The funniest thing about the above graphic is that it's not even really an unrealistic portrayal.
UFC on Fox 8 gets underway in 10 days time and at first glance this card is less of a who's who and more of a who cares? After all, following July's final card next Saturday is a proliferation of pound-for-pound powerhouses in August and September.
There's Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo's return against the resurrected Korean Zombie at UFC 163 on Aug. 3, then former Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua takes on Chael "The People's Champion" Sonnen at UFC on Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17.
Then at UFC 164 on Aug. 31, the man whom single-handedly keeps UFC judges employed, Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson will try and avenge his previous decision loss to Anthony Pettis and the kick heard 'round the world at WEC 53 that earn him the nickname "Showtime."
But fear not, hidden among the dozen fights on display at UFC on Fox 8 are some with potential for instant classic, let alone instant replay. I'll review my top four choices after the jump.
Synopsis: When a fighter comes along that finishes people the exact same way each time, they're usually referred to as a one-trick pony. If somebody can figure out that trick, the pony is usually put to pasture pretty quickly (see: McKenzie, Cody). But when a fighter can consistently put people away, despite the fact everybody knows it's coming, there's a force to be reckoned with.
There are a few one-trick ponies in the UFC who have found great success at what they do: Rousimar Palhares with his leg locks and Ronda Rousey with her armbars come to mind. For Colorado native Michael Chiesa, scraping an unlikely victory from The Ultimate Fighter: Season 15 via his fourth consecutive rear-naked choke could have been considered a fluke. But then he did it against seasoned Finnish fighter Anton Kuivanen, a 17-5 fighter at the time with eight submissions of his own.
This fight will not only test Chiesa's apparent one-trick prowess, it will determine whether he belongs in the upper echelon of fighters in the ridiculously crammed 155-pound division, where knocking somebody out via breathtaking spinning roundhouse kick to the head is not a guaranteed top-10 placement in the rankings.
How Chiesa wins: If he's going to take out a man with 31 fights under his belt, relative MMA newbie Michael Chiesa is going to have to do what he does best. Make the fight dirty, ugly, and drag Jorge Masvidal to the ground and strangle him. Chiesa's striking is rudimentary, and I mean that in the most basic dawn-of-mankind-2001-a-space-odyssey kind of way.
How Masvidal wins: This is a huge gamble for Jorge Masvidal, who has relatively little to gain from beating a fighter with less than 10 professional trips to the cage, and a lot to lose by the same reasoning. Having said that, Masvidal has been in the cage with some of MMA's top lightweights. He holds T/KO wins over Yves Edwards and Joe Lauzon, and has outpointed guys like K.J. Noons and Billy Evangelista. He even showed his wrestling prowess in his last fight against Tim "Dirty Bird" Means, breaking an 11-fight winning streak for that fighter.
Who actually wins: Although Jorge Masvidal has shown his chin isn't flawless (he was knocked out in Japan by a guy you've never heard of), it's pretty close. And he's been submitted a grand total of twice, once in Bellator, and another time eight years ago in his eighth fight. Although on the losing end, Masvidal has been to the judges against Gilbert Melendez and Paul "Semtex" Daley.
Prediction: Masvidal via knockout in the first round.
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Synopsis: This has all the makings for a "ruthless" finish. Robbie Lawler, who has a left hook that could drop a rhino, is going up against a guy who just lost to Patrick Coté. Lawler, meanwhile, is coming a pasting of 10th-ranked UFC welterweight Josh Koscheck at UFC 157 in his first fight at 170 pounds since Nick Diaz made him kiss canvas in 2004. Lawler is actually 9-2 at that weight class, and one of those losses was an injury.
Bobby Voelker, meanwhile, brings a brick chin and a tenacity rarely seen inside the Octagon from his Strikeforce tenure, where he went 4-1 in the Challengers series (granted, three of those fights were against the same dude). A late replacement for Siyar Bahadurzada, this has all the makings of a squash match.
But just like Jorge Masvidal, it's always dangerous when a guy is supposed to lose, especially when he fights a guy with the inconsistency of a Robbie Lawler. Will we see the "ruthless" demonstration of power we saw against Adlan Amagov, Matt Lindland, and Melvin Manhoef? Or the tepid, flat-footed, and outright lazy outings against Renato Sobral, Tim Kennedy, and Lorenz Larkin?
How Lawler wins: If Michael Chiesa is a one-trick pony, then Lawler is his one-punch counterpart. Lawler doesn't mess around and pap-pap-pap guys. It's usually one and done. His best hope is to pick his shots and unload with brutal fury. Although Voelker demonstrated a ridonkulous chin against Cote, if Lawler lands cleanly you can bet there'll be people picking gold fillings out of their popcorn from the third row.
How Voelker wins: It sounds like a long-shot, but it really isn't. Voelker brings it to guys and wears on them with a pace that is difficult to withstand, especially for a guy with the cardio problems of Lawler. When Lawler's landed in his last four wins, it's always been in the first round. But survive the first and you survive Robbie, who slows down and plods around predictably. Voelker can pick his punches, win in combinations, and use takedowns to secure points.
Who actually wins: I think Voelker wins the big upset. Even if he gets rocked in the first round, staying committed to outpointing Lawler should win him rounds, and ultimately the fight. It could be close, but if he can avoid the intermittent rushes by Lawler, he should take the decision.
Prediction: Voelker via split decision
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Synopsis: Oh baby, dis gon be gud! Having two highly ranked welterweights with this much firepower is going to be electric. Mark my words. The only blemishes on either man's record in recent years are Carlos Condit (both), and Ellenberger's TKO loss to Martin Kampmann.
Rory MacDonald has to be one of the most widely anticipated future champions in recent years. After losing to Condit in the dying seconds of UFC 115 as a 20-year-old, three years and four opponents have been decimated in his wake. He ragdolled Nate Diaz back down to 155, he blasted Mike Pyle (who is now on a four fight win streak of his own), he ended the Che Mills hype, and he absolutely destroyed Lightweight legend BJ Penn, who looked like a tiny baby in the cage with Rory.
Ellenberger, meanwhile, has been no shrinking violet in the wrestle-heavy welterweight division. He was the first to demystify Jake Shields with a 53 second TKO in 2011, and most recently upended the welcome home Marquardt bandwagon with a brutal first round stoppage. His style is Hendricks-like in speed, fury, and power.
How MacDonald wins: Rory MacDonald is probably the most complete fighter at 170 pounds since his protégé George St-Pierre. He has very accurate striking, strong wrestling, and a keen awareness in the cage. There's also a bit of a mean streak in Rory, even though he remains cold and calculating in his demeanor. He has no problem going in for the kill, but won't risk losing position to make it happen. Freshly turned 23-years-old, Rory is filling out nicely, packing a ridiculous amount of muscle on a tiny 170-pound frame in the weight cut. This isn't the same kid who lost to Carlos Condit.
How Ellenberger wins: There's no secret to Jake's style. He rushes in and out, using speed and power to deliver crippling blows. Ellenberger isn't afraid to use his wrestling to gain an advantage, as we saw against Jay Hieron and Diego Sanchez, and continues to deliver punishment in all three rounds. Having said that, his cardio needs to be on point to survive against Rory. Fading like he did against Sanchez could be lethal against MacDonald, and he won't be able to rest in his guard if he gets on top. It's going to be a war from glove tap to snap to nap.
Who actually wins: This isn't a gimme fight by any stretch of the imagination, but Rory MacDonald is on another level from the guys fighting at 170. His size, reach, and striking should all be superior in this fight, and he will use it to batter Ellenberger into submission.
Prediction: MacDonald via T/KO in round 3
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Synopsis: While on paper this looks like a fight that could finally break Demetrious Johnson's 27-round consecutive streak without a finish, it's hard to predict what John Moraga will do out there. That's sort of what makes this fight so interesting. Moraga is more or less an unknown, and except for a loss to John Dodson in 2010 and the unexpected destruction of Ulysses Gomez and Chris Cariaso in his UFC debut and sophomore fight, respectively, there's not much info to go on.
Moraga fills out the rest of his resume on relative unknowns, with five wins by decision, five submissions, and a lone TKO. Only fighting professionally for three years now, Moraga is clearly a quick study. But can he compete against Mighty Mouse, who has literally faced the cream of the tiny men divisions over the past three years?
Johnson's only losses come to Brad Pickett and Dominick Cruz at 135 pounds, while he earned four wins against guys much bigger than him in the WEC and UFC. After dropping down to 125 pounds, he split a draw and three wins against some of the toughest guys who have ever stepped on a Flyweight scale. His performance against Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 was his coming out party.
How Johnson wins: By being the champ. Johnson wins with the sickest cardio in the professional fight league, going hard for 25 minutes and outlanding the slower fighter. Although Johnson faced some adversity against the pinball-quick John Dodson, he took it to him in the championship rounds, separating the mighty from the mouse. Johnson's speed will be the biggest factor in this one, and avoiding Moraga's submissions and timely power punches will be the key.
How Moraga wins: It's hard to imagine, but it can be done. Moraga took down Chris Cariaso at UFC 155, a feat considered fairly impossible for a guy who thrived at 135 before dropping down to gain a size advantage. His submissions on the ground are deadly enough that Johnson should be concerned about taking this one south. Getting the Thai clinch or double legging for points are one thing, but hanging out in the guard could be a mistake. If Moraga is going to capitalize, it will be by grabbing an arm or a guillotine.
Who actually wins: Johnson is far too quick for Moraga, and barring a brutal shot to his chin that he can't recover from as quickly as he did against Dodson's power punches, I'm guessing this is 25 minutes of blurred fighting.
Prediction: Johnson via decision
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Other fights to note:
- John Albert's power should put Yaotzin Meza on ice some time in the first round, ending his slide
- Justin Salas will grind out a decision against Aaron Riley, who hasn't been active in two years
- Julie Kedzie should have little problem taking three rounds from Germaine de Randamie, based on her work against Meisha Tate
- Ed Herman will take the powerful Trevor Smith down and find a leg lock in the second round
- Yves Edwards will win a controversial decision against Daron Cruickshank in a standup affair
- Danny Castillo will ground and pound Tim Means for three rounds
- Liz Carmouche should follow up her moment in the spotlight with a rebound submission win against Jessica Andrade.
Any disagreements? Think you can know better? Well, do ya, punk? Leave it in the comments.