UFC on FX 1 preview: Preliminary card
Preliminary Bouts (on Fuel TV):
Jorge Rivera (19-9) vs. Eric Schafer (12-6-2)
Middleweights will headline the first preliminary card on Fuel TV as the well-travelled Rivera tries to turn a two-fight losing skid around against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Schafer.
The 39-year-old Rivera dropped fights to Constantinos Philippou and Michael Bisping in 2011. Prior to the successive setbacks, Rivera was riding high on three straight wins, including resounding stoppages of Nate Quarry and Rob Kimmons.
Rivera is no stranger to the fight game, having competed all over the world since 2001 and fighting top names like Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva, Chris Leben and Martin Kampmann.
Anchored at Team Sityodtong under Kru Mark DellaGrotte, the hard-hitting Boston native contemplated retirement after his most recent losses. However, he's decided to give it another go in a fight that could suit him stylistically.
The 34-year-old Schafer lost his UFC return by decision against Aaron Simpson this past October. Schafer struggled at light heavyweight due to size mismatches against most opponents, which prompted him to drop to 185 pounds.
A submission ace under Pedro Sauer, Schafer will likely look to avoid standing with Rivera as he desperately needs to get this fight to the canvas.
However, Rivera has exhibited solid takedown defense in past fights. His conditioning was an issue in his loss to Philippou, but his striking could overwhelm Schafer early.
The Wisconsin native has not been finished since 2006 and Rivera is slowly fading, but his output alone should earn him the nod after three competitive rounds.
Verdict: Rivera via decision
Kamal Shalorus (7-1-2) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (16-0)
In a lightweight showcase of international prospects, the decorated Iranian wrestler Shalorus tries to spoil the promotional debut of unbeaten Russian standout Nurmagomedov.
Shalorus, 39, was unbeaten until his UFC debut last March in which he suffered a third-round TKO loss to Jim Miller. After representing Great Britain in the Olympic qualifiers, Shalorus shifted his focus to mixed martial arts and submission grappling. He earned wins over Will Kerr, Dave Jansen and Bart Palaszewski under the WEC banner.
Nurmagomedov, 23, a two-time combat sambo champion, earned 16 straight victories with 12 finishes, ultimately earning himself a six-fight contract with the UFC. A submission specialist, Nurmagomedov is unquestionably entering the toughest fight of his career.
Wrestling has proven to be the difference maker time and time again in the UFC and it also happens to be Shalorus' speciality. The Iranian will close the distance and pressure his Russian adversary from bell to bell, resulting in the first blemish on Nurmagomedov's flawless record.
Verdict: Shalorus via decision
Charlie Brenneman (14-3) vs. Daniel Roberts (12-3)
Looking to establish himself as a top-tier welterweight, AMA Fight Club's Brenneman takes a step down in competition against Roberts, who is on a two-fight losing streak and in a do-or-die situation.
Brenneman, 30, shocked many observers with his unanimous decision win over rising contender Rick Story last June after accepting the bout on short notice. He was granted a fight against Anthony Johnson, who has since moved up to middleweight and struggled to make that weight, and was caught with a first-round head kick.
Trained by Mike Constantino, the standout collegiate wrestler has come a long way since winning the first season of "Pros vs. Joes." His wrestling is proving to be a handful in the division, even against other great wrestlers like Story and Jason High.
Roberts, 31, a member of Cesar Gracie's team in California, has dropped back-to-back decisions against Claude Patrick and Rich Attonito.
The former NAIA All-American wrestler is improving with each passing day as he's surrounded by an elite camp and developing a slick submission game. But Brenneman's superior wrestling and control on the mat could be decisive factors on fight night.
"The Spaniard" will constantly drop levels on the southpaw, putting him in uncomfortable positions. After 15 minutes of nonstop pressure, the judges should side with Brenneman.
Verdict: Brenneman via decision
Fabricio Camoes (13-6-1) vs. Tommy Hayden (8-0)
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Camoes is planning a rough welcoming for the unbeaten UFC first-timer Hayden.
A 3rd degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Royler Gracie, the 33-year-old Camoes is on a two-fight winning streak since his first UFC run that ended in 2010. After a shocking submission loss at the hands of Kurt Pellegrino, Camoes would notch back-to-back victories over Steve Lopez and Efrain Escudero, who won the eighth season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
A member of Team Jorge Gurgel, the 25-year-old Hayden is also a master of submissions. Still undefeated in his mixed martial arts campaign, Hayden is taking a major leap in quality of competition against the dangerous Brazilian.
With Hayden also adept to the ground game, Camoes could have a hard time submitting him. However, his superior control and positioning will earn him a one-sided decision.
Verdict: Camoes via decision
Daniel Pineda (15-7) vs. Pat Schilling (5-0)
In a battle of featherweight newcomers, Pineda and Schilling will both be looking to make a good first impression in front of the UFC brass.
Pineda, 26, is riding a five-fight winning streak. The well-rounded Texan recorded a spectacular finish in his most recent fight, stopping Gilbert Jimenez with a spinning backfist in December.
Schilling, 23, a member of Ambition Training Academy, is coming off a first-round finish of Cody Larson last June. The Minnesota-based prospect has finished all five of his opponents, including four by submission.
Schilling possesses dangerous submissions and Pineda has been caught in the past. If he's patient and pounces when he finds an opportunity, he could surprise the 22-fight veteran with a submission.
Verdict: Schilling via submission, Round 2
Joseph Sandoval (6-1) vs. Nick Denis (10-2)
After an unsuccessful UFC debut last October, Sandoval will be looking to deal the Canadian bantamweight Denis a similar fate in his first UFC bout.
Sandoval, 25, had yet to taste defeat in his career before being stopped by Walel Watson at UFC Live 6. Based at Bighead MMA, Sandoval is a game banger who comes to fight, but he shouldn't underestimate his debuting foe.
Denis, 28, has widely been regarded as Canada's premier bantamweight talent for several years. After suffering losses against Marlon Sandro and Yuji Hoshino under the Sengoku banner in Japan, Denis moved from Ottawa to train primarily at Tristar Gym in Montreal with Georges St-Pierre, Rory MacDonald and other UFC combatants. The move obviously paid off as Denis knocked out Nick Mamalis with a sensational slam after returning from nearly two years of inactivity this past October.
Denis is dangerous anywhere the fight goes and he will look to fluster Sandoval with a high tempo from the onset. Denis will overwhelm Sandoval with a violent barrage, putting an exclamation mark on his first UFC victory.
Verdict: Denis via KO, Round 1