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Breaking Down the Big 3 at UFC 92

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UFC 92

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva

Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson

How He’ll Win: Since leaving Pride, Quinton Jackson has been a much improved fighter. Though his last outing, against current Light Heavyweight champ didn’t go as planned, the momentum he began with his brutal KO of Chuck Liddell in 2007 can continue with a win over his arch-nemesis Wanderlei Silva. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Silva owns two highlight reel knock outs of the former undisputed champion, even leaving him hanging on for dear life…literally. If the man they call Rampage wants to erase those blemishes, he’ll have to in some ways revert back to his past while incorporated his new tools. Jackson has proven to be a top notch grappler, even at some points out wrestling the accomplished Dan Henderson in their unification bout. He’ll have to utilize some of this to keep the ‘Axe Murderer’ off balance and in situations that he won’t exactly be his killer self. However, in doing so, Jackson has to be sure to have the gas tank to hold down a caged animal while inflicting damage. Not an easy task but a powerful wrestler like Rampage, who proved he could keep the veteran Henderson down while putting in work for five rounds proves his cardio has made a turn for the better. If push comes to shove and Wandy doesn’t easily allow himself to be put on his back, Rampage needs to play it smart standing. If you noticed in their last two meetings, whenever ‘Page was goaded into a slugfest he almost always was able to properly defend the strikes but ALWAYS put his head down. This was the perfect opportunity for Silva to clamp on the Thai clinch and smile his way to victory. He can not afford to do that, but would rather go the route he did in the later rounds of his UFC 86 bout with Forrest and turn to counter punching. It worked for Chuck against Wand and would be beneficial for Rampage as his more accurate strikes would wear on the slugger, leaving more holes for Jackson to exploit.

‘The Axe Murderer’ Wanderlei Silva

How He’ll Win: This guy is the personification of intensity and savagery. If you haven’t seen at least one of his fights, you’ve done yourself a great disservice. Silva was undoubtedly the 205 – king of Pride, leaving a path of destruction that would make Hurricane Katrina jealous. Since coming over to the UFC, he’s had some success, destroying the always game but always slow starter Keith Jardine. Before that, he dropped a unanimous decision to UFC’s former 205 kingpin, Chuck Liddell. Now redemption and the road to a title shot await him. Silva’s aggression and loopy Wildman style is a double edged sword. Against guys that lack the ‘chin’ and defensive ability to weather the storm (i.e. Keith Jardine) this tornado style is a true asset. However, against a more reserved, more precise counter artist, this style leaves more holes than an old tubesock (i.e. Chuck Liddell, Mirko Cro Cop). Rampage is somewhere in between. While he’s not the easiest guy to put down, Wand’s over aggression proves to give him problems. Wand has to do the same as Jackson, in my opinion, if he wants to walk away the victor. He must incorporate what made him into such a feared opponent while using some of his refined tools learned at Xtreme Couture. He’s got to use his aggression wisely and not wildly and fluster Jackson into making a vital mistake. He’s got to use more than just his punching for once and mix it up to keep Rampage on the defensive more than he is on the offensive. While most will say he has to go back to his bread and butter, the Thai clinch, I think that’s one thing Rampage will be expecting. As we saw against Forrest, Rampage is susceptible to kicks and Wand could throw a variety of them while throwing hands in between. The number one issue for Wand is his love for the KO. Jackson hits hard and has dropped Silva before, if the rumors out of Wolfslair are true, ‘Page could be even stronger right now. Wand can not eat shots to deliver his own. So he has to close the distance immediately, mix up the strikes and keep his composure throughout.

Final Verdict: All biases aside, this fight is still too close to call. There are so many tangibles and intangibles that we won’t know until they touch gloves (unlikely) and ‘get it on’. Nowadays, whenever there’s ‘no chance a fight goes to decision’ it usually does. Something tells me we may be in store for exactly that. I think the two fighters, while both having bad blood, have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. This means at least a minute or two of a feeling out process, maybe a wild flurry early by Wanderlei but then a backing off period to gauge timing and what not. Without seeing how the new training is going it’s hard to make a case for Quinton, until the night of. Wanderlei, I believe, will be the Wand we all know and love. I think he’ll come out fast and furious and pick up where he left off the last time, though I think Quinton’s much better boxing and good footwork will aid him in fending off the early attacks and hurting Wand. I think in the latter rounds, Rampage will do much like Chuck did and take it to the ground and use his power and top control to outpoint Silva. So in a valiant effort, Quinton Jackson gets a close but deserved decision win, while both walk away looking strong with Fight of the Night honors.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir - Interim Heavyweight Title Match

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

How He’ll Win: One half of the Ultimate Fighter 8 season coaches, and current interim Heavyweight champion, ‘Minotauro’ has had a good showing since being the #2 guy in Pride. It had to be frustrating to be a guy with so much talent and having so many great wins but still not be the best of your organization, of course that title going to the man that defeated Nog twice in Fedor Emelianenko. Now in the UFC, Nogueira’s never die fighting style and good guy attitude has catapulted him to be the perennial top Heavyweight (no, Brock’s not there yet) in the top promotion. His next test is a wildcard of sorts in Frank Mir. Mir possesses many of the tools that have made Nogueira such a standout heavyweight. His jiu-jitsu is probably the best or near the best in the heavyweight division and certainly close to the best in the UFC’s heavyweight stable. As I’ve stated before, this fight could look a lot like Nogueira’s Pride battle with fellow jiu-jitsu standout and current pink slipped Fabricio Werdum. I think Minotauro needs to use his much underrated boxing to score an early advantage and keep Mir far from his comfort zone. I would say the two are equals on the ground, with Nog’s ability to sweep while on his back being a little bit better and his overall grappling being smoother and more dominant. Even though he has those utilities in his arsenal, I think this is a fight where he doesn’t have to use them at all. As we’ve seen as of late, Mir’s not the greatest striker nor does he possess the stand up defense needed to keep from sustaining a heavy amount of lumps on his face. This will allow for Nog to light him up early and heavy with jabs and big shots in between that’ll leave Mir frustrated as well as woozy for much of the early rounds. I think from there, Nog will work the clinch to keep Mir presses against the cage and from there punish him with more elbows and strikes before he takes the tired opponent down and finishes him off however he feels necessary.

Frank Mir

How He’ll Win: Who’d have thought one win against a debuting superstar, who was a former professional wrestler, and had only one prior MMA fight would catapult someone into title contention. Mir was in the right place at the right time and is now in the midst of a mini-tournament which is drawing to a close as we now know the aforementioned ‘superstar’ is now the Heavyweight champion of the UFC. Since returning from an almost career ending motorcycle accident, the effects have been visible on Mir. His lackluster cardio and what seemed to be depleting skills left him vulnerable to lower level heavyweights such as Marcio Cruz and former heavyweight upstart Brandon Vera. Since those losses Mir has churned out a decision victory over Antoni Hardonk and Brock Lesnar. Now though, is the time for the former UFC heavyweight champion, to regain the position he once held. Reports suggest that Mir is in some of the best shape of his career. This is yet to be seen but if so, could be a determining factor on where this fight goes. Mir will have to use his smarts in every way in this fight. Constant head movement as well as some hopeful improved striking is a must. He’ll have to get Nogueira out of his comfort zone (which I’m not sure where that is) and cause him to make a mistake. I don’t think Mir has to rush to get the fight to the ground, as with the right type of defense, he could provoke Big Nog into following him into a trap. If Mir could use some of the things Barnett used to win a decision victory over Nog, that would cause the Brazilian a very tough time. If he can get on top and hold top position and work well in the scrambles and really control Nog not allowing him space to use any of his tools, this could be the resurgence of Mir.

Final Verdict: While it’ll probably be a lot closer than I’m playing it out in my head, I just don’t see many ways Frank Mir can win. Of course, anyone on any day can win a MMA fight, that’s for sure, but on paper it just seems very one-sided. The fact is, Nogueira’s as good or better in every facet of the game. Wherever it goes, I think Minotauro will have an answer for Mir, while I can’t say at the moment I feel the other way around. I do see this being less of a grappling contest and more of a striking affair as we may even see this one being more on the feet than the aforementioned Jackson/Silva 3 war. On the feet, look for Nog to beat up on Mir while coming forward and landing some hefty shots. Mir will most likely try to pull guard but to no avail as Nog lets him back up and continues to use his skull as a punching bag. In the end, Mir will fight back and probably land some well placed shots but Nog’s precision will be too much and Mir will go down via referee stoppage in the third round.

Forrest Griffin vs. 'Sugar' Rashad Evans - Light Heavyweight Title Match

Forrest Griffin

How He’ll Win: I’m just going to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Forrest Griffin. Even back to his early TUF days, something about him annoyed me. While I have gotten that out, you can not deny that this guy has proven EVERYBODY wrong. From asking for a fight with Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and finishing the light heavyweight king to outpointed, albeit a bit controversially, Quinton Jackson en route to becoming the new champion, he’s done it with hard work and pure heart. He now steps in with another TUF opponent in the season 2 champ, Rashad Evans. This will be the most intriguing fight of the night easily. Since TUF, Forrest has improved tremendously. Going from a big lanky scrapper, to a big lanky complete fighter. In this fight, we again have to see the composed, smart Forrest that we’ve seen in his last three fights. No more slugfests like the Keith Jardine ordeal at UFC 66. He has to bring Rashad into his zone. Much like he did against Rampage, he has to stick and move and accumulate points while keeping his opponent off balance. His angles and his footwork are good enough to keep him from harms danger for most of the fight while also giving him room to land leg kicks and jabs. The unfortunate thing for Griffin is his lack of KO power. Although, I feel as though anybody can knock out anybody in a fight, the likelihood that Forrest will be able to do so barring a completely breathless Evans is slim. However, what he can do is use his size and excellent cardio to wear down his opponent and eventually take it to the ground with his usual clinch, trip combo. There he can keep Rashad having to defend for survival while zapping more and more of his energy leading to an opening for a few well placed punches/elbows or an armbar leaving the unbeaten fighter with his first blemish.

Rashad Evans

How He’ll Win: Mr. Enigma himself. This guy is UFC’s own Riddler, seeing as how you never know what he’s going to do or when. We’ve seen him on the proper side of highlight reels against guys like Jason Lambert, Sean Salmon, and recently Chuck Liddell. But we’vealso been rendered nearly comatose by his tentative, one-dimensional forays with Tito Ortiz and Michael Bisping. Which fighter will show up on December 27th? Well, if he wants to win, the one that we saw at UFC 88 better show up to a degree. Rashad by no means is the better striker of the two, but what he has to his disposal is power. If you need any proof, watch the way he flattened out the ‘Iceman’ in Atlanta, Georgia not to mention sent Sean Salmon into slumber at Ultimate Fight Night 8. The problem we’ve seen is Rashad has been known to have a small gas tank and with a possible five rounds of pure warfare that doesn’t bode well for the Jackson school standout. Rashad’s bread and butter though, are his wrestling. In this case, his wrestling will be an asset only in doses. To keep a tight lock on Forrest and land some shots, his wrestling will be ideal. Though he’s known to come in with the shoot style takedowns, he could aggravate Griffin by gauging the timing and putting the champ on his back after a well timed one-legged takedown after Griffin attempts a leg kick of some sort. Rashad also has underrated ground and pound, which he used effectively against Jason Lambert. Here, he can at least get in some well timed shots to scramble Forrest’s head a little, as I don’t see Rashad able to keep Forrest on the ground for an extended period of time. He’ll also have to deal with Forrest’s reach, which I think he can do seeing as he was able to fend off Chuck from any huge shots. Rashad’s speed and power could land him the shot to put Forrest to sleep and I think he should bank on mixing up the strikes and wrestling to have Forrest in a confused state before landing the highlight KO.

Final Verdict: I honestly don’t know for this one. I wouldn’t mind either being champion because I think both styles will mesh well with the soon to be contenders. With that said, Forrest has done everything needed to win against the best in his division. He now faces a guy that most don’t see as one of the best but still a tough opponent. I think Forrest’s length, leg kicks and footwork will give Rashad problems early and throughout the duration of the fight. Once Rashad realizes he’s trying to chase Forrest around the cage and expending energy at the same time, I think he’ll realize he has to drastically change up his gameplan. Can he? That’ll be the million dollar question. I think Forrest is composed enough to really take control as the fight wears on and negate everything that Rashad has to offer. The big factor though, is Rashad’s power. If Chuck’s reaction to a big swing is any indication of how much those shots possess, Forrest will have to play it double safe but much like the Rampage fight, he will eventually have to trade, it’s a matter of whether he can defend well enough to not take the full blows while getting in his own offense. So in the end, after much much thought I have to go with my mind and say that Forrest wins this by TKO stoppage in the late fourth round. His big frame and ability to stick and move will tire out Rashad and lead to a dominant top position for Forrest and him wailing down some punishment and Rashad being saved by the ref.

Well there’s my thorough breakdowns, I’m sure you all have your own, so let me know if you agree/disagree.