Will we meet his new mixed martial arts (MMA) boss?
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones, is back in action this weekend (Sat., April 26, 2014) in the UFC 172 main event for the first time since his war with Alexander Gustafsson back in Sept. 2013.
However, the welcoming committee is anything but welcoming.
Glover Teixeira, undefeated (5-0) inside the Octagon with four stoppages, will look to finish what "The Mauler" started inside Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Md., in what company president Dana White has comically branded "the most stacked pay-per-view (PPV) event" the promotion has ever done.
Nonetheless, in addition to the marquee match up, a future contender for the 205-pound belt may be decided in the co-main event when Phil Davis takes on the returning Anthony Johnson.
That's not all.
We examined the first three of six scheduled UFC 172 "Prelims" under card bouts that will air online via Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 yesterday right here. Let's now take a deep dive into the remaining three that round out the early action below:
125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Tim Elliott
Following his decision loss to Demetrious Johnson in 2012, Joseph Benavidez (19-4) embarked on a 2013 rampage, scoring three straight wins with two knockouts. He wasn’t quite as successful as he would have liked in the "Might Mouse" rematch, however, suffering a crushing knockout loss in the first round.
He will give up three inches of height to Tim Elliott (10-4-1).
Faced with the unenviable task of taking on John Dodson in his Octagon debut, Elliott nonetheless impressed with his grit, going the full 15 minutes before dropping a decision. He followed that performance up with solid wins over Jared Papazian and Louis Gaudinot, only to get outworked by Ali Bagautinov in Dec. 2013.
He has ended seven bouts inside the distance.
Painful as the loss to Johnson was, Benavidez is still an elite member of the division, extremely fast and powerful and packing great wrestling to back it up. Though Elliott is crazy durable, he just doesn’t have the speed or technical prowess to keep up with Benavidez on the feet.
And taking down Benavidez is a losing proposition.
I feel Benavidez’s improvement in the stand up is slightly overstated, but he’s just too fast for Elliott. Benavidez bounces power shots off his dome for all three rounds, while Elliott trudges forward and loses a few handfuls of brain cells.
Prediction: Benavidez via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Takanori Gomi vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
After a dreadful (0-3) start to his UFC career, Takanori Gomi (34-9) enjoyed a successful 2012, beating down Eiji Mitsuoka before edging Mac Danzig in an entertaining scrap in Macau, China. In the eyes of many, "Fireball Kid" earned an upset over Diego Sanchez in front of his countrymen, only for two judges to disagree.
Gomi has not fought in more than one year, nursing a broken hand he suffered against Sanchez and replacing Danny Castillo against Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-4-1).
Vallie-Flagg entered UFC on an 11-fight unbeaten streak, defeating former K-1 HERO’S star "JZ" Gesias Cavalcante in his final Strikeforce appearance. After wearing down Yves Edwards in his Octagon debut, Vallie-Flagg was forced to sit for almost a year because of a back injury, losing a decision in his return against former Jungle Fight champ Elias Silverio.
He is two inches taller than Gomi.
I am under no illusions as to Gomi’s status in this day and age. He’s getting older and has devolved into a brawler. That said, the power’s still there and he showed decent footwork and combination punching against Danzig and Sanchez. In short, standing right in front of Gomi is still a seriously bad idea.
Too bad that’s exactly what Vallie-Flagg’s going to do.
Vallie-Flagg is as straightforward as they come, using his resiliency and pressure to wear down opponents. This, unfortunately, puts him right in Gomi’s crosshairs. Vallie-Flagg doesn’t have the synthesis of takedowns and striking to exploit Gomi’s questionable wrestling defense and doesn’t have near the power that "Fireball Kid" does.
I’d love to call a Gomi knockout. More likely, though, Gomi’s superior power and the occasional takedown on his part win him a decision in a highly entertaining scrap.
Prediction: Gomi via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Jessamyn Duke vs. Bethe Correia
Jessamyn Duke (3-0) -- Team Ronda Rousey’s second female pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 -- faced Raquel Pennington in the quarterfinals, losing a very close decision in what was eventually voted the "Fight of the Season." She rebounded at TUF 18 Finale, defeating fellow giant Peggy Morgan with 30-27s across the board.
Duke stands seven inches taller than Bethe Correia (7-0).
"Pitbull" -- a teammate of Bellator’s standout Pitbull brothers, made her UFC debut last December against veteran Julie Kedzie. After a close battle, Correia walked away with the split decision win, her fourth victory of 2014.
She debuted professionally less than two years ago in her native Brazil.
Neither of these girls is an outstanding finisher, but both are plenty aggressive, meaning this has the potential to be a pretty decent fight. Though I’m not terribly confident in this pick, Peña’s success with raw aggression against Duke spells good things for Correia.
I’d like to go into a detailed analysis of this bout; unfortunately, I’m having a hard time doing so. This one goes down to the wire, with Duke’s late fading and inability to keep Correia at range costing her a close decision loss.
Prediction: Correia via split decision
Title fight and some key divisional matchups; good a way to spend Saturday night as any.
'Til then, Maniacs.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 172 fight card on fight night (Sat., April 26, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 55-26 (1 NC)