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UFC 128 Preview

I am very excited for this event.  This is going to be an awesome night of fights, the headliner between Rua and Jones shaping up to be a classic.  We’ll also be seeing a lot of former WEC fighters in action, including former Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber and Iranian Kamal Shalorus.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m going to try something new for this preview.  I’m not sure I need to be writing orthodox previews that you can find on other MMA blogs.  I’m not sure that anybody is reading these anyway, so nobody will really notice a change.  This just means I’ll have to type less, but this was also very fun to write.

UFC 128 will be live on pay-per-view tonight at 10:00 PM EST/9:00 PM CST.  Two preliminary fights will air on SpikeTV one hour prior to the main card, while another two will air on Facebook two hours before the pay-per-view begins.

Light Heavyweight Title: (c) Mauricio Rua (19-4, No. 1 LHW) vs. Jon Jones (12-1, No. 5 LHW)

Rua: “Shogun”, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion, 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix winner, beat Lyoto Machida twice, awarded victory only once, somehow lost to Forrest Griffin, first fight after a third knee surgery.

Jones: JUCO wrestling champion, scary reach (84.5”), funky striking, being refined by Greg Jackson, tried cheating against a deaf fighter and was disqualified, turned Brandon Vera’s face into hamburger meat with an elbow, loves Jesus.

Remarks: I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about this fight.  It’s amazing that in less than two months, Jones goes from fighting Ryan Bader to getting a shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.  There are two preferred outcomes, both of which involve Rampage Jackson getting his title shot.  Either Rua wins, beats up on Rashad, and then has an epic rematch against Rampage, or Jones wins, makes Rashad cry, and then gets beat down by Rampage.  I think I like the former of those two options.  We know Rua can go five rounds, but we’re still not sure about Jones.  He’s a very young, very talented fighter, but he has yet to fight an elite light heavyweight.  I take Rua because he can do a little bit of everything and has the experience.

Bantamweight: Urijah Faber (24-4, No. 5 BW) vs. Eddie Wineland (18-6-1, No. 12 BW)

Faber: NCAA Division I wrestler from UC-Davis, BJJ practitioner, former WEC Featherweight Champion, defeated Takeya Mizugaki in his bantamweight debut, BFF with Kenny Powers, WEC poster boy before losing fights and bankrupting the WEC.

Wineland: UFC debut, won his last four fights in the WEC, good wrestling, better striking with nine career knockouts, two time WEC Knockout of the Night winner, first ever WEC Bantamweight Champion.

Remarks: I’m kidding about that bankrupting the WEC thing, I loved me some WEC.  These guys loved the WEC too, having previously won titles there.  Faber looked really good against Takeya Mizugaki, as he submitted a very talented and tough fighter who had previously never been submitted.  Wineland is very dangerous and is definitely able to end fights with his striking.  I’ll give the very slight edge to Urijah, since in the event of a tie you give the win to the wrestler.  That’s a rule, look it up.

Lightweight: Jim Miller (19-2, No. 7 LW) vs. Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2)

Miller: Former Division I wrestler, BJJ black belt, 11 of 19 wins by submission, only two career losses to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, on a six fight winning streak in the UFC, middle name is Andrew.

Shalorus: Age unknown, not from parts unknown (he’s from Texas by way of Iran), very good grappler, also a good puncher, his head is made of brick, his lungs are also made of brick, once kicked Jamie Varner in the groin a million times during a single fight, nicknamed “Prince of Persia”, somehow less hairy than fake “Prince of Persia” Jake Gyllenhaal.

Remarks: I’ll preface this next statement by saying that I’m a big Kamal Shalorus fan.  He puts on exciting fights and seems to be impossible to knockout and he seems entirely likable.  That said, how a talented, somewhat exciting fighter like Jim Miller is only fighting Kamal Shalorus is beyond me.  Shalorus is a good fighter, but he’s kind of a dumb fighter.  Given the depth at lightweight, Miller should be fighting a better opponent.  Shalorus gasses fairly quickly, which should give Miller a good chance to submit Shalorus.

Middleweight: Nate Marquardt (30-10-2, No. 4 MW) vs. Dan Miller (13-4, 1 NC)

Marquardt: BJJ and Jujutsu practitioner, trains out of Greg Jackson’s camp, 1-2 in his last three fights with losses to Yushin Okami and that loud mouthed douche from Team Quest, once deducted two points in a fight with Thales Leites.

Miller: Replacing “Sexyama”, also a BJJ black belt, once bent Dave Phillips in half with a guillotine choke, very streaky in the UFC, lost to the aforementioned Team Quest douche, also lost to Wolfslair’s resident douche, eight career submission wins, brother is fighting Kamal Shalorus.

Remarks: Pretty nice for Dan Miller to get bumped up to the main card, though the circumstances of Akiyama’s departure are clearly disappointing.  Unfortunately for Miller, Nate Marquardt only loses to great fighters.  Marquardt will take the decision victory and move on to be defeated by some other top ranked middleweight.

Heavyweight: Mirko Filipovic (27-8-2, 1 NC, No. 20 HW) vs. Brendan Schaub (7-1, No. 13 HW)

Filipovic: “Cro Cop”, legendary PRIDE Champion, former K-1 kickboxer, 4-4 in the UFC, followed-up win over Pat Barry with a supremely disappointing loss to Frank Mir, right leg hospital, left leg cemetery*

Schaub: Super athletic, former NFL and arena football player, trains with Greg Jackson, picked apart Gabriel Gonzaga in October, making marked improvements after eight professional fights.

Remarks: *Catch phrase no longer applies, Brendan Schaub will win.

Lightweight: Edson Barboza (7-0) vs. Anthony Njokuani (13-4, 1 NC)

Barboza: International Muay Thai champion, BJJ purple belt, former Ring of Combat Lightweight champion, 22 knockouts as a kickboxer, 6 knockouts as a mixed martial artist, likes to kick.

Njokuani: Liked kicking Chris Horodecki, Nigerian, also a Muay Thai practitioner, 8 of 13 wins by knockout, three time WEC Knockout of the Night winner, UFC debut.

Remarks: I anticipate a fighter being decapitated here, with the likely victim being Njokuani.  He’s been a bit more inconsistent in his career, while Barbosa’s young MMA career has started off on the right foot.  For those wondering, that was absolutely a kickboxing pun.  Barboza will win by knockout.

Welterweight: Mike Pyle (20-7-1, No. 14 WW) vs. Ricardo Almeida (13-4, No. 22 WW)

Pyle: Merely a BJJ brown belt (better than my BJJ invisible belt), fought for IFL, Strikeforce, EliteXC, and WEC, an amazing 17 career submissions, trains out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, unfortunately from Tennessee

Almeida: 3rd degree BJJ black belt from Renzo Gracie, made his UFC debut in 2001, returned in 2008, 5-2 in his second UFC stint, ADCC grappling veteran, last beat T.J. Grant, should not have lost to Matt Hughes last August.

Remarks: Almeida holds the advantage here.  Both fighters specialize in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but few do it better than Ricardo Almeida.  If you’re influential enough as a BJJ practitioner, they give you a sweet black and red belt, or even a red belt if you’re some kind of BJJ megastar.  Black and red is reached at the seventh degree and it took Pedro Sauer 14 years to go from 3rd to 7th degree.  You’ve got some work to do, Almeida!

Light Heavyweight: Luiz Cane (10-3, 1 NC, No. 24 LHW) vs. Eliot Marshall (10-2)

Cane: BJJ black belt, good Muay Thai, on a two fight skid with losses to Cyrille Diabate and Little Nog, once knocked the dreads off Sokoudjou’s head, from Brazil, known as “Banha.”

Marshall: BJJ black belt, UFC return after going 3-1 in his first stint, TUF season 8 contestant, likes submissions, doesn’t like Vladimir Matyushenko, trains with Shane Carwin at Grudge Training Center, on a three fight winning streak.

Remarks: Eliot Marshall is from New Jersey: good because UFC 128 is also in New Jersey, bad because ewwww, New Jersey.  Honestly, I kinda like New Jersey.  I even had a sex dream about Snooki and Deena from Jersey Shore the other night.  Actually, it was just events leading up to sex since their top bunk bed couldn’t support three people.  I have no clue where that dream came from.  Leave me alone, I can’t help what I dream.  Yes, I know they’re both pretty gross.  Oh, and Luiz Cane will win by TKO.

Lightweight: Kurt Pellegrino (15-5, No. 15 LW) vs. Gleison Tibau (21-7)

Pellegrino: BJJ black belt, recovering from torn ACL, accomplished amateur wrestler, ten career submission victories, last lost to George Sotriropoulos, 7-3 in the UFC, nicknamed “Batman.”

Tibau: Also a BJJ blackbelt, trains with American Top Team, similarly submission oriented with 9 career submission victories, last lost to Jim Miller, not nicknamed “Batman.”

Remarks: Gleison Tibau should be nicknamed “Robin” for humor’s sake.  Actually, that wouldn’t work with these two as opponents, so he should be called “Joker” or “Clayface.”  Clayface isn’t an offensive nickname, is it?  I hope not.  Anyway, I like Pellegrino in this one.  It will be a great battle between two premier Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, but I think Pellegrino is just a bit more talented than Tibau.

Bantamweight: Joseph Benavidez (13-2, No. 2 BW) vs. Ian Loveland (14-7)

Benavidez: High school wrestling champion, eight career submission victories, 4-2 in the WEC, UFC debut, trains with Team Alpha Male, last defeated Wagnney Fabiano.

Loveland: Also a former wrestler, defeated Tyler Toner in his UFC debut, six knockout and six submission wins in his career, first fight at bantamweight, trains with Team Quest, nicknamed “Barn Owl.”

Remarks: On one hand, we have one of the top bantamweights in the world that has only ever been defeated by Dominick Cruz.  On the other, we’ve got a guy making his bantamweight debut that is called “Barn Owl.”  Actually, Loveland is a good fighter, but Benavidez is too good.  He’s too good for Ian Loveland, just like he’s too good to be fighting in an unaired preliminary fight.  Come on, UFC.

Featherweight: Erik Koch (11-1) vs. Raphael Assuncao (15-3, No. 16 FEW)

Koch: Dangerous submission artist with seven submission victories, 3-1 in the WEC, trains at Roufusport, replacement for Manny Gamburyan, defeated Jameel Massouh in 2009, UFC debut, Erik spelled with a “K.”

Assuncao: BJJ black belt (lots of those at UFC 128), also likes submissions, also making UFC debut, also fights at featherweight, also defeated Jameel Massouh in 2009, very little at 5’4”.

Remarks: Someone in this fight is going to get submitted.  I think Koch will take this fight, since Roufusport fighters never seem to lose.  Pat Barry, Matt Mitrione, Anthony Pettis; all winners.  Even Alan Belcher seems to have been successful against a potentially debilitating eye injury.  Koch will pull off the upset win against Assuncao.

Catchweight (195 lbs.): Costantinos Philippou (7-1, 1 NC) vs. Nick Catone (8-2)

Philippou: BJJ game, extensive amateur boxing record, sole loss to Ricardo Romero, trains out of the Serra-Longo MMA camp, King of the Cage veteran, TUF 11 contestant, replacing Dan Miller, Greek and tattooed.

Catone: Division I wrestler, BJJ background, good striking, 2-2 in the UFC, last fought January 2010, withdrew from two fights in 2010 due to injuries, nicknamed “Jersey Devil.”

Remarks: I like Philippou’s chances, even as a late replacement.  We saw what Serra-Longo fighters can do after Chris Weidman defeated Alessio Sakara.  Catone has a great wrestling background, but Philippou is no slouch on the ground.  I still think this fight fits more of the wrestler vs. striker mold, and I’ll give the nod to Catone in a close decision victory.

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