When Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) competitor Chris Weidman and current Grand Poobah of ground-and-pound, Mark Munoz, step into the Octagon tomorrow night (July 11, 2012) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., something crazy is in store for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans.
But, that's not all.
Yesterday, we previewed the first few bouts that comprise the Facebook portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- online this Wednesday night.
Let's get cracking:
135 lbs.: Damacio Page vs. Alex Caceres
Despite a well-documented predilection for quick, devastating stoppages, Damacio Page (15-7) may be one bad night away from losing his job. That's because the "Angel of Death" is winless (0-3) since a year-long hiatus following his first-round submission of Will Campuzano. The World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran owns wins over the likes of Scott Jorgensen and Marcos Galvao, but has continued to struggle on the mat, those three losses all coming by way of choke and five of seven defeats coming that way.
Considered little more than cannon fodder after a mediocre tenure on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and submission losses to Mackens Semerzier and Jim Hettes, Alex Caceres (6-5) impressed mightily against veteran Cole Escovedo, but a two-point deduction for low blows cost him a win over Edwin Figueroa at UFC 143. The loss put "Bruce Leroy" at 1-3 in the organization, and despite his undeniable improvement, this is most likely a "loser-goes-home" fight.
Page has a reputation for being a fearsome puncher, but Caceres demonstrated impressive resilience against Figueroa and Page has only a single knockout in the past five years. Further, Page remains an enormous sucker for chokes, which Caceres excels at. Should the fight hit the ground, I have little doubt that Caceres will come out on top.
Even on the feet, Page’s wild swinging probably won’t serve him well. Caceres doesn’t hit that hard, but he’s got a huge arsenal and should be able to just hang back and batter Page with kicks to the legs and midsection.
Page is an exciting fighter and I hope he stays on board, but I don’t see him having much success in the increasingly-stacked UFC bantamweight division. Caceres gets the takedown and choke in the second.
Prediction: Caceres by second round submission
125 lbs.: Chris Cariaso vs. Josh Ferguson
After slogging through a rather ridiculous size disadvantage to put together a respectable 4-2 record under the Zuffa umbrella (the losses a submission against Renan Barao and a highly-questionable split decision to Michael McDonald), Chris Cariaso (13-3) will finally make the drop to Flyweight on the heels of a controversial win over Takeya Mizugaki that saw "Kamikaze" controlled for the majority of the bout.
Cariaso, 5’3," has not stopped an opponent in nearly three years, but has demonstrated excellent technical striking and grappling throughout his UFC tenure.
After losing his first fight as part of Team Bisping and getting submitted by Roland Delorme on the TUF 14 Finale, Josh Ferguson (8-4) elected to follow castmates John Dodson and Louis Gaudiot’s examples and return to 125 pounds. All eight of the 23-year-old's victories have come by way of submission, six of them in the first round.
Cariaso may have no stopping power whatsoever (four finishes), but he’s still got "Taz" pretty clearly outgunned. The fact that this is his Flyweight debut, while Ferguson has experience there has me slightly concerned, but Cariaso is pretty clearly too small for 135 pounds, so the cut shouldn’t make a difference.
Cariaso only falters against people who can outwrestle him. For example, Michael McDonald -- known for his devastating hands -- wanted no part of him in the stand up, and even Mizugaki’s impressive boxing couldn’t get the advantage. Ferguson is dangerous on the mat, but Cariaso won’t let it get there. Sprawl and brawl win for Cariaso, who should leave Ferguson very miserable after three rounds of leg and body kicks.
Prediction: Cariaso by unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Rafael Natal vs. Andrew Craig
Fighting out of Gracie Fusion, Rafael Natal (14-3-1) has quietly put together a 2-1-1 record in the UFC, losing to Rich Attonito but defeating Paul Bradley and Michael Kuiper by decision. "Sapo" operates behind an effective jiu-jitsu game, which has brought him seven wins by submission. He also has wins over former UFC title contender Travis Lutter and Strikeforce prospect Danillo Villefort.
While on paper little more than a victim to showcase local boy Kyle Noke, Andrew Craig (7-0) impressed greatly in his Octagon debut down under, taking advantage of his foe’s fatigue to take a unanimous decision win. The 26-year-old has been competing for a scant three years, during which time he’s fought and won under the Bellator and Legacy Fighting Championship banners, as well as others.
Craig is a good fighter for sure, but Noke was beating him rather soundly with his wrestling before fatigue set in. Natal may not have Noke’s striking ability or the best wrestling game, but if there’s one thing the Kuiper fight makes clear, it’s that he will keep going for a takedown no matter how much you deny him and he will not get tired.
I expect Craig to have a sizeable advantage on the feet and probably stuff a handful of shots from Natal, but the Brazilian’s sheer tenacity leads me to believe he’ll get it to the ground eventually. Craig should have the goods to survive, but there’s not much he’ll be able to do from the bottom. Three uneventful rounds of top control gets Natal the win.
Prediction: Natal by unanimous decision
Hump Day is as good a day as any for caged combat.
See you then, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action tomorrow night (Weds., July 11), which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FUEL TV. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 5:45 p.m. ET with the under card "Prelims" bouts on Facebook.