Like most of the online MMA community, I was unable to endure the fight marathon that the UFC provided last Saturday. Whether it was the irrelevancy of many of the bookings, or my social obligations, I had little motivation to sit down and watch the fights from either foreign event. Now, this Saturday’s Fight Night card from Greg Jackson’s Albuquerque stomping grounds, comes to us with the pure excitement that last weekend was lacking. The headliner may not light a fuse under your MMA fire, but the rest of the card is full of sneaky great tilts. You could combine both of last weekend’s globe spanning events into one, and still not even come close to the talent level on display on this card. I’ll break down the top six fights for my loyal minions as only I could, full of false confidence and snark! On to the preview!
Main Card on FOX Sports 1 (Vegas favorite in Italics)
Erik Perez v. Bryan Caraway
I look at this fight and the Main Event as the ‘bread’ holding the ‘meat’ of this card together. Not that warm, crunchy bread you get at a fine Italian eatery, that Subway bread made with yoga mat chemicals… This fight doesn’t even come close to getting my fight sweats going. Perez is slightly overhyped due to his valuable connection to the Mexican community, while I fully believe that Bryan Caraway’s girlfriend would win this thing if it was a Triple Threat match. Both guys have lost unimpressivly to Takeya Mizugaki within the last calendar year. If you are losing to Mizugaki at this point in his career, you may wan’t to pump the breaks on any sort of hype train. Vegas sees this as a pick ’em scrap, with some books giving Perez a slight edge. This is most likely due to his affiliation with the hometown Jackson camp. If anything, I can see him using his slightly superior wrestling to grind out a boring decision. He has athleticism on his side and that should be enough to win this one. Perez by decision.
Yves Edwards v. Piotr Hallman
Now we can have some fun. You wouldn’t think it, but the ‘Thugjitsu Master’ Edwards has stepped into the Octagon 19 times now. He fought Matt Serra at UFC 33! Think about that one… Edwards has held onto his job this long because he always comes in ready to throw down. He may get knocked out in the process, but Yves doesn’t fight to win, he fights to entertain. Sadly, at the latter stages of his illustrious career, Edwards is on the UFC chopping block. He has dropped three in a row (one of those losses overturned due to Yancy Medeiros’ affinity for the reefer…) and that usually means if you lose the next one you can expect a pink slip in your locker.
Opposing Edwards will be Polish finisher Piotr Hallman. I was utterly shocked when he submitted the human tank that is Francisco Trinaldo last September. Piotr isn’t necessarily the most imposing guy, but damn if he doesn’t know how to make the ref step in. I don’t want to see it, but the younger Hallman likely works a submission win. His wrestling is just crisper at this point in time. Hallman by submission.
Rafael Dos Anjos v. Jason High
The #5 ranked Lightweight in the world (RDA) as the third fight on a FS1 card?!?! I’ll take it! This one isn’t necessarily on squash match level, but it is rapidly approaching that line. RDA is a technically sound, intelligent fighter. Much like the evening’s headliner Benson Henderson, his fights are impressive performances, yet won’t leave you texting your buddies that they missed out on a classic scrap. Opposed to somone like Yves Edwards, these guys fight to win, not really entertain. Opponent Jason High’s greatest trait may be his grappling, still he has little to offer the Kings and Evolve trained black belt Dos Anjos. Could this fight get RDA off his decision streak? I won’t hold my breath, but look for a late round submission. Dos Anjos by submission.
John Dodson v. John Moraga
This fight could have headlined either of the cards last weekend. Frankly, I’m more excited for this tilt than any other one booked for the month of June in the UFC. These flyweights fight like whirling cyclones with tiny fists. They dash around the cage with unparalleled speed, skill, and precision. Each guy put it all on the line with divisional champ Demetrious Johnson and each gave DJ a legitimate test. Moraga went to battle for four rounds before being submitted in the final stanza, all while tagging DJ quite a few times on his minuscule chin. That said, in my opinion, John Dodson is the man to defeat DJ. He has the pop of a Welterweight in his 125 pound hands. He mollywhopped Darrell Montague with a vicious shot back at UFC 166 and I have been itching to see ‘The Magician’ get another shot at the Champ ever since. Moraga is too hard-headed to be knocked out, but a back and forth stand up clinic will be put on by this duo. Dodson will ultimately come out on top due to his significant (and freaky) power advantage. Dodson by decision.
Diego Sanchez v. Ross Pearson
This thing is going to be a real life version of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robots. I can see Sanchez marching right into Pearson’s range and immediately start hucking haymakers. With Pearson being a boxer at heart, I see him gladly obliging. We can throw past records and technique out the window here, the winner will be whoever’s consciousness remains functioning the longest. If I look into my crystal ball, I can see Diego Sanchez making some odd sacrifice to the MMA Gods to win this one in his hometown. And frankly, I wouldn’t hate to see that go down. As long as they ‘Stand and Bang’ for a few good minutes, ‘The Dream’ Sanchez has a shot to put Pearson to sleep. Sanchez by KO.
Benson Henderson v. Rustam Khabilov
Benson Henderson bores me. There, I said it. He talks a huge game about how he “goes in there to finish fights,” but hasn’t even come close to doing so in the UFC. By the time this fight arrives on Saturday, I will likely have a few delicious IPAs in my belly and could quite possibly be vehemently rooting against the former champ. Still, it should be noted that Khabilov is not a known quantity in even the most hardcore MMA circles. He has a heck of a highlight reel of suplexes, slams, and all-around badassery, though most of that was against mid-level competition. He looked solid against Jorge Masvidal, but Masvidal isn’t the trained MMA judge pleaser that Bendo is. Could Khabilov lock Bendo up and suplex him around the cage for five rounds? Yes, but that is closer to one of my dreams rather than reality. I have doubts Khabilov can get his hands onto the elusive Henderson in order to ragdoll him in any sort of pleasing manner. Henderson takes this thing home on the cards. Surprise, surprise… Henderson by decision.