Veteran savvy in spades.
Two of the most well-traveled Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight competitors, Mark Hunt and Frank Mir, do battle inside Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia, this Saturday evening (March 19, 2016) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 85.
The FOX Sports 1-based show will also feature Hector Lombard's return to the cage against Neil Magny and a clash of Lightweight prospects between Johnny Case and Australia's own Jake Matthews.
Some last-minute troubles have cut the seven-fight "Prelims" undercard matches down to six, four on Fight Pass and the others on FOX Sports 1. Let's see what's left on the table for Fight Pass.
170 lbs.: Ross Pearson vs. Chad Laprise
Ross Pearson (18-10) has alternated losses and wins in his last seven fights, although the first loss was a horrific robbery against Diego Sanchez. His last two efforts have seen him upset Paul Felder in Vegas and drop a decision to Francisco Trinaldo in Boston.
He has knocked out seven opponents and submitted another five.
Chad Laprise (10-1) smashed his way through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations," taking home "Fight of the Season" and one of the two "Performances of the Season" before ultimately beating Olivier Aubin-Mercier to win the show. Decision wins over Yosdenis Cedeno and Bryan Barberena followed before "The Disciple" ran afoul of Francisco Trinaldo, who dropped and choked him out in the first round.
He stands two inches taller than Pearson at 5’10."
Laprise has demonstrated solid hands and decent wrestling, but Pearson is a huge step up when it comes to striking. The Canadian doesn’t have the power of Al Iaquinta, the overpowering grappling of Evan Dunham, or the raw strength of Trinaldo. He’s almost certainly going to wind up boxing with Pearson, a recipe for disaster.
The Brit, inconsistent as he is, remains one of the division’s best counter-punchers. Expect him to tag Laprise with increasing success as the fight progresses for either a late technical knockout finish or unanimous decision.
Prediction: Pearson by third-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Daniel Hooker vs. Mark Eddiva
Daniel Hooker (12-6) made an immediate impression on UFC fans with a brutal mauling of Ian Entwistle in his promotional debut, extending his win streak to six. He’s since gone 1-2, an upset knockout of Hatsu Hioki sandwiched between losses to Maximo Blanco and Yair Rodriguez.
He has earned stoppages in each of his last seven victories.
Team Lakay’s Mark Eddiva (6-2) surprised many in his Octagon debut by dominating Chinese standout Jumabiekke Tuerxun in Macau. He’s since fallen on rather hard times, losing an epic slugfest with Brazil’s "Kevin" Souza and a grinding decision to Levan Makashvili.
He will give up four inches of height to the 6’0" Hooker.
This honestly might wind up being a lot closer than the currently-lopsided odds would suggest. Hooker is phenomenally tough, sure, but isn’t outstanding in any area of the game outside of power and sheer durability. Eddiva packs some solid striking and decent takedown defense -- he has a very real shot at the upset if he can keep it standing.
Still, Hooker’s got grit for days and is the more well-rounded combatant.
The Kiwi has some power and has proven fairly destructive from top position, not to mention his pressure and volume. I expect him to outwork Eddiva from the clinch and on the mat to take a competitive decision.
Prediction: Hooker by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Leslie Smith vs. Rin Nakai
Leslie Smith (7-6-1) entered UFC in the midst of a 1-3 stretch, but quickly proved her worth by battering Jessamyn Duke into submission midway through the first round of their July 2014 showdown. Jessica Eye proved a more difficult test, as "Evil" Eye burst Smith’s cauliflower ear to force a stoppage.
She stands a staggering eight inches taller than Rin Nakai (16-1-1) at 5’9."
Japan’s Nakai ruled the roost in Pancrase before making her UFC debut against Miesha Tate in Sept. 2014. Nakai struggled with "Cupcake’s" stout takedown defense and superior striking en route to her first-ever professional defeat.
This will be her first fight since.
Smith is dangerous, but only if her opponent obliges her. If you stand in front of her and try to go blow-for-blow, her volume and power will win out. If, on the other hand, you keep moving, she doesn’t have the speed or ring-cutting to force you into her fight.
Nakai may have some pretty awful striking, but she’s in constant motion and relentless with her takedowns, which are generally successful when attempted against someone without Miesha Tate’s wrestling prowess. Smith fits that bill, so expect Nakai to grind her way to her first UFC victory.
Prediction: Nakai by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Alan Patrick vs. Damien Brown
Alan Patrick (12-1) opened his UFC career with a one-round drubbing of Garett Whiteley, then followed that up with a controversial decision over John Makdessi. A busted jaw kept him out of action for 16 months, after which he fell to Mairbek Taisumov in Berlin.
He has stopped six opponents, four via knockout.
Damien Brown (15-8) enters UFC as the XFC Lightweight Champion, a title he first defended one month ago. The Aussie has won five straight, four via stoppage, since 2014.
He replaces the transplanted Chad Laprise on a week's notice.
Brown doesn't seem like a bad fighter; he kicks well from the outside and has some decent punches in the pocket. The thing is, his recent competition has been garbage and he hasn't shown any outstanding skill he can lean on against Patrick.
The Brazilian's overall technique is rather lacking and I'm not sure he actually has a standout skill either, but he's big, awkward, and decently well-rounded. He's someone I could sum up as a "handful," just a disruptive and unpleasant person to fight against. Brown fought a debuting fighter three fights ago. To go from that to Patrick, especially on a week's notice, is too much. Patrick mixes up volume on the feet with a steady diet of takedowns for the decision win.
Prediction: Patrick via unanimous decision
Two UFC Fight Night 85 "Prelims" undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including Alan Jouban's first appearance since falling to Albert Tumenov.
See you there!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 85 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.