It has been a whirlwind of activity lately for the world’s largest Mixed Martial Arts promotion. The UFC continues to start 2012 with a roar of activity this weekend with their return to network television as the UFC presents UFC on FOX 2 from Chicago, Illinois. The main card features a trio of fights, capped off by Light Heavyweight and Middleweight title eliminator bouts. A late injury to former main event fighter Mark Munoz caused some card-shuffling, but many would argue that this has only made the card more exciting with more marketable bouts.
In the main event of the evening “Sugar” Rashad Evans continues his never-ending quest towards former teammate and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones when he takes on Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis. The co-main event of the evening sees a battle between two trash talking experts as Chael Sonnen battles Michael “The Count” Bisping. The final scheduled bout for the main card features former Middleweight contender Demian Maia taking on fast-rising prospect Chris Weidman. The undercard broadcast on Fuel TV features eight more bouts, several of which have serious potential for fireworks. But enough talking about it, let’s get right into breaking down these fights.
Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Middleweight Bout: Chris Camozzi vs. Dustin Jacoby
Chris “Kamikaze” Camozzi is a 25-year-old fighter from the Factory X Muay Thai and MMA Gym in Lakewood, Colorado. Camozzi is a former competitor on the eleventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Camozzi is a well-rounded fighter whose best strength is probably his grit and determination. Camozzi is a very workmanlike fighter, his striking is technically sound, but he doesn’t really possess KO power, relying instead on damage accumulation and point scoring in his strikes. On the ground he’s a capable grappler, but isn’t exactly a submission aficionado. Camozzi holds a professional MMA record of 15-5.
Analysis and Prediction: Camozzi may not be great at anything, but he is well-rounded enough to win this fight. In his UFC debut Jacoby looked absolutely terrible on the ground and was unable to mount any offense whatsoever from guard. At 6’4” with decent striking, Jacoby definitely has the physical tools to control this bout, if he can effectively control the range. But it’s more likely that Camozzi closes the distance searches out a takedown and completely outworks Jacoby for three rounds. Chris Camozzi via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout (Fuel TV): Heavyweight Bout: Joey Beltran vs. Lavar Johnson
Joey “The Mexecutioner” Beltran is a Mexican-American fighter from San Diego, California. Despite his relatively mediocre record inside the octagon (3-3) he is probably one of the fighters who enjoys the most job-security due to his fan-friendly brawling style. Beltran is a straight up brawler, who relies on his iron chin and his heavy-handed stand up style. He is a member of the Alliance MMA gym and also a member of the Blackline Fight Group. Beltran’s biggest weapons are by far his hands, as he constantly pushes forward, no matter what his opponents throw at him. His 11 victories by way of knockout or TKO prove that fact. Overall Beltran owns a professional record of 13-6.
Lavar “Big” Johnson has one of the most impressive stories of anybody in professional MMA today. During a family reunion in 2009, he was shot twice only to survive and return to the cage a year later. Johnson is an extremely powerful puncher who owns 13 wins by way of KO or TKO. However, he is severely lacking in the ground game department, as in his past two fights he was somewhat exploited on the ground by superior grapplers. Nevertheless, he remains dangerous as he can end the fight at any time that the fight remains upright. Johnson also owns a rare statistic that he has never had a fight go to a decision, win or lose this guy comes to fight. He owns a professional record of 15-5.
Analysis and Prediction: My early prediction is that this fight is a serious contender for Fight of the Night. This has all the makings of a potential brawl and it’s likely that fans are going to be treated to a Heavyweight slugfest. Johnson is absolutely terrible on the ground, but unless he is getting completely smashed on the feet, Beltran is unlikely to search for a takedown to exploit it. In a stand up game, Beltran’s defense is horrible and he’s never met a punch he didn’t mind taking on the chin, luckily for him however, that chin is made of granite. However, that poses a big liability for him as Johnson is likely going to be the most powerful puncher that he has ever faced. If Beltran is smart he’d take this fight to the mat, it’s more likely he goes out there and brawls for the fans. He’s never been KO’ed but he’s never fought a power puncher like Johnson. In a brawl, I like the upset here. Lavar Johnson via KO in Round Two
Preliminary Card Bout (Fuel TV): Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson vs. Shane Roller
Michael “The Menace” Johnson is a former cast member of The Ultimate Fighter: GSP vs. Koscheck, he finished the season as the runner-up, losing at the live finale to champion Jonathan Brookins. Johnson is primarily a wrestler, who relies on his takedowns and top control to win him fights. Johnson is a 25-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, he now however trains out of Boca Raton, Florida with the Imperial Athletics Team. Johnson has been working to improve his boxing skills, but he still is a fairly rudimentary striker, who uses his punches simply to set up takedowns and close distances. Johnson owns a career record of 9-6.
Shane Roller is a 32-year-old fighter from Bixby, Oklahoma. He has a very decorated background as a collegiate wrestler for Oklahoma State University where he was a three-time All-American. Roller is a member of the Team Takedown Gym based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is continually working on his stand up skills to compliment his strong wrestling. Roller has transitioned his wrestling skills well to MMA, as he is a very competent grappler, who uses ground and pound to search for submission opportunities and has actually won most of his fights by Submission. Roller has struggled in his past few bouts, going 1-2 during the stretch and is in need of a win, still he does own a solid professional resume with a 10-5 record with most losses coming to some very high-level 155-pounders.
Analysis and Prediction: These two men are very likely fighting for their jobs, because anything other than impressive performances from both will likely earn the loser a pink-slip. Unfortunately, both fighters’ backgrounds are rooted in wrestling so a brawl isn’t likely in the cards. Roller is a big power puncher who can end the fight any time that he connects with that big right hand and he’s too good of a wrestler to be taken down and controlled by Johnson. Without the takedown Johnson doesn’t have a solid path to victory and it’s likely he gets controlled on the mat by a superior wrestler in Roller. Expect Roller to use ground and pound to set up a submission late in the second round. Shane Roller via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card Bout (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Charles Oliveira vs. Eric Wisely
Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira is a Brazilian fighter and was a highly touted prospect when he entered the UFC. He has since struggled slightly, but at only 22-years old and having recently dropped to the Featherweight division he is looking to get his career back on track and has plenty of time to do so. Oliveira like most of his Brazilian counter-parts is a Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter, who owns a brown belt in BJJ. Oliveira is a very aggressive fighter who is constantly pushing the pace against his opponents and is always looking for a finish. In 17 career bouts, he has gone to a decision only once. He has a professional record of 14-2, with 1 No Contest.
Eric “Little Lee” Wisely is a 27-year-old fighter from the Team Conquest camp in Clinton, Iowa. A decent striker with a solid grappling acumen he most recently fought at a Strikeforce event where he gave top Lightweight prospect Pat Healy all he could handle on the mat. Wisely owns career victories over former UFC fighters Matt Veach and Hermes Franca, outworking both fighters on the mat using his submission savvy style. Wisely is also making the drop to Featherweight for this bout as well as it being his UFC debut, he gets a stiff test though in Oliveira. Wisely’s career record stands at 19-6.
Analysis and Prediction: Oliveira may look like he’s getting thrown a softball here, but really he has a lot to lose. He came into the UFC with a lot of hype and while he deserved most of it, he didn’t deliver. He’s being given an opponent with zero name value, but who can provide a stern and scrappy test by turning this fight ugly on Oliveira. What the Brazilian needs to do is use his strong boxing skills to control the distance that this fight gets fought at. Using leg kicks will slow down Wisely and allow him to control the pace. From there in the second and third rounds he can open up a bit, and use takedowns to set up an eventual win via Submission. Charles Oliveira via Submission in Round Three
Preliminary Card Bout (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Cub Swanson vs. George Roop
Cub Swanson is a 28-year-old fighter from Palm Springs, California. A veteran of the WEC, Swanson is a Jackson’s MMA disciple with a strong background in kickboxing and decent grappling skills to compliment. Swanson is best known as the victim of Jose Aldo’s flying knee KO which is the feature of almost every Aldo highlight reel, however, he is a very fan-friendly fighter who prefers to stand and trade with his opponents and is always fighting at a high pace. Swanson is really not great in any particular area, but is solid in all aspects of the fight game, however, he has proven to be a bit to happy to exchange in brawls where it does not suit him. Nonetheless he has enjoyed some success in his career and holds a record of 15-5 as a professional.
George Roop has been one of the most surprising comeback stories in UFC history. He is a former cast member of the Ultimate Fighter who made his debut in the stacked 155-Pound class. After going 1-2 in the UFC he was promptly released which caused him to return to his natural weight of 145-pounds. At 6’1” Roop is the largest Featherweight fighter on the UFC’s payroll and provides a stylistic mismatch for any striker in the division due to his long limbs and range. Roop is a Team Tompkins striker whose expertise lies in the striking department. He uses kicks well to establish range and then picks his opponents apart from the outside utilizing his massive reach. Despite early struggles in the UFC, Roop has shown rapid improvement in his overall MMA game as of late. He holds a pro record of 12-8.
Analysis and Prediction: If you asked me who would win this fight when both men were still in the WEC, I would have picked Swanson in a heartbeat, however Roop has shown a lot of improvement lately. Many people felt that he actually defeated Hatsu Hioki, and while I scored that bout 29-28 in favor of Hioki, the fight was a lot closer than I expected. Roop’s biggest strength is his size and he has finally learned to use his height to his advantage. Instead of fighting crunched up, he now stands tall and throws tons of kicks to keep his opponents at bay. Swanson is well rounded enough to stick with Roop every step of the way, but I think he’ll struggle getting inside on Roop, which could lead to him taking a few knees and elbows from a clinch. It’ll be close but it’ll be Unanimous for Roop. George Roop via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout (Fuel TV): Heavyweight Bout: Mike Russow vs. John-Olav Einemo
Mike Russow is a 35-year-old fighter from Chicago, Illinois who will be fighting in front of some hometown fans for this bout. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler and is a former member of Brock Lesnar’s DeathClutch Gym in Minnesota. Russow has decent wrestling skills, but is best known for his ability to take punishment and brawl his heart out. Most fans would recognize Russow from his fight against Todd Duffee where he absorbed nearly 13 minutes of punishment and was well on his way to losing a decision before blasting Duffee with a huge overhand right that knocked the massive Heavyweight out cold. Russow holds a pro record of 14-1 with 1 no contest and is currently riding a ten fight winning streak.
John-Olav “The Viking” Einemo is a fighter from Oslo, Norway. Despite being 36-years-old he is one of the Heavyweight divisions best grapplers and one of the top BJJ practitioners in the world. He is the 2003 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion in the 98 KG weight-class and holds the distinction of being the only man to defeat Roger Gracie in the Abu Dhabi tournament. He is a black belt in BJJ and is a member of the Golden Glory Gym, the former home of Alistair Overeem. Despite taking a five year break he gave Dave Herman all he could handle in his last bout at UFC 131, and will be looking for his first octagon victory in this bout. He holds a pro record of 6-2.
Analysis and Prediction: Despite his somewhat impressive record, I’ve never been overly impressed by Russow. His striking is decent, loaded with power, but it’s often slow and sloppy. He’s also shown a propensity to gas slightly in the later rounds of fights, which could come back to haunt him in a bout against a solid grappler like Einemo. Einemo is a very large Heavyweight, who will enjoy a four inch height advantage and a fifteen or so pound weight advantage. Russow has strong wrestling, but like most wrestlers is very poor fighting from his back. If Einemo can hold his own boxing long enough to snatch a takedown he can easily win this bout by out-grappling the American. I smell an upset. John-Olav Einemo via Submission in Round Three
Preliminary Card Bout (Fuel TV): Lightweight Bout: Evan Dunham vs. Nik Lentz
Evan “3-D” Dunham is a 30-year-old fighter from Eugene, Oregon who now trains at the Throwdown Training Center and Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dunham is a solid striker who throws combinations well but can be somewhat poor defensively. However, when the fight hits the mat is when he excels. He has strong wrestling with good takedowns and is a black belt in BJJ. Dunham is an aggressive fighter who constantly pressures opponents, oftentimes forcing them into mistakes where he can take advantage with power punches or by searching for submissions. Dunham was one of the top prospects of the Lightweight class before a Knockout loss to Melvin Guillard, he will be looking to put the hype train back in full gear with a big win in this bout. He enters the bout with a pro record of 12-2.
Nik “The Carnie” Lentz is actually a late-replacement for Paul Sass, taking this fight on just over a month’s notice. The 27-year-old from El Paso, Texas recently lost one of the most impressive winning streaks in MMA after going 15 fights without a loss, he was recently out-grappled and out-worked by Canadian Mark Bocek at UFC 140. Lentz is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler from the University of Minnesota. A member of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, he relies heavily on his wrestling base to win him fights. He often struggles against fighters that he cannot overwhelm with wrestling as he lacks a strong striking game to back up his grappling prowess. Lentz holds a pro record of 21-4-2 with 1 no contest.
Analysis and Prediction: While some people are impressed by Lentz’s long unbeaten streak, I think it had a lot to do with luck and circumstance. He was being completely demolished by Charles Oliveira before an Illegal Knee turned an eventual TKO loss into a No Contest. The biggest factor in this fight is Lentz’s last bout against Mark Bocek. Bocek was able to overpower him with wrestling and superior grappling positioning. Dunham is a better wrestler with just as much positional awareness as Bocek and more aggression. However, Lentz is still incredibly tough to finish having been stopped only twice in his career. As it is, I expect an almost exact replica of the Bocek fight for Lentz but with more damage taken. However, he’ll likely make it to the final bell. Evan Dunham via Unanimous Decision
Main Card Bout (FOX): Middleweight Bout: Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman
Demian Maia is a 34-year-old fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is among the best pure grapplers in the UFC’s Middleweight division and is adding strong technical boxing to back up his impressive BJJ skills. A 4th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Maia is a former winner of the acclaimed ADCC Submission Fighting World Championships. To improve his striking skills Maia has recently joined the Wand Fight Team. He is a former title challenger for the UFC’s Middleweight title and also has decent Judo skills which he often uses in lieu of straight wrestling takedowns to get the fight to the mat. Maia is an aggressive grappler who is always searching for submission opportunities, but he fares much better when he is in top position as opposed to fighting from his back. Maia owns a career record of 15-3 with 8 wins via Submission.
Chris “The All-American” Weidman is a highly touted prospect from Baldwin, New York. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Hofstra University where he was a two-time Division 1 All-American. Weidman has continued to add to his wrestling base and is rapidly improving his submission grappling skills under the tutelage of coach Matt Serra. Weidman is part of the Serra-Long Fight Team in Long Island, New York. Weidman like his opponent for this bout does not possess great striking skills, however he has been consistently improving his stand up skills as he matures as a fighter. Weidman is a late-replacement for Michael Bisping who received a promotion to the co-main event, Weidman accepted this fight on less than three weeks notice. Currently undefeated as a professional, Weidman owns a record of 7-0 with 5 wins via stoppage in the first round.
Analysis and Prediction: This is a very interesting bout with a lot of angles that could play out. I actually like this bout more than Maia and original opponent Michael Bisping. Let’s breakdown some of the areas of the fight. Strength and athleticism edge has to go to Weidman, although he has gassed in the later rounds of previous fights, while Maia is usually able to go the full three rounds at top speed. The grappling edge is pretty much a toss-up, Maia has better grappling skills, but will spend most of this fight on his back, which is not somewhere that he excels at submission offense. Weidman holds the clear wrestling edge, which will likely be the key path to victory for him. Standing, both have shown raw but improving stand up and have good coaches in their corners, again I’d say this one is a toss up, with Maia having a slight edge.
So where does that take us? Weidman is likely going to shoot for takedowns early and often, and if they get stuffed, he’s likely going to throw a couple of punches and then shoot again and again until he earns a takedown. He’ll need to have improved his cardio, because if he slows down in the third round it’s very likely that Maia will be able to latch onto a limb for a submission. However, it’s more likely that Weidman uses his strong wrestling base to control Maia on the mat and negate his grappling edge. Maia is too smart positionally to be caught in any intricate submissions by Weidman, so the only likely way Weidman wins by Submission is by a guillotine or Rear naked choke. The most likely outcome is that Weidman uses his wrestling to control the bout on the mat, using a lot of ground and pound to wear out Maia en-route to a Unanimous Decision victory
Main Card Bout (FOX): Middleweight Bout: Michael Bisping vs. Chael Sonnen
Michael “The Count” Bisping is an English fighter from Manchester, England. He is a member of the Wolfslair MMA Academy in the UK. Bisping is best known to fans for his brash and cocky attitude and his trash-talking skills, but has legit fighting skills to go along with all his talking. Bisping was the Light heavyweight winner of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter. Bisping lacks strong wrestling skills, however, he has solid takedown defense and strong defensive BJJ, although his main focus is creating sweeps to get back to his feet as opposed to searching for takedowns. His striking is technically sound and although he doesn’t strike with power, he is an expert at using his quick footwork to dart in and out against opponents, landing in combinations and retreating before taking too much damage. Bisping owns a career record of 22-3 with his lone losses coming from the elite fighters of the sport Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans.
Chael Sonnen is quite possibly the most hated fighter in the UFC. He will continue his quest for a rematch with Middleweight champion Anderson Silva on network television and if he gets a microphone after this fight, look out, because sparks will surely fly. Sonnen is a 34-year-old fighter from West Linn, Oregon. Sonnen is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from the University of Oregon, and was also a USA Olympic team alternate for Greco-Roman Wrestling. Sonnen is a member of the Portland, Oregon chapter of Team Quest. His striking skills are fairly mediocre, however, his wrestling is top notch. He uses strong wrestling and top control to grind away at and pound away at his opponents. He is best known to casual fans for his bout against Anderson Silva, where he controlled the champion on the mat for nearly five full rounds, before being submitted in the last minute of the fight. Submission defense has always been Sonnen’s Achilles heel, as he has eight career losses by way of Submission. Sonnen enters this fight with a career record of 26-11-1.
Analysis and Prediction: A lot of people seem to be hyping a Michael Bisping upset special, but I think many gamblers are being lured by the long-shot odds currently being offered by bookies to Bisping supporters. Bisping has earned the nickname “Pillowfists” on the internet, and while I don’t necessarily agree with the criticism, it’s hard to argue as Bisping relies on cumulative damage as opposed to one-punch KO’s. Nevertheless, he will still hold the stand up edge against Sonnen whose striking game is fairly rudimentary and used only as a means to close distance and shoot for a takedown.
The question for Bisping will be how good is his takedown defense? How long can he sprawl-and-brawl and keep himself upright before Sonnen drags him to the mat. Everyone knows Sonnen’s game plan, it’s not hard to figure out, the hard thing is stopping his constant takedowns from eventually getting you to your back. Bisping must constantly change angles and stay away from Sonnen if he is going to have any chance at stealing this fight. However, I think the more likely outcome is three rounds of Sonnen takedowns followed by grinding ground and pound all the way to a clear cut devision victory. Sonnen’s submission defense is basically non-existent and there is always the chance that Bisping throws up a hail mary triangle choke from guard, but his grappling is more focussed on getting himself to his feet than searching for submissions from his back, so I think the likelihood of that happening is relatively slim. Chael Sonnen via Unanimous Decision
Main Card Bout (FOX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis
“Sugar” Rashad Evans is a 32-year-old fighter from Niagara Falls, New York. Evans was the winner of the Heavyweight division of the Ultimate Fighter 2 and is also a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Evans has a background in wrestling as he was a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Michigan State University. However, Evans has continually improved his overall game and has some extremely slick boxing skills to go along with his excellent wrestling base. Evans is a former Team Jackson fighter who after a public feud with current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (and current Greg Jackson Fighter) Jon Jones, he left the camp to join the Imperial Athletics Gym in Boca Raton, Florida. Earlier in his career Evans received a reputation as a lay and pray fighter who used wrestling to control his opponents, but could do little else. His knockout victories over Sean Salmon, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell have definitely changed that assumption. He possesses great hand speed and some of the best footwork in the Light Heavyweight division. Evans owns a professional record of 16-1-1.
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis is a 27-year-old fighter from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Undefeated as a professional, Davis is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from the Penn State University. Now fighting out of San Diego, California he is a member of the Alliance MMA Team where he trains regularly with fights such as Dominick Cruz, Brandon Vera and Alexander Gustafsson. Davis mostly utilizes his wrestling skills to search for takedowns and top control to earn points on the judge’s scorecards. However, he has continued to improve his striking skills and has rapidly improved his submission offense from top control. Davis holds a career record of 9-0.
Analysis and Prediction: This is yet another intriguing bout and is one of the main reasons why I’m looking so forward to this weekends card, (that and the fact that it’s on free TV.) Wrestlers have a constant criticism that follows them wherever they go, that they can’t fight off of their backs and it is almost universally true. The question here will be, which fighter is more likely to impose his game plan on his opponent and actually what will each fighter’s game plan be? Let’s breakdown each fighter’s most likely path to victory.
Rashad Evans will likely be looking to strike. Once a feared wrestler known for his controlling lay-and-pray style, Evans has tossed that version of himself aside. Now he instead thinks of himself as the second-coming of Muhammed Ali, preferring to stand and trade with nearly all of his opponents. He will likely have the striking advantage and definitely holds the edge in hand and foot speed, so he should be able to outwork Davis in the stand up department. Davis is also a wrestler, which means he would likely fare poorly from his back. Rashad can still control fighters, look at his first two rounds against Rampage for proof, and if he executes a similar game plan against Davis, it’s unlikely that Davis has the grappling skills to catch a submission from the bottom.
Overall I think Evans just has more ways to win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either fighter walk out of the main event with their hand raised, but Evans has more ways to accomplish that feat. If he can keep the bout standing it’s likely that he will beat Davis to the punch consistently and accumulate damage against his younger foe. On the mat, I’d give the edge to whoever ends up on top. My best guess is that Davis throws a couple of curveballs to Evans along the way, but Evans earns the Unanimous Decision nod after the dust settles. Rashad Evans via Unanimous Decision
Lee McGregor is the owner and editor-in-chief of Source4MMA.com which will be launching in early 2012.
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