Unlike most weekends in which mixed martial arts action is rampant on Friday and Saturday nights, this weekend will provide us with a slight change as Sunday evening will be thrust into the spotlight as both the UFC and DREAM promote events. Only the hardest of the hardcore fans will sit through both events as DREAM 13 will begin in the early hours of Monday morning, but UFC fans who have access to Versus will surely tune-in for the intriguing card that will take place at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado.
The card will be headlined by a light heavyweight battle between rising prospect Jon Jones and long-time UFC veteran Brandon Vera, but it'll also spotlight a potentially crucial heavyweight showdown between the surging Junior Dos Santos and the formidable Gabriel Gonzaga. Before we delve deep into the relevant battles at the top of the card, let's take a closer look at the laundry list of battles that may potentially make the broadcast on Sunday evening.
Headlining the preliminary card, Chicago's Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (25-11, 5-5 UFC) will bring his intense pace and conditioning into a lightweight clash with San Diego-native Shannon Gugerty (12-4, 2-2 UFC). Guida enters the contest riding a two-fight losing streak as he dropped a split decision to Diego Sanchez at The Ultimate Figher IX Finale and was choked out by Kenny Florian at UFC 107. Gugerty is also coming off some misfortune as he was submitted by Britain's Terry Etim at UFC 105.
Gugerty will need to rely heavily on his submission skills if Guida intends to use his pace and wrestling to smother him, but there is an outside chance that Gugerty could use the stand-up game to his advantage. Guida has consistently talked about his improving striking game, but the results of that training have never come to fruition in the Octagon. If Gugerty can put together a technical gameplan standing and maintain his feet, there is a slim chance he could pull out a victory. Unfortunately, I'm not on that side of the argument. Gugerty, while having a chance with his guillotine choke, will likely succumb to Guida's grit and heart in this one.
Belarussian fighter and former IFL champion Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko (23-4, 4-2 UFC) will battle The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 alum Eliot Marshall (8-1, 3-0 UFC) in a light heavyweight contest that will put the undefeated Marshall in a position to vault himself into the upper-tier of the division with a win. Marshall is entering the contest after wins over Jason Brilz, Vinicius Magalhaes, and Jules Bruchez. Matyushenko was scheduled to face Steve Cantwell at UFC 108, but Cantwell suffered an injury that caused the bout to be cancelled. His last win was over Team CroCop member Igor Pokrajac at UFC 103.
This won't be an easy fight for either fighter. Marshall's height and reach will be problematic for Matyushenko's striking, but Matyushenko has also shown some visible improvement in his stand-up game in his last couple of fights. While he still hasn't shown true knockout power, he has shown improved accuracy and the ability to land combinations consistently, which will be useful if he can get past the length of Marshall.
On the floor, Marshall's length will be a positive asset in his arsenal coupled with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess, but Matyushenko has rolled with some of the best in the world and came out unscathed. His wrestling and strength will be formidable, but age becomes a huge factor when a 29 year old battles a 39 year old. Can Marshall overpower "The Janitor"? I'm inclined to believe Matyushenko wins here, but Marshall might not be a bad underdog bet.
Heavyweight: Brendan Schaub (4-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Chase Gormley (6-1, 0-1 UFC): This should be somewhat interesting to fans as both Schaub and Gormley will want to avoid falling 0-2 in the UFC with the potential to be cut from the promotion. Interestingly enough, both men have solid training camps to be put on the fast track to a winning year, but both men faltered in their debuts as Schaub was knocked out cold by veteran Roy Nelson and Gormley was stopped by Stefan Struve.
Schaub has primarily been working with Nate Marquardt while Gormley is now under the tutelage of Team Black House while also making stops at Antonio McKee's Team Bodyshop Fitness. Gormley will have some added weight, and he's a very good wrestler -- but I'm leaning toward Schaub's well-rounded skills and ability to learn quickly to put him through here. Schaub is a guy who went from no formal training in boxing or jiu-jitsu to a very high level in both in only six to twelve months, and that's pretty incredible.
Gormley isn't a whiz on the feet, but I do think Gormley could use his weight to manhandle Schaub on the floor. Schaub doesn't have the length that Struve presented, so this is a pretty tough call. Gormley should have the training to see submissions coming if he's rolling with guys like the Nogueira's, but he obviously was oblivious to Struve's setup. It makes me wonder if Schaub can do the same or get back to his feet against Gormley's weight. I'll abstain from a pick right now.
Welterweight: John Howard (13-4, 3-0 UFC) vs. Daniel Roberts (9-0, 0-0 UFC): I really like this fight on paper as Howard is a very well-rounded athlete while Roberts is a solid grappler with NAIA All-American credentials in wrestling. Howard will be the smaller guy, but I think experience will ultimately be part of his winning formula. Roberts isn't much of a striker whereas Howard will more than likely keep this fight standing. I'll go with Howard improving his record to 4-0 in the UFC.
Welterweight: Mike Pierce (10-3, 1-1 UFC) vs. Julio Paulino (15-2, 0-0 UFC): Strength of record is probably the biggest indicator that Paulino is going to have problems in this fight. A majority of his experience is from the AFC in Alaska, and quality of competition isn't high in the promotion as it's tough to find a lot of quality fighters in the region. Pierce's teammate, Rick Story, also holds a decision victory over Paulino, which will probably give Pierce some specific insight as to how Paulino works in the cage. Look for Pierce to grind out Paulino and pound him for three rounds on his way to a decision victory.
Light Heavyweight: Eric Schafer (11-4-2, 3-3 UFC) vs. Jason Brilz (17-2-1, 2-1 UFC): This should be pretty straight-forward. Brilz is a very short light heavyweight who will want to get inside, takedown his opponent, and either pound him out or wrestle him into a choke. Schafer may want to try to continue convincing us his stand-up has improved, but he'll more than likely try to pull out a submission. Both men lack experience against each other's style with the exception of Brilz dropping a decision to Marshall, primarily a jiu-jitsu fighter, and Schafer being outwrestled by Ryan Bader.
Where does this fight go? It's tough to say. My gut believes Brilz may be able to flatten out Schafer on his back and pepper his way to a decision victory, but Schafer is a finisher. I'll go with Eric Schafer via submission in this battle.
Lightweight: Duane Ludwig (19-10) vs. Darren Elkins (11-1): Elkins is a late replacement for Spencer Fisher in this fight, so I don't expect too much out of the UFC newcomer unless Elkins can put Ludwig consistently on his back and try to finish him. His record somewhat indicates that he may actually lean toward that style of fighting, but Ludwig is much more experienced here. If there's a line on Elkins, I may actually make a small play simply based n the fact that Ludwig has massive problems once he's put on his back, but the pick should be Ludwig here.