It's another battle of an experienced veteran against an exciting prospect in the bantamweight division this Wednesday night (February 15, 2012) as 31 fight veteran Ivan Menjivar takes on The Ultimate Fighter season 14 alumni John Albert on the main card of UFC on Fuel TV in Omaha, Nebraska.
Ivan Menjivar has very quietly gone 2-0 in his return to the UFC, defeating both Charlie Valencia and Nick Pace in 2011 and climbing the bantamweight ladder. He's competed against a plethora of former champions and current champions throughout his 10+ year career and he's looking to make his mark on the bantamweight division after years of fighting significantly larger foes.
John "Prince" Albert was a bit of an afterthought on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, losing in the quarterfinals to eventual winner John Dodson via decision, but he made his mark on the finale, destroying Dustin Pague with a first round technical knockout (TKO) which lasted just 69 seconds. He's getting a huge step up in competition level but is hoping to perform on Wednesday night.
Will "The Pride of El Salvador" cruise to victory with his significant experience advantage? Can Albert step up in a big way in what is hands down the biggest fight of his career? What's the best path to victory for both bantamweights on Wednesday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 23-8 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Charlie Valencia (UFC 129), Nick Pace (UFC 133), Joe Lauzon (APEX Undisputed)
Key Losses: Brad Pickett (WEC 53)
How he got here: Ivan Menjivar has had a long and arduous career in mixed martial arts, especially considering he hasn't even hit 30 years old yet. Originally hailing from El Salvador, his family left the country when war was breaking out as a child and he surprisingly grew up in Canada where he found a love for the martial arts.
By 2001, he was competing professionally and because of the lack of smaller weight classes, he was forced to fight men much bigger than him. In fact, he fought Georges St. Pierre in just his fourth pro bout. "The Pride of El Salvador" eventually worked his way to a shot in the UFC where be battled eventual champion Matt Serra, losing a decision
Menjivar fought all over the world, from Japan to Manitoba, going into a state of semi-retirement after losing to Bart Palaszewski in the IFL due to injuries and personal life. Four years later, he returned and was given a shot in the WEC where he had a Fight of the Year candidate against Brad Pickett get overshadowed by Anthony Pettis' "Showtime Kick."
The Tristar Gym product got another shot in the UFC and made the most of it, crushing Charlie Valencia with a brutal elbow at UFC 129 and then eeking out a close decision against Nick Pace at UFC 133. He's back in action against an Ultimate Fighter veteran in John Albert next Wednesday night.
How he gets it done: Menjivar doesn't have the best technique in the world, but he's very tough, can take a shot, keeps coming and pushes a tremendous pace. His goal against Albert is to constantly keep him on the defensive whether it's in the stand-up or on the ground.
Menjivar is competent on the ground, holding his own against men significantly larger than him for years, but expect to see him try to keep this fight standing. "The Pride of El Salvador" will want to work some kicks before closing the distance and looking for either power punches on the inside or potentially an opportunity to land his brutal elbows. He throws his elbows with serious bad intentions. Getting this fight up close and personal in the clinch should be the goal of the 10+ year veteran, and it will give him an opportunity to land short knees, hooks, uppercuts and of course, the elbows.
I'd be surprised if Menjivar initiates this fight going to the ground, but he might shoot if he's getting the worse of the stand-up portion.
Record: 7-1 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Dustin Pague (Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: John Albert had a brief background in taekwondo and wrestling before diving into mixed martial arts full time. He began training with Dennis Hallman and after a two year amateur career where he compiled a 12-1 record, he transitioned to becoming a professional.
Albert competed on the local circuit in the Pacific Northwest, destroying everyone in his path during his first six fights before suffering the only loss of his professional career. He stepped up and tried out for the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he won his way into the house with a first round submission and was selected as a member of Team Bisping.
"Prince" lost to eventual winner John Dodson in the quarterfinal round, but made his mark on the show's finale, where he destroyed Dustin Pague, twisting him into a pretzel and pounding him into submission on the canvas.
He'll be taking a major step up in competition level when he battles veteran Ivan Menjivar next week.
How he gets it done: Albert has some strong kicking skills in the stand-up, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him work some leg kicks early, try to keep his distance during a feeling out process. If he's comfortable, he'll be willing to stand and trade with the Canadian-El Salvadoran.
What would be most interesting of all will be to see what Albert is capable of doing to Menjivar on the canvas. His opponent has a respectable wrestling background and definitely has some solid grappling credentials, but what Albert was able to do to Dustin Pague, tying his own arm up over his collar, was extremely impressive. Albert is definitely strong on the canvas and is very aggressive not just with ground and pound but with positional dominance.
Albert will likely stand and trade with Menjivar as long as he feels he's holding his own, and there's a possibility that he could, as he dropped Pague standing before obliterating him on the canvas. He's definitely packing some power in his fists so don't be completely stunned if he drops Menjivar too. If that doesn't work, it'll be very interesting to see if he can get the better of the Tristar Gym fighter on the ground or if he has the takedown abilities to bring the fight there at all.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for the fight has to be the tremendous leap in competition level of John Albert. Yes, he's a young gun who's champing at the bit to get in there and showcase his skills, but Ivan Menjivar is a man who's fought (and held his own) with guys like Matt Serra, Georges St. Pierre, Joe Lauzon, Urijah Faber and more.
The experience and strength of opposition gap is vast, and Albert will have to try to overcome it with sheer aggression and will. There's a very strong possibility that Menjivar has facets to his game that Albert isn't ready for, but he'll have to adapt on the fly. That's what makes this bout so intriguing.
Bottom Line: These are two incredibly hard-nosed, aggressive and exciting bantamweights who will be clashing on Wednesday night. Ivan Menjivar looks at home now that he's finally competing at 135 and John Albert is getting a major test of his skill-level. Both men are eager to impress as they're getting their first shot on television in their UFC careers so expect some serious entertainment value from this bout. Albert has never gone to a decision in his professional career and Menjivar will be looking for the finish throughout the fight. This should be a good one.
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