Enter "The Dragon" (Sorry, it was all I could muster).
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, is heading down to ply his mixed martial arts (MMA) trade at 185 pounds, taking on the destructive ground-and-pound of Mark Munoz in the main event of UFC Fight Night 30, which takes place this weekend (Sat., Oct. 26, 2013) from Phones 4U Arena in Manchester, England.
The Middleweight pair will be joined by a co-main event Lightweight match between Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard, who are both coming off of impressive knockout wins, in addition to a hard-hitting showdown between Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Jimmo.
We examined the first three UFC Fight Night "Prelims" under card bouts that will air on Facebook / YouTube yesterday right here. Today, we dig into the remaining three "Prelims" that will also air online prior to the FOX Sports 2 main card broadcast.
Here we go:
155 lbs.: Al Iaquinta vs. Piotr Hallmann
Winner of both "Fight of the Season" and "Knockout of the Season" on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15, Al Iaquinta (6-2-1) of Team Urijah Faber was favored to take out teammate Michael Chiesa at the Finale, but succumbed to a rear-naked choke little more than halfway through the first round. Undaunted, he returned from injury one year later to dominate Ryan Couture over three painful rounds.
The size and strength of Brazil’s Francisco Trinaldo seemed too much for Piotr Hallmann (14-1) to handle in his Octagon debut, as "Massaranduba" dropped him early with a body kick and dominated the first round with power strikes. In the second stanza, however, Hallmann capitalized on a failed takedown to achieve side control and was able to submit his opponent via kimura to score a massive upset.
As another late replacement, Hallmann also had a less than two month turnaround.
Hallmann is a very crisp striker and, as he showed against "Massaranduba," quite dangerous from top position. Iaquinta’s takedown defense, however, looks much improved, meaning it comes down to his crafty boxing against Hallmann’s kickboxing.
It’s closer than it may seem, but I’ll go with the former.
I’m trying to think of a way to make my pick seem like the project of extraordinarily careful examination or find some hole in Hallmann’s game I can hype up to sound more legitimate. All I can think of is that Hallmann’s struggles in the first round against Trinaldo’s crude attack bode ill for him. This one’s got "Fight of the Night" potential, and the American’s walking away with the win.
Prediction: Iaquinta via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Luke Barnatt vs. Andrew Craig
The 6’6" Luke Barnatt (6-0) was the first overall pick on TUF 17 and looked a wise investment in the preliminary round, wiping out Gilbert Smith with a flying knee. "Bigslow," however, was not so lucky against Dylan Andrews, getting worn down and stopped late by the powerful Kiwi.
Having defeated Collin Hart at TUF 17 Finale, Barnatt enters his sophomore UFC effort with a five-inch height advantage.
Originally brought in to serve as cannon fodder for local boy Kyle Noke, Andrew Craig (9-1) has established himself as one of the division’s premier scrappers, racking up a 3-1 UFC record. Last time out, he picked up arguably the biggest win of his career by out-gritting Chris Leben at UFC 162 to earn a unanimous decision victory.
Four of Craig’s wins have come inside the distance, three via knockout.
As big as Barnatt is, there’s one equally-big obstacle in the way of his quest for contendership: While he’s not quite as bad as "Cover Up And Hope For The Best" Stefan Struve, he’s kind of terrible at keeping people off of him. There is no reason Andrews and Hart should have had so much success simply wading in with haymakers, save for his flying knee, Barnatt seems incapable of maximizing his size advantage.
Craig’s style won’t win any beauty pageants, but his cardio, iron jaw and all-around juggernaut tactics are perfectly suited to sink Barnatt. The big man’s jab and long straight are his only real weapons at range and neither has the thump to push back Craig. Expect the Team Tooke-trained product to wade through Barnatt’s reach and beat him down with volume and aggression for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Craig via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Rosi Sexton vs. Jessica Andrade
One of the top female fighters on the planet for the better part of a decade, the entrance of Rosi Sexton (13-3) into the mainstream left something to be desired, as she was stunningly knocked out by Zoila Frausto in her second Bellator appearance. Undeterred, she rattled off three straight wins, including defeats of standouts Roxanne Modafferi and Aisling Daly before earning a shot in UFC.
With nine finishes in nine wins (five in the first round), Jessica Andrade (9-3) looked to establish a Brazilian presence in the newly-minted women’s division. Liz Carmouche, however, had other plans, utilizing her strength and wrestling ability to ground Andrade in the second and unload with an unending series of ground-and-pound for a technical knockout win.
Of Andrade’s nine finishes, five of her last six have come via submission, four of them guillotine chokes.
I went back to watch a bit of tape on Andrade and, frankly, I’m not impressed. She has okay wrestling, but zero striking and had no answers for Carmouche off her back. Sexton may be too small for the division, but she’s a massive handful from top position, a place I believe she can get to without too much issue.
Unless Andrade shows some major improvement from the Carmouche fight or some semblance of an effective striking attack, I don’t see her winning this. Sexton grounds her early and often, peppering with strikes for 15 unpleasant minutes.
Prediction: Sexton via unanimous decision
Not too many marquee match ups, but there is some serious highlight- reel potential brewing here.
See you Saturday afternoon, Maniacs, bright and early!
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 30 card this Saturday afternoon, starting with the Facebook "Prelims" at 12:15 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 2-televised main card bouts at 3 p.m. ET.