After a solid showing from Strikeforce this past weekend, the UFC sweeps back into our field of vision with two major events this month, UFC 109 and UFC 110. To start off the action this month, UFC 109 will feature a main event showdown between UFC Hall of Famer's Randy "The Natural" Couture and Mark "The Hammer" Coleman that has been dubbed a potential contender match-up. Nate Marquardt will look to increase his stock as a challenger to Anderson Silva against Chael Sonnen, Mike Swick aims to get back on track with a win over Paulo Thiago, and Matt "Jersey Shore" Serra returns against Frank Trigg.
Before we get to the main card, the undercard will feature a number of do-or-die match-ups and debuts for up-and-coming talent that you may see on the UFC's main card in the near future. The debut of a Gracie, a 2008 NCAA wrestling champion, and a tilt between two enormous heavyweight fighters rounds out the action in the early hours of the evening on Saturday.
In lightweight action, The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 runner-up and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Phillipe Nover (5-2-1, 0-2 UFC) will battle The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 contestant Rob Emerson (8-8, 2-2 UFC) in what is likely a do-or-die fight for both competitors. Nover is coming in with two straight losses as he dropped a decision to Efrain Escudero at the Ultimate Finale 8 in December of 2008 and lost via TKO to Kyle Bradley at UFC 98 in May while Emerson was tapped by Kurt Pellegrino at UFN 17 and defeated by Rafael dos Anjos via decision at UFC 103. A loss on Saturday night will certainly ensure a cut from the promotion.
This is a somewhat intriguing battle. Emerson normally gets the cold shoulder from many fans as they glance at his .500 record, but he's managed to battle some of the best in the business over the course of his sixteen-fight career. Most of the stiff competition that Emerson has faced has been able to edge him out in the end, so the question becomes whether we can evaluate Nover as a "quality" opponent.
Nover's ground game will be his major weapon in this fight, but Emerson has shown the ability to be outlast opponents on the ground and wear them down. Emerson's conditioning and striking should be his keys to victory, although Rafael dos Anjos made him look rather green in their UFC 103 showdown. With a little improvement, Emerson should be able to land his jabs and quickly move in and out of danger against Nover. If he gets taken down, he's good enough to scramble. I'll take Emerson here with the slight upset.
UFC newcomer and 2008 NCAA Division I wrestling champion Phil Davis (4-0, 0-0 UFC) will make his debut on Saturday night against former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann (8-2, 2-1 UFC) in 205 lb. action. Davis enters the contest undefeated with three straight finishes in the first round. Stann comes into this contest on a two-fight win streak with a decision victories over Steve Cantwell and Rodney Wallace at UFN 19 and the TUF Finale 10 respectively.
Stann has the experience edge here, and it looks like his training at Greg Jackson's camp down in New Mexico is paying off in getting him some big wins in his last two fights. He went from the brink of potentially being booted from the promotion to defeating both Steve Cantwell and Rodney Wallace. Now, he'll take on another highly-touted prospect in Davis who should provide a stiff challenge in regards to his takedown defense.
Davis will immediately try to put Stann on his back in this fight. Stann doesn't have a solid defense off his back, but it has definitely improved since his move to New Mexico. If he can withstand the early attempts by Davis, he may be able to eek out another decision here once he gets the fight back to the feet. While I think Stann has a very good chance to win, I'm going to buy into the hype of Davis and pick him here.
In heavyweight action, Minnesota-native and Brock Lesnar training partner Chris "The Crowbar" Tuchscherer (17-2-0-1, 0-1 UFC) will battle Canadian heavyweight prospect Tim "The Thrashing Machine" Hague (12-2, 1-1 UFC). Both men enter the contest following losses with Tuchscherer being TKO'd by Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 102 following a brutal groin shot, and Tim Hague being victimized by UFC newcomer Todd Duffee in 0:07 seconds at the same event.
Hague will be the superior puncher in this fight, but that doesn't mean he'll throw vicious strikes and put together an impressive combination that will flatten Tuchscherer. He'll more than likely maintain some distance and try to pick his shots as Tuchscherer's main weapon is his size and wrestling ability. While Hague does seem to have a size advantage in this match-up, Tuchscherer has made his career on gaining top control and smothering his opponents. Hague won't want to be in that position.
I'll put my money on Tuchscherer in this fight as he has a skill-set that, while boring at times, can be effective. Hague could catch Tuchscherer here, but I see Tuchscherer gaining top control and squeaking out a decision.
The second heavyweight bout on the preliminary card will feature the return of a Gracie to the Octagon as Rolles Gracie (3-0, 0-0 UFC) makes his UFC debut against another UFC newcomer and late replacement in Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran (10-3, 0-0 UFC). Beltran's rise to the UFC as a replacement can likely be traced to his win over Houston Alexander on January 16th, but he'll likely be sold as an experienced veteran against the rather green Rolles.
Interestingly enough, Beltran will have some huge problems in this fight despite being the more experienced MMA fighter. Rolles is 6'4", 245 pounds, trumping Beltran's size by roughly 15 pounds and 2 inches in height. He also happens to be a 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and a third dan black belt in Judo. Combining those credentials with the size he presents to Beltran should be enough for Rolles to roll through Beltran in this fight. I'll take Rolles here via submission.