UFC Fight Night Breakdown: The Undercard

Pellegrino vs. Emerson

Feb 5, 2009
With the latest UFC Fight Night coming to us live Saturday from the Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla., via the MMA fan’s best friend, SpikeTV, the undercard is due for some prognostication. Since Ace Rothstein is busy setting the line on Nicky’s next coke binge, the honor falls on me.

With UFC regulars such as Kurt Pellegrino, Rich Clementi and Dan Miller all lined up for quality scraps, start reaching out to every God available in hopes that we get some of these bouts on the broadcast. Between Xtreme Couture blue-chipper Jake Rosholt and Matt Hughes’ disciple Matt Veach, we may end up seeing some future UFC contenders make their debuts as well.

In other words, summon the Mothership and activate the hype-asaurus for some full-scale fight talk.

For the record, I only talk about fights because I’m terrified of actual fights.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. Robert Emerson

Kurt “Batman” Pellegrino Scouting Report
Ht/Wt: 5’8/155 lbs.
Age: 29
Hometown: Point Pleasant, N.J.
Fighting out of: Point Pleasant, N.J.
Record: 12-4

The breakdown: While pop culture nerds will finally get an answer to the question of whether Simon Templar could kick in Batman’s face, actual MMA fans wait to see if Pellegrino can make it through a fight without looking like his face went on vacation to a meat grinder convention. To that end, Pellegrino needs to be careful about how he collapses the pocket on Emerson, who does his best work when opponents step within reach of his strikes. The upside for Pellegrino is that if he can avoid Emerson’s rangy power punches, his solid wrestling and submission credentials make him a difficult opponent for the relatively one-dimensional Emerson.

The X factor: After seven fights in the UFC, this is the first time Pellegrino will face someone whom he can’t afford to test out on the feet. A nonstop diet of fellow grapplers has emboldened Pellegrino, but that newfound willingness to slug it out is a severe vulnerability against Emerson.

Rob “The Saint” Emerson Scouting Report
Ht/Wt: 5’9/155 lbs.
Age: 27
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Calif.
Fighting out of: Irvine, Calif.
Record: 8-6 (1 NC)

The breakdown: Starting your career 0-4 is rarely a sign of good things to come, but thanks to some perseverance and plenty of legal system sympathy, Emerson is suddenly a hot commodity at lightweight after a stunning 12-second KO of Manny Gamburyan at UFC 87. This time around, though, Emerson won’t have a short-limbed judoka running straight at him with hands down and chin up. Considering Emerson will have to deal with Pellegrino’s wrestling throughout, lateral movement and a steady jab should be central to Emerson’s game plan.

The X factor: Improved takedown defense played a critical role in Emerson’s win over Keita Nakamura at UFC 81 but so did Nakamura’s Starvin’ Marvin approach to weight cutting. How Emerson handles Pellegrino’s sufficient caloric intake and roughhouse-wrestling style will be key to his hopes of giving the bat a Joker-on-Jason-Todd-level beatdown.

* * *

The bottom line: Tragically, I’m all out of relevant Batman references, but that doesn’t change the fact that Pellegrino has Emerson’s number. Even if Emerson has some luck on the feet, Pellegrino knows when to go back to the well and rely on his ground game. Once that happens, Emerson’s takedown defense won’t be the game-changer he’s hoping it’ll be.
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