This Saturday the UFC begins a hectic six week period with their 130th trip to pay-per-view headlined by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson squaring off with Matt Hamill with the winner being firm in title contention.
But before we get to that, we have five interesting bouts that we will all be able to see between facebook streams and the live telecast on Spike TV leading into the pay-per-view.
To open the night of fights we have bantamweights in action as Renan Barao [25-1-1NC] squares off with the first ever WEC Featherweight Champion Cole Escovedo [17-6].
This is a really great piece of match making which will really give us a clear edge in understanding where Barao stands in the shallow bantamweight division.
Escovedo is an inspirational story, in 2007 he suffered from a very serious staph infection and it was expected that he would never compete in mixed martial arts again.
However, after a three year hiatus he recovered fully and looked to get back to the premiere bantamweight division and since his return he has gone 6-2 with notable victories over Michael McDonald and Yoshiro Maeda.
But Escovedo doesn’t have an easy task for his debut inside the UFC in hot young prospect Barao.
Barao began competing in Brazil at the age of nineteen and fell short in his debut but since then he didn’t suffer defeat racking up 23 victories to get noticed by the WEC.
Barao entered the WEC with an armbar victory over Anthony Leone and then followed it up with a quick rear naked choke victory over Chris Cariaso to ensure his place in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
As much as I admire Escovedo’s desire to fight all the adversity and rise to the top of the 135-lbs division I don’t see him matching up well with a fighter the caliber of Barao.
Barao is perceived to be a one dimentional submission artist after 12 submission victories to his name however he also has a really solid striking game which will play a big part in this fight.
Barao loves to mix up his striking by throwing his leg kick to keep his opponent at bay and landing his big power punches when he gets the openings which is what I see happening.
Another issue for Escovedo is his less than spectacular takedown defense and Barao has shown a powerful double leg takedown in the past so wherever he wants the fight he will take it.
I would expect Barao to take his time with Escovedo by picking his shots and keeping him at range before collecting a knockout victory in the final frame.
Next up the bantamweights keep centre stage as Chris Cariaso [11-2] faces Michael McDonald [ 12-1].
Cariaso got his chance to fight in the WEC after only suffering one defeat on the regional circuit after competing in Strikeforce and Elite XC but failed to set the world on fire in the blue cage going 1-1 in the now defunct organization.
However, he got the opportunity to prove he was more than a push over with his first defeat in the octagon in January with a unanimous decision victory over Will Campuzano.
The former Tachi Palace Fighting Bantamweight Champion in McDonald went realtively un-noticed on the small time circuits before getting his chance to fight at the Tachi Palace where three victories in 18 months earned him his shot in the WEC.
McDonald dominated Clint Godfrey in his WEC debut and followed it up with a fight of the night performance against Edwon Figueroa for his UFC debut.
I favor McDonald to take home the win bonus in this bout, I feel that he has vastly superior striking which will prove to be a huge factor in this fight.
However, Cariaso is a great wrestler who could have the ability to take him down and put him on the mat as he hasn’t ever had to deal with a wrestler the caliber of Cariaso before.
But I’m going to stick with my gut instinct and pick “Mayday” McDonald to pick up the victory here after a narrow split decision that will likely cause some controversy over judging score cards.
The final clash on the facebook telecast pits lightweight’s Gleison Tibau [22-7] and Rafaello Oliveira [14-3] against one another.
Tibau was originally slated to face Bart Palaszewski who was forced out of their bout due to injury so Oliveira stepped up to make his return to the organization on short notice.
Tibau has been a staple of the UFC’s lightweight division since 2006 with his only defeats to top name talent including Nick Diaz, Tyson Griffin, Melvin Guillard & Jim Miller.
Stepping into Saturday’s clash he has won three of his last five bouts with last time we saw him defeating Kurt Pellegrino on points.
Oliveira debuted in the UFC in 2009 but failed to impress by going 1-2 in the elite 155-lbs division before getting his pink slit from the company.
The Brazilian product took five fights since we last saw him in the UFC collecting a victory in each of those bouts to get a return bout but he didn’t get an easy task. Tibau’s game is simple, he looks to utilize his jab to keep you at distance before shooting for a takedown and spending the fight on top of you with his massive size edge looking to ground and pound you out.
Ultimately that’s exactly what I expect to happen here since he brings more tools to the table and should leave with a decisive 30-27 decision with Oliveira’s only hope being to catch him with a submission later in the fight as the American Top Team grinder isn’t known for having a solid gas tank.
Now we switch over to Spike TV to kick off two more bouts beginning with middleweight’s Kendall Grove [12-8-1NC] and Tim Boetsch [12-4]
Grove walks into the octagon for the 13th time this Sunday in a do or die situation after a rocky road over the past few years.
Grove burst onto our television screens winning the third season of Spike TV’s hit reality series “The Ultimate Fighter” under Tito Ortiz and has proven to be a middle of the road middleweight.
In recent times he hasn’t looked great having lost three of his last five bouts; most recently being submitted by jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia.
Boetsch has been in a similar situation to Grove in the light-heavyweight division going 3-3 overall in the octagon and failing to make an impact.
Last time we saw Boetch he was submitted by rising prospect Phil Davis at UFC 123 which prompted him to try his luck down at middleweight.
For the fight, I’m going to stick with the devil we know and side with Grove to take home the victory. Boetsch’ game plan will be to take the lanky Hawaiian down and control him on the mat but I feel that Grove has good enough take down defense and solid striking to be able to mix it up on the feet and win the latter part of the bout to steal a decision.
In the main event of the preliminary broadcast former ruler of the bantamweight division Miguel Torres [39-3] gets matched up with rising star Demetrious Johnson [9-1] in what on paper looks to be a fight of the night contender.
Torres captured the WEC bantamweight title in 2008 after disfiguring Yoshiro Maeda and went on to defend the gold on three separate occasions and was widely considered to be a top five pound-for-pound fighter.
Torres is currently riding a two fight win streak with last time we saw him he jabbed his way to victory over Anthony Banuelos in his UFC debut.
Johnson is one of the UFC’s hottest young 135-lbs combatants that they have, despite being smaller than most and being a natural flyweight he has made up for it with his speed and skill.
Currently riding a three fight win streak with wins over Damacio Page and former consensus #1 featherweight “Kid” Yamamoto; now he is ready to move his way significant up the ladder by stopping the former king.
I would expect Torres to look to use a similar game plan as to what he used against Banuelos by continually throwing his jab and picking his shots to win on the score cards.
However, Johnson is a vastly different fighter than Banuelos who searched for a huge haymaker to hit Torres on the button whereas Johnson will look to get in close with his striking before taking the bout to the mat.
Torres has shown good take down defense in the past but I have a feeling if Johnson pushes the pace and uses his strikes to set up the take downs it will be a long night for the former Champ.
I am going to give it to Johnson to pick up the biggest win of his career with a clear unanimous decision over Torres.
Watch out for my preview and predictions for the main card coming tomorrow O-sters.
All the action kicks off this Saturday from 7PM ET/8PM PT on facebook before flipping over to Spike for the remainder of the card, be sure to check it out.