The Ultimate Fighting Championship presents Ultimate Fight Night 9 live on Spike TV from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Florida. The UFC kicks off 2007 with an interesting card that could have a larger impact on the upcoming year, than expected. The fight card includes the UFC debut of Heath Herring, The Ultimate Fighter season two winner Rashad Evans, as well as Nathan Marquardt, Hermes Franca, and Spencer Fisher all stepping into the octagon.
Hermes Franca vs. Spencer Fisher
This match is not the main event to be featured live on Spike TV, but it should be. The winner of this fight will find themselves matched up with the UFC lightweight champion, Sean Sherk sometime this summer. Sherk, who is recovering from shoulder surgery has not defended his title since winning it at UFC 64.
Hermes Franca comes into the match with a mixed martial arts record of 17-5. Franca was the WEC lightweight champion when Zuffa purchased the company. The title was removed and Franca was placed amongst the elite fighters in the UFC’s 155 pound division immediately. Franca has gone 5-0 in his last five fight with wins over Nathan Diaz (armbar), Jamie Varner (armbar), Joe Jordan (triangle choke), Brandon Olsen (armbar), and Toby Imada (armbar). His fight resume includes wins over Ryan Schultz (ko) and Caol Uno (ko), along with losses to Yves Edwards (spilt decision), and Josh Thomson (decision).
Spencer "The King" Fisher is a product of the Miletich camp and has made quite a name for himself in the UFC in recent months. His flying knee knockout of Matt Wiman at UFC 60 was arguably the knock out of the year. Fisher is 19-2 in mixed martial arts and has eleven wins coming by either ko or tko. Fisher is 5-1 in his last six fights with wins over Dan Lauzon (tko), Matt Wiman (ko), Randy Hauer (triangle choke), Aaron Riley (tko), and Thiago Alves (triangle choke). His lone loss in the UFC came when he fought deadly striker Sam Stout on one week notice at UFC 58. Fisher was out of shape but still managed to lose a razor close spilt decision.
This fight is going to be great. Both fighters like to push the pace and will put it all on the line. Fisher has not had an easy fight yet in the UFC, but has been able to find a way to win. His lone loss came when he did not have the proper training. Fisher was able to survive rear naked choke attempts for a solid 3 minutes in his match with Matt Wiman. With each fight, Fisher seems to be gaining a great deal of confidence and is truly a rising star in the UFC.
Franca is an extremely tough fighter and can finish a fight from any position. Franca ran out of gas in his last UFC fight against Jamie Varner. Varner might have pulled off an upset decision had France not been able to secure an armbar in the final minutes of round three. Regardless of the showing against Varner, Franca is a gamer and will bring the fight to Fisher.
I like Fisher in this fight. The fight is going to be back and forth, but Fisher’s stand up will win him this fight. I fully expect to see this fight hit the floor a few times, but Fisher can hang with Franca there. This fight will end in round three when Fisher lands a big right hand and finishes Franca with strikes for a tko victory. This sets the stage for Fisher to step into the octagon with Sean Sherk in the late spring or early summer.
Heath Herring vs. Jake O’Brien
The "Texas Crazy Horse" Heath Herring will finally enter the octagon after spending the vast majority of his career fighting for Pride and K1. Herring had signed with the WFA, but when the company fell apart, his contract was picked up by Zuffa. Herring brings a great deal of talent and star power to a UFC heavyweight division that desperately needs both. The recent additions of Herring, Mirko Cro Cop, and the return of Randy Couture is slowly rebuilding a division that was in desperate need of help.
Herring will step into the octagon on Thursday night with a mixed martial arts record of 26-11. Herring who fights out of the Las Vegas Combat Club was known for using vicious knee strikes when on the ground to set up submissions. However, in North American mixed martial arts, knee strikes on the ground are not allowed to the head, and this robs Herring of one of his most deadly weapons. Herring is 3-2 in his last five fights, with wins over Gary Goodridge (tko), Hirotaka Yokoi (ko), and Yoshiki Takahashi (tko), and losses to Sam Greco (tko injury), and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria (anaconda choke). His fight resume includes wins over Igor Vovchanchyn (decision) and Mark Kerr (tko), along with losses to Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (tko), Fedor Emelianenko (cut), and Vitor Belfort (decision).
Jake O’Brien is 9-0 in mixed martial arts and could prove himself to be a force to be reckoned with if he is able to pull off the upset. O’Brien defeated Josh Shockman by decision (UFC 65) and Kristof Midouz (Fight Night 6) by tko in his two UFC appearances.
The UFC has big plans for Herring, but he first must get past Jake O’Brien. I fully expect to see O’Brien to come out with an increased level of intensity, because no fighter likes to be considered a stepping stone or a showcase for someone else. O’Brien has never tasted defeat in mixed martial arts, but finds himself in a very tough situation. Herring is a true physical specimen and will be the larger of the two combatants. Herring has faced the best heavyweights in the world in Cro Cop, Fedor, and Nogueria. I just do not see Jake O’Brien being able to defeat Herring. I fully expect Herring to land some shots early, push the pace before dropping O’Brien to the floor and finishing with strikes late in round one. O’Brien is a tough guy, but just has not seen the level of competition that Herring has tangled with. Herring by tko end of round one.
Nathan Marquardt Begins His 2007 Campaign to the Middleweight Title Against Dean Lister
Nathan Marquardt trains out of Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His holds a mixed martial arts record of 24-6-2. The former King of Pancrase is 5-0 in his last five fights. He defeated Crafton Wallace (rear-naked choke), Joe Doerkson (decision), Ivan Salaverry (decision), Izuru Takeuchi (rear-naked choke), and Kazuo Misaki (decision).
Dean Lister is 9-4 in mixed martial arts and is widely regarded as one of the top jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport. Lister is deadly with submissions and has won eight of his nine fights in that manner. Lister has won his last two UFC appearances with victories over Yuki Sasaki (decision) and Alessio Sakara (triangle choke). His fight resume includes a win over Akira Shoji (triangle choke), and losses to Ricardo Arona (decision) and Jeremy Horn (decision).
In an earlier addition of The Basement Breakdown, I predicted Marquardt to end 2007 with the middleweight title around his waist. So of course I am going to pick Marquardt to win this fight. Marquardt was widely regarded as a serious threat to Rich Franklin when Franklin held the belt, and he remains a serious threat to current champ Anderson Silva. Marquardt moved to New Mexico and has been training full time with Greg Jackson’s camp. Jackson’s camp blew up in 2006 with Diego Sanchez continuing his undefeated streak, Rashad Evan’s improvements, and Keith Jardine’s tko stoppage of Forrest Griffin. I fully expect to see Marquardt reach his full potential and earn the camp even move respect in 2007.
This fight is going to have a slow pace. Marquardt has a tendency to fight slow and on the cautious side. He picks his shots, is calm, and tends not to overwhelm his opponents. Marquardt, for all his talents and athleticism seems to fight will almost too much respect for his opponents. This fight offers a true clash of styles that plays into Marquardt’s favor. Lister is going to want this fight on the floor. Lister, who has been in and out of active competition because he also spends time as a trainer is not going to want to slug it out with Marquardt. Lister will be on his back for most of the fight and I expect Marquardt to play it safe and stay out of Lister’s guard. Whoever is refereeing this one better get used to motioning Lister to get back on his feet, because it is going to happen a lot.
This fight will look very similar to Chuck Liddell/Jeremy Horn at UFC 54. Marquardt will land hard shots dropping Lister, and Lister will just have to keep getting up to take more punishment. Marquardt defeats Lister with a dominating performance and earns a decision victory.
Rashad Evans Tries to Remain Undefeated Against Sean Salmon
Rashad Evans is 9-0 in mixed martial arts and has an accomplished collegiate wrestling background from his days at Michigan State. Evans trains out of Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since defeating Brad Imes (spilt decision) to win the heavyweight division of season two of The Ultimate Fighter, Evans dropped down to 205 pounds and has defeated Sam Hoger (spilt decision), Stephen Bonnar (decision), and Jason Lambert (ko from the mount).
Sean Salmon is making his UFC debut and it also happens to be the main event live on Spike TV. Not bad considering very few people know who he is. Salman is a very tough fighter who is 9-1 in mixed martial arts. He is 3-0 in his last three fights with wins over Matt Hershberger (tko), Bobby Martinez (keylock), and Lucas Lopes (submission). His lone mixed martial arts loss came at the hands of current UFC fighter David Heath by way of submission. Salman did the majority of his professional fighting in 2006, going 7-1.
The knock on Evans was that he was just a wrestler, who could only win by lay-n-pray. However, Evans took a major step in his career and was able to pass through Jason Lambert’s guard, secure a mount and render Lambert unconscious from punches at UFC 63. The punches were not crisp, were not pretty, and actually missed more than he landed, but they got the job done. Evans is showing the improvements as a mixed martial artists that he needs to win fans over and to win fights as the skill level of competition he faces is increased.
I do not think Salmon is the step up in competition that the fans want to see Evans tested against. I understand building a fighter, but with wins over Stephen Bonnar and Jason Lambert already, a match against Sean Salmon seems to be more like running in place. It would be nice to see Salmon test Evans and maybe even pull off the upset. However, Evans just seems too athletic and is developing into a real mixed martial artists. Evans needs to finish this fight. This fights needs to show Evan’s improvements and entertainment level. Evans cannot let this fight go to the judges. On paper Evans should walk through Salmon, fight a "Couture-Like" fight and end Salmon’s night early. I think Evans takes a page out of Randy Couture’s book (as he should every time he fights), clinch...dirty box... takedown... side control... hammer fists... short elbows... mount... punches to victory. Evans wins second tko, punches from the mount.
Ed "Short Fuse" Herman vs. Chris "The Exorcist" Price
Ed Herman is 10-5 in mixed martial arts and has been a long time member of Team Quest. Herman was the front runner to win the 185 pound division on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter , but came up short losing to Kendall Grove by decision. Herman was then giving a match with Jason MacDonald to get back on track, but MacDonald put on a flawless performance and dominated Herman, winning with a triangle choke in round one. Since that bout, MacDonald has become a force to be reckoned with in the 185 pound division, as Herman still looks to get back on track. Prior to his two defeats, "Short Fuse" was on a hot streak with wins over Dave Menne (tko), Nick Thompson (tko injury), and Rhomez Brower (armbar).
Chris "The Exorcist" Price is 8-1 in mixed martial arts, with his lone loss coming at the hands of Kendall Grove by way of tko. The lost snapped Price’s eight fight win streak that included a win over Troy King (decision) and Mando Rosales (decision).
In the battle of terrible nicknames, this is a must win for Herman. A loss to Price would more than likely send Herman out of the UFC and most likely to the WEC, to try and regroup and straighten out his career. There is a lot of pressure on Herman in this fight. He has to perform well and win, and if he does not accomplish it, his goal to become a big name fighter could be slipping away. Price has no pressure in this fight, he is not suppose to win, but if he can, he will be able to find his name on a few more UFC cards.
I like Herman in this fight. He has a good camp that is not going to let his talents be wasted because he lost two fights. Herman comes out angry, puts on a show, and wins by rear-naked choke in round one.
Din Thomas vs. Clay Guida
Din Thomas is a member of the American Top Team and is 18-6 is mixed martial arts. Thomas has been in the sport since 1998 and has seemed to have re-energized his career in the last few months. After an impressive win by rear-naked choke over Rich Clementi, Din looks to be a real player at 155.
Clay "The Carpenter" Guida is 21-6 in mixed martial arts and is a very dangerous and entertaining fighter. Guida defeated Justin James (rear-naked choke) and Joe Martin (decision), after suffering back to back losses to Yusuke Endo (armbar) and Gilbert Melendez (spilt decision).
This is going to be an exciting fight and is really a toss up. Din Thomas looked very good at 155 since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter season four. Thomas looks to have returned to form and be the fighter that defeated Jens Pulver (heel hook) and Matt Serra (spilt decision). Guida on the other hand has been working his way up the food chain in mixed martial arts and has been a very active fighter on the small show circuit. Guida lost by spilt decision to Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight title in 2006 in a five round brawl. Melendez is now considered to be one of the top four lightweight fighters in the world.
I like Guida in this fight and he will earn a hard fought decision victory over Thomas. The win will move Guida up in the 155 pound division that is one of the deepest in the UFC.
Josh Burkman (7-3) will get upset by Chad "The Grinder" Reiner (13-1). Reiner will sink in an armbar in round two and Burkman will be forced to tap.
Rich "No Love" Clementi (23-11-1) takes on Ross "The Gladiator" Pointon (4-7) in which could be an entertaining fight. I believe this fight is at 170, as Clementi struggled at 155 and Pointon usually fights either at 185 pounds or 205 pounds. Clementi should win this one by submission early and I should take "No Love", but I am going to go with "The Gladiator", by knock out in round one. It would just be great to see "The Gladiator" improve his record to 5-7. It would give Dana White a kinda-sorta reason to keep him around, and just the idea of having Joe Rogan interview him after the fight, with Pointon only saying gibberish in a thick middle class English accent about "I’m the Gladiator" would just be great tv. Lets all hope for a quick knock out so Spike can get it on the air.