Will he finally be the Alpha Male?
Since losing his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) crown to Mike Brown in 2008, Urijah Faber has fought for one title or another four times, falling short on each occasion. Having won four straight since his last loss, however, he stepped up to the plate when injury once again forced former Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, out of UFC 169 main event.
"California Kid" will once again face reigning 135-pound champion, Renan Barao, this Saturday night (Feb. 1, 2014) at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
In addition, surging Featherweight No. 1-ranked contender Ricardo Lamas will receive his long-awaited crack at the top, facing Jose Aldo for his 145-pound strap in the co-featured fight of the night.
We examined the first three of seven scheduled UFC 169 "Prelims" under card bouts yesterday right here. Let's now take a deep dive into the remaining four that will air on FOX Sports 1 below:
155 lbs.: John Makdessi vs. Alan Patrick
John Makdessi (12-2) made waves early in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career, outclassing Pat Audinwood in his Octagon debut before starching Kyle Watson with a gorgeous spinning backfist. Unfortunately, things soon went south for the Tristar representative, who lost consecutive one-sided bouts to Dennis Hallman and Anthony Njokuani.
Since then, though, "The Bull" has won three straight, most recently knocking out Renee Forte in Sept. 2013.
A product of X-Gym alongside Ronaldo Souza, Alan Patrick (11-0) had made use of his grappling to earn the nod in 10 straight bouts. Once in UFC, however, his striking carried the day as he knocked out Garett Whiteley in the first round of both mens' promotional debuts.
"Nuguette" stands three inches taller than Makdessi.
Though Patrick has the better last name and is the superior physical specimen, I can’t help but feel that Makdessi is all wrong for him. While powerful, the Brazilian’s striking is very rough and I don’t believe his wrestling sufficient to crack Makdessi’s takedown defense. In all likelihood, he paradoxically spends the fight getting beaten up on the outside by the smaller man.
Despite blowing out Forte last time out, Makdessi still strikes me as a bit too tentative. He is undeniably skilled, however, and shouldn’t have much trouble keeping Patrick on the end of his jab and lead-leg kicks for a wide unanimous decision.
Prediction: Makdessi by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Chris Cariaso vs. Danny Martinez
After disposing of Josh Ferguson with impressive ease in his Flyweight debut, Chris Cariaso (15-5) earned a potential No. 1 contender match against Ben Henderson teammate John Moraga. Despite a solid showing, Cariaso was eventually forced to tap to a front choke early in the third frame.
Though he followed that bout with a loss to former world No. 1-ranked 125-pound fighter Jussier "Formiga," he picked up his first stoppage since 2009 by knocking out Iliarde Santos in Oct. 2013.
The 5’5" Danny Martinez (16-4) gave up a bit too much size in his bid for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) stardom, losing to Davey Grant in the elimination rounds of season 18. Outside of this defeat, he has impressed since his loss to "Formiga" in 2010, winning four consecutive bouts.
He is a late replacement for Japanese prospect Kyoji Horiguchi, taking the bout on just two weeks’ notice.
It probably won’t surprise any of you to know that I was highly disappointed by Horiguchi’s withdrawal -- I figured the prospect would stop Cariaso after a hell of a fight. Without him, we’ll just have to live with Cariaso picking apart Martinez.
"The Gremlin’s" fight with Grant should be taken with a grain of salt because of the weight difference, but I’m just not impressed by what I saw. His stand up basically comprises winging his left hand and hoping for the best and, while relentless, his takedown offense leaves much be desired.
Martinez hasn’t competed professionally in more than one year and two of his last three opponents were debuting. Add in the short notice and the fact that he seems to trail Cariaso in every aspect of the game and you have a recipe for dissection.
Prediction: Cariaso via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Nick Catone vs. Tom Watson
Following a cut stoppage to Chris Camozzi, Nick Catone (9-4) elected to try his hand at 170 pounds after a long run at Middleweight, squaring off with T.J. Waldburger at TUF 16 Finale. After a solid opening round, Catone succumbed to his foe’s grappling prowess following a big right hand and went to sleep via triangle.
He has elected to go back to 185 pounds after being hospitalized because of dehydration just before a scheduled fight with James Head.
Tom Watson (16-6) followed an unsuccessful Octagon debut with a tremendous bout against Stanislav Nedkov, surviving ferocious ground-and-pound to put away the tiring wrestler in two. Thales Leites proved to be a tougher out, outclassing the Englishman in their UFC 163 showdown.
Watson’s striking has accounted for the bulk of his victories, eight coming by form of knockout.
While Catone has hit a pretty serious rough patch recently, I still favor him here. I had him up two rounds over Camozzi before the cut and Waldburger is a tough out for almost anyone at 170 pounds. "Kong" is a personality and packs somewhat-heavy hands, but he’s still got a bad case of British wrestling -- all three of his UFC foes have found success dragging him to the mat. I do worry about the dehydration and the lingering effects of that bad weight cut on Catone; nonetheless, I feel this is a sufficiently favorable fight stylistically to pick him anyway.
If nothing else, Catone is a damn good wrestler, which is exactly what you need to take out Watson. Catone grinds him down for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Catone via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Al Iaquinta vs. Kevin Lee
After picking up "Knockout of the Season" and making his way to TUF 15 Finale, Al Iaquinta (7-2-1) succumbed to the grappling chops of Michael Chiesa, napping out just before the three-minute mark. He has since successfully displayed the talent that the Serra-Longo camp touts, battering Ryan Couture in August and edging Piotr Hallmann two months later.
He has made his name as a striking specialist, earning three wins by form of knockout.
The 21-year-old Kevin Lee (7-0) quickly cemented himself as one to watch despite less than two years’ experience, handing several contenders their first losses. Though "Motown Phenom" failed to score any finishes in his first year of combat, Lee submitted all four of his 2013 opponents.
His last two fights lasted a combined 2:10.
Lee looks like a quality prospect and Iaquinta’s hands aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Lee has faced solid competition during his brief career and has showcased a devastating clinch in addition to his grappling skills.
But, I just can’t pick someone this green over Iaquinta.
Iaquinta needs to develop a quality left hand to complement his right -- Longo calling him the "Arturo Gatti of MMA" shouldn’t be an excuse to emulate Gatti’s brawling. However, his superior experience, punching power and presumably his takedown offense have come together at least to the point where I’m comfortable picking him as the winner. He showed in the Hallman fight that he’s capable of bringing the fight to the ground if needed.
On the feet or on the mat, he edges Lee on all scorecards.
Prediction: Iaquinta via unanimous decision
Two titles, a heavyweight fight practically guaranteed an early finish and a flyweight No. 1 contender eliminator match. You can do a hell of a lot worse with $60.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 169 card this Saturday night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 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.
Current UFC "Preilms" Prediction Record 2014: 11-8