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Fantasy Preview - UFC 92

Stephen Quinn, UFC - The UFC will cap off a stellar 2008 campaign with the biggest card of the year – UFC 92 on Saturday night from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Featuring two world title fights and the third installment of one of the sport’s most heated rivalries, this card is not only a must-see, but an opportunity for UFC Fantasy Game players to end the year with a bang.

By Stephen Quinn

The UFC will cap off a stellar 2008 campaign with the biggest card of the year – UFC 92 on Saturday night from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Featuring two world title fights and the third installment of one of the sport’s most heated rivalries, this card is not only a must-see, but an opportunity for UFC Fantasy Game players to end the year with a bang.

With Al Turk making his debut inside of the Octagon and Kongo angling for a title shot, Saturday night is critical for each European heavyweight.

With an overall record of 6-3, Al Turk is relatively unknown but could make a splash among fans with a win over Kongo. Training with the London Shootfighters team for quite some time, Al Turk knows that his strong ground skills could be a major factor in the fight – something he is hoping for. Riding a two-fight-winning streak, Al Turk could have his hands full with the 240-pound Parisian, who is 5-2 in the UFC and 22-4-1 overall. It is rare for a fighter like Al Turk to make his Octagon debut on the Pay-Per-View portion of the event – especially for what is being regarded the biggest fight card of 2008.??

Coming off an impressive KO victory over Dan Evensen at UFC 87, Kongo has been training with British superstar Michael Bisping and former light heavyweight champion Quintion Jackson, who is also fighting on Saturday night. Anytime a striker such as Kongo faces a groundfighter, it is interesting to see which style will prevail. Kongo has continued to show impressive standup, improving takedowns and surprisingly solid jiu-jitsu defense. Al Turk’s best chance for victory is on the ground, so expect him to try and take the match there. Although Kongo isn’t particularly known for his takedown defense, it will be interesting to see if his freakish strength and athleticism will eventually wear down Al Turk and make him vulnerable for a knockout while he’s in Kongo’s striking distance.

Method of finish? TKO
Likelihood to go the distance? No

After losing in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 7 to Amir Sadollah, CB Dollaway is looking to make a name for himself in the middleweight division. Although he suffered a first- round defeat at the hands of Sadollah, the former Arizona State University wrestling standout has showed tons of talent and has huge potential, which is why the UFC invited Dolloway back despite his loss in the TUF finale.

In his last fight, Dollaway (8-2) defeated Jesse Taylor by Peruvian necktie, a submission that netted him his first UFC history. His opponent on Saturday, Mike Massenzio, is far more experienced and more dangerous on the ground than Taylor. With an impressive 11-2 record, Massenzio knows the importance of winning two consecutive fights inside the Octagon – not to mention the exposure that comes with this bout being aired on the Pay-Per-View portion of this star-studded card. This is his opportunity to gain exposure with fans who may not know him. Massenzio's only other fight UFC fight was on September’s UFC Fight Night card, where he scored an impressive submission victory over Drew McFedries in less than 90 seconds. Massenzio is a solid wrestler with good takedowns and he has won six of his matches via submission.

In both fighters’ previous fights, they secured impressive submission victories over their respective opponents. It will be interesting to see, however, if either fighter may be leery of trying to bring the action onto the canvas and instead try to turn it into a slugfest. Although Massenzio is considered the more experienced fighter, Dollaway may be more dangerous with his fists, as more than half of his wins have come by TKO.

Method of finish? Submission
Likelihood to go the distance? No

This fight has plenty of bad blood. Their rivalry started to boil nearly five years ago and on Saturday night, Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva will meet for the third and perhaps final time. With Silva winning by dramatic fashion in both previous fights, the pressure is on Jackson to finally beat his long time rival. In both previous fights, Silva won by stoppage – one time leaving Jackson draped over the ropes with a vicious knockout.

Although the result of both fights were overwhelmingly in the favor of Silva, Jackson believes that poor judgment by PRIDE officials, who potentially wanted to protect Silva because of his popularity, was the reason for his defeat. Yet when the Octagon gate closes, there aren’t any favorable calls for any fighter – regardless of the magnitude of the fight.

Now fighting out of Las Vegas, Silva wants to put to rest the belief that an organization helped him in his bouts with Jackson. With an astonishing 22-4-1, 1 NC record in PRIDE, Silva was arguably considered the most feared fighter on the planet, with notable wins coming over Kazushi Sakuraba (three times), Dan Henderson, and Jackson. Now Silva is looking to bring that same type of fighter over to the UFC. In his last outing inside of the Octagon, Silva rebounded from a previous loss to Chuck Liddell by demolishing Keith Jardine. Beat Jackson and Silva could earn himself a title shot.

After losing his UFC light heavyweight title to Forrest Griffin, Jackson decided it was time for him to change the way he went about getting prepared for a fight. Now Jackson trains in the UK with the likes of Cheick Kongo and Michael Bisping – a move that he feels was much-needed. Although Jackson lost his title in early July, he still feels that he’s the best fighter at 205-pounds. In order for him to have UFC gold put back around his waist, he’ll need to beat a man that he’s had no such luck against in two previous fights.

When people look at this fight and see that Silva has beaten Jackson in both of their fights, they may wonder why this fight is so interesting and a "coin-toss" kind of fight. It’s a fair question to ask. But as previously stated, Jackson truly believes that unfair things happened to him while in the cage – leading to two impressive KO’s at the hands and knees of Silva. And he also believes he is a superior fighter this time around and better-trained. It will be interesting to see if fighting in a cage rather a ring will play a factor in the game plan of either fighter. Some people also believe that Silva isn’t the same fighter that first fought Jackson over five years ago. It will be interesting to see if age starts to play a factor in Silva’s fighting. Some believe that years of punishment have started to take a toll on “The Axe Murderer”. As for Jackson, now that he’s in a different fighting camp and is no longer under the tutelage of Juanito Ibarra, it’s hard to determine what style he will come out with. Has Jackson learned to defend the Muay Thai knees to the face and midsection that gave him so many problems while fighting in PRIDE? You can believe that Silva will probably be looking to clinch and fire off a few of those knees to find out the answer. One more thing: at Tuesday's press conference, Silva promised to knock Jackson out yet again on Saturday night. Will Rampage make him eat his words?

Method of finish? KO
Likelihood to go the distance? No

After watching these two fighters coach the next generation of stars in the UFC, it is now time to put the coaching aside and enter the Octagon – with the interim UFC heavyweight title on the line.

Former PRIDE and current interim UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira is looking to make his first title defense – something he was unable to accomplish while in PRIDE. "Big Nog" racked up a 17-3, 1 NC record while in PRIDE, beating some of the best fighters in the world, and while a win on Saturday will set Nogueira up with a shot at Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir is the only thing on his mind right now.

Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion, is looking to finally return to where he was before a near-death motorcycle accident. In that crash, Mir was severely injured (including a broken femur) and people questioned if he would ever return to his old form. On Saturday night, he’ll get to shut up the naysayers with a win. The doubters had plenty of ammunition to justify their criticism. When Mir returned from injury and fought Marcio Cruz, a former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champ, Cruz completely demolished Mir, who didn't make it out of the first round. After that fight, Mir has put together a 3-1 record, with one of his wins coming by submission over current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

On paper, it is hard to see where Frank Mir will be able to exploit the weaknesses of Nogueira. In fact, Mir, who is known for his sensational jiu-jitsu, recently indicated in an interview that he believes Nog's jiu-jitsu is better than his. This has come as a shock to many people who thought that being on the ground would be his best opportunity, but others disagree. In the gym, Mir has been known to throw devastating kicks, so expect him to try and land one that may end the fight. For Nogueira, expect him to use his striking – allowing him to close the distance on Mir for a takedown. If he does end up in top position, his strength may play a huge factor in eventually wearing Mir down, who has not been known for his cardio – especially in a 25-minute fight.

Method of finish? TKO
Likelihood to go the distance? No

In a clash of two former champions of The Ultimate Fighter, season 2 winner Rashad Evans is looking to become only the third contestant of the popular show to put UFC gold around his waist by beating season 1 winner Forrest Griffin. This bout headlines a deep card and should squash any doubts from naysayers who question the quality of fighters that compete on The Ultimate Fighter.??

Evans enters this title fight as an underdog, despite owning an unblemished record of 17-0-1. The Michigan State University alum looked very comfortable in the same role earlier this year when he toppled former champion Chuck Liddell. That vicious overhand right and highlight reel knockout will be shown for some time and has launched Evans into this prime position.

When Forrest Griffin arrived for the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, he immediately drew interest from people for not necessarily his fighting ability, but mainly his funny and different personality. But it didn’t take long for the other contestants to see that he was more than just comic relief for the house. After earning a spot in the final, Griffin beat Stephan Bonnar in a fight that many people feel was the turning point for the UFC. Since winning The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin has put together a 6-2 record, with notable wins over Mauricio Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Griffin was a huge underdog in both fights.

By displaying his heart and continued improvement in all aspects of his fight game, Griffin (16-4) has continued to show that he doesn’t have just a goofy personality but is also capable of beating any fighter at 205-pounds. Winner of The Ultimate Fighter, victor over the top fighters in the world, and becoming the newest light heavyweight champion - the next check mark Griffin hopes to accomplish on Saturday night is to defend that title. If he’s able to do that, he will finally see himself as the top 205-pound fighter in the world.??

Rashad Evans was once known for having to rely predominantly on his strong Division I wrestling skills, but with a head-kick KO over Sean Salmon and that devastating knockout of Liddell, Griffin will have to worry not only about Evans’ strong wrestling ability, but the power the challenger possesses in both his hands and legs – not to mention the game plan that Greg Jackson - who is known in the fight business as one of the best strategists in MMA - will design for Evans in this fight.??

It will be interesting to see what game plan Griffin comes into the fight with. Although Griffin doesn’t have highlight-reel knockouts like Evans, he has the ability to slowly and methodically break down his opponents. The champ seems to get better and better each time he enters the Octagon and expect him to try and stay on his feet and push the pace – something he hopes will wear down Evans, who has never fought a five-rounder before. Although Evans hasn’t shown spectacular jiu-jitsu – Griffin knows that Evans has generally won fights where the majority of the action is on the canvas.

Method of finish? Submission
Likelihood to go the distance? No