If bigger really is better, then this Friday (Oct. 5, 2012) is going to be something special.
UFC on FX 5 from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., will feature a clash of titanic proportions in the main event when unbeaten knockout machine Travis Browne takes on Strikeforce "Bigfoot" Antonio Silva. In addition, Jay Hieron will make his return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) opposite Jake Ellenberger, while John Dodson welcomes Shooto standout and former number one-ranked flyweight, Jussier da Silva, to the Octagon.
Yesterday, we previewed the first four bouts that comprise the initial Facebook/FUEL TV portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining four that will air live -- and for free -- on FUEL TV before the FX-televised event starts at 8 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
155 lbs.: Jeremy Stephens vs. Yves Edwards
Despite being all of 26 years old, the brick-handed Jeremy Stephens (20-8) is one of the lightweight division’s veterans, debuting back at UFC 71 in 2007. The owner of one of the nastiest highlight reels you’re likely to find south of Welterweight, "Lil' Heathen" has hit a rough patch recently, dropping a narrow decision to Anthony Pettis at UFC 136 before getting utterly dominated by Donald Cerrone on FUEL TV.
Now 7-7 overall under the UFC banner, Stephens has finished 17 opponents including fourteen by knockout and has taken home "Knockout of the Night" thrice.
One of the most well-travelled fighters in the sport, Yves Edwards (41-18-1) had the misfortune of hitting his peak just as the UFC lightweight division fell apart, leaving him with no crown to defend after his fantastic head kick finish of Josh Thomson. Since that amazing moment, however, he’s had trouble replicating his prior success, though he managed to earn his way back into the UFC in 2011 and has gone 3-2 since in the promotion. Most recently, he lost a narrow decision to Tony Ferguson; though the fight took place last December, he has been out of the cage since, as an injury forced Stephens to replace him against Donald Cerrone.
"Thugjitsu Master" is the definition of a gamer: He’s well-rounded, hits hard, and is one crafty old bugger. He’s been in the sport for 15 years and has fought and beaten some of the best in the division. It's a damn shame that a lot of fans will remember him for this run rather than his prime.
Stephens doesn’t have the technical striking to crack the upper echelon of the division, but he’s got ever-improving wrestling and absolutely thunderous power. There is nobody in the division who can take a flush bomb from him and, while Cerrone managed to keep him at bay fairly easily, Edwards has neither "Cowboy’s" length nor his destructive kicks.
Edwards is as skilled as he is exciting, but his time is past. Stephens hits too damn hard and has gotten too good with his wrestling. Expect some entertaining striking exchanges with Stephens peppering his attack with takedowns before one of his monster haymakers hits home and brings him another fight night bonus.
Prediction: Stephens by second-round knockout
155 lbs.: Michael Johnson vs. Danny Castillo
Georges St. Pierre’s top pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12, Michael Johnson (11-6) and his powerful wrestling attack took him all the way to the finals, where his cardio betrayed him and cost him a decision over Jonathan Brookins. Since that bout, "The Menace" has gone 3-1 and impressed in the process, displaying an evolving striking attack that brought him an upset victory over TUF 13 champion Anthony Ferguson.
Johnson currently trains out of the "Blackzillians" camp in Florida and was originally slated to face Danny Castillo (11-4) at the stricken UFC 151 event.
Castillo, the sole representative of Team Alpha Male operating above featherweight, hit the low point in his career at WEC 47 when Anthony Pettis damn near kicked his head off. Since then, however, he’s won seven of eight, including four in the UFC proper. Castillo owns wins over Anthony Njokuani and rising Renzo Gracie disciple John Cholish, defeating the latter his last time out back in May. Nine of his victories have come inside the distance.
I’ve flip-flopped a lot on this fight, but I think I’m going to have to go with Johnson, whose made me eat crow twice in a row. He’s gotten a hell of a lot better since his TUF days and, while he doesn’t have big power, he does a great job of getting in, landing his shots, and getting out before he can be countered or taken down. Castillo is a solid wrestler with serviceable striking, but he’s going to have to shoot from long range and I don’t think he has the speed to make that work.
Johnson has really been coming into his own lately, while Castillo seems like he plateaued a while back. I just don’t see Castillo packing enough power to stop Johnson with the few punches he’s likely to land nor the explosive wrestling to shut down his footwork. Clear-cut decision for Johnson, who will pepper "Last Call" from a distance and avoid what takedowns the latter attempts.
Prediction: Johnson by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Dennis Hallman vs. Thiago Tavares
Having debuted in the sport back in 1996, Dennis Hallman (51-14-12) -- best known for his two submissions of Matt Hughes that took a combined 47 seconds -- may be the most experienced veteran in the entire organization. A catch-wrestling specialist, "Superman" has fought as high as 195 pounds, but has settled into the lightweight division after getting elbowed to pieces by Brian Ebersole.
His last effort saw him choke out Canadian striker John Makdessi for his fortieth submission win, while only six of his victories have come via decision.
Though he hit a rough 1-3 patch in 2008, Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) has been one of the division’s more underrated competitors in recent years, going 4-1-1 with wins over the likes of Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher, among others. Though primarily a grappler, Tavares has shown great improvement in his striking, defeating Stout in what was mostly a standup affair.
Hallman and Tavares -- like Johnson and Castillo -- were originally scheduled to throw down at UFC 151 before its cancellation forced a re-shuffling of the bouts.
I was sorely tempted to pick Hallman based on his wrestling ability, but Tavares has just looked too good lately. He’s always been a great grappler, but now he’s got a solid striking game to go along with it, something that Hallman lacks. I’ve little doubt that Hallman is going to shoot right off the bat and can probably win the ground, but I don’t see him getting Tavares there without paying dearly.
Hallman has accomplished a hell of a lot in his career and probably doesn’t deserve to be as big an underdog as he is, but against an opponent nine years younger with as well-rounded a game as Tavares, experience can only take you so far.
Sprawl-and-brawl victory for the Brazilian.
Prediction: Tavares by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jacob Volkmann vs. Shane Roller (11-6)
Yet another UFC 151 transplant, Jacob Volkmann (14-3) found his five-fight win streak and quiet rise through the division’s ranks cut short this past May by English submission fiend Paul Sass, who managed to secure his signature triangle choke in short order. The wrestling-savvy Volkmann, known more for his awkward political ramblings than his fighting style, had not lost since a two-fight skid at 170 prompted the cut to lightweight.
Three-time All-American wrestler Shane Roller (11-6) impressed mightily in his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) career, choking out the likes of Danny Castillo and Jamie Varner while losing only to eventual champions Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. Since making the leap onto the UFC stage, however, he’s found himself unable to recapture his former success, going 2-3.
He recently managed to right the ship with a decision over Xtreme Couture’s John Alessio, but his ZUFFA career may come to a close if he can’t get his Grinch on and take out "Christmas."
Roller has a fantastic top game and some real power in his hands, but he just can’t seem to put it together. His striking hasn’t improved over the years and his wrestling, vaunted as it is, has just seemed incredibly hit-or-miss in the UFC.
Volkmann, on the other hand, has taken down every single lightweight he’s fought.
"Christmas" has no striking game to speak of, but he’s got smothering top control and some of the best wrestling in the division. His submission defense may need a bit of work, but Roller isn’t a threat to submit him off his back and doesn’t have the sprawl to keep it standing. I like Roller and will be rooting for him here, but I expect something a lot like the T.J. Grant fight as Volkmann repeatedly takes him down and maintains dominant position for 30-27s across the board.
Prediction: Volkmann by unanimous decision
That's a wrap for the UFC on FX 5 "Prelims." Now, all we have to do is sit and wait for the real in less than three days.
See you then, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FX 5: "Browne vs. Bigfoot," beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 4 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 Saturday, starting promptly at 8 p.m. ET.