(Author’s Note: First things first, yours truly will only be previewing MMA/UFC events that air on American television from here on out. I personally won’t be rolling out of bed at 6 AM and tuning into events like the recent Singapore card, and I doubt you will either. When most of the fighters on the card don’t have their pictures up on UFC.com it is safe to say that a large part of the North American MMA community has absolutely no clue who these valiant warriors are. Therefore, if you are looking for in depth coverage of the foreign cards, leave a comment and I can refer you elsewhere.)
On a better note, the UFC is treating us to a mildly decent Fight Night event this Wednesday to ease the deep freeze of the mid-winter doldrums. This card marks the return of Luke Rockhold who has been out of competition since May when ViToR BelforT nearly took his head off with some sort of Street Fighter move. His opponent, Costas Philippou will be looking to right the ship after a decision loss to Francis Carmont in a snoozer back in September. These two have promised fireworks and I expect them to deliver on that claim. On to the preview!
Prelims on UFC Fight Pass (Picks in BOLD)
–Vinc Pichel vs. Garett Whiteley
–Charlie Brenneman vs. Beneil Dariush
Prelims on FOX Sports 1 (Picks in BOLD)
–Ramsey Nijem (7-4) vs. Justin Edwards (8-3)
-Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) vs. Elias Silverio (9-0)
–Trevor Smith (10-4) vs. Brian Houston (4-1)
-Alptekin Ozkilic (9-1) vs. Louis Smolka (6-0)
Main Card on FOX Sports 1 (Vegas favorite in Italics)
Cole Miller v. Sam Sicilia
If you ask me, Cole Miller is in desperate need of a cold glass of ‘shut the heck up’. For some unknown reason, he has taken to calling out Conor McGregor at any opportunity. Is McGregor receiving a little more hype than his in cage performances merit? Likely. Though he also has this thing called a personality that is all too rare in MMA. Miller, who looks more like a movie theatre attendant than a decorated grappler and martial artist, will be attempting to back up his brash statements with a victory over the always game Sam Sicilia. Sicilia doesn’t necessarily have the skill set to assure a long-term tenure in the UFC, but he would never back away from a toe to toe scrap. I can never trust a guy that lost to Nam Pham (i.e. Miller), therefore I have to call Sicilia by decision.
John Moraga v. Dustin Ortiz
Last time we saw John Moraga he was tapping out to Demetrious Johnson on FOX. Moraga put up a staunch effort that night, but was simply outclassed by Mighty Mouse in every facet of the game. He will look to get back in the win column against Roufusport product Dustin Ortiz. Ortiz has never been finished and will prove to be a tough test for the former #1 contender Moraga. Still, I think Moraga has a Diaz-esque meanstreak in him and will be looking to kick butt and take names come Wednesday. Moraga by decision.
Yoel Romero v. Derek Brunson
Yoel Romero is a BEAST. That term gets thrown around way too often these days, but Romero personifies the word perfectly. His wrestling chops are second to none, I mean, he regularly beat up on Cael Sanderson in Freestyle competition and there are very few men walking this Earth that could say that. In his first two UFC fights, Romero has shown unparalleled power and athleticism. Brunson is no wrestling slouch himself, claiming Division II All-American honors three times, but that still isn’t even in the same realm as Romero. Seeing as Jacare was able to KO Brunson, I believe the even more powerful Romero will do the same. Romero by TKO.
TJ Dillashaw v. Mike Easton
The question here is: Can the Team Alpha Male train roll on? Mike Easton would certainly like to derail TJ Dillashaw on Wednesday night. Both fighters are coming into this tilt off a loss and are in need of wins to reaffirm their Top 10 status. Dillashaw last dropped an exciting decision to Raphael Assuncao in October, while Easton has been on the shelf since he lost to Brad Pickett in April. Easton is one of the more well-rounded fighters in the division, but it is so hard to bet against the Alpha Male camp right now. I expect Dillashaw to control Easton for three rounds on the ground and earn a decision. Dillashaw by decision.
Lorenz Larkin v. Brad Tavares
At this point, I am scared we are going to suffer through a decision heavy evening on Wednesday. Each of these guys last five fights??? Guess what… Decisions! Larkin has never lived up to the hype that he was given in Strikeforce, while Tavares has strung together four straight wins but none of them were anything to write home about. Larkin has been in the cage with stiffer competition over the years and I expect him to be able to strike and point his way to, you guessed it, a decision.
Luke Rockhold v. Costas Philippou
Thank the good lord we have a guaranteed barnburner to cap off the evening! We haven’t seen much of former Strikeforce Champion Luke Rockhold in the Octagon since his debut was cut short by Vitor’s chemically aided foot. There is little doubt in my mind that Luke will be in top form come Wednesday. On the other hand, I don’t know what to think of Costas anymore. In 2011 and 2012 he had a series of electrifying scraps, but then he oddly left Ray Longo’s camp and had an absolute dud of a tilt against Francis Carmont in his only 2013 appearance. Rockhold is a huge favorite here, and rightfully so. His boxing may not be as strong as Philippou’s, but his all around kickboxing attack is a force to be reckoned with for any Middleweight. Let’s hope these two throw caution to the wind and stand and trade for the better part of five rounds. I see this one being another lopsided decision for Rockhold, but for sanity’s sake, let’s say he gets a TKO in the fourth!