Can Nick Diaz 'andle de riddum at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, this Saturday night (March 16, 2013)?
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre intends to find out when he takes on the former Strikeforce 170-pound champion in the UFC 158 main event this weekend. In addition, St. Pierre's next challenger could be decided on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card, which includes two pivotal divisional clashes between Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger and Nate Marquardt.
Yesterday, we previewed the first three bouts that comprise the initial UFC 158 Facebook portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining four that will air live -- and for free -- on FX before the PPV event starts at 10 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
170 lbs.: Patrick Cote vs. Bobby Voelker
A former Middleweight title challenger released after three straight losses, Patrick Cote (18-8) has not enjoyed the kind of comeback he’d like, losing to Cung Le at UFC 148 and getting knocked out cold by Alessio Sakara, although the latter resulted in a disqualification win because of illegal strikes. The Canadian bruiser had previously won four straight, including decision victories over UFC veterans Todd Brown and Kalib Starnes.
This mixed martial arts (MMA) match will mark Cote's first inside the Octagon at Welterweight.
Heavy-handed Strikeforce veteran Bobby Voelker (24-8) has not entered the cage since July 2011, when he once again knocked out the highly-touted Roger Bowling in his fifth appearance on the "Challengers" series. The victory was his fifteenth by strikes and his sixth such stoppage in his last seven wins.
The knockout itself may have been the result of illegal blows, but the Sakara fight was the first time I have ever seen Cote hurt by strikes, and for an offensively-minded guy who relies on his chin, that’s not a good sign. The cut to 170 pounds won’t be any help in that area, and combined with his abysmal performance against Le, things aren’t looking good for "The Predator."
Voelker is a limited fighter, but he hits crazy hard, making him a bad match up for the current Cote by default. Cote's hesitancy to pull the trigger, compounded by a new-found sense of vulnerability, will prove his undoing as "Vicious" scores the first legal knockout of his opponent’s career.
Prediction: Voelker by second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Antonio Carvalho
Since a controversial victory over Michihiro Omigawa in his Featherweight debut, Darren Elkins (15-2) has been an absolute terror, upsetting The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 winner Diego Brandao at UFC 146 before dominating the surging Steven Siler at UFC 154. Though he has yet to finish a foe in the UFC save for accidentally wrecking Duane Ludwig ’s ankle during a takedown, Elkins has stopped nine opponents, five by submission.
He will have two inches of height and five years of youth over "Pato."
After a disappointing loss to Chute Boxe’s Felipe Arantes in his debut, Antonio Carvalho (15-5) has begun to show the skills that made him such a force on the Japanese circuit, knocking out Daniel Pineda and decisioning Rodrigo Damm to end his three-fight 2012 campaign. During his time in Shooto, Carvalho defeated such Japanese icons as "Lion" Takeshi Inoue, Rumina Sato and current UFC featherweight Hatsu Hioki.
Though known mainly for his ground game, Carvalho has stopped seven opponents with his karate-based strikes.
I will grumble like an octogenarian forced to listen to his grandson’s favorite rap artist that Omigawa got royally screwed in the above-mentioned fight, but you can’t deny that Elkins has looked terrific lately. His striking and offensive Brazilian jiu-jitsu pale in comparison to "Pato’s," but his wrestling is so superior that it doesn’t even matter.
Elkins has demonstrated an iron chin and sufficient submission defense to survive Carvalho’s bottom game. Carvalho could very well hurt Elkins standing or lock up something ugly-looking from his back, but his durability, cardio and relentless approach will carry him to a dominant decision victory.
Prediction: Elkins by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Jordan Mein vs. Dan Miller
Next to Rory MacDonald, who defeated him in his debut at the age of 16, Jordan Mein (26-8) may have a claim to being Canada’s top 170-pounds prospect. In fact, since a 2009 loss to Mike Ricci, "Young Gun" has won 12 of 14 fights, taking out the likes of Marius Zaromskis and Evangelista Santos, not to mention UFC veterans Joe Riggs, Josh Burkman and Forrest Petz. His only losses in that time came to Jason High and Tyron Woodley, the latter of whom has established himself as one of the top Strikeforce imports.
Mein has traditionally won on the strength of his vicious boxing game, having knocked out 14 opponents.
It was do-or-die for Dan Miller (14-6) in his welterweight debut against Ricardo Funch, having gone 2-5 in his previous seven and coming off a one-sided stomping courtesy of Rousimar Palhares. Impressively, the International Fight League (IFL) veteran was up to the task, submitting his fellow black belt in the third round of their bout.
Despite debuting less than one year before Mein, he is eight years older than his foe and will have a one-inch height advantage.
The ease with which Woodley controlled Mein has me mildly worried, but I have every reason to believe that he’s improved substantially in that area given his youth. Plus, Miller lacks Woodley’s speed and strength and has never been an effective striker.
If, as I suspect, Mein can keep the fight standing, he will run over Miller with surprising ease.
Miller is a fighter’s fighter with heart and grit for days, but that just isn’t enough against such a prodigious talent as Mein. He will put on a striking clinic, smashing Miller to the head and body as part of a beat down that would make 90 percent of other welterweights wither. Miller will see the bell, but he’ll wish he hadn’t.
Prediction: Mein by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Daron Cruickshank vs. John Makdessi
Daron Cruickshank (12-2), and his face-first greeting of James Vick’s knee and subsequent decision over Chris Tickle, weren’t exactly "Superstar" material, but the King of the Cage veteran showed off his striking chops in a big way in his sophomore UFC effort, knocking out Henry Martinez with a gorgeous head kick after putting on a stand up clinic for 1.5 rounds. With the win, Cruickshank extended his professional win streak to six since getting knocked out by Bellator workhorse Luis Palomino.
During that time, Cruickshank won the Ringside Lightweight title by upsetting the aforementioned Ricci.
After winning his first two UFC bouts, one via spinning back fist, John Makdessi (10-2) found himself with his back against the wall in a hurry, dropping bouts to Dennis Hallman and Anthony Njokuani in quick succession. The Tristar-trained product successfully fought for his job at UFC 154, outclassing Sam Stout in an all-Canadian affair for a unanimous decision win.
"The Bull" has gone the distance just three times in his career.
I’ve been flip-flopping quite a bit on this one because while Makdessi is the cleaner striker of the two, he’s still quite passive when not countering. Cruickshank has a much bigger arsenal than Makdessi, making countering him a much more difficult affair.
In the end, though, I have to go with "The Bull." He trains out of a better camp, is the more decorated stand up artist of the two and I’m not convinced Cruickshank has the wrestling attack to make the Canadian’s lacking ground game a factor.
Expect a fancy striking battle that leaves Rogan beaming and the hometown crowd cheering as Makdessi counters his way to victory.
Prediction: Makdessi by unanimous decision
Legitimate No. 1 Welterweight contender eliminator or not, this has all the makings of one hell of a main event.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire card on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, as well as the main card, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on PPV.