Don't tell Tyson Griffin's teammates at Xtreme Couture gym that he'll be fighting on the same card as them, they'll likely cringe at the thought. After all, Griffin has managed to five Fight of the Night honors in eight performances in the UFC while also picking up a Submission of the Night honor in his UFC debut at UFC 63. As Thomas Gerbasi states in his sitdown with Griffin heading into UFC 103, teammate Martin Kampmann was a little upset that Griffin would once again share a card with him much like the UFN 18 card in which Kampmann won a hard fought victory over former WEC champion Carlos Condit, but Griffin won Fight of the Night honors instead.
With the statistics I've listed above fresh in our minds, it's a pretty good investment to believe Tyson Griffin (13-2) will once again be involved in an entertaining, back-and-forth battle at UFC 103 against Hermes Franca (19-7). The only problem that Griffin has with that possibility is that he has put himself in the way of being dangerously close to defeat in most of the wins. Both fighters have shown multiple tools in their arsenal to defeat opponents, and both fighters are hungry to put a win on their record that should prove to the UFC brass that they deserve a shot at a upper-echelon level opponent.
Griffin likely has the edge in this battle for a few reasons. First and foremost, the combination of his wrestling ability coupled with solid conditioning can be menacing to opponents. He has the ability to operate at a high pace while smothering opponents with power punching on the ground. Secondly, he's been a much more active fighter than Franca as he's battled eight times in the last three years while Franca has only battled five times, albeit he was laid off with a knee injury and a positive steroid test. Franca will actually be coming into this match-up with a little under a year of time between fights. Lastly, his striking has improved over the past few years, and he continues to show good boxing technique in the cage.
From that analysis, one would probably come to the conclusion that Franca doesn't stand a chance in this fight, but his strength lies on the floor. He currently holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and he's managed to win eleven of his victories via submission, although he hasn't pulled one off since 2006. Rafael Dos Anjos showed fans that Griffin isn't exactly immune to being put into a bad position and being nearly submitted, but he also showed that Griffin has tremendous heart. It'll be up to Franca to not only put him into a bad spot, but break his will to continue at the same time.
There are a couple of questions to consider in this match-up. Can either of these guys finish each other? Both Griffin and Franca have had a streak of fights go to decision, and while some of the performances were rather dominating -- it doesn't bode well for Franca's chances considering Griffin has the top control wrestling to eek out a decision in the eyes of the judges. Furthermore, Franca's knee is under question as he had it surgically repaired following an injury during training for his UFN 17 main event battle with Joe Lauzon.
Looking over Franca's previous losses to Frankie Edgar and Sean Sherk, it's tough to pick him here. Griffin has dominating wrestling ability with good stand-up, and he can go the distance easily while having the an iron will to blast through adversity. Franca's jiu-jitsu is slick enough to catch Griffin, but Griffin could potentially keep this fight standing and win while also controlling Franca from the top and avoiding submissions. I think he has more ways to win, and training at Xtreme Couture with top notch training partners only furthers the confidence in Griffin.
I wouldn't count Hermes Franca out though. If his knee holds up and he's able to get Griffin to the floor, we could be in for a rude awakening. This isn't a fight you'll want to miss, and it should provide some entertainment that could once again give Griffin another Fight of the Night honor, win or lose.