Now it’s time to move onto the business end of the card for this Saturday’s UFC 130 event loaded with several bouts that could go either way.
Opening up the pay-per-view telecast is a middleweight affair as Brian Stann [10-3] welcomes Jorge Santiago [23-8] back to the octagon.
Stann has a fascinating story documented in his autobiography that hit stands last year beginning with a life in the military, winning the WEC light-heavyweight title and making his way to the UFC.
After making it into the UFC’s 205-lbs division he had a rocky beginning going 2-2 before choosing to test the waters at middleweight and he hasn’t looked back since with back-to-back victories over Mike Massenzio and Chris Leben.
Santiago was once a regular for UFC’s fight night cards putting on consistently entertaining performances but two losses in a row signaled the end for his run in the octagon.
The Brazilian native left the UFC looking to impress and earn his way back and did exactly that by winning eleven of his twelve outings with his only loss he avenged several months later.
The last time he was in action Santiago was one half of the fight of the year according to Sherdog.com when he defended the Sengoku middleweight strap against Kazuo Misaki last August.
I expect a highly competitive fight and one I could make an argument for either man to win but I am going to take Stann for Saturday’s clash. I feel that Santiago is a more technical boxer but Stann has undeniable power that can put anyone to sleep. Santiago hasn’t shown the best chin in recent times after being dropped by Kazuo Misaki and being knocked out from top position in guard from Mamed Khalidov I have a feeling his chin won’t be able to hold up alas I will take the “All American” to collect a third round TKO.
Next up welterweights take center stage when former title challenger Thiago Alves [18-7] matches up with Rick Story [12-3].
In 2009 Alves was on top of the world, he earned the chance to challenge George St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight title at the organization’s most watched pay-per-view event of all time and was riding a seven fight dominance streak.
However, he failed to dethrone the undisputed king of 170-lbs and followed it up by missing weight and losing to Jon Fitch all in the same 24-hour frame.
Alves returned to his winning ways last December with a victory over John Howard after working with Mike Dolce for his diet to be on weight and looks to continue his way back to the top of the ladder but he doesn’t have an easy task.
Story’s UFC debut didn’t kick off the way he wanted by losing a decision to welterweight prospect John Hathaway but he has yet to suffer the same fate in the octagon with five straight victories.
Despite having a horrible nickname in “The Horror” Story he brings a lot of tools to the table which will keep him in the UFC for quite some time to come.
Most have counted out Story before the bell even sounded for this bout but I feel this is a winnable fight for him if he takes a page out of Jon Fitch’s book by using his wrestling to pressure the Brazilian striker however I am going to stick with my gut and take Alves in this bout.
Alves has a clear advantage in the striking department which will prove to be too much for Story, I think he can use his vicious leg kick to keep Story at range and continue to throw combinations and take a close decision.
Next up another close bout when heavyweight goliaths collide as Stefan Struve [21-4] faces Travis Browne [ 10-0-1].
Struve didn’t debut in the UFC under the best circumstances and got knocked out by title contender Junior Dos Santos but since then has gone 5-1 with most recently dispatching of Sean McKorkle last December.
Browne has been competing since 2009 and is currently undefeated after eleven trips to the cage. The Alliance MMA product won nine straight victories to earn his chance to fight in the octagon and debuted with a bang destroying James McSweeney only seconds shy of the end of the first round.
Last time we saw him in the UFC he came a draw with French giant Cheick Kongo after Kongo was deducted a point for continually holding onto Browne’s shorts.
I am going to side with Browne in this bout to take a close decision. I feel that “The Skyscraper” Struve is a more technical striker and in a pure kickboxing match would light Browne up but Browne has a powerful double leg and can work his wrestling to take home the win provided his conditioning is up to scratch.
We remain in the heavyweight division for our co-main event of the evening as former UFC Champion in Frank Mir [14-5] faces former IFL Champion in Roy Nelson [15-5].
Mir has been a bit of an inconsistent fight in recent times, in 2008 he submitted former WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar and also knocked out PRIDE hero Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira along the way but is currently only won three of his last five outings.
Last time we saw the former UFC heavyweight title carrier he put on one of the worst fights of the year with his late stoppage of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
Nelson was the final IFL Heavyweight Champion who made the move into the UFC in the most watched season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has had little chance to show off his skills since then.
Last time Nelson was in the octagon he dropped a decision to Nogueira product Junior Dos Santos in a title eliminator.
I feel that Nelson has the upper hand in this bout, Mir has never been a man who was comfortable taking hard shots on the feet which is what he will get from Nelson who will push the pace with his striking and constantly shooting for take downs to take a one sided decision.
In the evening’s main event Quinton “Rampage” Jackson [31-8] returns to the octagon to face fellow light-heavyweight Matt Hamill [10-2].
Jackson steps into the octagon this Saturday having won three of his last five bouts with most recently scoring a highly controversial decision over Lyoto Machida at UFC 123.
Hamill splashed onto our television screens on the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and since then has slowly chipped away at the light-heavyweight landscape to bring himself to the top. The gold medalist for the 2003 Deaflympics in freestyle wrestling is currently sporting a five fight win streak with his last victory over former light-heavyweight Champ Tito Ortiz.
One major factor as we lead into this main event clash is the motivation of “Rampage” as he has stated in the past that he isn’t interested in facing Hamill and when he’s stepped into face opponents un-motivated in the past he hasn’t looked his best.
Although I think this is a winnable fight for Hamill I am going to stick with Jackson to score another controversial decision. Jackson will be able to stay on the outside and pick his shots for most of the bout and avoid being put on his back for prolonged periods of time.
Be sure to check your local listings to pick this one up on pay-per-view this Satuday O-Sters.