Did someone say "mainstream?"
This Saturday (Nov. 12, 2011), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will make one of the biggest moves in the organization’s history, presenting its first event via the FOX network from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal at first blush. After all, we’re only getting one fight. And we’ve seen plenty of "free" cards on Spike TV before, right?
Well, that would be true if the headliners weren’t UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
In addition to what promises to be the most entertaining heavyweight showdown in years, the promotion is offering a bevy of undercard bouts to be viewed on Facebook, featuring the likes of Japanese dynamo Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto, rising prospects Dustin Poirier and Pablo Garza, and lightweight contenders Ben Henderson and Clay Guida.
Follow me after the jump for a look at the first handful of Facebook skirmishes:
135 lbs.: Norifumi Yamamoto vs. Darren Uyenoyama
It seems like just yesterday that Japan’s Norifumi Yamamoto (18-4) was the most feared man below lightweight. Possessing hellacious power despite being undersized and a dangerous freestyle wrestling game, "KID" dominated the Japanese scene, knocking out the likes of Rani Yahya and Genki Sudo. Then came 2007, a failed bid for the Olympics, a dislocated elbow, a bad divorce, and upset losses to Joe Warren, Jae Hee Cheon and Masanori Kanehara. Finally, a breakout performance from Demetrious Johnson. With his back against the wall, the former featherweight demigod will need a big win to remain employed.
Grappling expert Darren Uyenoyama (6-3), perhaps the first American in UFC history to have more syllables in his last name than his Japanese opponent, has also cut his teeth on the Japanese circuit, most recently knocking out Shooto titleholder Shuichiro Katsumura in a bout that saw him escape some scary leglocks before hammerfisting Katsumura into oblivion. Despite debuting in 2002 with a win over Muay Thai monster Rambaa "M-16" Somdet, the "Bone Crusher" will compete for just the tenth time as he attempts to bring down the Japanese juggernaut. Faded though his star may be, taking out Yamamoto would give Darren a serious jump to make up for lost time.
There’s a whole lot you can question about KID: His heart, chin post-Zambidis, attitude, the decisions he’s made, etc. One thing you can’t question, however, is the fact that he hits really freaking hard. Despite walking around near the bantamweight limit, Kid has 13 knockouts and pretty much all of them have come against lightweights and featherweights. At one point, he scored seven consecutive knockouts, including a mind-blowing four-second flying knee on Kazuyuki Miyata.
With that said, I’m pretty sure that KID Yamamoto is gone. While Johnson was the only one to really dominate him, he’s still lost three of four, and he doesn’t seem anywhere near the killer he used to be. Still, if there’s even a fraction of the former KID left, Uyenoyama is going to sleep. "BC" is 2-2 in his last four, and while Katsumura was technically the champ at the time, he’s not the most durable sort. KID has faced and obliterated bigger and stronger, and Uyenoyama doesn’t possess the skills that let Kanehara, Warren and Johnson smother the Japanese dynamo.
KID’s counter right is one of the nastiest weapons in MMA ... and Uyenoyama’s going to learn that the hard way. And then he’s going to forget it because he got hit really hard.
Prediction: Yamamoto via first-round knockout
145 lbs.: Mackens Semerzier vs. Robert Peralta
There’s always a spot at the table for you if you make sure to bring it.
Making his WEC debut at a measly 4-0 against dreaded submissions specialist Wagnney Fabiano, Semerzier (6-3) was given slightly less than a snowball’s chance in hell, as his opponent was expected to challenge for the title if teammate Jose Aldo failed. Dumbfounding everyone involved, however, "Mack da Menace" locked up a triangle choke just over two minutes in and tapped the highly-regarded black belt, sending him scurrying down to the bantamweight division. While he lost three straight before the WEC merged with the UFC, his high-octane style was enough to convince Dana to bring him along for the ride. With a rear-naked choke over Alex Caceres in the books, Semerzier has his sights on making another moment to remember come Saturday night.
Power-punching Robert Peralta (15-3), who actually replaced Semerzier against Mike Lullo at UFC Fight Night 25, was slated to be cannon fodder for the DREAM champion Hiroyuki Takaya at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley. After dropping the murderous power-puncher and surviving a wrestling onslaught en route to a decision victory, Peralta was tapped to join the UFC against Mike Lullo and made the most of it, battering the submissions specialist over the course of three rounds. With 11 knockouts to his name, Peralta has begun his ascent up the division ladder. And becoming the first man to stop Semerzier certainly wouldn’t slow him down.
I’m a big fan of Mack. His fight with Cub Swanson was absolutely crazy and his offense in general is always a treat. However, Peralta is the more experienced of the two and packs more power. Basically, if you’re sufficiently dangerous on the feet such that Hiroyuki Takaya -- a man who could probably knock out a medium-sized buffalo --doesn’t want to stand with you, you’re doing something right. Semerzier isn’t a technician in any sense of the word. And, exciting as he is, I get the feeling he’s going to run head-first into something painful.
I’m going by the same logic I used for the Mills fight, picking the guy who beat someone I, logically or not, consider really, really good. Takaya was far more dangerous than Semerzier. And sad as it’ll be, I think Mack is going to sleep.
Prediction: Peralta via second round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Cole Escovedo
My father once told me: Never have an alligator’s mouth if you’ve got a parakeet’s ass.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12 showman Alex Caceres (5-4) talked a big game and packed a good submissions game to back it up, but he was unceremoniously smothered by eventual finalist Michael Johnson. His luck failed to improve in his first official UFC bout, as he was dominated and choked out by Mackens Semerzier. Now, dropping to 135 pounds after being choked out yet again by Jim Hettes, Caceres might want to start walking the walk.
The sailing has not been smooth on the good ship Escovedo (17-8). After three consecutive losses and a life-threatening bout of staph kept him out of commission throughout all of 2007 and 2008, the inaugural WEC featherweight champ went on a tear, winning five straight. Unfortunately, things quickly went south once again, as he was knocked out by former victim Michael McDonald, submitted for the first time in his career by Michihiro Omigawa, dully controlled by Renan Barao, and knocked flat by Takeya Mizugaki. With only one win in his last five, Escovedo is nearing the limit of where his legacy can take him. And an afro’d sacrifice will be needed to keep him afloat.
I will be completely and utterly baffled if this isn’t absolute domination by Escovedo. I don’t think Caceres has won a single minute since he joined the UFC, and dropping to bantamweight isn’t going to change that. Sure, Escovedo hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire lately, but considering he lost to guys like Renan Barao, Takeya Mizugaki and Michihiro Omigawa (why yes, I WILL continue ramming Omigawa down your throats at every opportunity), that’s still a far more impressive resume than anything Caceres has done.
Prediction: Escovedo via first-round submission
185 lbs.: Mike Pierce vs. Paul Bradley
Chael Sonnen protégé Mike Pierce (12-4) looked to be building up a good head of steam at welterweight; after putting Jon Fitch into more trouble than anyone besides GSP had in the UFC in a losing effort, he racked up three quick wins before being matched up against Johny Hendricks. Despite his best efforts, Pierce lost a split decision and, in an intriguing reversal of normality, decided to move up in weight and test the waters at 185. Now, slated to fight Paul Bradley for the second time, he’ll be out to make a statement in his middleweight debut.
Well-travelled and well-rounded veteran Paul Bradley (18-3, 1 NC) made his UFC debut on short notice, replacing the upgraded Constantos Philippou against Rafael Natal at UFC 133. While he got himself a shot at the big time and plenty of goodwill from Dana and co, he was unable to overcome the size and grappling of the Brazilian, falling via decision. Bradley, who has a nicely symmetrical six knockouts/six submissions/six decisions record, will be gunning for revenge and validation Saturday night, and won’t be satisfied with anything less than a stoppage of Pierce.
Looking at their records, it’s clear that they generally only lose to people who are better wrestlers than they are --Pierce’s only recent losses are Fitch and Hendricks, while Bradley’s are to Pierce, Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold, and the much bigger Rafael Natal. I have concerns about Pierce moving up in weight considering how close the fight with Hendricks was, but since he’s fighting someone who also generally fights at 170 and who he already holds a win over, he shouldn’t run into any issues.
Pierce is a very, very good fighter. Bradley, I’m not convinced. With the trouble Paul had with Natal, I don’t have much confidence that he’ll be able to stay off his back against Pierce; look for a classic Team Quest 30-27 for the Fitch-Slayer-who-Almost-Was.
Prediction: Pierce via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Aaron Rosa vs. Matt Lucas
San Antonio fighter Aaron Rosa (16-4) got his biggest opportunity yet when he was called upon to replace Dave Herman against Joey Beltran at UFC 131. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell his waistline, and a bloated Rosa was beaten down by Joey Beltran over the course of ten minutes. Returning to 205 after a series of ungainly heavyweight bouts, Rosa, who was originally scheduled to fight Fabio Maldonado on the "Cruz vs. Johnson" undercard, will need one heck of a win to erase the memory of his last effort.
Southpaw banger Matt Lucas (14-2), following consecutive submission losses to Bellator veterans Richard Hale and Givanildo "The Arm Collector" Santana, rolled back his sleeves and got to work, securing five consecutive wins in the past two years, four by knockout. Most recently, he pasted Shawn Frye for the second time, knocking him cold in a grand total of forty-two seconds. In the shark tank that is the light-heavyweight division, he’ll need some encore performances, and Rosa is a great place to start.
I understand that letting yourself go between training camps is a pretty common occurrence, but my word, Rosa looked awful against Beltran. Even though he’s definitely better suited at 205 pounds, the fact that he hasn’t made the cut in a long time and the fact that he was around 240 last time out doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Lucas’ impressive record is, like a lot of guys’, built on weak competition, but he seems to have solid takedowns and decent power in his hands. No matter how much I want to stick to my tradition of picking guys who are proven against at least decent opposition, I can’t get Rosa’s last fight out of my head.
Prediction: Lucas via second round technical knockout
The two best heavyweights on the planet duking it out and we get to see it for free. It doesn’t get any better than this, Maniacs.
Remember, MMAmania.com will deliver up-to-the minute, blow-by-blow coverage of all the fights on Facebook, which will also be available on FoxSports.com. The online portion will also feature several other intriguing match ups, including a potential number one lightweight contender eliminator match between Clay Guida vs. Ben Henderson.
For all the UFC on FOX 1 fight card updates, news and notes check out our complete event archive right here.