UFC 143 Prelims: 5 Reasons to Care

By Mike Whitman Feb 3, 2012
Dustin Poirier’s nickname suits him.

An exciting talent, the boy from the bayou has impressed during his brief time with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, displaying a promising mix of athleticism, aggression and natural talent all encased in a rough husk of adrenaline and youthful excitement.

Fans first caught a glimpse of the prospect at UFC 125, where he completely dismantled Josh Grispi -- the man originally slated to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title before the Brazilian succumbed to an injury.

With two WEC bouts under his belt, the 23-year-old fought with a confidence few display in their Octagon debuts.

Following his three-round domination of “The Fluke” in January 2010, Poirier reappeared in June, standing toe-to-toe with British striker Jason Young and emerging with a hard-fought unanimous decision. Most recently, the Louisianan made good use of a sharp ground game not often seen, as he dispatched Pablo Garza with a second-round brabo choke at UFC on Fox 1.

Each time Poirier fights, he appears to have chipped more and more earth away from the gem that may one day be polished into a champion.

Poorly worded analogies aside, the man has serious ability, and he will put it on display against Max Holloway in his latest outing. He is but one reason why fans should care about the UFC 143 preliminary card, which airs live on FX and Facebook prior to Saturday’s pay-per-view broadcast. Here are four more:

‘Wonderboy’

Stephen Thompson reminds me of a video game character.

A kenpo karate practitioner from South Carolina, it seems like “Wonderboy” could have easily made his way into the “Street Fighter II” World Warrior Tournament or starred in his own “Kick or Die” ripoff flick in 1992. While that sounds exciting in its own right, it does not tell the whole story. In reality, Thompson has never lost a fight in either kickboxing or mixed martial arts and is a former International Kickboxing Federation and World Association of Kickboxing Organizations champion.

Add to this the fact that he owns a black belt in jiu-jitsu and has studied under Carlos Machado, and he appears potentially equipped to break some people in the UFC. Thompson’s debut is exciting for a variety of reasons, but at the forefront is the possibility that he could be the American Lyoto Machida -- a real-life Eric “The Eliminator” Sloane, if you like.

The expectations can be nothing but sky high for a man riding a 61-fight winning streak. Let us hope the action lives up to the hype.

Alex Caceres File Photo

Caceres has a future at 135.
The Caceres Project

From the moment Alex Caceres stepped off of a reality TV set and into the UFC Octagon, it appeared he was not ready for primetime.

Too young, too immature, too unskilled: whatever it was, Caceres’ gimmick far outshined his abilities in his first two UFC appearances. Following his submission defeats to Mackens Semerzier and Jim Hettes, some figured “Bruce Leroy” was heading for the door.

However, the young man was given another opportunity by the UFC, and, to his credit, he made the most of it. Dropping to bantamweight, Caceres outpointed veteran Cole Escovedo, consistently beating the “Apache Kid” to the punch for 15 minutes at UFC on Fox 1. It should be noted that Escovedo appeared lethargic and out of sorts for most of the bout, a situation that is not likely to be replicated when Caceres locks horns with fellow young gun Edwin Figueroa.

Depending on his performance against the Texan, Caceres may have made his way from the featherweight outhouse to the bantamweight ... well, not the penthouse, exactly. However, a victory will place him one large step away from any type of toilet, to be sure.

‘El Feroz’ Figueroa

Caceres’ opponent is another major reason to tune into FX before the pay-per-view. Like the aforementioned Poirier, Figueroa looks to lay out somebody every time he climbs in the cage.

His first UFC appearance came on less than two weeks’ notice, stepping in as an injury replacement against rising talent Michael McDonald. Though Figueroa eventually succumbed to fatigue and lost a hard-fought unanimous decision, the 26-year-old made a memorable impression in his debut.

Six months later, Figueroa stepped into the Octagon for his second go-around. This time using a full training camp to his benefit, the bantamweight predictably overwhelmed veteran Jason Reinhardt at UFC Live 5. Win or lose at UFC 143, Figueroa is a talent to watch in the future.

‘Judo’

Much like the aforementioned Thompson, Michael Kuiper enters the Octagon with a less common training background than most: judo.

Kuiper also hails from the Netherlands, a country widely known for its production of elite kickboxers. While the Dutchman certainly practices the striking art proficiently -- six of his 11 career wins have come by knockout -- it appears that his standup technique is still developing behind his default discipline.

Karo Parisyan may no longer compete in the Octagon, but “The Heat” showed UFC fans how exciting a judo player can be when applying his craft aggressively. Judging by Kuiper’s finish-to-decision ratio, it appears he possesses the tools to do the same. He will have no cakewalk in Rafael Natal, but if Kuiper can execute some big throws and overcome the jiu-jitsu ace in impressive fashion, he could find himself as a fan favorite in short order.

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