Sherk to Offer Franca Eye Opening Experience
UFC lightweight champion Sean
Sherk (Pictures) doesn't plan on letting Hermes Franca (Pictures) leave Sacramento with the belt
around his waist. That might not sound like breaking news for a
fighter on the eve of his first title defense and it doesn't make
for a flowery lede, but that's precisely the Minnesotan's
motivation for his bout in the octagon Saturday night at UFC
Toiling on the sport's lower levels to the point of contemplating
retirement, Sherk (31-2-1), who captured the strap by out-pointing
(Pictures) last October, said he
intends on bringing the fight to his challenger after preparing for
literally anything Franca could unleash his way.
Franca, one of the sport's good guys, has rattled off eight
consecutive wins following an abysmal 2005. As he stands on the
cusp of realizing his dream of holding UFC gold, the Brazilian
hasn't been shy in saying that Sherk will be his ninth victim in a
"Well, I guess we're going to find out," Sherk scoffed. "He's not
going to take me down and he's definitely not going to sweep me. I
don't think I've ever been swept in 40 fights, so I don't think
he's going to be the first guy to sweep me."
Positioning on the canvas appears to be an important element of
Franca's strategy. The challenger has repeatedly suggested that
Sherk, if forced to fight from his back, would be at a distinct
disadvantage on the floor.
Sherk disagreed: "I do have a guard, and if I wind up my back I'll
do just fine."
Provided the champion can fend off awkward attacks and dodge the
loopy bombs thrown his way, the "Muscle Shark" is more than
confident he'll have an answer for the affable Brazilian.
"I'm going to stop him," Sherk predicted. "He doesn't have any
cardio and I don't think his work ethic's any good. So the longer
the fight goes, the more tired he gets and I'm going to stop him.
Either way would be great. It doesn't matter: a knockout on the
feet would be great or a knockout on the ground, too. I've got no
problem standing with him. He doesn't throw combos; he just throws
haymakers. He tries to knock you out. He'll throw two punches at
the most and then he'll stop and stare at you. As far as boxing
goes, my boxing's 10 times better."
In reality, Sherk's boxing game is more advanced and better suited
for MMA. While the challenger tends to throw telegraphed power
punches, Sherk stays in the pocket and peppers foes with crisp,
accurate combos, often punctuated by straight shots right down the
pike. Yet unlike Franca, 32, who has shown an ability to hurt
people with his hands, Sherk hasn't shown crippling knockout
One aspect of the fight in which most assume Franca (18-5-0) has
the edge is on the ground. However, the 33-year-old Sherk remains
defiant when it comes to conceding that his challenger holds any
sort of edge in the submission-grappling arena.
"He says his jiu-jitsu is so good and that he's going to sweep me
so easily, so I'd love to get him on the ground and pound on him,"
Sherk continued angrily. "He says his jiu-jitsu is so good, but
it's not as good as mine. I've been doing it longer than he has and
plus I've been wrestling. He's going to have an eye-opening
experience Saturday night."
Despite believing he's got an answer in every department to
Franca's challenge, Sherk is quick to recognize his foe's right to
fight for a UFC belt.
"Right now he probably is the No. 1 contender," said Sherk. "He's
on an eight-fight winning streak and I think he's won his last
three or four in the UFC. That puts him at the top of the heap.
There are a lot of really good fighters in this weight class, but I
think (Hermes) deserves it."
It's somewhat difficult, it should be assumed, to truly hype a
title fight between two world-class fighters when a sizeable chunk
of the audience at home may not know much about the combatants.
Sherk is included amongst that group after admitting to not knowing
much about Franca outside of his skills in the cage.
"As a fighter he's been around for a long time. I know he's got
some punching power, he's unorthodox, he's got good submissions and
he's aggressive," Sherk said. "But as a person outside of the ring,
I don't know him at all."
That's a scenario that is not entirely unfamiliar to Sherk, who
said respect from fans and media has been slow to come despite an
"None of that bothers me," he said. "I've never gotten any sort of
respect since I started fighting so I don't worry about any of
that. Right now, for me, I need to make a living and this is what I
chose to do. The money is more important because respect or praise
doesn't pay the bills. Getting paid does."
All Sherk needs to do is make good on his motivations Saturday
night, and a win in his first title defense should take care of the
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