UFC News: Jake O’Brien vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC Fight Night 14

Another match was announced.  We knew that up and coming heavyweight Cain Velasquez was going to be on the card, but we didn’t know his opponent.  Your’s truely tried to guess his opponent and several names came to mind, however I can assure you I did not think of Jake O’Brien.  Jake O’Brien was cut by the UFC two months ago following his loss to Andrei Arlovski.  I do not know why he was cut.  He lost to one of the best heavyweights in the world and it was his first loss in the octagon.  O’Brien was 3-0 in the UFC including a win over Heath Herring.  It appears O’Brien was re-signed by the UFC and he will return against Cain Velasquez on July 19th.  Cain Velasquez is just 3-0 in MMA and 1-0 in the UFC.  He KO’d Brad Morris in the first round at UFC 83.  Velasquez has been mentioned along with Shane Carwin as the future of the divison.  This should be a good test for him. 

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UFC News: Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin at July 19th Event

It looks like the UFC July 19th event is shaping up, and if this airs on SPIKE, wow!  The UFC Light Heavyweight was stacked before, but today the divison got way more stacked.  It looks like it will add two more top ten guys in Brandon Vera, who is dropping down following consecutive losses to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum respectively.  Additionaley, middleweight champ and top pound for pound fighter Anderson Silva is making the jump up.  Both fighters will fight at the July 19th event.  Brandon Vera’a opponent is not yet known, but Anderson Silva appears to be fighting James Irvin.  I have already figured Vera and Silva into my new rankings (Silva at #4 and Vera at #8).  Those rankings come based on their body of work in other divisons and may be slighlty low based on having no fights in the divison.  Silva will fight James Irvin who is also a top 15 guy. MMArated.com reports:

The UFC will be airing a live event on Spike TV with a main event featuring a light heavyweight battle between Anderson Silva and James Irvin. The fight will mark Silva’s UFC debut at 205 lbs. We’ve also learned that a proposed rematch between Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva was also considered but eventually nixed due to the fact that the event is less than five weeks away. At this time no other matchups have been confirmed, however, recent reports have indicated that Cain Velasquez and Brandon Vera are two of the other fighters that have been approached about competing on the card.  Regardless of what happens in the Silva-Irvin bout, Silva (21-4) will not relinquish his middleweight title and will be defending it again sometime in the near future. His most recent title defense came against the aforementioned Henderson at UFC 82 in Columbus, OH

I guess Silva will still defend his belt in October against Yushin Okami, unless he vacates it and allows Okami to fight the winner of Cote/Almeida.  Wow!  Also, could you imagine if Dan Henderson fought Wanderlei on this card.  That would destroy Affliction and the might heavyweight divison would be crazy.  Dana White is a brilliant busisness man.  We will wait to hear on Vera and Velasquez’s opponents.  Stay tunes…more coming.  Tomorrow at noon the big announcement will be made, so check back, I will keep updated. 

UPDATE: It is also rumored that Frank Edgar vs. Hermes Franca will be moved up to this card. As well as Antony Johnson who recently sent TUF 6 runner up Tommy Speer packing from the UFC against Kevin Burns, who submitted Roan Carneiro at UFC 85. The card is reported to be called UFC Fight Night 14 according to MMAJunkie.  The Septmber fight night will be called UFC Fight Night 15. 

It is also being reported that the UFC re-signed Jake O’Briend, who was recently dropped following his loss to Andrei Arlovski and he will step in and fight Cain Velasquez.  This could be a good fight and is a big help to the hurting heavyweight divison.  That was the one firing I did not understand.

UFC Fight Night 14 Full Card:

Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin

Brandon Vera vs. Reese Andy

Frank Edgar vs. Hermes Franca

Cain Velasquez vs. Jake O’Brien

Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns

UFC’s Best Divison

I went to HDnet’s fighter rankings and based this on which UFC weight divisons had the most top 20 fighters.  I know there are other ways to judge the best, but this is interesting…

1. Light Heavyweights –  They are stacked in the UFC.  This is where the light heavyweight competition lies.  They have the top 11 (Jackson, Henderson, Griffin, Liddell, Jardine, Machida, Wanderlei, Evans, Thiago Silva, and Sokodjou) guys in the world and 20 of the top 25 guys.  This is a great divison, full of star power.

2. Welterweights – They have 10 of the top 20 (St. Pierre, Fitch, Hughes, Serra, Koscheck, Sanchez, Alves, Parisyan, Davis and Gono), but 8 of the world’s top ten.  They have a near top ten monopoly only missing out on Shields and Condit.  I feel that there are other UFC guys to mention in top 20 talk (Chris Wilson and Chris Lytle), but the divison is strong and has the top tier welterweights in the world.

3. Lightweights – In most rankings the UFC gets cheated in the lightweight divison.  The system I used ranked 8 of their guys as top 20 in the world (Penn, Sherk, Huerta, Stevenson, Florian, Guida, Tyson Griffin, and Gray Maynard).  I know some of those other guys are good, but they are overrated.  Gomi can’t beat UFC guys.  Nick Diaz, B.J. Penn and Marcus Aurelo all beat him.  Aoki, Melendez, Calvancanti and bunch are unproven in my opinion against top guys.  Plus I feel some guys unfairly got left out of rankings.  Where is Marcu Aurelio?  FranK Edgar?  or Joe Lauzon?  or even Nate Diaz?  You mean to tell me Edgar is not a top 20?  This divison is stacked and has more contenders than any UFC divison.  DREAM does have some great lightweights.  I’d love to see a fight card of UFC’s top lightweights against DREAM’s top lightweights.  I think UFC would win easily.

4. Middleweights – They have 7 of the top 20 fighters in the world at this divison (Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Dan Hemderson, Marquardt, Okami, Bisping and Leites.  I put this above heavyweights first of all because I believe there are some guys that could be in the top 20 mix (Quarry, MacDonald, Leben, Cote, Kampmann and Almeida). It still is weak, not because it isn’t deep, but because they can’t find anyone to compete with Anderson Silva.  Anderson Silva is the second reason I put this divison above Heavyweights…enough said.

5. Heavyweights –  They also have 7 of the top 20 fighters in the world at Heavyweight  (Nogueira, Werdum, Gonzaga, Kongo, Vera, Mir and Herring).  Only 3 of those guys are top ten in the world.  All this assumed Arlovski signs with Affiction.  If that happens Affliction will have 6 of the top ten (Fedor, Sylvia, Barnett, Rothwell, Arlovski and Aleksander Emelianenko) plus Pedro Rizzo.  This is a weak divison for the UFC, but they do have some good prospects in Carwin, Lesnar and Velasquez.  This divison was once strong, but since has lost Couture, Cro Cop, Sylvia, Arlovski, and O’Brien.

UFC Cutting Fighters

What is taking place?  Who has been cut?  Why have they been cut?  Who should be cut?  Wh shouldn’t be cut? What fighters are on the chopping block? 

The UFC had over 200 fighters under contract.  Just recently the UFC has decided to start cutting fighters to allow the better fighters to fight more often.  In the recent weeks the UFC has cut Jake O’Brien, David Heath, Din Thomas, Kalib Starnes, Travis Lutter, John Halverson, Soa Palelei, Tommy Speer, and Kuniyoshi Hironaka.  They allowed Cro Cop and Tim Sylvia out of their contracts and have not yet re-signed Arlovski.  They are about to loose Tito Ortiz.  The goal of the UFC brass is to get down to the 150-160 range of contracted fighters.  This means there are more cuts to come.  Many fights on upcoming cards are do or die fights.  Let me sound my opinion…

  • I understand what the UFC is trying to do, and I too want to see the best fight more often
  • The options are either to have more events with more fights on the fight cards or release some fighters
  • If the UFC has 200 fighters under contracts and hold 18 fight events annually with 10 fights per card that means there will be 180 fights, with 360 fighters in action annually.  That means some fighters will only fight once per year.  That doesn’t cut it.  They need 3-4 fights a year to susatain their career.

With that in mind…

  • I don’t agree with all the cuts that have been made.  For example, Jake O’Brien was undefeated in the UFC, then he looses to Arlovski and he is cut.  He was a top 10-15 UFC heavyweight.  The heavyweight divison is hurting bad now.  That is the worst move of all.  Hironaka just won fight of the night in a loss to Goulet and he was cut.  Din Thomas was a top 15 lightweight and he was cut.  I think Tommy Speer deserved one more chance to prove himself. 
  • I understand cutting Starnes and kind of understand cutting Lutter and Doerksen. 
  • I don’t understand why Dana White will let Sylvia and Cro Cop out of their contacts, but won’t let Couture
  • There are some fighters would could be cut and the UFC will not miss them

Who is in danger?

The bottom line is the next few UFC events for many guys will be do or die.  This will make for some exciting fights as no one wants to be fired, but it cannot be a constant issue as we do not want fighters to look over their shoulders because they are bound to lose eventually. So who is in danger?

UFC 84

  • Christian Wellisch
  • Jason Tan
  • Dong Hyun Kim
  • Jon Koppenhaver
  • Yoshiyuki Yoshida
  • Rousimar Palhares
  • Ivan Salaverry
  • Kazuhiro Nakamura
  • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
  • Antonio Mendes

UFC 85

  • Jess Liaudin
  • Paul Taylor
  • Paul Kelly
  • Roan Carneiro
  • Jason Lambert

TUF 7 Finale

  • Jeremy Horn
  • Drew McFedries
  • Dustin Hazelett
  • Evan Tanner
  • Kendall Grove

Nearly half those guys will be cut

What standard should be used to decide to gets cut.  The problem is some guys are going to lose, should they be cut for one loss?  Here would be my standard…

  • Exciting fighter.  This earned Koppenhaver and Rollins a chance and may give them one more fight.  You can lose well.  The UFC wants exciting fighters.  The lack of excitment got Starnes cut.  Dana has always said he would reward exciting fights.  This could keep a guy like Terry Etim or Paul Taylor around even if they loose.  I would can boring fighters who refuse to engage.
  • Popular fighter.  I would not cut a more popular fighter because they could be a draw.  They need to look at the fan base before cutting.  That could save a guy like Kendall Grove or Jeremy Horn.
  • Ranked fighter.  I would not cut a top 20 fighter in the world.  That should save Sokodjou and Nakamura. 
  • Experienced figher.  You give the MMA vets an extra shot.  That again would spare Jeremy Horn even with a loss
  • Classy Figher.  MMA needs good ambassadors.  I would keep around classy guys and emphasize character if I was looking to sign people.  That has worked in other sports.  Many teams won’t trade for, sign or draft a troubled athelete even if they are talented because they are a liability.  MMA needs to target young people and if they want credibility they need to have class act guys in a controversial sport.  Punk fighters should be booted before classy guys. 
  • Potential fighter.  Shane Carwin is highly touted it he loses he needs to stay.  Brock Lesnar was in the same boat as was Velasquez.  If they are highly touted you give them a chance and let them prove themselves. 
  • Not All Losses Are Equal.  You cannot fault a guy for fighting good competition.  Imagine if Sokoudjou losses to Nakamura, there is chatter that he would be cut.  He would have lost to two quality guys in Machida and Nakamura.  I don’t expect him to lose, but he is universally ranked in the top ten in the world.  Dan Henderson has lost 2 in a row in the UFC.  Some say Wanderlai could even be in trouble, but you cannot can him for losses to Liddell and Jardine.  My opinion you keep some guys no matter what.  If Henderson fights Rich Franklin next he could easily lose that making him 0-3 in the UFC.  My tohughts would be give him a second tier guy to prove he is worth it.  If he loses then cut him, the same with Wanderlai and Sokodjou.  They did that with Cro Cop. 
  • Adequate opportunity.  I think if the UFC signs someone and gives them a fight you give them a chance to win.  Guys like Carwin, Wain, Palhares, Carneiro may lose their first fight.  Give them one more chance.  You want to develop talent and not ruin it.
  • Winability.  Like my new word?  It means do they have the skills to win?  I think UFC fighters need to be able to have a winning record.  There is no need for guys that will just get beat

The bottom line is cuts need to be made, but only cut those who have no heart and cannot compete at that level.  That is why using the Zuffa owned WEC as a farm system is a great idea.  Send the guys that need to improve down to WEC and bring the best of the WEC into the big leagues.

 

The Stars of the UFC

There is a recent shift in stars of the UFC.  Those stars are the great investments, the money makers. The stars are not necessarily your best fighters, but they are well liked by the fans and they draw a crowd.  The stars are the people that the UFC will market and set up to be successful.  The stars get the most money and the best fights.  The stars have a louder voice with the UFC brass.  Some of those stars have been discontent like Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Tito Ortiz.  Those guys leaving hurts the UFC.  The guys the UFC recognizes as their stars are the ones they need to cater to more.  The stars are prized in all MMA organizations.  The WEC has Filho, Faber, Condit, and Stann.  PRIDE had Fedor, Cro Cop, Barnett, Wanderlai, Dan Henderson, Gomi, Arona, Shogun and the Nogueira brothers.  EliteXC has Lawler, Kimbo, Frank Shamrock, and Carano.  Strikeforce has Gilbert Melendez and Cung Le.  The stars are not always the champs, but they may be.  In the UFC there is a shift.  The old guard is moving on.  They are still there, and still draw a crowd and are still good PPV fights, but in a few years will be gone.  The old guard consisted of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes.  There is a star level, then there is a second tier level of guys you want to hold onto at all costs, who have a following, and then there is the emerging star tier. Then you have your great fighters who perform in the octagon are respected, but may not have the charisma to be the face of the organization.  These guys can win and hold belts, but they won’t be the Chuck Liddell’s.  This system explains why the UFC gives a title shot and coaches spot to Forrest Griffin, who i no way has earned the title of number 1 contender.  He is good, but not that good.  He may eventually earn that, but this is premature.  Why did he get it?  Because he is popular.  He will sell PPVs and people will watch TUF because of him.  Personality will carry a guy a long way, just look at the Houston Alexander bandwagon. A lack of personality will hurt a guy, just ask Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, who if they had the charisma would be stars because they have the ability.  These guys can move up and down these different levels, but some guys have already been crowed as stars and can do little to harm that.  Your stars are the guys you hold on to at all costs.  Your second tier you want to keep because they are your contenders and can become stars.  Your third tier you be careful with because they can become stars if you play your cards right.  Your fourth tier are some of the best fighters, they put on good fights, they win fight night bonuses and they should be signed and kep in the organization if you can.  The effect of a star leaving the UFC is much greater than when someone else does.  The UFC is hurt by loosing their four biggest heavyweight stars Couture, Cro Cop, Arlovski and Sylvia.  The UFC is not so much hurt by loosing Jake O’Brien.  It would be nice to keep O’Brien, but if you can’t you move on.  Also, you sign MMA free agents based on this tier.  I and many others consider Fedor for example a star level guy, an instant smash hit and a great investment.  You pay him well, but he will make you money.  Dana White apparently considered him second tier, and didn’t sign him.  My opinion you give the Fedors and the Couture and the Liddells whatever they want.  My system looks like this:

UFC’s Stars:

  • Anderson Silva
  • Georges St. Pierre
  • B.J. Penn
  • Rich Franklin
  • Chuck Liddell
  • Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
  • Forrest Griffin
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Matt Hughes
  • Wanderlai Silva

Second Level: UFC’s Near Stars:

  • Brandon Vera
  • Matt Serra
  • Jon Fitch
  • Diego Sanchez
  • Dan Henderson
  • Josh Koscheck
  • Sean Sherk
  • Kenny Florian
  • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
  • Rashad Evans
  • Michael Bisping
  • Joe Stevenson
  • Gabriel Gonzaga
  • Chris Leben
  • Karo Parisyan
  • Clay Guida

Third Level: The UFC’s Emerging Stars:

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Roger Huerta
  • Mac Danzig
  • Joe Lauzon
  • Cain Velasquez

Fourth Level: UFC’s Stud Fighters, but Not Stars:

  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  • Fabricio Werdum
  • Keith Jardine
  • Frank Mir
  • Thiago Silva
  • Heath Herring
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Marcus Aurelio
  • Yushin Okami
  • Marcus Davis
  • Patrick Cote
  • Evan Tanner
  • Stephan Bonnar
  • Martin Kampmann
  • Marvin Eastman
  • Ricardo Almeida
  • Mike Swick
  • Thiago Tavares
  • Nate Quarry
  • Wilson Gouveia
  • Nate Marquardt
  • Kauhiro Nakamura
  • Jason MacDonald
  • Demian Maia
  • Thiago Alves
  • Thales Leites
  • Frank Edgar
  • Matt Hammil
  • Nate Diaz
  • Akihiro Gono
  • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
  • Gray Maynard
  • Hermes Franca
  • Cheick Kongo
  • Din Thomas
  • Spencer Fisher
  • Tyson Griffin

Note: The reality show really helped some of these fighters draw a fan base, because people saw them on TUF they root for them to suceed in their careers

The UFC Heavyweight Title

There is a huge mess for the UFC heavyweight title.  Right now Randy Couture is still the UFC Heavyweight champ, but he says he is not coming back.  All the litigation and the news of him signing with HDNet fights and Mark Cuban seems to verify that.  Therefore, the UFC Interim Heavyweight Champ is Antonio Rodrgio Nogueira.  It is reported that Randy Couture has been offered the fight with Nogueira.  I don’t know why he would take it.  I would say there could be a few motivating factors to accept the fight for Randy.  First would be to get the UFC off his back and fulfill his contract.  Second,  many people rank Randy as the third best heavyweight behind Fedor and Nogueira.  If he really is concerned about fighting the best he could prove himself against Nogueira.  Third, the Fedor fight is still possible in the UFC.  With the news of Fedor becoming a free agent, the UFC could sign him.  If the UFC signs him I look for Randy to have two more fights.  One with Nogueira and one with Fedor. What a way to end his career.  A much better ending than the chaos and controversy of lawsuits.  He could end his career beating the number one and number 2 guys in the world to solify himself as the best. 

   Previously, Dana White indicated that Fabricio Werdum was next in line for a title shot.  At first it sounded maybe one win premature.  However, if you run through the division who else will it be?  Arlovski’s contract is over.  Tim Sylvia just lost to Nogueira.  Kongo was the apparent other option, but he just loss to Herring.  Vera is coming off a loss.  Mir is still a few fights away from the title shot. Therefore Werdum seemed like a decent option.  However, werdum is going to fight Brandon Vera this summer.  The winner will be a contender.  I would assume that before that fight the UFC will book a fight for Nogueira.  Since Werdum is fighting someone else that only leaves me to conclude the UFC has someone else in mind.  They could have counted on Kongo, but his loss blew that.  I think that leaves just four options…

1. Randy Couture could fight Nogueira.  That all hinges on Fedor being signed.  This is the firsdt option for the UFC.  However, if the UFC signs Fedor and Randy first fights Nogueria, a loss would make it hard to make the Fedor vs. Randy fight work.  Fedor is bound to get a title shot right away.

2.  Andrei Arlovski could fight Nogueira.  Event hough his contract has expired and he is a free agent, he could still get the fight.  He is the best heavyweight in the UFC besides Randy and Nogueira.  However, he has to sign first.  If he signs this is a good possiblity and could come with Randy’s belt beign stripped. 

3. Fedor could sign and fight Nogueira.  We would assume Fedor would win and then Randy would be offered this fight.  That is very possible.  However, I remember when everyone planned on the Chuck vs. Wanderlai fight and Rampage messed that up. I don’t want Nogueira to spoil that fight, even thoguh I like Nogueira. 

4. Werdum could fight Nogueira.  The fight with Brandon Vera could be scratched and he could fight Nogueira if all the above doesn’t work out.  Or the UFC could hold off until Fall sometimes on any title defense in the division and Werdum could beat Vera and still be the next to fight Nogueira. 

5.  It could be someone else to fight Nogueira.  Not likely.  Who would it be?  Kongo lost.  Herring just fought and lost to Nogueira.  Sylvia just lost to Nogueira a re-match would be a horrible idea.  Gonzaga is coming off two losses.  Jake O’Brien lost.  Frank Mir is a possibility, but he still seems a fight or two away from contention.  Brock Lesnar?  Ha!  Eddie Sanchez?  Haha! Cro Cop left and went to DREAM for now.  Another guy not currently in the UFC?  Who?  It won’t be Josh Barnett.  It won’t be the other Emelianenko.  It won’t be someone like Kimbo…yet.  It won’t be Ricco Rodriguez.  It won’t be Ben Rothwell.   That exhausts the MMA heavyweights….

The bottom line is the only realistic options are Randy, Fedor, or Werdum, with Vera and Mir standing on the outside looking in.

My UFC 82 Predictions

 John Halverson vs. Jorge Gurgel

Jorge Gurgel is tough.  I think Gurgel is an excellent fighter and is good ont he ground.  I think Gurgel will win by submission in round two. 

Luke Cummo vs. Luigi Fiorvanti 

Luigi Fiorvanti is a hard hitting crowd favorite. I don’t think he is a top tier guy, but I think he is going to KO Luke Cummo in the second round. 

Diego Sanchez vs. David Bielkheden 

Diego has lost two in a row.  He chose not to drop to lightweight, which I think is a good decision for him, however if he looses here he better drop.  I doubt he will loose.  He should win this fight and I think he will win it easily.  He will win via ref stoppage in round one.  Again, sometimes fighters overlook guys, but this seems to be a fight the UFC set up to get Diego back on track. 

Josh Koscheck vs. Dustin Hazelett 

Josh Koscheck has looked good in every fight he has been in except the St. Pierre fight.  This is a tough fight for him coming off a loss.  Hazelett is no push over.  He has a lot riding on this fight.  If he wins he climbs the ladder.  Hazelett is coming off a win vs. Goulet.  While Dustin is a good fighter I would be hard pressed to pick against Koscheck.  I pick Josh Koscheck by a rear naked choke late in the second round. 

Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake O’Brien 

This fight is main card worthy.  Arlovski has not looked great lately.  Jake O’Brien hasn’t fought for a while.  I think O’Brien is better than people give him credit for an he is a legit top ten heavyweight.  He has a great record.  However, Arlovski is a former champ.  The question for him is whether or not he cares about winning.  Has he trained hard or is he just fighting here to fulfill his contract?  Is he wanting to leave with a bang?  Is he wanting to convince the UFC that he is worth big bucks in a new contract?  Is he trying to market himself to another organization?  Does he want a quick KO so the fight may get on the televised card?  If I knew those answers I could pick this fight better.  Because Arlovski cannot just coast through this fight.  I am tempted to pick O’Brien, however it is tough to pick against Arlovski.  O’Brien beat Heath Herring in his last fight.  I don’t know how he will look with over a year off.  I am still going to pick Arlovski although a O’Brien win would not shock me and would be great for him.  If Arlovski plans on staying in the UFC I hope he wins.  He will get the next title shot.  If he plans on leaving I hope he gets KO’d. 

Chris Leben vs. Alessio Sakara

This is going to be a war.  I doubt it wil last past one round.  Both guys love to strike. Leben showed a lot in his win against Terry Martin.  He was rocked when he KO’s Martin.  Leben is tough.  This fight is tough to pick because it will come down to who gets rocked first and while there is some skill involved I think there is a lot of luck.  I do not think leben is as good as he or many others think, however he is heavy handed.  Sakara has fought bigger and stronger guys than Leben.  I know that Leben will be the favorite, but there has to be an upset somewhere, so I am going to pick Alessio Sakara via second round KO.

Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson

Don’t overlook Chris Wilson in this fight.  I hear rumblings about how good he is.  A win here and Jon Fitch will get a title shot.  Karo Parisyan has to be rooting for Chris Wilson because the only way he gets the nest title shot is a Fitch loss.  It could happen.  I am close to picking Wilson in the upset.  The UFC could use another good welterweight fighter.  However, I cannot pick an unproven fighter over a proven fighter.  I like Jon Fitch and think he will win this fight by split decison.  In loosing I also think Wilson will solidfy himself as a top ten fighter in the UFC’s welterweight divison. 

Yushin Okami vs. Evan Tanner

The bottom line with this fight is that there are too many unknowns.  How will Evan Tanner do after such a long lay off?  I do not know why he is being thrown in against a top 5 middleweight fighter.  Okami is big and strong.  I think you can bet on a slow paced fight that Okami will control.  He could even capitalize on a mistake Tanner makes.  If Evan Tanner comes out liekt he Evan of old he could win, but he better win early.  The longer this match goes the more it favors Okami.  I predict Tanner will look rusty at best and Okami will get on him and control him for three rounds.  I will pick Okami by unanimous decison. 

 Cheick Kongo vs. Heath Herring

Heath Herring looks refocused.  Cheick Kongo beat Cro Cop.  The question I want answered here is whether or not Kongo can consistently beat top tier fighters.  There is much talk that the next title fight will not be Werdum, but Kongo if he wins here.  Regardless I do not think Kongo is ready for a title shot, but because of the way things have happened he is in the mix with a win.  Heath Herring hit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira hard and nearly beat him.  The ref could have stopped that fight.   Heath Herring may be a top ten UFC Heavyweight, but I do not think he can beat Kongo.  Checik is so huge and strong that will pose a problem.  I look for Checik Kongo to win via strikes in the first round. 

Dan Henderson vs. Anderson Silva 

On paper this match is one of the best fights you could imagine.  Of course how it plays out in the octagon is a different story.  I believe this fight will live up to hype.  Dan Henderson will be the toughest match up for Anderson Silva in the UFC.  Rich Franklin is a great fighter, but his style seemed perfect for Anderson to walk through.  Dan Henderson is a different story.  Dan Henderson is tough, I mean never been knocked out tough.  He has fought the best fighters in the world, so he has the experience.  Dan Henderson is great in the clinch.  He is a good wrestler and a good ground and pound guy.  However, Anderson Silva can kick hard and he can submit a guy.  This is a tough fight to predict.  I really like Anderson Silva.  He is a class act.  He is tough to beat.  This fight is pivotal for the UFC.  If Anderson Silva wins this fight the UFC will be forced to go out and sign someone else like Fliho, Lindland, Lawler or Jason “Mayhem” Miller.  If Dan Henderson wins this fight I look for Wanderlai Silva to drop down and seek revenge for Dan beating him and taking his belt.  Of course the is a  tough fight to pick because you never know how the fight will go.  I will pick Dan Henderson by third round stoppage.   I do not see Anderson knocking Dan out.  His one chance I see is to submit him a la Travis Lutter.  I will pick Dan because I need to pick someone, but I do not know how anyone can really bet against Anderson Silva.  If he wins he is unstoppable.