On May 5th, 2012 the UFC is back in action for the third time on Fox with a main event matchup featuring two top level Lightweights. Jim Miller and Nate Diaz will clash in a mathup that could determine the next title challenger for the 155 pound title belt.
In the UFC’s Heavyweight division Lavar ‘Big’ Johnson 16-5-0 battles 7-4-0 Pat ‘HD’ Barry. Barry earned a first round knockout of Christian Morecraft in his last fight, while Johnson became the first man to stop Joey Beltran via knockout in his UFC debut.
Comparing records, neither one of these fighters is accustom to going the distance with only 1 of Barry’s 11 fight going to decision while Johnson has never gone a full three rounds. This would suggest that there is an excellent chance that this match-up is ending before the final bell.
Neither fighter is known for their ground work; in fact the majority of their defeats have come via submission (Johnson-4 Barry-3). Johnson has a pair of wins by tapout and would be the more likely of the two to look for a takedown, but he doesn’t have the greatest takedown skills. Against Shane Del Rosario, he relied on power instead of technique on his attempts and as a result he gassed early.
Conversely, Barry has been training out of Deathclutch and has talked about wanting his first submission victory, but it was his grappling defence that was on display in his last fight. Pat showed marked improvement in his ground game escaping multiple submission attempts and getting the fight back to the feet where he is most comfortable.
Both men have won the majority of their fights by knockout. Barry is an experienced and talented kickboxer compared to Johnson who is a heavy handed brawler. Lavar used a stiff left jab to set up a brutal right hook to the body that dropped Joey Beltran. Throughout the fight he used the clinch to grind Beltran along the cage attacking with short strikes and finally finished him off with a series of devastating uppercuts. If Johnson is going to have success on the feet with Barry he will need to implement a similar game plan to limit his space and ‘brawl the boxer’.
Barry’s striking prowess is well know, he knocked out Christian Morecraft with a devastating left hook, earned a TKO victory via leg kicks over Dan Evensen and broke Joey Beltran with a series of devastating leg kicks. HD’s striking stats aren’t overwhelming; landing 50% of his attempts while averaging only 2.84 strikes landed per minute. In spite of these stats, Pat is effective is because he focuses on quality over quantity, picking his spots and making everything count. Against Cheick Kongo, Barry hurt him early, but got knocked out when he tried to finish and as a result Johnson feels that Pat could be a little ‘gun shy’.
Barry has the striking edge and although Johnson will have significant physical advantage in both height and reach, Barry has dealt with larger opponents throughout his career. If Johnson is going to find success he will need to use the clinch and his size to control Barry along the wall and bust him up with some dirty boxing. If Barry’s grappling defence continues to improve he should be able to create separation and not allow Johnson to tie him up. Lavar’s cardio is questionable at best, and if Barry is able to land his leg strikes with regularity it will really limit his mobility and turn him into a stationary target. Barry will need to be aware of Johnson’s power, but that threat significantly diminishes as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Pat Barry to defeat Lavar Johnson by knockout.
Ultimate Fighter Season 13 Winner Tony Ferguson will attempt to extend his undefeated UFC run to 4 when he takes on TUF Season 12 Finalist Michael Johnson. Ferguson is coming off a close decision victory over veteran Yves Edwards, while Johnson earned a solid victory over Shane Roller.
Both fighters have won the majority of their fights via knockout and have been making significant improvements in their striking. In Johnson’s victory over Roller he did a nice job of out striking his opponent early on, but struggle late allowing Roller to use his wrestling to take control of the fight. On average Ferguson lands 1.5 more strikes per minute then Johnson and has a significant advantage in striking defence avoiding 73% compared to only 51% for Johnson. These statistics, combined with Ferguson’s 2 inch reach advantage will give Tony the edge on the feet and he should be able to neutralize any attempt by Johnson to use his wrestling. Johnson has had issues with cardio in fights that go into the later round, which will leave him vulnerable against Ferguson, especially with his striking advantage. I like Ferguson’s power to make a difference, so my prediction is Tony Ferguson to defeat Michael Johnson by knockout.
In the growing Flyweight division John Dodson heads down to face another new UFC entry in top 10 ranked Flyweight Tim Elliot. Elliot has won 8 in a row and Dodson has picked up 3 consecutive wins.
Ultimate Fighter Bantamweight winner John Dodson returns to action and is making his 125 pound debut, a much more appropriate division for his size despite his recent success. Even though Dodson is dropping down in weight, he will still have to deal with an opponent that stands 4 inch taller than him. Tim Elliot will have the physical advantages, but Dodson has demonstrated that it takes more than just a height advantage to beat him. Elliot comes in only one fight removed from the biggest victory of his career where he knocked out former UFC champ Jens Pulver with a flying knee. Elliot is a proven finisher with 3 wins by knockout and another 4 via submission in only 8 career wins. In his fight with Pulver he brought the fight to Jens, constantly attacking with variety of strikes eventually landing the knee strikes. In addition, he has a wrestling background which will help him if he wants to try and take Dodson to the ground. Dodson has proven difficult to takedown, and even harder to keep down. He is incredibly quick, but it will be interesting to see how he fares at a lighter weight class where his opponent should be able to match his speed or at least come close. Dodson has serious power, stopping both Johny Bedford and T.J. Dillashaw with short punches and he has 5 career knockouts overall. I like Dodson’s movement and ability to attack and retreat before his opponent can counter. During the wild striking exchanges with Pulver, Elliot left a few openings that could cost him severely against Dodson. Dodson has been on the wrong end of 5 decision defeats, but I don’t anticipate this fight going the distance so my prediction is John Dodson to defeat Tim Elliot by knockout.
John Hathaway and Pascal Krauss will finally meet inside the Octagon after their original bout at UFC 138 was scrapped due to injury. Hathaway rebounded nicely from his first career defeat with a win over Chris McCray while Krauss was victorious in his UFC debut.
Hathaway and Krauss have had their fair share of injuries problems; the Brit has been out of action since March 2011 and Krauss has been away even longer with an 18 month span between fights. Hathaway picked up the biggest win of his career when he defeated Diego Sanchez, but quickly came back to reality when he was thoroughly dominated by Mike Pyle for the first loss of his career. Undefeated Pascal Krauss made his debut in a fight of the night performance against Mark Scanlon; completing 3 of 4 takedown attempts while landing an extraordinary 230 strikes on 290 attempts. Hathaway is a talented striker, landing 3.44 strikes per minute but he has shown a vulnerability to takedowns. Pyle dominated him and Kris McCray was able to gain multiple dominant positions throughout the fight and even when he began to get tired he was still able to reverse Hathaway off his back. Krauss has won the majority of his fights by submission (7 of 10) and is a BJJ Blue belt. Additionally, he has made the jump to Roufusport training under famed striking coach Duke Rufus and working alongside Anthony Pettis, Alan Belcher and Ben Askren which will greatly improve both his striking and ground game. This is a tough fight to predict, considering how long both fighters have been out of action. Hathaway has faced far superior competition, but Krauss has the more well rounded skill set. If Krauss is able to use his grappling skills to control Hathaway he should be able to grind out a decision win, if not the striking battle could be far closer than most anticipate with Krauss looking far improved from his last appearance over two years ago. Ring rust could play an issue for one or both fighters, but I will take the mild upset with Pascal Krauss to defeat John Hathaway by decision.
In the Flyweight division, Louis Gaudinot will welcome Brazilian John Lineker to the UFC. Gaudinot is 0-1 inside the Octagon, while Lineker has won 12 in a row and captured the Jungle Fights Bantamweight Championship in his last fight.
Gaudinot comes into this bout after dropping his official UFC debut against Johnny Bedford where he was thoroughly dominated by the much larger Bantamweight, prior to that fight he was defeated on the Ultimate Fighter by Dustin Pauge, again struggling with the size advantage of his opponent. These two defeats resulted in Louis’s decision to return to his more natural weight class of Flyweight. Lineker is a devastating striker with 8 career wins by knockout and he has a significant experience advantage with 24 total fights compared to only 7 for Louis. It will be interesting to see how Gaudinot performs against a more appropriate sized opponent, but so far he really hasn’t had a strong showing and as a result it is hard to back him at this level of competition. Lineker is making his debut, but having fought in the Shooto and Jungle Fight organizations he has been through some wars. I like his aggressive striking to short circuit anything that Gaudinot has to offer, so my prediction is Jon Lineker to defeat Louis Gaudinot by knockout.
In the Lightweight division John Cholish will try for a second win to start his UFC career when he battles WEC alumni and Team Alpha Male member Danny Castillo. Castillo has won 2 in a row and 5 of his last 6 while Cholish is riding an 8 fight win streak.
Cholish made his UFC debut against Mitch Clarke at UFC 140 and won the fight by TKO after he took Clarke’s back and started dropping shots until the referee called for the bell. Prior to that fight he had earned three straight wins by submission and 6 consecutive finishes overall. Cholish is a BJJ purple belt under Renzo Gracie which is important because Danny Castillo averages just over 4 takedowns per fight, completing an impressive 67% of his attempts and will most likely look to take Cholish down. Overall, Castillo’s striking is serviceable, but his key to victory is clearly his ground game. In his razor tight win over Anthony Njokuani, he was relentless in pursuit of the takedown attempting 18 while completing 6. One fight prior, his eventual TKO victory over Shamar Bailey was predicated a perfect 3 successful takedowns on 3 attempts followed by crushing top control and ground and pound. In Cholish’s debut he struggled early with Clarke’s pursuit of the takedown, only finding success when his opponent began to slowdown. After he got comfortable, Cholish’s striking didn’t look bad and if he can keep this fight vertical he stands a much better chance, but considering Castillo was able to regularly take down a big Lightweight in Njokuani and he did it on short notice it is hard to pick against the veteran. Cholish will make Castillo work and should be able to defend himself off his back but it is hard to win a fight from that position so my prediction is Danny Castillo to defeat John Cholish by decision.
Dennis Bermudez will begin his post Ultimate Fighter career when he meets Pablo Garza. Garza is coming off a loss against Dustin Poirier while Bermudez was defeated by Diego Brandao in the finals of the Ultimate Fighter.
Physically these two fighters couldn’t be much more different; Garza stands a ridiculous 6’1” for a Featherweight, which will give him a significant height advantage over 5’6” Dennis Bermudez along with a 7 inch reach advantage. Despite having these disadvantages, Bermudez should be the superior striking and with his NCAA Division I Wrestling background I expect that he will try to take the fight to the ground when the opportunity arises. If he does look for a takedown he will need to be wary of Graza’s abnormally long limbs, especially considering his last three defeats and only three defeats of his professional career have come by submission. Even if Bermudez doesn’t attempt a takedown, with his short stature he will need to be cautious to avoid Garza’s flying submission attempts. At UFC 129 he successfully pulled off a flying triangle against Yves Jabouin, but prior to the submission he was struggling with Jabouin’s standup despite a significant reach advantage. Bermudez should be the physically stronger fighter, and his wrestling base will help him to defend against Garza’s potential submission opportunities. Garza struggled with the power and aggressive striking of Dustin Poirier and if Bermudez begins to unload I expect a similar result, so my prediction is Dennis Bermudez to defeat Pablo Garza by TKO.
In the Middleweight division Mike Massenzio will take on Karlos Vemola on the Facebook portion of the prelims. Massenzio was submitted by Rousimar Palhares in his last fight, while Vemola was thoroughly dominated by Ronnie Markes the last time he was inside the Octagon.
In Vemola’s last fight he lost at Light Heavyweight, two fights prior to that he unsuccessfully competed at Heavyweight and now he is debuting in his third UFC weight class and could be facing a pink slip with another defeat. Both fighters come from wrestling backgrounds; Vemola had a successful High School wrestling career and eventually won a Junior College Championship. Vemola on the other hand is a six time Czech Republic National Free Style Wrestling Champion, but past wrestling credentials don’t always translate to a dominant MMA wrestler as Vemola was badly out grappled by Ronnie Markes in his last fight. When two wrestlers meet the fight has a tendency to remain standing, which in this case should favour Massenzio. Massenzio has shown improving striking of late and did a lot of damage against Steve Cantwell with his striking. Vemola’s striking is rough at best and I question how well he will handle the weight cut. Massenzio should push the pace early and break Vemola down, it won’t be pretty but my prediction is Mike Massenzio to defeat Karlos Vemola by decision.
In an all Canadian matchup Roland Delorme will battle Nick Denis. Delorme earned a submission win over Josh Ferguson in his UFC debut while Denis scored a knockout win over Joseph Sandoval in his inaugural fight.
Delorme is BJJ Brown belt and a dangerous submission fighter, earning a shot on the Ultimate Fighter via submission along with 5 career submission victories. In his debut against Ferguson he constantly threatened with submissions, giving up position early but capitalizing an opening late leading to the eventual rear-naked choke victory. At the other end of the spectrum Denis has picked up 10 of his 11 wins by knockout, earning an impressive stoppage victory over Sandoval when he unloaded a series of elbows strikes from the clinch that crumpled his opponent to the ground. Denis is a BJJ Purple belt, but he will need to be careful against Delorme if the fight does go to the ground as he has been submitted once in the past. Denis has never gone beyond the second round which creates a question about his stamina level and if he begins to fade in the second half Delorme should have opportunities to set up the submission. Overall, Denis will be the superior striker and if Delorme can’t get him to the mat and keep him there he will be in trouble. Delorme is dangerous and can win the fight from the top or bottom, but I like Denis’s striking to be the difference maker so my prediction is Nick Denis to defeat Roland Delorme by knockout.