Lots of questions remain, though, coming in. Does Frank Mir pose enough of a challenge to JDS? Will Dave Herman finally cash in on the potential he showed before his entrance to the UFC? And does Jason “Mayhem” Miller belong in the UFC? I’ll try and answer those below with a breakdown of this weekend’s card from the earliest fights on Facebook through the main event. We’ve already looked at the Facebook fights; time to look at the fights being showcased on FX.
Featherweight bout: Diego Brandao vs. Darren Elkins
Fight Breakdown: Brandao is a star waiting to happen and a featherweight contender most likely sooner than later. It’s hard not to like this guy; his goals are to get his mother a house and his brother a proper education while fighting like a man possessed. If there was a fighter to properly be compared to an earlier, smaller version of Wanderlei Silva it would be the first featherweight Ultimate Fighter winner. And he’s been given a fairly stiff test in his true promotional debut in the UFC in Darren Elkins. The key will be to weather Brandao’s opening storm and take him as far into the fight as he can; Brandao’s gas tank has been questionable in the past especially considering the blistering pace he sets early in the fight. Brandao is absolutely relentless, though, and Elkins is going to have to gameplan well to survive.
Prediction: Brandao by KO, end of the first
Lightweight bout: Edson Barboza vs. Jamie Varner
Fight Breakdown: After being a WEC staple for quite some time, Jamie Varner is back in a Zuffa organization as a bit of a sacrificial lamb for Edson Barboza. Barboza, who’s coming off a wheel kick KO of Terry Etim, is the UFC’s best prospect at lightweight coming against a fighter with some pedigree in Varner. Varner has a substantial resume of fighters but his peak was in the WEC, I think, as he hasn’t been able to get a sniff of the UFC since a four fight losing streak ended his Zuffa stint. This kind of reeks of the UFC setting up Barboza like they did Rory MacDonald with Che Mills in that he should probably walk through him without a problem. Varner has a chance but I’m not sure how much he has left at this point; he’ll be game for a scrap but Barboza might be too much for him at this point.
Prediction: Barboza by KO, 2d round
Middleweight bout: Jason Miller vs. C.B. Dollaway
Fight Breakdown: From headlining a TUF Finale to an FX fight; wow, how Jason “Mayhem” Miller has fallen. The star of MTV’s “Bully Beatdown” is in a career quandary at this point. Losing to Michael Bisping isn’t the end of the world, far from it. Bisping is on the cusp of a title shot in the middleweight division and a top five fighter in the division. The loss isn’t a major setback but losing to a TUF runner up who hasn’t been anything other than a .500 fighter in the UFC will probably cost him his spot in the UFC. I’ve thought of Miller as a Top 10 middleweight for some time and he has a substantial pedigree of guys he’s beaten on his record to match. He’s been successful nearly everywhere and it was surprising to see him get wrecked against Bisping. It showed just how talented the Brit was, as opposed to how good Miller could be, and now it’s time for him to prove how good he is. The key to this fight will be who can control the ground game; Dollaway has a relentless ground and pound set up by some first rate wrestling and Miller’s fallback has always been a strong submission game. Look for Miller to work off his back at times and use Dollaway’s aggression against him with sweeps and scramble set ups; this has the potential to be a great ground battle that I think Miller can squeak out.
Prediction: Miller by UD
Welterweight bout: Dan Hardy vs. Duane Ludwig
Fight Breakdown: A long time ago this would’ve been the sort of fight you start out a pay per view card with as Hardy and Ludwig are two fearless strikers with questionable ground games. Now it’s a fight to determine who can stay on the roster as Ludwig hasn’t shown all that much recently outside of a decision win over Amir Sadollah and Hardy is on a four fight losing streak. Ludwig may have the fastest KO in UFC history, and Hardy the most memorable hair, but both guys are in the same spot that Jason Miller and C.B Dollaway are in: they have to win. Look for this to be one of the more intriguing kickboxing style matchups in a long time as Hardy loves to throw and Ludwig has no qualms with it either. The key will be to see who takes the fight to the ground; Hardy only really does that when he thinks he’s losing and paid for it in his last fight with Chris Lytle and Ludwig is seemingly allergic to initiating the ground game. The key will be who can connect more; this has all the makings of a wild three round brawl and the longer it goes the more desperate each guy will get. Hardy in particular will be interesting to see in the third; if he’s down two rounds to none you’ll see him in desperation mode, which could be fun.
Prediction: Hardy by UD