UFC 139 preview: Preliminary bouts

Preliminary bouts

Ryan Bader (12-2) vs. Jason Brilz (18-4-1)

Talented light heavyweights on two-fight losing skids will see action in a fight that could have grave consequences for the loser.

Bader, 28, seemed destined for greatness in the UFC after winning the eighth season of "The Ultimate Fighter" as he went on to defeat Eric Schafer, Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. However, the Nevada native saw his unbeaten streak ended by current divisional ruler Jon Jones this past February.

In a result that shocked most observers, the former NCAA Division I wrestler was submitted by UFC legend Tito Ortiz in the first round of their UFC 132 meeting this past July.

Bader possesses punching power and an elite wrestling game, which could make for a stylistically intriguing bout with Brilz, a three-time Academic All-American at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Brilz, 36, was brutally knocked out by Vladimir Matyushenko in just 20 seconds at UFC 129 in April. Prior to that setback, the Elite Performance product dropped a razor-thin decision to Nogueira in May 2010.

Neither fighter can afford to lose a third consecutive fight, particularly Brilz. With both coming from wrestling backgrounds, they might neutralize each other’s takedown attempts and opt to box for three rounds, in which case the fight will favor Bader.

Bader is armed with heavy hands and improving boxing technique, while Brilz has probably already reached his athletic potential. Bader should use his arsenal of strikes and his sprawl to frustrate Brilz, while intelligently shooting in for takedowns when he sees openings. Regardless of where the fight ends up, Bader should have his hand raised when it’s all said and done.

Verdict: Bader via decision

Michael McDonald (13-1) vs. Alex Soto (6-0-1)

In a bantamweight tilt, the young prodigy McDonald will be looking to hand Soto, a late replacement, his first professional loss.

McDonald, 20, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is 2-0 in the UFC with impressive wins over Edwin Figueroa and Chris Cariaso.

After taking up kickboxing at the age of 10, McDonald has continued to add weapons to his arsenal. With four years of professional experience, McDonald is already being touted as one of the brightest prospects in the sport and certainly one of the future stars of the 135-pound division.

Soto, 27, is coming off a draw against Seiji Akao at DEEP 54 in June. Still unbeaten, the Mexican-born former US Army infantryman can make a definitive impact by upsetting the fast-rising young stud.

However, McDonald’s blend of kickboxing and submission prowess should be too tough an obstacle to overcome for the UFC first-timer. McDonald, who is still gaining valuable experience, will mix up his offense before rallying to put Soto away with a late flurry.

Verdict: McDonald via TKO, Round 3