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UFC 88: Hamill vs. Franklin has upset potential

In the past I have been very guilty of underestimating the abilities of Matt “The Hammer” Hamill. For far too long I viewed him as nothing more than a one-dimensional wrestler relying heavily on his grappling and athletic ability. But over the course of the last year I have gained a lot more respect for him as a true mixed martial artist.

CBSSports.com has its staff members offer predictions prior to every major UFC event and tonight’s UFC 88 was no different. When it came time to offer a prognostication for the light heavyweight attraction between Hamill and former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin, it was not an easy call to make.

After some deliberation, I ultimately chose to go with Franklin as my pick. That being said, it would not shock me entirely to see an upset. For a man going up in weight for the first time in a long time, Franklin has accepted an ambitious challenge against Hamill.

The last time Franklin competed at 205 pounds was against 41-year old Ken Shamrock in the main event of the live season finale of the inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Shamrock struggled just to keep his balance in that fight and was a shadow of the man who was once known as “The World’s Dangerous Man.”  Franklin would go on to TKO him at 2:42 of round 1.

Franklin fought in another high profile non-middleweight fight prior to the Shamrock win where he wasn’t anywhere near as successful. He made his UFC debut in 2003 at UFC 42, where he was victorious via first round TKO over Evan Tanner (which was a win that meant something at the time). However, because the UFC wasn’t running monthly shows at the time, it was common for younger fighters to compete outside the promotion in order to accumulate as much fighting experience as possible. Franklin moved up in weight for an Antonio Inoki New Year’s Eve show in Japan later that year and dropped a second round TKO to Lyoto Machida.

While Franklin has no desire to be a gate keeper at middleweight, the reality is that 185 pounds is his best competitive division. Moving back up to 205 pounds might prove to be the challenge he’s looking for, but the light heavyweight division in the UFC is a shark tank. Many of his attributes at 185 such as his punching power and size evaporate once he makes the move up.

Shamrock is really Franklin’s only notable win at 205 and against Hamill, Franklin is fighting a true light heavyweight who is not on the decline, but who is working his way up. Hamill’s cardio is still a question but it has improved since his stint on the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He has also appeared to be in much better condition for his recent fights, showing more definition in his physique. But Hamill’s greatest attributes are his wrestling and his raw strength. The guy is as strong as an ox and that strength has made his hands more of a threat than many had predicted.

While Hamill will never be confused with a K-1 caliber striker, he compensates for a lack of technique with a lot of punching power. He rocked Michael Bisping several times during their controversial fight last September at UFC 75. And at UFC Fight Night 13, it was against Hamill’s fists that did the talking as he ground and pounded his way to a TKO victory over Tim Boetsch in the second round.

It’s Hamill’s ground and pound that Franklin must be the most concerned with. Franklin’s sprawl is good, but if Hamill gets on top of him, his size and strength advantage coupled with his wrestling technique could put Franklin in no-man’s land if he winds up on his back. It won’t be easy for Hamill to get the fight to the floor but he only needs to hit one takedown attempt in order to put Franklin in a dangerous spot.

Franklin was a knockout artist at times at middleweight, but his punching power will not have the same impact moving up a class in weight and Hamill has a strong chin. While Franklin is a good combination puncher, combinations could be what opens him up to a takedown from Hamill.

Despite my new-found respect for Hamill, I still predicted Franklin to win the fight. One major question I have about Hamill that has yet to be addressed is his jiu-jitsu. Franklin is a brown belt under Jorge Gurgel and his submissions are really underrated. In a new weight class and against a fighter with a different style than he’s accustomed to facing, I believe we’re going to see a different Rich Franklin tonight.

While I expect Franklin’s face to be battered and bruised at the conclusion of the fight, I still expect him to walk away victorious thanks in large part to the size-able advantage he’ll have when it comes to his jiu-jitsu.

14 COMMENTS
  • JoHn says:

    something is wrong with the tito post, it wont pull up and neither will anything below it

  • Sergio Hernandez says:

    Ah! Okay, I thought it was just my computer at work POSing on me.

    But yeah, Sam, I totally agree with your analysis. I see Franklin taking this via unanimous decision, albeit a close one ala Sanchez/Diaz.

  • greg says:

    hamill will beat rich unless it goes to a dec.
    as u stated hamill is an ox and his chin is awesome so rich will not nock out matt

  • darkmetal says:

    While Hamill is powerful, his punching also seems to be somewhat innaccurate. That cannot be said of Rich Franklin. I think Franklin will pick Hamill apart to score the win.

  • Dr,Stoppage says:

    It seems that in their relationship, Rich has been like the teacher.
    Tonight the student takes over.
    I think Franklin is lost.
    Like Dana said the best 185 lb’er in the world,except he can’t beat Silva?
    That equals self doubt.
    The only reason Franklin’s moving up is because he has no home at 185 any more.
    I think generally in the UFC there’s a feeling of “Wow.Griffen’s the 205 champ?Then that’s how much I wanna weigh.
    BUT ,Hamill’s a hungry ,talented,animal.
    Sure he’s in love, finally,and now he knows the only way he’ll keep THAT kind of lovin’ is by victory,unlike say,Tito and Jenna.
    Tonight Hamill= Lesnar Jr.
    After tonight ,Franklin will consider dropping to 170 lbs.

  • lesnar is crap says:

    Hamill is greater than lesnar . how could you even compare the two.

    i think franklin will win also hamill needs more experience

  • Sergio Hernandez says:

    “how could you even compare the two.”

    Exactly, you can’t.

    Lesnar just dominated a former Pride heavyweight title contender who nearly knocked out Big Nog last year and Hamill couldn’t even beat Bisping.

  • Batman says:

    Hamill is going to win, and Franklin looked pitiful against Anderson Silva both times.

  • Mike A says:

    how can you compare the way franklin looked against the best fighter in the world, against how he will perform against matt hamill whos beaten who? And how is Hamill better then lesnar? Lesnar would destrooooooooy Hamill.

  • Dr.Stoppage says:

    Hey Einsteins …I said Lesnar Jr.
    I will admit I WANT Hamill to win as well.

  • Jackyl says:

    Franklin has pretty much dominated every other fighter at MW except Anderson Silva. He had a little trouble with Okami but all his other fights have been solid. Hamill is still rather raw and reckless. Franklin will fight him smart and outwork him for a decision.

    Sam, you expect Franklin’s face to be battered and bruised AFTER the fight? He’s always walking in with that shiner. It’s getting to be his trademark.

  • Rich S. says:

    greg, i think you’ve got that a little twisted.. THE ONLY way Hamill beats Franklin is IF IT DOES go to a DECISION..

    this does have alot of upset potential..
    i mean, i tought Boetsch would freakin’ beat the crap out of Hamill, next thing you know, Tim’s in the fetal position with his tank on E, getting pounded out..

    i’m sure Matt COULD find a way to get Rich to the ground round after round, but, whether or not he WILL is still a question for me..

    in ANY Rich Franklin fight, it’s hard to pick Rich’s opponent to win..
    Rich is one of the smartest fighters on the planet.. i think the only way he can lose is if he underestimates Matt.. and i think he’s just too smart to do that..

    Matt Hamill’s getting better and better, and i’m sure he’ll try to push the pace in this fight, but, Rich will be able to stop the takedowns, and if he DOES end up on his back, i’m sure he has plenty of ways to get out..
    Although, i question Matt’s striking/blocking, i don’t think he’ll get knocked out here..

    my pick is Franklin via UD..

    funny actually,
    almost EVERY SINGLE pick of mine for this event is a decision..

  • Maurice Lee says:

    Wow Sam this is the kind of insight we wait for from the self annointed smartest man in MMA. You basically said that Rich Franklin will win but Hamill might too. Way to go out on a limb, I’m really glad I read this prediction.

  • Damo says:

    “The world’s *most dangerous man”

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