For all the talk of how UFC is beginning to enter the mainstream, Saturday night's UFC 82 is actually a good example of how far it has to go: The main event, featuring UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva against Pride middleweight champion Dan Henderson, is a great fight as far as hard-core MMA fans are concerned. But the fight has been almost totally ignored in the mainstream sports media.
And that means a lot of casual sports fans are missing out on what could be this weekend's best sporting event. Here are the details:
What: UFC 82: Pride of a Champion
Who: In addition to the Silva-Henderson main event, the televised undercard includes Heath Herring vs. Cheick Kongo, Evan Tanner vs. Yushin Okami, Chris Leben vs. Alessio Sakara and Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson.
When: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
How: Pay-per-view, $44.95 ($54.95 in HD), or just follow along with our FanHouse live blog.
Predictions after the jump.
Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson
Henderson, who is coming off a loss to Rampage Jackson, is better suited to take on Silva at 185 pounds than he was to take on Jackson at 205. But Silva is such a phenomenal fighter that I give Henderson less of a chance against Silva than I gave him against Jackson. Henderson is a very good fighter, but Silva might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Predicted winner: Silva
Heath Herring vs. Cheick Kongo
Herring is coming off a loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and is fighting for the first time in eight months. Kongo is coming off a win over Mirko Cro Cop, and I think he has a better future in UFC than Herring, even though Herring is younger. I look for Kongo to win a unanimous decision.
Predicted winner: Kongo
Evan Tanner vs. Yushin Okami
Tanner is a 37-year-old former middleweight champion whose best days are behind him. Okami is 26 years old, and although his loss to Rich Franklin last year slowed down his path to a title, he looks like a real threat to win the middleweight belt some day.
Predicted winner: Okami
Chris Leben vs. Alessio Sakara
The Hawaiian Leben is a popular fighter dating back to his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, and he's the favorite in this fight. But while Sakara has lost three of his last five fights, I like him to surprise Leben with an early knockout.
Predicted winner: Sakara
Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson
This fight is actually kind of ridiculous. Fitch is a very good, very experienced fighter. Wilson is so anonymous that UFC doesn't even have a picture of him on its web site. Wilson just needs to get out of this thing alive.
Predicted winner: Fitch
Official web site
UFC 82 at Wikipedia