After a relatively quiet weekend, the calm before the storm as I would call it, we're back with a busy June as the UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator, the WEC, and World Victory Road will all promote events this month. The UFC's first event of the month, UFC 115, will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at the General Motors Place on Saturday, June 12th. The main event will feature a light heavyweight contest between UFC legends Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin as well as two highly-competitive welterweight battles in Martin Kampmann vs. Paulo Thiago and Rory MacDonald vs. Carlos Condit. Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic will also appear as he takes on Patrick Barry in a do-or-die match-up for, more than likely, his career.
Spike TV will air two live preliminary match-ups at 9:00 PM EST, and as always -- there is a chance a couple more preliminary battles could be seen if... any of the four fighters involved beat the odds and actually finish. Here's a quick look at the UFC 115 preliminary action:
Lightweight: Tyson Griffin (14-2, 7-2 UFC) vs. Evan Dunham (10-0, 3-0 UFC): In the headlining fight of Spike TV's UFC 115 preliminary broadcast, Tyson Griffin, #9 ranked on the USAT/SBN lightweight rankings, will aim to continue his winning ways as he takes on undefeated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Evan Dunham. Griffin has won two straight with wins over Hermes Franca and Rafael Dos Anjos after a UFC 90 loss to Sean Sherk derailed his chances at a run for the title. Dunham has impressively made his mark after upsetting Efrain Escudero at UFN 20, narrowly defeating Marcus Aurelio at UFC 102, and finishing Per Eklund at UFC 95.
Obviously, this is a huge step up in competition for Dunham as Griffin has loads of experience against quality opponents while Dunham helped Aurelio and Eklund out the door with his wins. Escudero was a challenge in that he flurried all over Dunham in the opening round, but Dunham was definitely more effective once he was able to put Escudero on the ground. The question becomes whether he can do that against Griffin, a very tough and strong wrestler in his own right.
Furthermore, Griffin's striking is something Dunham will have a problem dealing with over the course of three rounds. While Griffin hasn't historically shown knockout power, he's shown that he can consistently batter opponents, tire them out, and use his wrestling to easily smother them to a decision victory. Sure, he knocked out a visibly out-of-shape and out-of-mind Hermes Franca, but that was probably inevitable considering Franca's wild capoiera-looking dance of looping overhands.
I think Griffin uses his kickboxing and punching to maintain range and batter Dunham here. As Dunham grows a bit more desperate, I think we'll see Griffin stuff takedowns and throw heavy overhands as Dunham clears the clinch. I don't think Griffin will finish him though, but I think he edges Dunham out on the feet for three rounds.
Lightweight: Mac Danzig (19-7-1, 3-3 UFC) vs. Matt Wiman (11-5, 5-3 UFC): In the first battle taking place on Spike TV's live preliminary broadcast, The Ultimate Fighter season six welterweight champion Mac Danzig will take on The Ultimate Fighter season five contestant Matt Wiman in a somewhat pressure-packed showdown that could see Danzig get a pink slip with a loss. Danzig has gone 3-3 in the promotion with losses to Clay Guida, Josh Neer, and Jim Miller, but has regained some confidence with a win over Justin Buchholz at UFC 109.
Wiman has actually been quite a surprise. He lost via a flying knee to Spencer Fisher at UFC 60, but he was offered a chance at being in the house for The Ultimate Fighter season five despite the loss. Losing to Manvel Gamburyan during the show, Wiman came back with wins over Brian Geraghty, Michihiro Omigawa, Justin Buchholz, and a surprising knockout win over Thiago Tavares. The wins earned him a bout with Jim Miller, who defeated him via unanimous decision, and Wiman dropped his next bout against Sam Stout via decision as well. His most recent victory came at UFC 107 over Shane Nelson.
I like this match-up. Wiman has some solid footwork and quickness in his boxing, and he's somewhat of a threat on the ground. Against Danzig however, he may be outdone in both departments as Danzig does have some decent boxing, possibly better than Wiman's, and his ground game is much better. Wiman doesn't possess relentless conditioning to wrestle Danzig down like Clay Guida, unbelievable toughness and a long frame like Josh Neer, or the overall skill of Jim Miller, but he is rather quick on his feet and can move in and out of danger rather quickly.
While I think Danzig's lacking performance in his past losses could show up once again, I think he's overall a more skilled fighter than Wiman. I'll take Danzig here, but Wiman has a chance as he's surprised many of us in the past. Excellent fight for the preliminary broadcast on Spike.
Middleweight: David Loiseau (19-9, 4-4 UFC) vs. Mario Miranda (9-1, 0-1 UFC): Native Canadian and long-time MMA veteran David Loiseau will get another chance to secure a victory in front of a Canadian crowd as he battles Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Mario Miranda at UFC 115. Loiseau's last defeat in the UFC came at UFC 97 to Ed Herman while Miranda's debut was over rather quickly as Gerald Harris nearly knocked him out cold in a TKO loss at UFN 21.
Miranda will easily be the better grappler in this contest. Loiseau, for as flashy with kicks as he is, is highly susceptible to being taken down and controlled. He's very tough to submit, but his risky attacks on the feet land him in danger on the ground far too often. Ed Herman completely dominated Loiseau due to Loiseau's obsession with spinning back kicks, and I imagine Loiseau will have more risky offensive attacks that will put him in danger on the ground here.
With that said, I think Miranda should come out victorious with a dominant positional battle on the ground. Loiseau can produce some power and hurt Miranda much like Harris, but I think it'll be very tough to pull off against the lengthy Miranda. I also think Miranda's frame could play a huge role in tying up Loiseau and actually submitting him in this one. Miranda via submission.
Welterweight: James Wilks (6-3, 1-1 UFC) vs. Peter Sobotta (8-2, 0-1 UFC): Returning from his military service, Germany's Peter Sobotta will eye a continuance of his UFC contract as he battles The Ultimate Fighter season nine champion James Wilks. Sobotta's debut at UFC 99 didn't go as planned as he dropped an unanimous decision to Britain's Paul Taylor while Wilks was stopped by Matt Brown at UFC 105 following his win at the TUF 9 finale against DaMarques Johnson.
Sobotta's striking should be Wilks' main concern, and he does have some wrestling ability to produce some offense from top control. He's submitted quite a few regional opponents in match-ups in Germany, but much like the early days in Great Britain and even today's France -- MMA is in an infancy stage in the region. Sobotta's strength of record isn't great, and he's likely going to have a tough time against Wilks, a fighter who trains in the United States.
Putting aside the geographical analysis of their training camps and level of competition, there is one way in which Sobotta could upset Wilks here. Wilks didn't show tremendous conditioning against Matt Brown, although eating a flying knee from Brown may have had something to do with that. If Sobotta can work his striking and catch Wilks, it could be a long night for Wilks as he'll try to stagger his way to a miraculous takedown to stall out the round.
Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. I think Wilks will more than likely take down Sobotta and implement his submission skills from top control. It's possible Wilks has improved his striking since the Brown loss, and it isn't as if Sobotta is a world class kickboxer. In any case, I think James Wilks keeps his job with the UFC on Saturday and comes out victorious.
Welterweight: Claude Patrick (11-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Ricardo Funch (7-1, 0-1 UFC): Ontario-born Claude Patrick will make his UFC debut at UFC 115 against Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and Team Link-trained Ricardo Funch. Funch lost his debut with the promotion at UFC 107 against NCAA Division I wrestler Johny Hendricks while Patrick battled relatively lower-level competition in regional events for much of his eight-year professional career with his lone loss coming against Drew McFedries back in '02.
Despite losing to Hendricks, Funch gave the NCAA champion all he could handle with solid takedown defense and offense to counter Hendricks' attacks. Solid Muay Thai striking and clinch attacks landed consistently, but Hendricks' dirty boxing and knees had a bit more power to them. Funch dropped the decision, but it did show that he has the skills to compete in the division.
Patrick has been around since the sports' beginning, but he only began his professional career in 2002. Primarily a submission fighter, he's amassed eleven wins against mostly sub-par regional competition, but he'll look to change that on Saturday night against a legitimate threat in Funch. It's a far cry from his career in 2008 in which his life almost abruptly ended after he was attacked by unknown assailants in his hotel room after a fight, leaving him in a medically-induced coma.
It's tough for me to pick Patrick here based on his strength of competition and his skill-set. Funch trains under Gabriel Gonzaga, a legitimate Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and he's shown solid submission defense and ability on the ground in past fights. His Muay Thai was impressive against Hendricks, although he lacked the devastating power needed to plow through a NCAA wrestler. Against Patrick, a grappler, it may be a bit easier for him to work his striking and handle himself on the ground if he gets into danger there. I'll take Funch via TKO.
Welterweight: Mike Pyle (18-7-1, 1-2 UFC) vs. Jesse Lennox (11-2, 1-1): In a battle of the loser possibly seeking out a new contract with a different organization, Xtreme Couture team member Mike Pyle will battle wrestler Jesse Lennox in the first of three lower-tier welterweight contests on the UFC 115 undercard. Pyle dropped losses to Brock Larson and Jake Ellenberger while submitting Chris Wilson at UFN 19. Lennox defeated American Top Team's Danillo Villefort in his debut, but he dropped an unanimous decision to powerful wrestler Rick Story at UFN 20.
More than likely, we'll see a scrambling submission game from Pyle while Lennox will look to strike and use his wrestling to neutralize Pyle from the top if the fight happens to move to the ground. Pyle's takedown defense has always been rather lacking, but I think he'd rather use an active, high guard from his back to work for submissions versus strike with opponents. That's probably the sole reason we don't see Pyle fight heavily to stop takedowns.
Pyle's guard is good enough to tie opponents up and keep them relatively inactive, but strong wrestlers have shown the ability to break free from his submission abilities. With a speedy transition game, he could catch Lennox, but Lennox will probably want to avoid the ground and strike. While I think Lennox's wrestling could stop Pyle as many past wrestlers have done, I think he's at a bit of a disadvantage here. I'll take Pyle via submission in a scrambling battle for position.