Maybe it was meant to be.
After a circuitous mixed martial arts (MMA) road filled with injuries and many conspiracy theories, UFC 164 this Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013) will be headlined by a rematch between Lightweight champion Ben Henderson and rival Anthony Pettis, who clashed in one of the current decade's greatest fights back in 2010.
The Milwaukee, Wisc.,-based pay-per-view (PPV) card, which takes place at BMO Bradley Center, will also feature a battle between two of the Heavyweight division's premiere grapplers when Josh Barnett returns to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) from an 11-year Octagon exile to take on Frank Mir, while Chad Mendes dukes it out with Clay Guida in a Featherweight fiesta.
In short, it's stacked to the balls, and we've even got seven free "Prelims" to whet our appetites beforehand. The first three UFC 164 "Prelims" under card matches will stream live online via UFC's Facebook page, which we breakdown below:
Since washing out of the UFC in one fight and submitting to punches against Daniel Cormier three fights later, Australia’s Soa Palelei (18-3) has been on a rampage, knocking out eight straight opponents (seven in the first round). While that streak does include sideshow attractions Henry Miller and Bob Sapp, he demolished UFC veteran Sean McCorkle his last time out, pounding him out in less than two minutes.
Nicknamed "Al Capone," Nikita Krylov (15-1) is a 21-year-old fighting out of the Ukraine who has a habit of ending things early, with none of his 16 bouts exiting the first round. Though he suffered his first career defeat in Dec. 2012, he’s been quite successful in 2013, winning three straight by knockout.
Ten of his wins have come by submission, including ankle locks, chokes and kimuras.
Krylov is fun to watch and his official Sherdog picture, which features him in full gangster garb, is one of the more amusing ones you’re likely to find. What he is not, though, is sufficiently tested for me to pick him against the massive Palelei.
The backbone of Krylov’s game are his takedowns and top game, which have proven themselves effective on the international circuit. In his last fight, however, he got his back taken by someone who had only faced opponents in their debuts beforehand.
That's not going to cut it against a 265-pound giant with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
I’m not going to pretend Palelei’s recent competition has been that much tougher than Krylov’s, but he’s dismantled them in more impressive fashion and seems to have the stylistic advantage here. I don’t anticipate it taking too long before "The Hulk" does what he does best, slamming Krylov to the ground and unloading with heavy ground-and-pound for his inaugural Octagon win.
Prediction: Palelei by first round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Ryan Couture vs. Al Iaquinta
Many felt the younger Couture, Ryan Couture (6-2), was lucky to escape his last Strikeforce bout with a win, barely edging out K.J. Noons in a controversial affair. Unfortunately, that luck ran out in his UFC debut when he was battered by English veteran Ross Pearson for a second round technical knockout loss.
Couture, who had previously spent his entire career in Strikeforce, will have a three-inch height advantage over Al Iaquinta (5-2-1).
Another lauded prospect out of the Serra-Longo camp, Iaquinta was an early favorite on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15, being chosen by coach Urijah Faber as his first pick. After winning three straight in the house, including a win over current Lightweight standout Myles Jury, Iaquinta faced teammate Michael Chiesa on the Finale, succumbing to his relentless grappling attack via first round rear-naked choke.
As good as Iaquinta’s camp is and as good as he looked on TUF 15, his takedown defense is a gargantuan hole in his game. He’s a very crafty striker and should by all rights have his way with Couture on the feet; however, the question is whether he can impose his will enough to shut down his takedowns.
With some trepidation, I say, "Yes!"
Couture has loads of heart and he’s not half-bad at wrestling, but I think Iaquinta is just a bit too much for him. Iaquinta is faster by a fair margin and hits much, much harder. Despite his poor takedown defense, I can see him lighting up Couture on the feet enough to offset the time he spends on his back.
In other words, Iaquinta roughs up the taller man for a clear decision win.
Prediction: Iaquinta by unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Jared Hamman vs. Magnus Cedenblad
It was an impressive display of toughness, but the Middleweight bout between Jared Hamman (13-5) bout and Michael Kuiper at UFC 150 was highly unpleasant to watch, as Hamman’s knee was buckled by a leg kick early on and he subsequently took a ridiculous amount of punishment before going down in the second. The loss was his second knockout defeat since his improbable upset of C.B. Dollaway in Aug. 2011, dropping his UFC record to 2-4.
Magnus Cedenblad (10-4) surprised many in his UFC debut, taking a round from the then-touted Francis Carmont before eventually tapping to a second round rear-naked choke. The loss snapped a seven-fight win streak for "Jycken," who had picked up six finishes in that time.
Cedenblad has not competed since the May 2012 card, getting injured prior to a fight at UFC on Fox 6.
I respect the testicular fortitude Hamman demonstrated his last time out, but I’m not entirely comfortable with seeing him fight again. That was the sort of beating that can permanently mess up a grown man, and considering that came on the heels of another knockout loss, things are looking kinda grim, even against a mid-tier specimen like Cedenblad.
Hamman has heart for days and some decent pop, but what he doesn’t have is great wrestling or the ring IQ to survive when he gets battered. I see Cedenblad taking him down relatively early, either pounding him out from mount or sinking in a rear-naked choke.
Hopefully, it’ll be enough for Hamman and his handlers to call it quits before he really gets hurt.
Prediction: Cedenblad by first round technical knockout
The remaining four UFC 164 "Prelims" will air on the new FOX Sports 1 network, which we will break down right here on MMAmania.com Thursday evening.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 164 card on fight night (Sat., Aug. 31, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-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.