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Franklin-Belfort tops UFC 103 preview
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Rich Franklin vs. Vitor BelfortWhen you look at this bout on the surface, you can't imagine it having much impact on the UFC. The fight is taking place at 195 pounds, a meaningless number between the 205-pound division that Franklin currently calls home and the 185-pound division that Belfort is expected to land in. It's Franklin's second straight fight at the nonexistent weight class; he defeated the popular Wanderlei Silva back at UFC 99 in June. Both fighters are going in the opposite directions; Franklin is biding his time in the hopes that he'll somehow find himself in the light heavyweight title mix at some point in the future, but is content to simply have exciting fights in the meantime. Belfort is virtually guaranteed a future shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva no matter what happens in this fight, but has made noises about competing at light heavyweight as well. Belfort's UFC return is the major story of the bout, and for good reason. More than a decade ago, he was dubbed "The Phenom", the prototype for the next generation of mixed martial artists. He was a Brazilian jiujitsu master with some of the fastest and nastiest boxing hands on the planet, mixing power and ferocity with unprecedented speed. He had all the potential in the world. Unfortunately, Belfort's career hasn't gone as planned. His last UFC run in 2005 didn't go as planned, but he certainly had a valid excuse his sister Priscila was kidnapped in 2005 and a distracted Belfort couldn't seem to get back on track. Since late 2006, however, Belfort is undefeated and has shown brief flashes of what hardcore fans like to call "the old Vitor." Belfort's last victory came in January of this year when he landed a seven-second brutal knockout of the ultra-tough Matt Lindland that left Lindland twitching on the canvas.
Mirko Cro Cop vs. Junior dos SantosCro Cop's star has been fading over the past few years, but he's determined to right the ship and make a run for the UFC heavyweight championship. He says he's finally comfortable in the cage and is 100 percent healthy and mentally focused for the first time since his glory years in Pride. Standing in his way, though, is dos Santos. Trained by the Nogueira brothers, the young Brazilian is one of the brightest prospects in the heavyweight division. He made his UFC debut by knocking out top heavyweight Fabricio Werdum, who had never been finished prior to the fight. This fight will not go to the ground, and it has all the right ingredients for fight of the night. Both fighters despise the idea of a ground fight, and thus will simply stand and trade knockout punches for the duration of the fight. If Cro Cop is his Pride version, a fighter comfortable in his own skin and with his surroundings, then he could very well finish Dos Santos. If a tentative Cro Cop steps into the cage, however, it's going to be a short night. Dos Santos has the striking skills and the power to finish just about anyone.
Martin Kampmann vs. Paul DaleyPoor Kampmann. He was scheduled to face Mike Swick in a No. 1-contender bout for the welterweight championship, but Swick suffered a concussion and had to pull out of the bout. Swick was replaced with Daley, but a Kampmann victory no longer means a shot at the belt. Daley is an Affliction refugee. Scheduled to face Jay Hieron at the canceled Affliction show in August, Daley signed with the UFC when Affliction closed and returned to the UFC fold. He was scheduled to fight on the undercard of UFC 103, but was asked to replace Swick on the main card. Daley is an exciting striker, but he's never faced anyone like Kampmann. The Denmark native has faced the best in the world and has come out on top more often than not; the past three years have seen Kampmann score victories over Thales Leites, Jorge Rivera and Carlos Condit. Daley has a puncher's chance, but that's about it. He's out of his league against his opponent in this one.
Josh Koscheck vs. Frank TriggThese two fighters are almost mirror images of one another, with stellar wrestling pedigrees almost completely tossed aside in favor of rapidly-improving striking games. Both have the kind of wrestling skills that can easily dictate the pace of a fight, but seemingly prefer to stand and strike. Koscheck is a younger, stronger and faster version of Trigg. His time at American Kickboxing Academy has turned him into a well-rounded and powerful striker, which is a far cry from the Josh Koscheck that emerged from the Ultimate Fighter house. Koscheck can dominate just about anyone when relying on wrestling alone, but has learned one of the most important facts about life in the UFC: in order to stick around, in order to make more money, you have to be exciting. Trigg wants to capture the same type of legacy that fighters like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell enjoy. That's the sole reason for his return to the UFC, and it has to be the truth; why else would Trigg give up a comfortable career as a broadcaster and radio personality and put himself through the rigors of training for a fight at his age?
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