Has it already been a month since UFC 151 achieved Super Mario Bros. lost levels status? Guess that means it is time to roll up on some UFC 152 “Jones vs. Belfort” prelims and preach that prophetic propaganda about why we should all watch these free fights.
Some have questioned the rationale behind matching light heavyweight champion Jon Jones against self-proclaimed “young dinosaur” Vitor Belfort in the main event. Luckily, we get to steer clear of all that business and get straight to the underdogs, the sleepers and the “Fight of the Night” thieves that may just be lurking in the shadows of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Here are five reasons to tune into the FX network and Facebook on Saturday to catch the UFC 152 prelims:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 152 Free Fan Pick’Em
Escaping the Pack
Despite being a serious lightweight talent, Evan Dunham may find himself lost in the shuffle of the UFC’s most competitive division.
Part of this has to do with back-to-back losses to Sean Sherk -- robbery though it was -- and Melvin Guillard that halted much of the momentum Dunham had built. Equally responsible was the pair of injuries that clogged up the fighter’s schedule just enough to make things frustrating for the viewing masses. Because the lightweight division is so rife with talent and includes guys like Donald Cerrone, who fought a whopping five times last year, most fringe fans have likely found it difficult to remember many of Dunham’s in-cage exploits, impressive though they have been.
Dunham needs to make a statement against T.J. Grant. Just like the Oregonian’s last two opponents, Shamar Bailey and Nik Lentz, Grant is unlikely to draw a ton of attention to this matchup, despite being a significantly underrated talent himself. In a way, Dunham finds himself in a lose-lose situation by facing a tough opponent with very little name recognition stateside.
If Dunham beats Grant and extends his winning streak to three fights, one would think that would prompt UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to give him somebody near the Top 10. Likewise, if Grant can make it three in a row against a test as stiff as Dunham, American fans just might be forced to take notice of the former welterweight.
From Russia, No Love
If you missed out on Vinny Magalhaes’ feud with M-1 Global’s Evgeni Kogan, I feel bad for you.
Magalhaes’ contempt for the M-1 director of operations came to a head in October, when he publicly claimed Kogan was actively rooting against him at ringside during his final light heavyweight title defense for the promotion. As a result, “Pezao” pretended to put his strap up for grabs on Ebay after his contract expired, presumably to send a message to his former boss while waiting for M-1’s matching period to end.
As expected, Magalhaes then found his way back to the UFC, and that is a good thing for American viewers. Many will likely remember Magalhaes’ run on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8, as the Brazilian-born fighter carved out a path to the final before castmate Ryan Bader blasted him at the live finale. A loss to Eliot Marshall followed, along with Magalhaes’ promotional release.
Since then, the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative has made great strides in his evolution as a mixed martial artist, winning seven of his last eight and earning finishes in all of his victories. Magalhaes’ standup remains a work in progress, but his ground game should be without equal among UFC light heavyweights.
Will Magalhaes make a splash in his return or can Croatian veteran Igor Pokrajac throw cold water on the reigning Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist?
There is nothing like a couple of guys who do not mind taking two to land one. Sean Pierson and Lance Benoist may not be two names you will see topping a marquee anytime soon, but that does not mean they will not take huge chunks out of each other in Toronto.
A Toronto native, Pierson is undoubtedly looking to erase the memory of his last fight on home soil, when he was knocked senseless by hard-hitting wrestler Jake Ellenberger at UFC 129 in 2011. Benoist, meanwhile, steps in as a replacement for former middleweight Dan Miller and will attempt to rebound from his first career defeat.
If you saw Benoist’s three-rounder with Matt Riddle a year ago, then you know what type of entertainment this kid is capable of producing. Regardless of who comes out on top in this one, it should be worth your time to take a peek.
A sprawl-and-brawler with heavy hands facing a pure grappler with a mighty aggressive submission style? Sign me up.
Marcus Brimage and Jim Hettes are both poorly and aptly equipped to deal with each other, meaning the winner will be determined by who can decide where the fight takes place. Standing, Brimage is light years ahead of his foe. If Hettes lingers for too long in punching range, I would bet on him taking a nap in short order. Likewise, if Hettes can put the man from Alabama on his back, I imagine it will resemble a python murdering a house cat.
Do not expect this one to go three rounds, as the skill sets are too diverse and too skewed to be reconciled. I think the first two minutes of this fight will likely tell us all we need to know. Hettes will either be well on his way to contorting or constricting his opponent, or he will be grasping for a takedown while Brimage laces some bombs upside his dome.
Tell me that does not that sound like fun.
A Lighter Noke
It was not so long ago that Kyle Noke had his mojo working. After a stint on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11, the Aussie put together a trio of victories that culminated with a 95-second finish of reality show castmate Chris Camozzi that earned him “Submission of the Night” honors in front of a partisan Sydney crowd at UFC 127.
Back-to-back losses followed for the middleweight, however, as the 32-year-old was submitted by an Ed Herman heel hook and then outlasted by Octagon newcomer Andrew Craig at UFC on FX 2 in March. The defeats apparently told Noke he needed a change, and now we have a new addition to the UFC’s 170-pound ranks.
“KO” has not been dealt a “gimme” in his welterweight debut. Though Charlie Brenneman was dominated by Erick Silva in his most recent outing, he is not to be taken lightly. For those who do not remember, the AMA Fight Club representative’s only losses have come to Silva, Anthony Johnson and Johny Hendricks. He also took a unanimous nod over Rick Story last summer, switching opponents on short notice and replacing Nate Marquardt at UFC Live 4.
Will Noke’s drop to 170 pounds go as planned, or will “The Spaniard” spoil the Aussie’s welterweight debut?