Rick Story (right) file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
I live my life by a few simple rules: Queens must always get the money, never vote for someone who claims to be a regular Joe and, above all, give me UFC prelims or give me death.
The lineup for UFC 117 is an especially worthwhile blend of brilliant prospects, grizzled veterans and awesome nicknames. “Sho Nuff The Master,” “Mr. Wonderful” and “The Barbarian” are just some of the flat-out poetic noms de guerre set for violence.
Better yet, the fights themselves are really good. So shut the world off for a while and get some elite knowledge on what may be the best undercard since the first two thirds of “Bloodsport.” You need to Netflix that if you haven’t seen it by the way.
Dustin Hazelett vs. Rick Story
Anyone who has seen Hazelett fight knows that the native Kentuckian is undoubtedly one of the best submission artists in the game today. The problem is that he seems to have the genetic makeup of a suicidal lemming, given his long history of forgoing strategy in the cage.
Hazelett’s ongoing strategic gaffe is that he’ll stand and trade with anyone despite having an immeasurable advantage on the mat -- a mentality he seems to have inherited from his trainer Jorge Gurgel. That is the weakness Story must capitalize on if he is to have any hope of beating Hazelett. Story doesn’t seem to have the tools to make that happen, though. He doesn’t have the brain-scrambling power of a Paul Daley or a Josh Koscheck and will be giving up a huge reach advantage to the rangy Hazelett. For all his defensive flaws, “McLovin” has a sneaky right cross and can uncork heavy kicks at a moment’s notice. Considering Story will have to try and get inside of Hazelett’s range, he’ll be the one taking on most of the risk.
Although Story has made some improvements in his striking -- with the most notable being his lateral movement and newfound left cross -- he still tends to duck into exchanges. By doing so Story leaves himself vulnerable to strikes because he can’t clearly see what his opponent is doing. This is a common instinctual mistake made by many converted wrestlers. It could cost Story dearly if Hazelett comes out thinking high kick to the dome.
Of course, Story has the option to take this fight to the mat since he is clearly the better wrestler of the two. His advantages end there, however, as Hazelett can and will tap him out if this fight hits the floor. Story is simply far too careless about posturing up to drop strikes from the guard, and Hazelett’s fluidity off his back is unmatched in the UFC.
Also of note is Story’s over-aggressive guard-passing, a strategic weakness that leads to him getting into positional scrambles since he tends to lose his base when going for passes. In past fights with the likes of Josh Burkman and Tamdan McCrory, the case for never getting into a scramble with Hazelett was clearly put forth. His creativity and technique allow him to work lock-flows that are nearly impossible to negotiate, and Story has already shown some iffy fundamentals from top control in his fights with Jesse Lennox and Nick Osipczak.
Despite fighting like a man hell-bent on losing, Hazelett’s only losses in recent memory have come against two top 10-ranked fighters with enough power to level a small country. Story doesn’t have that kind of pop in his fists, and nothing in his past fights suggests he can survive in Hazelett’s guard. I’m expecting some vintage Hazelett and a submission win worthy of the P-Funk Mothership.