UFC on FX preview: Prelims
Preliminary Bouts (on FUEL TV)
Mike Pierce (13-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-1)
Eager to erase the memory of contentious decision losses to Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks in two of his last three Octagon appearances, the unheralded contender Pierce takes on the Brazilian submission stylist Rocha.
Pierce, 31, a former NCAA Division I wrestler at Portland State University, has gone 5-3 since joining the UFC, dropping fights only against some of the top welterweights in the game.
The Sports Lab Fight Team product relies primarily on his wrestling base and tough chin as he has yet to be stopped in his career.
Rocha, 30, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, has been inactive since February 2011 after turning in an admirable effort against Jake Ellenberger, losing by split decision. Prior to suffering the first setback of his career, Rocha finished all nine of his opponents, eight by submission.
Although Pierce usually falls back on his wrestling, he may opt to keep the fight standing against Rocha, whose submission skills are a major threat.
If Pierce shoots in for any lazy takedown attempts, Rocha will likely make him pay. However, Pierce should find success if he tactically picks his shots and scores takedowns at key points in the contest, winning a razor-thin decision after three back-and-fourth rounds.
Verdict: Pierce via decision
Seth Baczynski (15-7) vs. Lance Benoist (6-0)
Riding a wave of momentum since returning to the UFC last September, Baczynski seeks a hat trick against the unbeaten Benoist.
The 30-year-old Baczynski was called back to the UFC after finishing highly regarded prospects Alex Garcia and Tim McKenzie on regional shows. He's since rattled off a pair of second-round submissions over Clay Harvison and Matt Brown.
The Power MMA and Fitness pupil may be best remembered for his stint on the 11th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show, where he was outmuscled by middleweights Brad Tavares and Court McGee. At 170 pounds, Baczynski poses a much bigger threat, particularly with his sublime submissions and killer instinct.
The 23-year-old Benoist made a successful UFC debut this past September by outpointing Matt Riddle. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, Benoist is looking to keep his unblemished record intact in his sophomore UFC outing.
Benoist is no slouch on the mat, so Baczynski will likely have a harder time than usual sinking in a choke. However, Baczynski's striking has come a long way since his reality show stint. Look for "The Polish Pistola" to employ a game plan that relies heavily on kickboxing to outpoint Benoist over three hard-fought rounds.
Verdict: Baczynski via decision
Leonard Garcia (15-8-1) vs. Matt Grice (14-4)
In what could very well be his last opportunity to earn a convincing win in the UFC, the crowd favorite Garcia takes on the four-time Oklahoma State wrestling champion Grice.
Garcia, 32, has not won a fight convincingly since his knockouts of Jens Pulver and Hiroyuki Takaya in 2008. His record may indicate otherwise, but Garcia has largely benefited from being handed gifts by judges. The scorecards are often very bizarre, including his split decision wins over Nam Phan and Chan Sung Jung. In fact, a judge even had him beating Mark Hominick when they faced off in September 2010, a fight in which he clearly lost all three rounds.
Garcia's style is likely the reason behind the scoring as he always engages the action, winging forward with wild looping punches. The Texan should not be completely discredited as he trains under Greg Jackson's watchful eye in New Mexico with world-class training partners, while also holding a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
A third straight loss could have grave consequences for Garcia, so he will need to mix his aggression with patience in hopes of finally prevailing in decisive fashion.
Grice, 30, was knocked out by Ricardo Lamas in his UFC return last June. The Oklahoma native is primarily a wrestler, though he's capable of holding his own both standing and on the mat.
This is a winnable fight for Garcia, who has no other choice if he plans to remain on the active UFC roster. He should have an edge with his striking, but an inability to thwart pivotal takedowns will likely be his Achilles' heel as Grice narrowly edges him on the judges' scorecards after three closely contested rounds.
Verdict: Grice via decision
Dustin Pague (10-5) vs. Jared Papazian (14-7)
In bantamweight action, a pair of 24-year-old prospects seek their first-ever UFC win.
The Disciple MMA product Pague debuted this past December, losing to John Albert by first-round TKO. The New Mexico native was a contestant on the 14th instalment of "The Ultimate Fighter" as he won a $25,000 bonus for "Fight of the Season" for his second-round submission of Louis Gaudinot.
The Legacy MMA Academy member Papazian earned a trifecta of wins under the King of the Cage promotional banner to earn his shot in the UFC, but he dropped a majority decision to Mike Easton this past January. Papazian had only two weeks to prepare for his inaugural UFC outing, so expect him to be better-equipped his second time around.
This battle of young prospects could come down to who wants it more. With experience on the UFC's staple reality show, the Ring of Combat 135-pound champion Pague knows what it's like to nearly earn the six-figure contract and he's not about to lose his shot of competing on the world's biggest stage.
After three fast-paced rounds primarily contested on the feet, Pague should eke out the decision.
Verdict: Pague via decision
Tim Means (17-3) vs. Justin Salas (10-3)
After successful UFC debuts earlier this year, two aspiring lightweight prospects look to make it two in a row.
The 28-year-old Means, a Fit NHB product based in New Mexico, dominated Bernardo Magalhaes in his UFC debut this past February. Riding an eight-fight winning streak, the two-division King of the Cage titleholder will need to bring his aggressive style into the Octagon in hopes of dispatching his equally hungry adversary.
The 30-year-old Salas, a member of Denver's Grudge Training Center under Trevor Wittman, is a powerful striker with sound submission skills. The University of Wyoming wrestling prospect joined the UFC in February after earning decisions over Rob Emerson and Joe Ellenberger. In his debut, Salas outpointed Anton Kuivanen.
This is yet another evenly matched encounter between two fighters in similar spots on the UFC's ladder. Salas is the superior striker and trains with a higher level of top talent, which could be the difference maker after 15 minutes as he lands the key combinations to prevail on judges' cards.
Verdict: Salas via decision
Buddy Roberts (11-2) vs. Caio Magalhaes (5-0)
In a showcase of debuting light heavyweights, Roberts and Magalhaes will go toe to toe.
Roberts, a 29-year-old product of Greg Jackson's school in New Mexico, is riding a five-fight winning streak. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt last saw action in July 2011, earning a unanimous decision over Tony Lopez. Roberts is eager to finally step foot in the Octagon after his debut against Sean Loeffler was scrapped on fight night due to Loeffler suffering an injury in the locker room.
Magalhaes, a 24-year-old member of Brazil's acclaimed Nova Uniao camp, last saw action in December as he edged Ismael de Jesus by split decision at Shooto Brazil 27.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, the brother of UFC veteran Vinny Magalhaes is a highly dangerous submission practitioner, who will likely capitalize on Roberts' first mistake on the mat to coax a tapout in his UFC debut.
Verdict: Magalhaes via Submission, Round 1
Preliminary bouts (online)
Henry Martinez (8-2) vs. Bernardo Magalhaes (11-2)
In the first of two matchups featured online ahead of the televised broadcast, lightweight hopefuls try to rebound from losses in their respective UFC debuts.
Martinez, 28, a natural lightweight, dropped a split decision to Matt Riddle in his 170-pound debut at UFC 143, which he accepted on short notice. It was a valiant performance for the UFC newcomer as he fought well despite a drastic size disparity. A student of Greg Jackson and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renato Migliaccio, Martinez is a well-rounded fighter with tricky submissions.
Magalhaes, 30, fell short in a unanimous decision loss to Tim Means in his UFC debut this past February. The Brazilian-born Australian fighter holds notable wins over Gustavo Falciroli, Adrian Pang and Rob Hill. Magalhaes is comfortable mixing it up everywhere as he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to go along with an amateur boxing championship and two muay thai titles. In his promotional debut, however, Magalhaes was unable to close the distance as he was soundly outboxed by Means over three rounds.
Martinez is a strong proponent of the jab, which Magalhaes had trouble coping with in his last fight. Fighting at his natural weight, the New Mexico native should punish Magalhaes with his hands, winning a hard-fought decision in the process.
Verdict: Martinez via decision
Jake Hecht (11-3) vs. Sean Pierson (11-6)
Welterweights Hecht and Pierson look to secure their spot in the division's pecking order as they face off in the opening bout of the night.
Hecht, 28, a Fiore MMA product, succumbed to a first-round submission against T.J. Waldburger in his sophomore UFC appearance this past March. Hecht made a successful debut at UFC 140 in December, finishing off Rich Attonito with a violent flurry of elbows from the clinch. A standout wrestler in high school, Hecht has earned his Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt under Kiko France, while also winning the 2002 Missouri Golden Gloves title.
Pierson, 36, a pioneering figure on the Canadian mixed martial arts scene, is coming off successive setbacks against Dong Hyun Kim and Jake Ellenberger. Pierson was victorious in his UFC debut in December 2010, earning a unanimous decision over Matt Riddle in a "Fight of the Night" performance. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who hones his boxing skills with Ryan Grant, Pierson also spends a portion of his camp with Montreal's famed Tristar Gym, working alongside the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald.
Both fighters are well-versed in every facet of the game, but Hecht's youth and athleticism could be integral factors. But Pierson is no slouch and he's superb when controlling fighters in the clinch. If he can turn this contest into a gritty fight in close quarters, Pierson's experience should come in handy as he prevails in a close decision.
Verdict: Pierson via decision