As surprisingly incredible as the UFC on Versus 4 event turned out to be this past Saturday night, the promotion's upcoming Independence Day weekend pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza has all the ingredients to cook up another memorable classic.
UFC 132: "Cruz vs. Faber," which will take place from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July 2, 2011, will feature the bantamweight tower of power, Dominick Cruz, defending his 135-pound title against the blistering speed of Urijah Faber.
But before the main card action pops off, there are several other fights on the "Prelims" that are likely to impress, continuing the promotion's most welcome pattern of making each event viewable in its entirety.
That's right, those who don't wish to wait until 9 p.m. ET to get their fix for solid MMA action, can catch four free fights on Facebook, including a clash between top 10 bantamweights and a throwdown between two of the best strikers in the lightweight division.
Let's take a closer look at the Facebook stream planned for this weekend:
Brian Bowles, a former bantamweight champ whose hair-raising knockout of former division deity Miguel Torres left fans scratching their heads, is a fast, strong and well-rounded fighter. He boasts nine stoppages and a single visit to the third round, ensuring that he is always a treat to watch.
Despite getting throttled by Dominick Cruz in his first title defense and sitting out a year because of various injuries, he scarily submitted Damacio Page at UFC Live 3 with the exact same choke at the exact same time as in their first meeting. Plus, he’s the last guy to ever beat Will Ribeiro, humiliating the former Olympic boxing hopeful with a wicked guillotine after outstriking him for two rounds.
The hard-hitting Athens, Ga., product would like nothing more than to regain the honor taken by Cruz, making this a must-win fight to continue down the path toward possible redemption.
Mizugaki, a Shooto and GCM veteran in his home country of Japan, had the chance to take on then-champion Miguel Torres in his very first WEC appearance. And, despite eventually falling to the champ, raised his stock with an excellent performance, taking Torres taken to the fifth round for the very first time in his career. Since then, he’s had mixed success, taking out Jeff Curran, Reuben Duran and Rani Yahya in the midst of losses to Scott Jorgensen and Urijah Faber.
On paper, Bowles seems to have every advantage. Their speed is similar, but Bowles has a bit more power and slightly cleaner striking. He beat Torres in one round, while Mizugaki couldn’t in five. And his easy submission of Page was slightly more impressive than Takeya’s narrow defeat of the debuting Duran.
But in the arena of logic, I fight unarmed.
Mizugaki is tough as nails, a JMMA import, and an engineer. If Nostradumbass can pick an upset for the sake of picking an upset, so can I. Mizugaki, by hook, crook or Chip Snider looking in the wrong direction at the right time, will defeat Brian Bowles by decision for glorious Nippon.
Prediction: Mizugaki via decision
185 lbs.: Brad Tavares (7-0) vs. Aaron "A-Train" Simpson (9-2)
After a dispute with California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) pulled Chael Sonnen from his proposed coaching job on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Jason Miller -- Simpson's original opponent -- was tapped to take Sonnen’s place, leaving "A-Train" without a dance partner until Brad Tavares stepped up to the plate.
Tavares, who was picked by Chuck Liddell in the show’s eleventh season, racked up three wins before falling by submission to teammate and eventual winner Court McGee. In his official Octagon debut, he decisioned old foe Seth Baczynski, who had illegally soccer kicked him back on the show. A brutal knockout of Phil Baroni followed, providing Tavares with the opportunity to give the fans an encore.
Prior to his comeback decision over Tom Lawlor, Simpson had never even seen the third round, stopping each and every opponent he faced. He was derailed, however, by Chris Leben, an underdog believed to be at the end of his career as a legitimate contender. Leben’s cinderblock of a left hand sent Simpson into an interpretive dance across the cage and back into the middle of the pack at middleweight. Good friend Mark Munoz also defeated him in an incredible slugfest, but Simpson recently snuck back into the win column with a decision over Mario Miranda.
For all the lamenting about how the quality of TUF winners has declined, season 11 has produced several quality fighters. And Tavares is among them. Unfortunately for him, though, Simpson can do pretty much everything he can do, only better.
While his impeccable wrestling credentials haven’t translated as smoothly to the Octagon as he might have hoped, Simpson still possesses a lot of power and an excellent grappling game. Tavares is well-rounded, but he doesn’t really excel anywhere that could give Simpson problems. Beating Baroni and Baczynski, both fighters no longer with the organization, doesn’t tell me enough to think that he can handle even an underachiever like Simpson. The "A-Train" is simply too good in too many areas for Tavares and will prove it with an authoritative decision win.
Prediction: Simpson via decision
155 lbs.: Anthony Njokuani (13-5) vs. Andre Winner (11-5-1)
A murderous Muay Thai specialist whose last six wins have come by knockout, Njokuani has hit a bit of a rough patch recently, going backward (1-3) in his last four appearances with an embarrassing knockout loss to Maciej "Megamind" Jewtuszko. In his UFC debut, however, he impressed in defeat, giving vaunted prospect Edson Barboza everything he could handle back at UFC 128. Big, long and deadly with every limb, stand up affairs with Njo tend to be brief, as he was the proud owner of three consecutive "Knockout of the Night" bonuses with, among other things, a frankly hilarious head kick of a retreating Chris Horodecki. Despite this, he’s fighting for his UFC life this Saturday ... and he certainly knows it.
A fellow dangerous sniper, Andre Winner, who reached the finals of TUF 9, has had his own troubles recently, dropping two straight to Nik Lentz and furious fireplug Dennis Siver. That’s not to say he hasn’t impressed in the Octagon, however, as his one-hitter quitter of Roli Delgado is still one of the most impressive highlights to come out of the lightweight division.
Just like his Nigerian foe, however, this is a make-or-break fight for the Brit.
In my preview for the UFC 128 prelims, I said that Edson Barboza was the next big thing and that he would throttle Njokuani with relative ease. I say this so it adds weight to my next statement: If Barboza hadn’t whirligigged that kick at the end of the third, Njokuani would have walked away with a 29-28 victory. While the first round was all Edson, Njokuani was beating him to the punch rather easily once he got his range down.
And I’d argue that Barboza is a much better striker than Winner and also a better wrestler. Without fear of a takedown, Njokuani is free to open up, and I don’t think anyone at 155 in MMA -- save Brazilian prospect Bruno Carvalho or upcoming kickboxing convert Cosmo Alexandre -- can win a striking match with Anthony. Yes, Jewtuzsko knocked him out, but that was a freak spinning backfist in a fight he was losing.
For all Winner’s talk of how great a striker he is, he only has two knockouts in 17 fights. Njo has eight. He’s slightly bigger than Winner and hits quite a bit harder. Winner’s only chance is to try to recreate his fight with Lentz in reverse, but neither his pride nor his wrestling inadequacies will let him do that. There might be a couple scares in the first, but as soon as Anthony gets his timing down, his right hand and Andre’s face will meet and make a nice little concussion together.
Prediction: Njokuani via knockout
135 lbs.: Donny "Eagle Eye" Walker (15-6) vs. Jeff "Hellbound" Hougland (9-4)
It’s always nice to see two debuting fighters go at it, especially in the lower weight classes. Walker, whose career seemed to stall in the midst of a 2-5 run a few years ago, has apparently found a new lease on life in the bantamweight division, rattling off seven straight and catching the eye of the UFC brass. With 12 finishes in 15 wins, Walker is a welcome addition to the UFC’s stacked bantamweight roster and will try to make a good first impression against Hougland.
Hougland’s troubles came a bit earlier than Walker’s, as he lost four straight following a successful debut, including a beating at the hands of Gilbert Melendez under the WEC banner. He’s patched things up nicely, however, winning eight straight despite taking a four-year hiatus back in 2006. Twelve of his thirteen fights have ended before the bell, all but ensuring that his throwdown with Walker will be one to remember.
Prediction: Hougland via decision
In addition to the four fights on Facebook, Spike will feature two exciting lightweight showdowns. Look for more coverage on those in the coming days.