Unless you're the hardest of the hardcore fan and tuned in for K-1's World Grand Prix on April 2nd to witness the utter destruction of Peter Aerts by Kyotaro, you've probably been a little hungry for your dose of mixed martial arts action since UFC Fight Night 21 back on March 31st. The hunger will be fed as Zuffa brings us UFC 112 on Saturday, April 10th from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
The card will feature a lightweight championship showdown between B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar along with a middleweight championship battle between Anderson Silva and Demian Maia. Legends Matt Hughes and Renzo Gracie will also meet in the third fight on the main card with impressive British talent Terry Etim, Brazilian prospect Rafael Dos Anjos, The Ultimate Fighter season three winner Kendall Grove, and 2001 NCAA Division I wrestling champion Mark Munoz all making appearances.
Before we dive deep into the star-studded main card, here's a rundown of all of the action you may possibly get to glimpse on the UFC 112 undercard.
The headlining battle taking place on the UFC 112 undercard will feature the 2008 NCAA Division I national wrestling champion at 197 lbs. in Phil Davis battling Sweden's 6'5" "Mauler" Alexander Gustafsson. Davis successfully made his debut at UFC 109 by beating down Brian Stann over the course of three rounds while Gustafsson made a splash at UFC 105 with a 0:41 knockout of Jared Hamman.
Gustafsson has been a name I've kept a close eye on for quite a long time, and while his upbringing into the mixed martial arts world has been accompanied by a lot of hype -- Gustafsson may be running directly into a brick wall in this affair.
The deciding factor in this fight is easily the controlling wrestling ability of Phil Davis. He has the strength, intelligence, and skill to completely dominate Gustafsson on the floor in this fight. Some may believe Gustafsson's long limbs and jiu-jitsu knowledge can counter Davis, but Davis has shown some surprising knowledge of the dangers of wading in someone's guard. Granted, Brian Stann isn't a true test of that foresight, but Lloyd Irvin is more than competent to teach the young phenom a thing or two in that department.
Look for Davis to avoid the striking exchanges that won Gustafsson his first fight. He'll more than likely find an opening, power bomb Gustafsson to the floor, and control him until he's grown tired. I'll go out on a limb and say that Davis finishes off the Swede in this clash of undefeated prospects.
Despite a sub .500 record in the Octagon, Paul Taylor is still one of the more exciting fighters to watch in the Octagon. And fortunately for him, it's given him more opportunities to collect knockout or fight of the night honors. His opponent at UFC 112 in IFL veteran John Gunderson could very well be his next victim.
Some fans would probably say Gunderson is your standard run-of-the-mill "wrestleboxer". He has the ability to be a problem in the top control game, but he isn't the most proficient as unseating opponents from their post on their two feet. He also doesn't happen to be very skilled in controlling opponents from his back, and his striking is far from great.
Taylor isn't a world beater by any means either. He's shown poor takedown defense in past bouts, and he is fairly average in his striking abilities with the exception that he is a much more dynamic striker than most fighters at his level.
The major difference in this fight is that Taylor does have the know-how to escape from his back to the feet with some success, and Gunderson isn't exactly an overpowering wrestler. Gunderson has a shot at lay and praying this fight to a decision, but I'm going to bank on Taylor landing quite a bit while sticking to a range scoring gameplan. Taylor by decision.
In the first of two lower-tier welterweight match-ups, Team Rough House member and The Ultimate Fighter season nine contestant Nick Osipczak will put his undefeated streak on the line against the outstanding wrestling skills and relentless pace of Washington-native Rick Story. Osipczak defeated both Frank Lester and Matthew Riddle in his two appearances in the Octagon while Story recently defeated Jesse Lennox and Brian Foster following his defeat at the hands of John Hathaway in his UFC debut.
Story's gameplan is normally the same. He'll more than likely use his southpaw stance and punching to set-up a consistent dose of aggressive and powerful takedowns. Much like his teammate Mike Pierce, Story's style functions around a great wrestling base, solid conditioning, and a quick pace. While he lacks dynamic finishing ability, he does have some stunning strength, which may eventually translate to knockouts and submissions.
Osipczak comes from a legitimate kung fu background, and his training at Team Rough House has certainly increased his strength and honed his striking skills. While his grappling has saw some improvement, Story will be the true test as to whether Osipczak will be improved enough to stop his pace and top control.
This is somewhat of an interesting fight due to the reputation that Team Rough House has gained from fans. The improvement many of their fighters have seen in their striking skills is very noticeable, and Osipczak can surely be lumped into the pile of fighters who has seen an improvement. His height and reach will also be a factor as he's 6'2" to Story's 5'11" frame, but can he stop Story's wrestling and relentless pace? Story's overall strength is massive, and he's a physical specimen with powerful wrestling that Osipczak won't be able to stop. I'll take Story in this one.
A somewhat tougher fight to gauge as former IFL fighter Brad Blackburn makes his fourth appearance in the Octagon against The Ultimate Fighter season nine runner-up DaMarques Johnson. While Blackburn looks to be having some great success on the bigger stage, he hasn't been the most effective fighter in terms of finishing ability. He also doesn't have the raw talent that some of the bigger names in the division possess, and he'll likely need to have a major change in his training to breakthrough as a mid-tier fighter.
Johnson is recognized as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter, but he isn't a high-level black belt or submission master on the floor by any means. It'd be safe to say he's more of a well-rounded fighter with limited ability in many areas of his game, but choking out Edgar Garcia at UFC 107 certainly raises his stock as an improving fighter.
Blackburn did show some lacking striking prowess in his battle with Amir Sadollah, and Johnson could take advantage of that weakness. The problem is that Johnson isn't exactly a technically sound striker or kicker like Sadollah displayed in his fight with Blackburn, and Blackburn is well-rounded enough to be a menace in both the stand-up and ground game against a lesser skilled fighter.
For such a meaningless fight at the bottom of the card, this is somewhat of a toss-up. Blackburn's striking should ultimately end this fight as Johnson loves to scramble for submissions. Aggressively pursuing Blackburn for those submissions should prove to be unfruitful, and I think Blackburn edges out Johnson via decision due to a mix of strikes from the distance -- keeping Johnson at bay.
Paul Kelly was the recipient of Dennis Siver's spinning back kick at UFC 105 while Matt Veach was submitted by the newest lightweight contender in Frankie Edgar at The Ultimate Fighter season ten finale in a 'Fight of the Night' battle. That line alone should give you an idea as to who will likely come out on top in this showdown, but one of these fighters holds a significant edge in every area of this fight.
Veach will not only have a significantly better wrestling skill-set to stop Kelly's own takedown game, but he's definitely the better striker between the two fighters. Furthermore, the H.I.T. Squad, Matt Hughes and Robbie Lawler's gym, has had some success in producing young talent with a flair for explosive takedowns and powerful punching. Brian Foster, a very exciting UFC fighter, is also from the camp along with many others.
Veach will more than likely use his brute strength and power to land against a non-improving Paul Kelly. Kelly is just way too one-dimensional in his skill-set to offer an answer for Veach's wrestling and better striking ability, and Veach should take out Kelly here and give the UFC a reason to send him packing.
Mostapha Al-Turk's run in the UFC might finally be up, but at least the UFC has given him the opportunity to have a chance to win against the very green Jon Madsen. Al-Turk was pulverized by Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic and Cheick Kongo in his two previous stints in the Octagon while Madsen successfully defeated Justin Wren at the season ten finale.
Madsen's wrestling should make the difference here, but he won't be as experienced as Al-Turk in the submission game. The problem for Al-Turk, however, is that Madsen did prove in his previous battle in the Octagon that his wrestling is a very formidable part of his skill-set, possibly the only real skill he possesses at this point in his career. If Madsen can maintain top control and pound on Al-Turk, he'll take this fight. But look out for Al-Turk's grappling ability in the later rounds. I'll take Madsen, but Al-Turk has a chance.