UFC 73: Stacked is easily the most "Stacked" (no pun intended) UFC card of the year. With two championship fights complete with a grudge match and debut of one of the MMA's best heavyweights, this UFC card is sure to blow the roof off of Arco Arena. Although the UFC is hyping up the biggest grudge match this year in Ortiz-Evans, fans must not forget that we also have two intriguing championship fights that will most likely shake up both lightweight and middleweight divisions for the rest of the year.
Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera vs Heath Herring
Former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera makes his highly anticipated UFC debut against a man he has fought twice before in the "Texas Crazy Horse" Heath Herring. Minotauro, is without a doubt of the best BJJ Fighters in the world. A member of the Brazilian Top Team, Noguiera possesses a decent standup game but is master Brazlilan Jiu-Jitsu artist when it hits the ground. He has submitted a who's who of MMA fighters from Dan Henderson to Mirko Cro Cop. Look for Noguiera to do what it takes to take the fight to the ground, where he has a considerable edge over Herring.
Heath Herring is no joke either. Like Noguiera, Heath has fought the best MMA Heavyweights out there with mixed results. From Cro Cop to Fedor, Heath isn't afraid to bang with the baddest strikers in the game. In the previous two meetings with Big Nog, Herring was doing real well on the feet until it hit the ground. In his losses to Nogueira, he was just overpowered on the ground into an armbar in the first meeting to not being able to get up once Nog took him down repeatedly in the rematch. Heath has to keep the fight standing and sprawl when Minotauro attempts for a takedown.
In the end, I can see two different scenarios. Either Heath can keep the fight standing and win the standup game en route to a decision. Or Minotauro wins by submission in the third round due to Herring's suspect conditioning. I like Big Nog in his debut...I mean can you imagine a Gonzaga vs Noguiera Title Match? It could happen. Prediction: Nogueira by Submission
UFC Lightweight Championship: Sean Sherk vs Hermes Franca
The first title matchup pits the wrestling machine in Sean Sherk against the unorthodox submission specialist Hermes Franca. It's the classic grappler vs. grappler matchup.
For Sherk, this will be his first title defense since defeating Kenny Florian by decision at UFC 64. A five round affair that saw Sherk dominate Florian by taking him down and GNP to the decision. It's no secret that Sherk could be the strongest Lightweight in the division since moving down from Welterweight and will look to impose his will to Franca.
What could be a key to this fight for Sherk is his much improved striking, in his fight with Florian he held his own on his feet before taking Florian down. Sherk also looked impressive in a decision win over highly regarded fighter Nick Diaz a year ago with his striking. Although Sherk's striking has improved, KO power in those hands remain to be seen.
Hermes Franca has been on a roll lately, winning his last seven fights by submission or TKO. Once known as a great fighter but not having the confidence, Franca has refocused since training at the Armory Gym in Florida. He last win was an impressive one over Spencer Fisher. It was an even fight until Franca clubbed Fisher with a looping overhand right that stunned Fisher and Franca finished him against the fence en route to a 2nd round TKO. Franca is also a superb Jiu-Jitsu submission fighter. Once it hit's the ground, Franca has a superior edge over Sherk in the Jiu-Jitsu department.
Prediction: A key for Sherk is hold his own on the feet and not get caught striking in order to take Franca to the ground. Once he takes him down, he should be able to impose his ground and pound but not be open to getting caught into a submission from Franca's guard. For Franca, he should sprawl when needed and try to keep it on the feet. If it goes to the ground, Franca will look for submissions immediately and if he cannot find what he wants he should be able to keep it standing to see if Sherk has a chin. I see Sherk taking him down and holding him down. Sherk by Unanimous Decision.
Part 2 will cover Tito Ortiz Vs Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva Vs Nate Marquardt. COMING SOON!