by Matt Rogers - 11/18/2005
On Saturday the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Las Vegas for UFC 56: Full Force. Headlining the show are back-to-back title defenses from middleweight champ Rich Franklin and welterweight champ Matt Hughes, the coaches from season two of the wildly popular "The Ultimate Fighter" reality television series.
Matt Hughes vs. Joe "Diesel" Riggs
In the first of the co-main event championship match-ups, Matt Hughes takes on Joe "Diesel" Riggs for the UFC welterweight championship. Riggs is coming on short notice, replacing the injured Karo Parisyan, who unfortunately pulled a muscle while training. Hughes is a heavy favorite at -350 compared to Riggs' +275.
This will be Riggs' second fight at the 170-pound weight division, an amazing feat considering when Riggs first started fighting professionally he weighed over 300 pounds. Because of Riggs' past as a heavyweight, he is usually the bigger, more powerful fighter, but he will not have as great a strength advantage over Hughes.
Obviously, Hughes has a wider array of tools to work with than Riggs, and despite the fact that they have nearly an equal amount of total fights, Hughes has a tremendous experience advantage in that he's fought much better opponents and has as much title fight experience as anyone in UFC history. Riggs sole advantages lies in his striking ability and the power he packs in his punches and elbows.
Should one of Riggs punches get through Hughes' guard, or if a well-placed elbow opens a wide gash above Hughes' eye, we could see a passing of the welterweight championship. However, the most likely outcome is for this fight is Hughes taking down Riggs over and over again, and then slowly, methodically grinding the life out of Riggs before the ref finally steps in to stop it.
Riggs is a talented young fighter, but he is new to the welterweight division and has been rushed into a title shot. Matt Hughes will retain his title.
Rich Franklin vs. Nate "Rock" Quarry
In the second championship fight of the evening, Rich "Ace" Franklin will battle Nate "Rock" Quarry for the middleweight title. Franklin is the favorite in the fight at -330 to Quarry's +270.
Both fighters are riding waves of positive momentum, Franklin having just won his UFC middleweight title, and Quarry having won his third straight UFC fight.
There are many arguing Quarry does not deserve a title shot yet, and that may be true. However, Quarry is no pushover - he possesses the skills necessary to pull out an upset. But will that happen? Probably not. Franklin is too big and strong for Quarry, and is just as good, if not better, at everything that Quarry does well.
Franklin will retain his title.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Sean Sherk
In a non-title match-up, but a fight that will go a long way toward determining the number one contender in the welterweight division, Canadian fighter Georges St. Pierre takes on a very tough opponent in Sean Sherk. This is a very even match-up, as evidence by St. Pierre's -125 and Sherk's +105.
Sherk has been away from the UFC for 2 ½ years, his last fight being a decision loss to Matt Hughes in a championship match, while Georges St. Pierre has been very active within the octagon, his only loss being in a title fight against the same Matt Hughes. Both fighters are tremendously well rounded, able to fight both on their feet and on the ground, and they are tremendously talented athletes.
If anything, St. Pierre may have a slight advantage on the feet due to his height and reach advantage, while Sherk may have the advantage on the ground with an excellent ability to control position and ground n' pound.
These fighters are so well matched it's almost a toss up, but I see St. Pierre's momentum carrying him to a victory over Sherk.
Jeremy Horn vs. Trevor Prangley
This is Horn's first fight back since losing a title shot against light-heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell. Horn is dropping back down to the middleweight division, a much better fit for him physically, where he will be taking on South African-born Trevor Prangley. Horn is the heavy favorite in this fight at -330 to Prangley's +270.
Prangley is a very talented wrestler and extremely strong and athletic, but Jeremy Horn's skill-set is rivaled by very few fighters. He will be able to handle Prangley's strength and wrestling ability, and do what he does best - find a way to win.
Kevin Jordan vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Kevin Jordan is given a second shot in the UFC after losing his debut against Paul Buentello at UFC 53. He will be facing UFC newcomer Gabriel Gonzaga in a heavyweight match-up. Oddsmakers have this fight even at -110 for both fighters.
Jordan displayed a willingness to brawl during his match with Buentello, which is something he will need to do against Gabriel Gonzaga. Gonzaga is a black belt in brazilian jiu-jitsu and although he has limited striking ability, he is the more talented fighter. Gonzaga will most likely find a way to finish Jordan on the ground.
Sam Hoger vs. Jeff Newton The "villain" from the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality televisions series returns in a fight against 38-year-old UFC rookie Jeff Newton. Hoger is the slight favorite in this light-heavyweight match-up at -115, while Newton is at -105.
Newton, nicknamed "the Karate Kid," is known for his flashy style of high-flying kicks and flips, which he states is a carry-over from his point-karate days. This should make for an interesting fight visually, since Hoger has stated that he is willing to trade strikes with Newton. If thing get hairy, though, Hoger will revert to what he does best, which is mixed martial arts, and he should be able to beat Newton on the ground.
Nick Thompson vs. Keith Wisniewski
In a welterweight match-up, Nick "The Goat" Thompson takes on Keith "The Polish Connection" Wisniewski. Oddsmakers have Thompson as the favorite in this fight at -125, to Wisniewski's +105, but I'm not so sure I agree with that assessment.
Both Thompson and Wisniewski are good athletes, both have shown a willingness and ability to throw strikes, and both have shown to be competent on the ground. Where I think Wisniewski has the advantage is in his ability to dig down deep when the going gets tough.
Wisniewski should win this one.