Viewers Guide to the Undercard: UFC on Fox 8 – Johnson vs. Moraga Edition

The UFC returns to Fox this Saturday and with them they have brought a UFC Flyweight championship fight to network television. Headlining the event at the Key Arena, Seattle, is 125lbs division champ Demetrious Johnson looking to secure the second defence of his title reign against the MMA Lab-trained and the current #4 on the UFC flyweight rankings, John Moraga. Also on the card is the fight that is perhaps creating the most buzz as welterweights Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger seem to have taken quite a dislike to each other and if their Twitter exchanges are anything to go by, then we are in for quite a treat when the Octagon door closes. Unfortunately the card has suffered some injuries and as a result we have an event that has lost some of the excitement that it initially produced, no more so than in the two remaining fights that round out the main card. Robbie Lawler was due to face former Strikeforce welterweight champ Tarec Saffiedine and then Siyar Bahadurzada before each man fell foul to injury, leaving Lawler to do battle with the less-heralded Bobby Voelker. UFC on Fox 8 will also be the first time that the UFC have placed a women’s MMA fight on network television as former UFC title challenger, Liz Carmouche will take on Jessica Andrade. Again here injury robbed us of a more anticipated matchup, as Carmouche was originally slated to take on Miesha Tate in a contest that would have carried a far greater pull than the Andrade bout has. Despite the injuries, UFC on Fox 8 is still a card that you should be getting amped for and does have significant, meaningful fights that will prove pivotal to their divisional makeup when all is said and done.

Now, onto the prelims…

Michael ‘Maverick’ Chiesa (9-0-0) vs. Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal (24-7-0) –
Headlining the UFC on Fox 8 undercard is a clash of lightweights, as Michael Chiesa takes on the much-travelled Jorge Masvidal.

Ever since season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter wrapped, Michael Chiesa has looked fantastic. By defeating Al Iaquinta via first round submission at the TUF15 finale, Chiesa was crowned that season’s lightweight winner and set himself on a path that many have travelled, but increasingly few have succeeded on. Capturing a TUF title used to be quite an accolade and would be indicative of your talents and potential as a mixed martial artist, however due to the sheer number of seasons produced and with rival promotions focussing on drafting in developing fighters, the level of quality on TUF has suffered and in recent years the winners of the show have either flattered to deceive or just not been up to the required standard of the UFC. Fortunately for the UFC and the TUF brand, Chiesa appears to be the real deal and is making the right kind of progress required at this stage. Having followed up his victory over Iaquinta with another sub triumph in his last showing against Anton Kuivanen, Chiesa has proved himself ready for the next level of competition and he’ll certainly get that in Jorge Masvidal.

Having successfully transitioned over from Strikeforce to the UFC back in April, Jorge Masvidal made the most of the opportunity by securing victory over Tim Means in his promotional debut back at UFC on Fox 7. Masvidal has stepped up on relatively short notice for this bout as Chiesa’s original opponent, Reza Madadi, had to pull out of the fight citing visa issues. Masvidal will be looking to build some momentum at the expense of Chiesa as he is currently on a two-fight win streak and notching three straight wins is something that ‘Gamebred’ has been unable to do since 2009.

Chiesa will been keen to take this one to the ground and implement his superior submission game, however Masvidal has legit takedown defence and solid enough striking to be able to keep the required distance needed to keep Chiesa from securing the takedown. This seems to be the best fight at the moment for us to gauge what level Chiesa is currently at and what level he could one day reach but for me, Masvidal will likely hold the edge in most facets of the fight and has enough big-fight experience to see him through this particular litmus test.

Mac Danzig (21-10-1) vs. Melvin ‘The Young Assassin’ Guillard (30-12-2-1 NC) –
Mac Danzig could probably do with a win right about now. Since being crowned The Ultimate Fighter Season 6 winner back in 2007, Danzig has gone 4-6 in the UFC which included a three-fight losing streak that would have likely resulted in him, and any other fighter with that kind of form, receiving his walking papers. The reason Danzig wasn’t cut then and has managed to retain employment with the world’s leading MMA promotion in spite of his mixed form since is because Mac Danzig brings it. Danzig has had plenty of Fight Night bonus cheques to cash during his time with the UFC, including Fight of the Night (x3) and Knockout of the Night (x1). Most recently Danzig lost out in a close fight with Takanori Gomi at UFC on Fuel TV: Franklin vs. Le via split decision back in November of 2012.

Like Danzig, Melvin Guillard has hit a rough patch recently. Having tore through the UFC lightweight division back in ‘10/11 racking up five straight wins and generating title talk, Guillard has since suffered a sizeable fall from grace. In his five fights since defeating Shane Roller at UFC 132 back in July ’11, ‘The Young Assassin’ has gone 1-4, losing out to the likes of Donald Cerrone, Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller, leaving his reputation in tatters. To make matters worse, on leaving the Blackzillians after his most recent defeat, Guillard sought solace by planning to return to Jackson’s MMA, who he left in 2011 but was this notion was quickly rebuffed by Jackson’s and Guillard was temporarily left without a home. Guillard now finds himself at Team Grudge, interestingly enough an affiliate of Jackson’s MMA run by Trevor Wittman, and will look to get his career back on track this Saturday with a win.

While Danzig’s favoured route of victory (10 out of 21 victories have come via submission) coincides with Guillard’s seemingly preferred choice of defeat (9 of Guillard’s 12 losses have been by way of tapout), for me this could be the drop in competition that Guillard needs to get back to his old self and restore some of that lost credibility. I feel that in this fight Guillard’s superior athleticism and striking will prove decisive and show that the shark tank of a division that is the 155lbs ranks is no place for Mac Danzig.

Ed ‘Short Fuse’ Herman (20-9-0-1 NC) vs. Trevor ‘Hot Sauce’ Smith (10-3-0) –
After a brief sojourn to the now defunct Strikeforce to take on ‘Jacaré’ Souza in the promotion’s final show, Ed Herman is now back on familiar territory as he steps in to the Octagon for the first time since August 2012. Herman, who was the last man to defeat UFC light-heavyweight Glover Teixeira, has been a fixture with the UFC since 2006, having finished as runner-up to Kendall Grove in The Ultimate Fighter 3 finale and had mixed success until suffering a knee injury in 2009 that would keep him on the sidelines until 2011. Once fully healed and back fighting Herman underwent somewhat of a career renaissance and reeled off three straight wins in the UFC and secured a big-name fight with Jake Shields as a result. Herman would go on to be defeated by Shields via unanimous decision at UFC 150; however this result would be overturned to a No Contest as a result of Shields’ failing a post-fight drug test. Last time out Herman faced Souza this past January when no other UFC middleweights would, but Herman would ultimately go on to lose via 1st round submission.

Smith will be making his UFC debut on Saturday when he takes on ‘Short Fuse’, having spent the majority of his career on the regional circuit before finding a brief home with Strikeforce ahead of the promotion’s demise. Like Herman, we last saw Smith at the final Strikeforce show back in January, and again like Herman, Smith was to be on the losing end as a result of a submission at the hands of Tim Kennedy.

Both men possess fairly similar styles and are capable of ending the fight, most likely by way of submission, however I believe that this fight will ultimately be decided by experience. Smith has so far in his career shown himself to be incapable of performing on the bigger stage and unfortunately for him, I cannot see this changing any time soon. Where Smith is best, Herman is better and when you factor in the higher level of competition that Herman has experienced in his career the pendulum begins to swing in Herman’s direction in what is likely to be a ‘winner keeps his job’ kind of fight.

Julie ‘Fireball’ Kedzie (16-11-0) vs. Germaine ‘The Iron Lady’ de Randamie (3-2-0) –
Julie Kedzie is one of the pioneers of women’s MMA and has been fighting professionally since 2004, amassing a total of 27 fights and fighting some of the biggest names in WMMA in the process such as Gina Carano, Tara LaRosa, Jan Finney, Alexis Davis and Miesha Tate. Having most recently competed for Strikeforce, where she went 0-2 with defeats coming against Davis and Tate, Kedzie will be making her Octagon debut this Saturday where she will be looking to secure her first win since early 2011.

Germaine de Randamie is a multiple time world kickboxing champion and, like Kedzie, will be making her promotional debut when she steps in to the cage this Saturday. Having gone undefeated as a pro kickboxer, de Randamie decided to make the transition to MMA in 2008 and has so far managed to compile a 3-2 record within the sport. De Randamie most recently competed under the Strikeforce banner, alternating wins and losses, ultimately going 2-1 with the promotion. UFC on Fox 8 will also see a return to the bantamweight division for de Randamie, as her last two bouts for Strikeforce were fought at featherweight.

While Kedzie will look to utilise her striking in most contests, she would be wise to drag this fight to the mat as soon as she can, where de Randamie will be weakest; as “The Iron Lady” will certainly be far more dangerous on the feet and will hold a distinct advantage over Kedzie whilst striking. While it is likely that de Randamie’s reach advantage and superior striking technique could prevent Kedzie from controlling the fight and allow the Dutchwoman to secure victory, again I feel that this fight will be decided by experience. For me, Kedzie will be too savvy and have too much cage time over de Randamie, which should be enough to take her on the path to victory, but it won’t be easy.

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