February 15th, 2013
Why It Matters: UFC On Fuel 7
Why The Event Matters
The UFC returns to England for the first time since September with a Bantamweight title fight. It’s the interim belt but there’s a good chance Dominick Cruz isn’t coming back any time soon so consider this a Bantamweight title fight. Also on the card you have two significant light heavyweight fights, a fight that could determine a future #1 contender for the featherweight title and fighters all over the undercard that will be fighting for their jobs.
Ulysses Gomez (9-3) vs Phil Harris (21-10)
Why It Matters: The Opener Curse
Returning to the U.K. isn’t always a benefit for fighters native to the area. Sure they get to fight at home and in front of their friends and families but the win-loss record for Brits in the U.K. isn’t overwhelmingly better at home. More importantly, for this fight at least, is the opener curse. In the last three openers in England, the Brits have gone 0-3. James McSweeney lost to Fabio Maldonado at UFC 120, Vaughan Lee lost to Chris Cariaso at UFC 138 and at UFC on Fuel 5, Jason Young was KO’d by Robbie Peralta. As such all of the pressure is on England’s Phil Harris who will have to break that streak in order to keep his job. His opponent is “Useless” Ulysses Gomez who was brutally KO’d by John Moraga not too far back. Gomez has said that taking that fight on short notice means that this is official UFC debut in his eyes. Gomez is the more higher ranked of the two and that streak, coincidental or otherwise, doesn’t seem to instill much confidence in fans.
Vaughan Lee (12-8-1) vs Motonobu Tezuka (19-5-4)
Why It Matters: Who stays and who goes?
Motonobu Tezuka stepped up on very short notice to fight Alex Caceres in Macau. After losing, Tezuka will get one more chance to show his worth to the UFC brass by taking on England’s Vaughan Lee. Lee, a skilled grappler, has been thrown to the wolves in his UFC career. This is somewhat of an easy touch for him in his hometown. That said Tezuka is a durable Japanese fighter who has been in the game a long time. He has the skills to upser Lee given that Tezuka has the better stand up. Making matters more tense is that the loser of this fight could conceivably find themselves getting the proverbial pink slip.
Stanislav Nedkov (12-0) vs Tom Watson (15-5)
Why It Matters: Nedkov’s weight cut against Tom Watson’s hometown advantage
Nedkov’s last performance in the octagon was a dreadful boring affair that ended with him being put to subbed by Thiago Alves. Stanislav Nedkov did what most fighters who unfairly attribute their inadequacies do. He decided to drop a weight class, going from 205 to 185. He’ll be welcomed in the new weight class by the UK’s Tom “Kong” Watson. Watson’s first fight in the UFC was an enjoyable affair but unfortunately one that ended in a loss to Brad Tavares. For UK MMA, it was a heartbreaking loss considering how popular Watson had become over time. The loser of this fight will undoubtedly be getting cut barring an amazing performance so there’s a lot of pressure on both guys to perform. We’ll find out if middleweight is the right weight for the oft-injured Nedkov.
Josh Grispi (14-4) vs Andy Ogle (8-2)
Why It Matters: Is there a comeback in The Fluke?
Josh Grispi. Man what can you say about the guy? Came into the UFC as the #1 contender at featherweight. Aldo gets hurt and in comes Dustin Porier who wrecks him. His next fight is a “gimme” against George Roop where he gets thoroughly demolished. A long lay off filled with injuries causes him to take some time off and when he returns, he’s soundly defeated by Rani Yahya. This is it for Grispi, his last chance in the UFC. A loss to TUF 15-er Andy Ogle is without question Grispi’s land chance to keep a job in the UFC. The same could go for Ogle as well, an unfortunate call by the judges giving him a loss in his UFC debut against Akira Corossani. In truth, there’s not much expected from Ogle. At one point, much WAS expected of Josh Grispi. This is without question his last chance to maybe see that potential through.
Paul Sass (13-1) vs Danny Castillo (14-5)
Why It Matters: How will Paul Sass rebound?
Paul Sass bit off a little more than he can chew in his last outing versus Mitt Wiman. After taking Matt down, Sass found himself upset in front of the English crowd by way of armbar. The focus is on Sass and whether he can rebound from his first ever career loss. He’ll face a fighter whose going to put him in the position to do that in Danny Castillo. Castillo is coming off a TKO loss vs Michael Johnson and will look to rely on his wrestling to get back into the winners column. Again though, the focus is on the ultra talented Sass and how he recovers from his first career loss.
Terry Etim (15-4) vs Renee Forte (7-2)
Why It Matters: Is Etim irrelevant now?
Terry Etim is one of England’s more popular fighters. In many ways, he’s sort of their Mike Swick; a talented fighter who is known for choking in big fights and being injured. Coming off a KO loss and yet another long lay off due to injuries (13 months), Etim returns in England against TUF Brazil castmate Renee Forte. A middleweight on the reality show, Forte is dropping all the way to 155 lbs in an attempt to salvage his UFC career. While a lot of people figure Etim to be the odds on favorite here, this IS Terry Etim we’re talking about. He’ll be facing a bigger opponent who has the edge in the power department. It’s a winnable fight for Etim…which makes it all the more dangerous for him.
Che Mills (15-5) vs Matt Riddle (7-3)
Why It Matters: Riddle gets a buttertoothed Brit. Just not the he wanted.
Matt Riddle saved UFC 149 from being a complete disaster by having a great fight with Chris Clements. He then saved the press conference from being a complete disaster by cutting a two minute promo on England, “buttertoothed Brits”, Dan Hardy and mouth spitters. Since then, Riddle has amassed a fan following entirely based upon the desire to see him and Hardy duke it out. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened yet due to Hardy’s disinterest in the fight. Riddle can go a long way towards locking that fight up by handling Mills, a training partner of Dan Hardy’s. Mills is a talented stand up artist who packs a wallop in each punch and is coming off a TKO win over Duane Ludwig. He can easily stop Riddle’s momentum with one well placed punch…but on the other hand, Riddle has the wrestling to challenge and frustrate Che Mills. It’s one of the reasons this fight is almost must watch. Well, that and the whole buttertoothed Brit deal.
Ryan Jimmo (17-1) vs James Te Huna (15-5)
Why It Matters: Will Old Ryan Jimmo show up?
Like most of you fine folks, Ryan Jimmo impressed the hell out of me at UFC 149. That had less to do with the actual fight and more to do with Jimmo’s performances prior to that. Ryan Jimmo had (appropriately) earned a reputation for being a play it safe TKD guy who was looking to see the end of the fight and nothing more. His KO of Perosh was mighty impressive….but was that the real Jimmo? We’re going to find out against heavy handed powerful Newzealand native James Te Huna. With power in both fists and a good gas tank, Te Huna presents serious challenges for Jimmo that he hasn’t faced in quite some time. The question is will Jimmo revert back into his shell and be conservative? Or will he attempt to bring the fight to Te Huna? For the fans, the latter is the preferred option. For Jimmo? The former may yield stinky but effective results. Also lost in the shuffle is Te Huna’s standing in the division. A win over Jimmo would give him a three fight winning streak against quality opposition in Aaron Rosa, Joey Beltran and Ryan Jimmo. Throw in one loss against Alexander Gustafsson and you’d wonder where Te Huna will wind up being ranked when all is said and done.
Gunnar Nelson (10-0-1) vs Jorge Santiago (25-10)
Why It Matters: The Most Talented Fighter To Never Stick In The UFC Returns.
I posted the question as to who was the most skilled fighter to never make it in the UFC. While some listed the likes of Mayhem Miller, Jay Heiron and Michihiro Omigawa, the overwhelming favorite is Jorge Santiago. Blessed with a great ground game but cursed with poor fight IQ and a shoddy chin, Santiago gets yet another shot in the big leagues—this time as a WW. The sledding doesn’t get easy for Santiago as his opponent is Icelandic phenomenon Gunnar Nelson. “Gunni” is coming off a brutal victory over DeMarques Johnson and while Santiago is the stiffest test of his young career, it doesn’t seem like the stage nor the opponent can frazzle the youngster. You can see the raw talent in the youngster and why the MMA community is buzzing about him. On the other hand, you have Santiago who has failed too many times to instill confidence. The match up is most intriguing when you consider the variables: short notice for Santiago, Nelson’s relatively untested resume and Santiago’s fine China chin. The most important storyline though is that Gunnar Nelson will either leave “the new man” in the 170 lb weight class or the UFC’s most talented fighter will finally get a signature win to hang his hat on.
Cyrille Diabate (19-8-1) vs Jimi Manuwa (12-0)
Why It Matters: Violence Matters
We all watch MMA for skill and techniques. We also watch it for the qualities we can’t measure on paper like the indomitable fighting spirit, the pageantry and showmanship of a fist fight and the courage we often cannot possess ourselves. Sometimes? We just want violence. Division relevance isn’t very high in this fight. Diabate is prone to lapses against good fighters and Manuwa is in his 2nd fight with the company. What is high though is the violence meter. Manuwa commits everything to every punch he throws and exemplifies violence. Cyrille Diabate can pick fighters apart with his precise striking and patience, the kind that would almost have fans referring to him as sadistic. Both fighters are evenly matched with strengths and weaknesses that are similar. The question is whether Diabiate can withstand Manuwa’s power long enough to pick apart Jimi when he gasses. Cyrille’s chin is as shaky as Manuwa’s cardio. What isn’t up for debate though is whether or not this fight will be violent. This is a throwback to violence—and I love it.
Dustin Piorier (13-2) vs Cub Swanson (18-5)
Why It Matters: Will Cub Swanson cool off before his rematch with Aldo?
If Cub Swanson was in the NBA, he’d be a volume 3 point shooter. The sort of guy who can go 7-8 from 3 point range or 0-8. It’s fair to remember that not too long ago, was going life and death with Mackens Semerzier. Some might even say he was lucky to be “gifted” a win. A little after that, Ricardo Lamas had his way with him on the mat. Since then? Cub Swanson has exemplified UFC bad ass with 3 straight wins and all by finish. He’s riding hot streak but you can sense the cool down period coming up. His opponent is short notice replacement Dustin Piorier, a fighter who returned to the win column with a submission win over Johnathan Brookins. Piorier is a talented fighter who is just as likely to pull off a long win streak as Cub is. With Aldo likely tied up into December, this fight will determine nothing more than who gets the next step up over the Summer. The winner of this fight could have Frankie Edgar in his future. That’s an exciting though, almost as exciting as these two fighters. If Cub can just keep his winning streak going a little longer, he could finally get the rematch he longs for
Michael McDonald (15-1) vs Renan Barao (29-1)
Why It Matters: Is it too early for McDonald? Or is it Mayday for Renan Barao?
Title fights often sell themselves. This is one of them really. It’s two superb strikers over five rounds, both with KO power and both with a lot to prove. This one though deserves a lot of in depth detail. With Dominick Cruz out, the #2 and #3 bantamweight will fight it out to determine who reps the division as interim champion. From a styles and skills standpoint, it’s McDonald’s superior power and hand speed opposite Barao’s tremendous grappling. Digging deeper, this fight is Barao’s wealth of experience against McDonald’s pure athletic talent. It’d be unfair and inaccurate to not mention that McDonald is essentially a baby in MMA. He’s going into this fight with a severe inexperience advantage. Barao has been the co-main event or main event twice in his UFC career. Michael McDonald has been on one UFC main card. Barao has already had a title shot and been in there, a place McDonald hasn’t. The feeling is that McDonald’s time is far away and that the only one currently who can handle Barao is Dominick Cruz. Mayday hopes to prove that wrong with his speed, power and varied offense. The fight is getting little publicity with Ronda’s World in a week or two. That does’t mean it’s not worth seeing. If you get a chance, check this fight out. It’ll be well worth your time.