This Saturday night (June 14, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Ovince St. Preux and Ryan Jimmo will face off in the opening main card bout of UFC 174, airing live at 10 p.m. EST on pay-per-view (PPV) from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
No. 14-ranked St. Preux was last seen dismantling Nikita Krylov with a quick first round submission at UFC 171. "OSP" has won three straight in the Octagon and 12 out of his past 13 mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, making him an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with.
He'll face arguably his toughest UFC tests when he meets Canadian Jimmo, who comes in with the momentum of a first round knockout of Sean O'Connell at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale in April. However, after dropping his previous bout to Jimi Manuwa at UFC Fight Night 30, "Big Deal" has shown some big inconsistency in the Octagon, going 2-2 over his last four.
With both fighters owning recent "Performance of the Night" bonuses, this contest could be an under-the-radar barnburner. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for St. Preux vs. Jimmo:
Ovince St. Preux
Record: 15-5 overall, 3-0 UFC
Key Wins: Nikita Krylov (UFC 171), Cody Donovan (UFC Fight Night 26), Gian Villante (UFC 159)
Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi (Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal)
Keys to Victory: St. Preux is a relentless finisher with seven knockouts and four submissions in 15 total wins. Although Jimmo hasn't lost much, two of his three losses have been by knockout.
You can bet that St. Preux will be looking to push the pace with his kickboxing and test Jimmo's chin. "Big Deal" is always game to slug it out, and "OSP" never backs down from a fight.
If and when this fight hits the ground, St. Preux will still be in his comfort zone. He has a wrestling background and showed excellent ground acumen by reversing Krylov's choke attempt to lock on one of his own at UFC 171.
St. Preux has largely run through most of the competition he's faced, especially recently. But he lost to the one true top name he's ever faced in Gegard Mousasi. While Jimmo isn't at that level right now, he should be a step above the first three opponents St. Preux has faced in the Octagon.
That means St. Preux can't get overconfident. If he's truly ready to rise up the light heavyweight ranks, UFC 174 is the perfect place to showcase that.
Record: 19-3 overall, 3-2 UFC
Key Wins: Sean O' Connell (TUF: "Nations" Finale), Igor Pokrajac (UFC 161), Anthony Perosh (UFC 149)
Key Losses: Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 30), James Te Huna (UFC on Fuel TV 7)
Keys to Victory: Possessing a black belt in Karate, the entertaining Jimmo is known for his powerful stand-up skills.
But so is St. Preux. Jimmo has to be prepared to win a firefight. He's faltered against top-shelf strikers like Manuwa and Te-Huna in the past, and while St. Preux may not be quite at their level in terms of pure striking, he is probably more well rounded overall.
To pick up the upset and score his biggest UFC win, Jimmo has to fight patiently, using calculated aggression and counter shots to catch bruiser St. Preux off guard.
"Big Deal" should hold the edge in the stand-up, but St. Preux's athleticism and power even things out a bit. Still, Jimmo is always looking for the finish, so he'll be swinging for the fences in an attempt to become only the second man to put out St. Preux's lights.
Jimmo should be implementing a high volume of kicks to keep St. Preux guessing, he just can't get careless with them. Doing so could see him taken down with ease. Along those lines, he'll need to make sure his takedown defense is sharpened, as getting slammed to the mat and controlled by "OSP" is a surefire way to lose a round, or worse.
Jimmo only has two submissions to his name, and those were rear-naked chokes back in 2007-2008. St. Preux has a sneaky good mat game. If Jimmo isn't careful, he could end up in a fight-ending hold.
The odds may not be in Jimmo's favor, but the potential for a big win is there.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it's a pivotal one for St. Preux to show whether or not he can become a top-flight heavyweight in UFC.
Another easy finish should see him earn a big name fight his next time out, and many feel it's only a matter of time before the Strikeforce vet becomes a big star.
Jimmo has the power to put an immediate halt to that, but in truth, there will actually be even more pressure on "Big Deal." He's fighting in front of his homeland Canadian fans, and the last time he did so, he put on a relatively lackluster showing in a decision win over Pokrajac at UFC 161 in June 2013.
He can't let that get to him here, because it could easily result in him staring up at the lights.
A loss, especially by knockout, would be devastating for Jimmo. He'd own a middling 3-3 record since bursting onto the scene with an incredible seven-second knockout of Perosh in 2012. If he's going to prove he truly is a "Big Deal," the time is now.
With high stakes on the line for both, this may be the biggest and most challenging bout of each fighter's career. Don't be surprised to see this one end in the first round.
Will Ovince St. Preux keep running through competitors at UFC 174, or will Ryan Jimmo halt his rapid rise up the rankings?