Them’s the breaks.
While injuries have forced a cancellation of the UFC 137 welterweight title bout between Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit, the promotion has gone all-out to ensure that there’s still a fantastic card to be viewed this Saturday night (Oct. 29) in Las Vegas.
B.J. Penn will welcome Nick Diaz back to the Octagon, while Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo will look to claw their way into the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. Plus, consensus number two featherweight Hatsu Hioki will make his Octagon debut against eternal spoiler George Roop.
But before we get to all that, we’ve got yet another solid undercard to get our adrenaline pumping.
As usual, a handful of fights will be shown on the UFC’s Facebook page, followed by a pair of bouts on Spike TV to lead into the pay-per-view.
First up, we'll take a gander at those Facebook"Prelims."
205 lbs.: Brandon "The Truth" Vera (11-5, 1 NC) vs. Eliot "The Fire" Marshall (10-3)
"The Truth’s" been hurting.
The light-heavyweight division hasn’t been kind to Brandon Vera lately. The former super-prospect is winless in his last three, dropping a contentious decision to Randy Couture, a one-sided beatdown to Jon Jones, and an absolute manhandling to Thiago Silva that was overturned when the latter tried to cheat a drug test. Vera, who was released following the Silva fight but brought back after the failed drug test, may have caught a break, but the Muay Thai machine knows he needs a win, and badly.
Eliot Marshall, a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter 8 who, despite winning three straight after the show, was released following a loss to Vladimir Matyushenko, also received a fortuitous second chance, replacing an injured Karlos Vemola against Luis Cane at UFC 128. Two minutes of utter domination later, however, and he found himself right back in the loser’s bracket with a nice new concussion to keep him company. Marshall, with the Pen of Damocles waiting above his head and just waiting to sign his release form, will need a dominant victory to stay afloat in the hellish morass that is the UFC’s 205-pound division.
For all the garbage slung at Vera (and I always join in when I get the chance), he hasn’t exactly been losing to bad fighters. Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, Jon Jones, and Thiago Silva are not scrubs in any sense of the word. I don’t think Vera will ever come within spitting distance of a title and in fact believe he won’t last more than three more fights in the Octagon, but he’s still a dangerous, dangerous man.
Eliot Marshall, bless his heart, isn’t. The beating Banha laid on him was absurdly one-sided, and while I can somewhat forgive it on account of the short-notice, he really didn’t show me anything to suggest he has a chance against Vera. Vera’s Greco-Roman wrestling is better than it looked when Silva was ragdolling him, and his standup is still nasty when he actually pulls the trigger.
Marshall isn’t the kind of guy to make him gunshy. Look for Vera to do what he’s always done: look spectacular against overmatched competition before running into a brick wall of contenders. For now, though, he should get back on track.
Prediction: Vera via first-round TKO
155 lbs.: Daniel "Danny Boy" Downes (8-2) vs. Ramsey Nijem (4-2)
Roufusport striker Danny Downes made his ZUFFA debut back at WEC 49, replacing an injured Ed Ratcliff against Chris Horodecki. While he fell to a rear-naked choke in the second round, ZUFFA decided to keep him around, pitting him against highly-touted Chinese prospect Tiequan Zhang. After surviving a hairy first round, Downes stormed back to dominate the latter two and take home a unanimous decision. Unfortunately, his UFC debut was less successful, as he fell to the experience and power of Jeremy Stephens. With Pat Barry on a two-fight skid and Anthony Pettis a long ways from a title shot, Downes will look to prove the strength of Roufusport against the TUF veteran Ramsey.
Ramsey Nijem made his name on the thirteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter by finishing all three fighters he faced in the house. The murderous fists of Tony Ferguson, however, were not too keen on letting the six-figure contract slip from their grip, and Nijem was knocked out in short order. Now, making a second trip to the lightweight division, the man touted by John Hackleman as a future champion will be doing all he can to erase that memory and establish a legacy of his own in the UFC.
I’m really leaning towards Downes on this one. Sure, he looked a tad out of his depth against Stephens, but considering that Stephens punches hard enough to be legally classified as an impact driver, that’s not surprising. Plus, both Stephens and Horodecki had significantly more experience than Downes when they fought.
That accursed gaol known as "college" kept me from seeing Nijem in action much, but while I’ve been mildly impressed by what I have seen, the experience of "Danny Boy" combined with my blind love of all things Roufusport lead me to put my support firmly behind Downes.
Prediction: Downes via second-round TKO
185 lbs.: Chris Camozzi (15-4) vs. Francis "Limitless" Carmont (16-7)
Originally slated to compete on the eleventh season of The Ultimate Fighter, Camozzi received a broken jaw during his preliminary bout victory and was forced to head home. Luckily, Dana offered Camozzi a fight with cast member James Hammortree on the show’s finale, a fight which saw Camozzi walk away with a unanimous decision and a UFC contract. In his sophomore effort, against Korean juggernaut Dongi Yang, he pulled out a close split decision; unfortunately, the third time wasn’t the charm, as he was unceremoniously submitted by Kyle Noke and released from the organization. Now, with a win over Joey Villasenor on the regional circuit under his belt, Camozzi will be trying to get his foot a little farther in the door this time.
Francis Carmont, a French fighter operating out of the famed Tristar gym alongside Georges St.-Pierre, is nothing if not determined to finish his foes; his last decision win was in 2006. Carmont, who stands at a staggering 6’3", normally fights in the light-heavyweight division, but is dropping down to take full advantage of his reach. Coming off a win over UFC veteran Jason Day, Carmont has a lot to live up to, and leaving Camozzi as a twitching heap on the Octagon floor would certainly do the trick.
I always get this awful sense of doom when I pick a newbie over a UFC veteran, but Camozzi just hasn’t impressed me. Hammortree was never good, Yang gassed badly in their fight, and I don’t recall him generating a single piece of offense against Noke before getting choked out.
I’m mildly concerned about this being Carmont’s first cut to 185, but considering his camp, he shouldn’t have much trouble. He’s a big man with some nasty striking and a good ground game to go along with it; With his size advantage, elite camp, and nasty kimura, I foresee a French…I’m sorry, Freedom victory come Saturday night.
Prediction: Carmont via second-round submission
It’s been an interesting ride for Dustin Jacoby since he was signed to fight Brad Tavares. Between GSP dropping out due to a knee injury and Tavares bailing for similar reasons, Jacoby was briefly a main-carder, but saw his spot filled by Scott Jorgenson and Jeff Curran. He knows, however, that the best way to be seen on the undercard is to flatten your opponent quickly, and Dustin happens to be quite good at that. All six of the HIT Squad’s victories are by stoppage, including five in the first round. At 6’4", Jacoby will be looking to keep the streak alive for the tall guys against the 5’10" Starks.
Arizona’s Clifford Starks is many things, but sedentary isn’t one of them; just six days after beating Artenas Young by decision under the Shark Fights banner, Starks signed on to replace the injured Tavares, making for a Leben-esque two weeks between fights. With ZUFFA goodwill assured, Starks will be out to prove that he’s more than just a consolation prize against the surging Jacoby.
Picking fights like these is always annoying; there’s very little footage of either guy, and neither one has been pitted against the elite. That said, Jacoby enjoys a six-inch height advantage, over a month more prep time, and a scarily short average fight time. Starks does have the advantage of deep water experience, but while neither man has faced great competition, Jacoby seems to have fought the better men.
The tall guys have been wrecking shop as of late, so I’m gonna hop onto that bandwagon. How’s the weather down there, Starks?
Oh, right. Painful.
Prediction: Jacoby via first-round TKO
Join us tomorrow for a look at the Spike portion of the UFC 137 undercard, featuring a lightweight war between Dennis Siver and Donald Cerrone and a featherweight clash between Tyson Griffin and "Bartimus" Palaszewski.