We're trying something new with Casual Corner this week, focusing solely on the upcoming UFC 126 event this Saturday, the day before the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Greenbay Packers at Superbowl XLV. We're going to breakdown the top three fights on the card, Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader, Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin, and the UFC middleweight title bout between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort.
These two men are the future of the light heavyweight division, as the old guard retires and moves on, these stars of the future begin to come into focus. Both of these guys have their loyal fan bases convinced that they are the future champion of the light heavyweight division, and rightfully so. The winner of this fight is within grasp of a number one contender bout, and these two talented fighters are going to lay it all on the line Saturday night.
Ryan Bader is a solid example of how powerful wrestlers have evolved over the years, boasting not only explosive take downs and dominant top control, but heavy hands and solid boxing. Bader won The Ultimate Fighter season 8, taking out BJJ ace Vinny Magalhaes with a first round TKO. Since then, Bader has gone 4-0 in the UFC, bringing his unblemished record to 12-0. His top wins were also his most recent, first beating Keith Jardine via KO in the third round, and most recently scoring a unanimous decision victory over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Jon Jones is one of, if not the most exciting up and coming fighter in the sport today. His stand up is unique, and unpredictable. His wrestling is solid, and he's prone to use throws rarely seen in MMA. His striking from top control is bone breaking. Jones is the total package, and he stands to increase his skill set exponentially under the instruction of highly regarded MMA trainer, Greg Jackson. Jones is 5-1 in the UFC, his only loss coming via disqualification in his bout with Matt Hamill, where after dominating Hamill for the majority of the first round, he finished Hamill with a series of illegal 12-6 elbows. Jones' most notable wins are Stephan Bonnar, Brandon Vera, and Vladimir Matyushenko.
After the jump, we finish breaking down Jones vs. Bader, then analyze Franklin vs. Griffin, and Silva vs. Belfort. Following the breakdowns, we discuss pay-per-view value, and video of the Countdown to UFC 126.
Jones and Bader present new challenges for each other that they've yet to face in the cage. Jones has yet to face a wrestler that could put him on his back, and this is certainly what Bader will look to do. Out of all aspects of MMA, Jones' ability off of his back is his biggest question mark, and Bader would hard pressed to find a better strategy than getting Jones to the mat, and keeping him there. On the other hand, Bader has yet to face a fighter as lengthy as Jones (who boasts an 84" reach), nor a fighter that could avoid take downs and cause him trouble on the feet. Jones will want to use a steady jab, and a varied clinch game to keep Bader guessing, possibly even looking to put the wrestler on his back.
Win or lose, one of these men will be well on his way to making a case for a title shot after Saturday night.
Rich Franklin looks to win his most notable victory at light heavyweight, going up against former UFC light heavyweight champion, and Ultimate Fighter season 1 winner, Forrest Griffin, in the co-main event of UFC 126. Like the bout prior to this, Jones vs. Bader, these two men are looking to secure their rank at the top tier of the UFC light heavyweight division. That is the only trait these fights share though, as Jones vs. Bader present unique problems for one another, Griffin and Franklin will face styles quite similar to their own. Neither man is "world class" at any one martial art, being a jack of all trades has been both men's strengths (and weaknesses) throughout their mixed martial arts career.
Rich Franklin is the former UFC middleweight champion, dethroned by Anderson Silva in late 2006. Despite the decision to move to light heavyweight, Franklin has answered the call from the UFC to perform at catchweights of 195, not once, but twice, both times with men who were on their way down to the middleweight division. First, he won a split decision over Wanderlei Silva, in a thrilling fight, then Franklin was stopped in the first round by middleweight contender Vitor Belfort. Since then, he's rebounded with a first round knock out of UFC legend, Chuck Liddell, and is looking to take out another former champion Saturday night.
Forrest Griffin won the UFC light heavyweight title in a close unanimous decision over Quinton Jackson at UFC 86, then lost it in his first title defense against Rashad Evans at UFC 92. Forrest went on to face Anderson Silva, who was testing the waters for a second time at light heavyweight, and was clearly outmatched, losing via a breath taking knock out. Most recently, Griffin scored a split decision victory over Tito Ortiz. That was over a year ago, in September of 2009.
Both men are decent kick boxers, though they both lack knock out power. Griffin has put more emphasis on kicks in his game, the leg kick in particular, but Franklin has utilized kicks in his arsenal as well, even scoring a TKO over Matt Hamill with a kick to the body, In my opinion, these men are quite evenly matched on the feet, but Griffin will likely be looking to clinch, and use his size to keep Franklin under control against the cage.
In a perfect world, Griffin would heed the counsel of trainer Randy Couture, and utilize the clinch throughout the fight and look to win a decision. Alas, Griffin is easily drawn into a brawl (see: his whole career) and Franklin should be well aware of this. Although neither man has a particularly imposing wrestling/top control game, they both are experienced enough to know when a take down could seal a round in their favor, so look for shots late in the rounds if it's been a back and forth round. It will be interesting to see how this fight plays out, as these men match up well with one another. Can Griffin's size be the equalizer? Will Franklin be able to work his smaller frame and speed to frustrate Griffin and out point him? We'll find out on the 5th.
The pound for pound best fighter on the planet, and reigning UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, will defend his title against former UFC light heavyweight champion and knock out artist, Vitor Belfort, in the main event of UFC 126. In Brazil, it's been referred to as the fight of the century. These are two of the best fighters to ever come out of Brazil, fighting on the biggest stage, for the undisputed middleweight title. These are two of the most dangerous, fast, and overall skillful strikers in mixed martial arts today, and they're set to see who is the better man come Saturday night. Not only is the fight exciting on paper, these men have a genuine dislike for each other. Just take a look at this stare down picture from the pre-fight press conference.
Former sparring partners with a relationship that went south. We saw it way back when Silva was scheduled to fight Belfort at UFC 112, in Abu Dhabi, and we see it now. This fight has potential to be one of the most breathtaking fights in UFC history, and it looks to live up to the hype.
Anderson Silva holds multiple UFC records, including most consecutive wins (twelve) and most consecutive title defenses (seven). Most recently, Silva battled with Chael Sonnen for five rounds, losing the majority of the fight only to win via triangle armbar at the last moment. Silva showed the heart of a champion, and overcame the hardest fight a fighter has given him in the UFC to date.
Vitor Belfort made his UFC debut at UFC 12, winning the heavyweight tournament. Since then, he's fought across the globe, and after a time away from the UFC, he's returned. Belfort's only fight since returning was against former middleweight champion Rich Franklin at a catchweight of 195lbs. Belfort won via knock out in the first round. Injuries have postponed his middleweight title shot, but this Saturday, his wait is over.
This is one of those peculiar fights where at any moment, either fighter could score a knock out in the blink of an eye. Silva and Belfort are both highly skilled strikers, Silva favoring counter striking, while Belfort is known for his offensive blitz. As the fight begins, we're likely to see plenty of patience from the champion, who won't go out of his comfort zone until the moment is just right. Although some of his greatest wins were accomplished by attacking right out the gate, Belfort will likely show patience as well, waiting for the right time to strike.
Even UFC president Dana White has expressed that the worst case scenario would be for neither fighter to get off, and become a staring contest. I don't think it will get that far, Belfort is too hungry, and Silva is too scary to not engage at some point...and one exchange is all it takes for fireworks from these two. I suspect that once leather starts flying, it won't stop. Silva has utilized a scary muay thai clinch throughout his career, and may look to do so in this fight should the distance be closed. Vitor is going to want to jab his way close enough to get his right hand on Silva's jaw, but is he willing to get hit coming in? Silva will be letting his feet fly as well, not so worried about a take down from Belfort, so expect kicks to come behind Silva's punches. Should the fight end up on the ground, both men are well versed on the mat, but I'd give the edge to Silva. Should Silva rock Belfort and drop him, I'd not be surprised to see him follow Belfort to the mat and look to finish him with strikes, or follow up by taking his back and looking for a choke. Don't blink readers, this one could end at any moment.
This is a very solid card, with two relevant, meaningful light heavyweight bouts, and a main event featuring the greatest fighter in the sport facing a man who's stand up skills rival his own. Not only are there the three fights broken down above, former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres makes his UFC debut alongside Antionio Banuelos. Torres and Banuelos are two of the most exciting bantamweights in the UFC, and Torres is climbing the ranks towards a chance at regaining his title. A win over Torres will solidify Banuelos as a top fighter in the division, and make him more than just an exciting fighter. Jake Ellenberger will be facing off against Carlos Eduardo Rocha on the main card as well. This is event is well worth the money, and serves as a high octane pre-show for Superbowl XLV. I highly recommend breaking out the party goods early, and enjoying a solid night of fights with some friends.
Also, don't forget to check out the UFC's facebook page at 8:25 PM ET Saturday night to watch the stream of the preliminary fight between Kid Yamamoto and Demetrious Johnson!
Countdown to UFC 126: