*Insert hump day joke here*
Now that the 'nog is out of your system, the perfunctory "Thank You" notes have been written to the relatives who sent you fruitcakes, and you no longer have to pretend to love the world, it's time for more mixed martial arts (MMA) violence.
It's a mid-week show (Weds., Jan. 15, 2014) this time as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heads down to Duluth, Ga., for UFC Fight Night 35, which features former Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold taking on Costas Philippou in a five-round Middleweight main event.
Several of the 185-pound division's rising stars will also be in action, including Lorenz Larkin and Brad Tavares, who will go toe-to-toe in the FOX Sports 1 co-main event, while Yoel Romero battles Derek Brunson.
That's not all.
We broke down three of the six scheduled UFC Fight Night 35 under card "Prelims" bouts yesterday right here. And, naturally, you can find the remaining balance below:
155 lbs.: Ramsey Nijem vs. Justin Edwards
After suffering a knockout loss at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 Finale, Ramsey Nijem (7-4) quietly carved out a place for himself at 155 pounds, winning three straight bouts. Things went south in 2013, however, as he was viciously knocked out by Myles Jury in April and submitted by James Vick in August.
The 25-year-old, who fights out of "The Pit" camp, has ended four bouts inside the distance.
Justin Edwards (8-3) was on the wrong end of a close decision in his Octagon debut and has yet to really find his rhythm, going even (2-2) ever since. After choking out Josh Neer in seconds, earning "Submission of the Night" honors in the process, "Fast Eddy" took on the unfortunate task of welcoming Brandon Thatch to UFC and was promptly annihilated by the young prospect.
This will mark Edwards' Lightweight debut.
I’m torn here. Nijem’s striking is still a major liability, as is his jaw, and he isn’t overwhelming enough of a wrestler to overcome that. On the other hand, Edwards is clearly making this cut out of desperation and, while losing to Thatch isn’t a big knock, he struggled mightily against John Maguire, whose wrestling is mid-tier.
I wouldn’t recommend betting on it, but I’m leaning toward Nijem.
Nijem is incredibly aggressive and Edwards doesn’t have the punching power to make him pay for that. Though he isn’t always successful with his takedowns, he’s so relentless in his pursuit of them that I question whether Edwards’ newly-drained body can handle it.
Expect Nijem to impose his will with increasing authority as the fight progresses, controlling Edwards on the fence and mat for a unanimous decision.
Prediction: Nijem via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Isaac Vallie-Flagg vs. Elias Silverio
A product of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) has not lost a fight since 2007, going 11-0-1 in that span. After close wins in Strikeforce over stand outs Brian Melancon and Gesias Cavalcante, Vallie-Flagg made his Octagon debut last February, narrowly edging veteran Yves Edwards.
He has not competed since because a back injury forced him to withdraw from a planned bout with Sam Stout at UFC 161.
Elias Silverio (9-0) debuted last September on short notice, facing Joao Zeferino on the UFC Fight Night 28 card. Despite this handicap, he handily outdueled "The Brazilian Samurai," sweeping all three rounds on all three judges’ cards.
The one-time Jungle Fight Welterweight champ will make his 155-pound debut.
I’ve flip-flopped on this one -- Silverio should be the crisper of the two, but Vallie-Flagg is a poster boy for "ugly, but effective." He’s a big, strong lightweight who tends to wear down opponents with constant, if ungainly, striking attacks.
Still, I’m going to lean toward "Xuxu."
I would ordinarily hesitate to take a guy making his first weight cut in such a close fight. However, Silverio’s success suggests this is a voluntary cut, which should go some ways towards overcoming Vallie-Flagg’s physical presence.
Therefore, Silverio picks apart "IVF" on the feet to a sufficient degree that his volume -- or lack thereof -- fails to sway the judges.
Prediction: Silverio via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Trevor Smith vs. Brian Houston
Though he came up short in his UFC debut, Trevor Smith (10-4) nevertheless entertained, slugging it out with veteran Ed Herman for three entertaining rounds. Unfortunately, he now falls to 1-3 in his last four, having been choked out by Tim Kennedy this past January.
All of his wins have come inside two rounds, nine of them submissions.
After ending three fights in a combined 3:13, Brian Houston (4-1) was tabbed to face Derek Brunson on the UFC’s third Fight for the Troops. Forty-eight seconds later, coincidentally the exact time of Houston’s last knockout, he was tapping out to a rear-naked choke, having eaten a big head kick early. Houston originally debuted in April 2012, a full three years later than Smith.
There’s a whole lot I don’t know about Houston -- you can’t learn very much from a one-minute pasting. What I do know is that he is very fast and a devastating puncher. Though Smith is clearly the better grappler of the two, he looked terribly slow and hittable against Herman.
I don’t like picking the untested striker, but this seems to favor him. I don’t see Smith Pat Healy-ing his way through Houston’s onslaught or consistently closing the distance even if he does survive the power. Houston connects with something nasty early.
Prediction: Houston via first-round technical knockout
There may not be any true marquee fights, but we've got contenders out the wazoo. Not bad for a free card on a Wednesday.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 35 fight card this Wednesday night right here, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" at 4 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised main card bouts at 7 p.m. ET.
CURRENT 2014 PREDICTION RECORD: 4-2