Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has packed its bags and headed off to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., with several of its finest fighters in tow. Newly-minted light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend his 205-pound title for the first time against the concussive power of Quinton Jackson, while legends Matt Hughes and Takanori Gomi will look to re-enter the win column at the expense of Josh Koscheck and Nate Diaz, respectively.
That’s not the only action, however, with an excellent undercard also on the docket to whet our collective appetites.
Yesterday, we took a look at the three fights gracing the UFC’s Facebook page. Join me after the jump for a breakdown of the Spike TV "Prelims:"
Team Lesnar’s resident "Boogeyman," Ferguson (11-2) had one of the more memorable runs in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) history, knocking out all three foes on the show and crushing fellow finalist Ramsey Nijem at the Finale. Ferguson, who normally fought small at welterweight, but has decided to make the cut to 155 pounds, certainly has no shortage of power. Indeed, despite his size, he’s posted seven knockouts. With the stigma of being a "TUF" guy instead of a legitimate contender, clouding the public’s perception, Ferguson is intent on pasting Riley and getting his foot in the lightweight door.
Riley, (30-12-1), actually made his MMA debut an astounding 14 years ago at the age of 16. His first trip to the Octagon (at UFC 37 in 2002) ended in defeat, however, at the hands of Robbie Lawler. He got a second shot at the big time in Jan. of 2006, but couldn’t overcome the striking of Spencer Fisher. Now on the sixth fight of his third UFC tenure, Riley, who was originally set to face Pat Audinwood at UFC 119 but got injured, will try to prove that the third time really is the charm.
Thirty wins is an impressive number for Riley, but he’s got the problem many journeymen have: if you check his Wikipedia article, the names in red tend to show up next to "Win," while those in blue show up next to "Loss." Aside from a debuting, undersized Omigawa and Jorge "Strategy is for the Weak" Gurgel, he simply doesn’t have a single win over respectable competition. Plus, those 11 decision wins aren’t doing him any favors.
Admittedly, Ferguson has a similar issue, but it’s hard to pick a guy with six technical knockout losses over a man who’s flattened the last seven people (counting his fights on the show) to step into the cage with him. I see good things in Tony’s future, and an unconscious Aaron Riley is one of them.
Prediction: Ferguson via first round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Nick Ring vs. Tim Boetsch
Ferociously flamboyant Nick Ring, (12-0), a TUF 11 veteran, was an early favorite to win before a torqued knee forced him from the house and cleared the path for the man he narrowly defeated, Court McGee, to win it all. On his return at UFC 127, he eked out a controversial decision over debuting Japanese wrestler Riki Fukuda, but pulled out a far more definitive victory with a one-sided beatdown of James Head. With one nasty catfight on his hands, "The Promise" will look to keep that lovely little zero up there intact against the brawny Boetsch.
Mildly-legendary for his brutal-yet-hilarious knockout of David Heath, Boetsch, (13-4), enjoyed mixed success in the Octagon, including a sneaky one-handed kimura loss to Phil Davis, before deciding to drop from light heavyweight to 185. His ensuing walloping of Kendall Grove seemed to legitimize that decision, and a beatdown of Ring would do wonders in convincing the pundits that he’s more than just a mindless brawler running away from 205.
I picked Ring to lose to James Head and he made me eat crow. I’ve made sure to bring ketchup this time, since I’m picking him to lose to Tim Boetsch. Ring has displayed decent all-around skills, but he doesn’t really have any area he excels at. "The Barbarian" isn’t Georges St. Pierre himself, but he’s big, strong and looks to have fixed his cardio problems with the drop to 185, strangely enough. Plus, the man has some solid wrestling experience, and while Ring may be a technically superior fighter, Boetsch’s strength should be enough to overcome this deficiency.
Perhaps I’m still bitter about the Fukuda fight, but I just don’t see Ring having the tools to keep from getting planted on his rear and smothered for 15 minutes by his much-bigger foe.
Prediction: Boetsch via decision
It's (almost) time, ladies and gents. We've got ourselves some fights this weekend. Go ahead and sound off in the comments section with your thoughts and predictions.