No “Super Samoan?” No problem!
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum steps up on short notice this Saturday (Nov. 18, 2017) to take on Polish standout Marcin Tybura in Sydney, Australia, headlining UFC Fight Night 121, which is chock full of Australian and Kiwi talent.
The Flyweight co-feature pits Bec Rawlings against the debuting Jessy Rose-Clark, while Tim Means steps in to fight Belal Muhammad and local boy Jake Matthews returns to Welterweight to fight Bojan Velickovic.
Four “Prelims” undercard matches join the main broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (check out the Fight Pass portion here), so let’s begin our examination:
125 lbs.: Ryan Benoit vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian
Ryan Benoit (9-5) earned “Fight of the Night” in his Octagon debut, an entertaining submission loss to Josh Sampo, and promptly topped that be defying massive odds to knockout Sergio Pettis at UFC 185. He is just 1-2 since, losses to prospects Ben Nguyen and Brandon Moreno sandwiching a decision over Fredy Serrano.
Seven of his professional wins have come by knockout, four in the first round.
Fighting mostly in Australia with one trip to China, Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-2) racked up a dozen finishes, split evenly between knockouts and submissions, before joining UFC earlier this year. The experience wasn’t enough to prepare him for John Moraga, who overpowered him over the course of 15 one-sided minutes.
He stands one inch taller than Benoit, but will give up an inch of reach.
Benoit’s striking is too raw and his wrestling too underdeveloped to be a real threat in the division, but his raw power is absolutely legit. Mokhtarian doesn’t even have that saving grace — dude’s just not that good. He’s not a capable enough wrestler to consistently put Benoit on his back and he’s not a sufficiently skilled striking technician to take advantage of Benoit’s lapses on the feet.
Even if Mokhtarian does put him on his back, Benoit has the scrambling to get back to the feet and force more heavy exchanges. Benoit takes his head off sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Benoit via first-round technical knockout
*As an aside, I’ve already broken down the next two bouts in the past, so I’m just gonna copy/paste what I did last time.
155 lbs.: Will Brooks vs. Nik Lentz
Once the undisputed king of Bellator’s Lightweight division thanks to two wins over Michael Chandler, Will Brooks (18-3) edged Ross Pearson in his UFC debut before things went off the rails. An injured rib cost him dearly against an overweight Alex Oliveira in Oct. 2016 and Charles Oliveira’s grappling proved more than he could handle six months later.
He will have two inches of height and four inches of reach on Nik Lentz (27-8-2).
Lentz ended his 4-2 run as a Featherweight after a submission loss to Charles Oliveira, a move that paid quick dividends in the form of wins over Danny Castillo and Michael McBride. Islam Makhachev proved a tougher out, utilizing quality top control to defeat Lentz by decision.
He has gone 11-5-1, 1 NC overall during his eight years in the organization.
It’s hard not to feel that there’s been something missing from Lentz in his recent fights. That frantic, murderous pace just isn’t there anymore and, while his durability remains intact, he’s slower and easier to hit than ever. Worse, he struggled with Lightweight wrestlers even at his best — Mark Bocek and Evan Dunham completely shut down his takedown offense and Makhachev threw him around like a ragdoll.
In short, he’s pretty much fodder for Brooks. “Ill Will” is bigger, younger, stronger and more technically adept in both the striking and the wrestling. He dominates on his way to a trio of 30-27s.
Prediction: Brooks via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Anthony Hamilton vs. Adam Wieczorek
Anthony Hamilton (15-8) — a.k.a. “The Freight Train” — is having some issues leaving the station. Hamilton, who joined UFC with MFC’s Heavyweight title and a knockout win over Smealinho Rama, has gone just 3-6 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion and enters the cage having lost three straight by first-round stoppage.
He steps in for the injured Dmitrii Smoliakov on less than three weeks notice.
Adam Wieczorek (8-1) has not tasted defeat since falling to Marcin Tybura six years ago in his second professional fight. He returned to the cage in 2014 and went on to stop his next seven opponents, five of them in the first round. Four of his five submission wins have come by armbar.
I face a conundrum. Wieczorek is just not that good — he’s got porous takedown defense, he retreats in a straight line when pressured, and his offensive striking consists of a jab and a reasonably sharp right hand he doesn’t throw nearly enough. If Hamilton’s skillset, mediocre as it is, was attached to even a passable chin I’d pick him in a heartbeat.
Alas, Hamilton’s durability is nonexistent and I can’t imagine a one-month turnaround will help that in any way. Hamilton muscles him around for a bit before getting lamped.
Prediction: Wieczorek via first-round knockout
155 lbs.: Damien Brown vs. Frank Camacho
Damien Brown (17-10) rebounded from a rough debut against Alan Patrick to annihilate Cesar Arzamendia and out-duel Jon Tuck, beating the latter in his native Australia. “Beatdown” hopped over to New Zealand for his next appearance, which saw him walk headlong into a knockout blow from the returning Vinc Pichel.
Though taller than Frank Camacho (20-5) by an inch, he will give up five inches of arm reach.
Following an unsuccessful bid on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16, Camacho returned to the Pacific scene and put together a solid 8-2 run, winning the PXC Lightweight title along the way. Less than one month after the eighth victory, he made his short-notice UFC debut and put on a “Fight of the Night” brawl with Li Jingliang.
Fifteen of his 18 stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.
Brown is tough, gritty and determined, but so is Camacho, and “The Crank” has superior power and a strong grappling game to back it up. It’s also worth noting that Camacho, though he has been stopped with strikes before, took everything a legitimately devastating puncher in Li could dish out without going down.
It’s not a great sign for Brown, who’s going to struggle to out-scrap Camacho and appears outgunned in most areas of the game. We should get a few minutes of fun back-and-forth action before Camacho finds his chin and racks up (technical) knockout No. 16.
Prediction: Camacho via first-round technical knockout
No Hunt sucks, but there should be thrashings-a-plenty to make up for it. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 121 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 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 action kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.