UFC 88 will come to us all live on September 6th from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The event will give Atlanta its first taste of live UFC action, and there's sure to be a lot of it when Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell takes on Rashad Evans for the likely right to face Forrest Griffin for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
But UFC 88 is about a lot more than just the headliner. On the night, Rich "Ace" Franklin will jump up to the light heavyweight division when he takes on former TUF star Matt Hamill. Former PRIDE champion Dan Henderson will try to avoid three straight losses when he takes on BJJ wizard, Rousimar Palhares.
As is always the case these days in the UFC, this card is simply chock-full. So let's get to the nitty gritty.
Chuck Liddell (21-5) vs. Rashad Evans (11-0-1): Chuck Liddell may do two things better than anyone that has ever fought in the light heavyweight division. First, he may have better one punch knockout power than any 205 pounder in history. Second, he may have the best takedown defense as well.
In other words, wrestlers beware.
Liddell is an outstanding counter puncher whose technical striking is better than he's given credit for. His wrestling skills are wholly underrated and of course are the reason for his stellar takedown defense. As for BJJ, it's hard to say.
Liddell hardly every ends up on the ground. He likes to knock people out as those 13 career (T)KO's would seem to attest to.
Rashad Evans is a former Michigan State Division I-A college wrestler with excellent takedowns, takedown defense, and ground control skills. As one might guess from a Division 1 athlete, Evans is simply very athletic. Along with this, he possesses fast reflexes and some good power.
Though Evans' jiu jitsu and submission skills appear to be improving, they represent a relative weakness
Beyond that, the knock on Evans? at least in relation to Chuck Liddell? would probably have to be his finishing skills. More than half of his wins have ended in decision.
And the more chances you give Chuck Liddell to hit you the worse your chances of victory.
Prediction: Evans can take a punch, which will help him here. Further, he has some power and is fast on his feet. But this fight would seem to be tailor made for Liddell. As good as his opponent's wrestling is, one would be hard pressed to say that it's better than Randy Couture's, who had serious difficulties getting Liddell to the ground in their final two encounters. In the end, that's exactly what Evans will probably have to do to win this one; continually take Liddell down and avoid getting knocked out.
But considering Liddell's takedown defense and ridiculous power, that's a tall order.
Chuck Liddell wins by second round KO over an excellent opponent.
Rich Franklin vs. Matt Hamill (4-1): Former TUF contestant Matt Hamill is an outstanding wrestler. He's also very strong; inhumanly so, almost. Since the show ended, Hamill has also clearly improved his striking immensely.
Despite these strengths and the fact that many believe he's never really lost (the loss to Bisping was controversial) Hamill doesn't have much in the line of submissions. Further, even when on top on the ground he sometimes seems too willing to stay in his opponent's guard where the damage he does is sometimes less than you'd expect. He's certainly very capable as he showed against Tim Boetsch in spurts on the ground.
It seems to be a matter of putting it altogether.
Rich Franklin is moving up in weight to a division he once resided in. Along with this, you have to wonder if the move will impact the amazing cardio he has become known for. Regardless, he possesses better than average takedowns, takedown defense, submissions, and technical striking. Further, he hits very hard.
Franklin has it all except perhaps elite striking skills, which have led to knockout losses to Anderson Silva (twice) and Lyoto Machida. In other words, despite his toughness, against the best of the best, Franklin has sometimes fallen via (T)KO.
Prediction: There's no denying that Hamill poses challenges for Franklin from a wrestling and power perspective. In other words, expect Ace to end up on his back more than once. Still, Franklin is better than his adversary on the feet and will likely attempt a few submissions from his back when that's where the fight goes. Hamill's inexperience may show in this one, even if he isn't stopped.
Someday this one might be Hamill's. But today?
Rich Franklin wins via unanimous decision.
Dan Henderson (22-7) vs. Rousimar Palhares (8-1): Figure that Henderson is better on his feet in this one. That said, Palhares has ridiculous submission skills. In the end, this fight will go to the ground in spurts. If Henderson ends up on top he wins. If Palhares ends up on top, it's likely submission time.
But Henderson has that wrestling pedigree.
Dan Henderson wins via unanimous (ground and pound) decision. Still, this is a very close call that could go either way.
Martin Kampmann (13-1) vs. Nate Marquardt (29-8-2): This is going to be a war. To be honest, it's another one of those too close to call fights.
But that's not what you want to hear. . .
Martin Kampmann wins in an upset by way of TKO in round two.
Thiago Tavares (13-2) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (11-4): Tavares has 10 submission victories and three out of four of Pellegrino's losses have come by way of submission. This should be a good fight while it lasts.
Thiago Tavares wins via second round submission.
Tim Boetsch (7-2) vs. Michael Patt (12-2): Patt is very good on the ground, but Boetsch is hard to get there. Oh yeah, and he hits like a truck.
Tim Boetsch wins via second round TKO.
Dong Hyun Kim (10-0-1) vs. Matt Brown (7-6): Somebody's getting knocked out here.
Matt Brown wins via second round TKO.
Jason Lambert (23-8) vs. Jason MacDonald (20-10): Lambert's been on a bad streak and sometimes those are hard to get off of.
Jason MacDonald wins via close decision.
Roan Carneiro (12-7) vs. Ryo Chonan (14-8): Chonan is hard to submit and has improved his takedown defense tremendously.
Ryo Chonan wins via unanimous decision.