Fresh off its successful television re-launch in Boston, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is poised to make its return to the FOX Sports 1 network later tonight (Aug. 28, 2013) with a special midweek fight card, headlined by the Martin Kampmann vs. Carlos Condit rematch over four years in the making.
For all the noobs who are just tuning in, "The Hitman" edged by "The Natural Born Killer' by way of split decision at UFC Fight Night 18 back in 2009, when the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion was still doing work on Spike TV.
That honor now belongs to Bellator MMA.
Elsewhere on the card, Donald Cerrone looks to make it two in a row against surging lightweight division contender Rafael Dos Anjos, who could be knocking on the door of a title shot if he's able to lasso the "Cowboy" in the co-main event.
There's a handful of other compelling fights scheduled for the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana -- all of which warrant discussion -- but you didn't come here for the potatoes, so let's get right to the meat.
"The Hitman" could have -- and should have -- been fighting for the title by now. But every time he bags a big win to put himself in position, he gives it right back. After beating Carlos Condit the first time out, he made the conscious decision to "stand and bang" against Paul Daley.
Yes, the same "Semtex" who has the ground game of Joe Bonham.
He recovers by beating Jacob Volkmann and Paulo Thiago, then silver-platters a split decision win for Jake Shields. All he had to do in the third round of that contest is stay on his feet and the fight was his. So what does he do? Shoots for a takedown against one of the division's best grapplers.
Now he has the opportunity to make history repeat itself against Condit, and I don't think anyone would be surprised to learn both combatants are completely different fighters from their first go-round.
By his own admission, "The Natural Born Killer" was in a self-imposed cruise control for the final frame of their Nashville headliner, but learned a valuable lesson. One that helped propel him to five straight wins against the best the division has to offer, including the aforementioned Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald and Nick Diaz, among others.
Decision losses to Georges St. Pierre and Hendricks did little to diminish his standing.
For my money, it simply relegated him to number three in a weight class that ranks "Rush" and "Bigg Rigg" at one and two, respectively. Kampmann has already proven he's got the goods to beat any fighter on any given night -- Condit included -- but the Dane has also shown a tendency to crumble under pressure.
This time, there will be no epic comeback.
Final prediction: Condit def. Kampmann via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: If we didn't have such an evenly-matched headliner, this lightweight affair would be an early favorite for "Fight of the Night." Donald Cerrone has proven to be his own worst enemy, allowing his mental game to (Rated R alert) fuck him over in key spots.
A title shot was within reach against Nate Diaz.
He was close to hospitalizing the Stockton slugger with leg kicks, but was inconsistent in his attack, allowing Diaz to rack up an ungodly number of strikes in a decision win. His offense also took a coffee break against Anthony Pettis and he paid for it with his liver.
But when there is nothing on the line except wins and losses, he shines the brightest (just ask Melvin Guillard).
That could be bad news for Raphael Dos Anjos, who is one of the more talented grapplers at 155 pounds. He has power, too, but only two knockout wins in 25 professional fights is not enough to consider it a factor against Cerrone, who will enjoy a reach advantage.
Does this fight go south?
If it does, I don't like "Cowboy's" chances. There is cause for optimism, however, because a Greg Jackson gameplan cannot be overlooked in these types of situations. Cerrone knows he can do what every MMA fan loves and fight for points, which is not going to endear him to the Indy faithful, but it will keep him in the win column against an opponent riding three consecutive decisions.
Then again, this is Cerrone we're talking about, so don't be surprised to see him throw all that out the window and go for broke.
Final prediction: Cerrone def. Dos Anjos via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: This has been a hard fight to pick, largely in part because we don't know what to expect from Gastelum as he moves down from the 185-pound division. This match-up, albeit interesting, is being presented as if it was an epic confrontation between surging up-and-comers.
In reality, it's a contest to see which fighter can avoid being a one-hit wonder.
Gastelum is a sizable favorite heading into this fight after upsetting Uriah Hall in last spring's TUF 17 finale. However, as John Howard was able to prove earlier this year, bewildering the flashy striker isn't as difficult as it looks. In addition, we don't yet know what to expect from the 21 year-old in his 170-pound debut.
He's working with Mike Dolce, so making the weight is not going to be an issue, but this is a fighter who found success by setting a relentless pace via sustained bumrush. Can he do it after sweating off those last few pounds? It's hard to say.
But he's not the only question mark.
Brian Melancon also looked great in his UFC debut, pasting Seth Baczynski at the UFC 162 pay-per-view (PPV) last July. That's been his only fight over the past two years and it ended in the first round, so there are no guarantees he won't be sucking wind by the second stanza.
And unloading the "Polish Pistola" is not exactly a game changer.
At the end of the day, we could have a high-paced slobberknocker or a winded bar fight. I'm cautiously picking Gastelum, primarily because he's the younger, fresher fighter. While it wouldn't surprise me to see him laid out during a sloppy exchange, I think he mugs and slugs his way to victory.
A win is a win, I suppose.
Final prediction: Gasteum def. Melancon via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: It's impossible to say this without sounding disrespectful (and it's not intended), but I can't think of a more underwhelming TUF champion since the show debuted way back in 2005 (international versions not withstanding).
Court McGee had a great backstory coming out of the show. In addition to the human interest angle, winning his battle against addiction, he captured the crown after returning as an alternate. Heck, he even went on to win his first three fights inside the Octagon, two of them by submission.
Then it all fell apart.
Consecutive losses to Constantinos Philippou and Nick Ring chased him out of the division and he looked great in his welterweight debut opposite Josh Neer, sending "The Dentist" back to the 170-pound waiting room after three rounds of action.
But was it Neer's decline -- or "Crusher's skill -- that proved the difference in that fight?
Deciding that will likely decide the outcome of this contest. Robert Whittaker has some buzz after winning TUF overseas and cemented his place in the welterweight division by crushing Colton Smith, another winner of the "six-figure contract." But until he develops a body of work that extends beyond the TUF franchise, I have my reservations.
McGee has already proven to be a formidable challenge at a higher weight class and should be even more dangerous now that he's got the weight cutting licked.
Whittaker is going to look sharp early, but I give the longterm advantage to McGee, who has the better resume. I'm not discounting the Aussie's wins, but most of them have come against questionable competition, like the 40 year-old "Freight Train."
See you on the scorecards.
Final prediction: McGee def. Whittaker via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: There was a time when Takeya Mizugaki was considered the second-best bantamweight in the world, challenging then-champion Miguel Torres for the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 135-pound title. He came up short on the judges' scorecards, but his gritty, five-round war made him one to watch.
Since then, he's been one to forget.
Mizugaki was a big deal back when UFC didn't care about the lighter weight classes and could have capitalized on that hole in the MMA universe. Instead, the former Shooto star became the model of inconsistency, going 6-5 over his next 11 fights and failing to win consecutive bouts for nearly four years.
Has he finally turned the corner?
That depends on how much stock you put in decision wins over Jeff Hougland and Bryan Caraway. In contrast, Erik Perez has been lighting dudes up, including two gory finishes over Ken Stone and Byron Bloodworth. Those wins are part of a torrid eight-fight winning streak that's barely two years old.
"El Goyito" has been a busy little beaver.
With 11 finishes in 13 wins, as well as being the younger, fresher fighter, I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where Mizugaki leaves with his memory intact. The Japanese import may have faced stiffer competition over the years, but there's a lot of miles on those tires, and I fully expect him to deflate when Perez hits his stride.
Won't take long.
Final prediction: Perez def. Mizugaki via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: It's never a good sign when your scouting report starts off with, "Well, he's great in practice." That seems to be the prevailing explanation when it comes to the success of Robert McDaniel, who is so fluid inside the gym, he's often credited with giving Jon Jones his most challenging workout.
Inside the Octagon, it could be a different story.
"Bubba" got knocked around on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but rebounded by winning his official debut with a third-round submission victory over the bulky-but-brittle Gilbert Smith. It's a little early to break out the party hats, however, because Smith was quickly flushed along with the rest of the TUF leftovers.
In short, McDaniel needs a quality win before we can say he's here to stay.
Beating Tavares would be a helluva good start. Like his opponent, "Bad" Brad also has experience on the combat sports reality show, but differs in that he's already proven himself to be a tough out in the promotion's stacked middleweight division, racking up a 5-1 record, including three straight.
It's hard to pick against that kind of experience and momentum, especially against a fighter whose record reflects losses to more established fighters like Gerald Harris and Alexander Shlemenko. I don't think he's going to collapse, but I do believe Tavares gets the better of him.
Final prediction: Tavares def. McDaniel via unanimous decision
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 27 card this Wednesday night (Aug. 28, 2013) right here, starting with the Facebook "Prelims" at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 2-televised under card bouts at 6 p.m. ET and then main card action on FOX Sports 1, which is slated to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 27 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Condit vs. Kampmann 2."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.