Viewers Guide to the Undercard: UFC on Fox 9 – Johnson vs. Benavidez II

This week the UFC is back on Fox and back in California, as the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento plays host to several top dollar fights, all seemingly battling to be added to the ever-growing list of Fight of the Year candidates that 2013 has so far produced. Headlining the show is a rematch of championship proportions, as Demetrious Johnson defends his 125lbs belt once again this time against the man he defeated to be crowned the inaugural flyweight champ, Joseph Benavidez. Serving as the co-main for the evening is a clash of bantamweights, as Urijah Faber takes on Michael McDonald, with the rest of the card rounded off with a featherweight bout featuring Chad Mendes and Nik Lentz, as well as a lightweight matchup that contains Joe Lauzon and Mac Danzig.

The prelims are pretty stacked as they always seem to be on a Fox card and below I have picked out the ones that really stand out for me and feel that deserve to be brought to your attention. So let’s get started…

Court McGee vs. Ryan LaFlare – 170lbs.
Like many of the recent TUF exports, I have struggled to build any kind of significant interest in the subsequent bouts that they are assigned to. McGee has never really been matched up with anyone of any real note in his time with the UFC so far and his bouts, as well as other TUF alums, tend to be used as filler contests for one of the many cards that the UFC are producing, McGee is slowly becoming just meat in the room. McGee has in fairness compiled a 5-2 record in the UFC and is currently riding a two fight win streak having bested Josh Neer and most recently Norman Parke. Here’s hoping that with a win over Ryan LaFlare this weekend, next time we see Court McGee it might actually be in a bout that has some level of significance.

Ryan LaFlare is dangerously close to be talked about as somewhat of a threat in the welterweight division, having entered the UFC with a perfect 7-0 record and grown that stat to 9-0 in his subsequent two Octagon appearances. LaFlare is a well rounded fighter capable of finishing a fight both standing and on the mat and will be looking to use Court McGee’s name to catapult him in to a fight on the main card against an opponent on the outskirts of the top 10.

McGee is a solid if unspectacular fighter with serviceable wrestling mixed with a heavy output, stifling striking game and is a tough out for all but the top 10 of the division. While he will prove troublesome, I still see LaFlare having enough about him to take home a decision as I expect LaFlare to be the quicker more effectively diverse fighter once the cage door closes.

Prediction – LaFlare via unanimous decision.

Edson Barboza vs. Danny Castillo – 155lbs.
Barboza has been back to his imperious best in recent outings, having had his momentum momentarily derailed by a KO loss to Jamie Varner back at UFC 146. After the surprise loss, Barboza’s first in his career, ‘Junior’ got back to work in devastating fashion forcing Lucas Martins to tap to strikes and then most recently incapacitating Rafaello Oliveira at UFC 162 through relentless, thudding kicks to the legs which forced referee Herb Dean to step in and bring an end to proceedings as Oliveira struggled to stand let alone mount any form of offense or defence.

Danny Castillo will likely never be as devastating as Barboza has the potential to be every time he steps in to the Octagon, but that does not mean he is any less effective. While his team mates at Team Alpha Male seem to be reaping the rewards of new striking coach Duane Ludwig, Castillo has so far stayed true to his wrestling roots and continued to dominate his fights through superior grappling and heavy ground and pound. Castillo’s most recent victim was Tim Means back at UFC on Fox 8 in July and will be on the hunt this Saturday for arguably his biggest scalp with a win over the resurgent Barboza.

While Castillo relies on his wrestling to get him through his fights, and this is a tactic that has proved to be largely successful for him, Barboza has shown in previous bouts that he is no easy target for a takedown. I expect Barboza to stuff the early takedowns of Castillo long enough for him to go to work on the feet and see this one out pretty early.

Prediction – Barboza via KO/TKO in the 1st round.

Pat Healy vs. Bobby Green – 155lbs.
Pat Healy has had a rough ride so far in his UFC career. Coming in to the premier MMA league off of some serious form in Strikeforce, Healy dismantled Jim Miller en route to a Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night winning performance only to have the win overturned to a No Contest and both bonuses rescinded after testing for marijuana. Healy had a shot at redemption last time out in taking on the rising Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov (it is a personal goal of mine to type out that name without having to check the spelling multiple times), but was well handled by his opponent and never really looked like triumphing in a unanimous decision loss back in September at UFC 165.

Fresh off giving James Krause’s nether region a real good kick-in, Bobby Green performs a quick turnaround in stepping up to the plate to replace an injured Jamie Varner just over five weeks after his controversial TKO victory over the aforementioned Krause back at UFC Fight for the Troops 3. Green is on somewhat of a career high having transitioned his fine Strikeforce form to the UFC and currently rides a six-fight win streak.

Bobby Green is the form pick in this particular bout, but I doubt that will have any true bearing on the outcome. Green will hold an advantage on the feet, however this fight only remains there for as long as Healy wants it to. Healy will likely look to use his grappling to rough up Green and never let him rest and this will probably be the case for the best part of all three rounds in order for Healy to secure a decision victory or late stoppage.

Prediction – Healy via unanimous decision.

Scott Jorgensen vs. Zach Makovsky – 125lbs.
Scott Jorgensen has hit somewhat of a rough patch in his career, going 1-3 in his last four UFC appearances as a bantamweight with the lone win coming against John Albert and defeats against Renan Barao, Eddie Wineland and most recently, Urijah Faber. Granted that is arguably the three top guys in the division right now and there is no real shame in having a loss on your record to any of those three men, it was mainly due to the successive nature of the defeats that raised alarm bells. In order to stop the rot, Jorgensen has taken decisive action and decided to drop down in weight to flyweight where he will debut this Saturday against Zach Makovsky.

Former Bellator bantamweight champion, debuting Makovsky came to the aid of his new employers in a big way in accepting this fight. Scott Jorgensen was scheduled to face off with John Dodson, but after an injury to Dodson forced his withdrawal, Makovsky stood up for the UFC on ten days notice to fill the void.

Both men here offer a similar style of fighting with both capable of mounting effective offense on the feet as well as having a sturdy wrestling game to fall back on. When it comes down to it, Jorgensen has just that little bit more in each area than that of Makovsky and I feel that he has the required tools in order to triumph. The deciding factor here could well be how Jorgensen can adapt to his new surroundings and whether or not the weight cut will physically affect him. If Jorgensen is able to transition with ease to 125lbs, then I see no reason why he should not have his hand raised here.

Prediction – Jorgensen via unanimous decision.

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