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, on 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 two free fights on Spike TV, including two extremely relevant battles with longstanding ramifications to the impenetrable mess that is the lightweight division.
Let's take a closer look at the Spike TV "Prelims" planned for this weekend:
155 lbs.: Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard (27-8-2, 1 NC) vs. Shane Roller (10-3)
Those numbers may look crazy, but what’s even crazier is that Melvin is more than four years younger than Shane, despite having almost three times as many fights.
An athletic freak, Guillard has been a mainstay of the UFC’s lightweight division for more than five years, beating Marcus Davis in his debut before an instantaneous submission loss to Joe Stevenson, coupled with a positive post-fight drug test for cocaine, put his career in jeopardy.
A quick plastering of Dennis Siver and a narrow win over Gleison Tibau seemed to put him on the right track but he didn’t really regain his stride until moving to Greg Jackson’s camp following a guillotine loss to Nate Diaz. Since then, he’s won four straight, including a short-notice beatdown of Xtreme Couture prospect Evan Dunham.
On the cusp of greatness, a victory over Roller would give Guillard plenty of leverage for his demand for a title shot.
A three-time All-American wrestler, Roller has combined his D-1 experience with a growing Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) game to create one of the more dangerous grappling attacks at 155 pounds.
In the WEC, Roller went 6-2, submitting five but falling to Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis. Following an impressive rear-naked choke over former champ Jamie Varner at WEC 53, Roller debuted inside the Octagon at UFC on Versus 3, surviving a hairy first round against Thiago Tavares to knock the jiu-jitsu ace cold with a slick one-two combination, winning himself a nice post-fight bonus in the process.
Roller will try to make his history of faltering against the upper echelon just that come Saturday night.
While I think Melvin should have lost against Jeremy Stephens in that stinker of a fight, I can’t deny the excellence he showed against Dunham. Unlike a lot of power-punchers, his technique was crisp, his hands fast, and his sprawl excellent.
That said, it might be more useful to compare these guys histories against similar opponents.
Guillard beat wrestler Waylon Lowe to a pulp with a crushing knee to the guts, but only barely squeaked by the gargantuan Gleison Tibau. Roller, on the other hand, has done very well against lethal strikers, submitting Anthony Njokuani and Jamie Varner while giving Pettis all he could handle.
As much as Melvin has improved recently, his seven submission losses still stick out like a sore thumb. Roller may be just a purple belt, but he integrates his submission game with his wrestling game brilliantly. I’m picking the upset here; I think Roller takes Melvin down in the early going, grabs his back, chokes his title dreams into oblivion, and further cements 155-pounds as Joe Silva’s least favorite weight class.
Prediction: Roller via submission
Grappling whiz Rafael dos Anjos had perhaps one of the least-welcome entrances to the UFC in the history of the organization back at UFC 91, wherein a Jeremy Stephens uppercut left him with his jawbone where his frontal lobe used to be.
While dos Anjos would also lose his subsequent bout with Tyson Griffin, the fight was razor-close and entertaining enough to give him "Fight of the Night" and some more time to ply his craft in the UFC. Before tapping to a broken jaw against Clay Guida at UFC 117, dos Anjos had won three straight, including a super-smooth armbar over Terry Etim.
Stepping in for an injured Evan Dunham, dos Anjos will do everything he can not to let this chance at the big time go to waste.
Touted as one of the brightest prospects in the division after flat-out embarrassing Joe Stevenson on the ground, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran proved the hype by outgrappling Kurt Pellegrino and submitting Joe Lauzon.
At UFC 127, he was a massive favorite to beat stocky slugger Dennis Siver, but surprisingly adept takedown defense and a nasty counter left hook on the part of the German left Sotiropoulos on the wrong end of a unanimous decision. He went the distance, now he’s back on his feet; just a man and his will to survive (and wear a lot of knee sleeves). \
In the blender of mayhem that is the UFC lightweight division, he’ll need all that and more to stay in the mix.
I’m not going to deny that Sotiropoulos is an absolutely fantastic ground fighter and perhaps the only one in the UFC who can legitimately work a rubber guard. Lauzon was the only real above-average striker he faced in his seven-fight win streak following TUF, and J-Lau was getting the better of Sotiropoulos before he gassed out. While Sotiropoulos has decent boxing, it’s not nearly at the level his ground game is at.
Dos Anjos, on the other hand, has demonstrated excellent Muay Thai to go along with his elite ground game, beating Clay Guida down before an errant hook from the Carpenter broke his jaw.
Despite dos Anjos’s black belt, Sotiropoulos likely has the advantage when the fight hits the ground, but to quote an MMA blogger I can’t remember in regard to Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia, G-Sot’s advantage on the mat isn’t as great as dos Anjos’s advantage on the feet.
Expect the Brazilian to pepper with leg kicks and keep the Aussie at bay, stuffing whatever takedowns come his way en route to a commanding decision win.
Prediction: dos Anjos via decision
After you've digested the considerable information that's just been imparted upon you, feel free to share your thoughts and predictions on Guillard vs. Roller and Dos Anjos vs. Sotiropoulus in the comments section below.