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Breaking Down the Big 2 at UFC 93

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Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs. Mark Coleman

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua

How He’ll Win: It’s crazy that it has been way over a year since the last time we saw Shogun fight. In his UFC debut, the heralded #1 light heavyweight was finished by Forrest Griffin, who would go on to win and lose the strap after this huge win. Since then, injuries have plagued the former Pride standout as he’s undergone two surgeries for his knee. Now he looks to come back strong and get some redemption at the same time. He gets that opportunity against UFC Hall of Famer, Mark Coleman. In Coleman, Shogun faces a strong veteran of the sport, who can easily be dubbed the father of ground and pound. In their first clash, Coleman did what he does best and got the fight to the ground and after lifting Shogun up and tossing him down to the mat, ‘Shogun’ in trying to break his fall ended up breaking his arm and losing on a technicality. Rua has numerous tools to win this fight.

First of all, while he’s a bit overrated when it comes to his striking, this will be one instance where he is clearly the more competent on the feet. His boxing looks to be improving, although he still lacks the power I think needed to use it effectively. His biggest asset in the standup is his mixed arsenal of strikes and his muay thai. Coleman’s a guy that doesn’t deviate from what he’s known for. Mixing up his strikes with knees and kicks will not only keep Coleman at bay it will also take it’s toll on the 45-year old. Also, once it does hit the ground and I’m almost certain it will at some point, Shogun’s level of BJJ is really his and butter. He’ll be able to out manuever and find ways to grab limbs or sweep Coleman en route to gaining top position or wrapping him up for a bone breaking submission. His key concerns should be his cardio as he doesn’t want to start out too fast and too furious and gas himself out like he did his last outing. Fortunately, he should have little to worry there as Coleman is not going to push a pace that will tire Shogun.

Mark Coleman

How He’ll Win: While most people have written him off in this bout, Coleman can say one thing that Shogun can’t…he’s beat him before. With that said, it wasn’t truly a performance that should warrant much bragging. Coleman doesn’t only have a young, hungry foe battling him on Saturday night. He also has to worry about Father Time sneaking in to get his licks in. His most important tools for beating Shogun will be his strength and top control. I believe undoubtedly that Coleman can take Shogun down. That’s not the problem for him. It’s whether he can inflict enough damage on top as well as keeping Rua in a position to do so. Shogun has an extremely active guard and that will pose lots of problems for ‘The Hammer’. He’ll have to pick and choose his shots and make sure they’re big in force and big in accuracy. Coleman does not want this fight to remain standing for extended periods of time. As we’ve seen, he’s not the hardest guy to pick apart on the feet as guys like Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Cro Cop beat up on him with relative ease. However, Coleman being a former heavyweight will more than likely be the bigger of the two, night of the event, which will help him in holding and wearing down Shogun. The main thing for victory here for Coleman is to be explosive, use his power, and do it as fast as is possible for a man his age.

Final Verdict: Outside of a freak accident or lucky punch, there’s absolutely no reason why Mauricio should lose this fight. He shouldn’t have the first time jitters anymore. He’s been in the ring with Coleman before so he knows what to expect. This should be relatively low on highlights and high on dull periods. I think Shogun’s BJJ coupled with his youth and aggression should pick apart Mark wherever the fight goes. I think we’ll see one big shot, most likely a kick, landed on Coleman and leading to a thai clinch or a trip to the ground and a limb being snapped. My prediction is for Shogun to take this fight by submission late in the first round or early in the second round.

Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin vs. Dan Henderson

Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin

How He’ll Win: If all you know of Rich Franklin is from ’07 and later, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Many people’s only recollection of Rich is him being the highlight reel of two brutal beatdowns delivered by none other than pound for pound king, Anderson Silva. While those losses were painful to watch, they make up 66% of his losses, which if you’re not a math major means that Franklin has only lost 3 times in his career. Two of which being to one man. With all that said, Franklin still remains under the radar to most as far as his overall skillset and reputation. He gets a chance to redeem himself or show those that don’t believe, what he’s really made of at UFC 93 against former PRIDE middleweight and welterweight champion, Dan Henderson. Franklin showed that he can handle the grappling of a good wrestler in his last outing with Matt Hamill, basically negating everything Hamill tried to do while peppering him with shots throughout leading to an eventual TKO due to a liver shot. With Dan, he’ll face the same but, in my opinion, a more dangerous striker and more in your face type of fighter. Rich Franklin has to use his counterstriking to really be effective in this fight. Now, he’s not known to be great at countering, as he usually tries to keep enough space so that he can throw his variety of strikes at any given point. Here, he’ll definitely have to be on his bicycle for much of the fight as Rich doesn’t have the power necessary to really back Dan off. The key to a Franklin victory is his jiu jitsu and his defense. Rich can beat Dan and do it with little damage. If he can get Dan in brawl mode (which isn’t a hard thing to do) and at the same time create space much like Anderson Silva did in round 2 against Dan, he’ll have a fields day scoring points. Once and if Dan can get him to the ground, he’ll have to use his BJJ to possibly sweep Dan or get free to scramble. I can’t see Rich knocking out or even technically knocking out Dan, he just lacks the umph in his punches to really do that much damage unless it’s a culmination of shots, which could possibly happen.

Dan Henderson

How He’ll Win: ‘Dangerous’ or ‘Decision’ are two great monikers Dan has been given over the years. Which one will show up on Saturday. Finally getting a name on the W side of his record in the UFC after many years away, he looks to go forward into staking claim for a future title shot. While his last fight with Palharres was interesting, it showed a more conservative, safe Dan. Against Franklin, Dan will have to use his usually smashmouth style to hurt Franklin and keep him from getting the space needed to launch and effective attack. His Greco-Roman clinch and body locks are some of the finest in MMA and he should use them to bully Rich to the ground for some good ol’ GNP. At 205, Dan has always been a beast and I don’t think it’ll be too much different this Saturday. The one thing he has to do to be productive is not rely on his overhand right the entire night. It’s natural for a guy to go to the strikes that are his most effective but most guys train to avoid those kinds of things. If Dan gets too trigger happy, he’ll swing wildly and allow Rich Franklin plenty of space. Not wise, as though he won’t be in much trouble of being knocked out, he’ll have a hard time closing the gap with Rich circling for most of the time and getting off kicks and punches that will grow frustrating for him. He also should not get overzealous on the ground. His aggression almost got him beat for a third time in a row when Palharres was able to get a hold of his leg during their bout and should not assume that his limbs are safe due to Rich not having a superb pedigree on the ground. To win, Dan simply has to mix in some of his dangerous qualities while keeping the decision side of him on reserve.

Final Verdict: If both fighters fight as they did their last outing, I can almost predict this fight to a t. Henderson will come out in round 1, close the gap quickly, grab a hold of Rich and take him down and keep it that way for the duration, nailing a few short punches and elbows while doing so. Second round, he’ll realize he can get Rich down, so he’ll try his stand up out and turn it into a kickboxing affair where he’ll be on the short end of the stick (or in this case kick) and end up getting frustrated and going for sloppy takedowns that are well defended as both will be sweaty and slippery for Rich to get out of those situations. Third round, both will be a little more tentative as they both realize that one mistake could cost them the fight, so we’ll see a lot of circling for the first half and a few shots thrown then they’ll lock up, I see them peppering each other up clinched up against the cage and neither having much success. Finally they’ll be broken up, in which Dan will go for broke and just throw, Rich will be backing away defending and circling giving himself angles to get a kick or two off. Buzzer sounds, the judges are in a bind. Buffer reads the scorecards…both men look down not knowing what’s in store and Rich Franklin wins a razor thin split decision. That’s just what I see happening but I could be WAY off.

Let me know what you think and what your thoughts are on this big event this weekend.