UFC 115 – Liddell VS Franklin takes place this Saturday in Vancouver. It should be an electric day of sports programming with USA/England on during the day and UFC 115 at night. This Saturday’s main event pits former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell against former UFC Middleweight champion Rich Franklin. As we all know, this was supposed to be the third installment of Liddell/Ortiz, but Tito went down with an injury.
Despite the heat this card has been getting, I think it has a lot of potential. The Condit/MacDonald, Griffin/Dunham, Danzig/Wiman and Kampmann/Thiago fights should all be exciting and competitive. The two heavyweight bouts on the main card will also satiate your thirst for a good ol’ slugfest.
As always, Mike Hammersmith, a friend and freelance MMA writer for sites like MMAMafia, will be giving MMAMoneyLine viewers another viewpoint along with additional analysis and recommendations. Here are myself and Mike’s top plays for this weekend’s UFC 115 card (and there are A LOT to choose from!). To check out Mike’s picks for the full card, check out his writeup at MMAMafia or MMAMoneyLine’s UFC 115 – Liddell VS Franklin Pros’ Picks.
Pat Barry – Mike Hammersmith (-150 on BetUS/Sportsbook)
Though a baby in the sport when he came into the UFC, Pat Barry has been on a serious learning curve, and has shown his worth every time he steps into the octagon. Although accused of being a small Heavyweight, Barry packs a ton of power into his frame, and every win comes by way of TKO due to his large arsenal of striking skills and particularly, his vicious leg kicks. While his ground game is still developing, and he’d be eaten alive by some of the monster wrestlers in the division, there are several fights that should be fairly easy for him. Enter the fan favorite and aging warrior in Mirko Filipovic, who will be fighting his last contractual fight in the UFC, and who has looked to be a shadow of his former self in previous bouts.
Every once in awhile, the UFC sets up something I call a “passing of the torch fight”, where an aging fighter is placed against a young, hungry lion of similar skills, with the idea that the young man will replace the older with a win. It happened when Frankie Edgar dismantled former champion Sean Sherk, and it should happen now when a more versatile and less shop-worn Barry soundly beats the legendary Cro-cop. The main issue here for Cro-cop is that his speed has faded, and his career has been spent engaging primarily in throw-away fights, leaving him with a contemptuous defense hardwired into his style, and without the chin to deal with real power. Barry has shown he can take a hit, and can certainly dish one out here, making him a firm favorite it my book. At -150 , he makes for one of the best value bets, despite being a favorite.
Rich Franklin – Mike Hammersmith (-140 on Bookmaker/Sportsbook)
Though the opponent has changed from Tito Ortiz to Rich Franklin, the story remains the same, as two veteran fighters in the twilight of their career will scrap in the main event of UFC 115. Rich Franklin has been taking it easy as of late, and playing the part of the company man, filling in wherever he’s needed at anywhere from 185-205lbs. Now he steps into this role once again in what would have been a dream match five years ago, and in what will hopefully be an exciting bout despite the decline of both fights. Decline is the key word here, as both men have fallen behind the curve of the division, and age, both in years and in fights, has certainly taken its toll on them. For Franklin’s part, we’ve seen a slight decline in his speed, but his technique has always been sharp, and he remains a difficult fight for anyone across two weight classes. For Chuck Liddell, the decline has been much more noticeable, and terribly unforgiving for the former champion, having suffered three TKOs in five fights.
A fighter’s longevity in the sport depends greatly on their style, where power punchers and clinch wrestlers have long life-spans, while counter-punchers and rapid-fire transition artists fade much faster, as their reaction speed and timing begins to go. Liddell is perhaps the best counter-puncher the sport has seen, but with his timing and reaction speed going, bringing those punches to bear and avoiding his opponent’s offense has become too much too ask of the old lion. Franklin comes into this fight with a superior boxing skill, the same mid and low kicks that Keith Jardine
used to great effect against Liddell, and plenty of foot-speed to avoid Liddell’s big power. It won’t be pretty, but Franklin at -140 is a great bet, as Franklin can cut Liddell up with fast jabs, land a KO punch, or simply play it safe and out-point him almost every time.
Evan Dunham – Mike Hammersmith (+195 on 5Dimes/Sportbet)
Having flown under the radar for some time, Evan Dunham has been an underdog in every single UFC bout he’s had, but remains undefeated in his career. His last bout was a spectacular submission victory over fellow undefeated fighter, Efrain Escudero, where he snapped not only his winning streak, but also his elbow in a smooth armbar transition in the third round, walking away with the biggest victory of his career. Now Dunham faces teammate and fan favorite Tyson Griffin in his next step up in competition, which promises to be a great fight. We’re not here to talk about great fights though, but to make money, so here’s how this will likely go down.
Tyson Griffin is a very basic, yet effective wrestler and muay thai fighter, who has had success in the UFC, fighting and beating similar fighters to himself, as well as most of the high-level BJJ fighters in the division. While having sharp fundamentals is very important in athletics, when you have nothing else, it’s easy for someone with A) better fundamentals or B) an understanding of how you fight, to beat you. Enter Evan Dunham, who is one of the slickest and well-versed grapplers in the Lightweight division, as well as a training partner of Tyson Griffin. This training relationship is very important, as both men will have some familiarity with the other, but therein lies an advantage for Dunham. When you’re very basic, it’s easy to figure out how you move, whereas Dunham has a huge repertoire of skills, most of which Griffin might never have seen in practice.
Breaking this down, Dunham has the best chance of winning on the feet, as his striking packs far more wallop than Griffins, especially his left straight, and has the best chance of finishing on the mat, either from top or bottom. While Griffin might be able to edge Dunham in a decision if he’s choosy with his takedowns and keeps the striking to a safe minimum, this is really a 50/50 fight. Dunham comes in as a large underdog at +195 and makes for one of the best underdogs on the card.
**For the record, I (MMAMoneyLine) am in total agreement with Mike on these three picks. I think Franklin, Barry and Dunham are smart bets at their current odds. Here are two addition fights in which I believe there is a clear betting advantage.**
Ben Rothwell – MMAMoneyLine (-150 on BetUS)
Nothing damaged Rothwell’s stock more than his discouraging loss to Cain Velasquez. However, lets keep in mind that it was Cain Velasquez…one of the best Heavyweights in MMA. Rothwell came into the Velasquez fight in some of the best shape of his career; he was simply outmatched by a more explosive fighter. Big Ben still has the game to knock his opponent out, submit him or grind him out against the cage for 15 minutes.
Enter Gilbert Yvel. The level of Yvel’s striking has never been questioned…he is a very good striker with a ton of experience. In the same vein as Rothwell’s loss to Velasquez, Yvel shouldn’t be put out to pasture for losing to Junior dos Santos. The main thing that worries be about Yvel is the fact that he’s either been losing fights or beating cans for the last five years. His game is fading and he looked slow and uninterested against dos Santos.
I don’t see how Yvel keeps Rothwell’s bear like body away for three rounds. Yvel absolutely has a puncher’s (/kicker’s) chance against Rothwell, but Ben should be able to dictate this entire fight. Yvel has no gas tank, will be out muscled and outworked on the ground. Aside from Yvel catching Rothwell sleeping with a roundhouse kick (which is unlikely against a veteran fighter like Rothwell), this fight ends either in a Rothwell submission or dominant decision. I like Rothwell a lot at -150 at BetUS. I’d put Rothwell at closer to -220 personally.
Mario Miranda – MMAMoneyLine (-185 on Bodog/Sportsbook)
Taking Chuck Liddell, Mirko Filipovic and Gilbert Yvel into consideration, I still think David Loiseau has the least likely chance out of any of the aging fighters to make a statement at UFC 115. The Crow’s last win over a name opponent was against the late Evan Tanner in 2005. Not only is Loiseau in the twilight of his career, he is going to be overmatched in nearly every category against Mario Miranda.
Miranda is younger, hungrier, arguably has the more effective striking and absolutely has the grappling advantage. He looked good against Gerald Harris before being KOed and will surely be looking out for Loiseau’s elbows. I expect Miranda to use his striking to set up a takedown and the following ground and pound finish.
MMAMoneyLine Official Picks:
Thiago VS. Kampmann/DRAW (yeah, I said it)
MMAMoneyLine Official Wagers (1 unit = 2% of bankroll):
Franklin – 2 u. at -135 on Sportsbook
Barry – 2 u. at -115 on Sportsbook
Rothwell – 1 u. at -165 on Bodog
Dunham – .25 u. at +180 on Bodog
Wiman – .5 u. at +105 on Sportsbook
Miranda – 1 u. at -185 on Sportsbook