Nevermind that ish ... here comes "Bigg Rigg."
One of the most thunderous punchers to ever grace Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight division will finally get his crack at the big time this Saturday (Nov. 16, 2013) when former NCAA D-I standout Johny Hendricks challenges long-standing champion Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 167, which will emanate from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Complementing the marquee mixed martial arts (MMA) match up is a Light Heavyweight showdown between Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans, while a 170-pound slugfest between heir apparent Rory MacDonald and hellacious power-puncher Robbie Lawler round out the top portion of the pay-per-view (PPV) event.
We examined the first three UFC 167 "Prelims" under card bouts that will air on Facebook / YouTube yesterday right here. Today, we dig into the remaining four "Prelims" that will air on FOX Sports 1 television network prior to the PPV broadcast.
Here we go:
155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham
One of the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Lightweight triumvirate, Donald Cerrone (20-6) kicked off his UFC career with four consecutive wins, picking up three separate (and different) fight night bonuses in that span. Unfortunately, he has gone even since (3-3), suffering beatdowns at the hands of Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis and most recently losing a tough decision to Rafael dos Anjos.
A robbery loss to Sean Sherk did nothing to diminish the stock of the previously-unbeatem Evan Dunham (14-4), but his 3-3 stretch since may have. Since getting knocked out by Melvin Guillard, Dunham has beaten the likes of Nik Lentz and Gleison Tibau, while losing narrow decisions to T.J. Grant and dos Anjos. After scoring finishes in eight of his first 10 fights, Dunham has ended just one bout in the last three years inside the distance.
What’s become increasingly evident in his last few fights is that Cerrone, for the most part, simply cannot handle an opponent who doesn’t give ground. Despite a considerable size and power advantage over dos Anjos, he looked lost for the first two rounds, and I don’t need to remind you guys what happened against Diaz and Pettis. Cerrone's got all the talent in the world; he just cannot deal with someone who refuses to back up.
Dunham fits that description nicely.
Lately, he’s gone from a very effective top-control player to a bruising standup grinder, which seems to be just the thing to take out "Cowboy." On the ground, he’s likely Cerrone’s equal and possesses some of the division’s most underrated wrestling. If Cerrone can keep him at range and piece him up with some of his monstrous kicks, this could be a clinic, but Cerrone’s hesitance to pull the trigger has me unconvinced.
Dunham walks him down with power punches and the occasional takedown for a decision win.
Prediction: Dunham via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites
When Ronaldo Souza was left without an opponent on the final Strikeforce card, it was Ed Herman (21-9) who stepped up to face the legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu master. While he would up lasting all of three minutes, he bounced back solidly in his next bout, an entertaining slugfest with fellow grappler Trevor Smith.
The victory marked Herman’s eighth in his seven-year sting in the world’s largest fighting organization.
It took a 6-1 record and almost four years, but Thales Leites (21-4) finally made his way back to UFC this past August, taking on Tom Watson in his native Brazil. Despite the Brit’s supposed striking superiority, Leites dominated all aspects of the bout taking home 30-27s across the board.
Fifteen of his wins have come inside three rounds, including 13 submissions.
I’m having a hard time picturing a scenario where Herman wins the fight. Wear-and-tear have rendered him incredibly slow and plodding in the stand up and he hasn’t demonstrated effective wrestling in years. Though he’s just one year older than Leites, the Brazilian looks significantly less ragged, cleaner in the stand up, much faster and the better wrestler.
Herman’s had a nice run in UFC. I just don’t think his body can take him any farther. His jiu-jitsu isn’t enough to overcome Leites’ and he’s facing a sizeable disparity in both physicality and stand up skill. Leites picks him apart and dictates where the fight goes for a dominant decision victory.
Prediction: Leites via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story
With 11 consecutive wins to his credit, including four in UFC, Brian Ebersole (50-15-1) looked like the next best thing at 170 pounds going into his UFC 149 fight with James Head. Whether it was the short-notice nature of the bout or Ebersole’s planned drop to 155 pounds, he turned in a terrible performance, going 1-15 on takedowns and spending much of the time trying to bait Head into trying a guillotine.
This will be Ebersole’s first appearance inside the cage since that July 2012 tussle.
Once the Next Big Thing™ at 170 pounds, Rick Story (15-7) now fights for his UFC life, having dropped four of his last six bouts since sequentially upsetting Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves. Most recently, he was inches away from finishing Mike Pyle with strikes, only to gas late and lose a decision to the veteran’s grappling prowess. He has spent more than half of his career in the Octagon, competing for the fourteenth time this Saturday.
Entertaining though Ebersole is, this strikes me as a very poor match up for him. For all his faults, Story is still a powerful fire hydrant of a man with a concrete chin and decent pop in his left hand. For Ebersole, who is coming off a major layoff and has looked extremely lackluster against people he couldn’t get on top of, that’s bad news.
Ebersole in top position is a menace; his elbows are lethal and his submission defense top-notch. When he can’t get there, as was the case against Claude Patrick and Head, his strategy devolves into either clinching on the fence or begging his opponent to try to guillotine him. Story isn’t stupid enough to fall for the latter and he is more at home grinding against the cage than almost anyone else in the division.
The wrestling disparity will turn this into a dull affair, with Story’s superior strength and clinch allowing him to steadily grind down an increasingly-desperate Ebersole.
Prediction: Story via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Erik Perez vs. Edwin Figueroa
After starting his UFC career with three consecutive first-round finishes, Erik Perez (13-5) hit his first roadblock since 2010 in the form of Takeya Mizugaki, who managed to out-grit the Mexican prospect en route to a split decision win. The loss broke an eight-fight win streak for "El Goyito," who picked up finishes in six of them.
Perez turns 24 years old just three days after this fight.
He showcased his trademark toughness and impervious submission defense, but Edwin Figueroa (9-3) was unable to bomb out Roland Delorme, who spent enough time doing work on top to offset "El Feroz’s" power shots. Now 2-3 in the UFC, Figueroa may be fighting for his contract, having been knocked out by "Cisco" Rivera in his previous fight. He owns a knockout win over contender Johnny Bedford, having faced him under the King of Kombat banner in 2010.
For all the flak I give Figueroa, I’m forced to admit that he has excellent submission defense and legitimate power. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t wind up in terrible positions on the mat regularly or that he isn’t extremely crude on the feet. Perez is a solid, durable striker with a very solid ground game; going tit-for-tat in the grappling with Takeya Mizugaki is no mean feat.
Figueroa has the power to turn things around with one big hit. I simply don’t see him landing that big hit before Perez takes him down and we fall into the predictable Figueroa routine of him somehow getting out of multiple rear-naked chokes, only to wind up in some other terrible position. Perez dominates the grappling for the UD.
Prediction: Perez via unanimous decision
Championship clash, elite Welterweight showdowns and two crazy Flyweight fracases. All in all, UFC 167 is one hell of a card.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 167 card this Saturday night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.