The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Las Vegas on Saturday as UFC 132 will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
In the main event, the UFC bantamweight title will be on the line for the first time with Urijah Faber challenging Dominick Cruz in a grudge match dating back four years.
Meanwhile, "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva is back in action after a prolonged hiatus due to injury. He’s set to battle Chris Leben in a middleweight firefight for the ages.
And UFC trailblazer Tito Ortiz fights for relevance — and likely his job — when he takes on Ryan Bader in a light heavyweight matchup.
Main Bouts (On Pay-Per-View)
Dominick Cruz (17-1) vs. Urijah Faber (25-4)
The first UFC bantamweight championship bout in UFC history tops the bill as reigning champion Cruz looks to avenge the only blemish on his record — a March 2007 loss to the former WEC featherweight king Faber.
Cruz, 25, has shown considerable improvement since his loss to Faber, going on an eight-fight winning streak and stopping Brian Bowles to claim the WEC bantamweight belt. The Alliance MMA product utilizes sound wrestling, elusive striking and constant movement to outwork his opponents.
Cruz has already outpointed Faber’s teammate Joseph Benavidez twice under the WEC banner, but Faber’s a much stronger and physically larger opponent.
Faber, 32, is a former NCAA Division I wrestler and a BJJ black belt. He made a successful UFC debut this past March, winning a hard-fought decision over Eddie Wineland.
Following two losses against Mike Thomas Brown and an unsuccessful attempt at dethroning Jose Aldo, Faber wisely made the weight cut to compete at 135 pounds, where he instantly made an impact with a first-round submission of Takeya Mizugaki.
The Team Alpha Male captain holds wins over the likes of Cole Escovedo, Bibiano Fernandes, Jeff Curran, Jens Pulver and Raphael Assuncao at featherweight, but it was his first-round submission win over Cruz that still stands out on his record with Cruz since reaching the top of the bantamweight class.
One of Faber’s primary strengths is his wrestling, which will be a crucial element in his pursuit of UFC gold. He’s also a submission machine with excellent chokes. If he can close the distance and secure one of his patented takedowns on Cruz, he’ll enter his comfort zone.
Conversely, Cruz must use his speed and timing to keep the fight at a distance, which is where he is most effective. However, Cruz too has a solid foundation in wrestling and might prove difficult to take down.
This fight should be a crowd-pleaser as they are both exciting fighters with supreme conditioning and like to compete at a remarkably fast pace.
If Cruz can turn this fight into a kickboxing match, the edge belongs to him. However, Faber should maintain unrelenting pressure while pursuing takedowns and submissions, which should give him the decision and the title after five hard-fought rounds.
Verdict: Faber via unanimous decision
Wanderlei Silva (33-10-1-1) vs. Chris Leben (25-7)
In an exciting middleweight clash, "The Axe Murderer" makes his long awaited UFC return against a fellow brawler who calls himself "The Crippler."
Win or lose, Silva will go down in history as one of the best light heavyweights of all time. We’ve only seen the 34-year-old Brazilian compete once at middleweight, though it was an impressive tactical decision over emerging contender Michael Bisping.
Prior to that victory, the BJJ black belt and muay thai specialist Silva had tasted defeat in five of six bouts, despite his opponents all being physically bigger. The vicious Chute Boxe Academy product has since found his home in Las Vegas as the head coach of Wand Fight Team. In addition, he regularly shows up at Reign Training Center and Kings MMA, where elite training partners are abundant.
Though his record might indicate the opposite, Silva’s actually matured as a fighter since his run to Japan, where he’s trounced the likes of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Ricardo Arona, Kazushi Sakuraba and Dan Henderson. Still a wild slugger at heart, Silva’s now more patient and technical with his strikes, which could be a useful asset in this fight.
The 30-year-old American Leben will be looking to rebound from a first-round stoppage against Brian Stann this past January. He was actually on the verge of entering contender status as he racked up a trio of wins, including a late triangle choke submission win over Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Leben’s actually well-versed in all aspects of the game with solid wrestling and submissions, but he’s content trading bombs on any given night, which has made him a fan favorite among UFC fans. If Leben ties Silva up, he can turn this into a frustrating fight.
In terms of striking, Leben undoubtedly possesses knockout power, but Silva is technically superior and shares the same devastating power. Leben does have an effective left hook, which was Silva’s Achilles’ heel in his bout with "Rampage" at UFC 92 in December 2008.
Nonetheless, Silva’s combination of timing and ruthlessness will likely overwhelm Leben as this epic slugfest ends with an emphatic stoppage.
Verdict: Silva via KO, Round 2
Ryan Bader (12-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (15-8-1)
In light-heavyweight action, "The Ultimate Fighter" winner looks to spoil what is likely Ortiz’s last opportunity to prove he still has a place in the UFC.
A two-time NCAA Division I All-American, Bader’s among the most decorated wrestlers in the weight class. His striking has some holes, but he gave opponents a reason not to take his power lightly when he starched Keith Jardine in their February 2010 encounter.
Bader will be looking to rebound from his first professional loss — a beating courtesy of current UFC light heavyweight torchbearer Jon Jones. Bader’s training partners include Aaron Simpson and C.B. Dollaway.
The 36-year-old UFC pioneer Ortiz is hardly a stranger in any MMA circles as the former champion has enjoyed a storied career with wins over Ken Shamrock, Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva.
Despite not winning a fight since 2006, Ortiz has been competitive in each of his defeats. The California native would have outpointed Rashad Evans had he not been docked a point for grabbing the octagon. He nearly caught Lyoto Machida in a submission when they faced off in 2008. And many ringside observers had scored his rematch with Griffin in his favor.
However, Ortiz is being judged by his most recent performance, in which he dropped an uninspired decision to Matt Hamill. His lack of conditioning was the difference in a fight he would have won in his prime.
Ortiz also specializes in wrestling and is often credited, along with Mark Coleman, as one of the fighters who defined the term ground-and-pound.
Bader’s superior conditioning and wrestling are the factors making him a heavy favorite on betting lines leading into this fight. However, a motivated Ortiz could prove to be tougher to send home than some think. He has the skills to punish Bader with his hands and hang with him on the mat. Still, his conditioning and inability to sprawl will likely cost him a three-round decision.
Verdict: Bader via unanimous decision
Carlos Condit (26-5) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (14-0-1)
In a meeting of top welterweight contenders, the last reigning WEC welterweight champion battles the unbeaten South Korean sensation Kim.
Condit, 27, is a well-oiled fighting machine with a wealth of experience, along with quality wins over Dan Hardy, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger in the UFC. A pupil of master strategist Greg Jackson, "The Natural Born Killer" is dangerous virtually anywhere the fight goes.
Kim, 29, is coming off three decision wins over T.J. Grant, Amir Sadollah and Nathan Diaz. The fourth dan black belt in judo faced his biggest test to date when he lost a close split decision to Karo Parisyan in January 2009, though the bout was later overturned to a no contest when Parisyan tested positive for banned painkillers.
Kim’s grappling and positional control game has been overwhelming for most of his opponents thus far, even the BJJ virtuoso Diaz. If Kim can score with takedowns, throws and trips, Condit will have little chance of winning the fight off his back.
On the other hand, Kim will be in deep trouble if he is unsuccessful bringing the fight to the mat. Condit’s a dangerous kickboxer and is coming off a spectacular first-round knockout of Dan Hardy last October.
It’s a difficult bout to predict as both men have been on a tear of late. However, Kim may become a stylistic nightmare for the American. Mixing it up in the clinch and securing dominant positions on the mat will be the South Korean’s blueprint to victory.
Verdict: Kim via split decision
Dennis Siver (18-7) vs. Matt Wiman (13-5)
In a competitive lightweight pairing, Siver will look to build on the biggest win of his career when he faces Wiman, who is riding a three-fight winning streak of his own.
Siver, 32, halted the meteoric rise of Australian standout George Sotiropoulos, winning a convincing unanimous decision at UFC 127 this past February. The Russian-born German combatant is a dangerous kickboxer with an unheralded submission game.
Wiman, 27, is coming off wins over Shane Nelson, Mac Danzig and Cole Miller. The American wrestler is no slouch on his feet, but he excels when he’s slamming foes and bullying them around.
Siver may have been able to stuff the takedowns of Sotiropoulos, but keeping Wiman off him is easier said than done. If the aggressive American dictates the pace and prevents Siver from controlling the range with his strikes, he’ll emerge triumphant after all is said and done.
Verdict: Wiman via unanimous decision
Preliminary Bouts (On Spike TV)
Melvin Guillard (27-8-2) vs. Shane Roller (10-3)
Riding the momentum of a sensational first-round stoppage of Evan Dunham this past January, Guillard takes on the WEC veteran Roller, who made a statement of his own in his UFC debut when he scored a crushing knockout win over Thiago Tavares.
Guillard, 28, has been reborn since Greg Jackson took him under his wing in New Mexico. With significant experience for a fighter his age, Guillard has struggled at times due to his submission defense. Under Jackson, the explosive striker and judo brown belt has put the lightweight division on notice with his four-fight winning streak.
Another resounding win could put him in the mix for a title shot.
Roller, 31, holds notable wins over the likes of Tavares, Danny Castillo, Anthony Njokuani and Jamie Varner. A three-time NCAA Division I All-American at Oklahoma State University, Roller relies primarily on his fundamentals, though he definitely raised some eyebrows with his most recent win.
At this stage, Guillard is simply too explosive to be held down unless Roller can take this fight into deep water. Once Guillard’s conditioning begins to fail him, Roller can capitalize. However, Guillard’s heavy hands and aggressive style will likely lead to an early finish.
Verdict: Guillard via KO, Round 1
George Sotiropoulos (14-3) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (14-5)
In yet another compelling lightweight showdown, the BJJ ace looks to bounce back from his first UFC loss when he meets dos Anjos, a fellow submission magician.
Sotiropoulos, 33, saw his eight-fight winning streak snapped against Dennis Siver in February. Under 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu founder Eddie Bravo, the Australian has outgrappled and submitted most of his opposition. Some of his victims are seasoned grapplers as well, including Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Lauzon.
Dos Anjos, 26, earned his BJJ black belt under Aldo Januario de Oliveira. Prior to breaking his jaw in his bout with Clay Guida last August, he was on a three-fight winning streak, including an impressive submission win over British lightweight Terry Etim.
Sotiropoulos’ weakness was exposed in his loss to Siver. However, dos Anjos is the perfect type of opponent for Sotiropoulos to flaunt his skills. The Australian, who exhibited solid boxing skills in his win over Stevenson, should find more success with his takedowns in this fight. Once tangled up on the mat, he’ll be right at home. Even standing, dos Anjos hardly presents the same type of threat as Siver with his strikes, which gives Sotiropoulos the edge virtually anywhere the fight goes.
Verdict: Sotiropoulos via unanimous decision
Preliminary Bouts (On Facebook)
Brian Bowles (9-1) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (14-5-2)
In bantamweight action, the former champion and the Japanese contender will each look to notch their second victories in the UFC.
Bowles, 31, is coming off a first-round submission win over Damacio Page in his UFC debut this past March. He’d previously lost his title to current champ Dominick Cruz, but he was coming off an unexpected first-round knockout win over Miguel Torres, the division’s longtime ruler. Bowles is very well-rounded and could become a frontrunner to challenge for the title if he leaves a lasting impression Saturday night.
Mizugaki, 27, was competing solely in Japan for the Shooto and Cage Force organizations before getting nabbed by the WEC in 2009. The Japanese kickboxer proved his worth in his debut, going five hard rounds with Torres and subsequently winning decisions over Jeff Curran and Rani Yahya.
Bowles has more power with his strikes and is the more explosive fighter. Mizugaki is tough enough to hold his own standing, but Bowles is too versatile and can always revert to his wrestling if his hands fail him. Bowles’ killer instinct with his submissions could be the difference maker.
Verdict: Bowles via submission, Round 1
Brad Tavares (7-0) vs. Aaron Simpson (8-2)
The unbeaten Hawaiian will cross paths with the two-time NCAA Division I All-American in middleweight action.
Tavares, 23, has a bright future ahead of him in the sport. Fresh off a knockout win over Phil Baroni this past January, Tavares must be ready for the toughest adversary of his career. A dangerous striker, Tavares can finish the fight anywhere, though he’ll likely have no intention of locking up with the esteemed wrestler.
Simpson, 36, is coming off a unanimous decision win over tough Brazilian Mario Miranda in March. He’s also defeated the likes of Ed Herman and Tom Lawlor, while falling against Chris Leben and Mark Munoz.
In his knockout loss to Leben, Simpson was susceptible to aggressive striking. Tavares will be swinging early and often, which could be his saving grace. Simpson will assume control of the fray if his takedowns are successful, but his hands are no match for the Shawn Tompkins-trained striker.
Verdict: Tavares via TKO, Round 3
Andre Winner (11-5-1) vs. Anthony Njokuani (13-5)
In a well-matched lightweight battle of stand-up specialists, the Grenada-born Brit collides with the Nigerian Njokuani.
Winner, 29, is likely on his last legs in the UFC coming off losses to Nik Lentz and Dennis Siver. A training partner of Dan Hardy and Paul Daley, the Team Rough House member has notched wins over Mario Stapel, Roli Delgado and Rafaello Oliveira, though he finds himself in a must-win situation.
Njokuani, 31, is a muay thai machine with notable wins over Ed Faaloloto, Chris Horodecki and Bart Palaszewski. Njokuani’s ground game has failed him in the past, but he should match up well with a fellow striker.
Both fighters are durable, but Njokuani should have an advantage if this becomes a kickboxing exhibition.
Verdict: Njokuani via unanimous decision
Jeff Hougland (9-4) vs. Donny Walker (12-6)
This late bantamweight addition to the card will give one of these regional fighters an opportunity to make a name for themselves on the big stage.
Hougland, 32, is on an eight-fight tear after a rough 1-5 start to his MMA career. He most recently saw action in May, submitting Craig Ross in Washington.
Walker, 31, is riding a seven-fight winning streak, though he’s struggled when matched up against higher caliber opposition, such as Cub Swanson and Jeff Curran.
Walker’s more experienced and has faced better fighters. Those factors alone will give him an edge.