Two former mixed martial arts (MMA) champions with big right hands generally translates into Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) excitement.
With Renan Barao forced out of the UFC 161 main event with a foot injury, heavy-handed wrestlers Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson have stepped up to headline the pay-per-view (PPV) event, which goes down at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, this Saturday night (June 15, 2013).
In addition, Heavyweight knockout artists Roy Nelson and Stipe Miocic will do battle in the co-main event, while two of elite female fighters, Alexis Davis and Rosi Sexton, go toe-to-toe in a women's Bantamweight showdown.
But, before that, we've got a half-dozen "Prelims" under card bouts that will air beforehand on Facebook and FX for your combat sports entertainment, the first three of which we breakdown below.
Let's take a look:
135 lbs.: Roland Delorme vs. Edwin Figueroa
Roland Delorme (8-1) demonstrated impressive resilience and determination in surviving an early onslaught to choke out Nick Denis last year. Unfortunately for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 veteran, the strategy didn’t work quite as well against Francisco Rivera, who put Delorme to sleep in the first before testing positive for a banned stimulant.
All eight of his wins are by stoppage, six via submission.
For a moment, Edwin Figueroa (9-2) looked poised for an impressive upset of the aforementioned Rivera, dropping the powerful puncher in the first round. Unable to capitalize, Figueroa was eventually knocked out in the second, the first stoppage loss of his career.
The owner of six knockout victories, he is two inches shorter than Delorme.
My disdain for Figueroa is well-known -- the Alex Caceres fight was a screwjob and his only other win inside the Octagon was Jason Reinhardt, who was nowhere near skillful enough to be in the organization in the first place. His takedown defense is terrible, his defensive grappling is terrible, and his striking technique is terrible.
Figueroa is Leonard Garcia with more power and worse grappling, which won't be enough against Delorme.
It took Rivera everything and the kitchen sink to put down Delorme and he has far superior takedown defense and much tighter punching than Figueroa. It's likely that Figueroa is going to be on his back early and often, his ridiculous aptitude for getting his back taken, but avoiding the rear-naked choke allowing him to survive the full 15 minutes. In short, Delorme takes this with utter grappling dominance.
Prediction: Delorme by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Mitch Clarke vs. John Maguire
After seven stoppages in nine wins to start his MMA career, Mitch Clarke (9-2) has had something of a rough go of it lately, getting pounded out by John Cholish in his Octagon debut at UFC 140 and losing a close decision to Anton Kuivanen in his sophomore effort at UFC 149. A submission specialist, Clarke has tapped five opponents, all but one by form of choke.
Two of his last three wins have come against opponents with losing records.
Impressive grappling-based defeats of Justin Edwards and DaMarques Johnson put England’s John Maguire (18-5) on fight fans’ radars, forming the last two bouts of a seven-fight win streak. His lack of size at 170 pounds soon cost him, however, losing consecutive bouts to John Hathaway and Matt Riddle.
This will be Maguire’s Lightweight debut and his fourth fight in the last 14 months.
This weight cut is long overdue for Maguire -- he was badly outsized by Hathaway and Riddle. As long as he doesn’t lose much in those 15 pounds, his 155-pound debut should be a successful one.
Clarke is a very solid fighter, but one whose mediocre wrestling cost him against Cholish and, to a lesser extent, Kuivanen. Maguire’s own wrestling isn’t fantastic, but it works. And, combined with his size advantage, should be more than enough to put Clarke on his back.
It’ll be a fun grappling match while it lasts, but expect Maguire to wear down Clarke from top position before eventually transitioning to the back and picking up his eleventh submission win.
Prediction: Maguire by second-round submission
135 lbs.: Yves Jabouin vs. Dustin Pague
After a 1-3 stretch at Featherweight, a drop to 135 pounds seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for Yves Jabouin (18-8), who quickly rattled off three straight wins. In a major step up, he seemed to be getting the better of Brad Pickett in their fight before a massive uppercut from the Brit ended his night in a hurry.
While Jabouin entered World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) with 11 knockouts in 14 wins, he has not scored a finish since 2008.
Dustin Pague (11-7) looked damn impressive against Jared Papazian, choking out the former King of the Cage champion in the first round. Things have not gone quite as well for him since, as decision losses to Ken Stone and Chico Camus soon followed.
"The Disciple" is now 1-3 since his stint on TUF 14 and will almost certainly need a win to stay employed.
Jabouin isn’t a great finisher, but he is a very entertaining striker whose wrestling game has become very effective. For Pague, primarily a grappler with an unimpressive takedown game, that bodes ill. Ian Loveland -- a big, strong bantamweight who gave Joseph Benavidez an unexpectedly tough out -- had little success taking down Jabouin, as well as Pickett.
This means that Pague is going to have to mess with Jabouin on the feet, a task few members of the division are up to. At 5’9," Dustin is three inches taller, but has not shown the aptitude needed to maximize that advantage. More likely, something like Jabouin’s fight with Jeff Hougland ensues, with "Tiger" battering Pague from pillar to post for a dominant decision win or late stoppage.
Prediction: Jabouin by unanimous decision
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 161 fight card on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-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.