The Ultimate Fighter 11 is set to wrap up its final episode before the TUF 11 Finale tonight on Spike TV. Rich Franklin will take control of the helm that was manned, and then reluctantly abandoned, by Tito Ortiz, due to his reoccurring neck injury.
As many fans of the show already know, the season also ends with both coaches squaring off against each other inside the cage at the end of the show.
Since the injury forced Ortiz from his fight with Chuck Liddell, Franklin has stepped in to make the fight worthy of its headline status. Because after all, did anybody really want to see Liddell make short work of Ortiz for a third time?
Trilogies in MMA can be an exciting thing, but when the first two fights are so lopsided, fans don't really want to see what happens in chapter three.
Thankfully, as bad as this may sound, a potentially severe injury prevented the words from hitting the paper in that third chapter. Well, at least for the time being.
Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin
Despite the fact that both guys are only a stone's throw away from a title shot in terms of popularity and name recognition, it's hard to see either of them making a legitimate run at the belt with the current crop of light-heavyweights in the UFC.
Rich Franklin hasn't been the same championship-caliber fighter since his second defeat at the hands of the UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. It was that fight with Silva that forced Franklin to avoid the miserable weight cutdown to 185 and permanently move up to the light-heavyweight division.
That being said, Franklin is the type of fighter that should never be overlooked.
He dominated in the UFC for years with a well-rounded attack, but most notably, with his crisp combinations and tactical game plans.
The former high school teacher is somewhat good at avoiding the strength of his opponents, which in this case, is Chuck Liddell's counter-striking.
If Franklin decides to go in there as the aggressor, then he's going to be on the wrong end of a flash KO. Being too aggressive against Liddell won't do him any good.
To start, Franklin should look to keep Liddell back-peddling with varied footwork, but to also stay out of striking range of that looping right hand of Liddell.
If he can get Liddell to commit to one of his haymakers, then Franklin can play a little counter game himself, but the wise strategy would be to duck under for a takedown or to clinch up.
Liddell is tough to take down with his wrestling-in-reverse, but it's hard to stuff a takedown when you're over-committed to a strike.
For Liddell, his strategy will likely be the same as it ever was.
He needs to stay patient with his counter-striking style, because of not only the above-mentioned possible takedowns or clinch, but also because of the quick, fluid combinations that Franklin can land as a counter of his own.
Even though Liddell has proven to be very tough to take down and even tougher to keep down, he'll struggle greatly if Franklin is able to score that takedown.
Like with his wrestling, Liddell uses his Jiu-Jitsu in a defensive mode to get back to his feet, but Franklin's top game is tough to escape from, especially when he's dropping down fists.
That and Liddell has never been much of a ground fighter anyway, which is one of the huge reasons as to why he has become such a fan favorite.
Liddell is the type that wants to stand and trade leather with his opponent, but the only way truly to obtain victory is to knockout his foe on their feet.
The biggest factor coming into this fight for both fighters will likely be who can find their range and timing first. If you look at the recent track records of both guys, the outcome doesn't look so hot for either, but someone has got to be quicker to the punch.
Since Liddell is quite adept at finding his opponent's rhythm with his style, it's hard to pick against him in this one, although this fight could honestly be decided by a coin flip.
Even though Liddell can put holes through brick walls, and Franklin's chin has been "suspect," don't expect a knockout here. Both fighters will battle their way through three rounds and leave it up to the judges to decide the winner.
Winner: Chuck Liddell by decision
Pat Barry vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Mirko Cro Crop is simply a legend of the sport. Back in the days where there were two dominant MMA organizations, Cro Cop was raining down fear into his opponents overseas with his famed head kick of death.
As everyone knows though, eventually, time catches up to the best of them, and Cro Cop is no exception to the rule.
To put it bluntly, Cro Cop is a ghost in a shell; a shell of his former self. Now, whether it was his freak injury at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga or his heart and determination fading away, he simply isn't the man he used to be, despite the fact that he's only lost once in his last six fights.
To win this fight, Cro Cop needs to utilize the reach advantage that he'll have over Pat Barry and, for the love of all that is holy, use his devastating kicks that launched him into MMA stardom.
If Cro Cop doesn't mix up his attacks, especially with his most effective weapons, Barry will have an easy time finding his timing and making him pay. After all, Cro Cop doesn't have enough combinations with his hands to win the fight.
While Cro Cop isn't the fighter he once was, Barry isn't the fighter that all the hype is proclaiming him to be. Barry is still green in the sport, with only six fights under his belt, and a record of 5-1.
With a similar background heading into MMA, Barry actually holds a slightly better kickboxing record than Cro Cop does, albeit against weaker competition.
Barry, in the evolution of MMA, just has an attack that's better suited for the sport. He uses his kicks in combination with his hands more frequently than Cro Cop does, which subsequently leaves his opponents more worried about the legs than they would be against Cro Cop.
With his short frame, Barry may have a tough time landing on Cro Cop early on, but he can use his speed advantage to close the distance and render Cro Cop virtually useless with a clinch.
If Barry can clinch up with Cro Cop and wear him down for a few minutes, Cro Cop will slow down considerably, leaving many openings for Barry. He can catch Cro Cop with his hands down in the striking game or continue to clinch and score the takedown.
Cro Cop's skills are declining, while Barry's are steadily rising. It's time for Barry to live up to his nickname of "HD," or Hype or Die. A big win over Cro Cop will definitely add more hype to the growing game of Barry.
Winner: Pat Barry by decision
Martin Kampmann vs. Paulo Thiago
This fight may be the one to steal the show, as Paulo Thiago looks to quietly add another top ten fighter to his win column and Martin Kampmann tries to prove that he is just as dangerous as any other welterweight fighter.
Since dropping down to welterweight, Kampmann is 3-1 with his lone loss coming at the hands of a poor strategy and a savage beatdown by Paul Daley.
Meanwhile, Thiago boasts a similar record since joining the UFC, with his lone loss coming at the hands of the consensus number two welterweight in Jon Fitch.
Kampmann normally holds an edge over his opponents with his well-rounded attack; if his opponent holds the striking edge, Kampmann can submit him, and vice versa. However, in this fight, Paulo Thiago brings in the same type of attack, so it will come down to whoever holds the advantage in whichever area the fight winds up.
Every fight starts on the feet, so we'll start there. Both are great strikers and are severely underrated in this category by a lot of fans and critics alike.
Both guys can take heavy shots and turn right back around to deliver one of their own, but the advantage in striking has got to go to Kampmann.
Yes, Thiago floored Josh Koscheck with a nice combination, as well as a nicely timed counter that opened up the D'Arce choke on Mike Swick, but both situations can be linked to poor decisions by his opponents.
His striking is still very dangerous, but not as technically sound as Kampmann's striking. Kampmann's combinations are more fluid and much quicker to land; he also has many more techniques with which to work.
In the clinch, it's pretty much a stalemate.
If Kampmann has an advantageous position in the clinch, his Muay Thai background should enable him to land some elbows and knees while they clash for position.
If Thiago has the upper-hand, however, watch for his Judo black belt to send Kampmann flying onto his back from a hip toss.
On the ground, while Kampmann is no slouch in position control and submissions, he is outmatched by the grappling background of his Brazilian opponent. Thiago is much better at setting up submissions while controlling position.
That and Kampmann has had the luxury of fighting guys who are primarily stand-up fighters, which is where most of his submission wins have come from.
Now, while I pointed out who I think holds the advantage in what area, it's not much of an advantage that they hold. Both fighters have the ability to prove these predictions wrong in any area of the fight.
A big factor of this fight will likely come from their training camp, with Kampmann fighting out of Xtreme Couture and Thiago fighting out of Team Black House.
Both are great gyms, but it's hard to bet against Thiago refining his raw skills over at Team Black House with some of the greatest UFC fighters. Look for Thiago to win by submission late in the fight.
Winner: Paulo Thiago by submission
Ben Rothwell vs. Gilbert Yvel
Some may think, with the way the UFC have been promoting both fighters, that this will be an all-out, stand-up war between Gilbert Yvel and Ben Rothwell. This shows how influenced people can be by a simple 30-second promo.
Yvel, who is a Muay Thai fighter and a kickboxer, will definitely come into this bout prepared to wing his four ounce gloves until Rothwell hits the canvas. He actually lives up to his reputation of being a stand-up brawler.
In the end, it's Yvel's highly aggressive stand-up style that has earned him a majority of his losses. His opponents either timed a counter-strike to knock him silly, or ducked under as Yvel pushed the pace and took the fight to the ground, where Yvel struggles like a spider trapped in a toilet bowl.
While Yvel has been at work on advancing his game, he is still a one-trick pony due to his love of knocking people out, as evident by his tattoos of his unconscious opponents plastered all over his body.
If Yvel can lure Rothwell into a reckless brawl, then he has a great chance of winning, but Rothwell will likely be a tough fish to catch in that scenario.
Rothwell loves to punch, but doesn't let his love of striking interfere with the potential outcome of a fight. He knows that if he's fighting a brawler, a ground attack is the best option available to win.
Expect Rothwell to lure Yvel into a false sense of security by playing the stand-up game with him.
Once Yvel is comfortable on his feet, look for Rothwell to use his superior wrestling to drag Yvel onto his back. That is to say, neither fighter catches the other with a brutal shot beforehand.
On the ground, the fight belongs to Rothwell, no matter how you look at it.
Yvel is horrendous off of his back, and with Rothwell's Big Country-type belly, Yvel will have an extremely tough time getting out of this position.
If the two are in reverse positions, Rothwell has the size and strength to force the much-smaller Yvel off of him and get to a better position, but it's unlikely this scenario will even happen.
After scoring a takedown, Rothwell will smother and batter Yvel until he is worn out and fatigued, which will open up Yvel's Achilles' heel—his submission defense.
Winner: Ben Rothwell by submission.
Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald
Rory MacDonald is the next UFC fighter that has received a considerable amount of hype since his debut inside the octagon. He comes from the next generation of fighters that began training in MMA, not just in one sport like many of the current crop of fighters.
One reason why his stock has risen so much in the past few years is his ability to finish a fight in whatever way is available. That and being undefeated as the youngest fighter on the UFC roster at 20 years old.
Although MacDonald is well-rounded with his game due to his training, his bread and butter is his ground game.
He can finish the fight while raining down fists, but the submission holds usually present themselves first, and MacDonald is quick to latch on and work until the hold is finished.
MacDonald's key to victory is to remain patient wherever the fight ends up, but especially on his feet. If he jumps at Condit recklessly, like he did against Mike Guymon, then the night could be over very quickly for him.
The same can be said on the ground. If he transitions a little too quickly, he could wind up on his back in an instant, as Condit comes from a very similar situation that MacDonald is in right now.
He began fighting at a very young age and instantly surrounded himself with an unfair amount of hype as he began racking up his wins. He was quickly knocked back down to mediocrity when he got a step up in competition.
Like MacDonald, Condit is able to fight wherever the fight takes him, but he holds a striking advantage over his opponent.
Condit uses his reach well, and against the raw, yet very green MacDonald, his reach should come in very handy as he has a much more fluid attack and a variety of combinations.
It's also hard to see MacDonald having an advantage over Condit in the grappling market as well.
Condit is very skilled at rolling out of precarious positions, as evident in his fight against Jake Ellenberger, but he is just as good as latching onto a limb and finishing the fight.
However, don't expect a finish here. Fans will be treated to an exciting, back-and-forth, three-round war, with Condit doing just enough to squeak out the decision.
Winner: Carlos Condit by decision
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
Evan Dunham vs. Tyson Griffin
Two Xtreme Couture teammates are set to do battle, proving that friendship can be cast aside for one night in pursuit of one's goals.
Evan Dunham shook up the lightweight division with a big win over Efrain Escudero last time out when he was given a very small chance to win. Meanwhile, Tyson Griffin proved that he could finish fights against a man who is tough to finish in Hermes Franca.
Dunham is undefeated with a legit Jiu-Jitsu attack, while Griffin has only tasted defeat to two dominant wrestlers.
Griffin has been able to power out of submission holds from other Jiu-Jitsu black belts and just has too much experience for Dunham to handle at this point in his career.
However, it's still possible that Dunham latches onto a limb and doesn't let go, but to finish someone like Griffin, it will have to be early on in the fight. If the fight goes deep into the second or third round, Griffin's conditioning will give him enough strength to muscle his way out.
Winner: Tyson Griffin by knockout
Mac Danzig vs. Matt Wiman
The road for TUF six-winner Mac Danzig has been a tough one recently; he's won only two times out of his last five fights, thanks to the step-up in his competition.
Danzig has had to take a step back and start from the bottom. The second step in his comeback comes against a man in a similar position in Matt Wiman.
There's no doubt that Danzig's plan of attack is to wrangle Wiman down to the ground and sub him out using his superior Jiu-Jitsu, but that may be easier said than done.
Wiman, contrary to his "Handsome" nickname, is a gritty type of fighter that can get that ugly win after taking a beating.
Both guys have struggled with their own personal step-up in competition, but Danzig moreso. The key to this fight comes down to whoever brings more to the table and that will likely be Wiman with a better striking attack.
Expect another grimy performance by Wiman to score the victory in what should be a very close fight.
Winner: Matt Wiman by decision
PRELIMINARY CARD (Not televised)
David Loiseau vs. Mario Miranda
Winner: David Loiseau by knockout
Peter Sobotta vs. James Wilks
Winner: James Wilks by decision
Ricardo Funch vs. Claude Patrick
Winner: Claude Patrick by decision
Jesse Lennox vs. Mike Pyle
Winner: Mike Pyle by submission