"Music City," here we come.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is heading to "The Athens of the South" this Friday night (Jan. 20, 2012) for its first-ever free card on FX, and the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion is definitely ready to rock.
Lighting up the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., are lightweight contenders Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard, headlining the card as they attempt to regain the momentum recently stripped from them by Ben Henderson and Joe Lauzon, respectively.
And that's just the main card. Once again, the UFC will show the "Prelims" on the big(ger) screen, this time on FUEL TV.
After obliterating veteran Nate Quarry in two rounds, Rivera looked to be on somewhat of a late-career resurgence, having won three straight and earning a place in the UFC 127 co-main event against Michael Bisping. Despite needling his British foe relentlessly in the build-up to the fight, Rivera found himself unable to overcome the striking and wrestling of Bisping, especially after eating an illegal knee in the first round. His attempted rebound against Constantinos Philippou failed as well, as he found himself on the wrong end of a split decision. Nearing the end of his career and sitting on two straight losses, Rivera absolutely needs a win on Friday.
After being cut from the UFC for the second time on account of consecutive losses to Ryan Bader and Jason Brilz, Schafer got a third shot at the big time against Aaron Simpson at UFC 136. Unfortunately for the submissions specialist, Simpson's power was simply too much for him, and he found himself battered relentlessly across the cage all night. Now 1-3 in his last four, his continued employment likely rests on a win over Rivera.
Despite his experience, Rivera remains a brawler, for better or worse. His wrestling isn't great, his grappling isn't great, and his striking isn't very technical. At this point in his career, all he really has going for him is power.
Luckily for him, against Schafer, that might be enough.
Schafer is an excellent submissions player, but once he felt the power of Simpson, he seemed to shut down and just try to survive the ordeal. Despite this, he was still on the verge of being knocked out. If he gets Rivera down early, which he is definitely capable of, he can certainly submit him, but I just get the sense that Rivera's going to pop him before that happens, and even if that doesn't finish him, it will cow "Red" and lead to his eventual downfall.
This old dog still has some bite in him.
Prediction: Rivera via technical knockout
Filling in for an improperly-manly Nate Marquardt on late notice against Rick Story back at UFC Live 4, Brenneman was considered little more than cannon fodder for the rising wrestler, who was coming off an impressive upset of Thiago Alves. Three rounds of wrestling dominance later, however, and the UFC had a new underdog story to market. Unfortunately for Brenneman, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson was not entertained by this "Spaniard" and, after shrugging off his takedown attempts with ease, nuked the afroed wrestler with a head kick. Now 2-2 in his last four, with two stoppage losses, Brenneman will need a dominant performance to regain his place in the welterweight upper echelon.
After getting murked by John Howard in his UFC debut, Cesar Gracie-trained Daniel Robert hiked up his britches and established himself as one of the more dangerous grapplers at 170, submitting Mike Guymon with a beautiful anaconda choke at UFC 121 and nearly tearing Greg Soto's arm off four numbered events later. He soon suffered more setbacks, however, as he was soundly outwrestled and outstruck by the rising Claude Patrick and TUF veteran Rich Attonito in sequential efforts. 3-3 in the UFC and two losses in the hole, Roberts could very well be fighting for his job come Friday.
Brenneman has historically struggled with one specific kind of fighter: The kind that hits really, really hard. He's fought three people that could be considered power-punchers (John Howard, Johny Hendricks, and the aforementioned Rumble) and all three came away victorious.
Daniel Roberts is not a power-puncher. In fact, he has no knockouts on his record.
Roberts has good submissions, but he seemed entirely incapable of bringing them to bear against Patrick or Attonito. Against someone with the wrestling prowess of Brenneman, which allowed him to grapple on even terms with the highly-decorated Hendricks before catching a case sudden-onset fist, I don't see him doing much better.
I'll be honest with you all; this is probably going to be boring as sin. While I'm hoping for a crazy back-and-forth grapplefest, I know better. Brenneman by wrestlegrind.
Prediction: Brenneman via unanimous decision
A three-time Combat Sambo who has been called Russian MMA's best-kept secret, the 23-year-old Nurmagomedov has been terrorizing his home country under the M-1 and ProFC banners. While he only fought twice in 2010, he made up for it with an astounding seven bouts in the last year, only one reaching the second round. Having recently joined the Miller Brothers and fellow prospect Adlan Amagov at AMA Fight Club, Nurmagomedov will look to carve out a place for himself in the vicious UFC lightweight division.
WEC veteran Kamal Shalorus, one of the most decorated wrestlers in the division, hit the first major setback of his career at UFC 128, when Jim Miller, after controlling the majority of their bout, cracked the Iranian's notoriously-concrete jaw for the first time with a huge knee and finished him with punches. This marked Shalorus's only professional loss, although there are those who would argue that his split draw with Jamie Varner should probably have qualified for that title. After ten months out of the game, Shalorus can put himself right back in the mix by quelling the rise of the Russian upstart.
Shalorus is an incredibly frustrating fighter to watch. He has decent pop in his hands, but he wastes it by wildly flailing away like a beefier version of Leonard Garcia. Further, he has some of the most powerful takedowns in the game, but barely uses them and fails to set them up when he does.
Nurmagomedov may not have been fighting elite competition, but his sambo is excellent; he's got good takedowns, solid ground work, and clean striking technique. In addition, he's over ten years younger than Shalorus and has significantly more fights.
That said, I firmly believe that Shalorus has the tools to wipe the floor with Nurmagomedov at this point in the latter's career. In fact, he probably has the tools to beat a large portion of the lightweight division. The problem is that he won't use them; he doesn't use his wrestling nearly enough and, from what I can tell, flat-out refuses to improve his punching technique to the point where he can actually bring his not-insignificant power to bear. Shalorus is going to sit back and brawl, possibly falling victim to Khabib's lightning-quick double leg or to his cleaner technique. In either case, he's going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again by playing a game he won't win and doesn't even have to play.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision
That's a wrap.
For a closer look at the first three preliminary fights on the UFC on FX 1 under card, featuring the likes of Daniel Pineda vs. Pat Schilling, among others, head over to part one of our preview by clicking here.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FX 1, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on FX scheduled for around 6 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.
See you then!