With UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones" in the rear view mirror, it's already time to start gearing up for the promotion's next event this upcoming weekend (Sat., March 26, 2011).
That's right, the Zuffa machine is picking up its stakes and moving to where the action is at the KeyArena in Seattle, Wash., for UFC Fight Night 24: "Nogueira vs. Davis."
The event, which will air live on Spike TV, beginning at 9 p.m. ET, will feature a main event between longtime mixed martial arts veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira taking on undefeated up-and-comer (and late replacement) Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis.
Hard-hitting welterweights Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson will hook 'em up in the night's co-main event.
But before we get to all that there are several other fights lined up for the crowd in "The Emerald City."
Let's get to it:
170 lbs.: John Hathaway vs. Kris McCray
What a difference one fight makes.
John Hathaway (14-1) was being hailed as the next breakout British star after stunning Diego Sanchez with a one-sided thrashing at UFC 114 back in May 2010. But then in his next fight, locked horns with grappling machine Mike Pyle at UFC 120, who picked him apart standing and furiously outgrappled "The Hitman" for 15 minutes straight.
The 23-year-old will look to get his swagger back this Saturday night.
Kris McCray (5-2), a former middleweight, is perhaps best known for being the lone semifinalist from Team Ortiz during The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 11. While on the show, "Savage" decisioned Kyle Noke, as well as Josh Bryant, before getting steamrolled by eventual tournament winner, Court McGee.
In his official Octagon debut, McCray dropped to welterweight to take on Carlos Eduardo Rocha at UFC 122, which ended quickly in the first round courtesy of a kneebar submission applied by the Brazilian.
It's safe to say that McCray is on thin ice. Despite his exciting technical knockout slam of Cleburn Walker during the show's eliminator rounds, McCray has been, well, boring ever since, relying on a sedate wrestling attack and mediocre submissions to squeak out decisions.
He needs to not only impress, but also prove that he belongs with the big boys.
That may be easier said than done because Hathaway is seemingly the better all-around fighter who certainly has the stand up advantage. I expect Hathaway to learn from his lone loss and come out a little less robotic than usual, stopping McCray in the middle of the third once the latter's thimble-sized gas tank runs out.
Prediction: Hathaway via technical knockout
185 lbs.: Mario Miranda vs. Aaron Simpson
Mario Miranda (10-2), at the time undefeated, stepped into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 21 back in March 2010 to take on Gerald Harris. And whatever hype train he rolled into town on that night was unceremoniously derailed with a flurry of dizzying strikes from the "Hurricane." Miranda rebounded with a win over former title contender David Loiseau at UFC 115, but was less-than-successful at keeping his momentum going, most recently getting overwhelmed by the grappling prowess of Demian Maia at UFC 118 late last year.
He, too, is in need of a win this Saturday night.
Simpson is looking to turn out of a potential three-fight losing skid. He was handed his first professional loss after trying to, and failing (like several other before him), to brawl with Chris Leben at TUF 11 Finale. He was then doubled up by his friend Mark Munoz in a back-and-forth slugfest at UFC 123, coming out on the wrong end of a split decision.
Whenever I think of a reason to pick Miranda, I'm tapped on the metaphorical shoulder by memories of his one-sided loss to Maia. As much as the super-grappler has improved his wrestling and striking, it was simply too easy for Maia to impose his will on Miranda.
And unlike Maia, Simpson actually has power, big power, and one of the better wrestling pedigrees in the division. It's a shame to see Miranda go so early, but that's just the breaks, kid.
Let's get this Rock ‘n' Roll train back on the tracks.
Prediction: Simpson via knockout
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Mackens Semerzier
Alex Caceres (4-2) is a TUF 12 alum who took it upon himself to fill the obligatory "look at me" role left behind by Jamie Yager. However, "Bruce Leroy" (unlike Yager) could actually fight, winning two fights before succumbing to eventual finalist Michael Johnson. He was originally supposed to face Nam Phan at the show's Finale, but an injury delayed his official UFC debut until this weekend.
Caceres should be out to prove he is more than just a novelty against the tricky WEC veteran, Mackens Semerzier (5-3).
It says a lot about Semerzier's style that he was folded into the UFC as a result of the merger in the midst of a three-fight losing streak. "Mack da Menace" made one of the craziest Zuffa debuts in recent memory, submitting Brazilian jiu-jitsu elite Wagnney Fabiano out of nowhere in 2009. And even though he would go onto drop his next three bouts, he made his final WEC match as memorable as his first with a raucous back-and-forth slugfest with Cub Swanson.
Exciting fights are one thing, but so, too, is four straight losses. Put simply, Semerzier can't let that happen.
Caceres showed some good stand up and solid submissions during his stint on the show, but nothing that indicates he is in any way deserving of his nickname from "The Last Dragon." On the flip side, Semerzier hasn't exactly maintained the pace he set by blowing everyone's mind against Fabiano, but he's got a rock-hard chin, wicked cardio and relentless stand up.
WEC represent (again)!
Prediction: Semerzier via knockout
265 lbs.: Sean McCorkle vs. Christian Morecraft
Sean McCorkle (10-1) -- a former super heavyweight and notorious MMA Underground lurker -- debuted on the UFC 119 undercard against Mark Hunt, submitting him with an armbar and handing the "Super Samoan" his seventh consecutive loss. In his next fight, "Big Sexy" cheekily lambasted Stefan Struve all the way up to their UFC 124 throwdown. His money wasn't quite where his mouth was, though, as a promising start gave way to a reversal and technical knockout stoppage for the lanky Dutchman.
It is certainly time for this self-proclaimed keyboard warrior to put up or shut up.
Christian Morecraft (6-1), meanwhile, impressed during the first round of his clash with Struve at UFC 117, bloodying him up with relentless ground and pound and turning his lip into something akin to Angelina Jolie running into a beehive. In the second, though, he attempted to Rock ‘em Sock ‘em with the "Skyscraper" and ate a wicked right straight that put him to sleep.
He'll have to show that he can perform for more than five minutes if he wants to stay relevant in this crowded division.
It's difficult to gauge these two because neither man has spent all that much time in the Octagon. Morecraft, however, was doing a tad better against Struve than his counterpart before getting knocked out. This is essentially a coin flip, but I'll give it to Morecraft for staying on top of Struve for twice as long as McCorkle without getting reversed.
Don't feed the trolls ... unless it's a knuckle sandwich.
Prediction: Morecraft via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Mike Russow vs. Jon Madsen
After muscle-bound super prospect Todd Duffee told Dana White that he "wanted to eat" after his six-second creaming of Tim Hague, the company president seemingly obliged with a fight against Mike Russow (13-1, 1 NC) at UFC 114. Russow, however, wasn't about to just roll over ... not for more than two rounds, anyway. The Chicago-area police officer waited until the third round to throw his first meaningful punch of the fight, which put Duffee flat on the mat. That, however, was 10 months ago.
Nonetheless, he'll look to make another statement on Spike TV and prove that his win over Duffee was no fluke.
After getting knocked out by Brendan Schaub during the quarterfinals of TUF 10, Madsen (7-0) defeated Justin Wren at the show's Finale and proceeded to win three more. While the HIT Squad product has received flak for his lack of finishing ability, he sent an emphatic message by knocking out dangerous Dutchman Gilbert Yvel in less than two minutes at UFC 121.
Madsen should be incredibly determined to keep his officially-perfect record intact.
Duffee may have some pretty good boxing, but getting utterly creamed for so long doesn't speak well for Russow, who will also have to contend with pretty extensive ring rust. Unfortunately for him, Madsen is good at what he does, but what he does ain't pretty. The fight will go where he wants it to, which is probably well away from Russow's submissions.
After 15 minutes that will feel like 50, Madsen will get his hand raised for superior stand up and constant takedown stuffing.
Prediction: Madsen via decision
135 lbs.: Michael McDonald vs. Edwin Figueroa
Not to be confused with the heavyweight Canadian kickboxer who stopped Mirko Cro Cop back in 2001, Michael McDonald (11-1) has proven to be one of the most intriguing prospects at bantamweight, pounding out 11 stoppages and splitting a pair of fights with former WEC champion Cole Escovedo. In 12 fights, only Escovedo has escaped the first round against "Mayday."
Replacing über-prospect Nick Pace on short notice, the debuting and unbeaten Edwin Figueroa (7-0) has likewise finished every opponent placed in front of him, knocking out five and submitting two. While there is not much info on him, it's safe to say by his record and the fact that "El Feroz" has never seen the third round that he's sure to be a handful for most of the division.
There's always that one fight that gets my knickers in a twist when I find out it's not being broadcast and this is it. You just don't find small guys with this sort of knockout ability outside of Demetrious Page and "Kid" Yamamoto. Dismayed as I am that Pace couldn't step in, Figueroa looks to be an exciting replacement.
As stated before, there's not much on Figueroa, so it's difficult to compare his abilities with those of McDonald. What I do know is that he hasn't exactly faced the cream of the crop. Only two of his opponents sport winning records and several have either no wins or win-loss ratios of about 1-13.
McDonald, meanwhile, is a much more proven competitor and has the advantage of a Zuffa debut already under his belt. He'll prove that it's a whole different ballgame in the Octagon with a hellacious knockout in the first.
Prediction: McDonald via knockout
170 lbs.: Johny Hendricks vs. TJ Waldburger
A wrestler with a relentless attack and solid power, Johny Hendricks (9-1) capitalized on the opportunities provided by his technical knockout of Amir Sadollah, defeating his next three opponents and cementing his place as one of the welterweight division's future stars. Unfortunately for him, Rick Story is also one of the division's future stars, proving it by outstriking and outwrestling the Team Takedown alum at TUF 12 Finale.
Hendricks, who will replace replacing Dennis Hallman this Saturday, is determined to right the ship after the loss to Story and keep marching forward.
TJ Waldburger (13-5), a Texas native, made sure to do his thing during his debut at UFC Fight Night 22, soundly outgrappling then-unbeaten David Mitchell. He was expected to make his sophomore appearance against Matt Riddle at UFC 124, but was forced off the card because of injury.
A five-year vet with 10 submissions to his name, Waldburger is looking to avoid a sophomore slump against the dangerous Hendricks.
The stat that stands out to me as the most indicative of the way this fight will go is this: Four out of Waldburger's five losses have come via technical knockout. Five of Hendricks's nine wins have come via technical knockout. While he's not "technical" in any sense of the word, Hendricks has solid power and, despite what his fight with Story might tell you, very good wrestling to back it up.
A couple of his wins may be questionable, but Hendricks is most certainly one to watch at 170 and will prove it with a second round knockout.
Prediction: Hendricks via knockout
It's somewhat surprising that Nik Lentz (20-3-2) -- unbeaten in four years -- is still stuck on the under card. Perhaps it could have something to do with his antics at UFC 118, which drew the ire of the public (not to mention the Team Rough House gang) with his obscenely uneventful win over Andre Winner. "The Carnie" didn't do himself any favors in his next fight either, taking a controversial split decision over struggling veteran Tyson Griffin.
This, combined with his zero stoppages in five UFC fights, means he'll likely get the Fitch treatment until further notice.
Waylon Lowe (10-3) isn't exactly a fan-favorite, either. Following a disastrous UFC debut wherein Melvin Guillard turned his insides to mush with a huge knee, Lowe rattled off a pair of decisions, including a decidedly "meh" win over one-and-done Judo specialist Williamy "Chiquerim" Freire.
Considering that this was on an ostensibly fan-grabbing Facebook stream, his chrome-domed boss can't be overly enjoyed.
There's really not all that much to say about this fight. Neither fighter is remarkably exciting and the result has zero impact on a crowded division. Perhaps with a win, Lentz earns a Spike TV main card spot down the road. Yippee!
Prediction: Lentz via decision ... what else?
That's a wrap.
Feel free to now get dirty in the comments section below, sharing your UFC Fight Night 24 under card (and main card) thoughts and predictions.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC Fight Night 24, beginning with the Spike TV telecast at 9 p.m. ET on March 26. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night.
Be there or be square.