MMA: Tyson Griffin
That’s why company brand names found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder in the sauna. Kenny Florian, Tyson Griffin, Ross Pearson, Manny Gamburyan ... even skinny Darren Elkins wrung his muscles of moisture to make it. As for the accordion-thick kickboxer, Dennis Siver? Just know that the threat is still there.
Yet for the most part, these days a drop to featherweight feels more like a demotion than an exodus. Either that, or the more people became familiar with Jose Aldo, the more the alternative path to glory presents itself as an unhealthy one. However you cut it up, the 145-pound division isn't salvation anymore. And that’s why Dustin Poirier had better be ready for the title gig if he beats Chan Sung Jung in May (and vice-versa), and Hatsu Hioki had better start smiting his chest after wins. None of the big guns in the lightweight division want anything to do with the featherweight strap right now.
In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen it. First the chants of Frankie Edgar to drop to 145 pounds became loud when Dana White got to nudging things along. When Edgar refused to budge and was reluctantly granted a rematch against Benson Henderson, the focus switched to the odd man out of the lightweight title picture, Anthony Pettis. Here is a lean, dynamic striker that suddenly could be thrust into a default title shot against a lean, dynamic striker who surfs (both crowds and waves).
Not really. Though there was some mild flirtation from Pettis’s camp that he’d be open to the idea, upon reflection the final word was “no.” Pettis tweeted that he was staying at 155 pounds where there was a lot of unfinished business.
Of course, in the two aforementioned scenarios the common link is Henderson. Edgar lost a close decision and was asking for some return love for his open-mindedness toward rematches throughout his time as champion. His case was so strong that the UFC relented. Pettis is the last guy to defeat Henderson, and he didn’t just beat him -- he posterized him with that Matrix kick at the WEC finale. Though his chance at a title shot at 155 pounds could be a couple of fights off and a year down the road, he wants to pursue what he started. Good for him.
But you do have to wonder why one belt looks that much more desirable than the other. Yes, the lightweight division is deeper, has bigger fights and is uber-competitive -- but there’s no waiting line to Aldo. Pettis, who has a very stylish fashion sense, is a very select shopper when it comes to accessories, too. Winning just any belt won’t do for somebody -- the reigning WEC lightweight champion, no less -- who’s had his heart set on a specific one for so long. People have been quick to understand his decision. Don’t rush to conclusions. You don’t just jump around divisions. That sort of thing.
There are, however, guys who have and who’ve done it well. B.J. Penn has held gold in two weight classes, and Dan Henderson stands at the ready to fight in any of three weight divisions. Nothing they did was irreversible, nothing was ever deemed permanent. They just happened to be at cusp weights that could go either way, much like Edgar and Pettis. Greatness is rarely so specific, anyway -- why not pursue a collection of hardware? Isn’t this what Jon Jones is talking about when talking of an eventual move to heavyweight?
Pettis likely has his reasons (having Henderson’s number is chief among them), but a lightweight title shot might be a dangling carrot forever just out of his reach. Right now the UFC is saying that the winner of Nate Diaz/Jim Miller will fight the winner of Edgar/Henderson, the latter of which is being discussed for August. That makes his road to a title a very long, detouring one with no guarantee of an end.
And that he’s willing to take it instead of clashing with Aldo tells you that the featherweight division isn't as enticing. Either that, or Aldo has gained a little invincibility.
With another potentially historic fight ahead against Benson Henderson this weekend at UFC 144, ESPN.com asked Edgar which five fights have meant the most to him and analyzed what we learned, or at least should have learned, about "The Answer" in each.
No. 5: Edgar UD3 Spencer Fisher, UFC 78, Nov. 17, 2007
What we learned: As Edgar alluded to, this fight showed how effective his wrestling can be. At the time, Fisher had lost just three fights and beaten the likes of Sam Stout, Matt Wiman, Thiago Alves and Josh Neer. He repeatedly worked back to his feet during the fight, only to be taken down again. His attempts at offense from his back were completely neutralized by Edgar’s top game.
No. 4: Edgar UD3 Tyson Griffin, UFC 67, Feb. 3, 2007
What we learned: Most cite his second fight against Gray Maynard when describing Edgar’s toughness, but it was on full display in his first UFC fight. He was the unknown late replacement, taking on a hot prospect in Griffin. Edgar set a pace Griffin couldn’t match, as he appeared gassed near the end of the fight. The submission attempt had him in visible pain, but Edgar would eventually escape and respond with damage of his own before the end of the fight.
No. 3: Edgar UD5 B.J. Penn, UFC 118, Aug. 28, 2010
What we learned: Apparently, not much. Believe it or not, Edgar was listed as an underdog to Gray Maynard in his next title defense, despite coming off back-to-back wins over Penn. Of course, some of that was due to the fact Maynard had defeated him convincingly once before. In hindsight though, more attention should have been given to the fact Edgar outboxed Penn, who is known for his dominance in that area. He also dealt well with Penn on the ground, proving to be too elusive for even "The Prodigy" to attempt any significant submission attempts.
Edgar UD5 B.J. Penn, UFC 112, April 10, 2010
What we learned: Frankie Edgar improves between fights. Heading into that title shot, few suspected Edgar’s key to victory would be boxing. As stated before, Penn was known for having some of the most technical hands at 155 at that time. Edgar believed he would have a speed advantage and went to work on his technique. It showed. Then it became even clearer in the rematch, where Edgar’s standup had improved to the point it seemed Penn couldn’t touch him.
Edgar KO4 Gray Maynard, UFC 136, Oct. 8, 2011
What we learned: Took us a while, but seems like most are giving Edgar his full due. UFC president Dana White said after the fight he had Edgar as No. 2 on his pound-for-pound list. Even those who didn’t agree, didn’t argue too much. One of the big notes from this fight was also the finish. Not only did he register a cut-and-dry, render-your-opponent-unconscious-type finish, he did it against Maynard, who is considered one of the most durable lightweights around.
Of all the athletes who promised to re-enact some of their better days Saturday, Vitor Belfort might have been considered the least likely to succeed.
A returning Frank Trigg had amassed a tight 7-2 record since leaving the UFC in 2005; Mirko Filipovic swore up, down and sideways that surgery had left him a new man. Belfort? Coming off two impressive victories at 185 pounds, he was fighting 10 pounds heavier, was prone to frequently disappointing ... and looked somewhat depressed.
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A hanging head might be expected. Being Belfort involves a weird amalgamation of having incredible expectations layered on top of none: In 1997, he was considered a blitzing badass with unlimited potential. By 2000, he was written off as mentally KOed. And for the next decade, he alternated moments of promise with flat performances that completely froze audience enthusiasm.
On Saturday, carrying a loose-looking 195 pounds on his body, he became only the second man in the UFC to stop Rich Franklin. It wasn't broad -- Franklin dropped to a subtle attack, then submitted in posture -- but it did the expected job of convincing people Belfort had finally found a happy medium between performing and relaxing. There probably isn't a "new" and "old" Vitor, easily the most exhausted chart in the sport -- just a Belfort who sometimes crumbled under the weight of his own celebrity.
The news was less encouraging for Filipovic and Trigg. Filipovic spent his fifth UFC fight looking much like he had in his first four: lethargic, slow and happy to evade rather than engage. For fans who remember his heyday in Pride, which almost always involved a stretcher, it was a sad footnote to a stellar career. Those bouts used to give fans palpitations over what Filipovic would do to his opponent. Today, that anxiety is over Mirko himself.
Trigg barely had time to warm up before Koscheck -- younger, hungrier, mouthier -- settled in and let his hands go. At 2-4 in the promotion, it'll be hard to justify many more rounds for Trigg.
This is what the sport is about: finding out who still belongs.
Next for Filipovic: An exit strategy.
A: Only in combat sports could a guy win a 195-pound fight and immediately get thrown in as a 185-pound contender. The problem is that Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt -- the two guys who are far more deserving at the moment -- wouldn't excite fans as much as a Belfort fight, and probably need to fight each other to avoid giving Silva multiple rematches. (One is more than enough.) There's also the issue of capitalizing on Belfort's current wave of durability before he fades against another contender.
Q: Should Filipovic hang up the checkered shorts?
A: It's a sad day when one of the most violent fighters of any era is reduced to an immobile punching bag, but there's nothing in Mirko Filipovic's current run to indicate he can course-correct. Against dos Santos, he pushed instead of punched, backpedaled instead of advanced. It's not even an issue of going into the pocket and getting the worst of it: Mirko simply isn't engaging anymore. And that's true on multiple levels.
Q: Is it time to get excited about Paul Daley?
A: Maybe. He was able to stuff Martin Kampmann's takedown attempt, but Kampmann isn't exactly Dan Gable: Against Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck or Georges St. Pierre, Daley will have a much harder time remaining upright.
Q: Should Frank Trigg get scratched?
A: Trigg's resurgence came at middleweight, where he was able to retain some mass while dealing with the slightly slower pace. He should probably get a tryout there before packing his things.
• At the postfight news conference, the UFC announced a $2.4 million gate and 17,428 attendees in Dallas, setting a new sporting event record for Mark Cuban's American Airlines Center.
• The Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight in Los Angeles drew 13,116 fans. No gate figure has been released, which could mean that there may not be much to crow about.
• Pay-per-view numbers won't be circulated for awhile -- and since they often come from promoters themselves, can't always be verified -- but Mayweather's celebrity status from pro wrestling stints and "Dancing with the Stars" may have put him over.
• Prelim status doesn't always have to suck: Rick Story collected Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses totaling $130,000. Belfort collected Knockout of the Night honors.
• Per MMAWeekly, the shoulder injury suffered by Steve Lopez "popped back in" backstage and it does not appear to require surgery
• Not for nothing, but one of Mayweather's bodyguards during an episode of HBO's "24/7" was sporting a Tapout shirt. Maybe we can get along after all.
12:08 p.m. ET: Both men are tentative. They might both be scared of Belfort's hands. Belfort uses a nice little jab kick. This is the kind of round where little things could make a difference. Oh, and it's over: A weird passage with Belfort not connecting too flush, but leveling Franklin and finishing to the side of his head. Just in time.
"Bloodsport" might be on TNT.
Midnight ET: A ringside Jon Fitch is impressed enough with Belfort to take pictures. Both men appear relaxed and collected. Franklin will loop punches and out-gut to a decision. Probably.
11:52 p.m. ET: Backstage, Belfort looks somewhat deflated physically. The goatee isn't helping. Good thing this weight class doesn't even exist.
11:47 p.m. ET: Goldberg and Rogan argue whether "gonads" is a medical term. Mirko is being picked apart. He complains he can't see out of his eye and the fight is called. Either Kimbo Slice restores his confidence or we don't see him again.
11:41 p.m. ET: Mirko is getting the worst of most exchanges. His aggression hasn't been noticeable in years. Toothless. The appeal of seeing him fight again is dwindling. At least he manages to land the most devastating shot in the entire sport: a "Cro Cop" field goal special to the cup.
11:33 p.m. ET: Mirko is dreaming of the days he'd be paid a small fortune to fight Bob Sapp. Dos Santos is faster and hungrier. Maybe Mirko will improve as Dos Santos slows down. As of now, he's not fighting with the savagery one expects from Duran Duran entrance music.
11:31 p.m. ET: Dallas loves Mirko. You'd think it was Yokohama. He seems content to avoid shots rather than go on the offensive.
11:21 p.m. ET: Mirko "Cro Cop" vs. Junior Dos Santos. The tale of two Mirkos: one a mafia assassin with the disposition of a military rifle, the other an erratic semi-geezer who frequently stands around looking bewildered. The revised betting line:
Regular Mirko: -200
Junior dos Santos: +150
Anesthetized Mirko: +300
Junior dos Santos: -220
11:19 p.m. ET: Dos Anjos wins a decision; Emerson wins a week's worth of concern over blood clots.
11:13 p.m. ET: Emerson is one leg kick away from needing a wheelchair to get to the airport. Dos Anjos shows some mercy by taking him down.
11:06 p.m. ET: Rob Emerson and Rafael dos Anjos in footage from earlier in the evening. There's some innuendo that Jean-Claude Van Damme wore a toupee for "Bloodsport." This has really thrown me. Dos Anjos is doing a good job with the leg kicks, Emerson having success with his hands.
10:58 p.m. ET: "When opportunity knocks, you open the door. And Paul Daley burst through the gates of the Octagon " Goldberg likes to put his metaphors in a blender.
10:52 p.m. ET: Something just occurred: Our version of a Roman Coliseum is a Bud Light floor. Weird. Daley is putting in good work standing. Kampmann tries a takedown but it doesn't stick. Expert analysis by Rogan: "Kampmann needs to get hold of this dude." It's true: Daley gets it stopped. This guy with takedown defense is a serious problem.
10:47 p.m. ET: Daley enters. Bad man standing. Kampmann should slather on some Super-Glue.
10:46 p.m. ET: Martin Kampmann and Paul Daley: This could potentially set up Kampmann for a title fight against Georges St. Pierre, but they'd need a gun fight at the top of the card in order to help draw.
10:43 p.m. ET: Goldberg pretends he hasn't exposed himself to Jenna Jameson's entire filmography by referring to her as "Jenna James."
10:40 p.m. ET: Koscheck being elusive. (It's been weeks since we last heard that word.) Guess he was just waiting for the right time: he puts Trigg out with a hard, hard right. Koscheck calls out Matt Hughes. Can't wait to miss that one.
10:36 p.m. ET: Much effort involved in getting Koscheck's sweatshirt off. Before an extraction-EMT can be called, it's off. Trigg strikes me as the stronger guy, but I think Koscheck catches him in something.
10:33 p.m. ET: Josh Koscheck and Frank Trigg. Who can be more condescending toward the other? It's close. Trigg looks excited to be back. Goldberg mentions he nearly won the welterweight title from Matt Hughes; Rogan reminds him that Trigg had to hit him below the belt to do it. Rogan works very well as Goldberg's ombudsman.
10:30 p.m. ET: Mirko "Cro Cop" gets his hands wrapped. Marriage, wraps, birthday party: expression is the same.
10:23 p.m. ET: The crowd reverses their position when Griffin and Franca begin slamming each other in the head repeatedly. The 5-foot-6 Griffin goes for a high kick. It lands on Franca's thigh. The right hand is more useful: it knocks Franca down, and eventually out. This ends a streak of seven straight decisions for Griffin.
10:20 p.m. ET: The crowd boos Griffin's attrition approach. They badly want to see the man with the purple hair get hurt.
10:13 p.m. ET: At least one Texan is not afraid to write on their obese midsection in Magic Marker. Griffin has Beyonce's thighs. He lands several leg kicks. I sincerely hope Franca's hair is the result of a lab explosion.
10:09 p.m. ET: Much discussion over Franca not making 155. (He was 159 for the weigh-in.) Griffin is actually mouthing the words to "Eye of the Tiger." I'd laugh, if not for the fact that I know every word.
10:07 p.m. ET: Tyson Griffin and Hermes Franca up first. Griffin has earned five Fight of the Night checks in the past couple of years. He should pace himself more. Franca's hair defies description.
10:04 p.m. ET: Goldberg welcomes us to his second UFC in three days. Will his highlights hold up?
10 p.m. ET: Live on pay per view from Dallas, where everything is bigger. And yet there's only one heavyweight fight.
9:51 p.m. ET: Lopez pops his shoulder throwing a punch. He appears very composed for somebody with a bone pointing in a new direction.
9:48 p.m. ET: "Bloodsport's" Italy title? "Without Restriction of Blows." Miller takes the first round by virtue of being aggressive.
9:45 p.m. ET: Jim Miller and Steve Lopez in another taped segment. As barker shows go, this one fares better than watching Floyd Mayweather rollerskate.
9:41 p.m. ET: Escudero takes care of Miller with a nose-crumbling punch to the mug and then a few swatting follow-ups.
9:35 p.m. ET: Efrain Escudero and Cole Miller up. Miller, as usual, has the physique of Stretch Armstrong. Perfect for jiu-jitsu. Both of them beat up Junie Browning. Hard to root against either guy.
9:33 p.m. ET: Rich Franklin appears relaxed-to-nodding in backstage footage. Perhaps he was informed that "Old Vitor" makes only sporadic appearances.
9:26 p.m. ET: Story sinks in an arm triangle from inside Foster's guard, a feat that causes Joe Rogan to actually birth a litter of kittens from cageside.
9:25 p.m. ET: Rick Story vs. Brian Foster in pre-prelim action. "The Horror" Story is fighting like he's desperate for a new nickname. After a round, Q-tips long enough to poke his brain are up the nose to staunch the bleeding.
9:15 p.m. ET: Belfort strolls into the arena and stifles a small cough. The betting line moves 50 cents.
9:13 p.m. ET: Out of breath, adrenalized and foreign isn't a good combination for post-fight talk.
9:12 p.m. ET: Drwal un-erotically asphyxiates McFedries via a rear-naked.
9:10 p.m. ET: "Bloodsport II." What a sick, sick joke. Shame on you, Donald Gibb.
9:09 p.m. ET: McFedries pretends to check out a woman in the crowd, then attacks. Interesting strategy. His chest is already heaving. No
wonder: hasn't seen the second round in forever.
9:07 p.m. ET: A full and unlikely two minutes in. McFedries has Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder, yet it's Tim Sylvia who copped to loading his shorts against Assuerio Silva. Go figure.
9:02 p.m. ET: Drew McFedries vs. Tomasz Drwal is up. More or less guaranteed the fight doesn't last as long as the pre-fight interviews.
9 p.m. ET: So I think I'll just go ahead and order Mayweather/Marquez, and -- oh, say, there's a UFC special on Spike.
8:55 p.m. ET: Killing time before this thing starts. Reading "Bloodsport" trivia. Do you think Forest Whitaker acknowledges he appeared in this movie?
Preamble: If sports bars aren't your thing -- or if the girlfriend is commandeering the remote, leaving you to suffer "Ghost Whisperer" with the ensuing stomach upset -- you can check in here for live updates and observations for tonight's UFC 103 card from Dallas. The undercard special airs at 9 p.m. ET on Spike; the pay-per-view begins at 10 p.m. ET. (Don't listen to Floyd Mayweather: Dallas has not been leveled by nuclear attack.)
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5:33 p.m. ET -- Rich Franklin versus Vitor Belfort. Belfort appears slightly soft for the weight: 197 and a half. Had his socks on. Takes them off. 196 and a half. Takes off his wedding ring. Takes off his underwear. I'm really uncomfortable. 196 and a quarter. Either he goes for a run or he goes to the bathroom. Shouldn't be an issue.
Company man Franklin steps on the scale. How complacent is he? He took the nickname "Ace" without any resistance. 185 even.
5:26 p.m. ET -- Mirko "Cro Cop" versus Junior dos Santos. Last names are for sissies. Dos Santos is 236, "Cro-Cop" -- sporting a Pride shirt, which may confuse some newer fans -- is 226. Mirko's thighs will be weighed in separately.
5:24 p.m. ET -- Martin Kampmann versus Paul Daley. Crickets for these two after Trigg-Koscheck. Daley is 170. Kampmann is 169.5.
5:22 p.m. ET -- Josh Koscheck versus Frank Trigg. Trigg, showing early indications of old-man strength, is 170 and a quarter; Koscheck, showing every indication of being obnoxious, is 170.
5:19 p.m. ET -- Tyson Griffin versus Hermes Franca. I have a new name for any choke Franca pulls off in competition: The Hermes scarf. Right? What? No. OK. Wait -- Franca has a Muppet on his head. He looks like someone spilled grape soda on his hair.
Interesting style choice. Weight -- 159, some kind of catchweight agreement. Griffin has very boring hair. 155.5
5:17 p.m. ET -- Efrain Escudero versus Cole Miller. A beaming Miller sits down to take off his shoes and socks. He appears to be very comfortable undressing for a crowd. 155 even. "Ultimate Fighter" winner Escudero is 157. First flub of the evening.
5:14 p.m. ET -- Drew McFedries versus Tomasz Drwal. Drwal is 185 even. McFedries looks to be in pretty terrific shape --185 and a quarter.
5:12 p.m. ET -- Jim Miller versus Steve Lopez. Lopez is 154 and a half. Miller might take the scale to a decision. 154.5.
5:10 p.m. ET -- Rafaello Oliveira versus Nik Lentz. Two UFC-debuting fighters: Does that cancel out first-time nerves? Oliveira is 155 and a quarter. A very bored-looking Lentz, 155.
5:08 p.m. ET -- Rick Story versus Brian Foster. Foster is 170 and three quarters; "The Horror" Story is 170 even.
5:07 p.m. ET -- Eliot Marshall versus Jason Brilz. Brilz is 205.25. Really on the nose with the ounces. Marshall is 204 "and three quarters." So, 205. Good God.
5:05 p.m. ET -- Vladimir Matyushenko versus Igor Pokrajac: Pokrajac clocks in at 203. Matyushenko, all Russian stoicism, is 205.
5:02 p.m. ET -- Rob Emerson versus Rafael Dos Anjos: After deliberation, Dos Anjos is determined to be 155.5, Emerson the same. Emerson has a massive tattoo on the back of his skull. The betting line moves in his favor.
In and out of the cage, Rich Franklin is making a career out of lateral movement: Bumped from the middleweight division by Anderson Silva, he appears to have settled into a complacent role as filler putty for headlining holes in the UFC's main events.
For Franklin, UFC 93 was a light heavyweight bout against Dan Henderson; UFC 99, a catchweight bout against Wanderlei Silva; now there's Dallas and UFC 103, which sees him in another 195-pound fence-straddle against a returning Vitor Belfort.
It's hard to ascertain exactly what the fight means: Franklin is supposed to be a 205-pound presence, so beating Belfort -- who eyes the 185-pound division -- can't influence that much. Belfort has more to gain here.
But, hey -- plenty of titles and plenty of contenders. Sometimes a fight is just a fight. And Franklin has yet to have a dull one.
What: UFC 103: Franklin versus Belfort, a 13-bout card from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
When: Saturday, Sept. 19, at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view, with an undercard broadcast at 9 p.m. ET on Spike
Why you should care: Because Belfort finally has the emotional maturity to match his physical development; because Mirko Filipovic can pop up as a serious title contender if he looks effective against Junior dos Santos; and because Frank Trigg is facing his worst nightmare -- a younger, cockier wrestler in Josh Koscheck. Himself, basically. It's like time travel in a B-action movie.
Fight of the night: Franklin-Belfort, assuming Belfort doesn't fade in the second; Koscheck-Trigg if they follow the pattern of wrestlers who want to stand and strike.
Hype quote of the show: "Frank wants to try to get back into the limelight and try to get eventually a title shot and he's got to come through Josh Koscheck to do that."-- Koscheck, invoking the always-alarming technique of third-person speech.
Back Against the Mat (BAM): UFC 103 Edition
Unemployment is on the rise everywhere. A few guys who can't afford a loss Saturday:
Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic. Performances against Gabriel Gonzaga in the UK and Alistair Overeem in Japan dulled his shine considerably: He can't look bad against a largely unknown Junior dos Santos without virtually terminating his career.
Drew McFedries. He brings it, but a possible 4-5 record in the UFC is a stretch.
Rafael dos Anjos. A 155-pound class with a surplus of talent can't abide by an 0-3 participant.
Floyd Mayweather. The insult-a-second boxer doesn't think MMA is a threat to boxing; if it comes within a few thousands homes of beating his bout with Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday -- or worse, exceeds it -- he's going to have to spin a new broken record.
Five questions: UFC 103 edition
Q: Will Vitor Belfort shrink?
A: Even if you excuse his dynamic debut performance at UFC 13 -- all hands, no effort -- as the product of subpar opposition, Vitor Belfort is still a sharp, tight stand-up artist who can end fights faster than IV sedation.
The ticks of the clock are Belfort's biggest issues: As the fight wears, he fades mentally and instructs his body to do the same physically. Whether that's been corrected at Xtreme Couture hasn't been discovered. Rich Franklin will prompt him for an answer.
Q: Does the old guard have anything left?
A: Frank Trigg, Vladimir Matyushenko, and -- to some extent -- Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic all bounced out of the UFC after a series of poor performances, only to return based on either strong performances in other promotions, or the UFC's desire to deplete the open talent pool for rivals. Is that employment based on genuine curiosity over their chances, or a business strategy? (Trigg, Filipovic or Matyushenko getting chewed up in the UFC makes them far less attractive to other networks.)
Q: Can Tyson Griffin break through?
A: It's hard to process that Tyson Griffin loses fights: He's a steam ship in the diminutive lightweight division with fantastic cardio, a solid punch and the ability to control. A record of 6-2 in the UFC may not look great compared to Gray Maynard's 6-0, but he's been fighting nothing but tough competition. With a win over Hermes Franca, should Griffin and Maynard decide 155's next contender?
Q: Can effort trump results?
A: UFC brokers are fond of saying that they want fighters who come to fight -- but when does that begin to steamroll mixed results? Drew McFedries has never been in a boring contest, but he's 4-4 heading into Saturday. At what point do you acknowledge that gamesmanship runs second to getting your arms held up?
Q: Can Rich Franklin bank some money?
A: As a company man who fights when, who and where he's asked, Franklin deserves a financial mattress as his career winds down. But if his salary is business-incentive-based, he's got issues: Buyrates for Franklin-headlining cards are usually on the lower end of the scale. Whether a card airing live from the states changes that -- fans usually balk at delayed cards from the UK, where Franklin took up temporary residence -- or not, the loyalty is admirable. And it should be rewarded.
Red Ink: Belfort versus Franklin
In six years of UFC competition, only two men have defeated Rich Franklin, and both of them happen to be the two best middleweights in the sport. Franklin's secret appears to be that he wants it as badly in the closing 30 seconds of a bout as most do in the opening 30. His motivation doesn't wither. And that's a pretty big deal.
Vitor Belfort's motivation has been the anchor of his career: He has all the natural talent anyone could ask for, top-notch training and a particular skillset -- fast, dangerous, heavy hands -- that you can't replicate. But he wants things to go his way. And when they don't, he checks out.
Belfort throws straight down the line; Franklin loops. Belfort fades late; Franklin sucks it up. It's not about who has heavier hands, but who can keep them up longer.
Might look like: Belfort versus Chuck Liddell, with Belfort dropping a decision to the busier striker; or Franklin-Wanderlei Silva, with Franklin eating some artillery, covering to regroup and picking at an opponent tired of hitting him.
Third-party investor: The UFC, which is in dire need of a middleweight contender to excite both fans and champion Anderson Silva. Belfort in a win over a durable Franklin sends him right to the edge.
Who wins: Franklin. He's too cautious to suffer a blitz, too strong to toss and too conditioned to outlast.