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UFC 130 Preview

A few weeks ago, this card looked a whole lot different with Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar as the headliners.  The event took a big hit with both fighters withdrawing due to injury, but this still looks to be a very deep and very action packed UFC card, the 175th event in the history of the promotion.

The main event features the third ranked light heavyweight in the world, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, against Matt Hamill, who has gone an impressive 9-2 during his time in the UFC.  Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson serves as the co-main event of the evenign, while Thiago Alves and Rick Story face off in what should be an exciting welterweight title.

Jorge Santiago makes his return to the UFC against Brian Stann and a heavyweight contest between Stefan Struve and Travis Browne rounds out the main card.  We’ll also see ranked bantamweights Miguel Torres, Demetrious Johnson, Michael McDonald, and Renan Barao in action.

UFC 130 will take place tonight at 9:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST.  Two preliminary fights will air on Spike TV at 8:00 PM EST/7:00 PM CST, while the remaining three preliminary fights will be live and free on Facebook at 6:45 PM EST/5:45 PM CST.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that the UFC is catering to the old at heart (like myself) by airing these fights an hour earlier.  Now I can watch 11 great fights and get in bed at a reasonable hour on a Saturday night!  I just need to make sure to drink my warm milk or I will not sleep easy.

Light Heavyweight: Quinton Jackson (31-8, No. 3 LHW) vs. Matt Hamill (10-2, No. 16 LHW)

Jackson: Heavy handed PRIDE and UFC veteran, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, 14 career (T)KO wins while five of his last six fights have gone the distance, took a split decision victory over Lyoto Machida at UFC 123, hasn’t been finished in a fight since 2005, once did this to Ricardo Arona.

Hamill: NCAA Division 3 wrestler who won gold in the 2001 Deaflympics, has rounded out his skills as evidenced by his 6 (T)KO victories, has twice won Fight of the Night and once one Knockout of the Night awards, last defeated Tito Ortiz at UFC 121, defeated Jon Jones in devastating fashion in 2009.

Remarks: I bet Rampage is wishing that Thiago Silva was still his opponent.  Rampage goes from fighting a top ten light heavyweight to a middle-tier talent.  Hamill has been working to improve his game, but going from Tito Ortiz to Rampage Jackson is a massive jump in competition.

I’m not sure that Hamill will be able to do anything to win this fight.  His wrestling is good, but I’m not sure he would be capable of ending the fight against an experienced opponent like Jackson.  Rampage is too powerful and too strong for Hamill and Rampage should have his way in this fight.  I anticipate a TKO win for ‘Page en route to a Light Heavyweight Title shot.

Heavyweight: Frank Mir (14-5, No. 9 HW) vs. Roy Nelson (15-5, No. 12 HW)

Mir: Kenpo karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Nevada state high school wrestling champion, eight career submission victories, former UFC Heavyweight and Interim Heavyweight Champion, last defeated Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 119 in a supremely boring fight, has gone 2-2 in his last four fights with losses to Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar,

Nelson: Another BJJ black belt, ADCC submission wrestling quarterfinalist, former IFL Heavyweight Champion, season 10 Ultimate Fighter champion, last defeated by Junior dos Santos at UFC 117, previously defeated Stefan Struve and Brendan Schaub in the UFC, is slightly rotund.

Remarks: This isn’t the first time these two have competed, as “Big Country” defeated Mir in a grappling competition eight years ago.  Given how skilled of a BJJ practitioner Mir is, that should tell you something about Roy Nelson’s skills.  Nelson doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a great fighter on account of his rather prominent stomach.

I’m really torn about the result of this fight.  I dislike Mir, but I also think his physical conditioning might be able to carry him to a decision win on account of both fighters being fairly evenly matched.  I’ll go out on a limb and take Roy by split decision, but I think this could be a really great heavyweight contest.

Welterweight: Thiago Alves (18-7, No. 3 WW) vs. Rick Story (12-3, No. 20 WW)

Alves: BJJ black belt with an awesome 11 wins by knockout, defeated John Howard by unanimous decision at UFC 124 in December, has missed the welterweight limit in two of his last five fights, has only lost to Jon Fitch or Georges St-Pierre going back to 2005.

Story: Collegiate wrestler, half of his twelve wins have come by decision, on a five fight winning streak in the UFC, last defeated Johny Hendricks at the Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, has never been finished in his career, won Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night against Brian Foster at UFC 103.

Remarks: Story has been pretty impressive in the UFC as of late, winning in the octagon four times in 2010.  He’s got a good future in the UFC’s welterweight division, but he’s facing one of the top welterweights in the world.  Alves has only been defeated by the number one and two fighters in the weight class while defeating the likes of Josh Koscheck, Chris Lytle, and Matt Hughes.  Alves recovered nicely from losses to St-Pierre and Fitch by defeating John Howard and I see him taking a unanimous decision over Rick Story for his second win in a row.

Middleweight: Jorge Santiago (23-8, No. 7 MW) vs. Brian Stann (10-3, No. 12 MW)

Santiago: BJJ black belt with very good Muay Thai, 21 of his 23 wins have come by stoppage with 9 (T)KOs and 12 submissions, went 1-2 in his original UFC stint losing to Chris Leben and Alan Belcher, has gone 11-1 since leaving the promotion, won the 2007 Strikeforce and 2008 Sengoku Middleweight Grand Prix tournaments, last defeated Kazuo Misaki in an incredible fight last August.

Stann: Captain in the United States Marine Corps, awarded the Silver Star, has kickboxing experience evidenced by seven knockouts in ten victories, trains with Greg Jackson, went 5-1 in the WEC winning the promotion’s light heavyweight title, has gone 2-0 since moving down to middleweight, defeated Chris Leben in his last fight at UFC 125.

Remarks: I really like this fight and would be pleased to see either fighter win.  Santiago has proven to be one of the top middleweights in the world and Brian Stann is a tough dude who loves America.  I think Santiago might have a bit of an edge on account of his Jiu-Jitsu.  Brian Stann has heavy hands and is extremely strong and his training with Greg Jackson can only help his ground work.  I see this being another close fight and I’ll give a submission win to Santiago.  This fight will be very close and a (T)KO win from Stann wouldn’t stun me, but I really think Santiago is the better fighter in this one.

Heavyweight: Stefan Struve (21-4, No. 18 HW) vs. Travis Browne (10-0-1, No. 25 HW)

Struve: Very good kickboxer with great submission skills, 14 wins have come by way of submission, one time Knockout of the Night and one time Submission of the Night award winner, has gone 5-2 in the UFC with the sole losses to Roy Nelson and Junior dos Santos, on a two fight winning streak with victories over Sean McCorkle and Christian Morecraft, is an absolutely massive 6’11”, appropriately nicknamed “Skyscraper.”

Browne: A BJJ purple belt with awesome striking, eight career (T)KO victories, has gone 1-0-1 in the UFC and 3-0-1 dating back to February 2010, last fight with Cheick Kongo ruled a draw due to Kongo being a deducted a point, is a less massive but still very large 6’7″.

Remarks: This is perhaps the most interesting fight on the card tonight.  We have two of the tallest heavyweight fighters in the UFC, both of whom are fairly well rounded.  Struve can definitely stand and bang, but he’ll more often rely on his submissions.  Browne has BJJ experience, but is very heavy handed and loves to knock opponents out.

The one thing I’m confident in is that this fight will not go to a decision.  I thought that Browne didn’t look great against Cheick Kongo in a fight he would have lost if not for a point deduction.  Struve seems to have settled into his spot in the division lately, and at 23, is one of the top prospects at heavyweight right now.  I don’t anticipate Struve wanting to trade strikes with Browne and I think he’ll win this fight on the ground.  I think we’ll see Struve take a submission victory and continue to climb the heavyweight ladder.

Middleweight: Kendall Grove (12-8, 1 NC) vs. Tim Boetsch (12-4)

Grove: Former high school wrestler and BJJ practitioner, winner of the Ultimate Fighter season 3, has gone 7-5 in the UFC, coming off a convincing loss to Demian Maia, another tall fighter at 6’6″, nicknamed “Spyder” because everyone knows the letter “y” is cooler than the letter “i”, is a massive idiot.

Boetsch: A high school wrestling champion with very good power, six career (T)KO wins and five career submission wins, has gone 3-3 in two different UFC stints, his only four career losses are to currently ranked light heavyweights (Matyushenko, Hamill, Brilz, Davis), making his middleweight debut.

Remarks: I am really excited to see Tim Boetsch make his middleweight debut.  At weigh-ins yesterday, Boetsch looked in great shape and he looks like a different fighter 20 pounds lighter.  I hope that translates in the fight, as he looked good at light heavyweight but couldn’t hang with the top contenders in the division.  Fighting a longtime middleweight like Grove is a good start to Boetsch’s time at 185.

Grove has been wildly inconsistent in the UFC thus far and hasn’t lived up to his promise after winning the third season of the Ultimate Fighter.  He has big wins over Alan Belcher, Evan Tanner, and Jake Rosholt, but hasn’t been able to compete with the better middleweights.  I don’t like his chances against Boetsch, though I wonder if cutting the extra weight was at all hard on Boetsch.  I’ll take Boetsch by TKO in this one.

Bantamweight: Miguel Torres (39-3, No. 6 BW) vs. Demetrious Johnson (8-1, No. 9 BW)

Torres: BJJ black belt with very good Muay Thai, 23 craeer wins by submission, spent 18 months as the WEC Banatamweight Champion with three successful defenses, went 6-2 during his time in the WEC, defeated Antonio Banuelos in an unimpressive UFC debut at UFC 126, a taller bantamweight at 5’9″.

Johnson: A great wrestler with five career submission wins, went 2-1 in the UFC defeating Nick Pace and Damacio Page, beat “Kid” Yamamoto in his UFC debut at UFC 126, his last four fights have gone into the third round, a late replacement for Brad Pickett, nicknamed “Mighty Mouse”.

Remarks: Miguel Torres spent forever training on his own.  Now that he’s in the UFC, he’s been training at Tristar in Montreal, most notably known as where Georges St-Pierre trains in Montreal.  Torres looked like a different fighter at UFC 126 and I don’t mean that in a good way.  He looked listless and tentative, doing as little as possible to earn a decision win.  If Torres wants to be a ficture in the UFC’s bantamweight division, he will have to step up his game and find the right balance between aggressiveness and tentativeness.

Johnson is a good wrestler, but hasn’t faced a bantamweight test like Miguel Torres.  Johnson is also at a serious height disadvantage, giving six inches to the much taller Torres.  I don’t like Johnson’s chances, but then again, he might be able to win if Torres fights like he did against Banuelos.  Johnson might be able to avoid Torres’ reach if he has success with his takedowns.  I’ll give Johnson the decision win here, but it’s not a very confident choice.

Bantamweight: Renan Barao (25-1, 1 NC, No. 23 BW) vs. Cole Escovedo (17-6)

Barao: A BJJ brown belt with kickboxing experience, 12 career submission with 6 (T)KO wins, trains with Nova Uniao, fought exclusively in Brazil before going 2-0 in the WEC, making his UFC debut in this fight.

Escovedo: Another BJJ practitioner with good striking, finally making his UFC debut, has previously fought for Tachi Palace, DREAM, Strikeforce, WEC, and the IFL, has gone 3-2 since February 2010, notably kicking Yoshiro Maeda in the head, is a late replacement since Demetrious Johnson was moved up to fight Miguel Torres.

Remarks: I like Escovedo as a middle-tier gatekeeper in the UFC, but nothing more than that.  Barao is a very skilled rising prospect who can win wherever the fight may go.  Escovedo has a slightly better resume than Barao, but I like the Brazilian to score a submission victory.  Barao is ascending the ranks at 135 pounds and this fight should prove that Barao is for real.

Lightweight: Gleison Tibau (22-7) vs. Rafaello Oliveira (14-3)

Tibau: BJJ black belt, ten career submission victories, has gone 8-5 in his UFC career with key wins over Jeremy Stephens, Rich Clementi, and Caol Uno, last took an unimpressive split decision win over Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 128, was born Janigleison Herculano Alves.

Oliveira: Also a BJJ black belt, rejoining the UFC after leaving the promotion in early 2010, went 1-2 in the UFC with the sole win over John Gunderson, went 4-0 after leaving the promotion with a key win over Bendy Casimir, late replacement for Bart Palaszewski, is awesomely nicknamed “Tractor.”

Remarks: On the one hand, we have a UFC veteran fighting a late replacement.  On the other, we have a guy who is nicknamed “Tractor.”  This is a very tough decision to make, but I have to go with Tibau.  Oliveira has a very tough draw for his UFC return and he’s has trouble beating middle-to-upper echelon fighters in his career.  Tibau has had more time to prepare and is more talented and I think he’ll take this by decision.

Bantamweight: Michael McDonald (12-1, No. 18 BW) vs. Chris Cariaso (11-2)

McDonald: Great kickboxer with a BJJ brown belt, 7 career knockout wins, won his UFC debut over Edwin Figueroa at UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis, took Fight of the Night honors in the decision win over Figueroa, former Tachi Palace Fights Bantamweight Champion, avenged his sole loss to Cole Escovedo to win that title, not to be confused with Michael McDonald of K-1 or Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers.

Cariaso: Another very good kickboxer, only two career knockout wins against seven decision victories, won his UFC debut at the second Fight for the Troops against Will Campuzano, went 4-1 in Strikeforce and 1-1 in the WEC, was submitted by Renan Barao at the last WEC event, is very tiny at 5’3″.

Remarks: I really like McDonald in this fight.  He handled a very tough Edwin Figueroa in March and has now won five in a row with victories over Clint Godfrey, Manny Tapia, and Cole EscovedoMcDonald’s striking is very good and he’s pretty adept with submissions as well.  Cariaso is a talented fighter, but I’m not sure that he could handle the explosive striking of McDonald.  Add that McDonald has a five inch height advantage and I think there’s a good chance that Cariaso is going to get knocked out.

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