UFC on FOX 6 features a talent-stacked main card, including many high-profile fights and a 125-pound title on the line. With terrific fights like Ricardo Lamas vs. Erik Koch and Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans in attendance at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., and those watching live on television will certainly be in for a treat.
However good those fights may look on paper, there is one on the under card "Prelims" bout that has me salivating.
T.J. Grant and Matt Wiman -- two men originally based in grappling arts -- have progressed recently in leaps and bounds to a point where they are among the most complete fighters in the 155-pound division. Both of them have built their styles on gritty, offense-oriented attacks, and neither man has been finished more than once in his career.
Wiman, a UFC mainstay since a loss to Spencer Fisher followed by a stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), has long been a rather crafty fighter. While perfect in no area, he brings an unusual ability to finish a fight in any phase it may reach, whether by knockout or submission.
"Handsome" possesses a tricky ground game. He brings the fight down to the mat primarily by shooting or clinching immediately after flurrying, and he has shown to usually get the fight down with a traditional single or double leg. He has also shown to go for takedowns when opponents commit to attacks, catching kicks and level changing under opponents' punches to attack the hips.
Once the fight reaches the ground, Wiman is immediately working offense. Whether on top or bottom, he is constantly setting up attacks, always ready to catch an opponent as soon as they make mistakes. When he fought Paul Sass, a respected grappler known for his triangle choke and heel hook, Wiman took over the grappling phase simply by being the more active and threatening man, constantly using the threat of the sweep or submission to keep Sass on defense even though he was on top. Eventually, when Sass failed at his own submission attempt, Wiman began to advance position more rapidly, first securing a triangle and then switching to an armbar, which would eventually lead to the end of their bout.
The threat Wiman poses on the mat is very real. Where some fighters may have more respected ground games, he has shown time and time again that his is not to be underestimated. His grappling style is not focused in the slightest on looking better to the judges, but on putting his opponent in a position where he'll have to tap if he wants out.
Though his ground game may be his namesake, Wiman also brings to the table a high level, unorthodox approach to striking. His punches are diverse, coming from all angles, and while they may not always be back up to defend his face, his head movement and sturdy chin can make up for it.
With his fast moving footwork and his diverse striking offense, Wiman sets opponents up for whatever he may want to go for, be it a takedown when they're off balance or a flurry of strikes when they are being flustered. With this, Wiman manages to make some of the most composed fighters very uncomfortable, as they never know just how he's going to come forward.
Grant is similar to Wiman in many ways, but at the same time, he is very different. Like Wiman, his grappling tends to be his main focus, also a submission fighter, but his game on the mat and altogether contain very different elements and nuances that make him a completely different package.
In getting the fight to the mat, Grant uses different takedowns than those with which Wiman is most comfortable, using his lanky limbs to force opponents off balance. This can mean outside shots turning into a nice single leg trip, or he can also simply bully smaller fighters in the clinch to allow him to use a body lock or trip takedown.
Grant's grappling style is less of a go-for-broke kind, but more of a methodical, patient style. Unlike Wiman, Grant will rarely value a potential submission over position. When grappling, he usually finds himself on top, attacking when opportunities present themselves, but never taking too big a risk. When faced with an all-out grappler like Wiman, Grant may be forced to be more cautious, or he may find good opportunities to advance as Wiman gives up positions.
While Wiman may be overlooked as a fighter in general, Grant is severely overlooked as a striker. Since Grant's move to lightweight he has made noticeable improvements in his striking approach, as he is noticeably better when standing in the pocket and at range. With a lanky 72.5 inch reach, Grant is able to keep opponents at the end of his punches with crisp, smooth boxing technique, as he showed in his entertaining "Fight of the Night" scrap with Evan Dunham.
When Wiman and Grant begin their fight at UFC on FOX 6 as the featured bout on FX, sparks will undoubtedly fly. With Wiman's tenacious approach and Grant's gritty stalking, the two will definitely put forth some interesting exchanges both on the ground and on the feet.
Wiman will continuously have to fight to get on the inside, and Grant will have to deal with WIman's great speed and head movement if he gets into the pocket. At the same time, Wiman will struggle to keep Grant's cracking long punches from connecting, and would be advised to stay far away when at range.
If the ground exchange is initiated, it is likely that these two will engage in a very high paced and entertaining jiu-jitsu battle. They are both extremely technical and fluid with their ground technique, and with the way they go about their attacks, there will be a definite clash of styles. Neither man is one to back down when the going gets tough, and they both have amazing cardio, which means that they may be fighting back and forth for the full three rounds.
Ultimately, this fight has the least chance of being boring on the entire card. While it may not have the potential Cerrone/Pettis or Lamas/Koch has, it is possible that those fights can end up as drawn out and more technical because title implications are on the line.
With Wiman vs. Grant, meanwhile, you have two fighters proficient in all areas of the sport, ready to go all out for an impressive win and advance in the lightweight division. When you have two-hard nosed, technical fighters like these men, you know you're in for a treat, and later tonight (Jan. 26, 2016), they should put on a spectacle.
Maybe even the UFC on FOX 6 "Fight of the Night."