With only one day remaining before the UFC steps foot in Nashville, Tennessee to showcase UFC Fight Night 18, all eyes remain on the main event between WEC champion Carlos Condit and Danish UFC veteran Martin Kampmann. The bout has been dubbed an even matchup by most analysts, and it should provide us with a base idea of where Carlos Condit belongs in the overall landscape of the UFC's Welterweight division.
Let's take a look at the main card matchups:
Carlos Condit (22-4) vs. Martin Kampmann (14-2): Historically, Condit has battled it out against a lot of powerful wrestlers in the WEC. Brock Larson and John Alessio were probably the two more outstanding wins in regards to defeating tough takedown fighters, but Condit has also been able to earn wins against highly regarded grapplers as well. His length on the floor coupled with his range and dynamic striking make for an interesting skillset that many opponents will find very tough to counter.
Kampmann is probably the perfect test for Condit in regards to looking at what Condit has to offer within his skillset. He's never been submitted, yet has stepped into the cage against veteran grapplers like Nate Marquardt and Thales Leites. His only real weakness has been his chin, although a fantastic recovery time has saved Kampmann in multiple fights. Many of you probably remember his bout with Drew McFedries at UFC 68.
On paper, this is as even as it gets. Kampmann has some solid striking coupled with a jiu-jitsu base that's good enough to submit opponents when they're in trouble. Condit will likely have a grappling advantage, but Kampmann's defense has been phenomenal in the past. The only real question is whether Kampmann will be sharp enough to avoid Condit's dynamic striking and impose his own punishment to win this fight. I think it really boils down to the standup game. Has the weight class drop given Kampmann more speed? Can his chin withstand Condit's standup game? Will Condit have a little ring rust? All valid questions, all to be answered tomorrow night. I'm leaning toward Kampmann.
Ryan Bader (8-0) vs. Carmelo Marrero (10-2): A lot of fans are calling for a potential upset here, and it could possibly happen with Marrero having some power, strength, and wrestling ability to match Bader. I'm not going to push that assessment.
The real question becomes whether Marrero's experience can be used to defeat Bader on his feet. Bader will likely be the better wrestler regardless of Marrero's MMA wrestling experience, so my thoughts are that Bader will try to sprawl this one out and bang with Marrero until he hurts him.
I'll go with Bader in this matchup. Marrero has better than a puncher's chance, but I think Bader has the takedown defense, wrestling, and power in the standup to catch Marrero and spoil his evening.
Tyson Griffin (12-2) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (11-3): Griffin has the obvious advantage in this fight. He'll be more powerful, have top notch wrestling, very good escapes, and likely have the cardio to push the pace on Anjos. He's also faced much tougher competition that Anjos over the course of his career.
Anjos has a very good jiu-jitsu base and some average striking ability, but his real danger to his opponent comes on the ground, a place where Griffin has never been submitted. I don't see Anjos pulling out a decision win here, and I see Griffin taking this one.
Junie Browning (3-0) vs. Cole Miller (14-3): A lot of hype out of Xtreme Couture is pushing to make this matchup even better. From what I've heard through various sources reporting out of Vegas, Browning is a monster in the gym. He's been training very hard, and his standup should be his major advantage in this bout with help from Shawn Tompkins.
Miller will obviously be the more slick ground fighter in this matchup, and it will likely be the only area Miller can win this fight unless he can manage to catch Junie. Miller can mix it up standing with kicks mixed in with jabs, but will he be able to surprise Browning?
Browning hasn't fought anyone like Miller yet in his career. Dave Kaplan didn't actively try to takedown Browning until he was in danger, and you can bet money that Miller will be looking to take this show to the floor when the chance presents itself. I'm going to pick Miller here, although I can see Browning winning this fight as well. I'm going to go with my gut and not succumb to the hype coming out of Xtreme Couture.
Gleison Tibau (16-6) vs. Jeremy Stephens (14-4): Another solid matchup for this event. Stephens will hold an edge in the striking department while Tibau will be the aggressor on the ground. The question is whether Tibau can weather Stephens' attack and grab a takedown to finish it on the ground.
The Lauzon fight told us a lot about Stephens' ground game. While it is improving vastly, Stephens still has some weaknesses that Tibau will likely be able to capitalize on if he can score the takedown. Lauzon was able to put Stephens down multiple times, and a stronger Tibau should be able to do so as well. I'll take Tibau in this tilt.
Ricardo Almeida vs. Matt Horwich: I'll take Almeida here. Horwich is a solid veteran fighter with submission abilities, but Almeida is powerful and a monster on the ground.
Nick Catone vs. Tim Credeur: Tough fight to pick... Catone has very good wrestling, a purple belt in jiu-jitsu, and good standup. Credeur also has some of the same attributes, but he has some experience against some tougher competition in Chael Sonnen and Joey Villasenor. I think I may pick Catone here for the mere fact that he has come out a very tough Ring of Combat promotion on the East Coast, should be a tough, tough challenge for Credeur, and he has a well-rounded game as well.
Brock Larson vs. Jesse Sanders: Larson
Jorge Rivera vs. Nissen Osterneck: Picking Osterneck by upset
Rob Kimmons vs. Joe Vedepo: Kimmons
Tim McKenzie vs. Aaron Simpson: I'll take Simpson
Steve Steinbeiss vs. Ryan Jensen: Jensen
It should be a solid event on the main card as some of the matchups are quite interesting. I'd love to see Catone vs. Credeur in the main card mix, but Miller-Browning should be interesting to say the least. Enjoy the evening of action on Wednesday night on SpikeTV at 8 PM EST/7 PM CST followed by the premiere of the Ultimate Fighter.