Opening up the main card at UFC 120 in London, England on Saturday, The Ultimate Fighter season nine winner James Wilks (7-3, 2-1 UFC) will eye a second victory in 2010 as he battles Canadian submission specialist Claude Patrick (12-1, 1-0 UFC) in welterweight action. Wilks recently defeated Peter Sobotta at UFC 115 back in June via decision, but he previously lost to Matt Brown via TKO at UFC 105 last November. Patrick, on the other hand, remains undefeated in his last ten appearances with his only loss coming at the hands of UFC veteran Drew McFedries, over eight years ago. He defeated Brazilian Ricardo Funch in his debut at UFC 115.
I know what you're thinking. Who cares about these two guys? And... why are they filling a slot on the UFC 120 main card? To be perfectly honest, I couldn't answer those questions either, and their styles certainly suggest that we'll see a lengthy, drawn-out battle for supremacy in the grappling department in this fight. But the fight does present in interesting challenge for Claude Patrick in his progression up the ranks.
Patrick has easily grappled and pounded his way through eleven straight opponents since his first loss back in 2002. All of those results have been finishes, most of them being within the first frame. While his strength of record is an obvious concern as he makes his way into the deep waters of the UFC's welterweight division, the appeal of this bout comes from the question as to whether he can compete with veterans who have battled some slightly better competition in recent years.
Wilks provides that slight step up as he has battled tough low-to-mid echelon talents like DaMarques Johnson, Peter Sobotta, and Matt Brown. He's also fairly well-rounded in that he has a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt along with decent stand-up skills. Whether or not he'll provide a stiffer challenge than Ricardo Funch is something we'll soon find out.
Wilks should have the advantage on the feet in this fight as Patrick's gameplan revolves around pressing opponents to the cage, working for the takedown, and unleashing flurries of brutal ground and pound that normally lead to a submission. The clinch encounters are normally where Patrick catches opponents off guard, and Wilks will need to be extra careful in those situations to maintain his feet and output a lot of offensive to keep Patrick at bay.
This isn't an easy fight to pick, but Patrick should prevail in front of the booing fans of London, England. While Wilks will have the hometown advantage despite not actually living in England for the past decade, Patrick's consistency in gaining takedowns, avoiding submissions, and pounding on opponents should either give him the decision victory or open up a submission attempt for him.
Funch was a very game opponent for Patrick, and Patrick dominated the fight with a relentless hunt for takedowns followed by great control. Funch's submission game was on display, but it was never successful... and Patrick made him pay for those missed attempts regularly. I expect more of the same from the Canadian, eventually submitting Wilks in this contest.