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Silva vs. Irvin: Previewing and Predicting UFN 14

ufn141.jpgThe intentions for putting together UFC Fight Night 14 might not have been the best, but for six weeks notice, this is a very solid UFN card.

The show, which will air on Spike TV (check local listings) this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET, will offer not one, but two anticipated moves to the light heavyweight division that could have major implications at 205 pounds in the UFC. If UFC light heavyweight first-timers Anderson Silva and Brandon Vera are successful in their debuts, it will open up a lot of new possibilities within the division.

In addition to getting a free look at the move to light heavyweight by both Silva and Vera, MMA fans will be treated to a glimpse at rising prospects Cain Velasquez and Anthony Johnson. For Velasquez, he has already captivated the attention of many diehard fans. However, a big win on Spike TV in front of a national audience could help make him a bigger star.

Johnson already received a “Spike” boost when his knockout of Tommy Speer just 0:51 into round 1 was shown on a delay basis during UFC Fight Night 13. Is he ready to make the move into the UFC’s welterweight elite? That remains to be seen. While he’s a dangerous puncher, there are still some questions that need to be answered about his ground game.

Also featured will be a lightweight bout between Frankie Edgar and Hermes Franca and a middleweight bout between C.B. Dollaway and Jesse Taylor. All four fighters need to win badly but only two of them can walk away with their hands raised.

Join us as we break down that fight and more during 5 Oz. of Pain’s UFC Fight 14 preview (just click below).

Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin

It’s very surprising to see so many people picking Silva to win on Saturday in a romp. Are people forgetting that there’s a 20 pound difference between middleweight and light heavyweight? While I understand that Silva is a big middleweight and walks around at anywhere between 210 and 215 pounds, James Irvin is still walking around bigger.

This will not be a cakewalk and is not the layup everyone thinks. Silva is taking a risk by moving up and by doing so against such a dangerous opponent. As great as Silva is, he’s still human. Irvin is a hard hitter and if he hits Silva on the button, he’ll drop the same as anyone else.

The clinch game will be of particular interest. Irvin has been publicly critical of Silva’s technique in the clinch and has said he wants to engage Silva there. It’s one thing to muscle someone that competes at 185 pounds, and it’s another thing to control someone like Irvin who is a legitimate 205 pound fighter. Can Silva ragdoll Irvin like he has so many middleweights?

There is a huge risk for an upset here, as Silva won’t have the strength and range advantage that he normally has when he competes at 185 pounds. I still see Silva winning, but I don’t see his striking skills making the difference here. What I see making the difference in this bout is Silva’s tremendous ability to submit people off of his back.

Prediction: Silva via third round submission in a performance that ends the talk of Silva fighting at light heavyweight on a regular basis.

Brandon Vera vs. Reese Andy

Lost in the shuffle of Anderson Silva’s debut in the UFC at light heavyweight is Vera’s UFC light heavyweight debut. While it remains to be seen whether 205 is Silva’s best competitive weight class, without having seen Vera fight at light heavyweight, I already know that this is where he belongs.

Physically, he found himself on the short end of the stick against certain heavyweights. Now, Vera will be in a position where he’s going to be the one causing matchup problems for fighters.

Despite the fact that he does not have heavy hands, Vera’s jiu-jitsu and wrestling are both extremely underrated. Now that he won’t be giving up as much strength, I have a feeling we will see more of those skills on display. Vera’s knees, elbows, and kicks are also extremely dangerous.

But as he makes his debut, he does so against a tough opponent. Andy comes from an outstanding amateur wrestling background and was 5-1 in the IFL, competing primarily as a small heavyweight — and when we say small, we’re talking weighing in at 206 pounds for some of his heavyweight bouts.

Overall, Andy has wins over Kala Kolohe Hose, Mike Ciesnolevicz, Krzysztof Soszynski, Jamal Patterson, and Justin Levens. Those are respectable wins, but as you can see, Vera is a huge step up in competition.

It’s an awkward matchup, as Andy, a talented wrestler, will have a low center of gravity when fighting against the taller Vera. He’ll be able to change levels without having to telegraph his takedowns, which could cause trouble for Vera. But Vera is a brown belt under Lloyd Irvin and if Reese ends up in top position, he will have to be very, very careful.

Prediction: Following a second round takedown, Andy will get himself caught in a triangle and be forced to tap.

Frankie Edgar vs. Hermes Franca

Edgar’s first-ever loss of his career when he fought Gray Maynard back in April was an indication that bigger, stronger opponents with good technique could be a problem for him. If that’s truly a weakness, that won’t be a factor here, as Franca has competed in the past at 145 pounds.

So size won’t be a factor but preparation might. I’ve seen Franca compete when he was in tremendous condition and focused and at other times I have felt he was relying too much on his natural ability. After leaving American Top Team, Franca joined the Armory. Now he’s left the Armory and is out on his own. Is he getting the proper training? After hearing that Edgar is now a part of Ricardo Almeida’s school in New Jersey, I have no doubts that he’s getting the proper training and is being pushed.

Franca has better submissions but Edgar is the better wrestler. But Franca’s wrestling isn’t bad and Edgar’s submissions are good. On the ground, we could see a stalemate, prompting the fighters to try and test one another on their feet. From a technical standpoint, Edgar is the better boxer. However, Franca has rocks for hands and if he catches someone with one of his unorthodox punches, it’s lights out.

Edgar has to be cautious of Franca’s looping punches and Franca has to worry about Edgar’s takedowns. As such, I expect both fighters to fight a safe fight and not take many chances. That might not make for a very entertaining fight but both Edgar and Franca need the win.

Prediction: As long as Edgar can avoid Franca’s big, looping punches, he should be okay. Edgar via split decision.

Cain Velasquez vs. Jake O’Brien

The highly-touted Velasquez lived up to the hype during his UFC debut after TKO’ing Brad Morris at 2:10 of round 1 this past April at UFC 83. He faces an opponent in O’Brien who is returning to the UFC after being cut earlier this year.

O’Brien is a talented wrestler, but Velasquez was an NCAA champion at Arizona State so the odds of him getting the better of Velasquez in that regard is highly unlikely.

O’Brien was cut in large part because he relied too heavily on his wrestling. Against Velasquez, this might be the perfect opportunity for him to let his hands go and show everyone his standup ability. The problem is, Velasquez, who trains at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, could be the better of the two standing as well.

Prediction: Velasquez via unanimous decision.

Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns

Both fighters are coming off impressive wins. Of course, there was Johnson’s first round KO of Tommy Speer at UFN 13 and then Burns’ submission win over black belt Roan Carneiro at UFC at UFC 85. Burns might only be a blue belt in BJJ, but the fact that he submitted Carneiro suggests that he’s competing at a higher level than blue belt.

The ground is a strength for Burns, but is a weakness for Johnson, whose only pro loss came at the hands of Rich Clementi via rear naked choke at UFC 76.

This fight is a tossup to some extent. If it goes to the ground and stays there, look for Burns to get the win. However, if the fight stays standing, we could see another highlight reel knockout from the fighter known as “Rumble.”

Prediction: I think we’re going to see a first round TKO courtesy of Johnson.

C.B. Dollaway vs. Jesse Taylor

Stylistically, this could be a very boring fight. Both guys have a tendency to rely a lot on their wrestling. However, there is a lot at stake for these two fighters and the drama behind the uncertainty of the outcome could be enough to make this fight pretty exciting.

Taylor is returning to the UFC after being dismissed following a drunken escapade that took place a day after TUF 7 finished filming… or so we thought. After Taylor was booted, filming had to be re-started and Dollaway was given a second chance to make the finals after having had been submitted by eventual TUF 7 winner Amir Sadollah.

Dollaway made good on his second chance by defeating Tim Credeur, but found himself getting submitted by Sadollah from the bottom for the second consecutive time when the two rematched during the live season finale.

Both fighters are getting second chances and need the win. A poor performance by either and it could mean they are gone from the UFC for good.

Prediction: This fight could go either way and I don’t know who to pick. I have to pick someone so I’ll go with Dollaway via unanimous decision.

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