Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), despite its tenuous relationship with television partner Spike TV, will once again feature two bouts from the preliminary card prior to the start of the pay-per-view (PPV) event scheduled for this upcoming weekend (Sat., Aug. 6, 2011).
UFC 133 "Prelims," which will air at 8 p.m. ET on Spike TV, live from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., will feature a light heavyweight showdown between Matt Hamill and Alexander Gustafsson, as well as a pivotal featherweight match up between number one division contender, Chad Mendes, taking on Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Rani Yahya.
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 hard-charging prospects and two seasoned veterans, each trying to secure a foothold in their crowded divisions.
Let's take a closer look at the Spike TV "Prelims" planned for this weekend:
205 lbs.: Matt Hamill vs. Alexander Gustafsson
A veteran of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Matt Hamill, has been a mainstay in the 205-pound division for five years, defeating the likes of Mark Munoz and former mentor Tito Ortiz, while falling to former titlists Rich Franklin and Quinton Jackson. Since his loss to the aforementioned Franklin, Hamill has won five of six, even though that streak includes the single most pyrrhic victory in UFC history over Jon Jones, where "Hammer" pulled out a "W" because of Jones’ illegal downward elbows. Now coming off a one-sided shellacking at the hands of "Rampage," replacing the injured Vladimir Matyushenko, Hamill will certainly be determined to make the best of this opportunity.
At just 24-years-old, Swedish wrecking ball Alexander Gustafsson is one of the brightest prospects in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He had one of the more impressive Zuffa debuts in recent memory at UFC 105, crushing Jared Hamman in just 41 seconds. While his hype train slowed down somewhat by a submission loss to fellow up-and-comer Phil Davis, two consecutive submission wins have put him back on track, especially his outstriking of lanky Muay Thai monster Cyrille Diabate. Gustafsson has only ever seen the scorecards once, sporting seven knockouts on his record and cementing his place as a future fan-favorite.
In all honesty, Hamill doesn’t have much going for him here. Aside from a worrying tendency to drop his left hand when slinging his right, Gustafsson has a massive advantage on the feet, being much quicker, taller and harder-hitting than his American foe. Yes, Hamill has very solid wrestling, and yes, kiwi brawler James Te-Huna managed to put Gustafsson on his back, but Hamill successfully grinding out the Swede is a bit unlikely. Unlike Te-Huna, Hamill isn’t a threat on his feet, and prior to the anaconda choke, Gustafsson was stuffing Davis relentlessly. In addition, Gustafsson has been preparing for a wrestler for months.
In addition, Rampage managed to keep Hamill at bay and forced him to take awkward shots from way outside. The lanky Gustafsson has the tools to do the same and procure a similar result. Hamill’s a bit too sturdy for me to call a stoppage, but Gustafsson will hit him with everything and the kitchen sink en route to a dominant decision.
Prediction: Gustafsson via decision
145 lbs.: Chad "Money" Mendes vs. Rani Yahya
With Urijah Faber having left for the skinnier pastures of 135, Chad Mendes has been left to take up the reigns and re-establish Team Alpha Male’s dominance at featherweight. A stifling wrestler with solid power and the trademark Alpha Male guillotine, Mendes has absolutely dominated every foe that Zuffa has tossed his way, including a thumping of Japanese MMA superstar, Michihiro Omigawa, in his Octagon debut. Originally rumored to be facing Jose Aldo on this card, Mendes has been forced to wait behind Kenny Florian for a shot, and will be eager to secure it with a dominating win over Yahya.
A longtime WEC and K-1 Hero’s veteran, Yahya bounced between weight classes with mixed success, submitting former titleholder Eddie Wineland and title challengers Mark Hominick and Yoshiro Maeda in the midst of getting flatlined by "Kid" Yamamoto and Joseph Benavidez. He seemed to have made a home at bantamweight until a two-fight skid brought him back to 145-ville. A match up with the Korean Zombie at UFC Fight for the Troops 2 fell through, but Yahya was able to soundly outwork short-notice replacement Mike Brown and will look to reinvigorate his career against 8-to-1 favorite Mendes.
I didn’t give Yahya much of a chance against Brown and was proven quite wrong. I give him even less of a chance against Mendes, who I consider better than Brown in every conceivable way except experience. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong again, but Mendes is an absolute monster who I see beating everyone at featherweight not named Aldo. Yahya found success against Brown by working kicks from the outside and keeping his hard-nosed opponent guessing, but Mendes is younger and faster than Brown, enough so that he should be able to nullify this tactic.
Yahya on the ground is a nightmare for almost anyone below welterweight, but it will take one hell of an effort from him to get Mendes down. Since his snoozefest against Swanson, "Money" has been getting steadily more exciting and reminiscent of his butt-chinned mentor; I believe he’ll keep that streak alive with a second-round TKO victory.
Prediction: Mendes via technical knockout
Just three days to go, ladies and gents. It may barely resemble the card that was originally put together, but there are still quite a few quality throwdowns to enjoy.
Remember MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 133 below, beginning with the preliminary card bouts on Facebook and Spike TV at around 6:30 p.m. ET and running right on through the PPV broadcast at 9 p.m. ET.
See you then!