Big guys, small gloves ... someone is getting knocked out this upcoming Memorial Day weekend (Sat., May 25, 2013).
Heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters are coming to Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 160, which will emanate from MGM Grand Garden Arena. In the main event, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, fresh off of a five-round beatdown of Junior dos Santos, will fight "Bigfoot" Antonio Silva in a rematch of their UFC 146 showdown.
In addition, two of the division's premiere knockout artists, the aforementioned dos Santos and Mark Hunt, will do battle for a potential crack at the winner of the main event rematch.
But before that, we've got seven "Prelims" under card bouts that will air beforehand on Facebook and FX for your combat sports entertainment, the first three of which we breakdown below.
Let's take a look:
170 lbs.: Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Stephen Thompson
Replacing The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 7 winner Amir Sadollah on short notice this weekend, Nah-Shon Burrell (9-2) -- who had a three-fight win streak snapped by Chris Spang in his final appearance under the Strikeforce banner prior to his Octagon debut. With his back against the wall, though, Burrell came through with a victory, defeating Yuri Villefort in a highly-entertaining scrap on the UFC 157 under card.
The win marked just the third time "The Rock-N-Rolla" has gone to the judges in victory, having knocked out the remainder of his victims.
Stephen Thompson (6-1), an amateur kickboxing legend, scored one of the finest knockouts of 2012 in his UFC debut, putting Dan Stittgen to sleep with a gorgeous right high kick. Unfortunately for the Tristar-trained product, he took too big a step into deep waters his second time out, getting ground down by the surging Matt Brown for his first career defeat.
"Wonderboy" has not fought since, with injuries scrapping a planned bout with Besam Yousef at UFC 154.
The hype behind Thompson got a bit out of control after the Stittgen knockout, but I’m not prepared to write him off just yet. Brown is a quality spoiler -- Jordan Mein, who I know for a fact to be a vicious and proven striker, had no answer for his pressure. And even though he lost, he hit "The Immortal" with shots that would have put down anyone who, unlike Brown, doesn’t have a face made of titanium.
Burrell has some pop and decent technique, but Thompson is the superior on the feet by far and Burrell has not demonstrated the wrestling to drag out Thompson from his world. Expect Thompson to get back into the win column in impressive fashion, chiseling away at his foe with precise shots before landing something definitive in the second.
Prediction: Thompson by second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Brian Bowles vs. George Roop
A former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Bantamweight champion, a reign highlighted with vicious knockout of Miguel Torres, Brian Bowles (10-2) effectively disappeared off the face of the Earth after a guillotine loss to Urijah Faber at UFC 139. Prior to this defeat, Bowles had put together consecutive UFC victories over Damacio Page and Takeya Mizugaki after losing his belt to Dominick Cruz.
Entering this fight after 18 months away, Bowles has gone the distance just once in his career, submitting six and knocking out three.
Consecutive losses to Hatsu Hioki and Cub Swanson prompted the 6’1" George Roop (13-9-1), a former Lightweight, to shed 10 more pounds and try his hand once again at 135 pounds. Things went a little better this time around, with the Shawn Tompkins-trained product defeating Reuben Duran earlier this year at UFC 158.
Roop stands six inches taller than Bowles.
An 18-month layoff is a pretty tough handicap to overcome, but there’s enough of a skill gap that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Roop is dangerous when he’s on, which is occasionally, while Bowles is dangerous all the time. His wrestling is superior to Roop's and, despite the considerable height disadvantage, Roop isn’t consistently able to keep opponents at range.
And Bowles’ right hand only needs to get inside once.
Roop can be a pain in the butt at best, but even his best isn’t enough against Bowles. Expect the former champion to mix it up with heavy right hands and takedowns before one of those power shots hits clean and ends Roop’s night in dramatic fashion.
Prediction: Bowles by second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Jeremy Stephens vs. Estevan Payan
Life has not been good to Jeremy Stephens (20-9) in the past three years. After a 4-1 stretch had many convinced he had smoothed out the consistency issues that historically plagued him, "Lil’ Heathen" now finds himself three fights in the hole. Most recently, the historically-durable bruiser suffered the first knockout loss of his career courtesy of an Yves Edwards counter right hook.
Stephens will be making his Featherweight debut against Estevan Payan (14-3), who is five years older despite his experience disadvantage.
Payan may have originally achieved fame as the recipient of one of the first "Bellator Moments," a spinning back fist knockout courtesy of Yahir Reyes, he has quietly put together an eight-fight unbeaten streak. Signing to Strikeforce last year, "El Terrible" picked up two wins in the promotion before being brought along as part of the merger.
He has ended four of his last five bouts by strikes and owns a win over Luis Palomino.
This fight may be flying under the radar, but it’s got serious "Fight of the Night" potential. Payan is more than willing to mix it up and Stephens doesn’t know any direction but forward. For as long as it lasts, this will be a quality throwdown, which, admittedly, won’t be very long.
Unless Stephens loses a lot in the weight cut, Payan should play right into his hands. Stephens isn’t that fast or particularly accurate, but he might be the best pure power puncher under 170 pounds. And Payan lacks the technical proficiency to stay out of the way of that power while exchanging. A solid BANGFEST™ to start the card, one that will end abruptly when Stephens’ thermonuclear right hand detonates on Payan’s jaw.
Prediction: Stephens by first-round knockout
We will breakdown the other four UFC 160 "Prelims matches, which will air on FX network, right here on MMAmania.com at the same time tomorrow.
See you then!
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 160 fight card on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:35 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card pay-per-view (PPV) action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.