UFC 103: Belfort vs. Franklin. September 19, 2009
American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas
Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort
Luke Thomas: Candidly, I just don't know who to pick here. Vitor's blazing, straight punches against Franklin less-than-airtight defense makes me nervous. And while the weight class change has benefited Vitor, the wins over Martin and Lindland don't actually say a great deal. That being said, Franklin's recuperative powers are strong, but the space he had to do that against Wanderlei or Loiseau won't be afforded by Belfort. Coin toss. Here goes nothing. Belfort by KO, round 1.
Kid Nate: In the old days I'd say that this will either go quick and Vitor will win by KTFO or if it lasts more than 90 seconds that Rich will frustrate Belfort and find a way to win. With Vitor seemingly a new and improved fighter -- I'm most impressed by his grinding victory over Terry Martin at Affliction's first show -- this should be a very interesting bout. Franklin's awkward style and reach should give him an advantage in scoring points, but Belfort has the KO power. I'm going to go with my hopes here rather than my thoughts. Belfort by KO.
Brent Brookhouse: I am hoping that Vitor has it in him to pull out the victory, as that would freshen up the title picture greatly. Belfort's boxing and hand speed is always solid and he could KO Rich pretty much at any time. Franklin is a tough fighter who can pick apart his opponent over the course of three rounds. What I did see in the Wanderlei fight though was that Rich still has moments in fights, even those that he is controlling, where he leaves himself open to big shots from his opponent. Where Wanderlei looks for a big shot and has wider strikes, in those moments I think Vitor will throw flurries of hard, fast punches and that's where he wins. Vitor Belfort by KO, round 2.
Michael Rome: Having a hard time making my pick here. Rich has a hard time with lefties, but then again, Belfort is not even in the same universe as the two lefties that massacred Franklin. I think Franklin is actually the better fighter, and would win many more fights against top 10 middleweights than Vitor, but I can't shake the feeling this is ending by KO. I don't buy into this "new Vitor" stuff from Xtreme Couture at all, but I still think he has the power to catch Franklin. I wouldn't be surprised if Rich breaks Vitor down with kicks and wins an easy 30-27, but I'm going to go with Vitor Belfort via KO.
Mike Fagan: So, here I am, publishing a sweet gambling article where I think I'm some clairvoyant sonofagun picking Vitor Belfort over Rich Franklin. Then I open up our predictions document and all the staff so far has picked the Brazilian. So now I look like some two-bit chump. Anyway, long story short, Rich has had problems with lefties with speed who strike well and he leaves his face open after nearly every strike. Belfort's left handed and throws powerful, straight punches. Ruh roh. Vitor Belfort by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: I do believe the fabled (and largely mythical) "Old Vitor" has finally returned. Franklin's probably gonna wish they'd set up that rematch with Hendo instead. Belfort via TKO, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: The speedy lefty will give Franklin problems, and those problems come in bunches. I'm not confident Rich will look for the takedown, that is until it is too late. Vitor Belfort via TKO, round 2.
Nick Thomas: I think Belfort has everything right going for him in 2009. His training, his mind set; Belfort is hot right now. As long as Belfort keeps this on the feet.. it's Belfort by TKO.
Leland Roling: Belfort's hand speed is the biggest concern for Franklin in this fight, and while Franklin states that he's fought a lot of speedier punchers -- Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva both flattened Rich. If Rich can somehow outlast the onslaught early, he might have a chance here... but I'll buy into the Vitor hype coming out of Xtreme Couture. Most notably, an improved gas tank coupled with his ever-improving boxing game should be enough to catch Rich at some point in this fight. Vitor Belfort via KO.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Luke Thomas: Dos Santos' boxing is slightly overrated. He often over commits for power and off balances himself in the process. But that's not necessarily an error CroCop can take major advantage of. And CroCop can be backed up/tied up/pushed around by big, physical strikers. And his uppercut is just vicious. Dos Santos by TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: I would love to pick Mirko here as I'd love to see the guy make a real run in the UFC in front of the American fans, but I just don't see it happening. Junior dos Santos seems to be too explosive and dynamic for Cro Cop. Dos Santos by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: When it comes to Mirko's last fight everyone is SO hung up on the eye poke that it overshadows that he finally looked aggressive and was throwing consistently with power. Dos Santos has good power but he is nowhere near the striker Cro Cop is when he is on. I'm going to take a chance and say that he will be "on" come Saturday night. Mirko Filipovic by TKO, round 2.
Michael Rome: I flirted with picking Mirko, but he's just too slow and too old now to compete with Dos Santos. He's the better striker, but I think he is going to get outpaced badly. I see Mirko actually going flat out, which is something I don't want to happen. Dos Santos via KO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: I'm going to have to go head over heart here. All the evidence (Mirko's decline, dos Santos' size and recent performance) points to a very similar result as the Overeem and Kongo fights. Cro Cop can win if we see vintage Croatian, but I think that's unlikely. Junior dos Santos by decision.
Chris Nelson: I wish this was a tougher call, but Mirko hasn't looked like Mirko in years now and Cigano is one of the top HW prospects around. Cigano via submission, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: What is "Cigano" like in the second round? I don't want to find out. Junior Dos Santos via KO, round 1.
Nick Thomas: I can't wait for this fight. It wouldn't surprise me if Dos Santos tries to take this to the ground if things aren't going well standing. But I think Dos Santos can end this on the feet. Dos Santos by TKO.
Leland Roling: I want to pick Mirko "Cro Cop", and there is a part of me that wants to see Mirko prove all the doubters wrong by slapping a LHK upside Dos Santos' head, but will he actually be that Mirko once again? I'm not holding out much hope we'll ever see that Mirko, and Dos Santos has brutal power in the stand-up department. Junior Dos Santos via TKO, Round 2.
Martin Kampmann vs. Paul Daley
Luke Thomas: Kampmann is the overall better fighter and with Daley's submission liabilities, Kampmann should have this locked up. Daley lost to the cautious Thompson but defeated the more open Alessio. I'd say of the two Kampmann is more like Thompson in that regard. He can still get bombed on VERY easily, but this is the Dutchman's fight to lose. Kampmann via decision.
Kid Nate: Kampmann is too well rounded to fall into Daley's one dimensional Muay Thai game. Too bad Mike Swick got hurt. Kampmann by submission.
Michael Rome: I don't think Kampmann's kickboxing is any good, so Daley has the advantage there, but this is the big leagues and his lack of ground game will be his undoing. Martin Kampmann via submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Heading into the Marquardt fight i kept saying that I thought Kampmann's kickboxing was overrated, now seeing what Jake Ellenberger was able to do to Carlos Condit standing (read: more than Martin) I think Daley is the clear favorite on the feet. Two questions remain: 1) can Kampmann get Daley down onto the ground? 2) Is Daley to the point yet where he can survive on the ground? I feel like I've been crazy upset happy with my picks lately but still. Paul Daley by TKO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: I'm sure everyone expects me to take Martin Kampmann, being the resident BE Kampmann nuthugger. Well, you're right. Whatever advantage Daley will have standing is marginal at best, and Kampmann will own once it hits the floor. And unless the Dane stubbornly keeps it standing, it will hit the floor. Also, check out Daley's fight with Nick Thompson to see him get owned on the feet. Martin Kampmann by submission, round 2.
Chris Nelson: I get the impression that Kampmann doesn't view Daley as a credible opponent, or at least as credible as Swick. He may be right, but that kind of thinking gets you Koscheck'd. I like Daley for the upset in a fight that I would otherwise give him very little chance of winning. Daley via TKO, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: Nothing has given me assurance that Daley will be able to keep on the floor. I'll gladly join the echo chamber as Martin Kampmann wins via submission, round 1.
Nick Thomas: Kampmann > Swick > Daley. Kampmann by submission.
Leland Roling: Daley's ground game continues to improve, but only from a defensive standpoint in order to get the fight back to the feet. It still remains his Achilles' heel, and Kampmann happens to have a solid grappling game coupled with his kickboxing background. Kampmann needs to be much more calculated in his strikes to setup the takedown, but I see him putting a submission on Daley. Martin Kampmann via submission, Round 2.
Luke Thomas: Unless he can control Koscheck - and he can't - Trigg can't win. Trigg in many ways still has the proto-typical style of wrestling converts who have to muscle opposition to get them where he wants them. Unless Koscheck makes major mistakes, that's not going to happen. Koscheck by decision.
Kid Nate: Been thinking about this a lot lately. Koscheck is far and away the more dynamic athlete at this point in time and he's probably more well rounded as well, but he still struggles to transition from one phase of the game to the next. Trigg is coming off a long layoff and fighting at a lighter weight than he has in years. Coin toss. Koscheck by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: As Trigg said, it's like he's fighting himself in a mirror. Except the him in the mirror is faster, stronger, fresher, better. Josh Koscheck by TKO, round 2.
Michael Rome: Fight is hopeless for Trigg unless Koscheck decides to be reckless, which he does a lot lately. Even standing I think he wins though, Josh Koscheck via KO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: Koscheck on the Countdown show: "Frank Trigg is good at two things. One, giving up his back. Two, tapping out." He's already owned Trigg with the trash talk, and he'll own him in the cage too. Josh Koscheck by (dominating) decision.
Chris Nelson: Why is Trigg back in the UFC? Shortage of 170-pound gatekeepers? Insert tired line about Koscheck being a young Trigg here. Koscheck via TKO, round 2.
Eugene Schelfaut: Trigg does not win this. "Twinkle Toes" will not be off his back if Koscheck shoots through him and puts him there. Josh Koscheck via RNC, round 3.
Nick Thomas: Trigg is way too big of an underdog in this fight. But that doesn't mean he's going to win. Koscheck could win this by ground and pound... but I'll go with Koscheck by submission.
Leland Roling: I've always liked Frank Trigg for the simple fact that he doesn't really care what anyone thinks. He's a guy who speaks his mind, and he plays the heel perfectly. But this time, I think he's met his match. Not only does Koscheck play the heel, he is, in fact, a younger, faster version of Trigg himself. And that's the real problem... can Trigg contend with Koscheck? Koscheck's wrestling is going to be a huge load for Trigg to deal with, and striking may be advantageous to Trigg if he's improved. The only way I see Trigg winning is by Koscheck's wildness, and I don't see it happening. Josh Koscheck via decision.
Luke Thomas: As much as I see Griffin putting himself in bad spots, I see him extracting himself from them as well. Rinse and repeat. And like Sherk, Griffin's pace is going to stymie Franca as the fight wears on. Griffin by split decision.
Kid Nate: Tyson Griffin is the decision king of the lightweight division. His submission game won't come into play against Franca's BJJ mastery. Tyson has far better technical kickboxing but Franca has the KO power. I think Tyson will rely on his wrestling to put Franca on his back and grind out another decision. Griffin by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: I'd love to see Hermes get a W as people are starting to forget how good he really is. But Tyson is great at controlling fights and taking decisions. Tyson Griffin by decision.
Michael Rome: Really bad fight for Franca, who will spend the whole fight hunting for submissions while he loses a decision. Griffin via decision.
Mike Fagan: I'm not sure how this looks any different than Franca's fights with Sherk and Edgar. He spent the vast majority of those fights on his back, and he'll do the same in this fight. Even if Griffin decides to stand, he'll likely lose the fight there too. Tyson Griffin by decision.
Chris Nelson: Franca and Griffin have 13 decisions in their combined 18 UFC fights. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this one's going the distance, with Griffin doing his usual grind out top game. Griffin via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: If Tyson gets tagged on the feet, I see him as being able to take it to the ground if conscious and recover. Franca has the ability to end it with his hands, but won't: Tyson Griffin via decision.
Nick Thomas: Nothing new for Griffin here. Griffin by decision.
Leland Roling: Nate laid it out perfectly, and I can't argue with that. Griffin should be able to use his strength to power out of submission grabs and use a top control game to win this blanket fight by decision. Tyson Griffin via decision.
Luke Thomas: I just do not believe the submission defense of Escudero is up to par in this bout. Miller by submission, round 2.
Kid Nate: Should be even on the feet but Miller's submission skills will give him the edge on the ground. Miller by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: This is a really, really tough fight to call. Efrain is going to be able to keep it on the feet and I think he can win the striking battle. I'm not confident in this at all...but still. Efrain Escudero by decision.
Michael Rome: I don't think much of Escudero, whose best victory is a lay and pray special over Phillipe Nover. I think he gets exposed here, and in the process exposes that entire TUF season as a joke. Cole Miller via submission, round 2.
Mike Fagan: His dominating win over Nover looks less impressive in retrospect, but I still like Efrain's wrestling and top game here. Efrain Escudero by decision.
Chris Nelson: The lanky Miller can use his jab and knees to keep Escudero out of shooting range, but I imagine this will hit the mat at some point and Cole will snare a sub from the bottom. Miller via submission, round 2.
Eugene Schelfaut: I think Escudero will be able to grind it out on the ground, but Miller has shown he can lock something in late. Efrain Escudero by decision.
Nick Thomas: Upset of the night #1: Miller by submission.
Leland Roling: This is somewhat of a tough fight to call. Miller has the jiu-jitsu chops to be a real threat on the ground, but Escudero has the wrestling pedigree to cause some huge problems for Miller as the fight progresses. He hasn't fought a true wrestler in quite some time, so I'll go with Efrain Escudero, who is surprisingly the favorite. Efrain Escudero via decision.
Luke Thomas: McFedries runs into problems when guys don't go down immediately and they can hit back. I'm not sure that's Drwal, but he can probably get the job done. Drwal by TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: Drwal doesn't bring the power McFedries does but he does love to bang on the feet. Dangerous combination. McFedries by KO.
Brent Brookhouse: McFedries is PERFECT for TV. Drew's last fight that lasted more than 2 minutes was in March of 2007. That's a 6 fight streak of quick fights for the man. How fun is that? Drwal is an aggressive striker, but he is nowhere near as powerful as McFedries and Drew is going to sleep him. Drew McFedries by KO, round 1 (in less than 2 minutes).
Michael Rome: Both guys are going to just try to kill each other, and McFedries hits harder. Drew McFedries via KO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: Feast or famine here. Coinflip says Tomasz Drwal by TKO, round 2...just kidding. Round 1.
Chris Nelson: Drwal likes to stand and bang. Hopefully he won't be silly enough to do it against a guy who is the walking personification of "puncher's chance." Drwal via submission, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: Will 'pudknocker' be an accurate description of this fight? I am less impressed by Drwal, so Drew McFedries wins by KO, 3:33 or RD 1.
Nick Thomas: When it's McFedries vs. a striker, I can't pick against McFedries. McFedries by TKO.
Leland Roling: Drwal has never been a technical puncher, and neither has McFedries, but McFedries has a knack for crushing guys with one blow. McFedries via KO.
Jim Miller vs. Steve Lopez
Luke Thomas: Lopez is tough, but whatever he's good at Miller is actually better. Miller by submission, round 1.
Kid Nate: Jim Miller should win this handily. Too bad Thiago Tavares got hurt. Miller by quick submission.
Brent Brookhouse: This is exactly the kind of fight that Miller dominates. Jim Miller by submission, round 1.
Michael Rome: Jim Miller via submission.
Mike Fagan: Steve Lopez doesn't have a Wiki page. Jim Miller by submission, round 1.
Chris Nelson: After Gray Maynard, I don't see too many 155'ers left in the UFC that can hand Jim Miller a loss. Miller via submission, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: It doesn't seem to be in the cards for Lopez. Jim Miller by submission, round 2.
Nick Thomas: Miller by submission.
Leland Roling: Lopez is apparently a grinder-type of fighter, but Jim Miller is the epitome of a fighter who grinds out victory after victory, any time, anywhere. Miller by submission.
Luke Thomas: Unless he's injured, the fact that Lentz has better wrestling isn't that dramatic a factor. Yes, Lentz is a good product from MMAA, but Oliveira's submission prowess is likely too much. Oliveira by submission round 2.
Kid Nate: Oliveira was lucky he didn't have to fight Gomi at Affliction. He's lucky in his draw of opponents here. Oliveira by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: I can't see any way that Lentz is going to win this fight. Rafaello Oliveira by submission, round 2.
Michael Rome: This should be a one sided, easy submission win for Oliveira.
Mike Fagan: Nick Lentz is kind of like fighting Takanori Gomi, right? No? OK. Rafaello Oliveira by submission, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Glad to see the Tractor in the UFC. I think the tough Carnie will give him a run for his money in this one though. Oliveira via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: I need to get in on this upset thing. Nick Lentz by decision.
Nick Thomas: Oliveira by decision.
Leland Roling: Oliveira has the BJJ skills to put Nick Lentz in some real trouble in this fight, and he's been impressive in some of his performances outside of the UFC. He should be able to put Lentz in submission danger early. Rafaello Oliveira via submission, Round 1.
Brian Foster vs. Rick Story
Luke Thomas: Foster's tough, but Story's win over Jake Ellenberger (via physical wrestling dominance) makes me think Foster's got his work cut out for him. Story by TKO, round 3.
Kid Nate: I don't think Foster can overcome Story's wrestling edge. Story by decision.
Michael Rome: Rick Story via awesome name.
Mike Fagan: Ricky Story sounds like he should be a part of the Rock 'n' Roll Express. Rick Story by decision.
Chris Nelson: Foster via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Story will control positioning on the ground, so Rick Story by decision.
Nick Thomas: Upset of the night #3: Foster by TKO.
Leland Roling: Braveheart Fight Club is making a statement in the UFC. First, Mike Pierce... now, Rick Story? Story will want to work the same type of gameplan of blanketing his opponent with wrestling, and Foster, even though he's a Hughes-trained fighter, will be looking to knock Story out. He has much heavier hands that Rick, but his wrestling might be a bit lacking. While I think Story lays on Foster, I'll go with Foster because I liked what I saw from his previous fights. Brian Foster via KO, Round 1.
Eliot Marshall vs. Jason Brilz
Luke Thomas: I just can't shake the Marshall vs. Bader fight out of my head. Brilz by decision.
Kid Nate: From what I've seen Brilz is head and shoulders beyond Marshall. Brilz by submission.
Mike Fagan: Brilz should roll here. Brilz by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Brilz via TKO, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: I'm feeling gutsy. Eliot Marshall via submission, round 2.
Nick Thomas: Brilz by decision.
Leland Roling: Brilz isn't an outstanding wrestler by any means, but he's adapted what he has to MMA well. Marshall has the jiu-jitsu on the ground to give Brilz some trouble, but Brilz should be able to pound on him from the top. Jason Brilz via TKO, Round 2.
Michael Rome: Expecting a boring fight with Brilz on top dominating. Brilz via decision.
Luke Thomas: Matyushenko has the capacity to stop Pokrajac unless he gets stunned on the way to a takedown. This one's going to be over quick and will take forever. Matyushenko by decision.
Kid Nate: Vladdy the Janitor up against a pure kickboxer? Bring something to read. Matyushenko by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Takedown, hold, land a couple punches, get stood up, repeat. Vladimir Matyushenko by decision.
Michael Rome: They signed Vlad? Where have I been? Anyway, he should win this. Vladimir Matyushenko via TKO.
Mike Fagan: Time to take out the trash. Get it? Ah.......Vladimir Matyushenko by decision.
Chris Nelson: Matyushenko via decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: I'll have to read about it because the fight will not make it on the PPV. Vladimir Matyushenko via decision.
Nick Thomas: Matyushenko by decision.
Leland Roling: Pokrajac is mainly a wrestler/jiu-jitsu guy, but Matyushenko has fought a lot of guys with a similar background and easily beaten them. Matyushenko via decision.
Luke Thomas: Emerson has improved dramatically, but he isn't a better or even as good a version of Jeremy Stephens (particularly later in the fight). Dos Anjos by submission.
Kid Nate: Emerson has been a hard win to get in the UFC. That pattern will continue. Emerson by TKO.
Michael Rome: I see Dos Anjos submitting Emerson, Dos Anjos via submission.
Mike Fagan: Gonna take the slight gambling favorite. Dos Anjos by decision.
Chris Nelson: Dos Anjos via submission, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: I confused Rob Emerson with Matt Wiman for some reason. I am now less confident in my pick on finding out the truth. Rob Emerson by TKO, round 1.
Nick Thomas: Dos Anjos by submission.
Leland Roling: Interesting fight, but Emerson's footwork and hands will frustrate Dos Anjos. Emerson via decision.