Back in the rat race.
Following defeats to champions Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson, respectively, former top Lightweight contenders Gray Maynard and Clay Guida are looking to claw their way back to the top of the 155-pound heap.
And they'll start that journey together by punching each other in the face this Friday (June 22, 2012) in the UFC on FX 4 main event from the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In addition, Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher will complete a trilogy that dates back five years almost to the day, while Ross Pearson will also be in action, facing Cub Swanson in just the former's second Featherweight bout.
Yesterday, we previewed the bouts that comprise the Facebook/FUEL TV portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining four that will air live -- and for free -- on FUEL TV this upcoming weekend.
Let's get cracking:
170 lbs.: Rick Story vs. Brock Jardine
Despite every indication marking him as the next best thing in the welterweight division after his upsets of Dustin Hazelett, Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves, things went south in a hurry for Rick Story (13-5). Last-second replacement Charlie Brenneman soundly outwrestled "The Horror" at UFC on Versus 4, and Martin Kampmann surprisingly did the same during their clash at UFC 139.
Story had been riding a six-fight win streak before these bouts.
The third man scheduled to fight Story after Rich Attonito and Papy Abedi fell pretty to injuries, Brock Jardine (9-1) fights out of the famed "The Pit" camp alongside The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner Court Mcgee and is a top-ranked Welterweight prospect. With seven finishes to his credit, the lone loss for "The Machine" came at the hands of TUF 13 winner Anthony Ferguson, who stopped him after four rounds of action.
Jardine is a whole lot more than just a hilarious name and inspiration for equally-hilarious Photoshops -- he also has five first-round stoppages, three of those coming inside the first minute. He’s a quality fighter with a whole bunch of upside.
He’s also coming in on short notice against a walking migraine-in-the-making.
Story isn’t as great as we thought he was. His wrestling prowess was vastly overstated, as was his punching power after he beat Dustin Hazelett. What he is is an incredibly tough, aggressive, relentless grinder who is more than happy to grind you against the fence all day until he finally gets you on your back.
Story, frankly, is not someone you want to be making your debut against. He knows how to use the cage and his pace is difficult to match at the best of times. Jardine is in for a rough and protracted (if not all that exciting) night.
Prediction: Story via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Steven Siler vs. Joey Gambino
After getting completely wiped out by eventual winner Diego Brandao on TUF, expectations weren’t high when Steven Siler (20-9) took on Cole Miller, whose brother "Super" defeated to gain entry on the show. Impressively, Siler soundly defeated the TUF veteran, getting his second win in the promotion. Siler has won six of his last seven bouts, losing only to Cole Escovedo in that time, and while his record doesn’t look all that numerically impressive, he started his career 5-7.
With Judo specialist Jimy Hettes stuck on the sidelines because of injury, touted prospect Joey Gambino (9-0) finally got his chance to shine on under a month’s notice. "The Raging Warrior" recently took out Bellator veteran Kenny Foster over the course of five rounds, the decision win his first of the sort. Gambino is considered a top-ranked 145-pound prospect, right behind Nova Uniao’s recent Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) signee Hacran Dias, and his powerful wrestling and ground-and-pound make him a force to be reckoned with.
Siler really impressed me by taking out Miller (both of them), but Gambino has the goods to take him out. Neither of the Miller brothers are anywhere near Gambino’s level in the wrestling department, yet Cole had him in all sorts of trouble in the third round of their fight. Even with Siler’s daunting four-inch reach advantage and the fact that Gambino is making his debut, I don’t expect "Super" to have success staying off his back or doing sufficient damage once there. Expect him to wind up another notch on Tristar’s belt as "The Raging Warrior" goes to town from top position.
Prediction: Gambino via unanimous decision
Runner-up on TUF 13, Ramsey Nijem’s (5-2) first impression in the UFC proper left a bit to be desired, as Tony Ferguson wiped him out in under four minutes to claim the fabled "six-figure contract." Undeterred, Nijem returned to the lightweight division and utterly dominated Roufusport’s Danny Downes. Nijem has been out of action since that bout, an injury nixing a potential scrap with Anthony Njokuani at UFC 141.
Riding high on three consecutive knockout victories, C.J. Keith (8-0) was set to debut on the UFC’s first card on FUEL TV against Finnish striker Anton Kuivanen. Unfortunately, he was forced to pull out after his father’s house burned down. Keith has fought the entirety of his career in his home town of Porterville, Calif., primarily under the TWC banner.
Nijem may have yet to distinguish himself in the UFC (his win over Danny Downes being marred by the fact that it was over Danny Downes), but his wrestling chops are solid and his level of competition, while not outstanding, outstrips Keith’s by a fair margin. Further, Keith is not only making his UFC debut, he’s fighting outside his home town for the first time outside his home town.
Frankly, Keith just doesn’t have a lot going for him here. Expect Nijem to once again utilize the wrestling that got him through The Ultimate Fighter to get Keith’s back and squeeze the life out of him.
Prediction: Nijem via second-round submission
145 lbs.: Hatsu Hioki vs. Ricardo Lamas
Arguably the top Japanese fighter in the world alongside Shinya Aoki, hopes were high when Hatsu Hioki (26-4-2) took on George Roop at UFC 135. While his eventual split-decision victory left a lot to be desired, he stormed back with a vengeance when the UFC returned to his home country, completely dominating the surging Bart Palaszewski with his powerful grappling attack. Hioki’s only loss in the past five years was an incredibly-controversial split decision against Michihiro Omigawa. Hioki recently turned down a title shot in favor of further acclimating to American MMA.
While he left the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) on a rather sour note courtesy of Iuri Alcantara obliterating his face with a monster left hand, Ricardo Lamas (11-2) entered the world’s largest fight promotion on the warpath, finishing Matt Grice and Cub Swanson in his two bouts under the UFC banner. "The Bully" was originally slated to face Dustin Poirier at UFC 143, replacing an injured Erik Koch, but wound up injured himself.
Just a word of warning before I get too far into it: I firmly consider Hatsu Hioki to be the man.
With that out of the way, this isn’t an easy matchup for him. Lamas is a far better wrestler than most of Hioki’s previous competition, making it difficult for Hioki to unleash his vaunted grappling game. Further, even if Lamas gets it into his head to take him down, Hioki’s lack of guard work against Roop has me worried.
Still, this is Hatsu Hioki.
Hioki’s striking isn’t great, but his chin is rock-solid and he’s good at using his length (he’s got three inches on Lamas) to frustrate opposition. Further, despite his lanky frame, his clinch takedowns are phenomenal. Once on the ground, he is arguably the best guard passer in the game.
Lamas definitely has a valid shot at the upset, but I anticipate Hioki frustrating him with rangekeeping kicks before a frustrated Lamas ties up, gets reversed, and then finally mounted and triangled.
Prediction: Hioki via second round submission
Not very often we get a doubleheader, Maniacs, and this is as good an opener as you're likely to find.
See you Friday!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FX 4, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook/FUEL TV scheduled for around 6 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens on FX throughout the evening this upcoming Friday night.