Saturday night will be one of the best nights in the history of mixed martial arts, as Affliction has the best collection of heavyweights ever assembled in its ring, while UFC has the best fighter in the world in the Octagon. The FanHouse predictions for those two main events, and for the undercard, are below.
UFC main event: Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin
Great fighters who move up in weight class often start with a tomato can as they ease their way in to fighting bigger opponents. Silva is moving up in weight class, from 185 pounds to 205, and taking on a formidable foe in Irvin, who has impressive punching power. But Silva is a different kind of fighter, and I think he's too much for Irvin to handle. Pick: Silva by second-round TKO.
Affliction main event: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia
There's been a late rush of MMA experts picking Sylvia, but the people who put their money where their mouths are overwhelmingly bet on Fedor. Although I like Sylvia and think he has a good game plan, I'm going with the legend. Pick: Fedor by second-round submission.
UFC undercard: Brandon Vera vs. Reese Andy
Silva isn't the only one fighting at 205 pounds for the first time. Vera, who previously fought at heavyweight, has slimmed down to fight at light heavyweight. Vera is a great talent and one of UFC President Dana White's favorite fighters, and unlike Irvin, Andy is a tomato can. Pick: Vera by first-round TKO.
UFC undercard: C.B. Dollaway vs. Jesse Taylor
With all due respect to Amir Sadollah's submission skills, this is the best possible matchup from Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter. Taylor, who has a lot to prove after getting kicked out of UFC prior to the TUF finale, will show he belongs by beating Dollaway, who was the most talented athlete in the TUF house last season. Pick: Taylor by third-round submission.
UFC undercard: Hermes Franca vs. Frank Edgar
I love this stylistic matchup, and it's my pick for fight of the night. Franca was a muscular beast before his steroid suspension, but I question whether he'll be the same kind of powerhouse now. I also think he'll be rusty after a long layoff, and Edgar will bounce back from his loss to Gray Maynard in April. Pick: Edgar by decision.
UFC undercard: Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns
Burns is one of my favorite stories in UFC. Two months ago he was a club fighter in Iowa who had a day job and a dream of making it big. Then, two weeks before UFC 85, he got a call offering a one-time chance to fight in the UFC against Roan Carneiro as a late replacement for the injured Ryo Chonan. Not only did Burns pull a stunning upset over Carneiro, but he got the $50,000 submission of the night bonus and a contract to stay in UFC. I think he's going to get another win against Johnson. Pick: Burns by second-round submission.
UFC undercard: Cain Velasquez vs. Jake O'Brien
I don't really see this as a main card type of fight, but I guess UFC wanted to remind the fans that it still has a heavyweight division. Velasquez and O'Brien are both mid-sized heavyweights (both weighed in at exactly 236 pounds), but they're very different in terms of experience, and O'Brien should make short work of Velasquez. Pick: O'Brien by first-round knockout.
Affliction undercard: Andrei Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell
Rothwell is a big, well-rounded fighter who's been around forever, and I'm tempted to pick him here, especially because I question Arlovski's commitment, given the way he's talking about moonlighting as a boxer. But I think Arlovski's striking power is going to be too much. Pick: Arlovski by third-round TKO.
Affliction undercard: Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo
This is something of a mismatch, as Barnett is one of the best heavyweights in the world and the once formidable Rizzo is past his prime. Assuming both win, Barnett could face Fedor next. Pick: Barnett by decision.
Affliction undercard: Renato Sobral vs. Mike Whitehead
Sobral, better known as Babalu, is a Brazilian jiu jitsu master who is, unfortunately, known to many fans for refusing to let go of his anaconda choke after opponent David Heath had tapped. He should beat Whitehead easily. Pick: Babalu by first-round submission.
Affliction undercard: Matt Lindland vs. Fabio Negao
Lindland, the 2000 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist, is fighting for the first time in more than a year. (His last fight was a loss to Fedor.) I expect him to come out rusty, but he's a much better fighter than Negao.
Pick: Lindland by decision.
Final prediction: UFC vs. Affliction
As much as Saturday night is about Fedor and Silva, it's also about the organizations they represent taking each other on. And in that battle, I think UFC is going to beat Affliction soundly. I have no doubt that Affliction will put on a great show, but I do doubt that many people will see it. Pick: UFC and Spike will get solid ratings, while Affliction will fall short of 100,000 pay-per-view buys.