UFC 82 predictions

UFC Middleweight Champion reacts after beating Nate Marquardt at UFC 73: Stacked. (UFC photo)

UFC Middleweight Champion reacts after beating Nate Marquardt at UFC 73: Stacked. (UFC photo)

NEIL SPRINGER -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 12:59 PM ET

Anderson Silva faces his toughest challenger yet in Pride champion Dan Henderson. Also, Cheick Kongo looks to continue his momentum with a win over Heath Herring.

Event card and predictions

Chris Wilson (13-3-1) vs. Jon Fitch (15-2-1)

I'm glad Jon Fitch is starting to earn the recognition he so richly deserves. He’s been overlooked in UFC for too long now.

I must admit I'm really not familiar with Wilson. According to his fight record he has six KO/TKO victories and another five by submission, which no doubt means he's well-rounded. As a member of Team Quest, I'm willing to bet he's no slouch at wrestling, either.

On paper he appears to be a mirror-image of Jon Fitch, but can he shake the octagon-debut jitters against one of the best in the welterweight division? I say no.

Prediction: Fitch by decision.

Yushin Okami (21-4-0) vs. Evan Tanner (32-6-0)

It's great to see Evan Tanner back in the UFC – the middleweight division is in desperate need of some added depth.

He's got a very tough challenge on his hands, though. With the exception of a decision loss to Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami has been on a tear. Also, the question remains as to whether or not Tanner can still bring it in the octagon.

Either way, this is a win-win situation for the UFC. If Okami is victorious, he's proven himself to be the number one contender for the middleweight title. If Tanner gets the nod, he's a former champion making a huge comeback.

Prediction: Okami's been the more active of the two. I say he takes it by decision.

Alessio Sakara (12-6-1) vs. Chris Leben (17-4-0)

Chris Leben's striking looked really good in his fight against Terry Martin.

It was crisp and tight compared to his usual wild flailing. Well, that is to say it was until he took a solid punch to the face and flipped out. At that point he returned to his normal self and said, "Screw it! I'm knocking his ass out."

And so he did.

Sakara comes from a boxing background, so his hands are certainly better on paper. But can he handle the wild, flipping-out nature of his opponent? I say, no.

Prediction: Leben by first round KO/TKO as a result of a flip-out.

Heath Herring (27-13-1) vs. Cheick Kongo (11-3-1)

Apparently after the departure of Mirko Cro Cop, Kongo said something to the effect that he couldn't hang in the UFC because he wasn't able to use steroids and he only left for Japan so he wouldn't get caught going back on the juice. If so, Cheick has no class.

First of all, there's absolutely no evidence to prove that statement true -- Cro Cop's body size looked the same in UFC as it did in Pride. Also, to think all UFC fighters are squeaky clean is nothing short of stupid.

And even if it was true about Cro Cop, both his UFC losses were in the U.K. where there is no athletics commission and, therefore, no drug testing.

You know what is illegal in MMA, though? Low blows. Like, say, the 5 groin shots Kongo delivered to Cro Cop without so much as a point deducted in their UFC 75 bout.

Sorry, I went off on a rant there.

Anyways, I really hope Herring knocks him into the next century, but I can't say I like his odds.

Prediction: Seeing as how Kongo is probably next in line for a title shot I'll go with him by second round KO/TKO. I really hope I'm wrong, though.

Anderson Silva (20-4-0) vs. Dan Henderson (22-6-0)

To say I'm pumped for this fight would be a huge understatement.

Anderson Silva has looked unstoppable since entering the UFC back in June of 2006. In that time he's made victims of everyone who has stepped in his path. Dan Henderson lost a close decision to Quinton Jackson in his last outing, but that was at light-heavyweight. At 185 lbs. Hendo is a very big middleweight fighter.

This is a tough one to call. Henderson has yet to be knocked out in MMA, but if anyone can do it, it's Silva. The Spider has looked untouchable, but if anyone can beat him, it's Hendo.

Tough one, but I'm a big Dan Henderson fan. Call me biased.

Prediction: Henderson by third round KO/TKO.

Live coverage of UFC 82 will begin Sat. March 1 at 10 p.m. EST.


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