The sophomore "Fight for the Troops" effort for the UFC, which was established to raise funds for the brave men and women in the United States Armed Forces with traumatic brain injuries, will all go down from the Fort Hood Army base in Killeen, Texas, airing at 9 p.m. ET live on Spike TV.
Set to headline UFC Fight Night 23: "Fight for the Troops 2" is an explosive lightweight showdown between division standouts Melvin Guillard and Evan Dunham. Former NFL player and budding mixed martial artist Matt Mitrione will also put his perfect (3-0) record on the line against Tim Hague in the co-featured fight of the night.
The undercard, meanwhile, is ready to rock with six bouts. Two of them -- DaMarques Johnson vs. Mike Guymon and Cody McKenzie vs. Yves Edwards -- will air live and free online via the UFC's Facebook page at Facebook.com/UFC starting at 8 p.m. ET.
With just two days to go until fight night, we decided to put together a comprehensive preview of the undercard bouts at "Fight for the Troops 2." They need some love and attention, too, you know.
Here it is:
The fighters: Campuzano hadn't tasted defeat before coming to the WEC for a bout against Damacio Page at WEC 43. It was there that Campuzano suffered his first professional loss -- a submission that took only 62 seconds. Since that time, Campuzano has traded wins and losses, besting Coty Wheeler (WEC 46) and Steve Garcia (KOK 9), while being stopped by Eddie Wineland (KO) and Nick Pace (submission). Campuzano was impressive in his win against Wheeler, but has not had much luck in his Zuffa run, being stopped in all three losses.
Cariaso, a former EliteXC and Strikeforce prospect (going 4-1 there), was put in a tough situation in his second WEC fight against the 24-1 Renan Barao at WEC 53. The Brazilian submitted Cariaso in the first round. Prior to that, Cariaso put together a nice unanimous decision win against Rafael Rebello at WEC 49. A Muay Thai fighter, Cariaso really likes his kicks
What's at stake: In the "new UFC," one with seven weight classes and a ton of fighters, any fighter on a two-fight losing streak is in danger of being cut. Both of these men were stopped by submission in their last fights and likely need to make good impressions here to continue their UFC futures.
Pick: With both probably fighting for their jobs, this should be an emotionally-charged affair. Campuzano needs a big performance after being torched by Pace and Wineland. I like Cariaso to wear Campuzano down on the feet, using those leg kicks to slow him down en route to a unanimous decision victory.
The fighters: A native of the East Coast scene, Brenneman was riding a six-fight win streak before Johny Hendricks put a stop to it via technical knockout at UFC 117. A Division I collegiate wrestler, Brenneman has used his wrestling to his advantage throughout his mixed martial arts career, especially during his lone UFC win, during which he took Jason High down repeatedly en route to a unanimous decision. He has won a majority of his fights by stoppage.
Alves had a less-than-stellar UFC debut, as he was unable to do anything against Mike Pierce and was finished with a straight armbar in the third round. The loss snapped an eight-fight win streak for the judo practitioner. Having fought all his career on random shows in Brazil, Alves needs to fight well here to show he has what it takes to compete in the United States.
What's at stake: This might sound familiar: Here are two more fighters likely fighting for their UFC careers. Both are coming off stoppage losses and need an impressive performances here to save their jobs.
Pick: I like Brenneman here. He'll follow the same game plan that Pierce had against Alves: Push him against the cage, take him down and hold him there. Punches in bunches. Repeat. Brenneman just needs to worry about shutting down Alves' submission game and go from there. Pierce laid the foundation for how Alves can be beat. Brenneman needs to follow it. "The Spaniard" takes a unanimous decision.
The fighters: I can tell you one thing: Lowe hits hard. Sitting cageside at "King of the Cage: Bad Boys 2" in Detroit last April, I saw him send Steve Berger out on a stretcher. Lowe came into the UFC and was knocked out by Melvin Guillard via a knee to the body at UFC 114, but rebounded with a split decision win over Steve Lopez at UFC 119. Lowe should look to keep the fight standing and try to land on the untested Freire and use his wrestling to keep it there should Freire try to put him on his back.
A winner of 11 straight fights, Freire is a solid prospect with the chance to make an impact in the UFC lightweight division if he's not thrown into the deepend too quickly. A former Shooto welterweight champion, Freire defended his title against Yusuke Endo in May and vacated the title to fight in the UFC. That same belt was held by the likes of Caol Uno, Takanori Gomi, Joachim Hansen, Vitor Ribeiro and Tatsuya Kawajiri. He brings a solid top game to the table and technical, but not powerful, stand up. He has spread his wins around, though, winning eight by submission, five by (technical) knockout and five by decision.
What's at stake: Lowe doesn't feel like a fighter with much upward mobility, but for the 23-year old Freire, this will be an important test to see where his skills stand on a new stage. As has been proven time and time again, fighting in the United States is a completely different game when you've spent your entire career in Brazil or Japan. Plus, he'll have to adapt to fighting in a cage after fighting in a ring for so long.
Pick: The UFC typically doesn't give fighters with upward mobility fights they can lose in their debut. The oddsmakers have this one close, and for good reason. There's a lot of questions that need to be answered here. Lowe is a solid enough fighter who isn't just going to roll over. I expect him to test Freire, but the Brazilian will take a decision.
The fighters: The UFC really doesn't like Mike Brown, do they? The former WEC featherweight champion has now been passed up for two straight televised preliminary bout spots. Brown comes into this contest just three weeks after his UFC 125 split decision loss to Diego Nunes. You know what you're going to get from Brown: Solid enough striking, toughness and a good top game. Brown, though, is in need of a win here and is in a bit of a slump. He's lost three of his last five contests, including a surprising first-round knockout loss to Manny Gamburyan last year.
Brown is going to have to be on top of his game against the extremely slick jiu-jitsu practitioner Rani Yahya, who holds 14 of his 15 career wins by submission. Yahya, however, has fallen on tough times lately. He was quickly dispatched of by Joseph Benavidez at WEC 45 in December 2009 and then lost a decision to Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 48. Now, Yahya moves back to the featherweight division for this fight with the former champion.
What's at stake: Another man's job is on the line here. Yahya desperately needs a win after losing two straight. Brown might get a reprieve for taking this fight on such short notice should he lose, but considering his recent run, he's probably been put on notice. The winner, considering the skills that both these men possess, greatly improves their positioning in the division.
Pick: Yahya doesn't have much to offer on the feet, so that's where Brown needs to keep this fight. It remains to be seen if Yahya can even get the powerful Brown to the canvas. If this fight stays on the feet, it's Brown's fight all day long. If Yahya can get this fight to the mat (or if Brown takes it there), his chances of winning go up significantly (obvious statement of the preview there). If Brown is in good shape following his recent fight, he should win this rather convincingly. With his skills on the ground, though, Yahya is a very live underdog, but I like Brown by stoppage in the second round.
The fighters: A finalist on "The Ultimate Fighter 9," Johnson is a middling fighter in the UFC welterweight division. He lost by technical knockout to Matt Riddle in August, becoming the first fighter to be stopped by Riddle in his career. Adding insult to injury, he missed weight for the fight. He did start 2010 nicely, though, with a technical knockout win of his own over Brad Blackburn. Johnson can finish fights standing or on the ground.
Guymon is another fighter fighting for his job. A loss here puts him at 1-3 in the company and likely earns him a pink slip. His two losses have both come in the first round via submission. The King of the Cage veteran's lone UFC win came in May against Yoshiyuki Yoshida.
What's at stake: A loss here probably puts Johnson on the chopping block, as well. That's the life of being a disposable fighter in the UFC, especially one who has previously missed weight. If you're not a top guy, you're chances of surviving a two-fight losing streak with your job in tact are slim.
Pick: Johnson will have the edge in athleticism, but I see Guymon, fighting like there's no tomorrow, coming in and stopping Johnson with punches in the second round.
The fighters: I think a lot of people are really looking forward to this one. It's the man with the unbelievable guillotine against the long-time veteran. McKenzie, a contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter 12," has won an incredible 10 straight fights by guillotine choke. That's right, 10 of his 12 wins have come by the same submission. For the record, Edwards has never lost via guillotine. It's clear how McKenzie would like to win this fight.
Edwards is an extremely well-rounded veteran of the sport. He made his return to the UFC following a more than four year absence at UFC Fight Night 22 in September, picking up a decision win over John Gunderson. A win here likely would solidify him a spot in the lightweight division for 2011.
What's at stake: A win by McKenzie gives him by far and away the biggest win of his career. Is he for real? We're going to find out, to some extent at least, here against Edwards. At 34 years old, Edwards is entering the twilight of his career. Does he have what it takes to make one more run to or near the top? This fight will say a lot about where Edwards is in his career.
Pick: I like Edwards here. The experience is just too much for McKenzie, I think. Edwards hasn't been submitted in nearly five years and only four times in his 56-fight career. As long as he stays away from that guillotine, he should be able to control the fight and defeat McKenzie by decision.
That's a wrap.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC Fight Night 23: "Fight for the Troops 2," beginning with the Spike TV telecast at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 22. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night.
We're still about 24 hours away from showtime; therefore, feel free to share your thoughts and predictions for "Fight for the Troops 2" in the comments section below.
The floor is now yours, Maniacs.