UFC on FOX preview
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to FOX for the sixth time Saturday as the flyweight championship is on the line with Demetrious Johnson defending for the first time against red-hot contender John Dodson.
Meanwhile, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson seeks one final hurrah in the Octagon as he tries to derail the momentum of rising light heavyweight prospect Glover Teixeira, plus Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis will clash in a scintillating lightweight title eliminator, while Erik Koch and Ricardo Lamas hope a dominant performance will earn them a crack at featherweight supremacy.
Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s stacked fight card from Chicago’s United Center:
Main Card (FOX)
Demetrious Johnson (16-2-1) vs. John Dodson (14-5) - flyweight title
Two of the quickest fighters in UFC history will get it on as flyweight champion Johnson makes his first title defense against “The Ultimate Fighter 14” winner Dodson.
Both fighters have spent the better part of their careers competing at 135 pounds, but they now find themselves in a position to realize their potential in the newfound flyweight class.
The 26-year-old Johnson claimed the inaugural 125-pound championship, winning an impressive split decision over two-time bantamweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez.
In his victories over Nick Pace, Damacio Page, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Miguel Torres at bantamweight, the Matt Hume-trained Johnson has showcased exceptional speed and wrestling in the Octagon.
The 28-year-old Dodson crushed T.J. Dillashaw in the first round to win “TUF” before rattling off a pair of victories over Tim Elliott at Jussier da Silva at his natural weight.
The explosive southpaw, a representative of Greg Jackson’s Albuquerque-based academy, possesses significant power and sharp timing.
In what should be a tremendous showcase of abilities, look for Johnson to be one step ahead of the challenger on Saturday night, utilizing swift movement and perfectly timed takedowns, while landing effective countershots over the course of 25 minutes, to emerge triumphant via decision.
Verdict: Johnson via decision
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (32-10) vs. Glover Teixeira (19-2)
In a compelling light heavyweight showdown, the former UFC champion “Rampage” could step foot inside the Octagon for the very last time when he tangles with the highly touted Chuck Liddell pupil Teixeira.
Jackson, 34, is coming off one of his worst career performances, dropping a lousy unanimous decision to Ryan Bader at UFC 144 last February in Japan. Jackson did claim to be injured, which also caused him to miss weight. Still, “Rampage” appeared to be a shell of his former self.
Throughout his prime, Jackson beat some of the sport’s most decorated stars. Jackson amassed wins over Igor Vovchanchyn, Kevin Randleman, Murilo Bustamante, Chuck Liddell, Ricardo Arona and Murilo “Ninja” Rua during his stint with the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships in Japan.
After joining the UFC in 2007, it didn’t take long for Jackson to win the title, knocking out Liddell in a rematch at UFC 71.
Jackson’s other notable victims in the UFC include Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and Lyoto Machida. Not too shabby.
Jackson is now on a two-fight losing streak, which includes a fourth-round submission loss to reigning champion Jon Jones at UFC 135.
The Memphis native has been vocal about Saturday night being his last fight for the organization, so it would be fitting to see Jackson show up in top form. If “Rampage” is indeed at 100 percent, he’s being far too overlooked in this one.
After becoming famous for his slams in Japan, “Rampage” quickly earned a reputation for his one-punch knockout power. A durable boxer and wrestler with a strong chin, Jackson’s biggest weaknesses include predictable and one-dimensional striking, as well as questionable conditioning, often dependent on his training camp.
Teixeira, 33, a native of Brazil, has spent the better part of his career as a training partner of the UFC Hall of Famer Liddell.
A pupil of John Hackleman at The Pit in California, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has gone unnoticed for most of his professional career, building a respectable winning streak over the likes of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Joaquim Ferreira, Marcio Cruz, Antonio Mendes, Marvin Eastman and Ricco Rodriguez.
The well-rounded Teixeira finally joined the UFC last year, finishing Kyle Kingsbury and Fabio Maldonado in emphatic fashion.
Teixeira remains untested against an elite caliber of competition, while Jackson has literally been in there with all the biggest names in his division.
Regardless, all signs have pointed to a fading “Rampage” and a surging Teixeira, which doesn’t bode well for the former champion.
Teixeira will push a feverish pace, which has often been an effective weapon against Jackson, evidenced in his one-sided losses against Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Pride. Jackson will look for a big left hook to end the contest, but Teixeira will have him all figured out, wearing him down with a relentless pressure game before securing a late submission.
Verdict: Teixeira via submission, Round 3
Donald Cerrone (19-4) vs. Anthony Pettis (15-2)
In a lightweight barnburner, former WEC standouts Cerrone and Pettis vie for No. 1 contender status in the talent-laden lightweight division.
Cerrone, 29, turned in a pair of impressive performances against Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens last year, rebounding from a December 2011 loss to Nate Diaz.
Before dropping a decision to Diaz, Cerrone was on a roll, carrying a six-fight winning streak over the likes of Jamie Varner, Charles Oliveira and Dennis Siver.
Ever since dropping a pair of fights to reigning 155-pound king Benson Henderson under the WEC banner, Cerrone has been eager for a rematch.
The Jackson’s MMA product is a technical muay thai striker and a savvy submission specialist, which, stylistically, should translate into a “Fight of the Night” candidate against his flashy foe.
Pettis, 25, had been campaigning for an immediate UFC title shot after entering the promotion fresh off a unanimous decision win over Henderson, in which he became the last-ever WEC champion.
Henderson has since thrived in the UFC, reaching the top of the mountain following wins over Frankie Edgar and Diaz last year.
Pettis, meanwhile, dropped a frustrating unanimous decision to Clay Guida in his first appearance before bouncing back with successive wins over Stephens and Joe Lauzon.
The 3rd degree taekwondo black belt is perhaps most famous for his incredible jumping kick off the cage to drop Henderson at WEC 53, a move that has since been dubbed the “Showtime Kick.”
His sensational head kick stoppage of Lauzon last February earned him “Knockout of the Night” honors.
A protégé of Duke Roufus, Pettis’ dynamic striking is certainly his most potent weapon, but the Wisconsin native has also showcased a stellar submission game off his back, finishing Mike Campbell, Alex Karalexis and Shane Roller with triangle chokes.
Cerrone has never shied away from a traditional striking contest, which should work to Pettis’ favor. Although Cerrone should be competitive throughout, Pettis will land the most significant combinations, dazzling the crowd and judges with unorthodox kicks and counters. Cerrone, who has never been finished by strikes, will fight hard until the final bell, but Pettis’ output and damage will be the deciding factors.
Verdict: Pettis via decision
Erik Koch (13-1) vs. Ricardo Lamas (12-2)
Kicking off the main card on FOX, top 10 featherweight contenders will set out to prove they deserve the next crack at the 145-pound title.
Koch, 24, another student of kickboxing great Duke Roufus, was actually expected to receive a title shot last July, but an injury to champion Jose Aldo followed by Frankie Edgar’s sudden drop to featherweight pushed him out of title contention.
Like his lightweight training partner Anthony Pettis, Koch is a world-class striker with effective grappling and submission skills.
Since dropping a decision to Chad Mendes in March 2010, the Iowa native Koch has defeated Bendy Casimir, Francisco Rivera, Raphael Assuncao and Jonathan Brookins, but he has not competed in over a year.
Lamas, 30, a Chicago native of Cuban and Mexican descent, is coming off a career-defining performance against Hatsu Hioki last June, in which he soundly outworked the top-ranked Japanese veteran to earn a well-deserved decision.
Riding a hat trick of wins over Hioki, Cub Swanson and Matt Grice, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt and former NCAA Division III wrestler has clearly entered his prime.
If Koch can keep the fight upright, he should be successful. The task won’t be easy against Lamas, who will look to close the distance and put Koch on his back, attempting to follow the blueprint set out by Mendes.
The result will come down to Koch’s ability to stuff takedowns and scramble out of bad positions. If he’s not up to the task, he’s in for a long night, as Lamas will be all over him, pursuing openings and fishing for submissions, ultimately doing enough to earn the nod after three hard-fought rounds.
Verdict: Lamas via decision
Preliminary Card (FX):
T.J. Grant (19-5) vs. Matt Wiman (15-6)
A highly compelling lightweight scrap will cap off the FX prelims as the 28-year-old Canadian Grant battles the 29-year-old Denver native Wiman.
Grant is unbeaten since dropping to 155 pounds, earning victories over Shane Roller, Carlo Prater and Evan Dunham, while Wiman is coming off wins over Mac Danzig and previously unbeaten submission savant Paul Sass, who succumbed to a first-round armbar against Wiman in a memorable finish this past September.
Both men are strong wrestlers with excellent submission repertoires, making this a particularly tough one to call.
Grant is a powerhouse at 155 pounds, so look for his strength to be a potential factor as he secures dominant positions to come away with the decision in a back-and-forth fight.
Verdict: Grant via decision
Clay Guida (29-13) vs. Hatsu Hioki (26-5-2)
In his featherweight debut, the 31-year-old Greg Jackson product Guida takes on the 29-year-old Japanese standout Hioki.
Guida has a lot to prove in this fight, not only because he’s coming off a pair of losses, but also due to the frustrating style he implemented in his most recent fight against Gray Maynard last June. Guida did a lot of jumping around and avoiding exchanges, but very little fighting. Judges seemed to think otherwise as Guida lost a close split decision on paper, but it was undoubtedly Guida’s worst offensive display.
At lightweight, Guida has been a staple in the UFC for years, beating the likes of Anthony Pettis, Takanori Gomi, Rafael dos Anjos, Nate Diaz and Mac Danzig. Saturday night marks his 145-pound debut against a competitor ranked in the top 10 of the division for over five years.
Hioki has not really lived up to his international reputation since joining the UFC in October 2011. After a pair of wins over George Roop and Bart Palaszewski, the former of which was closer than anticipated, Hioki lost a unanimous decision to Ricardo Lamas this past June.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and a well-versed kickboxer, Hioki overwhelms most opponents with suffocating grappling and submissions. In career wins over Marlon Sandro and Mark Hominick, Hioki has also excelled against world-class strikers.
The former Sengoku, Shooto and TKO featherweight champion could be in for a long night against Guida as the longtime lightweight will likely contender overpower the Japanese veteran over the course of 15 minutes. If he can avoid Hioki’s submission attempts, Guida should come away with the nod, but it’s unlikely to be the type of performance to win back support from skeptics.
Verdict: Guida via decision
Ryan Bader (14-3) vs. Vladimir Matyushenko (26-6)
In a 205-pound affair, the 29-year-old former NCAA Division I All-American Bader meets the 42-year-old Belarusian veteran Matyushenko.
Bader has seen his share of ups and downs since winning the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” After suffering his first career loss against Jon Jones in February 2011, Bader hit rock bottom as he was submitted by Tito Ortiz at UFC 132. Bader bounced with the biggest win of his career against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 144 last February.
Since then, however, Bader has been stopped yet again as he suffered a second-round knockout loss to former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in August.
Matyushenko, who made his promotional debut at UFC 32 in June 2001, is a former IFL champion with a wealth of experience against elite opposition. Despite nearing the tail-end of his career, the oldest contracted fighter on the UFC roster has picked up some quality wins over Igor Pokrajac, Eliot Marshall, Alexandre Ferreira and Jason Brilz. He last saw action at UFC 141, where Alexander Gustafsson stopped him in the first round.
Not only is Matyushenko getting up there in age, he hasn’t fought for over a year. Bader isn’t the most consistent fighter, but all signs point to the younger combatant having an advantage in a clash of similar styles. Matyushenko’s toughness has never been in doubt, but his best days are likely behind him.
Verdict: Bader via decision
David Mitchell (11-2) vs. Simeon Thoresen (17-3-1)
The 33-year-old Californian Mitchell faces the 28-year-old Norwegian Thoresen in a lightweight tilt.
Mitchell’s back is against the wall after going 0-2 in the Octagon in fights against T.J. Waldburger and Paulo Thiago. On the regional circuit, the previously unbeaten Mitchell owns notable wins over War Machine, Bobby Green and Tim McKenzie.
Thoresen is 1-1 since debuting in the UFC, submitting Besam Yousef in April, then suffering a knockout loss to Seth Baczynski this past September. The Hellboy MMA product is primarily a grappler, having submitting 15 of his 17 career victims.
Mitchell is also a specialist on the ground, so anything can happen, but Thoresen’s work in scrambles and repeated submission attempts should pay off if it goes the distance.
Verdict: Thoresen via decision
Shawn Jordan (13-4) vs. Mike Russow (15-2)
No card is truly complete without the heavyweights, as the 28-year-old Texan Jordan and the 36-year-old Illinois native Russow are set to collide.
Jordan made his mark with a pair of stoppages over Lavar Johnson and Oli Thompson, but he came up short against Cheick Kongo in a forgettable bout at UFC 149 this past July. The Jackson’s MMA product is an athletic heavyweight with powerful hands, which he intends to put to use on Saturday night.
Unbeaten since 2007, Russow’s winning streak was snapped at the hands of top five heavyweight Fabricio Werdum at UFC 147 in June. The former NCAA Division I wrestler still has a long way to go as a striker, but his wrestling pedigree allows him to dictate the pace of most fights.
Although Jordan will always be dangerous, especially early on, Russow’s vastly superior wrestling will be overwhelming as he grinds out a decision.
Verdict: Russow via decision
Pascal Krauss (10-1) vs. Mike Stumpf (11-3)
The 25-year-old German prospect Krauss will look to rebound from his first professional blemish against the 29-year-old Team Curran representative Stumpf, who was submitted by T.J. Waldburger in September of 2011.
A member of Duke Roufus’ Roufusport camp, Krauss is adapting well to the striking game, having already submitted seven opponents on the ground.
An equally competent grappler, Stumpf has the same number of submission victories, though he was thoroughly outclassed by Waldburger in his Octagon debut.
Krauss should show signs of improvement, having gone through the same training camp as Anthony Pettis and Erik Koch. He’ll push the pace and dominate the striking exchanges to win by decision.
Verdict: Krauss via decision
Online Prelim (FOXSports.com)
Rafael Natal (14-4-1) vs. Sean Spencer (9-1)
In the lone unaired contest on Saturday’s card, the 30-year-old Brazilian Natal welcomes 25-year-old newcomer “Black Magic” Spencer to the promotion.
Natal, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Andrew Craig last July, while Spencer, a dangerous striker, defeated Evan Cutts under the Legacy Fighting Championship banner in August.
Both fighters excel where the other exhibits weakness, so this stylistic battle will depend on execution. The Brazilian will try to smother Spencer on the ground, while the Virginia native seeks a finish reminiscent of Craig’s head kick knockout. With more professional and Octagon experience under his belt, Natal will be more comfortable in the cage as he presses the action to notch a decision.
Verdict: Natal via decision