The UFC delivered an exciting finale, to one of the most exciting seasons of The Ultimate Fighter in recent memory last weekend. They’re not giving that event much time to simmer in our memories, as they move forward with another free event, this time on network television as the 7th UFC on Fox event goes off this weekend. The UFC returns to California, more specifically to San Jose, California, the home base of their former sister promotion Strikeforce.
It’s fitting that the UFC is hosting this event in San Jose and at the HP Pavilion the home of a number of Strikeforce shows in the past, since this card features a number of fighters that were prominent in Strikeforce’s success. In main card action former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson battles former Lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz. Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner and emerging star Daniel Cormier battles former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir in the co-main event. And in the main event of the evening UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson makes yet another appearance on the Fox Network as he battles the final Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez in a battle of two champions.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Middleweight Bout: Clifford Starks vs. Yoel Romero
Clifford Starks is a 31-year-old fighter from Pomona, California. Starks is a member of the Arizona Combat Sports Gym training in Tempe, Arizona. Starks is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. He holds a professional MMA record of 8-1. Yoel “Soldado de Dios” Romero is a 35-year-old fighter from Pinar del Rio, Cuba. He is a former member of the Cuban Olympic wrestling team. He now trains with the Kampfsport Althof Gym in Palmdale, California. He holds a professional MMA record of 4-1.
Quick Pick: Yoel Romero via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Anthony Njokuani vs. Roger Bowling
Quick Pick: Anthony Njokuani via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Bantamweight Bout: TJ Dillashaw vs. Hugo Viana
TJ “The Viper” Dillashaw is a 27-year-old fighter from Sonora, California. Dillashaw is a former cast member of The Ultimate Fighter and is also a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Cal State Fullerton. Dillashaw trains with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. He holds a career record of 7-1. Hugo “Wolverine” Viana is a 30-year-old Brazilian fighter from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Viana is a member of the Champion Fight Team in his hometown. Viana is a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He holds a perfect professional record of 7-0.
Quick Pick: TJ Dillashaw via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Tim Means vs. Jorge Masvidal
Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means is a 29-year-old fighter from Wilburton, Oklahoma. Means is a former King of the Cage Lightweight Champion. Means is a member of the Power MMA Gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He holds a professional record of 18-3-1. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is a 28-year-old fighter from Miami, Florida. Masvidal is a member of the American Top Team training out of Miami. He is a former professional boxer, who will be making his UFC debut in this fight. He holds a professional record of 23-7.
Quick Pick: Tim Means via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Flyweight Bout: Joseph Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama
Joseph “Beefcake” Benavidez is a 28-year-old fighter from San Antonio, Texas. Benavidez was a State Wrestling Champion during his high-school wrestling career. Benavidez is a member of the Team Alpha Male Gym training in Sacramento, California. He holds a professional record of 17-3 with the losses coming against only current UFC Champions Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson. Darren “BC” Uyenoyama is a 33-year-old fighter from San Francisco, California. Uyenoyama has fought for a number of major MMA promotions including Strikeforce, Dream, Shooto and DEEP. He holds a professional MMA record of 8-3.
Quick Pick: Joseph Benavidez via TKO in Round One
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Ramsey Nijem vs. Myles Jury
Ramsey Nijem is a 25-year-old fighter from Concord, California. He is a former cast member of The Ultimate Fighter, where he made it to the finals of the show’s tournament. Nijem is a member of the Pit Elevated Gym, training in Orem, Utah with the likes of Court McGee and Steven Siler. Nijem holds a professional record of 7-2. Myles “The Fury” Jury is a 24-year-old fighter from Hazel Park, Michigan. Jury is a member of the Alliance MMA Gym in San Diego, California. Jury is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who holds a perfect professional record of 11-0.
Quick Pick: Myles Jury via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Francis Carmont vs. Lorenz Larkin
Francis “Limitless” Carmont is a 31-year-old fighter from Sant-Tropez, France. Carmont is now a member of the Tristar Gym training out of Montreal, Quebec alongside fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald. Carmont holds a professional MMA record of 20-7. Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin is a 26-year-old fighter from Riverside, California. Larkin is a member of his own gym Team Monsoon in his hometown of Riverside. Larkin will be making his UFC debut after spending his recent career in Strikeforce. He holds a career record of 13-0 with 1 No Contest.
Quick Pick: Lorenz Larkin via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Featherweight Bout: Chad Mendes vs. Darren Elkins
Chad “Money” Mendes is a 27-year-old fighter from Hanford, California. Mendes is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from California Polytechnic State University. Mendes is a member of Team Alpha Male and is one of the top ranked Featherweight fighters in the UFC. He holds a professional record of 13-1, with the lone loss coming to UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Darren “The Damage” Elkins is a 28-year-old fighter from Hobart, Indiana. Elkins is a member of the Duneland Vale Tudo Gym in his hometown of Hobart. Elkins is taking this bout as a late injury replacement for Clay Guida. Elkins holds a professional MMA record of 16-2.
Quick Pick: Chad Mendes via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (Fox): Welterweight Bout: Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein
Matt “The Immortal” Brown is a 32-year-old fighter from Xenia, Ohio. Brown was a cast member of the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Brown is a member of Jorge Gurgel’s Gym in Cincinnati, Ohio. He holds a brown belt in Judo and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Brown is known for his fan friendly style and his iron chin, having never been stopped via strikes in nearly 30 career bouts. He holds a professional MMA record of 16-11, but is currently on a bit of a career resurgence having won his last 4 bouts, 3 via stoppage.
Jordan “Young Gun” Mein is a 23-year-old Canadian fighter from Lethbridge, Alberta. Despite being only 23-years-old he has already accumulated 35 professional MMA bouts. Mein is a talented striker with amateur kickboxing experience, beginning his training very early in his childhood. Mein is taking this bout as an injury replacement for Dan Hardy, and recently made his UFC debut with an impressive first round stoppage of Dan Miller. Mein trains at the Canadian Martial Arts Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta. He holds a professional MMA record of 27-8.
Analysis and Prediction: Brown is a grinder with an iron chin, so he’s definitely not going to be overly scared of Mein’s striking credentials. We all saw what Brown did to heavily hyped striking prospect Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, as he basically put on a clinic on how to impose your will on a striker. That said, Mein is a far more talented mixed martial artist than Thompson. Although young he has been in the fight game for a long time, has a lot of cage experience and knows a lot of tricks. I expect Mein to come in with an intelligent game plan, he’ll use his strikes to work on a trip or a takedown from the clinch. From there his grappling is strong enough to control Brown or search for a submission in the scramble. Brown has the ability to make this fight interesting, but I think Mein is too talented as an all-around fighter. Jordan Mein via Submission in Round Two
Main Card (Fox): Lightweight Bout: Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson
Nate Diaz is a 27-year-old fighter from Stockton, California. He is best known as a competitor and the eventual winner of the 5th season of The Ultimate Fighter. This will be Diaz’s first bout since losing his shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship against Benson Henderson. Diaz is a talented boxer, who employs a high-volume based boxing approach. Diaz is also a talented grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Diaz trains with the Cesar Gracie Fight Team in Stockton, California, but has also been splitting his time with the Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento, California. He holds a professional MMA record of 16-8.
Josh “The Punk” Thomson is a 34-year-old fighter from San Jose, California. Thomson is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Thomson has fought for a number of major MMA promotions throughout his career, including a previous stint in the UFC, Pride FC in Japan and most recently Strikeforce. Thomson is a former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion who trains with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. Thomson holds a professional MMA record of 19-5 with 1 No Contest.
Analysis and Prediction: Diaz should be well prepared for this fight, he is a training partner with Gilbert Melendez and Gilbert has spent 75 minutes in the cage with Thomson. The question will likely come down to Thomson and his well being entering the fight. He has had nagging injuries for the past few years of his career and they have often hindered his ability to compete. If he follows a smart, wrestling based game plan he has the ability to stifle Diaz. That said, if he tries to strike with Diaz, he’s probably going to get overwhelmed on the feet by Diaz’s high-volume, high-octane striking. In the end I’ll take a slight upset and think Thomson can pull it off, but it’ll be close. Josh Thomson via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Fox): Heavyweight Bout: Frank Mir vs. Daniel Cormier
Frank Mir is a 33-year-old fighter from Las Vegas, Nevada. Mir is a former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion. Mir holds a black belt in Kenpo Karate and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Mir is one of the most talented grapplers in the Heavyweight division and has won 9 bouts via Submission. Mir is a member of Greg Jackson’s camp training in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mir holds a professional MMA record of 16-6, including being the only man to hold a submission victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Daniel “DC” Cormier is a 34-year-old fighter from Lafayette, Louisiana. Cormier is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler who wrestled at Oklahoma State University. Cormier is best known as the winner of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, after entering the event as a tournament alternate. Cormier is also a former member of the United States Freestyle Wrestling team. Cormier’s striking has been rapidly improving to compliment his wrestling ability. Cormier trains with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California where he is a regular training partner of UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez. Cormier has a perfect professional record of 11-0.
Analysis and Prediction: Frank Mir made the move to Greg Jackson’s camp for this fight and he said it has changed him as a fighter. Unfortunately, we’ve heard those words come from Mir a number of times, and it usually doesn’t end well for him. He’s one of the most talented grapplers in the Heavyweight division, but against Cormier, I don’t like the match up. Cormier is a technically sound striker with solid hand speed for a Heavyweight, he also moves well for a big man. Add to that Cormier’s rock-solid wrestling base and you know the fight isn’t hitting the ground unless Cormier wants it to. Cormier batters Mir on the feet and eventually pounds him out on the ground as Mir fades in the third. Daniel Cormier via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (Fox): UFC Lightweight Championship Bout: Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez
Benson “Smooth” Henderson is a 29-year-old fighter from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Henderson is the reigning and defending UFC Lightweight Champion. Henderson is a former NAIA All-American Wrestler from Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. Henderson is now a member of the MMA Lab training in Glendale, Arizona. Henderson has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Henderson is also a former WEC Lightweight Champion. Like many collegiate wrestlers, Henderson has been improving his striking during his MMA training and is a formidable kick boxer. He holds a career record of 18-2.
Analysis and Prediction: I like Melendez a lot, but he’s had a long layoff, having not fought in nearly a year. Injuries and backstage drama with Strikeforce have kept him out of the cage since a less than impressive showing against Josh Thomson. After that fight Melendez said he found it hard to get motivated for a third fight with Thomson, but that sounds like a weak excuse for coming into a title fight against a dangerous opponent unprepared. Henderson on the other hand is coming off of a dominant performance against Melendez’s teammate Nate Diaz.
Melendez can definitely learn a few things from watching Diaz’s fight against Henderson, unfortunately he and Nate are fairly different fighters. I would expect to see a somewhat familiar game plan from the champion. I’d expect to see a heavy dose of thudding leg kicks from both the orthodox and southpaw stances, which should significantly slow down the shots of Melendez. Henderson is a technically sound striker and his stellar jab should be able to fend off the awkward striking advances of Melendez.
On the ground it’s likely a wash, with both men being excellent grapplers. However, the key will be which fighter is in top control and for that I give the edge to the champion, Henderson, who I believe has a more refined wrestling base than Melendez. In the end, top control and a solid jab carry the day for Henderson who I expect to retain the title via decision. Benson Henderson via Unanimous Decision