Ryan Jimmo (17-2, 1-1 UFC) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-9 1 NC, 4-4 1 NC UFC)
Jimmo and Pokrajac were bumped to the main card following injuries cancelling the Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland and Mauricio Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira bouts. Both men are coming in off losses in their most previous bouts, though Pokrajac technically has a no contest on his record from his last bout. Jimmo dropped a decision to James Te Huna at UFC On FUEL TV 7 in February but is 4-1 over his last five fights. Pokrajac lost a decision to Joey Beltran at UFC On FX 6 in December, but it was later turned into a no contest when Beltran failed his drug test. Pokrajac is 3-1 with the one no contest over his last five bouts.
Fight Breakdown: Jimmo had an inauspicious start to his MMA career as he lost his very first fight by TKO in February 2007. What happened after that is nothing but impressive as he won 17 straight fights. After amassing a 6-1 record, Jimmo got the chance to compete for a spot on season eight of “The Ultimate Fighter”. He lost his elimination fight to get into the house and went back to the regional circuit, but after notching his 16th straight win, the UFC came calling and he signed with the promotion in November 2011. Injuries kept him from debuting until July 2012 at UFC 149 in Calgary, but his UFC debut could not have gone better as he tied the record for quickest knockout in UFC history when he knocked out Anthony Perosh in just seven seconds. His 17-fight win streak was snapped, though, by Te Huna in his last fight, and now he gets the chance to start a fresh winning streak.
Pokrajac had a rough start to his UFC career as he went just 1-3 over his first four fights. Those three losses, though, came at the hands of Vladimir Matyushenko, James Te Huna and Stephan Bonnar, all of whom have had varying degrees of success inside the UFC Octagon. Pokrajac kept his spot on the UFC roster despite the record, and he responded with three straight wins in impressive fashion. A submission loss to Vinny Magalhaes set him back, and while his loss to Beltran in his last bout was overturned into a no contest, Pokrajac is coming into this fight with the mindset of having lost two straight and suddenly finding himself potentially fighting to maintain his spot on the UFC roster. Pokrajac does have 21 stoppage wins over his career, so he has a penchant for finishing fights.
Despite his stellar winning streak and impressive UFC debut, Jimmo is not known for his finishing abilities. Just over half his wins have come by stoppage, and while he was fighting in the regional circuit in Canada, he developed a reputation for having some boring performances, and seven of his last ten wins have gone the distance. He almost finished Te Huna quickly in the opening round, but Te Huna recovered and dominated Jimmo over the course of the last two rounds of their fight. Pokrajac will bring the fight to Jimmo and it could provide some fireworks in the opening round before the two begin to tire. Jimmo is the more technical striker of the two men and he will mix in kicks, but Pokrajac has heavy hands and a huge heart and will continue to press forward in the line of fire. Jimmo needs to keep Pokrajac at a distance and avoid any takedown attempts from Pokrajac.
Pokrajac could really take over the fight if he decides to take the fight to the ground and impose his will from the top position. Jimmo struggles when he is planted on his back so he should look to force clinches against the cage and pressure, and he should look at what Beltran did to Pokrajac when he had him against the cage during their December fight. Jimmo could look to move the fight to the ground himself and he will have success if he remains on the top. Pokrajac has some fast hands and will need to mix it up in the pocket and look to land knees as he tries to wear Jimmo down. Jimmo is a big light heavyweight and will look to utilize his size advantage. Whichever fighter can establish position on the ground gets the edge, but these two were selected to fill the void on the main card due to being able to deliver a potential slugfest. It could be that, or it could be a boring points-fight as both need to turn around from a loss. It’ll likely be a close fight that will go to the scorecards, and the winner of the striking and cardio battle will win the fight.
Why It Matters: This is a big fight for both as a loss could send the loser out of the UFC. Jimmo couldn’t have been more impressive in his UFC debut, and while he almost repeated that in his second bout, when James Te Huna took control of him, it showed what Jimmo needs to work on if he is going to become a title contender. Jimmo was disappointed with his performance against Te Huna, and with his win streak gone, he is ready to start a fresh one and move himself up the 205-pound ladder.
Pokrajac enters the Octagon for the tenth time, and that is a solid mark in itself as there are many quality fighters who have not fought ten times in MMA’s top organization. Pokrajac has his back against the wall and a mindset of coming in with two consecutive losses, so he is either gonna play it safe going for the win or fight to win with something to prove. Pokrajac needs the win if he wants to keep a safe spot on the UFC roster, so this fight matters in a huge way for him.
Tags: dan henderson, Igor Pokrajac, Mixed Martial Arts, Rashad Evans, Ryan Jimmo, UFC, UFC 161