Anytime Anderson Silva steps into the cage it's a special treat for fight fans. Just like Fedor Emelianenko, those treats are few and far between as the Spider gets older and his dominant reign grows longer, which is why you never know which one will be his last.
There will probably be a lot of people tuning in with the hope he's going to lose. That's natural. People can't stand a man on the top of the heap. They want to see him fail because that makes him seem more human, more like us. Then after he loses they'll be able to denigrate his record by meticulously undervaluing his previous opponents.
The truth is that losing on Saturday will change nothing. Much like Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, or Wayne Gretzky, this sport's greatest hero may fall but his legacy can never be diminished. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "He is great who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others."
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Why do you think a man starting his 12th UFC fight for the company is the first on an 11-fight card? A good hint is that he has been to the judges 8 times. With the departure of Jon Fitch, Mike Pierce has become Zuffa's resident "good time to take a shit break" fighter. You can pretty much assume this will be three rounds of 19th Century "You have offended my honor, sir" glove slapping until the judges raise Pierce's hand again.
Pierce via decision
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Anyone looking past Seth Baczynski might want to remember he was the last dude to stop Matt Brown. And although he's got a mediocre record, Seth's 4-2 in the UFC and hasn't been stopped since 2009 when he fought Roger Bowling. I only know Brian Melancon from Strikeforce but I don't recall anything to write home about. This should be a gimme fight for Seth.
Baczynski via SUB2
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I just don't see a path to victory for the jiu-jitsu guy. Despite a run-in with Jamie Varner that didn't end too pretty, Edson Barboza is nearly impossible to take down, has some of the deadliest standup at 155, and his kicks are crippling. For a fighter with the limited striking skills that Oliveira has, I'd be surprised to see him standing after 15 minutes.
Barboza via TKO2
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I don't know how Dave Herman keeps getting fights in the UFC. After squeaking by John-Olav Einemo who had five years of ring rust caked on, he got pasted by Stefan Struve, steamrolled by Roy Nelson, and submitted by Ancient Nog. As for Gonzaga, despite the fact Travis Browne elbowed the back of his head for a cheap and dirty win, his career resurgence is looking good. He's going to take this south quickly and easily and get the finish.
Gonzaga via SUB1
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I'll be the first to say that Norman Parke is little more than an overrated scrub who's been able to temporarily escape the stinking island of England by hitching his wagons to the TUF train. Although that train will be derailed soon, I don't think Kazuki Tokudome has the chops to do it. Parke is going to exploit the Japanese fighter's lack of wrestling experience to cruise toward a dull decision.
Parke via decision
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At one point I would have said Chris Leben was one of my favourite fighters. That two-week period when he beat both Aaron Simpon and Yoshihiro Akiyama was a huge resurgence in his career. Then he became addicted to pain killers again and alcohol and whatever else he's currently relapsing on. Leben's last fight against Derek Brunson ranks as one of the worst I've ever seen. As for Andrew Craig, the kid has a hell of a chin and can land the leather with gusto. This has all the makings of a pretty predictable upset.
Craig via TKO2
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Cub Swanson (19-5) vesus Dennis Siver (21-8)
It's great that Cub Swanson is on a tear lately, mainly because he's such an exciting fighter. Ever since I watched him battle Mackens Sermazier at WEC 52 I've been a fan of his wild style. Having said that, it could be dangerous to be too wild with one of the most technical fighters at 145. Dennis Siver's only losses at 155 since 2008 were to Donald Cerrone and Ross Pearson, two guys with incredible standup skills. Since dropping to 145 he beat Diego Nunes (although I thought Nunes actually won that fight) and easily dominated Nam Phan. For Swanson to win he's going to need to control his wild swings and be more technical.
Swanson via split decision
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It's kind of funny to see Mark Munoz as the favourite after a one-year layoff during which time he ballooned up to super heavyweight. Timmy Boetsch, meanwhile, can't get no respect, despite beating Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. He's the Rodney Dangerfield of MMA. Mark Munoz presents an interesting fight because the guy throws everything into every homerun punch and has the wrestling to back it up. But Timmy is a big, strong, judoka who can more than hold his own against a brawler like Mark Munoz.
Boetsch via decision
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This fight will be hard-pressed to keep fans awake. Although Roger Gracie is ridiculous on top control, his odds of getting Tim Kennedy to the mat are slim to none. He doesn't have the shot to make it happen, and Timmy is ridiculously strong. If Jacare Souza couldn't do it, there's no chance Gracie will. Kennedy, to his credit, should be smart enough to know he can't take Gracie down either, although that's usually his bread and butter. Look to him to throw awkward punches for three rounds as he outpoints the gangly Gracie.
Kennedy via decision
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It's a little disappointing that Edgar isn't fighting Swanson instead. This fight isn't going to take very long. Edgar took a lot of heat for rarely finishing, but context is everything. Frankie took BJ Penn and Benson Henderson to two decisions, he decisioned and knocked out Gray Maynard, and he took Jose Aldo to a decision. These are some of the top fighters on the planet. Charles Oliveira is a fun fighter to watch, but he had to drop to down from 155 after getting smashed by Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone. Edgar is at the top of the heap in this division and Oliveira just isn't.
Edgar via TKO2
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Anderson Silva (33-4) versus Chris Weidman (9-0)
Look, Chris Weidman is OK, but I don't understand the hype. He took Demian Maia and Alessio Sakara to a decision, submitted two lowly ranked middleweights, and knocked out Mark Munoz. Does that make a guy a world beater? Every single opponent put in front of Anderson Silva has looked to have the keys to beat him. Dan Henderson was supposed to be a wrestler with huge power. He took an H-bomb to the chin and didn't blink. Then he choked him out. Chael Sonnen was supposed to hold Silva down. He nearly won the first fight as a superhuman with a testosterone to epitestosterone level of 16:1. He was still choked out. Then finished quickly in the rematch. Yushin Okami, an elite wrestler, couldn't get him down. Travis Lutter had him in full mount before getting swept and triangled. Stephan Bonnar looked like a wimp. The list goes on and on and on. Does Weidman have a chance? Sure. But the odds are heavily stacked against him. Unless he rushes Silva, gets a quick takedown, and works a submission, he'll need to be perfect on the feet to survive. Any tiny mistake against Anderson Silva and it's over. The moment Weidman makes the slightest miscalculation, he can get stopped.
Silva via KO2