All six of Hatsu Hioki’s losses have come by decision. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Just when you thought it was safe to visit your favorite new sports channel, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has returned to Fox Sports 1 to sully the minds of your children with some good old-fashioned cage fighting.
UFC Fight Night 27 takes place Wednesday at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and is headlined by an anticipated welterweight rematch between former interim champion Carlos Condit and fellow top 10 talent Martin Kampmann. Prior to the main card festivities, which will also see Donald Cerrone take on Rafael dos Anjos in a pivotal lightweight showdown, the preliminary draw airs live on Fox Sports 2 and Facebook.
Here are five reasons to watch the undercard:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC Fight Night 27 Free Fan Pick’Em
I do not care if you kidnap my imaginary daughter and send me a list of demands. I will never admit that Clay Guida beat Hatsu Hioki. Push me to those lengths and you can prepare to receive my spindly, Liam Neeson-inspired vengeance, but you can never expect me to nod my head when somebody tries to defend Guida’s split decision win over Mr. Moonlight Shadow at UFC on Fox 6.
Despite my strong but ultimately inconsequential feelings on the verdict, that result was still entered as a loss on Hioki’s record, meaning the Japanese standout could find his head on the chopping block if he loses his third straight fight in Indy.
In Darren Elkins, Hioki could encounter the same problem that plagued him against Guida. Though “The Carpenter” did very little with top position in that fight, he was nevertheless awarded the victory based on his control, in spite of Hioki’s work rate off his back. Should Elkins -- another good wrestler -- find himself in Hioki’s guard, I think the odds might be long against Hioki avoiding another defeat unless he can catch the American in one of those crafty triangles. Also of note: Elkins’ ground-and-pound is serious business, which means Hioki will likely have a tougher time staying aggressive off his back.
Standing, I think the fight is also a competitive one. If Hioki can keep his foe at distance with his sharp jab, Elkins would obviously have trouble landing the type of power shot that he used to wreck Antonio Carvalho in March. As Elkins is coming off a one-sided defeat to Chad Mendes, this bout could also have serious implications for the 29-year-old Hoosier. Which 145-pound standout will get back in the win column?
Papy Abedi will return to 185 pounds to face “The Ultimate Fighter 17” alum Dylan Andrews. Is this a wise decision for the Swede or would he have been better served to stay at welterweight?
Few could deny Abedi’s frame is capable of supporting middleweight muscle; he did it just fine for the majority of his career while whipping butt in Europe. Of course, there is a substantial difference between planting a flag in Sweden’s Superior Challenge and doing it in the UFC. The 35-year-old found out the hard way courtesy of submission losses to Thiago Alves and James Head.
Although Abedi was able to get back on track by edging countryman Besam Yousef, I am not sure he will fare as well against Andrews, a solid, aggressive middleweight capable of going 15 hard minutes. Can Abedi put together back-to-back wins or will “Makambo” suffer his third UFC defeat?
Hit ’Em High
Jason High needs to get back on track -- and fast.
In addition to owning one of MMA’s most entertaining Twitter profiles, High is also a mighty fine welterweight. Unfortunately for the Dream veteran, it is likely that most UFC fans could not pick him out of a lineup, and it is probable that his recent, ill-fated Octagon return against Erick Silva served as their introduction to “The Kansas City Bandit.”
That is a shame because the University of Nebraska alum has been putting on entertaining fights for years now. For instance, High expertly choked out Nate Moore with a 26-second guillotine in his final Strikeforce appearance, yet that highlight was somehow excluded from the Showtime broadcast.
If High can get past Head in impressive fashion -- which will be no easy task -- I think the 31-year-old will garner himself some deserved spotlight. If he loses, however, he could be looking at a pink slip after back-to-back losses in the UFC’s deep welterweight division.
UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has done quite a bit for Brandon Thatch’s budding career, but the welterweight prospect has also helped himself by stringing together eight straight wins and beating the likes of Chidi Njokuani.
St. Pierre, who brought Thatch into his Tristar Gym training camp to prepare for his March title defense against Nick Diaz, publicly stated that Thatch was a UFC-caliber talent prior to the prospect’s first-round submission win over Mike Rhodes inside the Resurrection Fighting Alliance promotion. Now, the 28-year-old Coloradan makes his Octagon debut against scrapper and “The Ultimate Fighter 13” graduate Justin Edwards. Can Thatch live up to his hype?
Strikes and Gutters
I have no idea what to do with Roger Bowling. One minute, he looks like a million bucks. The next, he’s skating around the cage like a six-beers-deep Tonya Harding.
Though Bowling is already 30 years old, I still believe he holds nearly all of the athletic tools required to become a serviceable UFC lightweight. In spite of those physical gifts, however, the Ohioan has been known to fade down the stretch and fold when Plan A proves ineffective. While I cannot fault Bowling for succumbing to a buzzsaw like Anthony Njokuani, he must perform better against Abel Trujillo if he hopes to keep his job.
Much like Bowling, Trujillo is another physical specimen who still needs to put everything together before he will have a chance to break into the division’s upper echelon. Which lightweight will take a step forward and get back in the win column?