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UFC 73 quick preview, analysis and predictions

ufc68predictions.jpgI-T'S A-L-M-O-S-T T-H-A-T T-I-M-E.

But not yet. We still have one very long day to wait for UFC 73: "Stacked" this weekend.

Me and our loyal contributor, Jesse Holland, are looking for things to keep us occupied and our minds off the anticipation, so we decided we are going to try and sound smart once again.

Sometimes it works and other times ... not so much.

Yep, back by unpopular demand we're once again off to provide UFCmania readers with two unique perspectives on the main card fights.

Below, you'll see that we both took one fighter in each bout to support. It's important to note that while we may be lauding a certain fighter, he isn't necessarily the guy who we think is going to win.

Basically, we never want this to come out sounding repetitive -- I do that enough day in and day out. At the end of each analysis, therefore, you will see our picks.

Here we go:

Anderson "The Spider" Silva (18-4) vs. Nate Marquardt (25-6-2)
UFCmania: It's hard to go against a man who has finished his first and last three opponents inside the Octagon in convincing fashion. And Anderson Silva did just that against some worthy opposition en route to the 185-pound crown. His stint at the top, however, is going to be short-lived. That's because Nate Marquardt is a calculated, conditioned and well-rounded fighter. Some might call him boring, I call him smart. He's also built like a brick shithouse, meaning he will give Silva problems wherever this fight ends up. "Nate the Great" will close the distance on "The Spider" and nullify his devastating strikes. Look for him to control the pace of this bout from bell-to-bell and go for takedowns early and often. Leading up to this fight Marquardt has said numerous times he's the more effective striker. If he's watched any tape, I don't honestly think he believes that. Nate is smart and will control Silva on the ground for the better part of this fight and hold on -- literally -- for the decision.

Jesse Holland: Nate Marquardt might be the King of Pancrase, but against the likes of Anderson Silva he's merely a pawn. Of Silva's last six wins, five have been by KO/TKO. And not just the "Oh he left his chin out and got caught" type of knockouts, but the kind of deadly strikes that will make an opponent fear for his safety. He made Chris Leben recoil like a crash test dummy, and his disposal of Rich Franklin was perhaps the worst nose injury this side of Richard Kiel. Silva was taken down at will against Travis Lutter, but I'm willing to give him a pass on that for winning on his back (and because of his reported knee injuries). He's only lost twice in the last four years, and one of those was a DQ against Yushin Okami for an illegal kick. The other, well let's just say that Chonan's flying heel hook was the kind of submission you'll see about as often as the reversal of the sun's magnetic poles. Marquardt may be able to avoid Silva's best-in-the-business Thai clinch, but even if he gets it to the ground he's dead on arrival.

Final predictions:
UFCmania — Marquardt via decision
Holland — Silva via knockout

Sean "The Muscle Shark" Sherk (31-2-1) vs. Hermes Franca (18-5)
UFCmania: I watched "UFC All Access" with Sean Sherk the other night with mouth agape. This dude is a machine -- he eats, breathes and craps mixed martial arts (MMA). He's also incredibly strong and a compact build for the lightweight division. Hermes Franca is a game fighter himself, stopping his last eight opponents early. He's been the bug for the last year without a doubt, but this Saturday he's destined for the windshield. Talk all you want about ring rust when it comes to Sherk; however, his cardio is off the charts. He's going to takedown Franca at will and lay on top of him until Hermes is out of gas. From there, it's only a matter of time before Sherk ends this fight with strikes from mount. Splat.

Jesse Holland: Hermes Franca is a star on the rise. He's won eight straight fights and holds a special place in my heart for his first round KO of bloated TUF reject Gabe Ruediger last year at WEC 19. Of those eight fights, none have gone the distance. He stopped Spencer Fisher with strikes at Fight Night 8, and tapped TUF 5 winner Nate Diaz with an armbar at WEC 24. Simply put, he can do it all. That's usually not a problem for the muscular and talented Sherk, but Hermes is too strong to be pushed around the way Florian was. Franca does have a tendency to leave his chin out a little too long, but don't expect a fighter with Sherk's wrestling to try and capitalize on that. Hermes is going to be on the defensive for most of the fight and we'll see how rusty Sherk is after a nine-month layoff. Even a rusty Sherk is better than most, but in this age of upsets (and triangle-chokes), a little rust is all it takes.

Final predictions:
UFCmania — Sherk via technical knockout
Holland — Sherk via technical knockout

Tito "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz (15-5) vs. "Sugar" Rashad Evans (10-0)
UFCmania: Perhaps this will one day comeback to haunt me, but I'm not buying into all the Rashad Evans hype ... yet. He's a great fighter who improves with each fight. Yet, I don't think he's ready for the level of intensity and competition that Ortiz is going to bring on "7/7/07." Tito knows this is a make or break fight -- one that will prove all the "doubters" and "haters" wrong. Did anyone see the prefight press conference yesterday? Tito was composed, focused and relatively tight-lipped during the session. Evans, on the other hand, came off like an overconfident bafoon. Not too mention, Ortiz looked MUCH bigger than Evans during the staredown. Do these factors mean anything in a fight? I have no idea. But it reinforced a feeling I've had since this bout was announced: Tito is too much for "Sugar." I don't see any gravedigging in my crystal ball (Evans seems to posses a tremendous threshold for punishment) but I do see Ortiz taking this fight convincingly thanks to some relentless ground and pound. There, I said it. Crucify me.

Jesse Holland: Tito Ortiz is finished. Tito Ortiz is back. Either one of those statements will be true after Saturday night but I believe it's the former, not the latter. A dominant win puts him in the respectable company of good fighters who just can't beat Chuck. A loss will expose him as a B-level fighter who's good at talking shit and beating up Ken Shamrock. This pressure, coupled with the much-improved talent of Rashad Evans, will be his undoing. Rashad is a skilled and explosive wrestler who will easily neutralize the Ortiz ground game, and his strikes have KO power as we saw against Lambert and his Mirko-esque decapitation of Sean Salmon. I continue to see Rashad improve and make adjustments in his fight strategy. I have not seen that in Ortiz. If Tito's ego doesn't allow him to accept the fact that this is not the same Evans that snoozed his way through the ranks of TUF 2, he's going to be in for a very long night.

Final predictions:
UFCmania — Ortiz via unanimous decision
Holland — Evans via unanimous decision

Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (29-4-1) vs. Heath "Texas Crazy Horse" Herring (12-5)
UFCmania: Heath Herring is a one-dimensional fighter who likes to scrap. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a versatile fighter who can scrap and submit dudes perhaps better than anyone. I'm not even going to pretend that I think Herring has a chance here. His performance against Jake O'Brien is seared into my memory. "Minotauro" would have finished Herring in that fight in seconds. Put simply, Herring will have to rely on a knockout during this showdown -- something he couldn't even do against Brad Imes. "Big Nog" has the best chin I have EVER seen hands down. Not to mention, he's been run over by a truck and has lived to tell about it. Nogueira is a phenomenal talent and is way too good for Herring. As if the last TWO times these two met didn't already prove that point.

Jesse Holland: As an MMA fan I'm a little disappointed that Nogueira's first UFC match is against an opponent he's already defeated twice. Imagine if Chuck Liddell signed with Bodog and his first fight was against Renato Sobral. Heath Herring is a good striker with decent submission skills and to his credit he's also been around the block. Normally that would be enough to make things interesting but he's facing a man who may have been regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights the sport has ever seen if not for a certain Russian Cyborg. Minotauro's jiu-jitsu is on a level most heavyweights, heck even most fighters in general will never achieve. Look at some of the most popular UFC fighters. Guys from every division like Couture, Arlovski, Liddell, Ortiz, Franklin, Silva, St. Pierre, Hughes, Sherk and Penn. Out of their combined 196 wins only nine of them have come by armbar. Nogueira has ten all by himself. He can also take a tremendous amount of punishment as we saw against Sapp and Emelianenko so you can forget about any kind of fluke KO. What else is there to say? Herring's only hope is that Nogueira trips on his way to the cage and breaks his arm.

Final predictions:
UFCmania — Nogueira via submission
Holland — Nogueira via submission

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and provide your picks for UFC 73.

For the complete UFC 73 fight card click here.

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