(Hold up, Chris. You wore a t-shirt that says "Ireland" to the UFC 93 press conference in Ireland? That’s cheap heat, bro.)
We know you’re excited about UFC 94 after the premiere of “Primetime” this week, and you’re also pretty pumped about the new season of “Rock of Love Bus” (it’s the same show, but on a bus!), though that’s no excuse for losing sight of more pressing matters, like UFC 93. We haven’t. We even have some questions swirling around in our heads, and our couples therapist keeps telling us we shouldn’t keep that stuff bottled up, so here we go…
Who wins the Dan Henderson-Rich Franklin bout and how? Will the UFC make a big deal out of the victor being the TUF 9 coach, and will whoever it happens to be even pretend to be excited about the job?
BF: The more I think about it, the more I can’t see this fight ending in anything other than a decision. Both these guys are tough to finish (unless you’re Anderson Silva, in which case, all the middleweight division is your playground), and neither of them is likely to be fighting with the kind of reckless desperation that would lead to a quick ending.
That said, I think Franklin is the better all-around fighter. All he has to do is keep Henderson from taking him down and holding him there while peppering him with elbows, which is undoubtedly Hendo’s game plan. “Ace” is going to end up on his back once or twice, but he’ll take over in the second and third rounds and start picking Henderson apart. Franklin by unanimous decision, 29-28 on all three scorecards.
Afterwards, Rogan will make cursory mention of Franklin being the next TUF coach, and Rich will be unable to completely hide his total lack of enthusiasm, despite his best efforts to be polite. The UFC will be anticipating this, so instead they’ll focus their attention on Michael Bisping’s grinning reaction to the proceedings.
BG: Tough, tough fight to call, but I agree with your assessment of the matchup. Dan Henderson is a little further past his prime than Rich Franklin is, and Ace’s striking is a little sharper. In fact, I say Franklin gives Henderson the first TKO loss of his career around the 3:30 mark of round three, after controlling the standup and stuffing a few takedowns in the first two rounds. Between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, and Takanori Gomi, former PRIDE legends seem to be cursed lately, and Hendo will be the next to go down.
I have a feeling that the UFC still has some negotiating to do with the winner of this match before they can officially announce that he’s the Team U.S. TUF coach, so I wouldn’t expect to hear much mentioned about it during the broadcast. It would take a lot of cash up front to get Franklin or Henderson to pretend to be excited about dropping back down to middleweight to play babysitter to a bunch of pee-drinking spazzos. Can’t the UFC get Denis Kang to do it? Sure, they’d have to change "Team U.S." to "Team Canada/Korea," but at least then they wouldn’t be forcing one of their stars to do something he really, really, really doesn’t want to do.
BG: You mean the hype that Davis and Lytle are trying to manufacture themselves? Nah, not really. Don’t get me wrong, I think a wild balls-out brawl is a great way to kick off the pay-per-view card for the UFC’s first show in Dublin. But standup wars can only be satisfying to a point. Take our "Best Fights of 2008" list, for example. What made those matches so awesome was their constant unpredictability, and their virtuosic mixes of striking and grappling. But I already know exactly what Davis vs. Lytle is going to look like, and how the fight will be contested. It’s completely predictable. I don’t expect it to be a fight-of-the-year candidate, and Franklin/Henderson probably has a better chance of winning the event’s "Fight of the Night" award.
The match will end with a unanimous decision for Marcus Davis. Davis is a little better with his hands, which means he’ll probably control the fight — unless one of them turns pussy and shoots for a takedown — but he won’t be able to finish Lytle, who happens to be one of the most scarily resilient fighters in MMA. In almost 50 pro fights, Lytle has never tapped out or lost consciousness, even when blood is spurting out of his head, which happens with him once in a while, unfortunately.
BF: Well, aren’t you in a pleasant little glass-half-empty kind of mood. So the hype’s manufactured. But when isn’t that the case? At least here the manufactured hype centers on both guys trying to put on a great show, rather than both guys pretending to hate one another (looking at you, Penn-Sherk).
I actually think this is a useful experiment for MMA. What happens when two guys who assume a good fight and a stand-up fight are always the same thing agree, in their own unofficial way, to go out and purposely try to create one? Will it work? Will it result in a quick knockout or a weirdly boring fight? Will it appear to be objectively good, but, like sleeping with an ex-girlfriend who you never liked all that much, still leave you feeling like something’s missing?
We just don’t know, which is why I welcome this opportunity to find out. Plus, look at the rest of the card. This is very close to being the best thing UFC 93 has going. I think these two actually will stand and bang it out for three rounds, and they’ll put on a good, though not legendary performance in the process. When it’s all over, I think Lytle wins the unanimous decision due to aggression and, my favorite of all judging criteria, Octagon control.
BF: Let’s be real, son. Coleman is going to lose. He’s too old and has been too inactive lately to come in and beat Rua by anything other than another freak injury. But the fact that he thinks this fight is a good idea for him at age forty-four tells me he probably isn’t going to slip into retirement just because he gets beat up a little.
After this, the only fights that make sense for Coleman would be some kind of legends division-style nostalgia battle with another old-timer (I hear Don Frye ain’t too busy) or a fight with a young up-and-comer who the UFC wants to put over with the fans. If he was willing to go to heavyweight, where he could be of more use, he could face the winner of the Shane Carwin-Gabriel Gonzaga bout, just for fun. But aside from serving as a big-name punching bag, the UFC isn’t going to have much use for Coleman after “Shogun” gets through with him.
BG: I’m going to reserve judgment on Coleman’s old-and-bustedness until after the fight. Yes, he’s 44 and hasn’t competed for over two years. But he did survive a round with Fedor Emelianenko in his last appearance (which is basically like winning), and he hasn’t lost to anyone who wasn’t a top-ten heavyweight in ten years. Mauricio Rua is a tough opponent for Coleman’s back-from-retirement match — yes, I get that — and the Hammer will probably take a loss tomorrow. In fact, I hope that he does because I have a parlay bet going that depends on Shogun winning. But I think the general lack-of-faith in Mark Coleman has more to do with his age than his past performances or ability, and Randy Couture has already proven that old men shouldn’t be counted out just because they’re old.
If Coleman loses to Shogun, there’s really no point for him to swell back up to heavyweight — he wants to be a 205′er right now, and that’s that. But there’s also no point for him to retire until he loses to a mediocre opponent. Maybe Couture could stop being a diva, drop 10 pounds, and meet Coleman in a "Legends Division" match (like you suggested) at light-heavyweight. Maybe Coleman could take on Ryan "Darth" Bader in a "Luke, I am your father" match. Holy shit, that idea’s so brilliant I’m just going to stop there. MAKE IT HAPPEN, LORENZO.