rich. I think he made the adjustments and is going to do well. He needs to come out aggressive and set the pace. Anderson isn’t going away easy but he did have some problems getting to the U.S.

Jordan Breen, Sherdog: It’s a shame that all kinds of other MMA news has exploded in the last week, if only because the rematch between Franklin and Silva is worthy of considerable attention. Whether or not the fight that unfolds in the Octagon is a certified classic is irrelevent, because the real narrative that makes the fight a compelling one is quite simple what a win, or loss, does for either fighter.
A win for Franklin is not only the biggest win of his career and the beginning of another title reign, but also a chance to set up a rubber match and rectify the nightmare that began last October when Silva sent his nose north by northwest. A loss sends him into a miserable position. He’d be forced to fight aimlessly until someone was fortunate enough to dethrone Silva. But more importantly, despite the fact he’d remain a top fighter in the division, he would likely become a punchline for those looking to mock and chastise the effectiveness of the Xyience-fueled Zuffa’s marketing machine.
A win for Silva firmly entrenches him as the top 185-pounder this sport has seen so far. That, on top of the fact that he began his career as a top welterweight, is pretty damn impressive. But more importantly, another win over Franklin would serve to bury his humiliations at the hands of Takase and Chonan even deeper beneath the earth. A loss on the other hand, casts Silva back into the role of being a fighter who is ever-dangerous, but consistantly inconsistant.
There’s no possible way Franklin can do worse than he did last time, and the gameplan to beat Silva should be evident. However, the chips are stacked against Franklin due to the fact that while he’s well-rounded, he isn’t a top-position powerhouse, or super slick. Franklin typically wins by wearing down opponents via volume, and then stopping them after pushing the pace and putting them through the wringer. It’s not a great formula for beating Silva, as it allows a longer amount of time for Silva to stick around and attempt to land one damaging strike, which it is unlikely Franklin will recover from once Silva swarms on him.
Franklin will look much better this time around, and should get some offense in. However, Silva’s ability to turn the lights out in a hurry bodes well against a guy who overwhelms guys with volume. A Franklin win wouldn’t be shocking given the meticulous and intelligent fighter Franklin is, but given the clash of styles and MOs, look for another successful title defense for Silva.

James Brydon, Rogers Sportsnet: Silva. I don’t think Rich Franklin can dominate in any one area enough to beat Anderson Silva.

Ryan, Fightlinker: If God really did exist, I would hope that he’d tell devout Rich Franklin “Oh Rich, ye must bringeth this fight to the ground or thou shall be slain in the clinch yet again”. Unfortunately God doesn’t exist, and Rich has been indicating that he ‘has no preference’ as to where the fight will occur. This might be some elaborate scheme to trick Anderson Silva, which is silly because Silva doesn’t even speak english. Beyond that, he’s probably too busy practicing a new victory dance to care what Rich is doing. What kind of teacher was Rich? If he was a history teacher he’d already know that history repeats itself. It wouldn’t surprise me if Anderson Silva is sponsored by Rich Franklin’s plastic surgeon. Nuff Said.

Tamara, NAMMAE: My prediction is that Anderson Silva will finish this fight by TKO in the second round. While Franklin is obviously coming into this fight extremely well prepared and in amazing shape, I believe that Anderson Silva is simply too technical a fighter. Not only can Silva match Franklin in strength and endurance, but where most people throw punches to land them, Anderson Silva employs laser guided pinpoint strikes with the intention of shutting off brains. That’s the reason he is my favorite fighter!

Elias Cepeda, Inside Fighting: I’m taking Silva in this one. Not to discount Franklin, who has the skill set to cause problems for the champion, but I feel that if Franklin were ever able to revenge his loss to Silva now is simply too soon. Silva looked fantastic and devastating against Franklin one year ago and since then has looked equally impressive in two subsequent stoppage wins over guys that really had what it took to beat him. Franklin, on the other hand, looked good against an overmatched Jason MacDonald but not against a top guy like Yushin Okami. A Franklin at his best can take it to Silva, but I don’t think Franklin is back at his best yet.

Pramit Mohapatra, Baltimore Sun: In their first fight, Franklin had no answer for Silva’s Muay Thai clinch, which Silva used to effectively knee Franklin to the body, soften Franklin up, and then go for the kill with knees and kicks to the noggin. Since that fight, Silva has won by submission and by ground-and-pound and has displayed all-around superior skills standing up and on the ground. Franklin, on the other hand, has since dominated Jason McDonald and barely squeaked by Yushin Okami. In the Okami fight, Franklin was nearly submitted in the third round of a fight that I feel Okami would have won had he gotten started earlier (rather than waiting until the last round to become aggressive.)
Beyond that, the question is, what facet of the game is Franklin better at? I believe the answer is none. And, will Franklin have a defense for the Muay Thai clinch this time around? Even if he does, I just think Silva has far too many other weapons. In all honesty, I’m surprised the betting line on this fight is as close as it is. I think this is partly due to the fact that Franklin is a popular fighter and was once a dominant champion, thus earning him respect from the betting public. Another factor may also be that Silva is still a difficult fighter for UFC to market.

Luke Thomas, Bloody Elbow: The clear favorite here is Anderson Silva. Aside from the beating Franklin absorbed in their first fight, the fact of the matter is that Silva poses a much more dangerous threat to Franklin on any given day than the opposite. Franklin is technically more well-rounded, but Silva has the ability to lord his stand-up prowess over Franklin the entire time. I give Franklin a lot more credit for his performance in their first outing than others. If you watch the tape, Silva initiated the Thai plum because banging with Franklin on the outside wasn’t doing a terrible amount of damage. That being said, it is clear the more technical striker of the two is Silva.

Given enough time, Silva has too many tools - incredible angles, nimble footwork, devastating combinations, alternating striking levels, solid punching power, excellent use of reach, and more - to lose a kickboxing match with Franklin. Can Franklin win this fight on the ground? Possibly. It’s hard for me to imagine him doing this successfully for five rounds, so he must work for the finish (Daiju Takase’s fluke win notwithstanding). The Lutter fight with Silva is misleading if you believe the reports that both of Silva’s knees were blown out before the fight, so it’s not clear how good is ground acumen actually is at this point. I would say Franklin’s key to winning this fight is that he must disrupt Silva’s gameplan and rhythm.

Silva performs his best when he’s able to set the timing, location, and speed of the fight. He sucks fighters into his way of fighting and annihilates them on home turf. Either by keeping Silva’s back to the mat or by mixing takedowns with kickboxing from the outside, Franklin’s objective should be to methodically push Silva out of his rhythm until the fight is over. He can’t rush it, but he must always be on the attack, always coming forward. Franklin is championship material and I give him a decent chance to win, but as aforementioned, Silva’s likely just too dangerous. Silva, TKO, 4th round.

Leland Rolling, MMA-Analyst: I will spare you the history lesson on both fighters. Silva is a devastating Muay Thai striker. He absolutely obliterated Franklin in their first bout. Although I believe Franklin didn’t realize the caliber of striking that Silva possessed in the first matchup, Silva’s standup is unbelievably effective. His great range and reach allow him to stay away from counters while he picks opponents apart. He has great kicks and his knees complement his clinches perfectly. His height is an unfair advantage for him at Middleweight along with his Muay Thai. Along with his standup, his ground game is supposedly improving significantly and he does have a black belt in ju-jitsu from the great “Minotauro”. His long legs would definitely make it difficult for opponents in his guard as he would have multiple options to try to submit opponents. You can really make a case that he is becoming the complete fighter.

Franklin is coming off two straight wins in a run to regain the title. He absolutely crushed Jason MacDonald, but won a very boring and drawn out battle with Yushin Okami. Franklin trains with Jorge Gurgel in ju-jitsu and possesses a brown belt. He is primarily known for his standup skills and from his style, looks to always want to go for the knockout and ground and pound in his battles. Interestingly enough, Franklin has only lost twice in his entire career. Once to Silva and again to Lyoto Machida. He looks to keep on winning and retain the belt in this very tough title bout at UFC 77. This is also the last fight on his contract, so coming out on top could definitely be financially great for him.

As cliché as my analysis will sound, it’s what I think. Anderson Silva is a dominant fighter in both aspects of the game. In the words of Joe Rogan, his striking is INSAAANNNEEE. His range and height are huge factors in his game. He can stay at range and still throw with power. Once he tags an opponent, he moves in quickly for the kill. Clinches are almost impossible to break once he sinks them in as we saw during the first Franklin bout.

If you’ve seen some of Silva’s other battles before he came to the UFC, he pulled off some amazing things in many of them. He straight elbowed Tony Fryklund while standing with him and knocked him out cold with one of the quickest standing elbow blows I’ve ever seen. His only big loss was to Ryo Chonan. Ask anybody out there what one of the most unbelievable comebacks in MMA are. Chonan vs. Silva is probably on their list. Chonan pulled off a flying scissor kick to heel hook after he was literally being demolished by Silva’s standup.

The one thing Chonan exploited was Silva’s long legs. Chonan used a surprise move that is rarely used to catch him off guard. Franklin should somehow gain wisdom from that battle. He needs to surprise Silva in some manner during this fight. The only way I see this going down as an upset is if Franklin can catch Silva with a punch and proceed to blast him to the ground and pound him out immediately. If Franklin lets this battle go for too long, he runs the risk of dropping his hands or getting desperate and making mistakes. You do not want to make mistakes against a guy like Anderson Silva. With all of that said, it’s obvious who my pick is. Anderson Silva, second round TKO/KO.

Kirik Jenness, MMA.TV: I remember years ago, Pat Miletich was fighting Dan Severn, and he was interviewed pre fight. Pat said “In this game, to me, anything can happen, that is why you have the fight.” That quote has never left me. On paper, this looks like Silva, all evening long. But like they said in the Old West, there was never a horse that couldn’t be rode, and never a fighter that couldn’t be thrown. Silva is beatable. This is reality, not a comic book. Silva has been beaten, and will be beaten again. Last quote I promise and if I was smart I would give you quotes of my own, but Bob Fitzsimmons said of theoretical boxer versus wrestler match ups - “Nine times out of ten, the boxer will win.” Franklin needs to wrestle Silva.

If Franklin gives him room to back up and strike, then he can’t wrestle him - that is why they call stalling in wrestling for backing up, but that of course is not going to happen in the Octagon. Franklin needs to find a way to stop Silva from backing up, so he can wrestle him. Captain America wrote the book on this, and I am pretty confident that Franklin has been reading that book. If Franklin can crowd Silva to the cage, and pummel successfully for the underhook, and then hit a high double, he can win this fight.

If Franklin gives Silva room behind his ass, and concedes the plumm, then the Ohio State Highway Patrol is going to pull his head over for speeding. I wish I could cowboy up and give you something more definitive, but that is why they are having the fight. This will not be a Muay Thai fight, where the first round one guy just feels what the other guys has. We will know in the first 90 seconds or so. So I can’t tell you which fighter is going to win. But I can tell you that we, the fans, we are going to win. This will be thrilling.

Zach Arnold, Fight Opinion: Unless there has been a dramatic change in his training philosophy, Franklin should lose again to Silva.  Training with Joe Riggs is not going to change the fact that you can or can’t defend the clinch.  There will be enormous pressure on Franklin to win the fight in his hometown of Cincinnati and unless the variables of both fighters has dramatically changed 12 months later, I don’t see Silva losing.  Silva should win by KO in the 2nd round.

Goze, TAGG Radio: I’ve never gone back and fourth on a fight as much as I have on this one. On the one hand you have Anderson Silva, the current middleweight champion. Silva dominated Franklin in the first fight, his size and power over whelmed Rich. Silva is a good fighter but he still has holes in his game, Travis Lutter exposed this. Lutter was able to mount Silva and if he had any striking what so ever, he could have finished that fight. Silva can be impatient at times and I think this will get him in trouble.

I don’t believe that Rich is the most gifted middleweight in the world but I do believe that he’s one of the smartest fighters in the UFC. Rich will learn from his mistakes in the first fight, he’s trained a lot harder for this one and even brought in Matt Hume to help his ground game. I think Rich will be the more patient fighter this time and by doing so, he will use Anderson’s aggression against him by taking him down and controlling the fight. I’m taking Rich Franklin in this one by Ref Stoppage in the 2nd round.

Dann Stupp, MMA Junkie: Rich Franklin is a terribly intelligent fighter, and I think he can find a way to exploit the weaknesses of just about any opponent. But with Anderson Silva, there isn’t a whole lot the current champ doesn’t do well. However, I think Franklin’s chances improve the longer the fight goes on. If the fight ends within three rounds, Silva keeps the belt. If it goes longer, though, I think Franklin reclaims the title.

Benjamin Glossop, Knockout Radio: This is another tough one to call. Anderson Silva shows great potential in dominating this division for a long time. That said, Rich Franklin has completely reformatted his training and is ready to perform in front of his hometown crowd. This is the type of fuel that can very well ignite Franklin and get him the motivation to win. As well, I don’t think this fight will be anything like the first one. It’s a tough call either way but for the sake of having to pick one fighter I’m going to pick Anderson Silva for the win.

Eric Shapiro, UFC Daily: My heart wants me to pick Rich Franklin as he’s always been a favorite of mine.  But my head tells me that Anderson Silva will emerge triumphant once more.  While Franklin has surely practiced his clinch fighting since losing to Silva last year, he just doesn’t and probably never will, have enough time to become the type of fighter that matches up well against Silva’s style.  The only advantage I can give Franklin is his strength (and the crowd of course.) If he can out muscle Silva and utilize a ground and pound he has a chance. 

Unfortunately I just don’t see it going down that way.  I think Franklin will attempt to stand with Silva again and once that fails, his takedown attempts will likely not produce enough of an offense.  Even if Franklin can hold off Silva and create a more even back and forth, Silva will still probably win the fight on points alone, as his strikes will always be able to find a way inside Franklin’s large frame.  I hate to say it, but I think we are only going to see a longer version of Franklin-Silva I, with Franklin ultimately succumbing to Silva’s strikes in the second or third round.

John Balfe, UFC Daily: Former Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin has had just over a year to recover physically and mentally from the devastating TKO handed to him by Anderson Silva at last October’s UFC 64 in Las Vegas. Rumors were rampant that Franklin went into that fight suffering from an illness that contributed to his lacklustre performance. But that alone cannot be blamed for why Silva beat him and is now seen as unquestionably the #1 185lb mixed martial artist on the face of the earth.

After being manhandled by Silva’s Muay Thai clinch and taking countless knees to his body, Franklin dropped his hands instinctually to protect his abdomen from The Spider’s barrage of strikes – and this was the only invitation that the native of Curitiba, Brazil needed to unleash his knees to the head of Franklin. Rich stated in the post fight interview that he thought the clinch was going to be his “sweet spot”. How wrong he was, and his badly disfigured broken nose was testament to that.

However, I do not expect the fight to be anything like their first encounter. Aside from a few shaky moments against Travis Lutter, Anderson Silva has not had any serious questions asked of him by any of his opponents in the UFC. Rich Franklin has the skill set to upset Silva. He’s very competent on the ground, more so than Silva, and while his striking is not at the same world class level as his opponent, he does have knockout power as evidenced in his highlight reel KO of Nate Quarry. If you need further proof of the power in his hands, just look at the faces of Evan Tanner and David Loiseau after they spent time in the Octagon with Rich.

You’d have to presume that Franklin has spent a lot of time working on his clinch defence and Silva will no doubt look to re-establish the rhythm that he set in the first fight. Franklin’s strategy will be to stay on the outside and circle away from Anderson’s dominant hand, while using his exceptional head movement to avoid blows. Rich does have very good kickboxing skills and he’ll look to punish any mistakes that Silva makes on his feet. Also look for Rich to shoot for takedowns as the ground is the one area where you’d have to assume that he is more dominant, plus it obviously negates Silva’s seemingly laser-guided strikes. I’m going to go with the minority here and say that Rich Franklin pulls off the win in his hometown.

Kris Karkoski, UFC Daily: With the determined training Franklin has exhibited in the last month by secluding himself in Wyoming to train out of the media spotlight this fight will be much different from their first meeting. In their first encounter Franklin looked unprepared and has admitted as much in recent weeks but with he newfound training he is focused on changing that. Franklin is sure to focus on the clinch where Silva decimated him last year but the key will be his ability to control Silva on the ground and inflict damage from there. On neutral ground this fight goes to Silva but Franklin will take advantage of the hometown crowd and recapture the middleweight belt by TKO in round 4.

Andrew Nostvick, Iowa MMA Report: I’m picking Silva.

Erin Bucknell, MMA California: Silva. Unless Franklin can pull some serious moves out of his butt, Anderson will dominate just like last time.

Ken Pavia, MMA Agents: While I respect Rich very much and actually picked him to win last time, the manner in which he lost makes it that much more difficult to come back from. Styles make match-ups and I think Anderson may have Rich’‘s number. It looked to me like he beat him mentally even before the action started. I will go with Anderson again in the rematch, even though I believe Rich is the better fighter. That being said I suck at predictions.

Tom Myers, UFC Mania: The last (and first) time Anderson Silva defended his UFC 185-pound title I went out on a limb and predicted a Nate Marquardt upset. That was dumb. Real dumb. Silva went out and put on a clinic. I learned my lesson: Never bet against “The Spider.” Well, I’m a glutton for punishment and feel like going against the grain one more time. Why? Because barring a miracle or a smart from Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin is the only man capable (on paper) of beating Silva in the near future. I’m a big Yushin Okami supporter and I know that he already owns a “win” over the champ. Still, Franklin has the best chance to dethrone the Brazilian right now. Plus, this is 2007—“The Year of the MMA Upset.” Let’s also remember that “Ace” has the support of his hometown crowd behind him (that’s a blessing, not a curse no matter what anyone tells you) and he himself has admitted that his legacy is potentially on the line at the US Bank Arena this evening. Put simply, UFC 77 is the fight of his CAREER. Look for him to frustrate Silva and play cat and mouse until he finds an opening worth exploiting. From there I see some takedowns in my crystal ball followed up by some ground and pound. No matter what happens, this is one showdown that goes longer than five minutes and possibly the full 25. Franklin via Punch of God.

Bill Reger, MMA on Tap: To my eyes, the Franklin-Silva fight from October of 2006 was over when we saw Franklin walking to the ring.  In simple terms, he looked terrible.  He was pale and drained looking, almost like he had just been cutting weight.  Yet the weigh-ins had been the day before, more than enough time to recover.  As we all saw, the fight was all Anderson Silva as he captured the UFC Middleweight Title.  This fight will be different in one way.  Franklin will be much better prepared and look crisper in all respects.  But will that be enough to take down the champ?  I think not. 

It will not be the domination of the last fight, but Silva will walk away retaining the title.  Eventually, Franklin will look to take this fight to the ground after absorbing some of Silva’s pinpoint striking.  But that will be a mistake as I feel Silva is very underrated in his BJJ and will catch Franklin in a submission (triangle choke) in the third round.  Franklin’s best shot is to pound out a five round decision (exciting nonetheless), but not on this night.

Scott White, MMA on Tap: Anderson Silva. I feel this fight will be very similar to their first encounter. Franklin likes to throw bombs but he isn’t very technical. That causes problems when you’re fighting a guy like Silva who is extremely accurate and dangerous with his knees, kicks, punches and elbows. I see Silva earning the stoppage sometime in the second or early third round.

John Chandler, MMA on Tap: Franklin got destroyed the last time they fought and the majority of people feel that a repeat of last year’s events are bound to happen again. I think Franklin will look much better compared to last time around but ultimately he will succumb to the skills of the world’s toughest comic book reader. Silva’s domination of Nate Marquardt convinced me that he’s probably not going to lose for a very long time.

Scott White (140-63)

Anderson Silva
Tim Sylvia
Stephan Bonnar
Kalib Starnes
Yushin Okami
Alvin Robinson
Demian Maia
Josh Burkman
Jason Black

John Chandler (137-65)

Anderson Silva
Brandon Vera
Stephan Bonnar
Kalib Starnes
Yushin Okami
Jorge Gurgel
Demian Maia
Josh Burkman
Jason Black

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