In defiance of the destructive power of the injury bug, two of the top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight stars, reigning 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, will collide in the UFC on Fox 9 main event from Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif., this Saturday night (Dec. 14, 2013).
While "Mighty Mouse" looks to repeat his title-winning performance against Benavidez, two of the latter's elite Alpha Male teammates, Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes, will also be in action in mixed martial arts (MMA) action against Michael McDonald at Bantamweight and Nik Lentz at Featherweight, respectively.
We examined the first four of seven scheduled UFC on Fox 9 "Prelims" under card bouts yesterday right here. Let's see what else is on the FOX Sports 1 docket:
170 lbs.: Court McGee vs. Ryan LaFlare
Two straight losses at 185 convinced The Pit-trained Court McGee (16-3) to try Welterweight, where he seems to have found his place. He out-gritted Josh Neer in his 170-pound debut before edging The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Smashes" winner Robert Whittaker in August, taking home a close split decision.
McGee is now 5-2 in the Octagon; however, only one win is against a current UFC member.
Ryan LaFlare (9-0) hiatus from the sport lasted from June 2010 to Jan. 2013, but he’s been making up for lost time, winning three straight this year. His last time out he took out TUF: "Brazil 2" finalist Santiago Ponzinibbio in hostile territory, picking up just his second decision win.
Replacing Kelvin Gastelum on short notice, it will be just one month and five days since his last bout when he steps into the cage this Saturday.
McGee's got cardio for days and solid wrestling; unfortunately, he has no power whatsoever and LaFlare is theoretically the better offensive wrestler. McGee excels when he can push an opponent back and let those pitter-patter shots pile up; LaFlare’s wrestling means he has an out, taking down McGee whenever he starts to flag on the feet.
McGee needs to work the body consistently and do everything he can to keep it on the feet. I just don’t think he has the stopping power nor takedown defense to impose the sort of wilting pressure he needs to get LaFlare out of his element.
LaFlare grinds him down for a third straight UFC decision.
Prediction: LaFlare via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Danny Castillo vs. Edson Barboza
An impressive 8-2 in his last 10 appearances, Team Alpha Male-trained Danny Castillo (16-5) has won twice in 2013 already, topping English submission artist Paul Sass and towering striker Tim Means. His only losses in UFC have come against overpowering wrestler Jacob Volkmann and Michael Johnson, the latter of whom bounced back from a horrific first round to stop Castillo in the second stanza.
Interestingly, only two of Castillo’s eight UFC foes are still part of the organization: Anthony Njokuani and the previously-mentioned Johnson.
Once one of the most hyped prospects in the sport, Edson Barboza (12-1) suffered his first career setback in May 2012, a shocking first-round knockout courtesy of Jamie Varner. Rather than fade away, however, he returned in Jan. 2013 and has won two straight, stopping Lucas Martins and Rafaello Oliveira.
Barboza, who has a two-inch height advantage, has stopped 10 opponents (nine via strikes).
Though Barboza still needs to sharpen his boxing a bit before I call him championship material, he should win here without much trouble. Castillo has historically had issues with long strikers, both the Njokuani and Means victories coming by the skin of his teeth. Further, he lacks the speed and striking acumen to take advantage of the takedown threat the way Varner did and I don’t believe he can take down Barboza with any regularity.
When he only has to worry about the takedown, Barboza can be absolutely lethal, especially if he can press forward and get room to kick. Castillo does not have the physicality nor the overall wrestling acumen to take Barboza off his game and force him to box off the back foot.
Expect Barboza to chew up Castillo’s lead leg before landing something big up top late in the fight.
Prediction: Barboza via third-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Pat Healy
Bobby Green (21-5) impressed mightily in his UFC debut, choking out the heavily-favored Volkmann in the third round while clearly down on the cards. His sophomore appearance was a bit less stunning, as a series of groin kicks set up a questionable shot on the beltline that sent James Krause into the fetal position and loser’s column.
Green is a late replacement for the injured Varner, taking this fight on one month’s notice.
After being denied a crack at the Strikeforce title because of shenanigans, Pat Healy (29-17) made bank in his UFC debut, choking out Jim Miller in a fantastic affair that earned both "Submission of the Night" and "Fight of the Night." Unfortunately, he’d partied a bit too hard beforehand, losing his win and bonuses after testing positive for marijuana.
His last fight, a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in Sept. 2013, snapped a seven-fight unbeaten streak that dated back to 2011.
Green’s faster than Healy and a significantly better striker. Unfortunately, you could say pretty much the same thing about everyone Healy fights ... and it doesn’t stop him from grinding them out. He is a gigantic, very durable Lightweight with great wrestling, a suffocating top game and serious cardio.
It’s not a Healy fight if he doesn’t spend the first round getting his ass kicked, so Green should have some early success. Once Healy consistently gets his hands on him, though, his strength and cardio will take over.
"Bam Bam" survives a rough opening round to grind Green into the mat for 29-28s across the board.
Prediction: Healy via unanimous decision
There's a hell of a lot of lost potential thanks to injuries, but it's still a quality card. After all, it's free, isn't it?
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 9 card on fight night, starting with the Facebook under card bout at 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" matches at 5 p.m. ET and running right on through the FOX main card broadcast that starts at 8 p.m. ET.