UFC 131 was to be all about the “coaches battle” from TUF season 13, with Brock Lesnar facing off against Junior Dos Santos for the #1 contender position and a shot at the champion – Cain Velasquez. However Lesnar has been stricken with another bout of diverticulitis. He had surgery and another piece of his colon was removed. What sort of an effect this will have on Lesnars career is anyones guess, but as a fan I hope we see him back in the Octagon again. I think he is great for the sport. In his place comes Shane Carwin. We haven’t seen Carwin in the Octagon since he:
- Battered Brock for the first round of their fight and then gassed out.
- Then had a brush with the infamous “steroid incident”.
- Then had a (some would say conveniently timed) neck surgery, meaning he was unable to take the fight against Roy Nelson.
Many people thought that the chain of events after the Brock fight, specifically his implication in the PED case, provided a far more feasible excuse for his ability to only do 5 minutes of a fight with Brock than his own protestations of suffering from Lactic Acidosis. Though not me of course…erm *ahem* *cough* *cough*.
In-spite of all these setbacks and my own suspicion that he is (or certainly WAS) just a big juicer who is about to be exposed again…Carwin is back and looking to turn Brocks bad-luck into his own good fortune as he chases his dream of UFC gold. If I had a canned laughter sound effect for this blog, I would use it here.
As always it is great to see a Brit on the card and Jason “shotgun” Young makes his promotional debut against Dustin “Diamond” Poirier. Although this is way down on the facebook prelim card, I hope they show it on the broadcast prelims or during the main event as I think it will be a great fight and I can’t watch it on the net because facebook is the devil and I don’t have an account.
Another interesting fight is the 145lb debut of Kenny Florian against Diego Nunes. It will be interesting to see how “Ken-Flo” who first appeared in the Ultimate Fighter as a Middleweight will fare in this division. All-in-all though, this is another fairly flat looking card compared to recent ones. I think this one goes in the same bucket as UFC 130. There are some good fights but it is lacking star-appeal for me. Maybe I am just another spoilt UFC fan, but it’s just how I see it.
As an aside to this post, I am quite excited by the recent announcement that the UFC has gone into partnership with Xbox and now UFC events and classic fights can be accessed via Xbox live. There is also talk of live UFC events having some degree of interactivity for Xbox live users and even voice activated commands through kinect. That is pretty awesome and I am looking forward to some more details coming out about that!
Enough jibber-jabber now though…..Let’s get it on!
Darren Elkins 11-2-0 vs. Michihiro Omigawa 12-9-1 – Featherweight
Omigawa is a product of the Yoshida Judo dojo in Japan and a big name. He has had a previous (and unsuccesful) stint in the UFC back in 2008 where he went 0-2 as a lightweight and he was defeated by Chad Mendes on his return to the promotion as a 145er at UFC126. Elkins could represent his last chance to make a name for himself with the UFC, something very few Japanese fighters have done (Akiyama excepted). Elkins took a very quick submission loss to Charles Oliveira on the Jones vs Matyushenko card and will look to make a statement in this fight. I would expect Omigawa to look to take this to the mat early and this fight could be decided on whether Elkins can stop him doing that. I’m thinking he probably can’t and the Japanese man, grinds out a decision win. Omigawa decision
Aaron Rosa 16-3-0 vs. Joey Beltran 12-5-0 – Heavyweight
Newcomer Rosa faces off against Beltran, a fighter who could be looking at the chop if he loses this match. The “mexecutioner” has had a couple of moments in his UFC career and always looks to bring it to his opponents. Rosa is a prospect who has struggled when stepping up in level of competition (Hamman, Calvacante) but he comes into this fight riding a 4 fight win-streak. This is striker vs grappler. Beltran will want a dirty scrap and to go looking for the big shot. Rosa should avoid this at all costs and use his jiujitsu, ensuring he doesnt make the same mistake as Rolles Gracie. I think Rosa could pull out a submission here if he fights sensibly and plays to his strengths staying out of the clinch against the fence and avoiding any big haymakers. Rosa submission round 2
Dustin Poirier 9-1-0 vs. Jason Young 8-3-0 – Featherweight
Poirier impressed last time out against Josh Grispi who many was tipping as Jose Aldo’s biggest threat. He looked strong in all ranges and did a great job in dictating the pace of the fight. Jason Young has looked great since dropping to 145 and scored what many saw as an huge upset win against highly regarded European fighter Sergej Grecicho on Cagewarriors 38. This is a big chance for Young to show the world what he’s got, but if Poirier comes in firing on all cylinders it’s going to be very tough for him. As is often the case with UK fighters, Young will have a distinct disadvantage in the wrestling game. His striking is excellent though and at striking range this will be an incredibly exciting match fought at a high pace. If Poirier closes and clinches, Young will need to use his hips and underhooks well to separate and stay at range. I think his best chance is on the feet and although the smart money is on a Poirier win, I am shamelessly playing favourites and picking the brit to take it by dragging Poirier into a brawl and suprising him with his stand-up prowess. Although just to be clear, I am aware that a highly likely scenario is Poirier being a smart fighter, sensing the danger on the feet and immediately taking this to the floor and working submissions. Young TKO rd 3
Nick Ring 11-0-0 vs. James Head 7-1-0 – Middleweight
Ring looked a great prospect in TUF11 but had to withdraw due to a serious knee injury. Whilst that is now sorted, last time out against Fukuda he looked tentative and, despite picking up the decision win, was unconvincing. He will be looking to show against Head that he is as good as he looked during his appearances on TUF (where he actually beat Court Mcgee who was eventually reinstated and went on to win the whole thing). Head beat Gerald Harris last time out, a fighter who scored a spectacular slam KO over Dave Branch and then (surprisingly) lost his UFC spot after a decision loss to Maiquel Falcao. Head is a purple belt in BJJ and a decent striker. I think Ring has to be the favourite here, but if he is still not 100% confident in his knee and that plays on his mind causing him to hold back, he is getting beat. He won’t want to disappoint his home fans though and training at tri-star with the likes of GSP won’t have harmed his chances either. I’m taking Ring for the decision win here. But his nickname needs work “the promise” ring?? Seriously? Massive FAIL. Ring decision
Krzysztof Soszynski 25-11-1 vs. Mike Massenzio 12-4-0 – Light Heavyweight
In the battle of the highest scoring fighters in scrabble, two men with patchy UFC records face off. Massenzio is making his 205lb debut after winning his place back in the UFC following a TKO win over Nate Kittregde (i know, i havent got a clue either!). Interestingly Massenzio is going UP in weight in this one and is coming in at very short notice after Krzysztofs orignal opponent Perosh and the replacement Pokrajac both had to withdraw. Given the short-notice and the new weight I don’t love Massenzio’s chances here at all. Sozzzzie-what-his-name is a great all round fighter, powerful striking, decent clinch and wrestling and some nasty subs (particularly his trademark kimura). Massenzio has a very good grappling pedigree but he dropped a submission loss to Brian Stann so I’m not banking on him to dominate his opponent on the ground. I think sozzzie takes this fight with a crushing TKO defeat from top position. Sozzie-thingy-bloke TKO rd 2
Chris Weidman 5-0-0 vs. Jesse Bongfeldt 15-4-0 – Middleweight
Bongfeldt steps in to face Weidman as a replacement for the injured TUF winner Court Mcgee. There is a pretty huge gulf in experience here, but that hasn’t mattered in the past to Weidman who took a fight with Alessio Sakara (15-7-0 and 1 nc at the time) and used takedowns and nice top control en-route to a unanimous decision win. Weidman is a 2-time all american which means nothing to most Brits but apparently is a good sign that his wrestling is a very high standard. Bongfeldts UFC debut was a draw with Natal. Natal won the first two rounds but Bongfeldts conditioninig advantage saw him storm the third and get the draw. I suspect Bongfeldt is going to want this one on the feet and Weidman will likely have no intention of letting him have it all his own way. Based on Weidmans performance against “legionarius” who is a former pro-boxer, I would say it is going to be more of the same. Expect a wrestle-stomping win for Weidman by decision
Yves Edwards 40-16-1 vs. Sam Stout 16-6-0 – Lightweight
Edwards has been doing this a long time and is coming off a fight of the night AND sub of the night winning performance against Cody Mckenzie. Stout is a 5 time fight of the night winner himself and prior to his most recent win against Paul Taylor (a hard fought split decision) his 3 previous fights (2wins and a loss) were all fight of the night. The stage is set then for an awesome scrap. Edwards gets the edge on the floor but this mightn’t even go there as both men are more than willing to stand and trade for 3 rounds. This one is going to be a master-class in MMA standup striking and I think it will go the full 15 as both fighters have decent chins and won’t want to give an inch to their opponent. It’s a tough call but I am going with Stout to eek a decision by a razor thin margin. Stout decision
Donald Cerrone 14-3-0 vs. Vagner Rocha 6-1-0 – Lightweight
Cowboy is a great grappler whose UFC debut win against Paul Kelly got him fight of the night. His opponent is a BJJ blackbelt coming in on late notice to replace the injured Mac Danzig. This is a great match to kick off the main card and the key to this fight is Cerrones advantage in the stand-up. Rocha will not have the sort of wrestling that could trouble a fighter like Cerrone and with Cowboys pedigree as a USA Muay Thai champion and his much better high-level MMA experience, I can’t see the 5 time WEC fight of the night winner being troubled too much in this fight. Rocha will obviously be a big threat on the ground so Cerrone will be happy to keep this one stood up. I think Cerrone stops Rocha. Cerrone TKO rd 1
Demian Maia 14-2-0 vs. Mark Munoz 10-2-0 – Middleweight
An intriguing matchup of two middleweights who are knocking the door of the upper echelons of the 185lbs division. Maia’s grappling credentials are well documented and he laid waste to his first 5 UFC opponents before a heavy KO loss to Nate Marquardt stopped that bandwagon in its tracks. Since then, Maia has been a lot more cautious and all his 4 fights following that loss have gone the distance. He shares 2 opponents with Munoz – Grove and Jensen: Munoz smashed Grove and Jensen to bits, Maia decisioned Grove and subbed Jensen. To me this fight screams bad night for Maia. On the feet neither men are top level for the 185lbs division but Munoz certainly packs a lot more power in his strikes. Maia has decent sneaky takedowns but against a wrestler like Munoz he will struggle. He is great subbing people off his back and this has to be the main worry for Munoz who likes to sit in guard or get side control and SMASH. Sonnen found out pretty quickly that its cool to be a good wrestler but Maia can hit you with a quick sub if you put him on the mat. Munoz though, will know this, be wary of it and will no doubt find a way to unleash his clubbing ground and pound. When he does that it’s all she wrote. Munoz TKO (gnp) Round 2
Jon Olav Einemo 6-1-0 vs. Dave Herman 20-2-0 – Heavyweight
Once again an MMA nickname crime has been commited: Can someone please explain to me why Jon Olav is not called “eenie meenie”? This would create the super awesome Buffer announcment “the fighter standing to my left… Jon Olav “eeenie meenie” einemo “. Fucking brilliant. The UFC need to get me on the payroll. Nickname distractions aside, the Norwegian is a legit grappling powerhouse with a BJJ blackbelt and an ADCC win in 2003. He also holds a win over one of the best grapplers in the world right now, Roger Gracie. Herman is no joke either, he went 15-0 from his debut and has fought on just about every big MMA show bar the UFC. The brilliantly nicknamed “pee wee” Herman, is actually a monster and has some pretty decent striking. He has been far more active than Einemo, who hasn’t fought since 2006. Despite the brilliant grappling credentials of Einemo, he was actually bought in as cannon fodder for Carwin, who got bumped to the main event following Brocks illness. In Herman he is up against a Team Quest fighter with big power, who has been far more active, is younger, bigger and far more well rounded. This fight goes one of two ways… on the ground: All einemo. On the feet: All Herman. It will be down to Einemo to get it to the mat and I say he eats a gigantic fist or knee on the way in for his troubles and wishes he never made a comeback at all. Herman KO round 1
Kenny Florian 14-5-0 vs. Diego Nunes 16-1-0 – Featherweight
Perrenial contender and nearly-man Kenny Florian makes a foray down to 145lbs in search of his dream of UFC gold. Standing in his way is Nunesa tough-as-nails WEC stalwart who has never been stopped or submitted in 17 fights. Kenny started life as a middleweight and it is hard to believe he has now made it down to 145. Nunes is a team-mate of Ken Flo’s target Jose Aldo. Typifiying the style of Nova Uniao, Nunes has great BJJ and decent muaythai himself. When he fought in Brazil he won all his fights inside the distance, since fighting over in the US and Canada for WEC and now UFC he ALWAYS goes the distance. This is going to be a tough match for both fighters but the range and size advantage Ken-flo has over the brazilian will be the telling factor here, provided that the cut doesn’t destroy Kenny’s cardio and recovery rate. If Kenny gasses, Nunes will be able to lay n pray his way to a decision. But Kenny isn’t a dumb fighter, he will have his cut sorted and should come in in decent enough shape to go 15minutes. Florian decision
Shane Carwin 12-1-0 vs. Junior dos Santos 12-1-0 – Heavyweight #1 contender
Carwin is a beast with scary power and decent wrestling but I really don’t know exactly what else he has. Maybe it’s enough to be a one punch fighter when your punch has the kind of ferocity his has. I guess we will find out in this fight because Dos Santos is probably the best technical striker Carwin has faced. Dos Santos annihilated Nelson and took a few shots himself in the process. I’m not saying that Nelson has Carwins power but he has put the lights out on more than a few fighters so getting hit by him isn’t exactly like being tickled. Carwin is a proven wrestler but Dos Santos has hardly ever (if at all) been taken down in any of his UFC fights. Dos Santos is a more technically proficient striker with better use of angles and footwork and a better array of strikes. Carwin may look to employ his UFC 111 tactic of using wrestling to get it against the cage and then unleashing uppercuts from hell. I think his best tactic for winning is actually to do that and use dirty boxing tactics and his grizzly bear strength to make things as uncomfortable as possible for Dos Santos. Dos Santos is a BJJ brown belt and will be a threat off his back if put there, but i don’t think anyone wants to be on their back looking up at Carwins sledgehammers travelling towards their chin so I assume that isn’t going to be JDS’s plan. His best way to win has to be to keep it as alive as possible on the feet, using his reach, footwork and better timing to outland Carwin and also make him miss. If he gets in the clinch he needs to stay off the cage and use his knees to punish Carwin. Both fighters have the tools to win and this should be a great fight once the action opens up after a cautious start. Dos Santos is the bookies favourite but Carwins power is a gamechanger. Nevertheless I’m taking Dos Santos sometime in the 2nd as Carwin cannot keep up with the movement of the Brazilian and gasses himself out. But if Dos Santos takes a shot, that prediction falls apart in a big way! Dos Santos TKO round 2
******************* UPDATED WITH RESULTS **************************
Michihiro Omigawa vs. Darren Elkins – My Pick:Omigawa decision Actual: Elkins decision
Joey Beltran vs. Aaron Rosa – My Pick: Rosa submission rd 2 Actual:Beltran TKO rd 3
Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young – My Pick: Young TKO rd3 Actual:Poirier Decision
Nick Ring vs. James Head – My Pick:Ring decision Actual:Ring submission rd3
Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Mike Massenzio – My Pick:Soszynski TKO rd2 Actual: Soszynski decision
Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Chris Weidman – My Pick:Weidman Decision Actual:Weidman Submission rd1
Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards – My Pick:Stout Decision Actual: Stout Ko rd1
Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha – My Pick:Cerrone TKO rd1 Actual:Cerrone Decision
Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman – My Pick:Herman KO rd1 Actual:Herman TKO rd2
Demian Maia vs. Mark Muñoz – My Pick:Munoz TKO rd2 Actual:Munoz Decision
Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes – My Pick:Florian Decision Actual:Florian Decision
Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin – My Pick:Dos Santos TKO rd2 Actual:Dos Santos Decision