The injury-bug has continued to plague the UFC this summer and after a fairly disappointing effort in Calgary, Alberta for UFC 149, the UFC is hoping to right the ship this weekend on network TV. The UFC rolls into the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California this weekend for their fourth offering on Fox.
Dana White and the hype machine have stoked the fires in an effort to try and gain casual fan interest in this card by promising that one of the Light Heavyweights in the Main and Co-Main Event will be one of the next men to challenge for the Light Heavyweight Championship. As Eric has discussed already in a couple of excellent blogs, the effort is almost laughable from a credibility point of view, but it’s a stroke of marketing genius that is surely going to get a few more eyeballs on the product come Saturday night.
The Main Event of the evening sees former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua looks to punch his ticket to another shot at the championship as he brings his high-octane style to the cage against former Heavyweight title hopeful Brandon “The Truth” Vera. The co-main event features two more Light Heavyweights looking to get into the title hunt as Ryan “Darth” Bader takes on Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. Two more bouts fill out the main Fox Televised Card as Joe Lauzon battles Jamie Varner in Lightweight action and Mike Swick returns from an extended layoff to take on DaMarques Johnson in Welterweight action.
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Flyweight Bout: John Moraga vs. Ulysses Gomez
Analysis and Prediction: Both of these fighters are submission experts and talented grapplers. The one knock against Moraga is that his competition is super soft. Gomez has fought some of the top names in the Flyweight division under the Tachi Palace promotion and although his results have been mixed, he’s at least been to the show. His big fight experience carries him through as he takes a submission victory late in the bout. Ulysses Gomez via Submission in Round Three
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Manny Gamburyan vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Manvel “The Anvil” Gamburyan is an American-Armenian fighter from North Hollywood, California. He was a finalist as a Lightweight on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Gamburyan is a black belt in Judo and a black belt in Kyokushin karate. Gamburyan is a grinder, who does his best work on the mat, using takedowns and his Judo based top control to dominate his opponents on the mat. He isn’t the most talented striker, but he’s thrown some big power punches in the past and has shown an ability to knock opponents out. Gamburyan owns a career record of 11-7. Michihiro Omigawa is a Japanese fighter from the Hidehiko Yoshida dojo in Tokyo, Japan. Like his opponent he is a black belt in Judo. Omigawa has had success in a number of Japanese promotions including Shooto, Deep and Sengoku. Omigawa has a career record of 13-11-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Both men are top-level Judokas, so the likely scenario is that their Judo cancels one another out. With the grappling game being about even, the likely event is that the person who earns the takedown and ends up on top will win the battle on the mat. The person more likely to score takedowns is Gamburyan. Omigawa is undoubtedly the more technical striker, but he tends to get into brawls and he hasn’t shown stout takedown defense in the past. Gamburyan uses takedowns and top control to grind a decision out. Manny Gamburyan via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Heavyweight Bout: Phil De Fries vs. Oli Thompson
Philip De Fries is a fighter from Sunderland, England. He is one of the better grapplers in the Heavyweight division who has the majority of his wins by Submission. De Fries has stopped six of his opponents in the first round and most of his wins are by Rear Naked Choke. De Fries has a career record of 8-1, with his only loss in the UFC to Stipe Miocic. Oli Thompson is another British fighter from East Sussex, England. Thompson is a former strongman competitor and fared well as a professional strongman. Thompson doesn’t have the greatest of striking skills and his grappling game is based more so on strength than on actual technique. Still he has translated that brute strength relatively well as he owns a career record of 9-3.
Analysis and Prediction: This fight is likely going to be a slow and sloppy affair, but with that said, someone has to win. Neither man is a talented striker, but Thompson hits harder. Both of these guys are pretty terrible wrestlers, but are talented with submissions. I think Thompson will be able to use his brute strength to overpower De Fries and work away from top control. I doubt he gets a submission, but he gets enough top control time to win the decision. Oli Thompson via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Josh Grispi vs. Rani Yahya
Josh “The Fluke” Grispi was formerly one of the top prospects in the Featherweight division, but his hype train has been seriously derailed in his last two fights. Grispi is only 23-years-old and has shown some serious flashes of brilliance in the past, it’s hard to make what’s going on with his last two bouts. Grispi is a member of the South Shore Sportfighting Gym in Rockland, Massachusetts. He holds a career record of 14-3. Rani Yahya is a 27-year-old Brazilian fighter from the Constrictor Fight Team in Brasilia, Brazil. Yahya is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is one of the top grapplers in the Featherweight division. Despite starting his career with fairly limited striking skills, he has shown some significant improvements in his skills and although he still has some shortfalls. Yahya holds a career record of 16-7 with 14 wins via Submission.
Analysis and Prediction: I have a really hard time figuring out what’s going on with Grispi. To be perfectly blunt, he’s sucked up his last two fights and his striking looked absolutely awful. In almost all of his bouts before that he’s looked impressive and technically sound. Yahya is definitely the more talented grappler and if this bout goes to the mat I think Yahya has the chops to submit him. Still I believe in Grispi and I think he rights the ship on Saturday night. He keeps the bout standing long enough to take a decision. Josh Grispi via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Light Heavyweight Bout: Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis is an American fighter from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Davis is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Penn State University. He is a member of the Alliance MMA gym in Chula Vista, California. He has translated his wrestling skills well to the Octagon, although at times he struggles with mixing his strikes with takedowns to close the distance. Davis is a competent grappler but he is coming off of his first career loss in a bout where he was completely dominated in the striking game for five rounds by Rashad Evans. Still Davis is a top prospect and holds a career record of 9-1. Wagner “Caldeirao” Prado is a Brazilian fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is a late-replacement for Chad Griggs who was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. Prado is a member of the Team Nogueira Gym in Brazil and is a Muay Thai striker with seven stoppage victories. Prado is a physically massive fighter who throws his looping punches with bad intentions. Prado is undefeated as a professional with an 8-0 record.
Analysis and Prediction: There is a decent chance of an upset in this one, although not a great one. Prado hits incredibly hard and throws his punches with bad intentions. Davis is a pretty awful striker and struggled against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in their bout, if he lets Prado hit him that much there’s a good chance he’s sunk. Davis is significantly better than anyone Prado has faced before and is the top grappler that has ever tried to take Prado down. If he scores one takedown, that will likely be enough to seal the fight, as I like Davis to transition for a submission, but his striking isn’t good and he struggles at closing the distance. Don’t be surprised to see Davis win, but there’s an upset brewing. Wagner Prado via KO in Round One
Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Cole “Magrino” Miller is an American fighter from Macon, Georgia. Miller is a member of the American Top Team fighting out of Boca Raton, Florida. At 6’1” Miller is one of the tallest and lankiest fighters in the Featherweight division. Those lanky limbs along with his grappling ability make Miller a tough submission threat for any fighter to deal with. Miller holds a career record of 18-6. Nam Phan is an American fighter from Westminster, California. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Karate and has recently switched his training camp to join the Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento. Phan is a talented striker with a fan-friendly style who isn’t one to shy away from a brawl, but he’ll be significantly overmatched in the grappling department against Miller. Phan holds a career record of 17-10.
Analysis and Prediction: Phan may be a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but he is damned near useless at grappling from bottom position. In his last bout against Jimy Hettes he was absolutely worked on the mat and was just pummeled from top position. Although Hettes is a step above Miller in grappling ability, the American Top Team fighter still has excellent top control and nasty ground and pound. If Phan can’t control Miller on top of him, he’s going to be in for another beating. He wins the striking exchanges, but doesn’t hit hard enough to stop Miller, eventually Miller gets on top and brings the pain. Phan was able to survive under Hettes, so I doubt Miller is able to earn a finish, but it should be a fairly one-sided decision. Cole Miller via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FOX): Welterweight Bout: Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson
“Quick” Mike Swick is an American fighter from Houston, Texas. He is best known for his stint on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Swick is a well-rounded fighter who has decent striking, solid takedown defense and a nasty guillotine choke. He is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. Swick has been dealing with a number of ailments and injuries lately and this will actually be his first bout in over two years, his last bout coming at UFC 109 in February of 2010. Swick holds a career record of 14-4. DaMarques “Darkness” Johnson is an American fighter who is a former cast-member on the UK vs. USA season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a member of the Elite Performance Gym in Sandy, Utah. Johnson is also a well-rounded fighter who has split his most recent bouts, going 3-3 in his last six. Johnson holds a career record of 16-10.
Analysis and Prediction: The biggest concern for Swick is obviously how he is going to adjust to being back in the cage after over two years on the sidelines. However one thing to note is a big part of his layoff was a stomach disease, which has forced him into a much healthier diet, which should actually have a positive effect on his weight cut to 170 pounds. Johnson is almost a mirror image of Swick, although not quite as quick and not as technically sound. If Swick can get into a rhythm and doesn’t look completely ring-rusted he’ll take a lopsided decision. Mike Swick via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FOX): Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner
Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon is an American fighter from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Lauzon is a member of the Reality Self Defense Gym in his hometown. Lauzon is a talented grappler with 17 career wins via Submission. Lauzon is a purple belt in BJJ who is best known for his stint on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter after his stunning upset of coach Jens Pulver before the show. Lauzon is an entertaining fighter who is known as a bit of a bonus hunter in the UFC owning seven Fight Night bonuses in his UFC career. Lauzon is best known for his grappling skills but he actually has decent striking and can throw knockout blows if given the opportunity. He holds a career record of 21-7. Jamie “C-4” Varner is an American fighter from Phoenix, Arizona. He is a member of the MMA Lab and Arizona Combat Sports Gym in Glendale, Arizona. Varner recently returned to the UFC after being cut and made a huge impact by defeating the formerly undefeated top prospect Edson Barboza by Knockout. Varner does his best work by grinding his opponents, using takedowns and top control to outwork his opponents. Varner’s striking is definitely not technically sound and he’s a bit too hittable, but he throws nasty power in his hands and his overhand right can put anyone to sleep, just like he showed against Barboza in his last bout. Varner holds a career record of 20-6-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Lauzon is well rounded but is a bit overhyped in my opinion. He is a very talented grappler, but doesn’t do his best work unless he is able to take his opponent down and work from top control. Against Varner he’ll struggle to get the fight to the mat, as Varner is the more talented wrestler and the physically stronger fighter. Striking wise Lauzon is more technically competent, but Varner has the big lights out power. Although Varner gets hit a bit too much, he was able to walk through some serious shots against Barboza before landing the big power shot. If he can weather Lauzon’s opening salvo Varner should be able to take over late in the fight. He lands a big power shot late in round two and throws his name into the race for Comeback Fighter of the Year. Jamie Varner via KO in Round Two
Main Card (FOX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader
Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida is a Japanese-Brazilian fighter from Bahia, Brazil. Machida is a black belt in Shotokan Karate and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Machida is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion from the Black House Gym in Brazil where he is a training partner of UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the Nogueira brothers. Machida is best known for his elusive, counter-striking style, which he uses to great effect. Machida is an expert at creating space and forcing his opponents into making mistakes and leaving themselves open to counters. Machida holds a career record of 17-3.
Ryan “Darth” Bader is an American fighter from the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. Bader is best known as the winner of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Bader is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. Bader relies mostly on his wrestling skills during his bouts as he looks to use takedowns and top control to outwork his opponents. Bader is also talented at using ground and pound to create openings, allowing himself opportunities to advance his position and pass the guard of his opponents, moving himself to more advantageous positions. Bader is coming off of a career win against Quinton Jackson at UFC 144 in Japan. In addition to his strong wrestling skills, Bader also packs a big punch with his big overhand right, although he is somewhat slow and predictable with the shot and opens himself up well for counters at times. Still he owns a career record of 14-2 and is a big win away from title contention.
Analysis and Prediction: Machida is one of the most difficult fighters to game plan for, simply because his style is very hard to emulate. Bader’s best chance lies on using a tight jab and takedowns to keep Machida fairly grounded. Machida is a black belt in BJJ, but he hasn’t shown any elite submission skills from his back and Bader is unlikely to be submitted in that fashion. Bader loves to throw his overhand right, but that is just asking for trouble as that will leave him wide open for Machida counters, which is basically his bread and butter. Bader will get flustered and eventually get reckless trying to chase down Machida. When this happens he leaves himself wide open for the counter kill shot, which Machida lands and stops the fight late in round three. Lyoto Machida via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (FOX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a Brazilian fighter from Curitiba, Brazil. He is a former member of top Brazilian Gym the Chute Boxe Academy, who now fights out of the Universidade da Luta (University of Fighting) out of his hometown. Rua is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is also a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Rua is best known for his highly aggressive style, which includes power punches and snapping leg kicks. Rua is constantly moving forward, constantly pressuring his opponents and is extremely talented at cutting off angles inside the Octagon, forcing his opponents into corners and taking advantage of the striking exchanges. Rua was the winner of the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships Middleweight Grand Prix. Rua is coming off of a Fight of the Year bout against Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 139. He holds a career record of 20-6.
Analysis and Prediction: Brandon Vera was once the pride of the UFC, expected to be a top contender at both 205 and 265 pounds. Those days are long gone and Vera has been less than impressive in recent years. Vera does some of his best work from the clinch, allowing him to employ both his Muay Thai and Greco Roman skills at the same time. Unfortunately for him Rua is absolutely nasty from the clinch and he has absolutely devastating knees, which will ruin anyone’s night. Vera has looked impressive in the past, but hasn’t in a long while. He was dropped by Eliot Marshall and was absolutely destroyed by Thiago Silva (Silva failing a drug test is the only reason he wasn’t cut from the UFC.) Shogun comes blitzing right out of the gate and storms Vera. Vera does his usual thing and folds up shop at the onslaught, earning Shogun an impressive stoppage victory in the first round and probably a shot at the Light Heavyweight Championship. Mauricio Rua via TKO in Round One