Aside from the title match we dealt with yesterday, this weekend’s UFC on FOX card has a host of other compelling matches that deserve our attention.
The fact that every main card match involves a Strikeforce alumnus and the show emanates from that promotion’s backyard in San Jose gives a curious theme to the broadcast that we’ll look at tomorrow, but for today I want to concentrate on the match ups themselves.
First, lets look at the co-main event, which features former UFC champion Frank Mir (16-6) welcoming undefeated Olympian, Daniel Cormier (11-0) to the biggest stage of the sport.
Mir has been at the top of this sport for a decade but comes into this bout off the back of a decisive TKO loss to then-champion Junior dos Santos last May which snapped a 3-0 streak and caused Mir to change up his training and join the illustrious Jackson-Winklejohn gym.
Former captain of the US Olympic wrestling team, Daniel Cormier boasted an 8-0 record in Strikeforce and came to prominence when he stepped into Alistair Overeem’s injured shoes to knock out Antonio Silva and take a unanimous decision victory over Josh Barnett to become the Strikeforce Grand Prix champion.
Stylistically, this is an interesting matchup as Mir has long been one of the top jujitsu guys in MMA (he’s subbed Rodrigo Nogueira, which says it all) but also has a well developed Muay Thai and classic boxing game, boasting KO wins over Nogueira (again), Mirko Filipovic in recent years.
Cormier is of course an excellent wrestler, but has complemented that base with some fearsome power in his hands with seven of his eleven victories being earned with his fists (although two of those are listed as submissions).
Basically, the question is who’s overall game is better? Mir has the edge in top level experience (in MMA at least) and is the larger man, but Cormier has disposed of experienced and larger fighters before and Mir cannot be looking forward to trading strikes with him or be at all sure he can win a grappling battle.
A win for Cormier would make him the de facto #1 contender at Heavyweight, especially if Antonio Silva dethroned Cain Velasquez while Mir could use the momentum to throw himself back into contention (especially as he has never yet faced Velasquez or Silva.)
This is a high stakes match, between two of the most skilled heavyweights on the planet, and it’s not even the main event…
Our next match will be a real contrast in terms of pace, as Nate Diaz (16-8) looks to recover from his failed title shot against newcomer Josh ‘the Punk’ Thomson (19-5) who had a storied history against Diaz’ teammate, Gilbert Melendez, competing for the Strikeforce belt three times, each taking a unanimous decision victory and Melendez winning their last meeting by a contentious split decision.
There’s plenty motivation on both sides to prove a point, methinks…
Both of these guys are submission wizards with good striking and neither man has been finished in over six years. Expect a high pace, awesome displays of grappling and probably a little typically Diaz provocation. Definite contender for fight of the night.
The first bout on the main card was to feature Dan Hardy, but his unexpected diagnoses with a ‘wolf heart’ has led to his whole MMA career being thrown into jeopardy.
Stepping into the breach against TUF veteran Matt ‘the Immortal’ Brown (16-11) is highly touted youngster Jordan Mein (27-8).
Thirty two year old Brown is never in a dull fight and has married his warrior spirit to a career best 4-0 streak, while Mein steps up to make his second UFC appearance and thirty sixth professional fight at the age of 23 riding a 3-0 streak.
Brown is the veteran here, but faces a very different opponent to the one he started preparing for. An exciting and dangerous striker, ‘the Immortal’ has never been stopped with strikes and his real kryptonite seems to be a well developed submission game.
However, with a very successful 2012 including underdog wins over Stephen Thomson and Mike Swick behind him, Brown stands on the edge of the top ten of the division for the first time in his career.
Mein is very much the next big thing, who earned a real crack at a jump up the ladder with his first round TKO win over veteran Dan Miller last month and willingness to face an opponent like Brown on relatively short notice.
Despite his tender years, Mein is far from inexperienced and boasts wins over the likes of Josh Burkman, Marius Zaromskis and Evangelista Santos en route to the UFC, so he is unlikely to be overawed by suddenly being on the main card against a name fighter.
Both fighters first plan is to out strike their opponent, so this has all the ingredients for a fun fight and whoever wins, it heralds the arrival of a serious contender in the 170lb division.
On the undercard another Strikeforce veteran, Lorenz Larkin (13-0, 1NC) makes his debut against Francis Carmont (20-7) in a compelling Middleweight battle, while Chad Mendes (13-1) faces off with Darren Elkins (16-2) and Joseph Benavidez (17-3) fights Darren Uyenoyama (8-3) in bouts with real significance for the top of the Featherweight and Flyweight rankings respectively.
Its a stacked card, and the Facebook, FX (UFC.tv in the UK) and FOX (ESPN) all deserve your attention.
MAIN (FOX, 8 p.m. ET)
• Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez – for lightweight title
• Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir
• Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson
• Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein
PRELIMINARY (FX, 5 p.m. ET)
• Darren Elkins vs. Chad Mendes
• Francis Carmont vs. Lorenz Larkin
• Myles Jury vs. Ramsey Nijem
• Joseph Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama
• Jorge Masvidal vs. Tim Means
PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 4 p.m. ET)
• T.J. Dillashaw vs. Hugo Viana
• Roger Bowling vs. Anthony Njokuani
• Clifford Starks vs. Yoel Romero