By Stephen Quinn
Saturday night’s UFC 88 card features a number of crossroads bouts that will determine the future for some of the game’s biggest names. But what will your future in the UFC® Fantasy™ Game be if you come up short this weekend? Read on to get the edge on your opponents and sail to the top of your fantasy league.
NATE MARQUARDT VS MARTIN KAMPMANN
This bout has Fight of the Night potential. Kampmann is 4-0 in the Octagon, and another win will keep him on track for a crack at middleweight champ Anderson Silva. Nate Marquardt (26-8) is looking to get back to his winning ways after being defeated by Thales Leites in his last fight.
Being a seven-time King of Pancrase, Marquardt is no stranger to stepping up in big fights, with noteworthy wins over Yves Edwards, Shonie Carter, Genki Sudo, and Dean Lister. Marquardt has yet to lose two consecutive fights –so we'll see if that trend holds true come Saturday night.
Kampmann, a Muay Thai fighter born and raised in Denmark, has proven to be quite dangerous on the ground as well. Kampmann had been scheduled to fight Rich Franklin last year, but a serious knee injury and subsequent surgery forced the Dane to withdraw from the bout. After rehabilitation, Kampmann was ready to return. Even though he had been out of action for some time, he didn't show any ring rust against Jorge Rivera. Kampmann immediately returned to old form – winning by submission in under three minutes of the first round. If Kampmann manages to beat Marquardt, expect him to be right where he was before his knee injury – on the short list of contenders for the middleweight crown.
Nate Marquardt is extremely comfortable with wherever the fight may end up, but expect him to try and bring the fight to the canvas. With the standup and knockout power of Kampmann, Marquardt will look to use his strong ground game to finish his opponent. Kampmann is no slouch on the ground, however, making this an intriguing clash.
Likely to go the Distance? Yes
Method of Finish? Decision
DAN HENDERSON VS. ROUSIMAR PALHARES
After back-to-back title fights -- and losses -- Henderson faces a relatively unknown fighter in Rousimar Palhares, who is 17-1 and has the tools to end the fight at any moment on the ground, from almost any position.
The 38-year-old Henderson, a former Olympic wrestler, is still searching for his first win inside the Octagon since 1998. Because his most recent losses came at the hands of then-UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton Jackson and current UFC middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva, it’s not exactly time to question whether or not Henderson is on the downside of his career, but three consecutive defeats would definitely raise those kinds of concerns. Against the Brazilian Palhares, Henderson will try to recapture the form that made him both the PRIDE Middleweight and Welterweight Champion -- simultaneously. While fighting for PRIDE, Henderson amassed an impressive 13-5 record, with notable wins coming over Renzo Gracie, Vitor Belfort, Murilo Bustamante and Wanderlei Silva.
A lot of people are rightfully asking, who is Rousimar Palhares? Well, if he topples Henderson, people will get to know him very quickly. Fighting out of Rio De Janeiro, Palhares is an intriguing fighter who is constantly trying to end the fight. In his first fight with the UFC, Palhares exposed people to his sensational ground game by submitting Ivan Salaverry in the first round at UFC 84. It was quite a feat: Palhares earned the distinction of being the first person to ever submit Salaverry, a UFC veteran and grappling ace, in a pro fight. ??
With Henderson being an Olympic caliber wrestler and Palhares holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, people should be in for a great treat if the action goes to the canvas. Although Henderson is an exceptional wrestler and adept at defending submissions, don’t be surprised if he tries to avoid the ground – trying to make the fight more of a boxing match. Henderson has KO power in both hands, a sturdy chin and he could be very difficult to take down. Palhares' punching skills and chin are question marks, and it will be interesting to see if he can find a way to win the fight that does not involve going to the ground.
Likely to go the Distance? Yes
Method of Finish? Decision
RICH FRANKLIN VS. MATT HAMILL
After being a champion in the middleweight division, Rich Franklin is looking to build on his previous fights at 205 pounds, and with a win on Saturday, he will put himself into the mix of eventually becoming a champion yet again – just a champion 20 pounds heavier. For Matt Hamill, beating a superstar like Franklin would be his biggest accomplishment to date.
Fans of the UFC got their first real look at Franklin on the big main event stage when he defeated Ken Shamrock as a light heavyweight at The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale in 2005. In that fight, Franklin was able to take out a legend of the sport halfway through the first round. After that bout, Franklin dropped back down in weight and fought Evan Tanner for the middleweight title. After beating Tanner, Franklin took out Nate Quarry, and David Loiseau while he held UFC gold. He didn’t have such luck when fighting Anderson Silva, who he lost the belt to in late 2006. Showing his fighting spirit, Franklin returned to the Octagon by stringing together wins over Jason MacDonald and Yushin Okami. After those victories, he rematched Silva, and although their second fight lasted a little longer, the result wasn’t any different. Now that he has lost twice to the current champion in dramatic fashion, Franklin, who is fresh off an April win over Travis Lutter, is looking to become a force to be reckoned with at 205 pounds, and with a win on Saturday, Frankln will put himself right in the mix of that division.?
People grew to know Matt Hamill during his stint on season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter. After winning his preliminary fight, Hamill was forced to withdraw from his semi-final fight due to injury. Although he didn’t reach his goal of winning TUF 3, Hamill has looked extremely impressive since recovering from the injury that forced him out of action on the show. In his four fights since then, he has put together three wins, with his only blemish coming to Michael Bisping. Hamill knows that a win on Saturday will move him up 205-pound ladder, and further establish him as an inspirational figure to all deaf people.??
Although comfortable wherever the fight may end up, Franklin will be looking to keep this fight standing for as long as possible. This is the department where Franklin has made a name for himself in the UFC. But that may not be so easy when fighting Hamill, who is a decorated amateur wrestler. In the beginning of Hamill’s career, he was known as a very one-dimensional fighter, but his recent fights inside the Octagon have continued to show new dimensions to his game. However, Hamill’s best chance of winning is to bring the fight to the canvas, so expect Franklin to use movement and multiple jabs – keeping Hamill out of range to attempt takedowns. ?
Likely to go the Distance? No
Method of Finish? KO
CHUCK LIDDELL VS. RASHAD EVANS
He's had a few close calls, but the word "unbeaten" keeps clinging to Rashad Evans. The man they call "Sugar" brings a spectacular 16-0-1 record into Saturday's showdown, though he's never faced an opponent quite as dangerous as Liddell. The last time Liddell fought a Greg Jackson-trained fighter -- Keith Jardine -- the Iceman looked every bit his 38 years and had people questioning whether the former champ was in decline. A win over Wanderlei Silva silenced those critics, but now Liddell must beat Evans to get a shot at UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
The stakes are high: If Liddell loses to Evans, he may never get his chance to once again be a champion in the UFC. The hard-cracking Californian has lost two of his past three fights, but probably hasn't forgotten how to knock people out. Possibly the most dominating champion in UFC history, Liddell became a fan favorite by taking out Tito Ortiz (twice), Randy Couture (twice), Vernon White, Jeremy Horn, and Renato Sobral.
Winner of season two of The Ultimate Fighter, Evans is only days away from the most important fight of his life. If he indeed beats the legendary Liddell, Evans will forever put his footprint on the sport of mixed martial arts. Since the completion of TUF 2, Rashad Evans has done two things: dropped down to the light heavyweight division and remained undefeated. In those seven fights, Evans has beaten Brad Imes, Sam Hoger, Stephan Bonnar, Jason Lambert, Sean Salmon, and most recently, British superstar Michael Bisping. The draw on his record comes courtesy of former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz – a fight that many believe Evans actually won.??
When the Octagon gate closes Saturday night, it will be interesting to see what type of game plan Evans, who is a former Division I wrestler, comes into this fight with. Historically, Liddell has had seemingly no problem beating great wrestlers – with multiple wins over Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. But Liddell is quick to point out that he is not looking past the task at hand – that task being Rashad Evans.
Although Evans is a wrestler himself, Liddell points out that Evans has a much different wrestling style than his previous opponents. Liddell’s last loss came to Jardine, who happens to be a training partner of Evans, so that too will be interesting to see what Evans takes from his training partner's victory over Liddell.
For Liddell, expect the same fighting style that has made him into the most recognizable face in MMA – one centered on his striking. Liddell waits for his opponent to make one mistake, but considering how hard he hits – one mistake is all it takes for an opponent to drop to the canvas.
Likely to go the Distance? No
Method of Finish? TKO
Fantasy Breakdown - UFC 88
Stephen Quinn, UFC - Saturday night’s UFC 88 card features a number of crossroads bouts that will determine the future for some of the game’s biggest names. But what will your future in the UFC® Fantasy™ Game be if you come up short this weekend? Read on to get the edge on your opponents and sail to the top of your fantasy league.