Erik “New Breed” Koch vs. Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas
If this fight had happened earlier this year I would have no second thoughts. With only one professional loss riding a four fight winning streak, Koch was widely considered the cream of the crop in the UFC’s shallow featherweight division. But now after more than a year on the sidelines due to injuries and illness, I find myself strongly picking against the former number one contender. Ring rust is a real thing. Ask any fighter who’s been away from action for long periods of time and they’ll tell you it takes a while to get back into the zone once that cage door closes. Fighters look like shadows of their former selves. Their timing looks off, they second guess themselves or they try not to take the risks they used to take. But I believe Koch will push through these mental barriers and with the memory of two straight titles shots being taken from him, he will throw everything he has at Lamas to prove to himself and the fans he’s still the same fighter who had two Knockout of the Night performances in his last three fights.
Prediction: Koch by TKO round 1
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone
The winner of this fight should come out as the number one contender for the UFC Lightweight title. Both fighters are coming off Knockout of the Night performances and both are on two-fight win streaks in MMA’s most stacked division. Pettis has already been promised the title shot more than once since joining the UFC in 2011, but a slight hiccup against Clay Guida and the absorption of Strikeforce and all of its fighters into the UFC have this dynamic fighters’ championship dreams on hold. Throw in the fact that Pettis was again promised a title fight after his last win in February and that former Bellator Lightweight kingpin Eddie Alvarez was offered a guaranteed title upon joining the UFC; it looks like Pettis will have to lay it all on the line to jump right back on top. Nothing short of another Knockout of the Night over one of the toughest fighters in the division will help his cause. Both Cerrone and Pettis hold some of the best striking in the division, and although Pettis didn’t fare well against the 100 mph attack from Cerrrone’s teammate Guida, against Cerrone he will most likely keep the fight standing and away from Cerrone’s jiu-jitsu game. Cerrone has to know it will be coming, and will try to utilize his effective Muy Thai and Kickboxing arsenal to kick his way to a victory. If Pettis can keep the fight standing, I see him coming out on top this Saturday in a Fight of the Night performance.
Prediction: Pettis by unanimous decision
Quentin “Rampage” Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira
The co-main event between the Brazilian monster Glover Teixeira and polarizing legend ‘Rampage’ Jackson is most likely the only fight on the main card you can guarantee won’t make it to judges. With Rampage declaring he is done with the UFC upon completion of this fight, as his contract will be completed, look for him to go out the same way he came in, throwing haymakers and bombs until the referee stops the fight. But, if there’s anyone in the UFC who can hit harder than Jackson it has to be Glover Teixeira. Riding a 17-fight win streak, Teixeira absolutely destroyed his last opponent, Fabio Maldonado, whose face looked more like hamburger meat than a human being. Not since Wanderlei Silva’s Pride days have I been so scared for a fighter’s opponents as I am when Teixeira steps into the cage. Texeira has some of the most lethal punches in the game and a brutal submission attack, so the only way I see Rampage coming out on top is one perfectly placed fist right on Teixeira’s temple. But with Rampage declaring he cares more about exciting fights than winning, I expect this octagon warrior to throw everything he has at his opponent.
Prediction: Teixeira by submission round 2
UFC Flyweight Championship
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vs. John “The Magician” Dodson
The main event on Fox will be the first title defense for UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, who won the inaugural belt back in September. His opponent is The Ultimate Fighter 14 winner, John ‘The Magician’ Dodson. With the matchup between the two fastest fighters in the entire organization, expect a nonstop back and forth MMA clinic. Johnson tends to rely on his speed to dodge and duck his opponents’ attacks and take advantage of their missed opportunities to pepper them with a flurry of strikes. He’s in and out before you even realize it. He doesn’t throw with power but he makes up for it with the quantity of his punches. But in Dodson he is facing the only other fighter who can match his speed and precision. It really is a coin flip on this one but I’ll give the edge to the champion.
Prediction: Johnson by unanimous decision
Undercard News, Notes
Longtime fan favorite and former UFC lightweight contender Clay “The Carpenter” Guida is stepping back into the octagon for the first time since his infamous marathon performance against Gray Maynard back in June.
But this time the long haired warrior famous for his unrelenting and fast paced style has made the drop to featherweight. While many fans, including this writer, jumped off the Guida bandwagon after his last performance it will be interesting to see how the 10-pound drop will affect his cardio that was considered his most dangerous weapon.
Even though he can claim wins over Pettis, Nate Diaz and Takanori Gomi, Guida find himself in the same boat as Michael Bisping, as he’s always failed to win the key fight that would have propelled him to a title shot. Always the bridesmaid never the bride I guess. But if Guida can string together a handful of victories in what I consider the UFC’s most shallow weight class it won’t be long before he finally gets the shot at the gold.
He meets Hatsu Hioki on the FX preliminary card this Saturday.
Former UFC welterweight T.J. Grant has finally found his true home in the lightweight division. With a 3-0 record in the what this writer and many others consider the most stacked division in all of MMA, he will finally have his first real test, UFC veteran Matt Wiman. Win or lose, Wiman has been on an absolute tear as of late. With only one loss in his last six fights, the fighter out of Colorado manhandled his opponents in almost every way possible.
His only loss coming to Dennis Siver, in a fight I considered about as close a fight as can be and still be a unanimous decision. With both men looking to launch themselves in to the upper echelon of fighters in their weight class, this has the makings to be a strong candidate for a post fight bonus.