That’s right, it’s finally the week of the historic first-ever UFC broadcast on network television, the heavyweight championship fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. I have to say that I’m absolutely thrilled that we’ll be seeing such a high-profile fight on free television, particularly a fight between the two clearly best heavyweights in the world in Velasquez and dos Santos.
However, this event will be a little bit different from any other UFC event as far as how it’s televised. Because only the main event is actually going to be shown on Fox, every other fight is considered a preliminary fight, and will be shown on both Facebook and foxsports.com. Now, I said last week that I was going back to covering all preliminary fights of UFC events in one post, and all main card fights would get their own individual preview post. Obviously, that would be a little strange for this event, as it would result in only two preview posts total. What I’m doing for this event is treating the top five fights on the card as “main card fights,” and giving each of them a unique post. In this post, I’ll be previewing the remainder of the fights, beginning with…
205 lbs: Matt Lucas vs. Aaron Rosa
Aaron Rosa made an unsuccessful UFC debut in June at UFC 131, where he lost a very entertaining battle against Joey Beltran. Bombs went both ways in that fight, which was bad for Rosa, because Joey Beltran is a fighter who doesn’t actually feel pain (or so it seems). Rosa has a few decent wins on his record, most notably against former Ultimate Fighter participant Abe Wagner, Devin Cole, and Robert Villegas. The most notable opponent on Rosa’s record is former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, who defeated Rosa by second-round TKO.
It seems odd that Rosa would normally be a light-heavyweight fighter, because he certainly didn’t look the part against Beltran. In fact, Rosa weighed in for that fight at 261 pounds, and while I’ll kindly say that Rosa wasn’t particularly lean, it’s hard to envision what he’ll look like after cutting down to 205 pounds. Rosa has fought at light-heavyweight a number of times before, so it’s nothing new for him, but it’s worth keeping an eye on his conditioning in case the weight cut takes too much out of him.
His opponent will be the debuting Matt Lucas, a 14-2 fighter who has competed for most of his career in the Rage in the Cage promotion. His most notable win was actually very early in his career, when he defeated Homer Moore by TKO. His toughest opponent ever was probably Giva “The Arm Collector” Santana, who predictably defeated Lucas by submission due to armbar. Lucas also had a fight in Elite XC, defeating Jon Kirk in what I consider to be Lucas’s second-best victory.
SILVA PREDICTION: AARON ROSA (46.22) OVER MATT LUCAS (41.11)
While Lucas’s 14-2 record looks nice, there’s not a whole lot of meat to it. Only the wins against Moore and Kirk are very impressive at all, and when Lucas stepped up in competition, he lost by first-round submission. Aaron Rosa’s record isn’t way better, but Rosa at least has both more experience against tough competition, and more success.
170 lbs: Paul Bradley vs. Mike Pierce
Speaking of fighters that I wouldn’t expect to be able to make a certain weight class, Paul Bradley will be dropping to the welterweight division to take on Mike Pierce. Bradley was unsuccessful in his UFC debut, losing to Rafael Natal by unanimous decision at UFC 133 in Philadelphia, but he took that fight on somewhat short notice, and apparently fought a weight class above where he usually competes. Again, I wouldn’t expect a fighter as big as Bradley to be able to make the welterweight limit, but he’s done it before, so I expect that he’ll be able to do it again.
EDIT: “truu” has alerted me that this is being contested at middleweight, not welterweight, so disregard everything I said in the above paragraph.
This is actually a rematch, as Bradley fought Pierce in April 2009, with Pierce winning a unanimous decision in that fight. I’m honestly not surprised by that result. It’s not because Bradley is that bad; while I’m not anticipating Bradley to make any sort of title run in the UFC, he’s had enough success against fighters like Johnny Rees and Levi Avera to deserve a shot to compete. It’s because Pierce is that good: his SILVA score of 70.03 places him well above the average of 50, and ranks him 14th in the welterweight division in MMA.
The reason for that ranking is Pierce’s 8-2 record in his last 10 fights. The wins are good, but not great: he’s beaten Brock Larson, Julio Paulino, Amilcar Alves, and yes, Paul Bradley. But take a look at who Pierce’s losses were to, and suddenly he sounds pretty good. At least, I think of Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks as two of the best welterweights in the sport, and SILVA agrees, ranking them third and fifth, respectively, in the welterweight division. And Pierce didn’t wilt when he fought them either; in fact, he put up a very good fight both times, falling short by a particularly narrow margin against Hendricks.
SILVA PREDICTION: MIKE PIERCE (70.03) OVER PAUL BRADLEY (43.11)
I think Pierce (along with Johny Hendricks) is a very underrated fighter; a guy who has taken a very strong wrestling base, and added a very solid striking game to go along with it. That’s more than I can say for Paul Bradley, who is a strong wrestler himself, but isn’t nearly as complete a mixed martial artist as Pierce is. There are fighters in the UFC I think Paul Bradley could be very successful against, but I don’t think Mike Pierce is one of them.
135 lbs: Alex Caceres vs. Cole Escovedo
I’m not a very good golfer… OK, I’m a horrible golfer. I only go golfing every two years or so, and I have perhaps the worst slice anybody has ever seen. I blame playing baseball earlier in life, but regardless of why I’m no good at golf, I’m no good. And I also have to admit that I’ve done my fair share of blaming golf clubs for my woes, as is the stereotype of a struggling golfer.
Just as a golfer will blame his clubs instead of his game, it seems like there are quite a few MMA fighters who, when they lose, blame the weight class they fight in. Then, when they subsequently lose in their new weight class, it should become apparent that the weight class has nothing to do with it. Don’t tell that to Alex Caceres, though; after dropping from lightweight to featherweight and losing to Mackens Semerzier and Jim Hettes, he’s dropping another weight class, going to 135 pounds to face Cole Escovedo.
I’ve been very harsh to Caceres before, so instead of piling on, I’ll merely state a fact. Caceres has never defeated any opponent with at least five career MMA fights. To qualify for a SILVA score, a fighter needs at least two wins against such an opponent. Therefore, Caceres has no SILVA score, and even if he pulls off the upset against Escovedo (and it would be an upset), he still won’t qualify for a SILVA score.
From Escovedo’s perspective, it certainly seems like a “tune up fight” or a confidence builder to help him get his career back on track. While Escovedo was very competitive against both Takeya Mizugaki and Renan Barao, he did lose both fights decisively, and now he’s 1-4 in his last five. (By the way, Escovedo has been fighting for 10 years now. Just thought I’d mention that.) Still, Escovedo has some very solid wins on his recent record, including Steven Siler, Yoshiro Maeda, and Jeff Bedard, to go along with a win against a very young Michael McDonald.
SILVA PREDICTION: COLE ESCOVEDO (47.63) OVER ALEX CACERES (N/A)
Yes, Escovedo is in a career slump, and yes, his best days are probably behind him, but he should still be able to win this fight. Again, I don’t want to pile on Caceres too much, but he simply doesn’t belong in the UFC. He should be fighting in smaller promotions against suitable opponents, and be given a chance to hone his skills and improve as a fighter, instead of being thrown into fights that he has no business taking part in. Hopefully the UFC will finally realize this after Caceres loses once again.
145 lbs: Robert Peralta vs. Mackens Semerzier
Before Robert Peralta fought Mike Lullo in his UFC debut, I couldn’t help but notice that he had landed on the USA Today/MMA Nation consensus top 25 rankings in the featherweight division. Peralta earned this distinction with a split decision victory over the previously ranked Hiroyuki Takaya in Strikeforce. I proceeded to look at Peralta’s record, and noted that Peralta’s split decision win over Takaya was his only quality win in a sea of mediocrity. Meanwhile, Peralta had losses to fighters like Fred Leavy, an indicator that his upside was very limited. I decided that Peralta was a fighter who was unlikely to make much of an impact in the UFC featherweight division.
Now, Peralta did manage to beat Mike Lullo, but it wasn’t a very inspiring victory, and Lullo’s record is even flimsier than Peralta’s. The result is a SILVA score of just 27.80 for Peralta, indicating that he’s very unlikely to survive in the UFC on a long-term basis.
Peralta’s opponent will be Mackens Semerzier, a fighter who was very well-liked by SILVA 1.0, and not liked at all by SILVA 1.1. The reason is that SILVA 1.1 only looks at fights against experienced opponents (at least five fights) and Semerzier is just 2-3 against such opponents, with one of the two wins coming against none other than “Bruce Leroy” himself, Alex Caceres. Part of the philosophy behind SILVA 1.1 is making sure a fighter isn’t overly rewarded for one fluke win, and Semerzier’s win over Wagnney Fabiano may turn out to be just that.
SILVA PREDICTION: ROBERT PERALTA (27.80) OVER MACKENS SEMERZIER (12.72)
So it is that this is actually an appropriate match to put together. Since Peralta just beat an opponent with a very flimsy record in Mike Lullo, it stands to reason that a good next step would be to face an opponent with a slightly less flimsy record in Mackens Semerzier. For the second fight in a row, I’m picking Peralta to win, but again, with the caveat that I wouldn’t get too excited about Peralta’s future in the UFC.
135 lbs: Darren Uyenoyama vs. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto
DREAM has arrived to the UFC! If you had told me a couple years ago that “Kid” Yamamoto would be facing Darren Uyenoyama, I would have assumed it would be in Japan, and would have called it a thinly-veiled attempt to get Yamamoto a win to set him up for a bigger show down the road.
As it turns out, that might just be the motivation behind this fight: the UFC is planning a show in Japan in February, and while Yamamoto isn’t nearly the star he used to be, the UFC will probably need as many recognizable names as they can get, and Yamamoto is definitely one of those names. Now, while I was saying that Yamamoto was being very over-hyped when he first entered the UFC, I happen to think that Yamamoto may actually be underrated now. Sure, Yamamoto’s had a rough recent career, but this is still the fighter who defeated Rani Yahya, Caol Uno, and Genki Sudo in Japan. It’s not a resume that screams “best in the world” to me, but it’s still good enough to give Yamamoto some respect.
As for Uyenoyama, I certainly think he’s fun to watch and thoroughly enjoyed his fight against Hideo Tokoro in Japan, but I just don’t think he’s experienced enough to be facing Yamamoto at this stage of his career. Uyenoyama is 6-3, and just 2-2 against opponents with at least five career fights. A recent win against Shuichiro Katsumura is nice enough, but that’s really all Uyenoyama has going for him at this point.
SILVA PREDICTION: NORIFUMI “KID” YAMAMOTO (50.71) OVER DARREN UYENOYAMA (-1.10)
Now, the last time SILVA predicted a fight with this kind of margin, it thought Cyrille Diabate would beat Anthony Perosh, so Uyenoyama certainly shouldn’t be counted out. With that said, I really can’t shake the feeling that Uyenoyama is being brought in to lose to Yamamoto.