Second verse, a little different from the first.
Once again, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will hit the big time, as the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion makes its way back to the FOX network on Sat., Jan 28, 2012.
Headlining its sophomore UFC on Fox 2 effort from the United Center in Chicago, Ill., are light heavyweight contenders Rashad Evans and Phil Davis, meeting up in an intriguing clash of wrestling standouts. In addition, divisive duelists Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping will square off for a crack at division deity Anderson Silva, while blue chip prospect Chris Weidman will look to solidify himself as a legitimate 185-pound contender against Demian Maia.
In addition to the three nationally-televised events just mentioned, the UFC will show all eight "Prelims" bouts on FUEL TV, beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
Join us after the jump for a look at the first handful.145 lbs.: Charles Oliveira vs. Eric Wisely
After stunning UFC fans by submitting Darren Elkins in less than 30 seconds and choking out an overweight Efrain Escudero, things when downhill quickly for Charles Oliveira (14-2, 1 NC). After being stunningly kneebarred by Jim Miller, "Do Bronx" had his dominant win over Nik Lentz changed to a no-contest by virtue of an illegal knee he landed during his flurry. To cap things off, he had his guts turned to mush by a Donald Cerrone body shot. Dropping down to 145 pounds -- where his lanky frame should do more good -- the 22-year-old grappling expert will try to reignite his momentum at the expense of the debuting Eric Wisely (19-6).
Despite an enormous size disadvantage, well-traveled Wisely gave Alpha Spoiler Pat Healy a surprising amount of trouble in the former's lone Strikeforce effort, threatening with every conceivable submission despite eventually dropping the decision. "Little Lee," who owns wins over UFC veterans Matt Veach and Hermes Franca, has never been stopped -- all six of his losses have come via decision, while only four of his wins have done so.
Stopping Oliveira would do wonders for the 27-year-old from Iowa's career.
Despite the setbacks, I still firmly believe in Oliveira. His grappling is fantastic and his striking, while not on Donald Cerrone's level, is still quite good. His wrestling needs work, but he's far less likely to be overpowered at featherweight than he was at lightweight. Wisely is a very good fighter, and really did give Healy all he could handle, but doesn't seem to possess the attributes (solid takedown defense and superior striking) that I consider a requirement for me to pick someone to beat Oliveira.
Idealistic fool I may be, but I'm calling for a triumphant return to form for Aloe Vera, who will grapple his way to an authoritative decision win.
Prediction: Oliveira via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Michael Johnson vs. Shane Roller
George St. Pierre's top pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12, Michael Johnson's (9-6) wrestling prowess carried him all the way to the show's Finale, where a dominant first round gave way to fatigue and a unanimous decision loss to Jonathan Brookins. "The Menace" bounced back with a vengeance, knocking out World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran Edward Faaloloto at UFC on Versus 4: "Kongo vs. Barry." Unfortunately, Paul Sass had no intention of letting that zero at the end of his record be stricken, and locked up a nasty heel hook to hand Johnson his second loss in three fights. Knowing the UFC's itchy trigger finger, Johnson could very well need a win over the veteran Shane Roller (10-5) to stay employed.
Things haven't been all sunshine and lollipops for WEC mainstay Roller, either. In his second UFC effort, following his come-from-behind knockout of Thiago Tavares, he was unceremoniously flattened by Melvin Guillard, and, in his subsequent effort, utterly dominated on the ground by T.J. Grant before (apparently) submitting to an armbar. With two straight losses, Roller may also be finding himself in a win-or-go-home situation, and will need to use his decorated wrestling to its full extent against Johnson.
I was picking Johnson to easily beat his former opponent for this event, Cody McKenzie, but Roller is a whole different animal. He's got solid power and really solid wrestling, and while they don't mesh as well as they should, he's a dangerous opponent anywhere the fight goes. While Johnson's improving striking could certainly carry him to victory, his vulnerability to submissions, combined with Roller's prowess for them, make me lean toward the latter in this one. Expect Johnson to have success in the early going, but eventually find himself on his back, then find Roller on his back squeezing the life out of him.
Prediction: Roller via first round submission
265 lbs.: Joey Beltran vs. Lavar Johnson
He may have lost three of his last four fights, but it's a pretty safe bet that Joey Beltran (13-6) isn't going anywhere. A balls-to-the-wall brawler who absolutely refuses to acknowledge the dozens of power punches that inevitably find his face, "Mexicutioner" has eaten every conceivable strike in MMA and continued plodding forward and swinging for the fences.
Luckily for the fans, his current foe has the exact same mindset, and Beltran will be sure to go out and put on a show.
One of the toughest men in the heavyweight division, Strikeforce veteran Lavar Johnson (15-5) was shot twice during a family reunion in 2009, only to bounce back and score two consecutive knockouts in 2010. Unfortunately, his poor ground game bit him in the proverbial rear in 2011, suffering submission losses to Shane del Rosario and Shawn Jordan. Now on the biggest stage there is, "Big" -- who has never gone to the judges and has thirteen knockouts to his name -- has a great opportunity to snap the streak and endear himself to MMA fans worldwide.
Neither of these guys will ever get within spitting distance of a title, but it's always a treat to watch them fight, and both of them in the cage together practically guarantees some rock-em, sock-em robots action. While Johnson is by far the harder puncher of the two, he's even sloppier than Beltran, and has no semblance of a ground game to speak of. Beltran has pretty pathetic takedowns himself, he proved in the Pat Barry fight that he's willing to at least try to bring it to the ground if things go south, and despite his iron head, things eventually will against a puncher like Johnson.
These are two extremely limited fighters, and much as I'd hate for Johnson to come back from such an ordeal and suffer three straight losses, Beltran strikes me as having the better tools for the job, making up for his power deficiency with slightly cleaner technique and a willingness to bring it down if necessary. I've got him coming out on the right end of a raucous three-round slugfest.
Prediction: Beltran via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Chris Camozzi vs. Dustin Jacoby
A well-rounded fighter as gritty as sandpaper, Chris Camozzi (15-5) lost his chance to fight on TUF 11 when his brutal fight in the elimination round, which he walked away victorious from, resulted in a broken jaw. Nevertheless, he was invited back to the UFC, defeating James Hammortree and Dongi Yang before being submitted by Kyle Noke and released. After beating veteran Joey Villaseñor under the Shark Fights banner, he was brought back once again, only to fall to GSP training partner Francis Carmont. Now 1-2 in his last three, defeating the upstart Jacoby could be his only chance to stay with the promotion.
6'4" Dustin Jacoby (6-1) stepped into UFC 137 unbeaten, with five first-round stoppages to his credit. Unfortunately, his wrestling and defensive grappling just weren't up to snuff, as late replacement Clifford Starks was able to sit in his guard and hold him there for a unanimous decision. The HIT Squad representative, 23, could be on thin ice as a result of his poor performance, and will likely need something special this Saturday if he wants to keep saying he "does UFC" with any degree of honesty.
I don't like to disparage fighters after one go in the Octagon, especially ones I picked to win, but Jacoby's performance in his fight with Starks was downright pathetic. He never tried to get up off his back, never tried for a submission, and couldn't do anything on his feet. Camozzi isn't really all that good in any particular area, but the fact that he has a takedown game at all is enough for me to pick him to beat Jacoby.
Dustin is tall, young, and full of potential, but it seems to me that he's still got far too much to fix before he's UFC material. Camozzi by comfortable top control decision.
Prediction: Camozzi via unanimous decision
See you then!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FOX 2, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on FUEL TV scheduled for around 5 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.