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Breakthrough Breakdown

Debate is healthy. The peaceful exchange of opinions is the hallmark of a free society so in our ongoing effort to bring the best material to our fans, has put together this UFC 88 “Breakthrough” preview between our new editorial columnist Kelly Crigger and MMA Stomping Grounds host Mark Chalifoux.

Chuck Liddell versus Rashad Evans.

Kelly-If you’re looking for a classic Iceman knockout, this won’t be the fight to watch. Evans is so talented at identifying his opponent’s strengths and rendering them impotent he should be nicknamed “The Neutralizer.” However, he still lacks the ability to do much more than that and is known for grinding out a fight to a decision. Against a striker like Liddell, Evans is good at moving his head so it doesn’t get hit and he can take a punch when it does. But his counter-striking is only middle of the road and against Liddell, it will need to be top shelf. Evans was also gun shy against Tito and will probably be the same when the Iceman stands in front of him. If he manages a takedown, Chuck will use those slippery hips to pop back up and pepper him the same way he did to Wanderlei, but only with half-hearted shots instead of those patented bombs since Evans is so elusive. I see Chuck pummeling Evans the same way he did against Wanderlei, but I think a decisive win will elude him again.

Mark-Wow, that was depressing to read. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the fight you’re describing. The thing is, Liddell really needs this win and he looked good against Wanderlei Silva when his back was against the wall. After his loss to Jardine there was plenty of talk of a potential retirement and a number of people questioning his commitment. Then he came out and had a terrific slugfest with Silva. I feel like Liddell should still have his back against the wall in this fight. Evans is a capable fighter but not one that should be too tough for Liddell to handle. With a title shot looking on the horizon, I’m sure Liddell’s focus won’t even be a question here. And with the money that could be made on the Liddell v. Griffin, then a Liddell v. Anderson Silva or a Liddell v. Couture match, I’m sure the UFC is trying to keep the Iceman focused on the task at hand. To me, that should be enough to neuter “The Neutralizer” and come out with a win. Evans can move well and should try to take this fight to the ground but I think Liddell will catch him and knock him out in the second.

Kelly-Liddell v. Couture 4? Please don’t subject us to that, Dana!

Dan Henderson versus Rousimar Palhares.

Kelly-I don’t see how this fight can do Hollywood Henderson any good. The man who once held two Pride belts and was considered the top middleweight in the world has come crashing down off his pedestal and is taking on a virtual unknown in Palhares who’s claim to fame is armbarring Ivan Salaverry into retirement. The guy is so unknown that except for the Salaverry submission, impressive in its own right, I’m not sure what other skills he has. Of his eight wins, six are by submission, so it doesn’t take a Jessica Simpson genius to figure out his game plan. Style wise it’s a wrestler versus a BJJ guy, so I expect to see Henderson on top working his ground and pound while Palhares stays on bottom looking for a submission. In the end I’m going to pick Dan by third round TKO because his experience is ten times what Palhares brings and he’s proven he can defeat a grappler, unless their last name is Silva or Nogueira.

Mark-I’m sure if Jessica Simpson was breaking down this fight she would think an arm bar is something that’s connected to her “elbow bone” and that a triangle choke is slang for a kid who performs poorly on math tests. Still, I think she could figure out what Palhares will do. On paper, it would seem like Henderson’s ground and pound should be enough to finish off the younger, more inexperienced fighter but I’m going with Palhares in the upset. He’s dangerous and I think Henderson can get sloppy at times and every good card needs one noticeable upset, and it isn’t coming in the Franklin v. Hamill fight.

Rich Franklin versus Matt Hammill.

Kelly-Everyone wants to give Hammill the edge on the ground because of his wrestling background, but let’s not forget that Rich Franklin has nine submissions to his name. Granted he hasn’t pulled one off against a high-profiled fighter or accomplished it since 2004, but he’s no slouch when the fight transitions to the mat and he stopped Travis Lutter’s takedowns cold. The question in my mind is how will he perform at 205, a full twenty pounds heavier than he’s used to? His punches will probably be a nanosecond slower, not a problem against an inexperienced guy like Hammill, but a body size adjustment nonetheless. As crisp as Hammill was against Bisping (a fight he won), it also showed his immaturity as a fighter. He stood and traded blows with Bisping and never once even threatened a takedown. Big mistake. Just one takedown might have swayed the judges decision and Hammill would still be undefeated. This one is close, but I got to go with Ace.

Mark-I don’t think this one will be as close as many think. The move up in weight should affect his fight and when I talked to Franklin he said it may be more of an issue if the fight goes longer. It takes a superior fighter to defeat Franklin and while Hamill is very good in my eyes (let’s face it, his loss to Bisping was a joke even if he didn’t have the smartest plan of attack), he’s not elite. Not yet at least. While Franklin does give up a little weight he should be a little quicker and his striking will be too much for Hamill. I really like Hamill’s upside but I think this is a bad fight for both fighters. Hamill certainly has the tools to defeat Franklin and could take the decision if he fully utilized his wrestling. I don’t think he will though, and Ace will come away with a convincing win against an up-and-comer.

The fight to watch – Nate Marquardt versus Martin Kampmann.

Kelly-This will either be severe fireworks or severe disappointment on the level of Marcus Davis and Mike Swick (Holy underwhelming fight Batman! I hate it when fans boo, but the lay ‘n pray Swick used in that one was well deserved). I think this will be the opposite. Marquardt is pissed after his loss on a foul that he didn’t commit at UFC 85 against Thales Leites. He’s going to come out looking for a decisive win and decide to strike with Kampmann instead of go to his bread and butter, the ground game. Only problem is he’ll eventually run into the formidable weaponry of the only guy who deserves the overused nickname “Hitman.” Although he’s only been TKO’d once, Marquardt’s striking isn’t as crisp as Kampmann’s and since he’s coming in raring to fight, I’m predicting he walks into a knockout in the second round.

Mark-Great, you just had to bring up something like the Davis v. Swick fight. Now this one is destined to go the lame route. The last thing we need is more lay-n-pray (unless it’s being used as a birth control measure). I actually feel Marquardt will take advantage of his ground game but will work in a decent amount of striking as well. I really think he will overwhelm Kampmann but I agree that it could be one heck of a fight.

Kelly Crigger is a freelance MMA writer and author of the book “Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts”. Contact him through his website at

Mark Chalifoux is the man behind MMA Stomping Grounds at The Baltimore Sun. Check it out here: