Cole Escovedo (left) owns 16 finishes among his 17 professional victories. | Photo: Taro Irei
UFC on Fox 1 “Velasquez vs. Dos Santos” marks the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s second consecutive free event for American audiences, as well as the promotion’s debut on network television.
Looking to make a splash with the Fox fan base, the UFC is giving away a pay-per-view headliner between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Before the blockbuster main event takes center stage, however, there could be diamonds in the proverbial rough capable of shining brighter than most expect.
Got your pickaxe handy? Here are five reasons to care about the UFC on Fox 1 undercard, which streams live on Facebook and FoxSports.com.
Somebody Gotta Go
No fighter wants to suffer three straight losses, but after their matchup, Cole Escovedo or Alex Caceres will be staring at that very prospect. As they stand currently, both men have lost four of their last five fights, most recently dropping back-to-back Octagon bouts while managing to escape the dreaded cut list.
Escovedo’s history is well documented. The WEC’s inaugural featherweight champion, “Apache Kid” was sent into semi-retirement after succumbing to a serious staph infection in 2006. Nearly three years later, the 30-year-old returned to the cage and found success at bantamweight, winning five in a row before hitting his current cold streak.
Conversely, Caceres gained notoriety from his stint on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has done little else except cultivate an amusing aesthetic and engaging personality. Having been submitted in both of his featherweight appearances in the UFC, Caceres needs to show his fans and his employers that he is more than just a gimmick.
Neither man should be able to sustain another defeat without receiving his walking papers, which means fans will watch two lanky 135-pounders fighting for their professional lives. While this could result in the pair fighting conservatively to avoid mistakes, it could also mean action from bell to bell.
Work It Out
Fans of mid-tier slobber-knockers rejoice. Clay Harvison and DaMarques Johnson seem built to take giant pieces out of each other, even if neither man is likely to ascend the welterweight ladder and broach the Top 10 anytime soon. Bottom line: one of these guys is going to lose, but it will not be from a lack of effort.
Harvison’s three-round affair with Justin Edwards should be used as evidence of “The Ultimate Fighter” alum’s heart and toughness, as he eked out a split decision at the Season 13 finale in June.
At 6-foot-1, Harvison is no small welterweight. However, he was dwarfed in his next fight and paid the price, as Seth Baczynski bullied him around the cage before stopping him early in the second round. Harvison should not run into the same problem at UFC on Fox 1.
Likewise, Johnson was finished in his last outing by a superior technician in Amir Sadollah, who also proved to be the fresher fighter due to his top-shelf conditioning. Harvison is likely a step down in both categories, which should result in a relatively even clash of styles and possibly some thrills along the way.
Many World Extreme Cagefighting faithful long for the day when Mackens Semerzier will put it all together with some consistency. A superior athlete possessing fast, powerful hands, “Mack Da Menace” shocked the MMA world in 2009 by submitting Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Wagnney Fabiano and earning Sherdog.com’s “Upset of the Year.”
Back-to-back losses followed, however, as it became clear that Semerzier’s ground skills were not yet consistent assets. Following defeats to grapplers Deividas Taurosevicius and Javier Vazquez, Semerzier put on a beautiful performance against the always-tough Cub Swanson, showing well-rounded ability in a hard-fought split decision loss.
Semerzier apparently had enough of upsets and close calls, as he put the hammer down on Caceres in his most recent bout, planting “Bruce Leroy” on his back and choking him out in just 3:18. At the moment, it remains unclear if this was a sign of things to come or if Caceres simply has no business inside the UFC cage.
Robert Peralta should provide a more telling test. Light on his feet and possessing a varied striking attack, Peralta recently earned the two highest-profile victories of his career to extend his current winning streak to eight fights. In both his Strikeforce victory over Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya and his UFC triumph over Mike Lullo, “Problems” exhibited snappy kicks, solid punch combinations and generally good takedown defense.
Semerzier may have his work cut out for him, but Peralta will be a necessary hurdle to cross if the 31-year-old wants to take the next step toward the steadily closing window of featherweight relevance.
UFC on Fox 1 also marks the return of Aaron Rosa to the light heavyweight division. Standing only 6-foot-3, Rosa has fought as a chunky heavyweight in his last several contests, including his recent UFC debut against Joey Beltran.
While Rosa will never be the type of athlete required to challenge in the upper echelon of arguably the toughest division in the company, he could make a little noise at light heavyweight due to his toughness and willingness to throw leather.
Rosa will have no tune-up opponent in his readjustment to 205 pounds, as he faces former EliteXC talent Matt Lucas, a powerfully built southpaw with aggressive takedowns and real thunder in his left hand. It should be interesting to see which one, if either, belongs under the bright lights of the UFC.
‘The Bully’ vs. Cub
Little needs to be said about the Cub Swanson-Ricardo Lamas matchup, other than “Watch.”
Swanson has long been one of the featherweight division’s gamest competitors. A product of Greg Jackson’s vaunted camp in Albuquerque, N.M., Swanson was a three-time “Fight of the Night” award winner in the defunct WEC. Coming back from a year away from the cage due to injury, it seems likely that Swanson is chomping at the bit for another bonus.
By facing Swanson, Lamas has a real opportunity standing in front of him. Already bulging at lightweight, “The Bully” is now an even more appropriate nickname for Lamas at 145 pounds. Explosive and powerful, the Chicagoan looked to be at his best in his first-round knockout of Matt Grice in June. Displaying improved accuracy and control in the standup, the 29-year-old blasted his fellow wrestler with a high kick and sealed the deal with punches.
If Lamas runs through Swanson, he should be in line for some bigger fights at featherweight. The problem with that idea is that Swanson has virtually no quit in him. Even when outgunned, the dude goes down swinging, or at least trying to swing.
Will Swanson prove to be a stepping stone for Lamas in a new division, or will the more experienced Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export put an end to his featherweight dreams before they get off the ground?