Clay Guida hopes to carry his success to the featherweight division. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Saying the UFC on Fox 6 prelims will have an easy time living up to the main card is a lot like saying the San Antonio Spurs’ next power forward should have no problem filling Tim Duncan’s shoes.
That thing is stacked, and it appears to contain all of the necessary elements for early “Event of the Year” consideration. Fans are looking at a flyweight title fight in the main event, a light heavyweight slugfest, a lightweight grudge match and a featherweight No. 1 contender’s bout all on free TV. That is like finding yourself a significant other who can grill you the perfect hamburger, listen to your daddy issues and build you a structurally sound greenhouse for your organic vegetable garden, all at the same time. In short, I like it, and I would absolutely put a ring on it.
Wait, prelims. Don’t leave. I love you, too. I promise. Just calm down and let me explain.
When UFC on Fox 6 kicks off Saturday at the United Center in Chicago, one of the things I will look forward to the most is Clay Guida’s featherweight debut. Guida has long been a fan favorite, and for good reason. With the exception of his widely hated but nearly successful performance against Gray Maynard, “The Carpenter” is always a contender for “Fight of the Night” honors.
Guida’s problem as a lightweight has not been from a lack of effort. Rather, he has simply been overmatched against top-shelf competition like Kenny Florian and Benson Henderson. Guida’s blue-collar style in the cage has earned him much admiration and respect, but it unfortunately appears that his limited skills and good -- not great -- athleticism will only take him so far at 155 pounds.
That is exactly why his featherweight debut is so exciting. Much like Nik Lentz -- who just steamrolled Top 10 talent Diego Nunes at UFC on FX 7 -- something tells me Guida’s strengths will be amplified and his weaknesses minimized at 145 pounds, a prospect which I imagine is exciting to just about everyone save for Hatsu Hioki, with whom Guida will do battle in a highlighted undercard bout on the FX network.
Guida’s featherweight debut is just one reason to check out the preliminary broadcast for UFC on Fox 6. Here are four more:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fox 6 Free Fan Pick’Em
Hioki’s Travel Troubles
Hioki is a tough one to figure out. Just about the only thing that has remained consistent for the featherweight over the last year and a half has been his continued use of that balling “Moonlight Shadow” techno remix as his walkout tune.
The former Sengoku champion made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in 2011, barely edging talented but streaky World Extreme Cagefighting veteran George Roop in a split decision. Hioki’s next appearance, which would come in his home country of Japan at UFC 144, would unfold quite differently. The ex-Shooto titlist dominated Bart Palaszewski with his grappling, reassuring fans that he would indeed supply them with the type of excellent performances he had put forth prior to signing with the Zuffa-owned promotion.
Then came another fight on American soil, and so came another underwhelming showing against underdog Ricardo Lamas. After a solid opening five minutes for the Japanese talent, Lamas managed to out-strike and out-grapple Hioki in the final two rounds, using crisp combinations and several tight guillotine attempts to earn himself 29-28 scores on all three cards.
Granted, I think we can all agree that Lamas and Palaszewski should not be considered as equals at this point in their careers, but I’m not willing to ignore the possibility that Hioki is still struggling with jet lag. After all, it had been roughly three years since the featherweight had journeyed across the Pacific for a fight prior to his UFC debut. Which Hioki will show up in Chicago?
Grant The Great
Don’t look now, but T.J. Grant is knocking on the door of the lightweight Top 10.
Previously a decent welterweight, the Canadian went unnoticed by most. In fact, I would still say that the average MMA fan could not pick Grant out of a lineup if his or her life depended on it. Nonetheless, the man who many fans might finally identify as a smaller, scruffier Jeremy Horn has started a new chapter in his career, kicking off his lightweight run with a third-round submission of Shane Roller in October 2011.
A one-sided unanimous decision victory over Carlo Prater followed for the Canadian, who capped off his three-fight surge with arguably the best performance of his career against former Top 10 talent Evan Dunham in September at UFC 152. Can Grant capitalize on that “Fight of the Night” showing and extend his winning streak to four fights against Matt Wiman?
In Wiman, Grant faces another fighter on a roll who has remained under the radar, likely due to the well-documented depth of the UFC’s 155-pound division.
A winner in five of his last six, Wiman rebounded from a competitive unanimous decision defeat to current featherweight contender Dennis Siver to outpoint Mac Danzig in their rematch at UFC Live 6. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 veteran was then sidelined for nearly a year due to injury but returned with a vengeance, going move-for-move with submission specialist Paul Sass before finishing the slick Brit with an armbar in just 3:48 in September.
Las Vegas says this fight is a virtual pick ’em, and for once I agree with the bookmakers. A win for either man would be crucial in scoring a step up in competition and a potential clash with someone on the contender’s list. Which well-rounded lightweight will rise to the challenge?
Your Powers are Weak, Old Man
It does not seem so long ago that Ryan “Darth” Bader held a perfect 5-0 Octagon record and appeared poised to break into the light heavyweight division’s upper echelon. However, much like the Galactic Empire’s second Death Star, Bader’s plans for divisional dominance were destroyed before they ever fully came to fruition.
First, Bader was finished by future belt holder Jon Jones and then found himself on the short end of Sherdog.com’s 2011 “Submission of the Year,” succumbing to a Tito Ortiz guillotine choke at UFC 132. Though encouraging victories over Jason Brilz and Quinton Jackson would follow for Bader, he saw his surge suddenly halted by one perfectly placed reverse punch by former champion Lyoto Machida this past August.
Now, the UFC’s resident Dark Lord of the Sith will attempt to extinguish the life force of one the promotion’s most well-traveled talents in Vladimir Matyushenko, who has been sidelined by injuries since December 2011. Can Bader return to his winning ways at the expense of the 42-year-old “Janitor”?