Everything is bigger in Texas.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is heading down to Houston this Saturday night (Oct. 8, 2011) with two title fights and plenty of other bouts with title implications at stake that should keep the good ole' local boys happy.
UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar will look to finally avenge the only loss of his career against the power of Gray Maynard, while Jose Aldo will try to remind the world the reason he is the number three-ranked pound-for-pound fighter alive at the expense of Kenny Florian.
But, before we see all that, we've got a bevy of "Prelims" fights to get our blood pumping. As is standard procedure, both Spike TV and the UFC's Facebook page will host a bevy of compelling bouts.
We dissected the Facebook fights yesterday (read here) and today we'll take a look at the pair of bouts to be broadcast on Spike.
Anderson Silva may not have known it, but he created a monster the day he played peek-a-boo with Demian Maia. Since that dark day, Maia has become far more than just a BJJ expert, demonstrating massively-improved striking and wrestling in his wins over Mario Miranda and Kendall Grove. He even gave the insanely powerful Mark Munoz everything he could handle in their spectacular back-and-forth slugfest.
Maia has stated an interest in getting back to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) roots after a series of decisions, and submitting a grappling expert like Santiago would be a fantastic step in that direction.
After two horrendous knockouts at the hands and feet of Chris Leben and Alan Belcher, respectively, Santiago went on a rampage in Japan, defeating the likes of Jeremy Horn, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and Siyar Bahadurzada before being knocked out from top position by Mamed Khalidov. After avenging that defeat and engaging in 2010’s "Fight of the Year" against Kazuo Misaki, Santiago, now regarded as a top-10 contender, was unable to secure his second UFC win, falling to the absurd power of Brian Stann.
With JMMA superstars struggling to prove their worth in the US, knocking out Demian Maia would ensure that he gets the respect he desires.
Maia has looked fantastic since his fight with Silva and while he hasn’t managed to pull out another crazy submission since Marquardt imploded his face, his stand-up was very impressive against Munoz, and his wrestling was similarly eye-popping. Santiago has dangerous stand-up and a good ground game, but aside from Ronaldo Souza and Rousimar Palhares, there isn’t a human being at 185-pounds I would pick to outgrapple Maia.
Hell, the new K-1 Maia might even be able to handle himself standing.
That’s not even mentioning Santiago’s troublesome chin, which made him probably the only major MMA figure to ever get knocked out with a hammerfist from the bottom. Can he land one of those murderous knees and end this fight at any time? Yes. Will he? That's a different story.
Expect Maia to surprise Santiago -- and the world -- with his striking before taking him down and securing a technical knockout (TKO) stoppage from mount somewhere in the second.
Prediction: Maia via second-round TKO
155 lbs.: Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (13-2) vs. Jeremy "Lil’ Heathen" Stephens (20-6)
The final WEC lightweight champion and arguably the finest head kick connoisseur in the sport, Anthony Pettis captured the public’s interest with one of the most absurd kicks in history against Ben Henderson. Originally in line for an immediate title shot before both Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar suffered injuries, Pettis instead faced Clay Guida at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 Finale, and despite his best efforts, was unable to overcome "The Carpenter’s wrestling."
An adept striker with a dangerous bottom game and solid wrestling, Pettis will be looking to catch back up to Henderson on the lightweight ladder.
A man who may very well be the single hardest puncher in the lightweight division, Jeremy Stephens will be fighting in his thirteenth UFC bout despite just turning 25-years-old. With 14 knockouts to his name and a rapidly improving all-around game, Stephens has won four of his last five, the sole loss a controversial decision to Melvin Guillard.
In the shark tank that is the UFC’s lightweight division, a crushing knockout of Pettis would make it hard to argue against the "Lil' Heathen's" place in the upper echelon.
Simply put, Stephens’s power is unmatched at 155. Even Guillard seemed reluctant to trade punches with him after eating one clean shot. Plus, his takedowns looked extremely solid against Danny Downes and despite his propensity for brawling, he’s been mixing up his strikes and takedowns very well.
What makes me pick Pettis, though, is that his attack is far more varied. Stephens utilizes punches almost exclusively, while Pettis uses a nice array of kicks. He’s also got a nasty bottom game, as shown when he submitted Shane Roller.
This is going to be an amazing fight, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Stephens found Anthony’s jaw and put him to sleep. The sheer variety of Pettis’s attack, though, should keep him out of harm’s way en route to a spectacularly entertaining decision.
Prediction: Pettis via decision.