Two UFC lightweights will be looking to get back on track this Saturday night (November 5, 2011) on the UFC 138 main card as former British hotshot Terry Etim will look to shake off the cage rust against the green Edward Faaloloto.
Etim has been sidelined for 19 months after suffering a serious rib injury while preparing for a UFC 118 fight against Joe Lauzon. He's finally been given a clean bill of health and he'll be looking to get back in the win column against the Chris Leben protege.
Faaloloto, with just four fights in his professional MMA career will be competing under the Zuffa umbrella for the third time on Saturday night. He's yet to score a victory under the watchful eyes of the Zuffa brass so the pressure will be on for him to perform.
Can Etim continue to disprove Dana White's theory on ring rust with a victory? Will Faaloloto stave off a pink slip with a strong performance against a former top prospect? What will each young lightweight have to do to earn a 'W' on Saturday night?
Record: 14-3 overall, 5-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Terry Etim entered the UFC with an 8-0 record as the Cage Gladiators lightweight champion. After winning "Submission of the Night" in his UFC debut, the Brit would lose consecutive unanimous decisions to veteran lightweights Gleison Tibau and Rich Clementi.
After the loss to "No Love," Etim began a strong stretch that saw him win four straight bouts in the lightweight division including three straight stoppages in 2009 which was capped off when he amassed back-to-back "Submission of the Night" awards.
In April of 2010, Etim would have his streak snapped by talented lightweight Rafael dos Anjos in a back-and-forth battle that saw him nearly submit the talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace. He would suffer an awful training injury while preparing to face Joe Lauzon at UFC 118 in August of 2010 and has been sidelined ever since. He announced that he was finally healed up earlier this summer and he'll make his return to the Octagon this Saturday night after 19 months away.
How he gets it done: Etim has a strong base in the Brazilian Lute Livre fighting style, a form that combines Brazilian wrestling with submissions and striking. He's coming off a long layoff so he'll need to be careful in the opening minutes of this fight as he'll probably still be working out some of the kinks.
His opponent, Faaloloto, has some heavy hands and is a strong starter, so Etim should avoid standing and trading with him at the start of the fight. It would be very smart if he can either press the Hawaiian up against the fence or take him down early and go to work with his strong submission game or some ground and pound. If Etim stands early in this fight, he could be in trouble.
Record: 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
How he got here: Edward Faaloloto began training in martial arts at age 15 with the Hawaii's popular Kajukenbo, a combination of karate, judo (and jiu-jitsu), kenpo and Chinese boxing. He began fighting professionally in 2009, winning his first two bouts before dropping down to lightweight to compete in the WEC.
His first opponent would be Anthony Njokuani, who had been reeling from consecutive losses, but Njokuani bounced back with a second round technical knockout victory over Faaloloto. After the UFC/WEC merger, Faaloloto would make his UFC debut this summer against Ultimate Fighter season 12 finalist Michael Johnson. The Hawaiian had Johnson hurt early but could not sustain his offense and would again be on the receiving end of a TKO stoppage at the end of the first round.
He'll likely be getting one last shot against Etim this Saturday night in Birmingham.
How he gets it done: First thing's first, Faaloloto must not let Etim take him down. That's where the Brit is strongest and most dangerous. If he can keep the fight standing, that would be ideal. Also, since he's pretty limited, he really should try to blitz Etim, who's coming off an 19 month layoff from fighting.
If he can catch the English fighter napping early, he could score the upset. The key will be to attack early with power without exposing himself too easily to the takedown or clinch. Faaloloto primarily has the element of surprise as his best option of attack. If this fight leaves the first round. he's likely going to be in trouble.
Fight "X-Factor:" The primary X-Factor for this fight is the 19 month time period between Etim's last fight and his match on Saturday night. We've seen some fighters come back and act like they didn't miss a beat lately (Ed Herman, Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen) while others have definitely taken some time to get back in the swing of things before winning (Josh Koscheck, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) and others have fallen flat (Ben Rothwell, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Wanderlei Silva). Etim can't afford to come out to a slow start due to ring rust because that's when Faaloloto is clearly most dangerous.
Bottom Line: This is probably one of the least deserving fights to ever be on a numbered pay-per-view event. One fighter has never won a match while competing for Zuffa while the other hasn't won since November of 2009. That being said, this could be a fight that is exciting, at least for one round. Etim should be able to handle Faaloloto rather easily as he clearly has the experience and overall skill advantage, but again, the first minute or two of the first round is where the drama will be. In this bout's defense, it would still be on the Facebook prelims if not for an injury to John Hathaway.
Who will come out on top at UFC 138? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!