The dawn of a new age is here: The age … of five-round non-title fight main events.
The card, which will be airing on Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET, will also feature the debut of Swedish knockout machine Papy Abedi, the long-awaited return of Terry Etim, and a fantastic scrap between feisty bantamweight contender Brad Pickett and the owner of the longest active loss-free streak: Renan Barao.
While the main card will come to you from the LG Arena at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England, via same day tape delay, you can still catch five solid Facebook fights as they happen, including featherweight standout Michihiro Omigawa and bantamweight Muay Thai menace Chris Cariaso.
Let’s take a closer look.
170 lbs.: John "The One" Maguire (16-3) vs. Justin "Fast Eddy" Edwards (7-1)
Stepping in for the injured Mark Scanlon, the matrix-motifed John Maguire has been keeping himself busy lately; this will be his fourth fight in 2011 alone. Maguire, the UCMMA welterweight champion, has nine submissions to his name and, in nineteen fights, has only ever been finished by the brutal power of BAMMA champion Tom "Kong" Watson. With home-court advantage on his side, the Brit will look to finish the fast-rising Edwards and win one for jolly ol’ England.
Following an incredibly narrow split-decision loss to fellow TUF 13 castmate Clay Harvison on the show’s finale, submissions specialist Justin Edwards was selected to welcome Wand Fight Team prospect Jorge Lopez to the Octagon and, despite the latter being a massive -500 favorite, controlled the Octagon newcomer on the ground to secure a solid decision win. Impressively, the Lopez fight was his first decision victory; his six other wins all came in the first round, with four in the first minute. "Fast Eddy", replacing James Head on a month’s notice, would love nothing more than to score his first Octagon stoppage and send his hype train into overdrive.
Edwards seriously surprised me last time out; I honestly thought he would just be cannon fodder for Lopez. Against Maguire, I have no such reservations. He already has two fights in the Octagon under his belt, and despite a hairy third round against Lopez, seems to have fixed the cardio issues that cost him the fight against Harvison. Maguire has some serious grappling chops, but I’m leaning towards the tenacity of Edwards, who should be able to grind out a decision win.
Prediction: Edwards via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Michihiro Omigawa (12-10-1) vs. Jason "Shotgun" Young (8-4)
Karma’s a you-know-what.
Michihiro Omigawa, a Yoshida Dojo fighter with a career path more erratic than Viacheslav Datsik on a PCP bender, looked to have finally won his first UFC match at UFC 131, soundly outstriking Darren Elkins over the course of three rounds. Unfortunately, the lucky streak that earned him highly-questionable decisions over Marlon Sandro and Hatsu Hioki finally ended, and the judges gave it to Elkins. Now 0-4 under the ZUFFA banner, the former top-5 featherweight will need a dramatic victory to prove it was skill, not morally-flexible Japanese judges, which made him so feared in DREAM and Sengoku.
British striker Jason Young wasn’t given much of a chance against mega-prospect Dustin Poirier, who was fresh off of a one-sided shellacking of former contender Josh Grispi. Surprising all involved, however, Young battered Poirier with vicious leg kicks, and while the judges gave "The Diamond" the nod after a handful of uninspiring takedowns, the Brit’s stock shot up. Becoming the first man to ever stop Omigawa at 145 would definitely give it another solid nudge.
Omigawa rightfully gets a lot of flak for his "wins" over Marlon and Hatsu, but people tend to forget that he completely dominated a very game L.C Davis and absolutely wiped the floor with Nam Phan; not only that, he’s the only person to ever submit Cole Escovedo, flattened Hiroyuki Takaya with a beautiful right cross, and gave Chad Mendes arguably his toughest fight yet.
Young has some very impressive standup skills, but he’s also got three submission losses. What’s making me pick Omigawa, aside from my well-documented bias, is two simple words: British wrestling. Generalizing though I may be, Young had trouble with the grappling of Poirier, and against a Judo black belt with very solid hands like Omigawa, I just don’t see him staying off his back for long. Look for an exciting, even striking match before Omigawa gets the clinch, brings Young down, and locks up a guillotine. He knows better than to leave it to the judges again.
Prediction: Omigawa via second-round submission
265 lbs.: Rob "The Bear" Broughton (15-6-1) vs. Philip De Fries (7-0, 1 NC)
After an impressive UFC debut that saw him defeat juiced-up Chute Boxe striker Vinicius "Spartan", Broughton was given a main card slot as a sacrificial lamb for the much-hyped Travis Browne. While he wound up making it to the judges’ scorecards, he certainly didn’t score many brownie points after finding himself huffing and puffing in the Colorado air. Now, replacing strongman and former victim Oli Thompson, Broughton will look to redeem himself after his uninspiring defeat.
Philip De Fries’s last fight, a win over Stav Economou, was highly unusual in that it was a good four minutes longer than his previous longest effort. Considering the Economou fight ended four minutes into the second round, though, that’s not saying much. De Fries has secured all seven of his wins by submission, including four rear-naked chokes. Despite Paul Sass’s best efforts, there remains a stigma attached to British fighters that their ground games are weak; De Fries certainly plans to disprove this conception, most likely by taking Broughton’s trachea home with him.
Embarrassing as his display at UFC 135 was, I’m going to give Broughton a pass and blame it on the altitude; he survived two hard rounds with Vinicius before submitting him in the third. As pretty as De Fries’s record is, two things about it make me hesitant to put too much stock in him: he’s never been into the deep waters and his list of victims is rather "meh". I don’t automatically assume all early finishers have Baroni-esque cardio, but I just have a really bad feeling about picking against the guy who I know can go three hard rounds. Plus, De Fries’s wrestling doesn’t look like anything to write home about.
Look for Broughton to outlast De Fries standing and from top position. I think he’s playing spoiler again.
Prediction: Broughton via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Chris "C-Murder" Cope (5-1) vs. Che Mills (13-4, 1 NC)
A Team Lesnar pick on the thirteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, Cope scored an impressive upset in the quarterfinals of the show, defeating Team dos Santos favorite Shamar Bailey by decision. While current lightweight contender Ramsey Nijem stopped Cope short of the famed six-figure contract, "C-Murder" made up for it with a striking clinic against Chuck O’Neil in the finale. With several of his castmates having jumped ship and headed for the slimmer waters of 155, Cope is left to hold the fort at welterweight, and a beatdown of Mills would make one hell of a statement.
Mills, a one-fight veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 9 who was submitted in short order by eventual winner James Wilkes. Mills hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs and lamenting his loss, however; after losing two straight to Jim Wallhead and Yuya Shirai and then picking up two wins over lesser opposition, Mills was paired up against highly-touted Russian prospect Magomed Shikshabekov and, despite losing a point for coming in overweight, absolutely destroyed Shikshabekov over the course of four rounds. With two stoppage wins over Marius Zaromskis under his belt, the former Cage Rage champion is out to make his claim as a legitimate contender in the UFC.
As a former passenger on the Magomed Shikshabekov war wagon and possibly the only remaining passenger on the Marius Zaromskis war wagon, Mills getting the victory here would mean quite a bit of validation for me, and luckily for my ego and incongruous love of fighters whose names I can neither spell nor pronounce, I think he’ll do it. Cope has some very good standup skills, but Cope has three times the experience, has faced a much tougher string of opponents, and had one of the more impressive knee-based knockouts I’ve ever seen in his first fight with Zaromskis. Thus, based on my infallible formula of "he beat those guys I thought were really good so he must be really, REALLY good", I declare the outcome of this fight to be a TKO for Mills in the early third round.
You disagree with me, you disagree with science.
Prediction: Mills via third-round TKO
135 lbs.: Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso (11-3) vs. Vaughan Lee (11-6-1)
Alliterative aggressor Chris Cariaso has been anything but coddled by the ZUFFA brass. In only his second appearance in the WEC, he was paired up against mega-prospect Renan Barao, who was in the midst of a 25-fight unbeaten streak. Though he fell by submission to Barao, he righted the ship with a decision over Will Campuzano in his UFC debut. He was then slated to face Japanese knockout machine KID Yamamoto, but injury nixed that bout and he was instead paired up with yet another highly-regarded prospect: Michael McDonald. Despite winning the fight in the eyes of many observers, Cariaso was forced to swallow a split-decision loss, but crushing Vaughan Lee certainly wouldn’t be an unwelcome consolation prize.
Birmingham’s Vaughan Lee has fought for a grand total of about twenty minutes in the past two years, which would be alarming if that didn’t comprise five fights. Impressively, fifteen of those were in his draw against James Doolan; he finished four opponents in just over a round combined. Lee, who has a nice mix of submissions and knockouts to his credit, has only ever seen the judges twice, and keeping the relationship long-distance via a throttling of Cariaso is high on his list of priorities.
Cariaso is a legitimately good fighter who had the misfortune of being paired up with arguably the top bantamweight prospects in the UFC, and there is an argument to be made that he won the McDonald fight. Admittedly, he isn’t much of a finisher, but his Muay Thai skill is undeniable, and his ground game isn’t bad at all. Not only that, but of Vaughan Lee’s last three opponents, a grand total of zero had winning records. Sure, he’s fighting at home, but Cariaso is a legitimate beast, and the only man of comparable skill on Lee’s record, Brad Pickett, knocked him out. I expect a solid effort from Lee, but Cariaso’s standup acumen should be too much for him to handle, and the latter will take a unanimous decision back to the States. Hopefully, they’ll schedule the KID fight again and give us all a high-speed treat.
Prediction: Cariaso via decision
Grab some fish and chips, relax, and enjoy some quality MMA this Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 138, beginning with the preliminary card bouts on Facebook scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the afternoon.
See you then.