This one ain't a Middleweight.
After vicious finishes of Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones is playing with the big boys again this weekend (Sat., Sept. 21, 2013) at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Setting the stage for that main event battle is a fight for Bantamweight dominance that features interim 135-pound champion Renan Barao against the first-ever World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion of the weight class, Eddie Wineland.
And if that wasn't enough, Pat Healy will take on Khabib Nurmagomedov with a Lightweight title fight possibly in the near future for the winner if he can carry the mixed martial arts (MMA) momentum into 2014.
We examined the four UFC 165 "Prelims" under card bouts that will stream online (Facebook / YouTube) yesterday right here. Today we dig into the remaining four "Prelims" that air on FOX Sports 1 television network prior to the pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
Here we go:
155 lbs.: Mike Ricci vs. Myles Jury
Tristar Gym-trained Mike Ricci (8-3) may be forever known for being on the wrong end of the crushing knockout loss that put Pat Curran in the elite, but he did quite well for himself on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 as a Welterweight, making it to the Finale and scoring the "Knockout of the Season" along the way. He stumbled at the finish line, however, getting soundly outwrestled by Colton Smith in his first official UFC bout.
Myles Jury (12-0) may have been something of a disappointment on TUF 15, losing to Al Iaquinta after an underwhelming win in the elimination round, but he’s been absolute dynamite in the Octagon, choking out Chris Saunders and demolishing Michael Johnson in his first two official promotional appearances. Most recently, he wiped out TUF 14 finalist Ramsey Nijem in April, scoring one of the most impressive knockouts of 2013.
"Fury" has only ever gone the distance once, ending 10 fights inside the first round.
I’ve been critical of Jury’s level of opposition, but he’s won me over -- his last three performances have been excellent. And, considering Iaquinta’s skill, losing to him on the show doesn’t seem so bad in hindsight. Accordingly, I’m having a hard time picturing him losing here.
Despite his training partners, I just don’t see anything special in Ricci, especially regarding his wrestling. Smith, while admittedly the larger man, tore through his takedown defense with ease, which bodes quite ill for his chances against Fury’s relentless attack.
There’s not enough of a gap in the stand up skills, if there even is one, for me to pick against Fury, who should be able to bring down and pummel Ricci for the full fifteen minutes.
Prediction: Myles Jury by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Ivan Menjivar vs. Wilson Reis
Nobody had tapped Ivan Menjivar (25-10) in more than one decade, but all things must come to an end, as "The Pride of El Salvador" learned when Urijah Faber applied his legendary rear-naked choke in Feb. 2013. Menjivar had actually scored "Submission of the Night" in his previous bout, tapping out Russian import Azamat Gashimov via armbar.
Now 4-2 in the UFC, he will own a two-inch height advantage over late replacement Wilson Reis (16-4).
When Johnny Bedford was forced to bow out of his fight with Hugo Viana earlier this month, Reis stepped up to the plate. When Viana got injured and "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto had to pull out of his UFC 165 match, Reis stepped up to the plate again, likely securing his continued employment for a while.
Reis is a very solid fighter, and while I’m deeply disappointed that Yamamoto was forced to bow out, I still expect Wilson to give Menjivar a good fight.
Not a good enough fight to win, of course, but still a good fight.
Though Reis has some of the division’s best Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Menjivar is incredibly difficult to put away and should have an advantage in both size and stand up ability. Getting put on his back by Gashimov and Faber is somewhat worrying, true, but I have faith in Menjivar’s ability to survive off his back and get it back to the feet, where he should have a sizeable edge.
So long as Menjivar isn't too liberal with his use of spinning attacks, this fight should stay standing long enough for his striking work to outweigh Reis’ grappling.
Prediction: Menjivar by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Chris Clements vs. Stephen Thompson
Officially, Chris Clements (11-4) is still undefeated in UFC, his arm-triangle loss to Matt Riddle being overturned because of "Deep Waters" going "Smoke on the Water." Clements had previously edged out Keith Wisniewski in his debut, the sole non-(technical) knockout victory in the career of "The Menace."
The Team Tompkins-trained fighter owns perhaps the fastest knockout in MMA history, a three-second pasting of Lautaro Tucas in 2005.
Stephen Thompson (7-1) caused quite a stir when he joined the UFC, bringing with him a spectacular amateur kickboxing career and the praises of Georges St. Pierre. The hype only intensified when "Wonder Boy" wiped out Daniel Stittgen in his debut, but like so many technicians, could not handle the endless pressure of Matt Brown, who handed Thompson his first loss.
I was on the Thompson train for a while, but I think I’m getting off on the next station. There is no shame in getting beaten down by Matt Brown, as that tends to happen to everyone these days; there’s a little bit of shame in gassing out against and barely hurting Burrell. It just seems like unless he lands perfectly, Thompson struggles to actually hurt people with his kicks, interesting though they may be.
Add that to a mediocre takedown game and you’ve got a recipe for disaster against Clements.
Clements can seriously hurt people with his punches and kicks; without the threat of a takedown, I can definitely see him walking through those lead-leg kicks and damaging Stephen to the head and body. Thompson can be fun to watch, but just doesn’t have the thump for me to pick him over Clements. It wouldn’t surprise me if Stephen went the distance, but I’m thinking he won’t.
Prediction: Clements by second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Mitch Gagnon vs. Dustin Kimura
Canada’s Mitch Gagnon (9-2) was dangerously close to upsetting Bryan Caraway, but ran out of steam in the second round, eventually becoming the Alpha Male veteran’s third straight RNC victim. He bounced back in a big way his next time out, however, dropping and choking out Walel Watson in just 69 seconds.
The former Ringside featherweight champion has finished eight foes by form of choke, the ninth via slam.
The promotional debut of Dustin Kimura (10-0) against Chico Camus looked like it would be another case of a submission specialist getting ground out by a complacent wrestler, but he managed to flip the script in the third round, taking Camus’ back and locking up a rear-naked choke for his seventh tapout win. Kimura had previously defeated countryman and Japanese MMA veteran Guy Delumeau by knockout at Featherweight.
Should Kimura make weight, this will be his first fight at 135 pounds, as he came in 3.5 pounds heavy against Camus.
As far as sleeper hits go, this has some solid potential -- they’re both very active grapplers with a history of finishes. I don’t have much confidence in my pick, but I’m leaning toward Gagnon. While he did wind up getting the finish, Kimura spent a bit too much time on his back against Camus for my tastes.
Admittedly, Gagnon has been put in bad positions before while on top, but I see his wrestling being the deciding factor here. In addition, I believe he has the edge on the feet -- his work on Bryan Caraway against the fence was fantastic.
Again, this could go either way. No matter who wins, though, I expect a very entertaining grappling match with plenty of scrambling. Gagnon should spend enough time on the offensive both on top and standing to take the win at home.
Prediction: Gagnon by unanimous decision
Two title fights, clashes between Top 10-ranked Middleweight and Lightweight talents, as well as a fun Heavyweight scrap.
UFC 165 sounds good to me, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 165 event on fight night, 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.