We had our fun with the mid-sized guys last week. Now, it's time for the big boys.
Two of the Heavyweight division's most fearsome punchers will do battle this Saturday (Dec. 13, 2014) when former champion Junior dos Santos faces rising prospect Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC on FOX 13, which is set to go down at US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona.
In the co-main event, Nate Diaz returns from his self-imposed exile against Rafael Dos Anjos, who was last seen knocking out Benson Henderson in August. Stefan Struve will also make his way back to the Octagon against Alistair Overeem.
We've got a whopping nine "Prelims" under card matches to preview and predict this time around, three on Fight Pass and the rest on FOX.
Let's get to it:
185 lbs.: Ed Herman vs. Derek Brunson
After edging Trevor Smith in a fun slugfest, Ed Herman (22-10) went up against the resurgent Thales Leites, dropping a unanimous decision to the surging former contender. He rebounded in May be defeating fellow grappler Rafael Natal in his seventeenth Octagon appearance.
Thirteen of his professional wins are by submission.
Derek Brunson (12-3) entered Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on a rather ignominious note as he got poleaxed by "Jacare" Ronaldo Souza in his last Strikeforce appearance. Undaunted, he has compiled a solid 3-1 record with the promotion, losing only to Yoel Romero in a great effort despite the defeat.
His wins are split evenly between knockout, submission and decision.
I’ve been ranting and raving about Herman’s body giving up on him for a while now, but he hasn’t done too badly for himself lately. Still, if anyone’s going to prove me right, it’s Brunson. The Jackson-Winkeljohn-trained product should have a sizeable speed and wrestling advantage, while Herman can be nasty off his back, as he showed against Kyle Noke.
However, I don’t expect him to have that kind of success here.
In short, I doubt Herman’s ability to stay on his feet for any length of time. He’s not a one-punch artist on the feet, either, making it difficult for him to keep Brunson honest. As he did against Leites, Herman will find himself out-wrestled and ground down by his stronger foe.
Prediction: Brunson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Joe Ellenberger vs. Bryan Barberena
Joe Ellenberger (15-1), younger brother of Jake Ellenberger, joined UFC after a harsh bout with the blood disorder PNH. After an amusingly-long train of scheduled replacement opponents, including Bryan Barberena (9-2), he finally got to debut against James Moontasri, surviving a brutal first-round knockdown to earn a split decision win.
He will give up four inches of height to Barberena.
Barberena, a product of the MMA Lab alongside Benson Henderson, enters UFC having won his last six bouts. He’s picked up five finishes in that span, going the distance with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12 vet Dane Sayers.
Said fight with Sayers was his only trip to the judges in victory, as he has knocked out seven and submitted one.
Admittedly, I don’t have much to go one when trying to evaluate Barberena -- the most recent fight of his I can find footage of is the one against Sayers, which was two years ago. As such, I have to go by others’ evaluations of him, which makes me feel like (even more of) a hack.
But hey, it’s MMA journalism.
I thought Ellenberger lost the Moontasri fight, but I’m willing to chalk that up to Moontasri being kind of badass and Joe not having fought in 1.5 years. Ellenberger is still a powerful, heavy-handed wrestler, a style which seems well-suited to handling Barberena, who prefers to work in the clinch.
"Excalibur" puts the Ellenberger brothers back on the scoreboard with a grinding decision win.
Prediction: Ellenberger via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: David Michaud vs. Garett Whiteley
David Michaud (7-1) entered UFC coming off a submission win over Carey Vanier, debuting against Chinese grappler Jingliang Li. Michaud struggled with the strength and striking of "The Leech," losing a split decision after dropping the first and third rounds.
This will be his Lightweight debut, although he did fight Vanier at a catchweight of 160 pounds.
Garett Whiteley (7-2) debuted against fellow unbeaten Alan Patrick, suffering a first-round knockout loss on the UFC 169 card. In his second appearance for the promotion, he took on TUF 15 vet Vinc Pichel, becoming the first man to go the distance against "From Hell," but ultimately losing the decision.
He has never seen the judges in victory, knocking out four.
I honestly don’t know much about these two other than that they’re both kind of terrible. Michaud did have success against Li, which the latter’s performance against Nordine Taleb proved a solid achievement, so he has that going for him.
I’m tempted to do the professional thing and pore over their losing performances, but I honestly can’t be arsed. Michaud looked decent and the cut to 155 pounds will almost certainly help him, while Whiteley couldn’t stay off his back against Pichel. If Michaud commits to the grappling more than he did against Li, I expect him to control the fight on the mat and eventually earn the submission.
Prediction: Michaud via second-round submission
135 lbs.: Henry Cejudo vs. Dustin Kimura
Despite never making the weight before, Henry Cejudo (6-0) signed on for a Flyweight bout with Scott Jorgensen on the ill-fated UFC 177. This proved a mistake, as he wound up withdrawing from the fight (as he had with so many others) because of "medical reasons" before the weigh-ins.
The former Olympic wrestling gold medalist, who has knocked out three opponents, was required by the organization to go back up to 135 pounds for this bout.
Following his first career loss to the streaking Mitch Gagnon, Dustin Kimura (11-2) bounced back from an early knockdown to submit Jon delos Reyes in January. He had more difficulty with George Roop, dropping a decision to the lanky veteran three months later.
He was scheduled to face Ian Entwistle and then Chris Beal on the UFC Fight Night 50: "Mousasi vs. Jacare 2" card before withdrawing because of injury himself.
Kimura has two good wins in UFC, but he hasn’t really looked great in any of his fights. The Camus submission came after he’d been outwrestled all night and Reyes had him badly hurt. Cejudo -- though he’s swimming in unpleasant intangibles -- has the kind of skill set to give Kimura fits. Without the specter of the weight cut looming over his head, I expect him to find success.
Someone with Kimura’s submission ability will always pose a threat to a wrestler with limited MMA experience. That said, Cejudo’s wrestling pedigree is too good for me to envision him losing a ground battle. Expect him to shrug off a bevy of submission attempts on his way to a wide decision win.
Prediction: Cejudo via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Anthony Birchak vs. Ian Entwistle
Anthony Birchak (11-1) picked up the MFC Bantamweight title last year, choking out Tito Jones in the second round of their bout. The win marked his sixth by submission and ninth finish overall.
He was originally scheduled to face Joe Soto at UFC 177 before Soto stepped up to face T.J. Dillashaw on short notice.
England’s Ian Entwistle (8-2) debuted in June against New Zealand’s Dan Hooker, suffering the first knockout loss of his career after leaving himself open due to attacking a leg lock. He was scheduled to make the drop to 135 pounds against Dustin Kimura in December before injury forced him out of the bout.
Six of his professional wins are via submission.
I like Entwistle -- I enjoy his rabid, Imanari-esque pursuit of leg locks. There is a difference, however, between "submission before position" and "submission before common sense." He had all the time in the world to drop the leglock once Hooker started carpet-bombing his face with elbows and he didn’t even try.
Against a powerful, aggressive wrestler like Birchak, that kind of reckless grappling isn’t going to cut it.
Entwistle could certainly catch a quick submission -- I recall proclaiming that fellow Brit Paul Sass had no chance against Jacob Volkmann before Sass tapped him in the first. More likely, though, Birchak survives the onslaught and capitalizes on the openings to get his own choke late in the first.
Prediction: Birchak via first-round submission
Four more UFC on FOX 13 under card "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including a fight between elite Strawweight standouts and the UFC return of Joe Riggs.
See you there!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 13 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.