Viewers Guide to the Undercard, Part 1: UFC Fight Night 26 – Shogun vs. Sonnen Edition

The UFC returns to the TD Garden in Boston, Ma. this weekend and with them they’re not only bringing a high level card, they’re also bringing a new sports network. This Saturday sees the debut of Fox Sports 1 and it has a very UFC-heavy feel to it. The UFC’s offering to Fox Sports 1 also sees the reprisal of the ‘Fight Night’ event name not seen since 2011, as former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champ Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua takes on Chael Sonnen in the main event at UFC Fight Night 26. Co-main sees Alistair Overeem take on Travis Browne as he looks to restore his reputation as an elite heavyweight following a failed drug test and an embarrassing display against Bigfoot Silva in his most recent performance. The main card is rounded out with four more stellar fights in the shape of bantamweights Urijah Faber and Yuri Alcantara, welterweights Matt Brown and Mike Pyle, middleweights Uriah Hall and John Howard and lightweights Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson.

This is a card chock-full of quality and as we move on to the prelims, the theme continues. They are stacked, so much so that all fights on the undercard are covered here as you cannot afford to miss out on these matchups.

In this instalment of the Inside Fights prelim preview, I’ll be covering the Facebook portion of the undercard. Enjoy…

Manny ‘The Anvil’ Gamburyan (12-7-0) vs. Cole ‘Magrinho’ Miller (19-7-0) –
Topping the Facebook portion of the undercard is a featherweight tussle between Manny Gamburyan and Cole Miller.

Manny Gamburyan returns to the Octagon for the first time in 13 months as a series of injuries put paid to two potential clashes with Chad Mendes and Hacran Dias that failed to materialise in the past year. Last time out, Gamburyan secured a unanimous decision victory over Michihiro Omigawa at UFC on Fox 4: Shogun vs. Vera which stopped the rot of a three-fight losing streak and likely saved his job with the UFC in the process. Gamburyan is a highly experienced individual who has been active since 1999 and been with Zuffa since 2007 when he took part in the 5th season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he would go on to be a losing finalist at the hands of Nate Diaz. Gamburyan also spent some time with the WEC when he first made the drop from lightweight to featherweight and it was during this period that ‘The Anvil’ would unsuccessfully challenge José Aldo for the 145lbs strap.

Like Gamburyan, we first saw Miller in the UFC as a result of his participation in TUF 5, although Miller did not enjoy as much success as the Armenian, as he was knocked out of the competition at the quarter-final stage by Joe Lauzon. During his time with the UFC, Miller hasn’t always had the greatest amount of success, but he has been exciting to watch and testament to that is the list of post-fight bonuses Miller has racked up for his in-cage performances; Submission of the Night (x3), Knockout of the Night (x1) and Fight of the Night (x1). In Miller’s most recent performance, ‘Magrinho’ finished Bart Palaszewski via submission this past April which halted a two-fight losing run for the American.

While Miller is known for dragging his combatants into deep water which inevitable tests not only their skills but their conditioning, something that Gamburyan could suffer with as a result of his lay-off, I’m leaning towards Gamburyan in this one. I can see Miller being thwarted in his attempts to keep Gamburyan at range and on the back foot, with Gamburyan dictating the fight thanks to his world class judo and darting, heavy attacks on the feet.

Prediction – Gamburyan via unanimous decision.

Ovince St. Preux (13-5-0) vs. Cody ‘Donnybrook’ Donovan (8-2-0) –
Next up is light-heavyweight clash between Ovince St. Preux and Cody Donovan.

Ovince St. Preux returns to the Octagon this Saturday having successfully navigated his UFC debut back at UFC 159 against Gian Villante this past April. The bout with Villante courted a lot of controversy at the time due to the unusual conclusion of the contest. ‘OSP’ inadvertently eye-poked Villante early on in the third round and on receiving the inevitable answer to the question “Can you see?”, referee Kevin Mulhall brought the fight to a premature end without giving Villante any time to recover. ‘OSP’ was probably ahead on the cards but was starting to tire as the fight wore on but any kind of praise for St. Preux’s performance was not forthcoming due to the post-fight rhetoric being firmly centred on Mulhall’s decision. ‘OSP’ is now on a two-fight win streak and is looking to keep that run going in order to propel him up the ranks of the UFC’s 205lbs division.

Donovan will also be making his second trip to the Octagon this weekend as in his most recent outing, ‘Donnybrook’ disposed of Nick Penner via TKO at December’s UFC on FX 6: Sotiropolous vs. Pearson event. Prior to signing with the UFC, Donovan had compiled a 7-2 record fighting mainly on the American regional circuit but did at one point fight under the Bellator banner in 2011 where he defeated Brian Albin. Donovan is currently in the midst of a career best four-fight win streak.

This fight could turn out to be a very close run thing as Donovan is fairly well rounded, with good cardio and suffocating style that could stifle ‘OSP”s explosive athleticism. That being said, I feel that this is too big a step up in competition for Donovan and can see St. Preux controlling the action on the feet before he secures the finish mid-way through the contest.

Prediction – St. Preux via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.

Ramsey Nijem (7-3-0) vs. James Vick (4-0-0) –
Kicking off the evening’s fighting festivities is a lightweight bout between Ramsey Nijem and James Vick.

Having first come to our attention as a part of the 13th season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, Nijem has managed to forge a solid UFC career for himself so far. Nijem made his UFC debut back in June 2011 losing out to Tony Ferguson in brutal fashion as he was KO’d in his pursuit of the TUF crown for that season at the final stage. Since then Nijem reeled off three straight wins to get some serious momentum behind his career defeating Danny Downes, CJ Keith and Joe Proctor. Unfortunately for Nijem this hot streak was not to last as in his most recent showing, Nijem was KO’d for the second time in his career at the hands of Myles Jury back at UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez in April of this year.

James Vick makes his UFC debut this weekend having, like Nijem, first registered on our radar as a TUF contestant. Vick appeared on the 15th instalment of the long-running UFC reality show back in 2012 and performed admirably but eventually bowing out of the process at the semi-final stage of the competition having run in to the eventual season winner, Mike Chiesa. Due to the nature of Vick’s defeat to Chiesa, a KO loss, Vick was unable to compete at the season finale and has been on the shelf ever since. Vick’s last fight came in September 2011 and ‘Maverick’ is currently riding a four-fight win streak.

Look for Nijem to utilise his superior wrestling to dominate proceedings here as Vick’s time away from the cage will be to his detriment. While Vick will have the advantage on the feet, I can’t see it being there for long enough periods of time for Vick to get any kind of offense off that will do any serious damage.

Prediction – Nijem via unanimous decision.

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