UFC 138: Facebook Preliminary Card Dissection

From the LG Arena in Birmingham, England, UFC 138: Leben vs. Munoz will stream five preliminary card fights on Facebook starting unusually early in the day at 12:30 p.m ET.

News surfaced yesterday that the Paul Taylor vs. Anthony Njokuani bout has been nixed after Taylor suffered whiplash from a car accident. Filling that hole on the Spike TV broadcast will be the Cyrille Diabate vs. Anthony Perosh match, which has been upgraded from the Facebook undercard.

UFC 138 lacked a little sizzle when fully intact and, while having no significant bearing on the lightweight landscape, Taylor vs. Njokuani would have been a fan-friendly slug fest and will be sorely missed.

Excluding the compelling dogfight between Omigawa and Young, the remaining Facebook lineup features mostly bottom-level talent trying to shine with relevance while breaking out of the basement in their respective weight classes. The reshaped card looks like this:

Michihiro Omigawa vs. Jason Young
Justin Edwards vs. John Maguire
Rob Broughton vs. Philip De Fries
Chris Cope vs. Che Mills
Chris Cariaso vs. Vaughan Lee

Gifs and analysis in the full entry.

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Michihiro Omigawa (12-10-1) vs. Jason Young (8-4)

The UFC 131 undercard is where we last saw these featherweights perform, both in losses.

The decision in Omigawa's scrap with Darren Elkins is regarded as one of the most controversial this year. It did prompt Jonathan Tweedale of the Vancouver Athletic Commission to lend a valid and logical public statement on the scores in question, which was a promising sign.

Omigawa, a Peek-a-boo boxer and Judo stylist presents a diverse challenge in all three phases of combat.

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He's really concentrated on his stand up and found a nice groove with his unique approach.

Though it's off and on, his head movement is usually a puzzle of activity, his dramatically crouched stance ensures he's stable and balanced at all times and he's lobbing strikes with more power.

Being a longtime staple of the Yoshida Dojo and a black belt Judoka affirms his avid clinch prowess, where his base and overall technique are rock solid.

His hips are busy and constantly creating angles from his guard and he's a good scrambler.

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From the top -- where he's more likely to find himself against Young -- he has the steely composure of a seasoned veteran with intelligent offense, strong posture and powerful, precise ground-and-pound.

The only instances he's been finished are two TKO losses that were the first two MMA fights of his career.

Subsequent tangles with UFC lightweights Matt Wiman and Thiago Tavares, UFC featherweights Chad Mendes, Chan Sung Jung (all decision defeats), Hatsu Hioki and top ranked featherweights Marlon Sandro and Masanori Kanehara (all victories) attest to his durability.

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These animations of Jason Young were the only ones available and absolutely do not accurately reflect the feisty showing he had in his UFC debut against Dustin Poirier.

"Shotgun" is a staunch kickboxer with crisp power on the end of his slicing strikes.

He also has hard-nosed takedown defense, considerable size and strength, and an overall air of innate toughness.

The Poirier loss was a unanimous decision, but some media scored his efforts more favorably.

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Young cracked Poirier with low kicks throughout the contest and displayed thorny resilience with elbows in his takedown defense from the clinch.

While a casual glance at the match up indicates an easy win for the well traveled and formerly top ranked Omigawa, I think Young's size and respectable kickboxing will be a handful.

Standing, Omigawa's Peek-a-boo boxing has been a drastic improvement but it's still hit and miss, especially from a defensive standpoint.

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When Omigawa is fixated on executing every aspect of the style -- chin tucked and protected, hands held high with active and unpredictable head movement and footwork -- it's been highly effective.

However, he has spurts where he still wades forward without the angles and defense from his largely open stance and falters with his high paced counter punching.

This habit was critical in both of his recent UFC losses, as Chad Mendes and Darren Elkins took control of the pace by pelting him with strikes in this exposed state.

While the advantage will shift toward Omigawa in the clinch and even more so on the ground, Young is a more precise and powerful stand up artist than both Mendes and Elkins.

3_medium_mediumKnowing Omigawa will want to distract with punches and scurry into the clinch to negate his fiery Thai onslaught, Young should be able to anticipate the advances with constant circling and fend Omigawa off for his fair share of the tie-ups.

Physically, Young has a lanky (5'9") yet powerful stature with a gangly reach (73") that's tremendous for a featherweight.

I'd wager his proficiency in the stand up department will be a surprisingly challenging facet to deal with.

Ultimately, his background in striking will probably actualize as a weakness on the ground that Omigawa can exploit, though I don't think the feat will come easy. The Judoka is a terror from the top and has plenty of tricks from his guard, such as the Ude Gatame or shoulder-post armbar he's been seeking religiously (above), and his more fully stocked arsenal should carry him through against a deceivingly threatening opponent.

My Prediction: Michihiro Omigawa by submission

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Justin Edwards (7-1) vs. John Maguire (16-3)

TUF 13 winner Tony Ferguson has run through everyone in the Octagon by TKO, but Justin Edwards still proved to be an intriguing adversary.

Emphasizing frenzy over fundamentals, Edwards backed Ferguson up with automatic fire on the feet and dictated the pace early.

He also used his formidable clinch game to score a takedown before Ferguson stamped him with the shocking up-kick knockout.

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Edwards' only loss is to fellow cast mate Clay Harvison at the TUF 13 Finale, where he commanded the first round with his relentless pressure but gassed out noticeably and sloshed through the remaining rounds in slow motion.

His follow up performance was an encouraging decision over Wand Fight Team product Jorge Lopez at Ultimate Fight Night 25.

Edwards enveloped him with takedowns and also rolled out some sound guard passing and submission diversity with attacks from his guard.

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UK-based John Maguire, who's making his UFC debut, has a unique personality.

He is a self-proclaimed "pink belt in Gypsy Jiu Jitsu"; pink being a tribute to his idol Bret "The Hitman" Hart and the gypsy reference stemming from leaving school at age thirteen to roam the English countryside.

Maguire has finished twelve of his sixteen victories (9 subs, 3 TKOs) and is a former Cage Gladiators middleweight and Cage Rage welterweight champion.

Being adept at submission grappling, Maguire's striking and clinch prowess will be paramount in implementing his strengths against Edwards.

As usual, the pressure will be on the newcomer to prove his status. I've been impressed with Edwards' robust clinch game and solid (albeit unpolished) stand up and expect those traits to score him a win.

My Prediction: Justin Edwards by decision

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Chris Cope (5-1) vs. Che Mills (13-4)

While not necessarily someone to set the division afire, I thought TUF 13's Chris Cope was another new offering with unexpected moxie.

Anchored by stout takedown defense, Cope was able to stay upright and chip away with pestering swarms of solid kickboxing to surpass Javier Torres and even the ceaseless takedowns of Shamar Bailey, both by decision.

He was put away in the semifinals by Ramsey Nijem, who unloaded a brutal combination for the TKO.

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What at first came off as a nervous hesitation to pull the trigger ended up as a very composed and judicious style of stalking from Cope.

His ability to process and carry out instructions from his corner was phenomenal, and his fundamentally sound kickboxing is unfurled with an intelligent and calculating selection of tools.

Cope rarely over-commits on his combinations or leaves himself exposed, captaining a very steady and effective affinity for cage generalship.

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With an admirable report of judging scores, Cope was awarded the decision against Bailey despite being driven into the cage and shucking off takedowns for a good portion of the fight.

His application of underhooks and the whizzer with a wide-spread foundation of balance elicited his smattering of short strikes in the clinch as the most effective offense of the affair.

Cope normally shuffles forward while pawing with a jab or left hook, looking to center up his straight right or to knife with lead-leg low kicks.

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Just when it seems he's playing it a little too safe, Cope will turn it up with heated outbursts.

Chuck O'Neill, one of the more experienced competitors on the show, met Cope at the TUF 13 Finale and folded under his relentless assault on the feet, dropping all three rounds in a unanimous decision.

It's hard to get a bead on Cope's ground game as his defensive tactics have allowed him to stay standing. Nijem caught him with strikes on the feet for his only Octagon defeat and Josh Samman hammered him with a combo before he appeared on TUF.

Che Mills has been a trumpeted UK prospect for quite a while. His reputation was enhanced when Marius Zaromskis rose to prominence in the Dream ring and Mills was responsible for two of his previous defeats; both definitive and crushing first round TKOs.

Mills was an early favorite to win the US vs. UK themed episode of TUF, but tapped to a heel-hook from eventual winner James Wilks in his opening elimination match.

Starting his career winning only one of three, Mills turned it on with only two defeats in his following fifteen fights ("Judo" Jim Wallhead and Deep champ Yuya Shirai). He enters this contest as the Cage Rage British welterweight champion on a four-fight roll.

The betting lines have Mills as a solid favorite which is hard to argue with. While his tendency of keeping his head straight up and chin stuck out when trading hands is a risk against Cope, his experience and overall skill-set should propel him to a win in a UFC debut that's long overdue.

My Prediction: Che Mills by TKO

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Chris Cariaso (11-3) vs. Vaughan Lee (11-6-1)

Cariaso forged out a gutsy performance at UFC 130 against the steadfast Michael McDonald, losing a split decision.

His UFC debut was a decision victory over the stalwart Will Campuzano and his previous wins include two over Anthony Figueroa in Strikeforce (one sub, one decision) and another decision over Rafael Rebello in his WEC debut.

On his UFC.com profile page, Vaughan Lee is credited with holding the record for most submissions in one fight at the TUF 14 tryouts.

Hailing from Birmingham, England, Lee's spotty record is a little better than it appears at first glance. He lost his first three MMA fights and one of the three following defeats was to Brad Pickett. He's finished ten of his eleven career wins -- with six submissions and four TKOs -- and rides a four-fight streak into this fight.

I'm not intimately familiar with Lee but estimate that the scrappy Cariaso can find success on the feet with his sharp Thai arsenal and hold his own enough on the ground to thwart Lee's submission game.

My Prediction: Chris Cariaso by TKO

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Rob Broughton (15-6-1) vs. Philip De Fries (7-0, 1 NC)

It was a little more than a month ago that Broughton took on Travis Browne at UFC 135; a bout that left us wondering if Browne was over-hyped or Broughton was just that tough to put away.

Known as one of the top UK heavyweights and notorious for spirited comebacks late in the fight, "The Bear" only has one TKO loss in spite of the massive strikes he consistently endures. His first UFC fight was a submission win over Vinicius Queiroz at UFC 120.

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After refusing to go down, Broughton was crafty in pursuing a kimura from the bottom against Browne, proving he's a constant threat regardless of the punishment he absorbs.

Phillip De Fries is from Sunderland, England, and making his UFC debut undefeated after seven fights; all wins, all via submission, all but one in the first round with one No Contest.

He's a substantially sized heavyweight at 6'4" and 255-pounds with a top-notch ground game. While Broughton exudes courage and an enviable fighting spirit, De Fries will be the more agile athlete and is likely to impose his perilous submissions at some point.

My Prediction: Phillip De Fries by submission

 

 

All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com

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