The UFC's virgin run on the Fox network kicks off Saturday night with UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. The heavyweight championship headliner is bolstered by a lengthy preliminary lineup that will stream live on Fox.com and the UFC's Facebook page.
Please note that two offerings from the Facebook undercard have been analyzed separately, leaving the following fights to be covered herein:
An exciting fan-favorite from the WEC's heyday, Cub Swanson takes his first swing in the Octagon after being plagued with a number of injuries for the last two years. Swanson lost his first MMA fight to future UFC lightweight Shannon Gugerty, then punched the throttle and mustered nine straight wins, finishing all but one. The surge included a TKO of Charlie Valencia and avenging his sole defeat to Gugerty, catching the WEC's eye in the process.
There, he rattled off another quick stoppage and scored the biggest win of his career over Micah Miller. Legend Jens Pulver would then halt Swanson's electrifying eleven-fight streak with a first round guillotine. After catching current UFC bantamweight Donny Walker with a rear-naked choke in a smaller promotion, Swanson returned to the WEC with a five-piece run that elicited three victorious "Fight of the Night" performances (Hiroyuki Takaya, John Franchi and Mackens Semerzier) with only divisional frontrunners Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes topping him.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Training out of Greg Jackson's MMA, Swanson is a BJJ black belt, wildly exciting kickboxer and downright scrapper to the very core.
Cub's a decent wrestler, traces of Judo can be found in his clinch game, he's not afraid to unroll an occasional Capoeira kick and he consistently throws caution to the wind. He's the epitome of a fighter who forgoes the safe strategy and dives in headfirst.
His completeness as a martial artist leaves no glaring flaws or weaknesses to exploit.
Swanson has good footwork and prefers to take the helm with high-paced and high-volume striking. He slices with numerous kicks from outside and works his way forward to unload combinations with his hands in the pocket.
His diversity comes into play by switching up his offense between jousting strikes and penetrating into the clinch to threaten with knees, elbows and takedowns. His head movement and defense are solid, making him a well rounded juggernaut who's hard to hit.
It was quite clear that Ricardo Lamas was not f**king around in his Octagon debut on the UFC Live 4: Kongo vs. Barry card.
Much of the attention was on his opponent, former lightweight Matt Grice, who was returning as a featherweight for the first time.
Lamas, looking downright angry and pissed off, wasted no time in unhinging a nasty one-two (right) that would send Grice sprawling backwards. This aptly set the tone for the few minutes the encounter would last.
Ominous and predatory stalking would follow along with more blazing punches that rifled through Grice's crumbling defense.
This set up a Lamas takedown, but the three-time D3 All American wrestler opted to back off just long enough for Grice to get back to his feet, where another heat-seeking punch and a stiff knee awaited.
Smelling blood, Lamas pounced with a combination that was concluded with a cracking left kick to the face. He shucked off Grice's desperation takedown and went to the body with the kick to floor Grice (below).
Lamas debuted in the WEC undefeated after five fights and beat the stalwart Bart Palaszewski by decision. Team Alpha Male's Danny Castillo dealt his first loss with a second round TKO and Lamas would ratchet three-straight wins before dropping to featherweight and falling in his final WEC contest to Yuri Alcantara.
Swanson and Lamas have a very similar approach: aggressive, high paced and looking to finish. Lamas probably has the edge in wrestling and physical strength while Swanson is further rounded and more experienced.
In a fight that's this close on paper, ring-rust from Swanson's recently curtailed pace might be one of the finite details that comes into play. Lamas is a very promising new entry to the featherweight class with an admirable and exciting style and a win over Swanson would etch his name onto the long list of featherweight contenders.
Really, anything could happen in a dogfight between two dynamic gamers like this. I'm leaning toward the poise and experience of Swanson with the disclaimer that Lamas is a frightening prospect to watch out for.
My Prediction: Cub Swanson by submission
Mackens Semerzier exploded onto the scene with a jaw-dropping submission of grappling ace Wagnney Fabiano at WEC 43.
The win kept Semerzier undefeated after five fights, all of which were finishes and all in the first round except one. He went on to drop three consecutive bouts in the WEC to Deividas Taurosevicius (decision), Javier Vazquez (submission) and Cub Swanson (split-decision, Fight of the Night). That's a respectable level of opposition for such an inexperienced fighter.
Sermerzier explains his martial arts upbringing on UFC.com:
I started training in wrestling at 15. When I was 19 I picked up boxing in the Marine Corps. I then moved on to BJJ and Muay Thai at 23. Then I helped some friends get ready for their MMA fights. I decided to give it a try and I became hooked. I had my first MMA fight when I was 26.
Both Semerzier and his opponent, Robert Peralta, have few flaws to speak of.
Peralta (15-3) has more fights but Semerzier (6-3) has easily tackled a superior list of opposition, making the experience-factor a bit of a wash. They're both physically imposing fighters with a tangible air of natural toughness who center their high-powered offense around aggressive striking.
Peralta first made waves on the Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley undercard in a huge upset of Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya.
Peralta is billed as a black belt in Taekwondo and a BJJ blue belt. Shades of the former martial art are seen in his side-kick to the right. By chambering the kick (bringing his knee close to his body with his lower leg coiled) he's able to generate a lot of linear power.
This is a subtle example of adapting a traditional technique to MMA, as Peralta cuts the fat out of the pronounced footwork that normally sets up the kick.
Generally, Peralta is effective with the simple and basic weaponry of low kicks and jabs from outside (left) and a crisp one-two in the pocket (below).
His footwork and balance are exceptional, giving him the poise to defend takedowns well. Even without a distinct wrestling pedigree, his infallible stubbornness gives him formidable clinch prowess and takedown defense.
The betting lines for this fight are about dead even, which is hard to dispute.
Both fighters have a lot to prove: Peralta in defining his worth as a relative newcomer and Semerzier in continuing his turnaround after a three-fight skid.
While this one is a coin-toss for me, I think Semerzier is just a tad more explosive with his strikes and has a better stock of submissions. I see this going down a lot like Sermerzier vs. Cub Swanson, with a lot of swings in momentum as the pair duel vigorously on the feet.
Semerzier should be able to lure Peralta into a standing gunfight and catch him off-guard with a takedown, leading either to a chance of pursuing submissions or leaning the score cards in his favor.
My Prediction: Mackens Semerzier by split-decision
However, training under MMA scholar Jeremy Horn at Elite Performance has endowed Johnson with some savvy skill, most noticeably in his two immediate post-TUF wins over Edgar Garcia and Brad Blackburn.
Johnson (12-9) tagged Garcia with a vicious up-kick from his back (left) and transitioned into a fight-ending triangle choke. Blackburn, an experienced vet with heavy hands, fell to a third-round body kick from Johnson at UFC 112.
Johnson is a live-wire kickboxer with good quickness and power. His ground game, clinch and wrestling have also come along nicely, giving him the legit potential to scratch and claw his way into holding a lower to mid-level spot on the welterweight roster.
Clay "Heavy Metal" Harvison (9-3) eked out a split-decision in his first Octagon foray, largely attributed to opponent Justin Edward's empty gas tank.
Harvison took on late replacement Seth Baczynski in the follow up and was pretty much steam-rolled by the Power MMA Team member's striking onslaught.
Harvison has good instincts, admirable heart and decent striking, but I can't help but see him as thoroughly over-matched versus Johnson.
Johnson's hands are quicker and more powerful, his takedowns will be difficult to ward off and his grappling game endows him with an overall package that I don't think Harvison can endure.
My Prediction: DaMarques Johnson by TKO
After decisioning Brock Larson in his debut, Mike Pierce (12-4) raised eyebrows for a gritty performance against Jon Fitch at UFC 107. The part-time Team Quest fighter gutted out two tough rounds and wobbled Fitch in the third with stiff punches.
Pierce went on to stack together three straight over Julio Paulino (decision), Amilcar Alves (armbar) and Kenny Robertson (TKO). Next up was a similarly tuned wrestle-boxer in Johnny Hendricks at UFC 133, resulting in an evenly matched split-decision loss that I thought could have gone either way.
Paul Bradley (18-3) was impressive in his elimination bout on TUF 7 and picked third by Team Rampage. Unfortunately, a rash on his neck forced him off the show.
Bradley stayed busy and fought alongside Pierce on the undercard of UFC 133 after notching five consecutive wins. He was unable to impose his wrestling against Rafael Natal, who stuffed takedowns and out-struck him to a decision victory.
Along with one No Contest to Bellator's Sam Alvey, the two losses Bradley incurred outside the UFC after his ephemeral stint on TUF were to current Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold on the Challengers 6 card and the same Mike Pierce he's facing Saturday night.
The pair fought on a small card in Pennsylvania where Pierce took a unanimous decision, which is pretty much exactly what I expect here. Pierce is basically a slightly more dangerous version than Bradley: his wrestling and boxing are simply better and, as long as Pierce doesn't underestimate him, should propel him to another strong decision.
My Prediction: Mike Pierce by decision
Aaron Rosa (16-4) returns to 205 after an exciting but unsuccessful debut against Joey Beltran. Beltran and Rosa let it all hang out and blasted each other on the feet (and below the belt) before Beltran finished him in the third with strikes.
Rosa trains under Rodrigo Pinheiro in BJJ and has notable Strikeforce losses to Jared Hamman and Rafael Cavalcante. He enforces a brawling stand up style with a decent clinch and sub game. At 6'4", he'll be a good-sized 205er but his lacking quickness and agility might come back to bite him.
Making his UFC debut, Arizona Combat Sport's Matt "Luke Duke" Lucas (14-2) is the current Rage in the Cage champion and a former two-time All American wrestler at Northern Colorado. He enters the bout on a five-piece roll after suffering back-to-back losses to Bellator fighters Giva Santana and Richard Hale; the first and only defeats of Lucas' career.
The lines give Rosa a slight push here, but I like the agile wrestling of Lucas to pull him out of any bad situations stemming from Rosa's wild striking. I think the newcomer's wrestling will nullify Rosa's size advantage and -- as long as he can avoid subs -- carry him to a decision.
My Prediction: Matt Lucas by decision
All other fighter images via UFC.com
Johnson vs. Garcia gif by "Jride" via MMA-Core.com
All other gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
All betting odds references from BestFightOdds.com