Stepping into the shadow of a colossus.
Former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion, Ben Henderson, had no intention of sitting back and moping after his controversial loss to Donald Cerrone just last month. Instead, "Smooth" is taking a page out of his rival's book and moving up to Welterweight to face massive knockout machine Brandon Thatch.
The two will collide in the re-worked main event of UFC Fight Night 60, which is set to hit 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colo., this Saturday evening (Feb. 14, 2015).
Elsewhere on the FOX Sports 1-televised card, surging striker Max Holloway will face fellow lanky finisher Cole Miller in an intriguing Featherweight clash, while Neil Magny looks to continue his unexpected climb up the 170-pound ladder against Kiichi Kunimoto.
We've got five "Prelims" under card matches scheduled to set the stage, one of which will stream online via Fight Pass and the remainder will air on FOX Sports 1.
Here's what's on the under card docket:
145 lbs.: Chas Skelly vs. Jim Alers
Chas Skelly (13-1) had the unenviable task of welcoming uber-prospect Mirsad Bektic to the Octagon, but nonetheless gave a good account of himself in the majority-decision loss. Four months later, he picked up two wins in two weeks, defeating Tom Niinimaki and Sean Soriano in quick sequence.
He stands two inches taller than Jim Alers (13-1).
"The Beast" faced a surprisingly-tough test in Alan Omer in his promotional debut, coming out on top via split decision in Abu Dhabi. He was scheduled to make his second appearance inside the Octagon against Lucas Martins in July 2014 before being forced to withdraw.
Eleven of his victories have come inside the distance, including nine submissions.
This strikes me as a case of two quality prospects whose primary skill sets overlap. Unfortunately for Alers, I’d peg him as being on the short end of that skill -- he’s not out-wrestling Skelly in this lifetime.
That Skelly performed as well as he did against Bektic is a great accomplishment even if he couldn’t get the victory. Alers, though a capable grappler, doesn’t strike me as capable of imposing his game on the towering "Scrapper." He’ll put up a fight -- and may even have pockets of success -- but Skelly’s ability to put him on his back and keep him there gives him a free out from any difficult situation.
Chas takes it with 30-27s across the board.
Prediction: Skelly via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Zach Makovsky vs. Timothy Elliott
Zach Makovsky (18-5), the man called "Fun Size," got off to a flying start in his UFC career, dispatching fellow scrambling enthusiasts Scott Jorgensen and Josh Sampo in his first two promotional appearances. A clash with former world No. 1-ranked Flyweight, Jussier "Formiga," did not go quite as well for him, as the Brazilian used his impeccable back control to take two rounds from Makovsky.
The former Bellator bantamweight champ had previously won four straight since dropping to 125 pounds and leaving Bellator.
Following his gutsy short-notice performance against John Dodson in his Octagon debut, Timothy Elliott (10-5-1) rattled off impressive victories over Jared Papazian and Louis Gaudinot, establishing him as a player at 125 pounds. He has since struggled to replicate that early success, dropping decisions to Joseph Benavidez and Ali Bagautinov in his most recent bouts.
He was originally slated to face Wilson Reis in Aug. 2014, only to be forced out because of injury.
Elliott’s ludicrous durability, relentless attack and debilitating top game make him a very enjoyable man to watch, and so I can only hope a third straight defeat doesn’t result in his removal from the promotion. Simply put, I don’t imagine him having any success against Makovsky in the wrestling department and he’s too slow and awkward to handle the former champ on the feet.
Now that he’s in his proper weight class, Makovsky’s scrambling prowess has shined (save for "Formiga" and the division’s Top 3, there aren’t many at 125 pounds I’d pick to outclass him on the ground). Elliott will never stop coming forward and he could wrangle Makovsky down a few times, but I expect "Fun Size" to win the vast majority of the grappling exchanges and chew his foe up with hard left hands for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Makovsky via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: James Moontasri vs. Cody Pfister
James Moontasri (7-2) somehow avoided the ridiculous curse that befell so many other prospective Joe Ellenberger opponents, facing "Excalibur" in San Antonio. Despite dropping his foe in the first round and seemingly doing a good job of shutting down his wrestling, "Moonwalker" wound up on the wrong end of a split decision, snapping a three-fight win streak.
He has finished five foes, three by form of knockout.
Cody Pfister (11-3-1) came up short in his first bid at UFC stardom, falling to Vinc Pichel in the elimination round of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15. Undaunted, he continued to find success on the regional circuit, extending his unbeaten streak to eight.
He is a late replacement for the injured Jake Lindsey.
There isn’t much footage out there of Pfister, meaning I’m flying a little blind, but I’m high enough on Moontasri that I remain confident. The Taikwando specialist has showcased great timing, lethal hands and surprisingly-solid takedown defense.
Pfister seems short on options, especially considering the limited time he’s had to prepare.
Moontasri did show some questionable fight IQ in failing to turn it up against the flagging Ellenberger. That said, he seems to have enough of an edge in the skill department to assuage my fears.
Pfister walks into something nasty late in the first round.
Prediction: Moontasri via first-round technical knockout
Two more UFC Fight Night 60 under card matches to preview and predict tomorrow, both looking primed to showcase some impressive grappling.
Keep it here, Maniacs!
Remember, too, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 60 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised prelims and main card, slated to begin at 8 and 10 p.m. ET, respectively.