When the UFC travels to Canada, it's rare they do so with anything less than a spectacular event and this Saturday's (June 11, 2011) UFC 131 looks to be no different.
Pitting knockout maestros Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin in a main event about as likely to go to a decision as a six-man game of Russian Roulette, the show is sure to produce fireworks.
If these and the other main card bouts sound like they'll be over too quickly, don't worry; we've got plenty of solid "prelims" to fill the airtime.
In a continuing trend that looks as though it will remain a regular occurrence, all of these fights can be seen live on Facebook and Spike. To cap off this cornucopia of convenience, we're here to break it all down for you.
Let's do it.
155 lbs.: Yves "Thugjitsu Master" Edwards (40-16-1) vs. Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout (16-6-1)
If it seems like forever ago that Edwards was on top of the world, it was; almost seven years, to be exact. Since Edwards became the unofficial "People's Champion" of the lightweight division with one of the most insane head kicks in MMA history, he -- not to mention his record -- have been all over the place, including an atrocious 1-5 run that saw him felled by the likes of Joachim Hansen, Mark Hominick, and Mike Thomas Brown.
He seems to have righted the ship, however, as he is facing Stout in the midst of a three-fight streak that most recently saw him choke out Cody "Robespierre" McKenzie. This Saturday, he'll be intent on proving that this old man has come rolling home with no intent to leave.
Canuck kickboxer Sam Stout successfully debuted in the UFC against Spencer Fisher back in 2006. Impressively, he had stopped six of his last eight opponents on strikes. Those knockouts seemed to evaporate, however; in 10 UFC fights, Stout has not finished a single opponent.
Though his nickname seems a bit out of place, his technical prowess on the feet has led to victories over the likes of Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon. Back at UFC 121, he took a contentious split decision over fellow striker Paul Taylor and will be intent on establishing consistency.
While the cliché of old dogs and new tricks may prove true quite often in MMA, Edwards has quite a few old tricks at his disposal, as he possesses high-octane striking and a very sound grappling game to go along with it; 31 of his 40 wins are via stoppage.
While Stout is no slouch on his feet, he doesn't have anywhere near the sort of power that let guys like Jorge Masvidal and K.J. Noons put Edwards to sleep. He also doesn't possess the submissions that Rumina Sato and Nate Marquardt used to tap the old vet.
Stout always puts up a good fight, but he just doesn't have as many tools as his foe nor the effectiveness in the tools he does have to end it. Edwards's days as a frontrunner may be long gone, but there's more than enough left to defeat the eternally-mediocre Canadian.
Prediction: Edwards via decision.
185 lbs.: Jesse "Water" Bongfeldt (15-4-1) vs. Chris "All American" Weidman (5-0)
Possessing both excellent grappling and one of the best nicknames in MMA, Bongfeldt was originally scheduled to fight TUF 11 winner Court McGee before, and stop me if you've heard this one, an injury forced his foe off the card.
This will be Bongfeldt's second fight in the UFC; the first, against Brazilian submission specialist Rafael Natal, ended in a majority draw after an even ground battle. Bongfeldt, who has lost just once since 2005, holds wins over UFC veterans T.J. Grant and Sean Pierson and, before his fight with Natal, had never gone to the judges. Joe Rogan will almost certainly be on his side come Saturday.
A Matt Serra protégé, Weidman has established himself as one of the top prospects at 185. In addition to being a two-time Division I All-American wrestler, he qualified for the 2009 ADCC championships before losing a close fight to world-renowned André Galvão.
Just 26 years old, he proved himself a capable mixed-martial artist during the UFC's third trip to the Versus channel, where he defeated vicious Italian striker Alessio Sakara, on short notice no less. He's willing to fight with little time to prepare and no doubt hopes to show Bongfeldt that he is plenty able, even without an extended training camp.
Division I wrestlers, even inexperienced ones, have proven to be headaches for anyone they fight. Combine that experience (which includes wrestling wins over Ryan Bader and Phil Davis) with a rapidly-developing submission game and you have a walking nightmare for anyone with the misfortune of fighting Weidman.
Bongfeldt does possess a very solid submission game with an okay striking game, but Weidman, despite having a quarter of the fights, is a more proven commodity, going toe-to-toe with Sakara on the feet and crushing him on the ground. I don't expect anything different this go-round. Weidman can dictate the pace and position of the fight all he wants and while I'm not sure he'll get a finish, there'll be no doubt who won by the time it's over.
Prediction: Weidman via decision.
145 lbs.: Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier (9-1) vs. Jason "Shotgun" Young (8-3)
A WEC vet, Poirier began his Zuffa career at lightweight, losing a decision to Alpha Male standout Danny Castillo and flattening Zachary Micklewright in under a minute. In his UFC debut, however, he dropped down to featherweight and lost a shock-and-awe campaign on then-number-one contender Josh Grispi.
The beatdown of Grispi was Poirier's first trip to the judges in victory, having five knockouts and three submissions to his credit. He'll look to ride this new wave of momentum to the top of the 145-pound heap.
Debuting Jason Young stepped in on a month's notice to face Poirier, replacing injured grapplefreak Rani Yahya to try to quell "The Diamond's" rise. Fighting out of England, Young's brief career has seen him find success against most of his opposition, but fall against the likes of UFC veteran Paul Sass. Young will no doubt seek to lay a jolly old walloping on his American foe in Vancouver.
While Grispi's recent meltdown against George Roop may cast some doubt on Poirier's demolition of the deposed prospect, "The Diamond" is no joke; at only 22, he has incredible upside and did what even Mark Hominick couldn't do in shutting "The Fluke" down.
Young has had a career of roughly the same length, but hasn't accomplished near what his opponent has and has fallen short whenever he's taken a step up in competition. Combine that with the fact that he has not had nearly as much time to prepare as Poirier has and you have a recipe for disaster for the Englishman.
Poirier has the tools to win wherever the fight goes, but I foresee a smackdown on the feet, culminating in a stoppage for the American.
Prediction: Poirier via TKO.
205 lbs.: Mike Massenzio (12-4) vs. Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (25-11-1)
In the weeks and months prior to this event, fate seemed to do everything in its power to ensure that Soszynski didn't fight this Saturday; Massenzio is the third scheduled opponent for Krzysztof, as prior dancing partners Anthony Perosh and Igor Pokrajac were forced to pull out due to injury.
Luckily, the normally-middleweight Massenzio, fresh off a win following his dismissal from the UFC, was ready to step up to the plate. Massenzio began his UFC career with a quick kimura over Drew McFedries, but petered out with a knockout loss to C.B. Dollaway and the ignoble honor of being the victim of Brian Stann's first submission. With less than a week to prepare, Massenzio has no intention of being denied again.
Since falling in the semifinals of TUF 8, Soszynski has established himself as one of the most entertaining fighters at 205-pounds, taking home two consecutive "Submission of the Night" awards and picking up "Fight of the Night" in his bloody rematch with Stephan Bonnar.
Back in November, he spoiled Croatian Goran Reljic's return to the light heavyweight division with a commanding decision that saw him outwork his foe both standing and on the ground. Nothing would make a better summer starter for him than taking out Massenzio in Vancouver.
I could go into a big, exhaustive analysis, but this is probably the biggest "gimme" fight of the last five events. Massenzio is 1-2 in his last three, normally fights at middleweight, is fighting on short notice, and has half of Krzysztof's experience.
Unless "The Polish Experiment" had his brain surgically removed between the Reljic fight and now, he should absolutely dominate with his superior size and strength before locking up his signature kimura in short order.
Prediction: Soszynski via submission
Elkins has fought a grand total of 85 seconds in the UFC. The weird part is that those 85 seconds comprise two fights: a freak injury TKO victory over Duane Ludwig and an instantaneous submission loss to the debuting Charles Oliveira.
Having found relatively little success at 155-pounds besides a decision over Pat Curran in the latter's fifth pro fight, Elkins has decided to test the waters at 145-pounds this Saturday against the Japanese Judoka.
Another former lightweight who decided to leave for the slimmer pastures of featherweight, Omigawa had one of the most unbelievable career resurgences in the history of the sport.
After washing out of the UFC, he entered the Sengoku featherweight tournament with a record of 4-7-1 against 13-1 standout L.C. Davis. The Hidehiko Yoshida protégé proceeded to dominate Davis from bell to bell, knock out current UFC featherweight Nam Phan, and eke out a split decision against the murderous Marlon Sandro before falling to Masanori Kanehara in the finals.
Since then, he has beaten the likes of Hatsu Hioki and Hiroyuki Takaya, though his return to the UFC was spoiled by über-wrestler Chad Mendes. He's desperately seeking his first UFC win this Saturday.
Forget what you saw against Mendes; when Omigawa is on his game, he has some of the best boxing in MMA, with incredible head movement and surprising power.
In addition, his Judo is top-notch, as exemplified by the fact that he is the only person to ever submit Cole Escovedo and grappled the aforementioned Hioki to a standstill. Elkins has a good record, but the majority is against lesser competition and he hasn't exactly had time to show anything great in the UFC.
What it boils down to is this: Omigawa is one of the five best featherweights on the planet; Elkins is not. Look for Omigawa to tag his foe early, prompting a desperate takedown that leads to Omigawa snatching the inverted armbar he so nearly caught Mendes with.
Prediction: Omigawa via submission
265 lbs.: Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran (12-5) vs. Aaron Rosa (16-3)
Beltran will never be confused with a technical wizard, but he'll never be confused with a boring fighter, either. Since humiliating the debuting Rolles Gracie back at UFC 113, he has had entertaining slugfests with Matt Mitrione and Pat Barry and while he fell short on both occasions, he never stopped looking for the knockout.
At 2-2 in the UFC with a decision over Tim Hague in addition to the aforementioned battles, Beltran may be nearing the end of how far merely being exciting can take him.
A big man with a nice mix of knockout and submission wins, Rosa's last effort resulted in a tap, nap or snap over recent Tim Sylvia-slayer and TUF veteran Abe Wagner. In a heavyweight division always looking for fresh meat, Rosa will look to make a statement come Saturday.
Rosa may have the prettier record of the two, but the majority of it is empty; Wagner was easily the biggest win of his career. Beltran may not have any truly great wins on his résumé, but he's more proven against higher competition than Rosa.
Rosa will have a significant weight advantage, but he doesn't exactly carry it very well. Much as it pains me to pick against someone from my hometown, Beltran is more prepared, hits harder, and gets Johnny's recommendation.
Prediction: Beltran via TKO
185 lbs.: James Head (7-1) vs. Nick "The Promise" Ring (11-0)
Prior to February 25, 2011, the biggest highlight of James Head's career was a decision loss to future UFC washout Jesse Forbes. On February 26, however, Head was the proud owner of a decision win over exiled ex-contender Gerald Harris.
With four knockouts and two submissions to his credit, his victory over Harris was the only time the judges had to tell him he won. Against Ring, Head is determined to prove that elite fighting isn't a one-time thing for him.
An early favorite to win TUF 11, flamboyant Nick Ring squared off with ostensible afterthought Court McGee in the first round, winning a surprisingly controversial decision before a knee injury sent him out of the cage and under the knife.
He made his debut proper against DEEP middleweight champion Riki Fukuda in the land down under, taking yet another controversial decision at UFC 127. He's likely hungry for a win he can actually brag about and will look for it at the expense of the debuting Head.
I haven't seen much of Head, but frankly, I'm not impressed with what I've seen of Ring. Maybe it was his knee on the show and maybe it was rust against Fukuda, but everything I've seen of him just screams "average"; average striking, average wrestling, average grappling.
For all of Head's inexperience against elite opponents, beating Harris is far more impressive than anything I've seen out of Ring. Picking the guy I haven't seen much of hasn't served me well in the past, but I have a good feeling about this one ... really, I do.
Prediction: Head via decision
That's a wrap, ladies and gents. Here's to yet another card the UFC is letting us see in its entirety.