After what seemed like an agonizing lull following Georges St. Pierre's defeat of Jake Shields at last month's UFC 129 pay-per-view, Zuffa roared back with a vengeance with UFC 130 over the Memorial Day Weekend and is now prepared to deliver its second offering in what will be a six-week span that features at least one major mixed martial arts event per weekend.
This Saturday night (June 4, 2011) on Spike TV, the world's largest fight promotion will look to one-up themselves with the live finale of The Ultimate Fighter 13 (TUF), which pits uber-puncher Jeremy Stephens against Roufusport warrior Danny Downes while walking highlight reel Anthony Pettis takes on the hirsute bobblehead that is Clay Guida.
That's not all, though, as we will get four preliminary fights as an appetizer, though there is no word as to whether we will be able to watch them on Facebook. Expect to hear more of that as the TUF 13 season wraps this Wednesday night.
TUF 13 Finale preliminary card preview and predictions after the jump.
185 lbs.: Ed "Short Fuse" Herman (21-9) vs. Tim "Crazy" Credeur (12-3)
Where most people have bed bug infestations, Herman has a comparable issue with the injury bug. 4-4 in his stint in the UFC since falling in the finale of TUF 3 to Kendall Grove and in the midst of a dismal 1-3 run, Herman badly injured his knee against Aaron Simpson and, almost two years and as many knee surgeries later, he is set to have another go at the middleweight elite. Having fallen short against the likes of Jason MacDonald and Alan Belcher, his time in the UFC could be at an end with a loss this Saturday.
Fellow Ultimate Fighter veteran Credeur has not had any better luck, not competing since his Fight-of-the-Night loss to Nate Quarry in September of ’09. This is the third fight he has had scheduled since, being forced to drop out of a fight with Mike Massenzio due to injury and out of one with Tom Lawlor due to a brain irregularity. Fans of exciting fights should be eagerly awaiting his return, as the Quarry fight was the first of his fifteen to reach the judges and he has no intention of making that a trend.
It’s rare to find a case of such immense combined ring rust in a single fight, so to determine which of them has an advantage, it’s best to look at the circumstances surrounding their respective vacations. Of the two, Herman’s two knee surgeries stand out, and while neither he nor Credeur could be compared to "Shogun" Rua without at least twenty minutes of sustained derisive laughter, being a diehard fan of the Brazilian and the proud recipient of a torn meniscus have taught me not to pick the guy whose knees are made out of plywood.
Since the two seem rather evenly-matched, having scored solid wins over lesser competition but struggling on the higher rungs, I think I’ll stick with the one less likely to wind up with his femur sticking out of his shoulder on his way to the cage.
Prediction: Credeur by decision
135 lbs.: Scott "Young Guns" Jorgensen (11-4) vs. Ken Stone (9-2)
A high-octane wrestler with a penchant for slugfests, Jorgensen affirmed his place in the upper echelon of the bantamweight division with dominant wins over the like of Takeya Mizugaki and the ever-scrappy Brad Pickett, earning a shot at champ Dominick Cruz at the WEC’s final event. Despite a steadfast refusal to cry "uncle," the speckled soldier’s luck ran out and Cruz ran over him, looking every bit as untouchable as he had in his previous efforts and taking Jorgensen down at will. He’ll look to make a good first impression on the UFC fanbase against sophomore Stone.
American Top Team-trained Ken Stone had quite the unfriendly welcome into the ZUFFA umbrella, competing on the undercard WEC 53 against inaugural bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland. While he showed some vicious leg kicks during the brief period the two spent trading, he made a critical error in attempting a standing guillotine on the lanky striker and paid for it with the kind of slam that would give Ricardo Arona PTSD flashbacks. Thankfully alive and well after his short flight on Air Wineland, Stone is out to make sure his legacy isn’t defined by that incident.
I don’t know if Stone accidentally prepositioned Joe Silva’s girlfriend at the last Fan Expo or if he’s simply the unluckiest man at 135, but Jorgensen is in no way a step down from Wineland. Though he may not be the hardest puncher, he possesses the staggering cardio and powerful grappling onslaught to keep almost anyone at his weight on his heels.
While Stone did show flashes of something dangerous in his lone WEC effort, it’s hard to say how he will come back from it; that knockout was the sort of thing that would send lesser men hightailing it back to graduate school and a less horrifically painful career. I expect Jorgensen to come in with plenty of frustrations, both from being so impotent against Cruz and for being stuck on the undercard, and to unleash it with extreme prejudice upon Stone in the form of a supremely dominant decision.
Prediction: Jorgensen by decision
205 lbs.: Kyle "Kingsbu" Kingsbury (10-2) vs. Fabio Maldonado (18-3)
Hard-hitting Kyle Kingsbury entered the cage at UFC 126 with a fever and no cowbell in sight against submissions whiz Ricardo Romero. Thankfully for his beleaguered immune system, a quick flurry put Romero down in a grand total of twenty-one seconds. He has won three straight since losing to "Filthy" Tom Lawlor in his UFC debut and intends to further entrench that fight in the past.
Sporting a (numerically) fantastic pro boxing record in addition to an impressive 18-3 MMA ledger that includes two wins over exiled destroyer Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves, Team Nogueira representative Maldonado announced his presence in the division with a brutal beatdown of James McSweeney that saw phenomenal use of a body attack turn the tide after an unimpressive first round. With deadly hands and a phenomenal camp behind him, Maldonado is a headache-in-the-making for the stacked light-heavyweights.
While Kingsbury does like to mix it up, he also possesses a solid wrestling attack honed at AKA, and he will most certainly have to rely on it against Maldonado. As a professional boxer, the Brazilian’s knockout rate was well over 90%, and James McSweeney’s ribs can attest to the face that it wasn’t just weak opposition.
It seems more like a distinct lack of pattern recognition than it does wisdom to pick a Brazilian striker over an American wrestler, but I think Kingsbury might be in a bit over his head here. While I don’t doubt that he can get Maldonado down or that he can outgrapple him once there, one of Maldonado’s weaknesses might turn out to be a lifesaver: like teammate Junior Dos Santos, he tends to keep his hands low and rely on his phenomenal chin to save him, which means it should be easier for him to get underhooks and avoid the power double.
Plus, as a fellow Maniac I cannot recall once said about Sergei Kharitonov, Maldonado is like a slow-moving train: he may not start out quick, but you’d best get off the tracks once he gets going. Look for Kingsbury to dictate the pace early with repeated takedowns before being eroded by a vicious body attack and crumbling late.
Prediction: Maldonado by TKO
135 lbs.: Reuben Duran (7-3-1) vs. Francisco "Cisco" Rivera (5-1)
When discussing difficult Octagon debuts, Duran’s is near the top of the list, as he was given the unenviable task of facing perennial contender Takeya Mizugaki on short notice during the organization’s third trip to the Versus channel. Surprising all in attendance, especially Mizugaki, Duran fought valiantly enough to receive the nod on one of the judge’s cards. He’ll be attempting to use his high-speed offense to get at least one more judge on his side, provided he can’t break up the relationship between Rivera and his consciousness.
Joe Silva wasn’t any kinder to Rivera, who drew up-and-coming Roufusport wrecking ball Erik Koch for his first trip to the cage and was promptly put down with a knockout-of-the-night award winning head kick. Before being replaced by Duran, he was slated to take on the aforementioned Mizgaki, but will instead seek to gain redemption at the expense of his fellow ZUFFA sophomore.
If Rivera has some sort of speed or power surplus, his ear was too busy trying to mate with Koch’s shin to display it. Duran, on the other hand, very nearly defeated a man who gave Miguel Torres everything he could handle and has shown a quick, well-rounded offense. While neither has the most impressive résumé when it comes to solid opposition, Duran’s significantly more impressive first trip to the Octagon and the fact that he has nearly double the experience lead me to believe he’ll give "Cisco’s" first concussion a new friend.
Prediction: Duran by knockout
That’s a wrap; enjoy the second in a long string of Zuffa goodies in the coming weeks.