Lightweight mixed martial arts (MMA) mayhem will hit the "Windy City" this weekend (Sat., Jan. 25, 2014).
With 155-pound champion Anthony Pettis on the mend, two of the division's top contenders, Ben Henderson and Josh Thomson, will duke it out in the main event of UFC on FOX 10, which takes place at United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
In addition, the resurgent Gabriel Gonzaga -- fresh off of two straight knockouts in a combined 1:50 -- will take on top Heavyweight prospect, Stipe Miocic, in the co-featured fight of the night. Donald Cerrone will also be in action against former Jungle Fight champion Adriano Martins -- 12-1 in his last 13 fights -- in a showdown that has fireworks written all over it.
That's just a taste of what's in store for the primetime viewing audience this weekend.
And event though the UFC on FOX 10 "Prelims" under card bouts have taken a few knocks, we still have seven ready to start the show, one of which will stream online via Fight Pass and the rest broadcast on FOX Sports 1.
Let's take a look:
135 lbs.: Ramiro Hernandez vs. Hugo Viana
Ramiro Hernandez (13-5) didn’t have much time to show his stuff in his Octagon debut against Lucas Martins, eating some heavy strikes before napping to a rear-naked choke. He had won six of his previous seven fights going into the bout since losses to Michael Johnson and Bellator’s Jared Downing.
"Junior" is three inches taller and four years younger than "Wolverine."
Though Hugo Viana (7-1) had yet to score a professional stoppage before signing with UFC, you would never have guessed it from his sophomore performance, an absolute demolition of Reuben Duran via heavy overhands. Sadly, he joined the victims of Duane Ludwig’s striking regimen his next time out, suffering a first-round knockout to the surging T.J. Dillashaw.
Viana has not competed since that April 2013 bout, fights with Johnny Bedford and Wilson Reis scrapped because of injuries to one side or the other.
Viana definitely needs to tighten up those straight-arm swings if he wants to be competitive at the highest level. Against this level of competition, however, I expect him to find success. Though Hernandez is by no means a terrible fighter, his wrestling is insufficient to take Viana out of his comfort zone and I don’t believe he’s fast enough to take advantage of his poor punching technique.
There is no shame in losing to Dillashaw, especially since Viana managed to shut down his wrestling. Viana’s footwork should allow him to stay out of range long enough to set up those huge bombs, putting down Ramirez sometime in the first.
Prediction: Viana via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Daron Cruickshank vs. Mike Rio
After a tremendous head kick knockout of Henry Martinez, Daron Cruickshank (13-4) seemed poised to make waves in the Lightweight division. Unfortunately, he has gone just 1-2 since, a controversial decision over Yves Edwards sandwiched between an outstriking by John Makdessi and submission courtesy of Adriano Martins.
He will give up two inches to Mike Rio (9-3), his former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 castmate.
Though he suffered a fast exit from TUF 15 house, Rio succeeded in his Octagon debut, submitting John Cofer in the third round after likely dropping the first two frames. Things have gone downhill since, however, as he was quickly submitted by Francisco Trinaldo and Anthony Ferguson in subsequent bouts.
Rio has proven a consistent finisher in his career, picking up four knockouts and as many submissions.
Cruickshank’s striking, for all of its flash, lacks substance -- he’s got a big arsenal, but his fight with Makdessi demonstrated his inability to bring it to bear in fluid, coherent fashion.
Luckily, Rio shouldn’t prove much of an obstacle.
Rio has been incredibly underwhelming since his win in the elimination round of TUF. His striking is a non-factor and for all his accolades, he has not demonstrated any outstanding wrestling prowess. He’s going to wind up forced to trade with Cruickshank, who, for all his faults, is considerably better on the feet.
Cruickshank is not an elite striker. He doesn’t have to be in this case, though, and will stuff about a dozen takedowns as he pieces Rio up at range for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Cruickshank via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: George Sullivan vs. Mike Rhodes
George Sullivan (14-3) -- an understudy of Kurt Pellegrino -- endeared himself to the MMA populace in Feb. 2013 when he knocked out the infamous Julian Lane in the second round. The win was the fourth of a running six-fight win streak, which includes three other knockouts.
Sullivan owns a full six years’ more MMA experience than "Biggie."
Already a standout prospect after just a year of MMA, Mike Rhodes (6-1) stepped up on short notice to face Brandon Thatch in March 2013, tapping out to a rear-naked choke after two minutes of action. Luckily, the rest of his 2013 went swimmingly, as he went 3-1 in the year, capped off by a five-round decision over knockout artist Alan Jouban.
The Roufusport-trained product excels on the feet, picking up three knockout victories.
Let me be blunt: There is practically no current footage of these guys. All I can find from Rhodes besides his debut is the fight with Thatch and there isn't even that much from Sullivan.
From what I've read, though, Rhodes should be favored here. He's been on the radar as a top prospect for a while and comes from an excellent striking gym in Roufusport. In addition, Sullivan has lost to rather subpar opposition.
I honestly wish I could make this more in-depth, but I simply can't make bricks without clay.
Prediction: Rhodes via second-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Walt Harris vs. Nikita Krylov
Walt Harris (5-2) seemed inches from a major upset in his UFC debut, dropping multiple-time All-American wrestler Jared Rosholt in the opening round of their Nov. 2013 clash. Whether because of fatigue or caution, however, his output waned considerably, allowing Rosholt to get back in the fight and take home a unanimous decision.
Harris’ five wins have all come by knockout inside the first two minutes.
The Ukraine’s Nikita Krylov (15-3) drew a sizeable challenge in his debut, too: Massive Tongan grappler Soa Palelei. Sadly, both men’s cardio failed them after the first round, culminating in an exhausted Palelei pounding out an immobile Krylov early in the third.
That fight was the longest of Krylov’s career, all others ending in the first round.
Krylov may have almost three times the experience, but I have a hard time imagining this as anything but a complete thrashing by "The Big Ticket." He’s not only the faster of the two, he’s got tremendous power in his hands and sufficient takedown defense to stop Krylov’s shots. Krylov has not demonstrated anywhere near the striking necessary to survive many exchanges with Harris and -- for all of Harris’ inactivity against Rosholt -- Krylov’s cardio is an even bigger liability.
Harris’ superior athleticism, speed and punching power make this something of a mismatch. I anticipate an early blowout that ends with the referee peeling Harris off a fetal Krylov.
Prediction: Harris via first-round technical knockout
Three more UFC on FOX 10 "Prelims" under card matches, all of which take place in Bantamweight division, to preview and predict tomorrow.
Stop by then and we'll take a gander.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 10 card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass under card bout at 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" matches at 5 p.m. ET and running right on through the FOX main card broadcast that starts at 8 p.m. ET.