The heavyweights may have secured the spotlight on Saturday, but the UFC 146 undercard should provide a hearty appetizer to a pay-per-view made up exclusively of big men. Taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the prelims air live on FX and Facebook.
Here are five reasons to care about the preliminary proceedings:
Jason Miller’s UFC career has not been the most successful of ventures thus far.
“Mayhem” debuted with the promotion as a welterweight back in 2005, falling to future divisional kingpin Georges St. Pierre before embarking on a successful career as a middleweight. After stints in Icon Sport, Strikeforce and Dream, Miller returned to the UFC as a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14.
Opposed by Michael Bisping during his time on the long-running reality series, Miller was dominated by the Brit at the season finale, succumbing to third-round strikes in December.
Miller must now contend with C.B. Dollaway, a former Arizona State University wrestling standout looking to avoid his third consecutive loss. Odds are good that one of these two men will receive his walking papers after this bout. Can the Californian channel his inner “Mayhem” and snatch his first Octagon victory, or will “The Doberman” right his ship and get back in the win column?
I’ve got two words for you. No, not those words, nerds. The words to which I was referring are “wheel kick.” If you missed Edson Barboza’s jaw-dropping knockout of Terry Etim at UFC 142, then you need to make a quick trip to the land of YouTube.
Now that we are all on the same page, it goes without saying that Barboza is one of the UFC’s hottest prospects in a division already stacked with talent. Undefeated through 10 professional bouts and just 26 years old, Barboza has racked up four consecutive Octagon wins since debuting with the Las Vegas-based promotion in November 2010.
Originally expected to face well-rounded southpaw Evan Dunham, Barboza, as the result of an injury to the Oregonian, will instead lock horns with former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Jamie Varner. Competing on the local scene, Varner has racked up a 3-1 record since exiting the WEC in late 2010.
Will Barboza take care of business and unleash the hailstorm of violence many expect, or will Varner show that his best days are not behind him by closing the distance and roughing up Barboza on the floor?
One would be hard-pressed to find a pair of welterweights more willing to throw down than Duane Ludwig and Dan Hardy.
Both guys hit hard, and both guys know it. While Ludwig has gone 2-1 since returning to 170 pounds after a ghastly ankle injury ended his lightweight stint, Hardy has fared far worse in the record book of late. “The Outlaw” has gone winless in each of his last four outings, falling to St. Pierre, Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle.
Holding a combined 21 knockouts between them, the men seem tailor-made to stand in front of each other and chop away until someone falls. Now, does that not sound like fun?
Changing of the Guard
Remember Mike Thomas Brown, the monster?
Brown does, and the former WEC champion is looking to return to the form that guided him to two well-deserved victories over Urijah Faber. The American Top Team representative has performed inconsistently since making his UFC debut last year, dropping decisions to Diego Nunes and Rani Yahya to kick off his Octagon career.
Brown told me after those bouts that he had experienced fatigue must faster than normal -- a perplexing and somewhat unsettling development for the man who went five hard rounds with Faber in 2009. After seeing a physician, Brown apparently discovered the source of the mystery fatigue, and it showed in his unanimous decision victory over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 semifinalist Nam Phan at UFC 133 in August.
Standing across from the 36-year-old next will be Daniel Pineda, a former Legacy Fighting Championship titlist riding a seven-fight winning streak. Pineda has been a wrecking ball through two Octagon appearances, finishing Pat Schilling with a rear-naked choke in January before doing the same to Mackens Semerzier with a triangle-armbar on March 3.
This bout could represent a changing of the guard, or it could demonstrate that Brown still has plenty of gas left in his tank. Regardless of the outcome, I expect this battle of hard-nosed featherweights to be worth your time.
Coming to America
Glover Teixeira is finally here.
Widely regarded as one of the top 205-pound talents outside of the Zuffa LLC umbrella, Teixeira has made his return to the United States after battling visa issues for what seems like an eternity. The 32-year-old Brazilian has not lost in more than seven years and enters his inaugural UFC appearance with a reputation for producing violence in the cage. In nearly 10 years as a professional, Teixeira has gone the distance just three times, knocking out 11 of his 17 career victims along the way.
Welcoming Teixeira to the Octagon will be Kyle Kingsbury, a resilient and athletic light heavyweight looking to rebound from his November defeat to Stephan Bonnar at UFC 139. Can Kingsbury find a way to triumph over Teixeira’s power punching attack, as he did against another hard-hitting Brazilian in Fabio Maldonado last spring? Or will Teixeira impress in his long-awaiting UFC debut and find himself a winner by knockout?