"Hotlanta" is about to boil.
After becoming the first man since Chuck Liddell to successfully defend the Light Heavyweight crown more than once, Jon Jones will get a chance to satisfy some personal grievances as friend-turned-nemesis Rashad Evans steps up to the plate to challenge for the crown that once was his.
UFC 145, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) event in almost two months, will also have a mess of talent on display beforehand when mega prospects Rory MacDonald and Michael McDonald square off against Che Mills and Miguel Torres, respectively, on the televised main card.
However, first we've got some fine scraps to tide you over in the "Prelims" under card fights that will air live on fight night (April 21, 2012) thanks to a mixture of Facebook and FX programming. Yesterday, we took a look at the first three bouts of the under card, which features the debuts of two brutal knockout artists, right here.
Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- on FX from the Philips Arena:
265 lbs.: Travis Browne vs. Chad Griggs
The 6’7" Travis Browne (12-0-1) is not one to dally about inside the cage -- eight of his 10 stoppage victories have come in the first round. The most prominent of those wins was his one-punch wipeout of Stefan Struve, which left the lanky Dutchman splayed out across the Octagon floor. His most recent effort, however, was less-than-stellar, as he was one of the many fighers at UFC 135 whose cardio was compromised by the "Mile High" altitude.
If "Hapa" manages to become the first man to knockout the iron-chinned "Grave Digger," however, it’s safe to say that all will be forgiven.
Acquired as part of the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's purchase of Strikeforce, Chad Griggs (11-1) was originally brought in as cannon fodder for Strikeforce's Heavyweight poster boy, Bobby Lashley. After surviving a tough first round, he bounced back to pummel Lashley until the latter quit between rounds. He followed up this effort with a stunning upset of the well-regarded Gian Villante and, most recently, wiped out Valentijn Overeem in little more than two minutes. As Griggs has never seen the judges (and the third round only once), it’s safe to say he’s not going out there to put in 15 minutes of work, and should he put Browne away in similar fashion, he could be knocking on the door of the division’s upper echelon.
I want Griggs to win this. I want him to win it really, really bad. But, he won’t.
He’s giving up about 20 pounds and four inches to a guy with crazy power. I’m not all that sold on Browne’s potential at the upper echelon of the division, regardless of his awesome knockout of Struve. That's because his fights with Cheick Kongo and Rob Broughton were just plain painful to watch. Even so, Griggs is easy to hit and doesn’t have a ground game to speak of, which should make him easy pickings for Browne.
This will either be a psychotic slugfest or 15 minutes of Browne leaning on Griggs. Either way, things are not looking good for "The Grave Digger." He will always have the number one pound-for-pound mutton chops in the sport, but you can’t knock an opponent out with swag alone.
Prediction: Browne via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Matt Brown vs. Stephen Thompson (6-0)
True to his "Immortal" nickname, Matt Brown (13-11) is the one constant in the ever-changing landscape of the UFC, his exciting style and disdain for going to the judges have kept him employed despite going 2-4 in his last six bouts. Most recently, he flattened The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Chris Cope in the second round, scoring his first stoppage win since 2009.
Brown has made his skepticism of Thompson’s talents very clear, and if he can walk the walk, he could tape a big step toward becoming a legitimate Welterweight force.
Tristar-based striking phenom Stephen Thompson (6-0), one of the most decorated kickboxers to ever step foot in the Octagon, entering the UFC with accordingly high expectations. Unfortunately for short-notice opponent Dan Stittgen, "Wonderboy" was only too eager to live up to them, pasting Stittgen with a beautiful right head kick in the first round. Touted by training partner Georges St. Pierre as the best striker the reigning 170-pound champion has ever seen, the sky seems to be the limit for Thompson.
And should he slay "Immortal," there’s no telling how high he’ll be able to go.
I acknowledge Thompson’s prowess on the feet, but I’m going to reserve my judgments on his ceiling until after I see him against a solid wrestler. Luckily for him, Brown is not a solid wrestler, despite seeming only too eager to dive headfirst into submissions nowadays. He’s badly outgunned on the feet and will most likely find himself too far on the outside to take effective shots.
There’s always a chance that Brown can wrangle Thompson to the mat and puts the latter’s grappling to the test, but I consider it far more likely that "Wonderboy" keeps his distance and picks apart Brown with lead kicks all night long. Considering Brown’s durability, a knockout is unlikely, so expect some decently-entertaining target practice for three rounds or less.
Prediction: Thompson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: John Makdessi vs. Anthony Njokuani
Speaking of lethal Tristar strikers, John Makdessi (9-1) impressed in his first two Octagon efforts, picking apart Pat Audinwood and crushing TUF veteran Kyle Watson with a spinning backfist. Just as his stock was about to skyrocket, however, Dennis Hallman came along. Before "The Bull" even had a chance to showcase his impressive arsenal, Makdessi was taken down and unceremoniously choked out.
With his hype train skidding off the rails, Makdessi will need an impressive victory this Saturday to keep his name relevant in the crowded Lightweight division.
Luckily for Makdessi, he’s got someone with which to share his trials and tribulations. After giving Andre Winner the beating of a lifetime, Anthony Njokuani (14-6) was paired up with late-replacement Danny Castillo, whose wrestling prowess proved too much for Njokuani. With another striker on the other side of the cage, though, there aren’t many meaner than "The Assassin," and he’ll look to bury Makdessi’s title aspirations for good.
There are two big things going against Makdessi in this fight: He’s shorter than Njo and he’s passive. These two traits are about the worst combination you can have against someone with the length and power of Njokuani, who will be enjoying four inches of height and who knows how much reach over "The Bull."
Njokuani will lose to anyone and everyone in the lightweight division with the tenacity and durability to threaten with takedowns for the whole fight, but luckily for him, Makdessi is just about the perfect opponent: Someone who only likes to strike and who isn’t as good at it as the Nigerian. Not sure if he’ll get the finish, but I expect a clinical dissection by Njokuani, who will demonstrate how to take a shorter man to pieces when he’s not making the effort to get inside.
Prediction: Njokuani via unanimous decision
Nothing adds seasoning to good violence like a nice feud behind it. Personally, I can't wait to watch Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 145, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 7 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the FX action at 8 p.m. ET and the the PPV main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.