As is usual when the UFC passes through Canada, the card is packed with Canuck fighters which is no bad thing, as the likes of Sam Stout, Mark Bocek, Ivan Menjivar and Mark Hominick are rarely in dull fights. Combined with a rabid, sell out crowd looking to cheer their main event hero GSP it invariably makes the Canadian cards some of the most characterful on the calendar.
Can you scream “Knees!” with me?
The co-main event doesn’t feature any Canadians but is a perfect support slot to GSP vs. Condit as it should decide a de facto no.1 contender for whoever walks away from the main event with the Undisputed Welterweight title.
Featuring Denmark’s Martin “Hitman” Kampmann (20-5, 3-0 streak) against Texan Johny Hendricks (13-1, 4-0 streak) this is a bout between two of the form guys in the 170lb division but also a bout between two perennial underdogs.
Kampmann has long been regarded as one of the crispest technical strikers in the sport and has amassed at 7-3 record as a welterweight in the UFC with the losses coming by flash KO against Paul Daley and two contentious decision losses to grapplers Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez.
However, despite Kampmann’s striking preferences he’s not the kind of European striker who is usually ground out by an American wrestler, as his takedown defence is excellent and his submission game – especially his guillotine choke – being top notch as well, as shown in his wins over capable grinders Rick Story and Jake Ellenberger.
Hendricks on the other hand is the almost the stereotypical American MMA fighter, a decorated college wrestler who has discovered he has heavy hands as well. Despite being heavily touted as a future star, a decision loss to Rick Story convinced some that Hendricks lacked top level quality. However his 4-0 streak since then has included a decision win over relatively recent title challenger Josh Koscheck and becoming the first man to knock Jon Fitch out with a punch.
Hendricks’ ability to knock off two guys who’ve been in and about the top five of the 170lb division for years in quick succession has him going into this fight as the favourite, but Kampmann is the more experienced and in my eyes more well rounded fighter. In the tale of the tape, Hendricks wins in terms of power and grappling, but Kampmann has speed, technique and a record of coming from behind to win on his side.
Either way, it’s a compelling fight.
Also on the main card, we have Frenchman Francis Carmont (19-7, 8-0 streak) who trains out of Tristar and is thus the ‘home fighter’ taking on popular UFC veteran Tom Lawlor (8-4-1, 1-0 streak) in what should be a barn burner but also a fight that I can’t see Lawalor walking away from with a win, or even conscious.
Next up we have Nick Ring (13-1, 1-0 streak) vs Costa Phillipou (11-2-1, 4-0 streak) with both having beaten similar guys in their UFC run to date. I have to say, I favour the always-improving Costa to win this as the ice cold Ring has flattered to deceive in the UFC so far.
Most likely opening the main card is Canadian favourite Mark Hominick (20-11, 0-3 streak) looking to get back into a winning way against Pablo Garza (11-3, 0-2 streak) both fighters having been right in title contention in 2010 but having endured poor runs since.
Garza is a tricky and dangerous fighter, but I feel that Hominick is more experienced, more well rounded and with the backing of a home crowd (similar to that which roared him on to win the fifth round against Jose Aldo despite a massive haematoma on his skull) he should open the main card with a Canadian victory.
The pick of the prelims sees Patrick Cote take on Alessio Sakara in what is sure to be a fiery standup battle, Mark Bocek facing Rafael dos Anjos for relativity in the packed lightweight division and Sam Stout and John Makdessi fixing to make a run at a possible fight of the night effort.
On the Facebook prelims, the fight which interests me most is Brit John Maguire coming in on short notice to face Matt Riddle with both men looking to put in a good performance to erase some bad memories of their last fight. Maguire last lost a lacklustre decision to John Hathaway while Riddle’s good display in earning a submission win over Chris Clements has been largely overshadowed by his getting busted for smoking marijuana. Silly chipper.
Top to bottom, UFC154 is a great card, probably the best which the UFC have out together in a while and Ill be staying up through the silly small hours to watch it.
Keep up with live tweeting from our own Ross Stevenson @TeamKumite and we’ll bring you the results with other news in our MMA Monday column.