It's friggin' on now, Maniacs.
After a year of vitriol that would make Tito Ortiz and Frank Shamrock proud, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones and former division kingpin Rashad Evans will finally get a chance to settle things in the Octagon, headlining UFC 145 at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga., this Saturday night (April 21, 2012).
The first major UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event since February, the card will also feature Welterweight uber-prospect Rory MacDonald in action against the hard-hitting Che Mills in the co main event, while former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Bantamweight champ Miguel Torres locks horns with Michael McDonald elsewhere on the main card.
But, before all that, we've got a lovely bunch of "Prelims" to get your blood pumping at a rolling boil. The first two (Keith Wisniewski vs. Chris Clements and Maximo Blanco vs. Marcus Brimage) will be shown on Facebook, while the remaining under card bouts can be viewed on FX.
Check out part one of our UFC 145 "Prelims" breakdown after the jump:
155 lbs.: Mac Danzig vs. Efrain Escudero
Winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) usually gives an up-and-coming fighter some leniency when it comes to losing streaks, but Mac Danzig (20-9-1) might be skirting disaster. He’s 2-5 in his last seven, though one of those losses was because referee Yves Lavigne incorrectly assumed him to be unconscious from a Matt Wiman guillotine. Most recently, he failed to exact revenge, dropping an entertaining decision to Wiman during the promotion’s last trip to the Versus network.
With only one win over a currently-employed competitor, it’s do or die for the TUF 6 champion.
Meanwhile, Efrain Escudero’s (18-4) rope turned out to be a bit shorter. After missing weight against Charles Oliveira and succumbing to a rear-naked choke in the third round, "Hecho en Mexico" was released from the promotion, racking up a 5-1 record that included a win over current TUF competitor Mike Rio and a loss to Fabricio Camoes. He was brought back for UFC 141 as a late replacement for T.J. Grant, but was unable to overcome Jacob Volkmann’s stifling attack, though he did very nearly secure a guillotine in the waning seconds of the bout.
While stepping up on short notice to face Volkmann undoubtedly bought him a grace period, it could very well expire with a loss this Saturday.
I’ve been waffling on this one for a while, but I’m going to lean toward Escudero in this one. While his striking seems just as nonexistent as ever, his wrestling-heavy style is one that has historically given Danzig all sorts of trouble. I will admit that Danzig is probably better than many people give him credit for, but starching a freefalling Joe Stevenson and giving Wiman a good fight isn’t enough to convince me that he can make any sort of impact on the division. True, Escudero probably won’t be sniffing the gold, either, but he should have what it takes to keep Danzig on his back for 15 minutes.
Prediction: Escudero via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Chris Clements vs. Keith Wisniewski
Fighting out of Team Tompkins, Canada’s Chris Clements (10-4) is probably best known for his hilarious three-second knockout of Lautaro Tucas, which saw the latter barrel across the ring directly into Clements’s fist. Proving that he’s pretty good at that sort of thing, "The Menace" has scored all his victories via knockout, including five in the first round. After an ugly 1-3 patch that saw him finished by UFC veterans Rory Markham, Jesse Bongfeldt and John Alessio, Clements has come back to rattle off three straight wins, most recently putting away Rich Clementi with punches.
If he manages to do the same to the well-traveled Wisniewski, his name could definitely become one to remember.
Not one to wilt in the face of adversity, Keith Wisniewski (28-13-1) went winless from Nov. 2005 to April 2008 before putting together six straight victories to earn a second go in the UFC. Unfortunately for "The Polish Connection," Josh Neer and about five dozen clinch elbows were waiting for him, and he was stopped on cuts after two rounds with a face that looked like someone had spent two hours going at it with a cheese grater.
He’ll look to replicate his earlier bounce back with a win over the rising Clements.
I have plenty of questions about Clements, especially since he’s fallen short against every recognizable foe he’s ever faced. In addition, there’s very little recent footage, and while Clementi isn’t a bad fighter by any means, I’m not sure what he was doing at welterweight. His old fight with Rory Markham also raises the issue of how durable his chin is.
All of that is moot, however, because I can’t stop thinking about how absolutely horrid Keith Wisniewski’s strategy was in his last fight. Despite getting completely mauled in the clinch by Neer, he just kept trying to get inside, and when he was there, he never seemed to bother Neer with his strikes.
I’m always wary of guys with records like Clements’s, but considering Wisniewski’s last performance, Clements shouldn’t have too much trouble, padded record or no. Expect an interesting striking affair before Wisniewski eats one too many bombs.
Prediction: Clements via technical knockout in round two
145 lbs.: Maximo Blanco vs. Marcus Brimage
I don’t toss the phrase "tornado of violence" around lightly, but there’s really no other way to describe the man they call "The Max Murderer." A Venezuelan wrestling star operating out of Japan, Maximo Blanco (8-3-1) made his name under the Pancrase and Sengoku banners, scoring seven hellacious knockouts (really eight, but one of his losses was a one-punch knockout win until he got jumpy and soccer kicked his opponent, who was about 90 percent unconscious at the time). Unfortunately, his first trip to North America was less successful, as "Maxi" succumbed to the size and grappling prowess of professional prospect-crusher Pat Healy.
Dropping down to 145 pounds, Maximo will look to demonstrate the viciousness that made him a darling of Japanese MMA fans at the expense of Brimage.
Anime aficionado Marcus Brimage (4-1) finally got his chance to compete on TUF after getting selected for seasons 8 and 9, but being stymied by injuries. After hitting Bryson Wailehua-Hansen with every conceivable strike in the book for a technical knockout win in the elimination round, "The 'Bama Beast" was submitted by Bryan Caraway, scuttling his shot at the "six-figure contract."
Undaunted, he got a spot on the Finale, defeating Stephen Bass by decision, and should he spoil Blanco’s debut, he could very well establish himself as a major player in the division.
I don’t know what Brimage did to piss off UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, but this is about as bad a match up for him as you can find. While he’s solid on the feet, his power doesn’t hold a candle to Blanco’s, and Maxi has the added advantage of a powerful wrestling game that found success even at a weight class where he was badly outsized. I have doubts about Blanco’s cardio, especially since he’s dropping a weight class, but I don’t put too much stock in the Pat Healy loss both on account of it being Blanco’s first fight outside of Japan and because Healy is the ultimate spoiler.
When it comes to sheer, psychotic aggression paired with lights-out power, they don’t come much scarier than Blanco. Anything can happen, of course, but I will be astounded if they’re not peeling off Blanco from Brimage’s unconscious form within the first five minutes. Unless he manages to get himself disqualified again, Blanco by violence.
Prediction: Blanco via knockout in round one
Come back tomorrow for a look at the remaining three "Prelims" bouts on FX, featuring knockout machines like Anthony Njokuani, Chad Griggs and Travis Browne in action, among others.
See you then!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 145, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 7 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the FX action at 8 p.m. ET and the the PPV main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.