UFC 115 staff picks

UFC 115: Liddell vs. Franklin” takes place Saturday, June 12, at General Motors (GM) Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Headlining the card are two legends in the game, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell (21-7) and Rich “Ace” Franklin (25-5).

Liddell looks reinvigorated, if not reborn, and ready to rumble. Franklin, now at 205 lbs., has his sights set on a run at the title if he can get past the “Iceman.” It has the potential to be an epic battle, and no longtime UFC fan wants to miss it.

Other fights on this card stick out as entertaining match-ups as well, including Pat Barry (5-1) vs. Mirko Cro Cop (26-7-2) and Ben Rothwell (30-7) vs. Gilbert Yvel (36-14-1).

The staff has come together to share with you our predictions on the fights. We look at the fighters’ records, past opponents, recent interviews, training videos, and other factors to try to get a feel for who we think is going to win or lose, and how.

Sometimes we are right on the money and other times we may as well be guessing on a horse race. We are keeping records and at the end of the year we will share with you who had the highest percentage. Feel free to join the discussion.

Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin

RICHARD MANN: Franklin has never had huge one-hit power, and he suffers against fighters that do. He will be able to land shots, but Liddell will land the hard shots and eventually take the decision. The only thing that really comes to mind when I think about this fight is, “Why didn’t this happen three years ago?” Liddell by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: I’m really looking forward to this fight.  Both Franklin and Liddell are extremely tough, both are coming off losses and have something to prove.  Franklin is 3-3 in his last six fights in the UFC and Liddell is 2-4 in his last six.  Each man has one loss by decision and the rest by TKO.  Liddell looks to be in much better shape for this fight than he has for his last few, but I still have questions about his ability to adapt to a new gameplan that will be able to beat Franklin.  Liddell has better power punches, but Franklin has plenty of power of his own and backs it up with a more well-rounded fight game than Chuck has.  Because of each guy’s power, I don’t look for this fight to go the distance.  However, the longer it goes on, the more it favors Franklin, in spite of Chuck’s apparent new-found fitness.  Franklin wins by TKO in Round 2.

DENNY HODGE: Liddell has a certain spark in his eyes of late, and seems to be rejuvenated after a pretty long lay off, and a drastic change in lifestyle. Although Liddell has suffered some brutal KO’s in the past couple of years, Franklin doesn’t possess the power needed to melt “The Iceman.” Chuck by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Chuck Liddell is a new man. The intensity is back in his eyes and his aura. His confidence seems to be there too. This is the Chuck Liddell that is exciting and fun to watch. Chuck is 40 and Rich is 35 for whatever that’s worth. As my cohorts have stated, Chuck has the power advantage. I’m really excited for this fight especially after seeing the “new Chuck.” Rumors say because his girlfriend is a fitness instructor that has helped keep him in shape. Whatever the reason, he looks better than he has in a very long time. I see Rich trying to use footwork and move in and out and side to side to try and pick Chuck apart, but somewhere along the line, and I think pretty quickly, Liddell is going to catch Rich, stun him, then capitalize with a flurry and finish him off. Liddell by knockout, round one.

Patrick Barry vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

RICHARD MANN: Barry knows how to throw counter shots when Cro Cop comes flying in and out and therefore will win the fight. Not only has Cro Cop slowed down over the years, but he also made his name fighting weak strikers. When he has faced fighters who throw back at him he has had trouble. Barry will win by decision, but he still will be entirely too short to make an impact in the heavyweight division.

BRIAN FURBY: Anyone else think we’re going to see some kicks in this fight? More specifically, I think we’re going to see Pat Barry trying to leg kick the crap out of Cro Cop to prevent Cro Cop from unleashing one of his (formely) famed fight-ending kicks. Barry has stated that he’s going to get Cro Cop’s autograph at some point this weekend, and while I think that’s true, a lot of people will be in line for Barry’s after he takes Cro Cop’s legs out from under him and ends the fight with some solid ground and pound. Barry wins by TKO in Round 1.

DENNY HODGE: Pat Barry has said that he wants to get “Cro Cop’s” autograph before the fight, but unlike some guys that pay too much respect to their idols, I believe that Barry will effectively end the MMA career of Mirko. This fight will be exciting and I can’t wait to see some brutal kicks, but I believe that Barry’s hunger and brutal power will be too much for Cro Cop. Barry by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Barry is the new generation. Barry said it’s not that Cro Cop has fallen, but so many new guys have risen. Cro Cop is still damn dangerous. One thing is for sure, Barry won’t underestimate him and all the praise he’s heaped upon Cro Cop may even have some sort of detrimental effect upon Cro Cop. Look for Barry to tear Cro Cop’s legs to shreds. Cro Cop has a ton more experience than Barry in MMA but he has become fairly predictable. All five of Barry’s wins have come by knockout, and look for him to add one more notch in his belt by knocking out Cro Cop with punches, then crying his eyes out after he wins during the post fight interview.

Paulo Thiago vs. Martin Kampmann

RICHARD MANN: Thiago’s carriage will finally turn into a pumpkin on Saturday night. Kampmann will be able to use his reach and striking advantage to keep Thiago away. Thiago’s wild striking game will not drop Kampmann and therefore Kampmann will take the decision. Kampmann by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Thiago’s lone pro loss comes from a unanimous decision loss to Jon Fitch. After losing to Fitch he re-bounded with a decision win over Jacob Volkmann followed by an impressive submission win over Mike Swick. As for Kampmann, after dropping a TKO loss to Paul Daley, he also faced Volkmann and won by submission in the first round. The oddsmaker have Thiago as the favorite, and this is the right call. Kampmann is still a tough fighter for sure, but Thiago has just begun to work his way up the ladder. Thiago wins by TKO in Round 1.

DENNY HODGE: Thiago will have his hands full on the feet against Kampmann, and even worse, Kampmann has improved drastically on the ground as well. This will be a battle of 2 guys with big hearts and no quit in them, but in the end Kampmann will be too much for Thiago and will win by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: This is an interesting match up and hard to call. I keep going back and forth on this one. I’m going to pick Thiago as the winner. I like Kampmann and he’s well rounded, but Thiago is not ranked 5th in the world for no reason. Thiago’s knockout of Koscheck was quite impressive and I could see him possibly doing something similar to Kampmann. Sorry Martin, I’m going with Thiago via TKO.

Ben Rothwell vs. Gilbert Yvel

RICHARD MANN: “Pride Superstar” Gilbert Yvel amassed an amazing 2-7 record in a now dead promotion. Rothwell will be able to hold his own on the feet and use his more physical style to take the decision. Look for Yvel to be pressed against the fence for most of the fight. Rothwell will win by decision and prove once again the IFL is better the Pride FC.

BRIAN FURBY: Here we have two tough guys who made names for themselves in other promotions, both rebounding off losses to top 10 heavyweights. I’d like to think Yvel has this one taken care of but not unlike Cro Cop, Yvel is basically a shadow of his former self. Don’t expect this one to go to the ground as both guys will want to knock each other out on the feet looking for that big, exciting win that will make them more recognizable to the “UFC only” fans. Yvel isn’t the in best of shape, and while Rothwell isn’t either, his cardio should be enough to make sure he outlasts Yvel en route to a TKO victory once Yvel gasses. Rothwell wins by TKO in Round 2.

DENNY HODGE: Rothwell was outclassed by Velasquez in his last outing, and will be facing another big puncher in Yvel. Rothwell desperately needs to win this fight, but he won’t. Yvel by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Nice fight. Who doesn’t love to watch two big talented heavyweights try to tear each other’s heads off? That’s just damn fun. Rothwell needs a win over a big name the same way Lady Gaga Jenna Jameson needs a Big Mac… damn bad. Rothwell’s size will be a big help for him in this fight as he puts Yvel on the ground and pounds out the victory…. that would be his way to win. However, look for Rothwell to try and stand and trade with Yvel, and that will be Rothwell’s downfall. Yvel, now back for his second fight in the UFC knows it’s time to get down and dirty. No more jitters of the first show. Time to work and I see him knocking out Rothwell. Yvel has 36 wins and 36 finishes. Look for number 37 in this one.

Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald

RICHARD MANN: MacDonald does not have the stand up game to hang with Condit. However, if MacDonald takes it to the ground he will still have a lot of trouble with Condit. Condit takes a lot of damage on the ground, but he still has impressive sweeps and submissions off his back. Condit by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: My pick for fight of the night. The odds have Condit as a favorite, so picking MacDonald, particularly in a parlay, could spell a nice payday. MacDonald’s groundwork could give Condit some problems once MacDonald gets inside on Condit, lands a few shots and then takes him down. However, Condit is no slouch and a win won’t come easy for MacDonald. MacDonald wins by split decision.

DENNY HODGE: MacDonald is a young guy with a bright future that is gaining confidance with every win that he notches, not to mention the fact that GSP gives the kid props. Condit is a very experienced guy still looking to make that impact that everyone expected coming from the WEC. Condit will prove to be too much for the young Canadian, winning by submission.

JACK BRATCHER: MacDonald has a ton of momentum coming in at 10-0. He submitted Joker Guymon in his UFC debut, and that’s no easy feat. It’s hard to believe Condit has only had two fights since coming to the UFC, going 1-1. I’m gonna go with MacDonald here. Look for the Canadian nto put Condit on his back and go for submissions, but I think Condit will survive and MacDonald will get the decision.

Tyson Griffin vs. Evan Dunham

RICHARD MANN: Dunham makes his money by being slick on the ground. Griffin has a reputation of being impossible to submit even in the gym. Plus, he has handled multiple submission fighters with ease. Look for Griffin to handle this fight on the feet with his still-improving boxing game. Griffin by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Looking for a second guy to add to that parlay bet with MacDonald? Take Dunham. Given that Dunham is a significant underdog against Griffin, he’s yet another good pick to make some money on. Dunham, undefeated, is an extremely well-rounded fighter who needs to find his range very quickly against Griffin. On the flip side, once Dunham finds his range, we’re likely to see him get taken down by Griffin and the ground battle begins, one in which Dunham will have a slight edge. If Condit vs. MacDonald doesn’t get Fight of the Night, this one will. Dunham wins by split decision.

DENNY HODGE: Dunham and Griffin, wow! Some people might not be too hyped about this fight, but anytime you put two bulldogs like these guys in a cage, there is sure to be fireworks. These guys are no strangers to each other, as training partners, they know each other’s games well. Dunham likes to work his ground game, but Griffin is nearly impossible to control or hold down, so what we might see is a slug-fest on the feet. I’m going with Dunham to remain undefeated, and to move up in rank with a big win over Griffin by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: No one has ever finished Griffin and it won’t happen here either. However, these two Xtreme Couture fighters know each other’s game well enough that there will be no surprises which means it’s going the distance. Dunham, undefeated at 10-0, will continue to ride this train to another victory getting the decision over Tyson Griffin. Dunhams height and reach advantage will play a role in him out-pointing the short man.

Mac Danzig vs. Matt Wiman

RICHARD MANN: This fight is really a toss up for me. I am leaning towards Wiman, because he will be able to do the most damage on the feet. However, there is a good chance he will get stuck on the bottom underneath Danzig. If Danzig loses his will be the first TUF champion, besides Travis Lutter, to earn the boot. Wiman by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: I’m not a big fan of Danzig. I don’t have the same unbridled rage directed towards him that I do with Diego Sanchez, Michael Bisping, and Chael Sonnen, but Danzig has been more disappointing than not since winning his season of TUF. And he’s a vegan. I don’t like vegans. Danzig is 1-3 in his last four fights in the UFC; Wiman isn’t much better in terms of records with 2-2 in his last four, but Wiman will give Danzig trouble on the feet with his speed, and get the better of him on the ground thanks to better control in dominant positions. Wiman wins by unanimous decision.

DENNY HODGE: This is a huge fight for both Danzig and Wiman, with both guys losing 2 of their last 3 fights. This fight will go the distance with Danzig coming out on top on the judges scorecards.

JACK BRATCHER: With so much on the line for both of these guys, we’re going to see who really wants this thing. Is either serious about being the best? Is either serious about their pro fight career in the UFC? Who wants it more? Danzig got a decision win over Justin Buchholz in his last fight. Wiman submitted Buchholz two years ago. Both guys have recent decision losses to Jim Miller. This one is kind of a toss up for me but I want to lean toward Wiman because of his hands. TKO by the “Handsome” one.

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