Two of the best and most experienced bantamweights on the UFC roster will wage war this Saturday (Sept. 29, 2012) as veterans Brad Pickett and Yves Jabouin will square off on the UFC on FUEL TV 5 main card in Nottingham, England.
Brad Pickett has always been in the mix at 135 pounds and nothing was more impressive than his decision victory against current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson back in the WEC. He's had his momentum halted by Scott Jorgensen and Renan Barao whenever he got close to contending, but after a thrilling performance against Damacio Page in his last bout, he's back in the hunt.
Yves Jabouin almost seemed like an afterthought in the UFC featherweight division, but a change in weight class made all the difference. Since dropping down to 135 pounds, "Tiger" has gone 3-0 at bantamweight including an absolute beatdown of Jeff Hougland in his last fight. Now on the verge of title contention, the 33 year old will need to bring it to get past "One Punch."
Will Pickett continue his run of "Fight of the Night"-winning performances? Can Jabouin emerge as a legitimate title threat? What's the key to victory for both men?
Let's find out:
Record: 21-6 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Renan Barao (UFC 138), Scott Jorgensen (WEC 50)
How he got here: Originally transitioning into MMA from boxing, Brad Pickett cut his teeth in the UK's Cage Rage promotion, winning and defending the featherweight title in his first six professional bouts. After five full years of fighting which resulted in an impressive 18-3 record, "One Punch" would earn an invite to the WEC.
He would make a tremendous splash in his promotional debut, winning via Peruvian necktie against Kyle Dietz in one of 2009's finest submissions which also took home a "Submission of the Night" bonus. He would next appear on the main card of WEC 48, the promotion's first and only pay-per-view against newcomer Demetrious Johnson. Pickett defeated Johnson in a strong showing, handing "Mighty Mouse" his first career loss.
He would go on to suffer his first and only loss in the WEC against Scott Jorgensen in another thrilling bout that saw him take home yet another bonus. Lastly, Pickett battled veteran Ivan Menjivar on the preliminary card of WEC 53 in one of the year's most exciting bouts in a back and forth battle.
The top British bantamweight suffered a back injury and didn't make his UFC debut for nearly 10 months, but when he did, he had a blistering battle with elite prospect Renan Barao but was defeated via first round submission. He got back on track against the battle-tested Damacio Page, winning "Fight of the Night" in a thrilling two round affair. Now he's hoping to take the next step against Jabouin.
How he gets it done: Pickett has a nice striking background, which should keep him safe in the stand-up portion, but he needs to work that terrific ground game of his if he wants to make a statement against Jabouin.
Jabouin is a very well-rounded striker, but his submission defense has left something to be desired throughout his career. Despite laying the smack down on Jeff Hougland, Jabouin nearly got himself in trouble when he followed "Hellbound" to the floor in his last fight and you can't forget the flying triangle he got himself wrapped up in against Pablo Garza.
If Pickett wants to stay standing, he's got to get inside. He can't afford to sit back and let Jabouin unload on him from a distance with his wide assortment of kicks and spinning attacks. If he wants to box, he can box, but he can't let Jabouin mix it up too much or he's going to find himself outclassed.
Getting inside with his strikes will also open up multiple opportunities to take this fight to the ground.
Record: 18-7 overall, 3-1 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 second round TKO.
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 three straight decisions over the likes of Walel Watson, Ian Loveland and Jeff Hougland.
"Tiger" is hoping to keep up his momentum he's built against the very scrappy Brad Pickett.
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 his distance and keep Pickett 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 let them loose the second Pickett starts dropping his hands to defend something else.
If he can connect with power, he has finishing ability but Pickett is durable. He can't afford to get hyperaggressive and allow himself to be taken to the ground.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight might just be the location. In Jabouin's 11+ year career, he's never left the western hemisphere. Hell, he only left North America once to fight at UFC 134 in Brazil and he didn't exactly set the world on fire there in his bout against Ian Loveland. Pickett will be fighting on his home turf and has been training in England for weeks. If Jabouin isn't 100 percent adjusted come fight night, he's going to be setting himself up for a world of hurt against one of the best fighters in the UK.
Bottom Line: This fight is going to be fantastic. Yves Jabouin is a very fun striker to watch and Brad Pickett is a contender for the most entertaining fighter in the world. If not for some unlucky coincidences, Pickett would have won a post-fight bonus for every fight in his entire Zuffa career. The guy brings it every single time he steps into the cage and this will be no different. Expect to see both men throwing down big bombs for up to three rounds. The best part is since they're bantamweights, you know they'll be able to keep it up for the full 15 minutes if need be. This fight is "can't miss."
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 5? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!