It's a clash of mixed martial arts (MMA) kings in the "Shark Tank."
With Nick Diaz having fallen to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158, Strikeforce will get another crack at title unification this Saturday night (April 20, 2013) as long-reigning 155-pound titleholder Gilbert Melendez faces Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight kingpin Ben Henderson in the UFC on Fox 7 main event, which takes place at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
Also looking to carry the legacy of the now-defunct promotion into the Octagon are Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson and Jordan Mein, all of whom are looking to knock off some of the division's toughest outs in Frank Mir, Nate Diaz and Matt Brown, respectively.
Yesterday, we looked at four "Prelims" bouts that will stream live on Facebook.com and transition to FX right here. Today, we examine the remaining four that will air on FX prior to the FOX main card broadcast that begins at 8 p.m. ET.
Check 'em out:
145 lbs.: Chad Mendes vs. Darren Elkins
Since his crushing knockout loss to Jose Aldo in his lone title shot, Chad Mendes (13-1) has been on the warpath, knocking out Cody McKenzie and Yaotzin Meza in a combined 2:26. His attempts to once again challenge the elite of the Featherweight division have been stymied, however, by a sort of reverse injury bug -- Hacran Dias’ late withdrawal prompted the Meza blowout and prospective foe Clay Guida was also forced from a fight with "Money."
Outsized by four inches, another dominant performance could mean another go at the title in the future once the present contender logjam clear up.
Ten pounds may not seem like much, but sometimes it can make a world of difference. An even record (1-1) at Lightweight, including a 22-second submission loss, gave way to a five-fight win streak at 145 pounds for Darren Elkins (16-2). Among his list of victims are The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 winner Diego Brandao and Shooto star Antonio Carvalho, who became Elkins’ first non-injury UFC finish.
Elkins takes this fight on little more than one month's notice (the Carvalho fight took place at UFC 158 on March 16, 2013).
I admire Elkins’ cojones, but I really can’t imagine him having any success in this fight. His wrestling is powerful, sure, but not on the level of Mendes.' Further, while Elkins' stand up is passable, Mendes has demonstrated some crazy-fast hands in his last two fights and some real power.
Like his teammate, Urijah Faber, Mendes is in the undesirable position of being able to beat pretty much everyone in his weight class except for the champion. His wrestling is just too good and his punches are looking downright scary. The crazy durability that let Elkins survive Brandao’s early blitz will keep him awake, but I foresee a very unpleasant 15 minutes of him getting blasted wherever "Money" decides to take it.
Prediction: Mendes via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Francis Carmont vs. Lorenz Larkin
The beating Francis Carmont (20-7) laid down on Chris Camozzi in his Octagon debut generated some serious buzz. And subsequent gritty victories over Magnus Cedenblad and Karlos Vemola demonstrated his resilience, but Carmont’s atrocious split-decision victory over Tom Lawlor has caused the Tristar-trained veteran’s built-up goodwill to dissipate somewhat. To be fair, it was somewhat of an anomaly for "Limitless," who has gone the distance in victory just four times in his nearly 30-fight career.
Despite his foe spending much of his career at 205 pounds, the 6’3" Carmont will enjoy a four-inch height advantage.
Having recovered quite well since having his face pounded inside-out by "King" Muhammed Lawal, the upset victory Lorenz Larkin (13-0) scored over Robbie Lawler in Strikeforce earned him a crack at Luke Rockhold's Middleweight belt. Unfortunately, that intriguing match up was shelved because of the latter’s injury troubles and the replacement for "The Monsoon," Ronaldo Souza, was likewise scrapped when Larkin himself got hurt.
This will be Larkin’s second appearance at 185 pounds.
I don't know what to make of Carmont; I really don't. Sometimes his grappling is solid, sometimes he's decidedly mediocre. Sometimes he's a nasty striker, sometimes it looks like the last place he wants to be is on the feet. Larkin, on the other hand, is easy to categorize: pretty damn nasty striker.
I know I can't call this match up with any confidence, but I'm leaning toward Larkin. His stand up is the better of the two and the trouble Carmont had with both Cedenblad and Lawlor's wrestling make me question his ability to drag down Larkin.
Larkin's kickboxing ability should carry the day as he lands enough shots to wow the judges more than Carmont's grinding in the clinch.
Prediction: Larkin via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama
A huge favorite to capture his first title, Joseph Benavidez (17-3) nonetheless found himself flustered by the speed of Demetrious Johnson, nearly capturing him in his trademark guillotine choke, but ultimately getting outworked for a decision loss. Undaunted, the Team Alpha Male-trained standout took out his frustration on former division king Ian McCall in Las Vegas, Nevada, outstriking "Uncle Creepy" for the majority of their bout.
Darren Uyenoyama (8-3) made about as good an impression as you can make in his UFC debut, demolishing former featherweight ruler Norifumi Yamamoto with a brilliantly effective grappling attack. Though injury kept him on the shelf for nearly a year afterward, he picked up right where he left off against England’s Phil Harris, choking him out in the second round.
"BC" stands two inches taller than his younger opponent.
Uyenoyama is a skilled guy; however, Benavidez is just flat-out better. He’s the better wrestler, striker, and scrambler. He is also more experienced, as well as an overall terrible match up for "BC." Elkins taking him down is exceedingly unlikely and holding him down long enough to apply his submissions skills even less so.
I mentioned earlier that Mendes shares Faber’s unique issue of being able to take out anyone in his weight class except the belt holder. It’s looking more and more like Benavidez has the same problem, too. He should overwhelm "BC" on the feet early on without too much trouble.
Prediction: Benavidez via first round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Myles Jury vs. Ramsey Nijem
His early loss to Al Iaquinta on TUF 15 may not have set the world on fire, but Myles Jury (11-0) proved he was UFC-caliber as soon as he stepped into the Octagon, choking out castmate Chris Saunders on the Finale before absolutely thrashing Michael Johnson his second time out. A teammate of coach Dominick Cruz, "Fury" ended every fight of his pre-UFC career inside two minutes.
Jury made his MMA debut in 2005 at the age of 16 in Shooto before making his name in the King of the Cage (KoTC) promotion.
Getting brutally knocked out in your UFC debut tends to be disheartening, but if anything, it only energized Ramsey Nijem (7-2), who has since won three straight. A member of The Pit alongside the likes of Chuck Liddell and Glover Teixeira, Nijem has split his four finishes between technical knockouts and submissions, his sole UFC stoppage a pounding of C.J. Keith this past June.
All three of his victories on TUF came inside the distance.
I’ve been going back and forth about this fight because Fury’s thumping of Johnson was impressive, but it’s become abundantly clear that he has the ground game of a dead fish off his back. With the weakness of the rest of his competition, it’s still hard to get a grasp of what level he’s at.
Nijem, meanwhile, is a more proven product, and while not elite, he’s demonstrated solid, well-rounded skills.
In all likelihood, this is going to come down to a wrestling match, and I’ve got to give it to the fighter with more experience on the big stage. Expect plenty of scrambling, a handful of exchanges on the feet and takedowns galore, with Nijem coming out on top in enough of them to secure a decision win.
Prediction: Nijem via unanimous decision
It's not often you get cards of this caliber for free.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., April 20, 2013), which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. The latest play-by-play fight updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 3:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" under card bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.