10 YRS AGO – UFC 64 FULL PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS: Anderson Silva challenging Franklin, plus Florian, Fitch, Guida, Kongo

By Mike Jarsulik, MMATorch columnist

10 Years Ago today MMATorch.com published a detailed preview of UFC 64 by Mike Jarsulik featuring the Middleweight Title fight that would change the course of the Middleweight Division for years to come. There are a lot of big names on this loaded show, so check out the full rundown and compare Jarsulik’s predictions to what happened in these fights.

On Saturday, October 14th, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will present UFC 64: Unstoppable from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card for the event consists of two title matches as Rich Franklin defends the UFC Middleweight Title against Anderson Silva in the main event. Also, the vacant UFC Lightweight Title will be on the line as Sean Shrek takes on Kenny Florian in the newly revived 155 lb weight class.

Note: The weights below are the official weight recorded from Friday night’s weigh in.

Kurt Pellegrino (27, 5’8″, 154.5 lbs, 8-2-0, -300) vs. Junior Assuncao (25, 5’9″, 155 lbs, 4-1-0, +250)

In a reserve Lightweight bout, Kurt Pellegrino makes his return to UFC to take on Junior Assuncao. Pellegrino, originally from New Jersey, has a background in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is currently training with The Armory Team in Jupiter, Florida, and has recently received his black belt in BJJ from Hermes Franca. Pellegrino recently competed at UFC 61 in July, losing by submission to Drew Fickett in the third round after dominating the fight up until that point. Along with fighting on a couple smaller shows in 2006, Pellegrino has also been active on the tournament circuit.  In March, he won his division in submission grappling at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH.

Junior Assuncao is a Professor of Capoeira from Atlanta, GA, who will be making his UFC debut. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines music, dancing, strikes, and groundwork. While Capoeira is mostly an unknown art in MMA circles, it was prominently featured in the Halle Berry film, Catwoman. If you had the willpower to sit through Severn vs. Shamrock at UFC 9, you might want to check it out. While Capoeira may not seem to be a most useful background to have in MMA, it should be noted that Assuncao also holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has training in wrestling, Muay Thai, and boxing. Assuncao has not fought against the greatest of competition in his career, as only one of his wins came against a fighter with a winning record. Last year, Assuncao captured an impressive win by defeating Dustin Hazelett via ref stoppage after he was caught in a wicked armlock early in the fight.

Even though Junior Assuncao has demonstated a tremendous amount of heart throughout his young career, I do not believe he has the skillset to defeat Pellegrino. Pellegrino has the edge in experience along with the skills to take Assuncao to the ground and neutralize his offense. While Assuncao has been able to stop opponents with a submission in the past, I do not think he has the strength or technique to catch Pellegrino.

Prediction:  Pellegrino via submission, Round 2

Justin James (29, 5’10”, 155 lbs, 11-5-0, +235) vs. Clayton Guida (24, 5’7″, 154.5 lbs, 20-6-0, -275)

UFC continues to ramp up with Lightweight fighters as both Justin James and Clayton Guida will make their debut at UFC 64. Originally, this fight was rumored to be between James and Yves Edwards, but Edwards was released from his contract last month. Justin James is a submission specialist fighting out of Omaha, NE. James has been fighting periodically since 2000, but he has not competed against the top competition. Throughout his career, James has only gone to a decision once and has been able to submit nine of his opponents. However, he is susceptible to submissions himself, as all of his defeats came by either choke or armbar. James has lost to some decent competition, including Jorge Gurgel and Rich Clementi.

Clay Guida is a wrestler from Tinley Park, IL, known for both his endurance and his aggressiveness.  He recently made a name for himself on the first Strike Force event, winning by unanimous decision over Josh Thompson in a major upset. Guida returned at the second Strike Force event in June, but lost by unanimous decision to Gilbert Melendez. While it is obvious that Guida belongs in the UFC, he has been inconsistent in the past and has been outmatched when it comes to striking on his feet. He does possess a good ground-and-pound attack and usually has no trouble taking the fight to the ground.

I have high expectations for this fight, as it should be one of the more exciting reserve bouts due to Guida’s aggressiveness. Guida should be able to take James to ground, even if he has to absorb some punishment to get a takedown. Look for Guida’s ground-and-pound to be overwhelming, with James being able to do little offensively from his back. James does have good submission skills, but I do not see them playing a part here.

Prediction:  Guida via TKO, Round 1

Yushin Okami (25, 6’2″, 185 lbs, 17-3-0, -130) vs. Kalib Starnes (31, 6’3″, 185 lbs, 7-0-1, +110)

The closest reserve fight on the show should be the matchup in the Middleweight division between Yushin Okami and Kalib Starnes. Okami, from Kanagawa, Japan, is a practitioner of Wajyutsu, an offshoot of Judo also practiced by UFC veteran Caol Uno. At UFC 62, Okami made his UFC debut by defeating Alan Belcher by unanimous decision. Okami also defeated Anderson Silva via DQ earlier this year and was doing quite well before getting caught with an illegal upkick. The only blemishes on his record were at the hands of Jake Shields, Amar Suloev, and Falaniko Vitale, who are all well-accomplished fighters. Okami’s attack usually consists of taking his opponent to the mat and working his ground-and-pound.

Kalib Starnes is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and TUF3 alumni from Surrey, British Columbia. Starnes began training in BJJ at the Gracie Academy in 1994. In his only UFC appearance, Starnes won via submission over Danny Abbadi.  On the reality show, he won his first fight over Mike Stine, but lost in the semi-finals to Kendall Grove by verbal submission. The other notable win on Starnes’ record was over fellow Canadian Jason McDonald, who looked very impressive in his UFC debut just a few days ago.

This is a tough fight to pick. While I have been impressed with what I have seen of Kalib Starnes, Okami is a tough fight for him. Look for Okami to take it to the ground and pull out a win by decision. However, Starnes does have good submissions and I would not be surprised in the least if he is able to catch Okami.

Prediction:  Okami via Unanimous Decision

Keith Jardine (30, 6’2″, 205 lbs, 11-2-1, -530) vs. Mike Nickels (34, 6’4″, 205 lbs, 4-1-0, +430)

Rounding out the reserve bouts is the matchup between two TUF alumnus, Keith Jardine and Mike Nickels. Keith Jardine is a professional boxer and Gaidojutsu practitioner fighting out of Albuquerque, NM. Gaidojutsu is a martial art developed by Greg Jackson that combines aspects of wrestling, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and kickboxing to create a well-rounded style for MMA competition. Other practitioners of Gaidojutsu are Diego Sanchez, Nathan Marquardt, and Steve Irwin (yes, The Crocodile Hunter).  Jardine also holds a professional boxing record of 3-0-1. His introduction to the UFC came on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he was eliminated from the show after losing to Rahad Evans by unanimous decision. Jardine has since compiled a record of 3-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming via a controversial unanimous decision to Stephan Bonnar.

Mike Nickels is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under David Ruiz from Denver, CO. Nickels had competed specifically in the Ring of Fire promotion before his appearance on TUF3. On the show, Nickels was defeated by wrestler Matt Hamill in a lackluster match where both fighters looked atrocious. Throughout the fight, there were noticeable holes in Nickels game, particularly when it came to his standup. He also fought in the UFC on the TUF3 Season Finale and picked up a win over Wes Combs via submission.

This fight should be rather one-sided as Jardine should be able to control every aspect. Unless Nickels has improved immensely on his feet, Jardine will take him apart standing. There is a slight possibility that Nickels could lock on a submission if the fight goes to the ground, but I see him going into defense mode and attempting to control Jardine with his guard if he end up on his back.

Prediction:  Jardine via Unanimous Decision

Spencer Fisher (30, 5’7″, 155 lbs, 18-2-0, -435) vs. Dan Lauzon (18, 5’10”, 155 lbs, 4-0-0, +365)

In a Lightweight division matchup that should open up the show, Spencer Fisher will cut down to 155 lbs. to take on Dan Lauzon. Fisher trains with the Miletich Camp out of Davenport, IA and will be making his fifth appearance in the Octagon. While Fisher is mostly known for his heavy hands, he also has good submission skills and can force his opponents to make mistakes. Since arriving in the UFC, Fisher has stopped Thiago Alves, Matt Wiman, and Aaron Riley. The only loses in his career were at the hands of Sam Stout at UFC 58 and Carlo Prater. Fisher took the fight with Stout on short notice, and thus, had to drop 20 lbs. in two days to make weight.

Dan Lauzon, the younger brother of upset specialist Joe Lauzon, is a late replacement for Naoyuki Kotani. While he only has had about three weeks to prepare for the fight and is rather inexperienced, Lauzon is not a pushover. In his career, he has stopped every opponent  via submission. However, he has yet to face an opponent of Fisher’s caliber or anyone with a winning record. I have yet to see Lauzon fight, but have checked out a highlight video where he looks like a carbon copy of his brother.

Last month, I did not go into shock when Joe Lauzon upset Jens Pulver. I didn’t predict a Lauzon win, but knew going in that he was not going to be an easy opponent for Pulver. It is possible that Dan Lauzon is just as good as his brother and could pull off an upset, but I have yet to see any data that backs that up. Therefore, I see Fisher taking him apart in the first round for the win.

Prediction:  Fisher via TKO, Round 1

Cheick Kongo (31, 6’4″, 226 lbs, 9-2-1, -450) vs. Carmelo Marrero (25, 6’0″, 222 lbs, 5-0-0, +370)

In the only heavyweight bout on the show, Cheick Kongo will take on UFC newcomer Carmelo Marrero. Cheick Kongo is a mixed martial artist fighting out of the Fimeu Gym in Paris, France. He has a background in Kempo Karate, Thai Boxing, and Greco-Roman Wrestling. Kongo has a record of 2-0 since arriving in the UFC in July, stopping both of his opponents in the first round. Prior to entering UFC, Kongo competed in Europe for RINGS Holland and the It’s Showtime promotions. Both of his losses came at the hands of respectable competition in Gilbert Yvel and Rodney Faverus.

Carmelo Marrero is a wrestler from Douglassville, PA. He was a standout folkstyle wrestler in high school, placing 6th in the Pennsylvania State Championships, and at Rider University where he qualified for the NCAA Championship Tournament twice. While Marrero is an accomplished amateur wrestler, he is rather inexperienced at the MMA game. So far in his career, Marrero has only faced one fighter with a winning record.

This is a fight that could go either way. The advantage goes to Kongo if the fight stays neutral, and Marrero if the fight ends up on the ground. In his last fight, Kongo struggled on the ground against Christian Wellisch. Wellisch was willing to give up position in order to go for a submission. I think Marrero will come into the fight with the strategy of keeping Kongo on the mat and utilizing ground-and-pound. If he fights smart, Marrero should be able to dominate the fight and pick up the win.

Prediction:  Marrero via Unanimous Decision

Jon Fitch (28, 6’0″, 170 lbs, 11-2-0, -335) vs. Kuniyoshi Hironaka (30, 5’10”, 170 lbs, 10-2-0, +275)

In a Welterweight matchup, Jon Fitch makes his fourth appearance in the UFC when he takes on the debuting Kuniyoshi Hironaka. Fitch is a mixed martial artist from Fort Wayne, IN, with a background in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is a graduate of Purdue University where Tom Erikson serves as an assistant coach. After graduating, Fitch started cross-training for MMA and has obtained a purple belt in BJJ from David Camarillo. He is undefeated in all three of his UFC appearances and has defeated Josh Burkman, Brock Larson, and Thiago Alves in the Octagon. He also holds a win over UFC veteran Shonie Carter.

Kuniyoshi Hironaka is a black belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo from Tokyo, Japan. While he will be making his debut in UFC, Hironaka has achieved success in promotions such as Shooto, Rumble on the Rock, and Superbrawl. Throughout his career, Hironaka has faced some stiff competition and has picked up wins over Renato Verissimo and Nick Diaz. He also holds a win over Jean-Jacques Machado (BJJ 6th degree black belt) in submission grappling.

This fight should be more competitive than the odds would suggest. A lot of people are very high on Jon Fitch, mostly due to the fact that his style is overwhelming. Hironaka is not a pushover and will be the toughest opponent that Fitch has faced in his career. However, I still think Fitch will walk away with a victory, but it will be a lot closer than most expect.

Prediction:  Fitch via Unanimous Decision

Sean Sherk (33, 5’6″, 154.5 lbs, 30-2-1, -310) vs. Kenny Florian (30, 5’10”, 155 lbs, 4-2-0, +260)

At UFC 64, the Lightweight Championship will be revived for the first time since Jens Pulver left the promotion back in 2002 as Sean Sherk takes on Kenny Florian for the vacant title. Sean Sherk is a wrestler fighting out of Oak Grove, MN. He is a seven year veteran of the sport who has achieved success fighting in both the North America and overseas. Sherk first arrived in the UFC in 2002 and, within a year, earned himself a title shot against Welterweight champion Matt Hughes at UFC 42. The fight ended up going the distance with Hughes getting a unanimous decision victory (48-45, 48-47, 49-46). Three years later, Sherk returned to the UFC to take on George St. Pierre. In the most disappointing performance of his career, Sherk was dominated throughout the fight before the ref called a stop to it in the second round. Sherk has only fought once in 2006, defeating Nick Diaz by unanimous decision at UFC 59. After the victory, Sherk announced he was dropping to 155 lbs.

Kenny Florian, from Westwood, MA, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Roberto Maia. Florian arrived in the UFC via the first season of The Ultimate Fighter as a competitor in the middleweight division. He advanced all the way to the finals by defeating Chris Lebin due to a cut. In the finals, he faced Diego Sanchez, a natural middleweight who used his size and strength advantage to get a quick victory via TKO. After the loss Florian began cutting weight to get down to 155 lbs to compete in the Lightweight division. He competed twice at Welterweight defeating Alex Karalexis and Thai boxer Kit Cope. In his first bout as a Lightweight, Florian dominated Sam Stout and won by submission in under two minutes.

Throughout Sean Sherk’s career, he has been compared to both Matt Hughes and Diego Sanchez, both aggressive powerhouses with strong wrestling backgrounds. By applying that logic, I fully expect Sherk to be able to take Florian to the mat and neutralize his submissions with his strength. However, the big unknown in this fight is how Sherk’s body will react to cutting his weight to 155 lbs. It is quite possible that Sherk could gas quickly, giving Florian the opening he needs to pull of an upset.

Prediction:  Sherk via TKO, Round 2

Anderson Silva (31, 6’0″, 185 lbs, 16-4-0, +165) vs. Rich Franklin (32, 6’1″, 185 lbs, 20-1-0, -185)

The main event pits Anderson Silva challenging Rich Franklin for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Anderson Silva is a Muay Thai fighter and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the Nogueira brothers. Silva began his career in the Meca promotion in Brazil while he was training in Muay Thai at the Chute Boxe Academy. He later went on to fight in Japan for both Shooto and PRIDE, accruing wins over Hayato Sakurai, Alex Stiebling, Alexander Otsuka, and Carlos Newton. Late in his PRIDE run, Silva picked up two submission loses to Daiju Takase and Ryo Chonan. Silva has also fought for Cage Rage and Gladiator Fighting Championship, where he racked up wins against Jeremy Horn, Lee Murray, Jorge Rivera, and Tony Fryklund. Silva made his UFC debut last June by defeating Chris Lebin by TKO in impressive fashion. Since his debut, Silva has evolved as a more well-rounded fighter. After leaving Chute Boxe Academy and forming the Muay Thai Dream Team, Silva began to split his time between training both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His main asset is his striking ability, which may be unmatched by anyone in the UFC middleweight division.

Rich Franklin, a Freestyle fighter from Cincinnati, OH, has been one of the most dominant fighters in MMA for the for the past six years. Currently, Franklin trains in Muay Thai, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu holding a rank of brown belt under Jorge Gurgel. In twenty-one fights, Franklin has been able to stop nineteen of his opponents (10 by KO/TKO, 9 by submission). He has defeated a laundry list of name fighters including Marvin Eastman, Evan Tanner (2x), Edwin Dewees, Jorge Rivera, Ken Shamrock, Nate Quarry, and David Loiseau. The only loss of his career came at the hands of Ryoto Machida at the 2003 Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye when he was stopped early in the second round. Franklin is a well-rounded fighter who possesses both great striking and submission skills. He also is well-conditioned and has the ability to cut weight and rehydrate without any ill effects on his stamina.

One of the attributes of a great main event is an uncertainity of the outcome. This fight could go either way, but I only see three possible outcomes:

  1. Silva by KO or TKO – I am of the opinion that Silva can out strike Franklin on his feet and it has been shown in the past (i.e., vs. Machida) that Franklin may be slow to recover if he gets rocked a few times. Silva has yet to be knocked out in MMA competition and I doubt Franklin will be the first to overcome him with strikes.
  2. Franklin by submission – While Silva does outrank Franklin in BJJ, he has been susceptable to submissions in the past (e.g., vs. Takase, vs. Chonan). Franklin has obtained a few wins via submission so there is a possibility he may catch Silva making a mistake. In MMA competition, Silva has yet to demonstrate that he can submit an opponent via a joint lock or choke. Of the three scenarios, this is the least likely.
  3. Franklin by decision – While Franklin has only gone the distance in one fight, I cannot say enough about his stamina and heart. If the fight goes the distance, I see a majority of the action taking place on the ground, where Franklin should have the advantage. If Franklin is unable to take Silva to the mat, I do not see the fight going the distance as 25 minutes is a long time to spend in Silva’s domain. Therefore, a battle of endurance would have to end up on the mat where Franklin should prevail.

Prediction:  Silva by TKO, Round 2

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