This upcoming Saturday night (May 28, 2011) at UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill," a pair of exciting preliminary bouts will be shown for free on Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET.
Former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres will square off against Demetrious Johnson in a match that will likely determine a future title challenger while Tim Boetsch will drop down to middleweight for the first time in his career to take on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season three winner, Kendall Grove in a battle of divisional relevancy.
Miguel Torres is looking to return new and improved since switching camps up to the famed Tristar gym in Canada. He didn't exactly wow the fans in his UFC debut, a jab-fest against Antonio Banuelos, and he'll need to put on a show if he wants to build some momentum for a potential title shot in the near future.
Demetrious Johnson is looking to continue his excellent winning streak against some of the best competition in the world's bantamweight division. If he can knock Torres off his pedestal, he'll be sitting in the catbird seat at 135 pounds.
For Kendall Grove, he's been in Dana White's doghouse after some comments about Spike TV and TUF but he continues to pull out gritty wins with his job on the line. "Da Spyda" is again coming off a loss entering his UFC 130 bout. Can he continue to skate through?
Tim Boetsch is a lifetime light heavyweight who's always carried around a little extra weight. He's making the 20-pound cut to 185 for the first time in his Zuffa career and he's hoping it can turn his luck around in the promotion.
Which middleweight fighter will gain some much needed job security? Which bantamweight will rise to the cream of the crop in his division? Has Torres' shift in camps taken away his ability to be an exciting fighter?
Check out our complete Spike TV prelims preview after the jump
Record: 39-3 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
How he got here: Miguel Torres was once the most feared bantamweight in the world. The former WEC bantamweight champion looked unbeatable after multiple title defenses in fight of the year candidates. That all changed at the hands of Brian Bowles at WEC 42 and his career was at a major crossroads when Joseph Benavidez dominated him, opening up a massive cut in his forehead and choking him out with the patented Team Alpha Male guillotine choke.
Miguel left his Chicago gym where he'd trained for nearly his entire career up to that point for the northern prospects of the Tristar gym with top trainer Firas Zihabi. A new and improved Miguel Torres steamrolled Charlie Valencia at WEC 51 and he showed a smarter, safer style in his UFC debut against Antonio Banuelos, keeping the former title challenger on the end of his jab for three consecutive rounds
How he gets it done: Torres has a massive size advantage on Demetrious Johnson, six inches is a huge height disparity for heavyweights, but for bantamweights, it's colossal. A very important tool of Tristar fighters is their jab and if Torres can keep "Mighty Mouse" at bay with his reach advantage, he'll be able to out-point him at the least, and potentially hurt and finish him if he can land something significant. Torres will likely try to avoid letting Johnson get inside because that's the only way he get hurt.
Record: 9-1 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Brad Pickett (WEC 48)
How he got here: "Mighty Mouse" carried an impressive string of six straight wins to earn a WEC debut against top bantamweight Brad Pickett in the promotion's pay-per-view debut. The AMC Pankration fighter lost a spirited decision to "One Punch" but then proceeded to reel off three consecutive victories in just a few short months against top 15 ranked bantamweights Nick Pace, Damacio Page and "Kid" Yamamoto.
When Brad Pickett dropped out of his UFC 130 bout with Torres, Johnson answered the call and stepped in to take on the former WEC champion.
How he gets it done: Demetrious Johnson is a fantastic athlete. Despite giving up six inches in height, he's got the speed and wrestling advantage against Torres. He absolutely can not stay outside on the end of Torres' jab. He won't be able to dance around it with his speed all night. He needs to get inside and land short punches and better yet, take Torres down. Miguel showed a weakness to wrestling in his fight with Joseph Benavidez and hopefully "Mighty Mouse" can exploit that weakness.
Fight "X-Factor:" "The X-factor" for this fight is clearly Tristar Gym's effect on Torres. Demetrious Johnson would probably beat the Miguel Torres who lost to Joseph Benavidez at WEC 47 rather easily. How much has the former WEC champ improved in the year that he's been at the top gym? If they've been drilling him with some of the world's best MMA wrestlers and working that takedown defense constantly, he'll have a solid chance to keep his winning streak alive but if his bad habits rise to the surface, it could be a long, frustrating night for "Angel."
Bottom Line: Demetrious Johnson is not going to pull an Antonio Banuelos and refuse to engage with Torres. This is going to be a knock-down, drag-out (yet still technical) scrap between two extremely well conditioned athletes who will not get tired. Regardless of who wins, both men will leave this match having gained a ton of new fans.
Record: 12-8 1 NC overall, 7-5 in the UFC
How he got here: "Da Spyda" rode a massive wave of momentum, including a season three championship of TUF and a huge submission victory over Alan "The Talent" Belcher to become a contender at middleweight. His dreams were crushed by Patrick Cote at UFC 74 and since that loss, the Hawaiian hasn't been able to string together more than two victories in a row. After losing a competitive decision to Demian Maia at the TUF 12 finale, he'll likely be fighting for his job against Tim Boetsch.
How he gets it done: At 6'6, Grove is the tallest middleweight in the UFC, if not the world. He's had trouble keeping foes at a distance standing but his biggest strength is his ground game. With his length, he can really put a hurting on his opposition if the fight goes to the canvas. If he can clinch with Boetsch, look for multiple attempts to work a takedown to get this fight on the ground. Pulling guard is even a last ditch option if necessary.
Record: 12-4 overall, 3-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Tim Boetsch announced his presence to Zuffa with authority, thoroughly crushing David Heath at UFC 81 with a nasty ragdoll toss. Since then, though, he's been unable to crack into the top of the light heavyweight division, losing every time he's been matched up with a top 20 guy. Boetsch was cut once from the promotion but quickly worked his way back with three consecutive stoppage victories outside the UFC.
Boetsch is clearly a UFC level talent, but he was never going to make a dent in 205 pound division so he's attempting a cut to 185 as a last ditch effort. His match with the former TUF champion will go a long ways into telling us how "The Barbarian" will fare in the division.
How he gets it done: Boetsch isn't the most technical fighter, but he's got incredible brute strength and some of the nastiest power out there. He'll be giving seven inches to the Hawaiian but if he can get inside like Patrick Cote did, he can put Grove's lights out with a single power punch. Boetsch will look to muscle Grove around the Octagon and keep the BJ Penn-trained fighter on his heels.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this bout absolutely has to be the weight cut for Boetsch and how he responds to it. No matter how one puts it, 20 pounds is a ton of weight to lose. Some fighters, like Brian Stann, have responded very well and become contenders after making the cut from light heavyweight. Others, like James Irvin, looked incredibly drawn out and malnourished, and it showed in their performance. Boetsch looked like he had the body type that could make the cut properly and still be effective but it all depends on how he did it. If he's just going to try to suck an extra 20 pounds of water out of his body in the sauna, he could be in for a very rough night.
Bottom Line: With both fighter's UFC careers potentially on the line, this fight could go either way. The fighters may feel they have nothing to lose and try to go out on their shields, or they could be scared to get cut and fight incredibly conservative. There are a ton of questions coming in. I'm leaning towards the former, and hopefully both of these talented fighters put on a show.
Who will come out on top at UFC 130? Let us know in the comment section below!