If at first you don't succeed try again, and again ... aaand again.
Urijah Faber is set for his third UFC bantamweight title shot, replacing old rival Dominick Cruz against newly-minted champion Renan Barao in the main event of UFC 169, which goes LIVE from Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., this Saturday evening (Feb. 1, 2014).
In addition, Barao teammate, Featherweight champion Jose Aldo, will defend his strap against Ricardo Lamas, who has won seven of his last eight bouts, in the co-main event of the evening.
And who could forget that Alistair Overeem and Frank Mir will duel, with the loser likely ruled out as a top Heavyweight contender for the foreseeable future ... perhaps indefinitely
Of the seven UFC 169 "Prelims" under card matches on tap at "The Rock" this weekend, the first three will stream online via "Fight Pass," while the remainder will air on FOX Sports 1.
Let's dig in:
185 lbs.: Clint Hester vs. Andy Enz
Clint Hester (9-3) -- Jon Jones’ first pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 -- exited the competition in the first round, tapping out to Jimmy Quinlan’s relentless grappling assault in the second round. He has had slightly more success in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) proper, knocking out Bristol Marunde with a standing elbow in his debut and outstriking teammate Dylan Andrews his second time out.
Seven of Hester’s wins have come by knockout, the one submission because of punches.
Andy Enz (7-0) also competed on TUF 17, taking on Uriah Hall in the elimination rounds. While he avoided the gruesome fate that befell Hall’s other victims in the house, he lost a decision to the eventual finalist.
He picked up three straight first-round submissions in 2013, all coming inside 80 seconds.
I’ll admit to not being terribly impressed by Hester -- his boxing "career" comprised going 3-3-1 with the only wins coming against a debuting fighter and two guys with losing records. His hands are not terribly crisp and his footwork -- while it looked solid against Andrews -- is not elite.
Still, Enz doesn’t strike me as one to capitalize on it.
Since beating TUF 16’s Nic Webb in 2011, Enz’s competition has been a joke. Hell, the first guy he fought in 2013 was a middleweight not-so-ironically nicknamed "Potbelly" who has tapped to strikes four times. I doubt he has much success taking Hester into his world nor handling his power on the feet.
Thankfully, at 22, Enz should have time to bounce back from the inevitable beating.
Prediction: Hester by second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Tony Martin vs. Rashid Magomedov
Though Tony Martin (8-0) first debuted in Jan. 2012, he quickly earned the status of blue-chip prospect, submitting five consecutive opponents before year’s end. He opened 2013 with his biggest win so far, defeating former TUF 8 standout Phillipe Nover.
Though Rashid Magomedov (15-1) is dropping from welterweight, Martin will enjoy a four-inch height advantage.
Magomedov -- unbeaten since 2010 -- ended his run in M-1 as its welterweight champion, defending his title against Swiss standout Yasubey Enomoto and recent UFC signee Alexander Yakovlev. His sole defeat came at the hands of Bellator tournament champion "Frodo" Khasbulaev, whom Magomedov defeated a year prior.
The 29-year-old, who has seven wins via knockout, also owns a win over current UFC fighter Igor Araujo.
This is actually the bout I’ve been having the most difficulty deciding on. Magomedov has every edge on paper -- his strength of schedule is leagues beyond Martin’s, he’s much more experienced and he’s the superior striker. The thing is that he hasn’t fought in one year and his takedown defense is hit-and-miss. Further, Martin is a gigantic lightweight and his highly-aggressive takedown game seems just the ticket to pull the upset.
To me, this is a 50-50 fight. Despite my reservations, I’ll take Magomedov.
Looking at Rashid’s fight with Yakovlev, he struggled early to stay on his feet, but eventually managed to shrug off his takedowns with ease. While Martin is the bigger man, Magomedov has beaten bigger men -- Yasubey Enomoto looked a full weight class larger and Magomedov still came out on top.
The experience and speed gap will be too much for Martin as Magomedov’s counter-punching earns him the judges’ nods.
Prediction: Magomedov via split decision
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Gasan Umalatov
Though Neil Magny (8-3) fell in the semifinals of TUF 16, he found success on the Finale, denying Jon Manley’s repeated takedown attempts to take home a unanimous decision. He has since struggled to replicate that success, tapping to a Sergio Moraes triangle in Aug. 2013 and falling to Seth Baczynski three months later.
Magny will own a four-inch height advantage over his opponent.
Gasan Umalatov (14-2-1), fighting out of the same gym as Ali Bagautinov and Bellator champion Vitaly Minakov, has won eight of his last nine fights, the sole defeat a rather questionable split decision. His grappling has carried him to victory in the majority of his bouts, seven wins coming by tap.
This will be his first bout to take place outside of Europe.
Though Umalatov is the shorter man and lacks Magny’s experience on the big show, the latter hasn’t really shown me anything to get me to pick him. His issues in the clinch with Moraes and Baczynski do not bode well against "Cobra," who excels with trips and scrambles from that position. Further, while Umalatov has a habit of losing position because of ill-advised submission attempts, Magny doesn’t seem apt to threaten with much should it happen.
Magny’s size and physicality make this a close fight, but the clincher is that the "-ovs" are currently undefeated in UFC. Behind that irrefutable logic, I say Umalatov gets the nov ... I mean nod.
Prediction: Umalatov via decision
Four more UFC 169 under card "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including a couple of unbeaten prospects.
Don't miss it, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 169 card this Saturday night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.