UFC 115 predictions, preview and analysis

UFC 115: "Liddell vs. Franklin" is set to go down this Saturday, June 12, 2010 from the GM Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, live on pay-per-view.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET.

To get us pumped for the event, MMAmania.com Editor and Senior Writer, Jesse Holland (that’s me), will break down the main card matches and take a closer look at the intricacies of each contest.

One of the big stories coming into this event is of course the headlining fight between former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin.

There's been a lot of scuttlebutt surrounding the new-look "Iceman," and coming into Saturday night's fight he certainly appears to be in the best shape of his career. But can he remain upright long enough to test the chin of the fleet-footed "Ace?"

There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the future of Mirko Filipovic. Many experts consider him "done" and a knockout loss to up-and-coming heavyweight phenom Pat Barry would make it hard to argue otherwise.

Can "Cro Cop" pull off one last run in his storied career?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning.

I’ve also included the current betting lines for each fight so that you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities … let’s get cracking:

205 lbs.: Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell (21-7) vs. Rich "Ace" Franklin (25-5)

Backgrounds (last five fights):

Liddell:

Record: 1-4
Notable wins: Won a thrilling unanimous decision over Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79
Notable losses: But that was 2.5 years ago and he's been finished in three of his last four fights
Strengths: Experienced, still hits as hard as anyone, nerves of steel
Weaknesses: Longest layoff of his career, 40-years-old, back-to-back KO losses

Franklin:

Record: 3-2
Notable wins: Won a war against Wandy Silva, beat the snot out of Matt Hamill and Travis Lutter
Notable losses: Down on points to the now-exiled Hendo, turned into Feijoada by Vitor Belfort
Strengths: Clean, crisp striking, plenty of gas in the tank, matches Chuck in experience
Weaknesses: Suspect chin, easily overwhelmed, not a lot of power

Dumbass predicts: Becoming a legend in mixed martial arts sometimes goes far beyond wins and losses. Is Chuck Liddell ever going to challenge for the light heavyweight title again? Probably not, but that's not his fault. He was a fighter of a particular era, and eras in this sport have a two-year shelf life. "The Iceman" was famous for putting asses in the seats, and if you would have told me that Chucky would once again headline a major pay-per-view after getting stopped by Shogun I would have laughed.

But here he is, and dammit if he hasn't gotten me excited to see him fight again.

Whether he wins or loses, he's done something amazing. Despite a 1-4 record over his past five fights, he's kept himself in the spotlight by dancing with some stars, coaching some up-and-coming stars, exercising naked and most importantly, committing himself to the fight game.

Anyone else sit up and take notice a few weeks back when Chuck started showing up in training pics completely shredded? He says he's going to knock Rich Franklin out and unlike another fighter from his era in Tito Ortiz, I actually believe him. I believe that Chuck Liddell is back. Maybe he isn't and gets dropped for the third straight time, but as a testament to his legacy, the old knockout artist who helped build this sport has once again made a believer out of me.

When all is said and done, Liddell still has heavy hands. If "Ace" had a more dependable chin I would probably favor him for his neat and tidy striking and hot-stepping defense. He's younger, maybe a little fresher, but this is a fight he took because he does what the company tells him. They pay him to fight and Chuck needed an opponent. I can't imagine the fire is there like it is for Chuck, who wants so badly to hold on to the spotlight he once monopolized.

Liddell is aggressive, he pushes forward and he lets the hands go. That approach has betrayed him in his past couple of fights, but I believe that on Saturday night it will spell the end of Rich Franklin. Even if it's for one fight, the icy one has returned.

Betting lines (as of June 11):

Franklin: -145 ((Bet Now))

Liddell: +115 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Liddell via knockout

265 lbs.: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (26-7-2) vs. Pat "Get Hype" Barry (5-1)

Backgrounds (last five fights):

Filipovic:

Record: 3-1-0-1 NC
Notable wins: Clowned Anthony Perosh and Mustapha Al-Turk, though I struggle to consider those "notable"
Notable losses: Was picked apart by Brazilian phenom Junior dos Santos
Strengths: Powerful striker, experienced, can end the fight with one kick
Weaknesses: Questionable heart, hasn't evolved, getting Tito-esque in his excuses

Barry:

Record: 4-1
Notable wins: Stopped Antoni Hardonk at UFC 104, finished Dan Evensen with leg kicks in Octagon debut
Notable losses: Reckless abandon got him choked out by Tim Hague at UFC 98
Strengths: Ridiculous power, great finisher, unflappable
Weaknesses: Non-existent ground game, inexperienced, short for a heavyweight

Dumbass predicts:  I had no problem picking Chuck Liddell to win, but as far as legends recapturing their glory, I only have one ticket to ride on that train. See the difference for ol' Nostradumb-dumb is that "The Iceman" lost because he kept getting hit on the chin and going to sleep. "Cro Cop" is a completely different case. There's a marked difference between being expired and being broken. Mirko still has the original parts, they just don't work like they used to. And in my opinion it's all mental.

But how many chances do I need to give this guy?

The Junior dos Santos loss pretty much told the tale as far as I'm concerned. And I don't want to hear any more excuses about injuries or hardships, leave that stuff for Tito. Truth be told, I haven't seen anything from Cro Cop in the past three years that would lead me to believe he can still compete in today's new-look heavyweight division. Since he was decapitated by Gabriel Gonzaga, he beat up a Japanese tuna can, a Korean Sasquatch, he went Moe Howard on Mustapha Al-Turk and slaughtered an Australian lamb. Someone please tell me how that does anything but pad his ego.

Is he still dangerous? Absolutely. Can he beat Pat Barry? Probably. Will he? Fat chance. People want to say the stocky 'Nawlins native is starstruck, okay, but that will end when the cage door shuts. He can put his personal feelings aside when it's game on and if you need proof of that, look at his performance against Antoni Hardonk and the history those two have had. Barry is young, powerful and fearless. He's basically Cro Cop from the early days of PRIDE. And he kicks like him too. Mr. Filipovic, may I introduce you to your successor, Mr. Pat "Get Hype" Barry.

The torch will officially be passed on Saturday night.

Betting lines (as of June 11):

Barry: -175 ((Bet Now))

Filipovic: +145 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Barry via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Paulo Thiago (13-1) vs. Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann (16-3)

Backgrounds (last five fights):

Thiago:

Record: 4-1
Notable wins: Strangled Mike Swick at UFC 109, toe-tagged Josh Koscheck at UFC 95
Notable losses: Smothered by Jon Fitch at UFC 100
Strengths: Excellent grappling, fights intelligently, nerves of steel
Weaknesses: Despite "Kos" stoppage, hands are not quite up to par -- yet

Kampmann:

Record: 3-2
Notable wins: Overcame Carlos Condit, finished Jacob Volkmann
Notable losses: Kicked out of the 185-pound division by Nate Marquardt, pulverized by Paul Daley
Strengths: Powerful striker, underrated ground game, complete fighter
Weaknesses: Careless, doesn't always stick to the game plan

Dumbass predicts: Don't believe the hype. Yeah, I said it. Paulo Thiago is going down at the hands of the Dane destroyer. What, you wanted another long-winded set-up? Eduardo is probably typing up a nasty email as you're reading this but sorry brotha' I'm going with my main man Marty.

Now before I get flamed I will say that I don't think Thiago is a can. He's very talented and has some big wins, but the brightest stars burn out the quickest. I'm no Josh Koscheck sympathizer but let's face it, that was a flash KO over a guy who refused to watch any tape on the Brazilian. He then lost to Jon Fitch and Jacob Volkmann took him to a decision. I was impressed with the way he handled Mike Swick, but "Quick" was already broken from the Hardy fight which was less than three months before it.

On the ground he's as good as anyone in the division but his hands leave a lot to be desired. That's bad news for Thiago because Kampmann is good enough on the mat to stay out of danger and on the feet he dominates this fight. If you're going to use the Daley fight as your argument, don't bother, I already agree it was a bad loss but that had more to do with gameplan than skill.

Inside the cage is the wrong place to beat on your chest and posture up, it's all about winning and if "The Hitman" realizes that after getting dismantled by "Semtex" then it's going to be a "W" in Vancouver. Kampmann needs to be patient with his strikes, stay off the ground and walk Thiago down. I'm not expecting a finish, the Brazilian is too crafty for that, but I have Kampmann all day here. If you're still shaking your head remember, there is a reason they don't call me Nostragenius.

Betting lines (as of June 11):

Thiago: -260 ((Bet Now))

Kampmann: +200 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Kampmann via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Carlos "Natural Born Killer" Condit (24-5) vs. Rory MacDonald (10-0)

Backgrounds (last five fights):

Condit:

Record: 4-1
Notable wins: Graduated from the WEC with five straight finishes, eeked out a win over Jake Ellenberger
Notable losses: Came up empty against Martin Kampmann in a three round war
Strengths: Fantastic jits, decent hands, good cardio
Weaknesses: UFC career hasn't mirrored WEC success with 1-1 record and two split decisions

MacDonald:

Record: 5-0
Notable wins: Perfect through 10 -- though some of his opponents were bargain-bin competition
Notable losses: None!
Strengths: Finished all ten opponents, nice balance of (T)KO's and submissions
Weaknesses: Hard to knock a guy who hasn't lost, but this is a big step up for him and a good test.

Dumbass predicts: I'm sure it must be hard to hear Bruce Buffer announce you as "The Natural Born Killer" when you're 1-1 inside the Octagon with two split decisions. However, mixed martial arts fans with any shred of history will recognize why Carlos Condit was so well received coming from the WEC.

And I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest, based on what we've seen in the past two years, that it's a minimum two-fight learning curve for most fighters when transitioning to the UFC. With that in mind, I have a feeling this will be Condit's coming out party. He has a fantastic ground game but isn't afraid to mix it up on the feet with some degree of success. He also has a great build for 170-pounds, tall and limber and difficult for anyone to handle.

That includes MacDonald, who is no chump. Unfortunately most of the wins contained in his spotless 10-0 record are over opponents that couldn't be identified by their own kin in a police line-up. Still, he's finsihed all ten of them and whether they're names or not, that's still an impressive feat.

But plenty of other guys have come in with that kind of resume. Efrain Escudero comes to mind and we saw what happened to him against Evan Dunham. MacDonald looked good in his submission win over "The Joker" in his UFC debut but I just think that Condit breaks out here and takes his place among the 170-pound division contenders.

It won't come easy and don't be surprised to have this in the running for "Fight of the Night," but in the end I'm going with TNBK, who may finally live up to his name on June 12.

Betting lines (as of June 11):

MacDonald: -145 ((Bet Now))

Condit: +115 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Condit via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: "Big" Ben Rothwell (30-7) vs. Gilbert "The Hurricane" Yvel (36-14-1)

Backgrounds (last five fights):

Rothwell:

Record: 3-2
Notable wins: Beat up a bloated Krzysztof Soszynski and an even more bloated Ricco Rodriguez
Notable losses: The last person to lose to Andrei Arlovski, got turned inside-out by Cain Velasquez
Strengths: Big, agile for his size, lots of experience
Weaknesses: Hasn't evolved and fairly predictable in his attack

Yvel:

Record: 3-2
Notable wins: Knocked out Pedro Rizzo and a couple of Russians you've never heard of
Notable losses: Went limp at the hands of Josh Barnett and Junior dos Santos
Strengths: Hits hard, great finisher, stays active
Weaknesses: Like Rothwell, hasn't evolved enough to compete in the new-look heavyweight division.

Dumbass predicts: It's probably a good time to stop using "former IFL standout" when describing a fighter since not too many IFL vets are finding the UFC transition an easy one. This includes Ben Rothwell, who at one time looked like he was on the cusp of a serious run at heavyweight greatness.

Then he met Andrei Arlovski, who promptly snapped "Big" Ben's 13-fight winning streak. he was able to rebound against Chris Guillen on the regional circuit but found out just how big the disparity was between the UFC heavyweight division and the rest of the worlds.

He's not a bum, but unfortunately he's closer to the UFC heavyweights of yesteryear. That doesn't cut it in today's era of mixed martial arts and the only saving grace is he's fighting another throwback from the Coleman era in Gilbert Yvel.

I actually think Rothwell is the better fighter but Yvel is crazy. I never pick against the crazy guy in a fight -- especially one with 31 (T)KO finishes. Like Ben, Yvel got spanked in his UFC debut, also by an up-and-comer in the form of Junior dos Santos.

They're both well-traveled veterans who've seen and done pretty much all there is to do in this sport, I just favor Yvel's aggressiveness and mean streak. It won't be winning him any UFC titles, but it should be enough to flip the switch on Rothwell come Saturday night.

Betting lines (as of June 11):

Rothwell: -165 ((Bet Now))

Yvel: +135 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Yvel via technical knockout

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Liddell vs. Franklin."

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for Saturday’s event.

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