UFC Fight for the Troops 2 will take place on Saturday, January 22 from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. The event will air live on Spike TV at 9:00 PM EST/6:00 PM PST, featuring a main event showdown between lightweights Melvin Guillard and Evan Dunham. The main card will also feature appearances by Matt Mitrione, Mark Hominick, Pat Barry, and Cole Miller.
The two top preliminary battles will be featured on the UFC's Facebook page, streaming free for those interested. As always, here's my breakdowns of those dark matches.
Lightweight: Cody McKenzie (12-0, 1-0 UFC) vs. Yves Edwards (39-16-1, 7-4 UFC): Headlining the undercard, undefeated lightweight prospect Cody McKenzie takes a major step up in competition as he battles the 34-year-old UFC veteran Yves Edwards in lightweight action. Edwards was set to face Melvin Guillard, but an injury to Kenny Florian forced the UFC to move Guillard to the main event spot against Dunham. McKenzie stepped in to replace Guillard as Edwards' opponent.
As you might recall, McKenzie earned his 10th straight submission victory by guillotine choke in his win over Aaron Wilkinson at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale. While his record is relatively bland in terms of competition, it is incredible to see a fighter consistently finish with the same submission, all within the first frame of action. But Edwards, a long-time veteran of the sport, is likely going to be smart about his approach to that constant threat. With wins over John Gunderson and Luis Palomino in his last two appearances, Edwards won't be an easy task for McKenzie.
Oddsmakers are setting the line in favor of Edwards, and I'd agree with that assessment. Edwards' veteran status, better stand-up credentials, and well-rounded skill-set should give him a clear edge here, but McKenzie is always in this type of situation come fight time. He's normally outmatched physically, and his skills don't stack up well against seasoned strikers or grapplers. What he does have is one of the best guillotine chokes in the business, using it to escape takedowns and go on the offensive immediately.
There is a chance McKenzie pulls off a win once again, and a victory on Saturday night over Edwards would be much more impressive than any of his previous victories. But I'm leaning toward Yves' experience and striking game to keep McKenzie at bay on the feet for most of this fight. As he peppers McKenzie, the gangly Alaskan will desperately seek the clinch, and Edwards will put his Muay Thai skills to use in damaging fashion. Unless Yves' dumbly shoots for takedowns without protecting his neck, I see this as a win for Edwards.
Welterweight: DaMarques Johnson (11-8, 2-2 UFC) vs. Mike Guymon (12-4-1, 1-2 UFC): A loser leaves town showdown as both Johnson and Guymon have recent losses on top of sub-par records in the UFC. Johnson is coming off a loss to Matthew Riddle at UFC on Versus 2 in August while Guymon was submitted by Daniel Roberts at UFC 121 in October. It's apparent both men have weaknesses in their defenses that have been exploited time and time again, and the winner of this bout will be the fighter who can shut down those areas of concern.
Tough fight to call. Both men can expose each other's weaknesses, but I think Johnson has the edge as long as he can keep this fight standing and make Guymon work hard for the takedown. I'm not confident that he'll be able to do that, but I do think Johnson can do a lot more damage on the feet than Guymon. I'll take Johnson via TKO.
Featherweight: Mike Brown (24-7, 6-4 UFC/WEC) vs. Rani Yahya (15-6, 4-3 UFC/WEC): Coming off a loss to Diego Nunes at UFC 125, Brown jumped at the opportunity at redemption, at least in the sense that he could get back into the win column quickly. He secured a spot on the UFC Fight for the Troops 2 card after Chan Sung Jung withdrew due to injury. Rani Yahya's career in the UFC is even more endangered now.
Brown's strength and wrestling will prove to be too much for Yahya. Yahya's submission game is always a threat in the back of everyone's mind, but Brown has shored up his submission defense over the last four or five years. The only weakness is his sometimes wild striking game, and Yahya can't exploit those holes. Brown via TKO.
Lightweight: Willamy Freire (17-3, 0-0 UFC) vs. Waylon Lowe (9-3, 1-1 UFC): Similarly to Brenneman vs. Alves, this match-up between NCAA Division II All-American wrestler Waylon Lowe and former Shooto Welterweight champion Williamy Freire will pit classic regional styles against one another. The question is whether Freire is ready to endure what North American wrestlers bring to the table.
I'm a bit hesitant to believe Freire can manhandle Lowe. Yusuke Endo, Freire's last opponent, proved that a standard top control game can work, and Lowe possesses those skills. Freire should have the advantage standing however, and I expect Nova Uniao to drill Freire endlessly in preparation for takedowns from Lowe. Will it be enough? Oddsmakers are smart in setting the line close to even, but I'm going to gamble and go with Freire via decision.
Welterweight: Charlie Brenneman (11-2, 1-1 UFC) vs. Amilcar Alves (11-2, 0-1 UFC): Brenneman's wrestling could be the difference maker in this battle pitting the 29-year-old Pennsylvania-bred fighter against one of Nova Uniao's vaunted prospects in Amilcar Alves. Alves' debut with the UFC ended surprisingly as he was submitted by Mike Pierce in the third round at UFC 118 in August. The theme of that fight is what Alves should expect once again -- relentless takedowns and an unforgiving gas tank.
Can Alves prove that the North American wrestler can't beat him twice? It's tough to imagine, especially since Brenneman, who narrowly missed becoming an All-American at Lock Haven University, went toe-to-toe with Johny Hendricks, a two-time NCAA champion, at UFC 117. While he did eventually lose the contest, his bout with Hendricks and victory over Jason High lead me to believe he'll implement the same gameplan against Alves and drown him in wrestling technique. I'll take Brenneman via decision.
Bantamweight: Will Campuzano (8-3, 1-3 UFC/WEC) vs. Chris Cariaso (10-2, 1-1 UFC/WEC): Opening up the night is your standard loser leaves town showdown as former WEC bantamweights Will Campuzano and Chris Cariaso square off. The California-born Cariaso lost in his final appearance under the WEC banner to Nova Uniao phenom Renan Barao in under four minutes at WEC 53 in December. Campuzano wasn't quite as unsuccessful, although he succumbed to what some are calling the Pace choke at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale against, as you would expect, Nick Pace.
Campuzano's 5'9" frame should give him an edge in this showdown, but Cariaso, despite being greatly smaller at only 5'3", has a well-rounded skill-set to counter Campuzano's tendency to stand. Furthermore, Campuzano's three losses at this level doesn't inspire confidence he'll be able pull off a victory. Cariaso has fought taller and lengthier competition for his entire career, and I think his strong takedown game and ability to wade through strikes and land solid counters will prevail here. I'll take Cariaso via decision.