Two veteran bantamweights with 21 total years of experience between them will meet this Tuesday night (May 15, 2012) as Yves Jabouin takes on Jeff Hougland on the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 3 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jabouin had mixed results as a featherweight in both the WEC and UFC, but ever since dropping down to 135 pounds, he's been undefeated, scoring two straight split decisions. At 32 years old, he's hoping to have one last run left in him and it all starts with his bout against Hougland next week.
Jeff Hougland returned from a four year layoff and looked like he hadn't missed a beat. "Hellbound" is currently riding a nine fight winning streak which includes a unanimous decision victory in his UFC debut against Donny Walker. Now, his competition is stepped up and he's in need of a big victory if he wants to take it to the next level in the division.
Will the "Tiger" feast on Hougland this Tuesday night? Can Hougland rise to the occasion with his biggest fight in over nine years? What's the key to victory for both men on Tuesday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 17-7 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Believe it or not, but Jabouin has been fighting professionally for 11 years now. He got his start on the Canadian circuit and didn't get any "gimme" fights early on in his career, losing tough battles to the likes of Sam Stout and Jonathan Brookins.
Despite the tough losses, he still worked his way to a 14-4 record which earned him an invite to the WEC. Upon his entrance to the promotion, Jabouin would lose a close split decision to Rafael Assuncao and then would put on a "Fight of the Year" candidate against Mark Hominick, nearly finishing his fellow countryman before succumbing to a TKO on the ground.
He got his first WEC victory against Brandon Visher and would make his UFC debut against Pablo Garza at UFC 129, infamously losing via flying triangle in the opening bout of the evening. Afterwards he would drop to bantamweight and he's picked up two straight split decisions over the likes of Walel Watson and Ian Loveland.
"Tiger" is hoping to keep up his momentum he's built against the very scrappy Jeff Hougland.
How he gets it done: Jabouin wants to stand and keep this fight on its feet for the full duration if possible. He possesses a wide variety of attacks in the striking department and if he can stay standing, he'll have more than enough opportunity to utilize them throughout the night.
Expect to see Jabouin keep his distance early, gauging distance and utilizing his footwork to stay out of perilous positions. Once he feels comfortable, the kicks and crazy attacks will likely start flowing. Jabouin is just as likely to throw a spinning back fist as he is a jab. He's got a very diverse arsenal of strikes to throw so expect just about anything.
If he can keep Hougland guessing, he'll be better off. Constantly mixing up his attack will potentially leave openings to land the simpler and straight-forward right and left hooks, which are his most powerful and accurate attacks. Expect to see Jaboun mix them in the second Hougland starts dropping his hands to defend something else.
If he can connect with power, he has finishing ability. All it takes is one big strike. Don't let his record of recent decisions fool you.
Record: 10-4 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Donny Walker (UFC 132)
Key Losses: Gilbert Melendez (WEC 6)
How he got here: Jeff Hougland did not get off to a good start in his MMA career. After winning his professional debut, he went on to drop four straight fights including losses to Gilbert Melendez in the WEC and to MMA author Glen Cordoza.
He would take nearly two years off, but when he returned, he came back with a vengeance, finishing three of four opponents but after scoring the first TKO of his career, he disappeared from MMA for over four years. Upon his return in 2010, Hougland went on a rampage, finishing four straight opponents via submission which earned him an opportunity to fight in the UFC.
He faced Donny Walker in the opening bout of UFC 132 and was able to beat his opponent in all facets of the game, scoring a unanimous decision victory. After an extended layoff due to injury, he was slated to make his return against current number three ranked Renan Barao but was wisely pulled and thrown in against Jabouin.
How he gets it done: Hougland has decent striking skills, but he's not on the same level as Jabouin on the feet, especially in the diversity of attack that the "Tiger" can bring. If he wants to win this fight, he has to take it where he's most comfortable and that's into the clinch and on the ground.
Hougland should stand only long enough to close the distance. If he can press Jabouin into the fence, that would be great. He can work some elbows and dirty boxing against the fence from the inside position. If Jabouin starts focusing on defending strikes, that's when he needs to change levels and work for the takedown.
Hougland's best shot at winning will be if he can secure top position on the ground. He's got pretty solid submission skills and he needs to use all his craftiness on the canvas to gain superior positioning and work for ground and pound or the tapout. Whichever comes first, he needs to jump on it. There's no guarantee he can drag Jabouin to the canvas for three straight rounds.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is Yves Jabouin's evolution as a complete mixed martial artist. Jabouin has showcased some improved ground defense as of late ever since his move to Tristar Gym in Montreal, most notably his ability to keep the fight primarily standing against Loveland and his ability to avoid submissions against Watson. If he can avoid falling into a similar trap against a very game Jeff Hougland, this fight could be his.
He's no longer lost on the ground like he was in 2010 against Mark Hominick. If Hougland can't dominate there, it could be a long night for the "Hellbound" one.
Bottom Line: Yves Jabouin is very entertaining to watch, especially when he starts to get crazy with his wide variety of striking attacks. If he starts to get loose, he's capable of throwing just about anything and everything. If Hougland can't close the distance or take the fight to the ground, there's serious potential that Jabouin could just put on a clinic here. There's also potential for this fight to slow down, however, as Hougland's best method of victory is to make this fight ugly and grind it out. It all depends on how much Jabouin has continued to improve and whether he can fend Hougland off. I like his odds.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 3? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!