Hail to the king, Maniacs.
After more than 1.5 years on the sidelines, UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre is back in action and looking to stop the latest usurper, interim 170-pound kingpin champion Carlos Condit, in the main event of UFC 154.
The winner’s next challenger will likely be decided in the co-featured fight of the night, which pits Danish destroyer Martin Kampmann against Oklahoma’s own Johny Hendricks, taking center Octagon at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Nov. 10, 2012.
But before all that, we’ve got a bevy of exciting under bouts to whet your appetites. Check out part one of our UFC 154 "Prelims" breakdown, featuring the first four bouts of the fight card below:
145 lbs.: Antonio Carvalho vs. Rodrigo Damm
While Antonio Carvalho (14-5) -- a former standout in Shooto -- started his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career on the wrong foot with a loss to Felipe Arantes, "Pato" righted the ship in a big way against Daniel Pineda, knocking him out with a beautiful series of punches. Carvalho -- who owns a win over Hatsu Hioki -- is a black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Shotokan, his skill on the feet and ground brining him 10 finishes in his career. Seven of those stoppages are by knockout.
Despite his top-notch jiu-jitsu prowess, Rodrigo Damm (10-5) entered The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" having been stopped in four of his previous five fights. Undeterred, he submitted favorite Fabricio "Guerreiro" in the elimination rounds and decisioned unbeaten John "Macapa" in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, issues with weight cutting led him to bow out of the competition, though he obliterated rival Anistavio "Gasparzniho" at the show's the Finale.
Damm has six wins by submission and two by knockout.
Damm is a fantastic grappler and has a brutal jab, but he’s lately been fond of just spamming takedowns against competent strikers. While Carvalho’s grappling game isn’t quite as good as Damm’s, his striking is more than competent, meaning every second on the feet is a disaster waiting to happen for Damm.
Plus, I don’t think this is the weight class for him; he dropped to 145 after a series of brutal losses, and the fact that he had to drop out of TUF: Brazil has me concerned. Throwing dozens of takedowns is no easy feat, especially when you have to worry about getting your face countered off.
Damm might get him down early, but he’s going to slow down something fierce before long, at which point Carvalho will take over and put him away on the feet.
Prediction: Carvalho by second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Ivan Menjivar vs. Azamat Gashimov
A veteran among veterans, Ivan Menjivar (24-9) -- who started his career at welterweight -- recently had his impressive run through the Bantamweight division ground to a halt at the hands of Mike Easton, who outstruck him to earn a fairly sedate unanimous decision.
Menjivar had previously won four of five, the sole loss a razor-thin decision against Brad Pickett. "The Pride of El Salvador" -- who has 18 finishes to his credit -- has not been stopped since 2002.
Russian-born and currently based out of Jackson’s in New Mexico, Azamat Gashimov (7-1) has finished six of his opponents, primarily with his lethal armbar. Gashimov, 22, has so far only fought in Russia and the Ukraine during his five-year career. He has fought just once in the past three years.
Honestly, this is nothing more than a "make Menjivar look awesome" fight. Gashimov hasn’t fought in a year, has only fought once since 2009, and really isn’t better than Menjivar in any aspect of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Really, what’s there to break down? Menjivar has every advantage I can think of besides size, is damn near impossible to finish, and is fighting on his home turf. "The Pride of El Salvador" by beatdown in one.
Prediction: Menjivar by first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Steven Siler vs. Darren Elkins
As ignominious as his instantaneous knockout loss to Diego Brandao during TUF 14 was, Steven Siler (21-9) has been on fire since joining the UFC proper, winning three straight, including an upset of Cole Miller. "Super" has won 16 of his last 18, losing only to Cole Escovedo and Chad Mendes, and has submitted 13 opponents while knocking out two.
Hopes were not high for Darren Elkins (14-2) before his bout with Diego Brandao, the former’s only clear-cut Octagon victory coming over Tiequan Zhang. After absorbing a huge amount of punishment in the first round, however, Elkins roared back, soundly outgrappling the fading Brandao for a decision victory.
The wrestling specialist owns a win over current Bellator champion Pat Curran.
Siler has made me eat crow two events in a row; however, not this time, buddy. Siler has just looked excellent during his run in the UFC, using his length and height well both on the feet and on the mat. While Elkins is a good wrestler, that’s all he is -- no real striking, no real finishing ability on the mat. Joey Gambino, a solid wrestler in his own right, had nothing for Siler and I don’t expect Elkins to have more success. Siler spanks him on the feet before Elkins dives for a desperation shot directly into a guillotine.
Prediction: Siler by first-round submission
170 lbs.: Matt Riddle vs. John Maguire
No, I’m not going to make an "up in smoke" pun. I’m better than that.
After out-gritting Chris Clements at UFC 149 en route to a third-round submission, Welterweight colossus Matt Riddle (6-3) and his hankering for the "heefer" led to his victory, arguably the most impressive of his career, being overturned.
When Yousef got hurt, John Maguire (18-4) stepped in. The English submission specialist, fresh off his first UFC defeat at the hands of John Hathaway, will be taking his second fight in two months. Ten of the Gypsy Jiu-Jitsu-trained fighter’s wins have come by tapout, with the loss to Hathaway snapping a seven-fight win streak.
Riddle’s physical advantages are going to be the story of this fight because while Maguire weighs in soft, Riddle cuts God knows how much weight and stands four inches taller. While he has a tendency to fight like a bogan, Riddle’s grappling is solid and his durability makes him, if not a threat on the feet, then at least enough of an annoyance to open you up for the takedown.
Maguire has a great submission game, but he couldn’t handle Hathaway’s size and top control. I doubt "The One" does any better against Riddle, particularly since he has no real striking attack of his own. Expect Riddle to simply overpower him, landing enough long, crazy punches on the feet to get his takedown game going and put Maguire through 15 unpleasant minutes.
Prediction: Riddle by unanimous decision
Stop by tomorrow for a look at the four remaining "Prelims" bouts, which include some intriguing striking match ups and a grappler showdown with possible title implications.
See you then, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 154: "St. Pierre vs. Condit," beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 5:45 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 10 p.m. ET.