Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com
Nineteen-fight Octagon veteran Chris Leben will return to the Octagon after serving a one-year suspension for substance abuse, welcoming Strikeforce veteran Derek Brunson to the mixed martial arts (MMA) big league at UFC 155 later this evening. "The Crippler" will have to overcome his personal demons, while "Wrecking Ball" will attempt to end a two-fight losing skid. Who will ultimately prevail? Jason Probst for MMAmania.com breaks it all down.
One of the most reliable Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) warhorses in recent years, Chris Leben has delivered some of the most memorable mixed martial arts (MMA) knockouts, particularly in fights where he looks on the precipice of doom.
"The Crippler" will attempt to add his opponent at UFC 155 later tonight (Dec. 29, 2012), Derek Brunson, to that highlight-reel with the two Middleweight fighters sling leather inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Brunson still has a way to go before maximizing his potential, and the former standout college wrestler will have to prove at least serviceable on the feet to set up takedowns. In his Octagon debut, Brunson can erase the memories of a one-sided knockout loss to Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Ronaldo Souza, and before that, a decision loss to the faded Kendall Grove.
Leben is certainly willing to test him if he can keep it standing, though Brunson has to know that's not to his advantage. The more boring this fight is, the better Brunson's chances are of pulling off the upset.
Check out a complete breakdown of the first UFC 155 main card Middleweight match up between Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson below:
Leben might be in the last phase of a career where the damage and general mileage of his lifestyle catch up to him. One of his best traits has always been a never-say-die attitude, no matter how hopelessly behind he's been in fights.
Brunson, for his part, shouldn't underrate Leben's solid takedown defense, nor should be tempted to pounce in for an apparent finish should he land big on the feet -- unlikely given his modest stand up -- because that is when Leben is most dangerous.
Judges tend to be swayed by forceful takedowns and top control in absence of meaningful striking exchanges or when the standing phase of the bout doesn't indicate a clear winner. The guy on top can park in guard or half-guard, work enough to avoid stand up, and get a decision. And that's exactly the gameplan Brunson should have in mind, even if it appears Leben is on his last legs as a fighter.
Leben's a cagey veteran, and has to factor in the possibility of getting wrestle-smashed early. But he'll pick his spots, winging in with occasional big left hands, while Brunson counters with tie-ups and takedowns.
Defensively, Leben's underrated guard should be enough to keep him in the fight long enough for a restart or two, and he should be able to land enough standing to deter Brunson from an extended firefight on the feet.
However, Brunson's takedown ability and just enough scoring from top position should be enough to wear down the veteran en route to a late cut stoppage or decision win.
Brunson via technical knockout or decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 155 main card action later this evening (Sat., Dec. 29, 2012), which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst