UFC on FOX 2 preview: Preliminary bouts
Preliminary bouts (on Fuel TV):
Evan Dunham (12-2) vs. Nik Lentz (21-4-2)
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Headlining the "UFC Prelims" special on Fuel TV is a lightweight clash of styles pitting a dangerous submission stylist against a rugged wrestler.
Dunham, 30, was billed as the future of the lightweight division after winning his first three UFC fights and arguably deserving the nod against former longtime lightweight champion Sean Sherk in a fight he lost by razor-thin split decision.
However, Dunham's momentum came to a screeching halt when he suffered a first-round knockout loss to Melvin Guillard in January 2011. He has since rattled off a decision win over Shamar Bailey, but he's no longer getting the praise and hype he earned in 2010.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt based at Throwdown Training Center and Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Dunham is a rangy southpaw who also threatens foes with dynamic kickboxing.
Lentz, 27, is coming off a decision loss to Mark Bocek at UFC 140 in December, the first legitimate loss of his UFC career. The former NCAA Division I wrestler has recorded wins over the likes of Waylon Lowe, Tyson Griffin, Andre Winner, Rob Emerson and Rafaello Oliveira.
The Minnesota Martial Arts product showcased his unheralded submission game by nearly sinking in a guillotine choke on Bocek, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he ended up losing a decision after being taken down in every round.
Lentz excels when he's fighting one-dimensional opponents with weak bases in wrestling. However, Dunham is dangerous anywhere and his striking and submissions should give him a substantial edge. Stylistically, Lentz is similar to Bailey, Dunham's latest victim, and Dunham should capitalize by scoring with an array of strikes and controlling the tempo of the fight over three closely contested rounds.
Verdict: Dunham via decision
Mike Russow (14-1) vs. Jon Olav Einemo (6-2)
In a heavyweight showdown, Russow will look to extend his winning streak to four against one of the most accomplished submission specialists in the weight class.
Russow, 35, a former NCAA Division I wrestler, recently relocated to Team DeathClutch where he now trains alongside Pat Barry and Bellator king Cole Konrad. Coming off back-to-back knockouts of Todd Duffee and Jon Madsen, Russow is inching closer to the title picture in the increasingly stacked heavyweight category.
The Chicago native often uses his wrestling to set up submissions, but he would be well-advised to stand and trade with Einemo, a former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and one of the only men to defeat submission ace Roger Gracie in a grappling match.
Einemo, 36, left the sport in 2006 after submitting James Thompson. However, he returned this past June under the UFC banner, losing to Dave Herman in an exciting battle that earned both men a "Fight of the Night" bonus.
The Norwegian "Viking" is based at Team Golden Glory in the Netherlands, which means the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is surrounded by world-class kickboxers on a daily basis.
But Einemo is still too predictable and he relies heavily on his submissions. A wrestler of Russow's caliber should be an especially difficult test as he will stuff Einemo's desperate attempts to pull guard or take him down. Einemo's toughness will keep him in the fight until a late flurry puts the exhausted Norwegian out cold.
Verdict: Russow via TKO, Round 3
Cub Swanson (15-5) vs. George Roop (12-8-1)
Featherweights Swanson and Roop are on the rebound trail as they look to bounce back from losses in a 145-pound tilt.
Swanson, 28, suffered a second-round submission loss to Ricardo Lamas this past November. The WEC veteran holds notable wins over Shannon Gugerty, Charlie Valencia, Micah Miller, Donny Walker, Hiroyuki Takaya and Mackens Semerzier, along with losses against recent title challenger Chad Mendes, featherweight torchbearer Jose Aldo and then-champion Jens Pulver.
A student of Greg Jackson in New Mexico, Swanson is a scrappy fighter who poses a threat anywhere, but he's not a specialist in any one particular discipline.
Roop, 30, has been adjusting to changes in his camp after the death of his coach Shawn Tompkins. The Arizona native gave Japanese sensation Hatsu Hioki his toughest fight in recent memory despite coming out on the losing end of a tight split decision at UFC 137 this past October.
Since dropping to featherweight, Roop has knocked out Josh Grispi and Chan Sung Jung in spectacular fashion, though training partner Mark Hominick handled him with relative ease when they crossed paths last January.
Roop is a solid kickboxer with excellent submission defense and a size advantage over most fighters in the weight class.
The former Rage in the Cage featherweight champion is well aware of how close he came to upsetting Hioki and he's eager to return to the win column. He will find openings against Swanson, battering the durable California native with strikes en route to a convincing decision win.
Verdict: Roop via decision
Charles Oliveira (14-2) vs. Eric Wisely (19-6)
In a featherweight bout that could prove to be a mismatch, a highly touted Brazilian up-and-comer faces off against a durable UFC newcomer.
The 22-year-old Oliveira, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, was crushed in the first round of his bout against Donald Cerrone this past August. After submitting Darren Elkins and Efrain Escudero in his first two UFC bouts, Oliveira's eyes were opened when he took a significant leap in competition against Jim Miller, a bout he lost by first-round kneebar.
The Sao Paulo native has wisely dropped to 145 pounds, a weight more suitable for his frame. A well-versed muay thai striker and submission specialist, Oliveira will be looking to reclaim some of the success he enjoyed early in his UFC tenure, but his relatively unknown opponent could prove to be a stiffer test than some are expecting.
The 27-year-old Wisely, a product of Team Conquest, received his first taste of mainstream exposure in a unanimous decision loss to Pat Healy at Strikeforce Challengers 18 last August. Despite failing to come out on top, Wisely performed well against a tough lightweight and he also holds notable wins over Hermes Franca and Matt Veach.
This fight also marks Wisely's first foray at featherweight. Wisely should possess a size advantage and his wrestling will be his main key to victory.
But Oliveira is a more diverse fighter with superior speed and striking. If he can avoid fighting off his back, he should outpoint the UFC first-timer over three back-and-forth rounds.
Verdict: Oliveira via decision
Michael Johnson (9-6) vs. Shane Roller (10-5)
In a lightweight scrap, "The Ultimate Fighter" finalist Johnson will try to improve his UFC record to 2-2 against the Team Takedown standout Roller.
Johnson, 25, who now resides with the Imperial Athletics camp in Florida, was overwhelmed in a first-round submission loss against Paul Sass in October. The Missouri native is armed with heavy hands and strong wrestling, but he's struggled with submission players throughout his career.
Roller, 32, a former NCAA Division I wrestler, is now 1-2 in his UFC career as he desperately needs a win after back-to-back losses against T.J. Grant and Melvin Guillard. Roller has beaten his fair share of solid fighters, including Danny Castillo, Anthony Njokuani and Jamie Varner.
Roller's wrestling is his specialty, but he also threatens opponents with sublime submissions and heavy punches, evidenced by his second-round thrashing of Thiago Tavares last March.
Roller may have lost two straight, but he remains a highly dangerous lightweight with skills in all areas and he could be the toughest opponent of Johnson's career.
Roller should swarm Johnson with pressure, and, after two rounds of exhausting offense, Roller should conquer his foe by sinking in his hooks for a rear-naked choke.
Verdict: Roller via submission, Round 3
Joey Beltran (13-6) vs. Lavar Johnson (15-5)
Two hard-punching heavyweights are on a collision course as Beltran tries to rebound from a disappointing loss against the Strikeforce veteran Johnson, who makes his promotional debut after the UFC absorbed the Strikeforce heavyweight roster.
Beltran, 30, dropped a unanimous decision to Stipe Miocic in October. The Alliance MMA pupil implements a familiar game plan in every fight with a willingness to trade heavy shots standing. "The Mexicutioner" has yet to be stopped in his UFC career.
Johnson, 34, is coming off successive submission setbacks against Shawn Jordan and Shane del Rosario. The American Kickboxing Academy product could get only one opportunity in the UFC and he will need to make the most of it. Johnson's story is one of resilience as he was shot in the abdomen during a family reunion in 2009, having to fight his way back to competitive form.
Both fighters like to trade and the fans will benefit as the big men engage in a frantic brawl. Beltran has fought a higher level of competition with greater consistency, and, as such, he will likely be the one dishing out the decisive blow that puts an end to this crowd-pleasing encounter.
Verdict: Beltran via TKO, Round 1
Chris Camozzi (15-5) vs. Dustin Jacoby (6-1)
Welterweights Camozzi and Jacoby are both trying to rebound from losses at UFC 137 with the loser facing a possible pink slip.
The 25-year-old Camozzi was outpointed by debuting Canadian Francis Carmont in his UFC return. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt was released from the UFC after an October 2010 submission loss to Kyle Noke, but a decision win over Joey Villasenor last May earned him another shot in the big league.
The 23-year-old Jacoby was unsuccessful in his first UFC outing, losing a decision to fellow newcomer Clifford Starks. The Colorado native is in a must-win situation if he hopes to remain in the UFC.
This is a fairly even matching on paper that could come down to better conditioning. They should mix it up over three rounds, but Camozzi's ability to initiate the clinch will score him points with the judges as he prevails in a competitive decision.
Verdict: Camozzi via decision