Photo of UFC on FUEL TV's Justin Salas via Sherdog.com
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After obliterating Jake Shields back at UFC Fight Night 25 in Sept. 2011, Jake Ellenberger returns to the cage once again, headlining the first-ever UFC on FUEL TV card opposite the resurgent Diego Sanchez at the Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Neb., on Weds., Feb. 15, 2012.
In addition, fight night bonus magnets Stefan Struve and Dave Herman will collide in a heavyweight tilt in the co main event, while hard-hitting Aaron Simpson will welcome Nova Uniao prospect Ronny Markes to the middleweight division.
But before all that, we've got a nice set of "Prelims" to tide us over before the main card dish is served.
Join us after the jump for the first part (of two) of our look at the UFC on FUEL TV "Prelims" that will air LIVE on Facebook, featuring a clash between two of the brightest prospects at lightweight and a pair of streaking champions.
155 lbs.: Anton Kuivanen vs. Justin Salas
Regarded as one of the top prospects on the European circuit, Finland’s Anton Kuivanen (16-4) has been on an absolute tear lately, winning nine straight and 12 of his last 13. His impressive list of victims includes the likes of Ivan Buchinger (18-3) and Brazilian grappling menace Thiago Meller. The well-rounded Kuivanen has demonstrated a very crisp striking game with solid grappling credentials to back it up, stopping four opponents with strikes and tapping out eight.
The highly-touted Salas would make a fine addition to the furious Finn’s trophy case and certainly send a message to the stacked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight division.
Another man considered one of the finer prospects in mixed martial arts (MMA), former Wyoming wrestler Justin Salas (9-3) actually made his 2006 MMA debut on less than two weeks notice. While Salas -- who had never trained in the sport before -- lost via armbar, knocking his opponent out in the rematch just six months later. Recently, he has bloomed into a true contender, defeating UFC veteran Rob Emerson and dangerous bruiser Joe Ellenberger (brother of the event headliner). Replacing C.J. Keith, Salas will look to prove more than just another solid wrestler in a division saturated with them by defeating one of Europe’s finest.
Kuivanen breaks the European prospect mold in several ways -- he’s faced stiff competition and has considerable cage experience. He has trained out of American Top Team before and proven himself exciting, well-rounded, and full of potential.
Where he doesn’t break the mold enough, though, is in his takedown defense.
He’s an excellent grappler, and while his takedown defense has looked solid, "solid" isn’t enough against someone with the wrestling chops of Salas, who held his own against a powerful wrestler in Ellenberger. Against Brit Tim Radcliffe, Kuivanen found himself controlled for most of the first round, though a busted orbital forced Radcliffe to bow out. He just hasn’t faced the sort of fighter with the ability to dictate position that Salas has.
Both of these prospects have very bright futures and I look forward to seeing how they do on the big stage. I’m rooting for Kuivanen, but Salas’ ability to dictate position should be enough to overcome Kuivanen’s striking advantage and secure a decision win for the American.
Prediction: Salas via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Tim Means vs. Bernardo Magalhaes
A former King of the Cage champion, Tim Means (16-3-1) has been on an absolute rampage since his 2005 loss to Spencer Fisher, going 14-1-1 in his last 16 bouts with 13 finishes. Replacing the viciously-unpronounceable Yoislandy Izquierdo after "Cuba’s" contract issues with his former promotion forced him out of the fight, "The Dirty Bird" has kept himself busy, fighting 10 times in the past two years. Most recently, he took out Tye Brown in 30 seconds on Jan. 21, 2012, and, if he can extend his current streak of first-round stoppages to four on short notice, could put the rest of the division on notice.
He’s not the best finisher out there, but grappling expert Bernardo Magalhaes (11-1) known how to win. The owner of the CFC lightweight championship, "Trekko" owns wins over the likes of Legend FC veteran Adrian Pang. Magalhaes, a top control specialist, has nine decision wins to his name, having last finished an opponent back in 2009. If he can impose his game, he can certainly be a headache for anyone he fights, and stifling the dangerous means would do wonders for his stock.
I tried to make Magalhaes sound awesome in the last paragraph, but I didn’t have much with which to work. Frankly, the man is a very boring figher. He seems content to sit in top position and throw wimpy little strikes to simulate activity, occasionally passing guard and doing nothing from there. I couldn’t bring myself to finish watching one of his recent fights for research purposes, it was so bad.
Means is coming in on very short notice and I haven’t found footage of him, but he strikes me as more than capable of putting down Bernardo. Tim hits hard: 12 of his wins are via knockout, while Magalhaes’s stand up seems to comprise entirely of mediocre leg kicks and occasionally flailing forward into a takedown attempt. Yes, Means fought less than a month ago, but it was a 30-second affair, which shouldn’t impact his conditioning in the least.
There’s a good chance we’ll see an abysmally boring fit of positional dominance from "Trekko," but Tim has the goods to connect with something brutal before he gets a chance.
Prediction: Means via first-round technical knockout
Stop by tomorrow for part two of our, "UFC on FUEL TV 'Prelims' preview and predictions for 'Ellenberger vs Sanchez,'" which comprises two more breakdowns.
See you then!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FUEL TV, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 6:20 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.