After the UFC 147 prelims delivered despite being comprised of names known only to the most devoted of followers, the UFC 148 “Silva vs. Sonnen 2” undercard on Saturday now offers fans a far more recognizable list of talent.
Before the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas blows its lid for a main event rematch between middleweight champion Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen on pay-per-view, the preliminary proceedings should whet the appetite of both hardcore and casual observers.
Take the lightweight confrontation between Gleison Tibau and Khabib Nurmagomedov, for instance. Plenty of people would glaze over that fight without a second thought -- rookie mistake. This baby has some serious potential for “Fight of the Night” honors.
Tibau should be well known to most by now. One of the lightweight division’s largest and most experienced competitors, the Brazilian has racked up a 10-5 record in the Octagon since joining the Las Vegas-based promotion nearly six years ago. His losses during his time with the Ultimate Fighting Championship have come to a considerable list of competitors: Nick Diaz, Tyson Griffin, Joe Stevenson, Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller. Put simply, Tibau takes care of his business. He beats the fighters he should and provides the UFC with a valuable service in weeding out the talent not quite ready for prime time.
Nurmagomedov, by contrast, remains a relative unknown, despite holding a perfect 17-0 professional record. He showed some good skills in his UFC debut against Kamal Shalorus, scoring a third-round submission victory in January, though he fatigued noticeably as the fight wore on. Luckily for the Russian, so did “The Prince of Persia.” Nurmagomedov will not receive the same courtesy from Tibau, and he will once again be at a size disadvantage.
The 23-year-old’s litmus test against Tibau is only one reason to tune in for the UFC 148 prelims on Facebook and FX. Here are four more:
It does not take a mixed martial arts scholar to admit that Guillard holds dynamite in both his fists. However, just as readily as we admit the lightweight possesses rare athleticism and punching power, we also know quite well that those aspects of his makeup are not the ones that have hindered his climb toward the UFC lightweight title.
After a split from Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts prior to his first-round defeat at the hands of the highly-regarded Miller, Guillard claims he has now truly settled in with Imperial Athletics in Florida. “The Young Assassin” looks to put back-to-back losses behind him and return to the form that saw him earn five consecutive wins inside the Octagon.
In Fabricio Camoes, Guillard faces a Royler Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt with underrated power in his strikes. “Morango” rides a three-fight winning streak into the cage, most recently dispatching the previously unbeaten Tommy Hayden at UFC on FX 1.
Guillard believes he learned valuable lessons from both of his most recent losses. Against Joe Lauzon, he lacked patience and paid for it. Conversely, he did not seal the deal when he had the opportunity against Miller and allowed the New Jersey native to capitalize off of an ill-advised lunging knee attempt.
Facing another cagey opponent, will Guillard come out with the type of focus that saw him drop Evan Dunham and Shane Roller in 2011, or can Camoes ensnare his physically superior opponent?
Backs to the Wall
Speaking of Roller, there is a man in need of a win.
Since notching an impressive come-from-behind knockout over Thiago Tavares in his UFC debut, the former World Extreme Cagefighting standout has gone winless in his last three Octagon outings. Roller’s knockout loss to Guillard preceded another stoppage to close out last year. However, his submission defeat to T.J. Grant proved less than decisive after referee Mario Yamasaki stopped that contest while Roller was caught deep in an armbar, despite the American’s insistence that he did not give up. Roller’s most recent setback to Michael Johnson proved to be another difficult outing for the Team Takedown rep, as he was continually beaten to the punch en route to a three-round unanimous decision loss to “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 runner-up.
As Roller attempts to stop the bleeding, John Alessio looks to tear open Roller’s wound while wrapping a tourniquet around his own. At 32 years old, the Canadian has seen his share of action in his 14-year career, debuting with the UFC 12 years ago in a failed welterweight title bid against Pat Miletich. Alessio had won 10 of his last 11 prior to rejoining the UFC fold in April but was turned away by countryman Mark Bocek at UFC 145.
Many men have learned this fact the hard way: true job security in the UFC is a luxury that few are afforded. With a loss, either Roller or Alessio could catch a pink slip and suddenly find himself on the outside looking in. Which man will fight harder in a bout with potentially serious career implications?
Philippou vs. Fukuda
Constantinos Philippou and Riki Fukuda are going to put on a daisy of a fight.
Don’t know Philippou? Speaking in terms of pure blunt force trauma inflicted from a vertical base, he is definitely one of the heaviest hitter on the UFC middleweight roster. There is no mystery behind Philippou’s attack, his design or his intentions. He hopes to put a fist on your jaw, and if he finds what he is looking for, you are going to sleep.
Fukuda possesses a more diverse game, though not necessarily more effective. The ex-Deep champion would be on a nine-fight winning streak were it not for a curious judges’ decision against Nick Ring in his UFC debut last year. Nevertheless, Fukuda rebounded from that result, showing improved skills in his successful UFC 144 outing in February against former WEC light heavyweight champion Steve Cantwell.
Will Fukuda’s ability to string together combinations while threatening with takedowns stifle Philippou’s attempts at landing a bomb, or can the Cyprus-born middleweight find a home for his right hand and turn Fukuda’s lights out quickly?
While explosive and talented, Yoislandy Izquierdo puts himself in bad positions on a regular basis.
The native Cuban was able to make up for this in the past with his ability to scramble, but he could not perform the same trick under the bright lights against Reza Madadi. “Mad Dog” caught Izquierdo with his neck exposed in the second round of their April collision, tapping the Floridian with a guillotine choke at UFC on Fuel TV 2.
Like with Madadi, odds are good that Rafaello Oliveira will not give Izquierdo the time or space to escape if he makes a mistake on the floor. Though the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has gone winless in his most recent run with the promotion, Oliveira’s losses have come against respected competition in Yves Edwards and Tibau. Will “Cuba” erase the memory of his lone career defeat or can Oliveira earn his second UFC victory and send the prospect packing?