Matchup breakdown: Sherk-Franca

Kevin Iole

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sean Sherk will make his first defense of the UFC lightweight title he won last year on Saturday at ARCO Arena when he faces challenger Hermes Franca. Here's what each man will have to do to win:

Keys to victory
1. Get the fight to the ground. Sherk is a terrific wrestler and a great finisher and he'll benefit from taking Franca down repeatedly. 1. Use the uppercut. Sherk is going to shoot often and it may give Franca a chance to unload a heavy shot, which is one of his strengths.

2. Push the pace. Sherk has a ridiculously difficult workout regimen and Franca has been known to fade. Sherk should take advantage by making use of the entire cage and making Franca fight all five minutes of all five rounds. 2. Look for the triangle. As Sherk goes for a finish after a takedown, the triangle choke could be Franca's best weapon.

3. Be wary of looping punches. Franca has a tendency to throw hard, looping shots from unusual angles. Sherk can't afford to ignore Franca's hands at any time when they're standing. 3. Target the shoulder. This is Sherk's first fight since right shoulder surgery. If Franca gets a chance to go for a kimura, or anything on the right arm, he shouldn't pass up the chance.

4. Slam Franca at every chance. When Sherk goes for the takedown, he ought to do his mini-Matt Hughes impersonation and drill Franca down hard. That will weaken him considerably and set him up for a finish. 4. Give Sherk plenty of movement. Franca should use his footwork and change directions repeatedly, breaking Sherk's rhythm.

Rating the fighters
Comparison of Sean Sherk and challenger Hermes Franca
on a rating of 1 to 10 in several categories:
Punching power 7 8 Franca is dangerous because he punches off odd angles.
Wrestling 10 7 Sherk figures to repeatedly take Franca down.
Kicks 7 8 Don't figure to see a lot of kicks in this fight.
Ground and
10 6 Sherk is a brutal finisher.
10 7 Fortunately for Franca, he won't mind being on his back.
Chin 7 8 Just when he seems out, Franca can rally.
Submissions 7 10 Franca has an astonishing array of moves.
Stamina 10 7 Sherk may be the best conditioned MMA fighter in the world.
Strength 10 10 Sherk is amazingly strong.
Intangibles 9 7 Sherk has only lost to welterweights Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre.

Total 87 78 Franca's best chance to win is if Sherk makes a mistake, but that won't happen.