In-Depth Preview and Analysis
Written By: Rich Davidson
This weekend New Jersey plays host to UFC 78: Validation, the promotion’s latest monthly installment in what has been the busiest and easily most expansive period in the company’s history.
It seems lately, at least in the public forum, the UFC has been under some degree of scrutiny for putting together a card that lacks any real, true star power. In that sense, it is true that UFC 78: Validation lacks the big-time match-ups we saw at the last five pay-per-views.
No Sherk's, Silva's, Couture's, Jackson's, Henderson's, Shogun's, or Liddell's. There will be no title matches or even any grudge matches this weekend, but if you miss this show you’re crazy and here’s why…
Spencer “The King” Fisher vs. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar
Excitement. Very few things in MMA are as exciting as the lightweights. The beauty about lightweight bouts is the fact that a big name doesn’t make or break the fight. It’s pretty common to see a boring light-heavyweight or heavyweight fight that doesn’t include a top name fighter. Even when there are one or even two stars involved in a match-up, that certainly doesn’t guarantee a blockbuster either. The UFC is on a roll as of late producing exciting, fast paced lightweight bouts and this fight is no exception.
Spencer “The King” Fisher has made it a habit of competing in exciting fights. His last five fights have all been dynamite. Both fights with Sam Stout really showed off Fisher’s whole arsenal of skills, whereas his bout with Hermes Franca showed us that Fisher still has some improvements to make before he’s ready for that next step. That being said, Spencer Fisher rarely has a boring outing and it’s a shame he hasn’t been showcased on the big show this year until now.
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar is an undefeated up-and-comer in this division and is also the hometown favorite this coming weekend in New Jersey. Edgar was impressive in recent victories over Xtreme Couture fighter Tyson Griffin in what could be a fight of the year candidate and also against Mark Bocek at UFC 73-Stacked where he overwhelmed Bocek with strikes early in the first round. Edgar is fast and well rounded, and possesses all the tools needed to be a mainstay in the UFC lightweight division.
Fisher’s been around for a while now, and has battled tougher fighters than Edgar. He’s also fought more marquee opponents than Edgar, and that could also be a factor. Experience is golden in MMA, and Frankie Edgar is still fairly new to the game. Spencer Fisher fights full of emotion and that sometimes can get the better of him. He has a history of being taken down at will by good wrestlers, but at the same time he has improved in that department training with great wrestlers and grapplers alike over at the Miletich camp in Iowa. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar has the skills, but he has yet to be tested by a veteran, tough striker the likes of Fisher at this point in his young career. In this fight I see Fisher overwhelming a game, but outmatched and inexperienced Frankie Edgar in what could be a dark horse for fight of the night.
Prediction: Fisher via TKO
Houston Alexander vs. Thiago Silva
This light-heavyweight battle is going to answer more than it’s fair share of questions before the final bell tolls.
Houston Alexander has been the subject of much hype as of late and has been heavily promoted by the UFC leading into Saturday. And why not? He’s knocked out two solid fighters in Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara during his short UFC tenure. Jardine recently defeated highly ranked former light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and also holds a victory over the Shogun-destroying Forrest Griffin. Alessio Sakara is a tough 205 lb. fighter who had only been knocked out once before his meeting with Alexander at UFC 75 in England. Houston Alexander has a vicious, aggressive style and possesses tremendous knockout power that he’s demonstrated in both of his two wars inside the octagon. The verdict isn’t out on Alexander quite yet, though. Questions still remain as to whether or not Houston Alexander can keep up such a violent pace for three rounds. It is also unknown as of yet weather or not Alexander can fend off good grapplers and wrestlers. This fight will tell us if Houston Alexander is the real deal and ready to take on a top ten opponent the likes of a Forrest Griffin or a Wanderlei Silva.
Thiago Silva is undefeated. 11-0 with nine victories coming by way of TKO and only one going the distance. Like Alexander, Silva already had two fights in the UFC previously, obviously winning them both. Thiago Silva holds a victory over James Irvin at UFC 71 in May when Irvin injured his knee early in the bout. Silva TKO’d Poland’s Tomasz Drwal at UFC 75 late in round two putting and end to the back and forth slug fest. Drwal had won thirteen straight fights up to that point. Thiago Silva trains with the Chute Boxe academy in Curitiba, Brazil. For those of you new to MMA, Chute Boxe produced top-level fighters such as brothers Shogun and Ninja Rua, Anderson Silva, and legendary Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva, who makes his UFC debut this December. Make no mistake about it, fighters hailing from the Chute Boxe camp traditionally share the same fighting style and Thiago Silva is no exception. Violent, aggressive, and high paced fighting machines. Silva has a world class Muay Thai base, like his training partners, and also has excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills on the ground. Like Houston Alexander, Thiago Silva doesn’t go the distance very often. Based on that, it has yet to be determined whether or not Silva can keep up that violent pace for fifteen minutes, especially against someone who has the punching power of a Houston Alexander.
This fight is almost a toss-up for me. Both of these light-heavyweight contenders are going to come out swinging. The concept of a `feel out’ period is Egyptian to fighters with the mind-set of Houston Alexander and Thiago Silva. Alexander will have the drop on Silva when it comes to punching power, while Silva has the advantage in the kicking department and may even be more proficient than Houston Alexander in the clinch, which has been one of Alexander’s main weapons since he first debuted in the octagon. The battle with Houston Alexander is Thiago Silva’s first real test against a big-name fighter, and it may very well end in defeat for the Brazillian. Alexander’s been tested against better opponents than Thiago Silva, and is also a huge light-heavyweight. On top of that, Houston Alexander has true knock-out power and killer instinct. That will be the difference in this one, and will help answer some questions about both of these fighters.
Prediction: Alexander via TKO
Michael “The Count” Bisping vs. “Sugar” Rashad Evans
This is UFC 78: Validation’s main event, and it is just that for good reason. Tito Ortiz and Matt Hamill got injured.
The UFC light-heavyweight division is a mess. With the acquisition of Pride, there are simply too many top-level light-heavyweights jostling for position in the top-ten. While that makes for great match-ups, it’s certainly giving UFC match-makers headaches. When Dana White says on record that this fight has big implications in the light-heavyweight title picture, he means it. Two undefeated fighters coming off of controversial decisions means not only is someone losing this fight, but also losing their fragile spot in the rankings.
Michael Bisping lost to Matt Hamill at UFC 75 in Bisping’s native England. That being said, he’s still 14-0, and as the fight was coming to a close, Bisping proved that there was truth behind his hype. He showed great striking skills, throwing punching and kicking combinations while also demonstrating a Chuck Liddell-like ability to scramble back to his feet from the bottom position. Bisping’s potential is certainly not in doubt. However, in each of Bisping’s fights since season three of the Ultimate Fighter reality show, his flaws have been more than evident. Eric Shaefer at UFC 66, Elvis Sinosic at UFC 70, and Matt Hamill at UFC 75 all took Bisping down to the mat on more than one occasion. Also, Bisping was rocked by a Sinosic knee, and was staggered more than once by power shots from Hamill. As a result, his chin must also be suspect. In the previous previews, we went over each fighter’s big victories, but in this case, I’d be lying if I told you Bisping has impressed me so far. He looked great on the television show, and the potential is there. “The Count” may even win the light-heavyweight title some day; he definitely has the tools to make it happen. In this fight, Bisping wants to make good on the negative way he was portrayed after the controversial decision win over Matt Hamill, and the motivation to do so could spell trouble for Rashad Evans. His strength is stand-up, but he hasn’t displayed true knockout power as of yet. This may be the first of a string of knockout victories for “The Count” if he can impose his will and take the fight where he wants it to go.
Rashad Evans, 10-0-1, lost to Tito Ortiz at UFC 73 in July of this year. Only he didn’t, he was awarded a draw alongside Ortiz because his opponent lost a point for grabbing the cage during the closing moments of the final round. Whether or not Rashad would have won the fight if it had gone any longer is irrelevant. Ortiz did more to win the fight, as you don’t get points for not being aggressive. It’s the same argument people make about Forrest Griffin and how he should have won the decision over Ortiz when they met in 2006. Why? Takedown defense and avoiding punches doesn’t win fights if you don’t create some sort of offense yourself. In Evans’ case, it was too little too late, but still enough for a draw with the penalty to Ortiz. “Sugar” Rashad Evans trains out of a great camp under Greg Jackson in New Mexico, and has improved after every appearance he’s made in the octagon. Evans is a top-level wrestler with brutal ground and pound and his stand-up is only getting better. He’s shown a complete game, and did well enough against an established star like former light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz to earn a draw. Rashad owns a brutal knockout victory over Sean Salmon earlier this year, by way of head kick no less. He also holds victories over a very game and popular Stephan Bonnar, and against Jason Lambert, who’s no slouch either. “Sugar” Rashad Evans is a total package with great cardio, and could make Saturday a very long night for “The Count” if he comes out more aggressive than he did against Ortiz and take the fight to the mat like he should against a dangerous striker the likes of Michael Bisping.
This battle for light-heavyweight supremacy is no toss up. While Michael “The Count” Bisping may very well hold the title one day, but it simply isn’t yet that time. Not only is Rashad Evans more well rounded than Bisping, he also brings to the table two elements that historically “The Count” has had difficulty with. That’s excellent wrestling credentials and knockout power in his hands, and feet. I don’t necessarily believe that Rashad is `above’ fighting Michael Bisping, but I do firmly believe he is the better fighter in what should be a blowout for Evans and a learning curve for Bisping, respectively. Rashad Evans simply isn’t a good match-up for Bisping, as he’s just not quite at that level yet.
Prediction: Evans via unanimous, non-controversial decision
Other Fights On The Card
Ryo Chonan vs. Karo “The Heat” Parisyan
Parisyan has to live by his nick name and bring “The Heat” in this fight. If anything, Parisyan will overwhelm the Pride veteran with his striking, not his world class judo and grappling skills. For those of you who don’t know, Ryo Chonan dismantled current UFC middle-weight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva with one of the most impressive submissions in MMA history. Chonan is no joke, but Parisyan has the edge with striking.
Prediction: Parisyan via decision
Joe Doerksen vs. Ed “Short Fuse” Herman
Ed Herman hasn’t done much after the Ultimate Fighter reality series. Unfortunately, even though he is a more complete fighter, Doersken took this fight on short notice as a last minute replacement for David Terrell. I’ll risk going 4-1 in this month’s predictions, just because I think it would be a tragedy to have to pick the weaker fighter in any match-up.
Prediction: Doerksen via submission
Overall, UFC 78: Validation is going to be a great event. What it lacks in star power, it makes up for in interesting, exciting, fast paced match-ups that will leave us begging for more at the end of the night. If anything else, the pay-per-view will be better than UFC 76 – Knockout, which of course, had no knockouts. If you don’t watch this event, you’re out of your mind and should reconsider what sport you follow. If you are planning on watching the show, enjoy! I’ll be back next month for UFC 79 — Nemesis and will have some tough decisions to make.