UFC 77: "Hostile Territory" is set for tomorrow (Saturday) night on October 20 from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. The pay-per-view (PPV) event airs at 10 p.m. ET.
Remember: UFCmania.com will provide LIVE updates and blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action throughout the telecast. It promises to be a great discussion as usual for an amazing line up of fights.
To get us pumped for the festivities UFCmania.com contributor Jesse Holland and the new top poster for the site, "ViolentMike," went toe-to-toe below to try and predict the fighters who will leave the Octagon with their hands raised tomorrow evening.
It's important to note for the predicitions that while someone may be lauding a certain fighter, he isn't necessarily the guy who he thinks is going to win. Basically, we never want this to come out sounding repetitive. At the end of each analysis, therefore, you will see the individual picks.
Let's get to it:
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva (19-4) vs. Rich Franklin (22-2)
Jesse Holland: Rich Franklin is once again the underdog come Saturday night, but that doesn't necessarily mean that history is guaranteed to repeat itself. Franklin above all else is an intelligent fighter and will surely come in with an improved strategy. I can't give him a free pass in the last fight because he was the champ, but in fairness Silva was a bit of an enigma to fans and fighters alike. Now that we've seen more of the Brazilian we can expect a much different, albeit cautious approach from Franklin. I won't condemn this fight to a five round dance ala Sylvia/Arlovski, but Franklin will certainly look to strike from the outside in order to avoid the clinch. Unfortunately that could translate to a slow first and second round. Franklin may have his best chance of taking the win if he can get Silva down and unload some ground and pound. Rich is difficult to submit and has the tools to hurt Silva but I don't see him taking the ground approach because striking is Franklin's bread and butter. Being in his hometown will help rather than hurt, but only time will tell if it's going to be enough.
UFCmania reader "ViolentMike:" Anderson Silva: I can't think of two scarier words for any middleweight. Right now, he is widely considered as the best striker in all of MMA. Since his standup is as good as it gets, common sense would tell his opponent would take him to the ground. Perhaps the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter in the division, Travis Lutter, did just that. And what happened? He got triangle choked for his efforts. The fact of the matter is this – no one right now is even close to his skill level at 185 pounds (assuming that Dan Henderson doesn't reluctantly drop down from 205), except for Rich Franklin. However, I remember Joe Rogan saying at an event about five months after their first fight that Franklin still hasn't watched the footage from their first fight. That brings only one word to my mind – fear. Even if Anderson is not able to Muay Thai clinch with Franklin, I see him being able to finish this fight from the outside with his striking. Frankly, I just don't think Franklin has what it takes to beat Silva at this point in both of their careers. However, I do see him making it out of the first round in this fight, but barely. Look for Anderson to really turn it on and push the pace in the final 30 seconds of the first round and really rock Franklin. Two or three years ago I'd go with Franklin, but this is 2007 and time for "The Spider" to reign supreme.
Holland: Silva via unanimous decision
ViolentMike: Silva via technical knockout
Tim Sylvia (23-3) vs. Brandon Vera (8-0)
Jesse Holland: Brandon Vera fans take note - he said it best himself: "Don't believe the hype, just believe what you see." While talented, Vera in my eyes is more hype than hope in the heavyweight division. Tim Sylvia is coming off surgery and claims to feel healthier and stronger than he has in a long time. That's bad news for "The Truth". Sylvia is more experienced, has a better reach and is nearly impossible to finish. His biggest concern for Saturday's fight is defending the leg kick. It's not something we see often in the heavyweight division but I believe the size difference will make it Vera's first plan of attack. Tim has to be more aggressive than in recent fights and let those hands go. Vera has fought well since his debut but the layoff and lack of A-level competition is going to cost him this fight. He's never had to weather any kind of storm so we don't know how he'll respond and with Tim's right hand there is very little margin for error. This one could end at any time.
UFCmania reader "ViolentMike:" Brandon Vera is the smallest heavyweight in the division. He's only one toilet-clogging dump away from making light heavyweight. But he chooses not do so because he wants to be the first ever simultaneous heavyweight and light heavyweight champions. On the other side of the Octagon is Tim Sylvia -- the biggest fighter in the weightclass. For Vera, two main factors come into this fight: Size and ring-rust. How can Vera negate this huge size and reach advantage? I see two ways. The first, and more obvious, would be to take Timmy down to the ground. From here, he can work his well-versed submission game, or look for the ground and pound. The second is to chop the giant down, by using his excellent leg kicks that he possesses thanks to his main trainers, Lloyd Irvin and especially the great kickboxer, Rob Kaman. Speaking of leg kicks, Brandon should really look to exploit the whole in Timmy's game that Randy made so apparent to everyone in the division - left leg kick, over hand right. For the ring-rust, it's not like Brandon has been taking time off from training. He traveled the world looking for the best opportunities to train to become a better fighter, including Thailand and the Philippines. The big question about Vera is how will this time off affect him, especially his chin. He hasn't been hit in the face "for real" in more than a year. One big right hand by Timmy can put anyone to sleep. To me, this is the hardest fight on the card to pick a winner. Timmy has never been KO'd and has fought the many of the largest and most talented heavyweight's the UFC has had to offer. So Timmy has been hit harder before, but Vera has the capability of throwing something at Timmy that he's never seen before and taking him by surprise. Plus a perfectly placed strike can knockout anyone (except for Dan Henderson!). If the fight goes to a decision, I can't see Timmy winning it.
Holland: Sylvia via knockout
ViolentMike: Vera via unanimous decision
Stephan Bonnar (10-4) vs. Eric Schafer (7-2-2)
Jesse Holland: Eric Schafer has his work cut out for him but if he's studied any of Bonnar's previous fights he understands that he can let Bonnar do most of the work for him. As we've seen against Rashad Evans, Bonnar gets frustrated if he can't control the pace and take the fight right to his opponent. On their feet "Red" doesn't stand much of a chance, but on the ground he is more than capable of pulling out the submission. The key to victory will be a submission that Bonnar cannot anticipate because his sub defense is above average. Now how to get Bonnar down is another story as "Red" isn't exactly known for his takedowns. Again, let Bonnar do the work here. While not exactly noble, it wouldn't be such a bad idea if Schafer jumped into guard and went for broke.
UFCmania reader "ViolentMike:" Stephan Bonnar is a game fighter – ready to go at all times. He is coming off of a first round win over Mike Nichols after serving a suspension for steroids. Being out of the Octagon didn't look to effect Stephan at all. In fact, he found himself right at home upon his return. Stephan is really well rounded and is going up against a one dimensional ground fighter in "Ravishing Red." Red's problem is that he often has a difficult time getting his opponent to the ground to utilize his jiu-jitsu skills. The experience factor and quality of opponents favors Bonnar. I see this playing a roll in their fight. Plus, Red is hardly an intimidating nickname - I'd be more scared to fight Red Foreman from the 70's show than Ravishing Red! I see Stephan picking him apart on their feet.
Holland: Bonnar via technical knockout
ViolentMike: Bonnar via knockout
Kalib Starnes (8-1-1) vs. Alan Belcher (10-3)
Jesse Holland: Alan Belcher is coming off a quick submission win over Sean Salmon at UFC 71 which I think helped erase the beating he took at the hands of Kendall Grove last April. Belcher is as every bit as talented as his nickname suggests and I fully expect him to walk through Kalib Starnes. Belcher has a solid striking background winning 60 percent of his fights by technical knockout. Starnes is good on the ground but does not perform well under heavy fire as we saw on The Ultimate Fighter 3 and against Yushin Okami. Belcher needs to keep it standing and not be lured into an exchange on the ground. I would not be surprised to see this one go the distance but I definitely have Belcher winning all three rounds.
UFCmania reader "ViolentMike:" Kalib Starnes last defeated Chris Leben in the fight of the night at UFC 71. Prior to that, he was over powered and defeated by Yushin Okami. His first official UFC fight was against Danny Abbadi, so I don't really count that as a win, unless he somehow managed to get Danny to make him a sandwich after the fight. Kalib is pretty well rounded, finding himself comfortable and able to win the fight from almost any position. Although he has a record of 8-1-1 (2-1 in the UFC), I don't think that Kalib has fought to his full potential. It even looks like he doesn't always give it 100 percent and he seems to quit on himself when he falls behind. I think that Kalib has this inner beast inside of him that he is just dying to come out and show that killer instinct needed to demolish the opposition. Will Saturday be the day?
Holland: Belcher via unanimous decision
ViolentMike: Starnes via submission
Jason MacDonald (19-8) vs. Yushin Okami (20-4)
Jesse Holland: Jason MacDonald has his second biggest test to date (the first being Franklin) and how he responds to this challenge will say a lot about his place in the 185-pound division. Okami is a huge middleweight who is strong enough to tool anybody in the clinch yet versatile enough to pull off a submission if the opportunity presents itself. MacDonald must look to end this one early. As we've seen in his fights against Franklin and Swick, Okami is a slow starter and actually gets better in the later rounds. Conversely, MacDonald starts to gas as time goes on so it's do or die in the first seven and a half minutes. "The Athlete" finishes nearly 85 percent of his fights by submission, and should not waste time trying to dance around the outside. If MacDonald can find a way to pull guard or even better get a dominant position, he'll have to outmaneuver-not outmuscle Okami. It's going to be a pretty tall order against a guy who only has one submission loss (strikes) in 24 fights.
UFCmania reader "ViolentMike:" Jason MacDonald will be fighting Yushin Okami in the swing bout. Why this bout isn't on the main card has me flabbergasted, but that's besides the point. I'm supposed to call the fight as I see it happening, and predict a winner! J-Mac and Okami share three common opponents, Rory Singer, Rich Franklin and Kalib Starnes.
- Rory Singer - No Edge: They both finished Singer via TKO.
- Rich Franklin – Edge Okami: MacDonald lost via technical knockout to Franklin at end of Round two. Okami lasted the entire three rounds with Franklin and lost a decision.
- Kalib Starnes – Edge Okami: Kalib TKO'd "The Athlete" in the first round. Okami TKO'd Kalib in the third round.
So, using the fighters past history of common opponents, all signs point toward Okami. I see the main question to this fight being this - Once this fight hits the ground, which it will, will MacDonald be able to use his length and jiu-jitsu to submit the crafty Okami? Unfortunately for J-Mac, Okami will have the strength advantage to simply power himself out of the majority of submissions that will be thrown at him. So Jason will most likely going to have to look for the chokes if he wants to submit him. Yushin has 24 pro MMA fights, and has only lost once by submission, which was due to strikes back in his seventh fight. On the other hand, MacDonald has 19 pro wins, with an astonishing 16 coming by way of submission.
Holland: Okami via technical knockout
ViolentMike: Okami via submission (strikes)
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for UFC 77.
For the complete UFC 77: "Hostile Territory" fight card click here.