The UFC's groundbreaking premiere on Fox is tabbed for this Saturday night. UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. dos Santos goes live at 9 p.m. ET on Fox and will feature the five round heavyweight championship bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
The remaining nine match ups that are slated for the event will all be streamed live on the UFC's Facebook page and Fox.com. Fox Deportes has decided to air two of the juicier preliminary fights just before Fox goes live with the headliner: the de facto number-one contender battle in the lightweight division between Clay Guida and Ben Henderson along with the featherweight tilt pitting Dustin Poirier versus Pablo Garza.
The two fights on the Fox Deportes broadcast and the main event will be previewed individually later this week. For the remaining preliminary card, I couldn't help but separate the two fights I'm most intrigued with, which are the Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto vs. Darren Uyenoyama bout as well as Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres vs. Cole Escovedo.
If you're not familiar with Darren Uyenoyama, there's a nice feature by Tony Loiseleur on Sherdog.com about his unique MMA history and road to the Octagon. "Bone Crusher" (or "B.C.") is a Ralph Gracie BJJ black belt who made an impressive debut in 2002 at Deep 5th Impact, defeating Rambaa Somdet by decision. Uyenoyama did not compete again until 2007.
Continued in the full entry with gifs and analysis.
Uyenoyama's return marked a four fight sequence in which he suffered his first loss but submitted three of his four opponents in the first round. This led to a chance on Japan's biggest stage against the crafty Hideo Tokoro in the Dream Bantamweight Grand Prix.
An excerpt from the aforementioned Sherdog piece on Uyenoyama and the back story of accepting the Tokoro fight:
"I got about two weeks’ notice. I was literally sitting on a barstool with a cigarette in my hand and was drinking a beer when the call came in, just on a whim, saying, ‘Oh, would you like to fight in two weeks against Tokoro?’ And, so, I pretty much finished my cigarette and started training for the fight right after," recalls Uyenoyama.
At the time, Tokoro had over forty fights on a résumé rich with talent and was fresh off wins over Brad Pickett and Royler Gracie. Uyenoyama unreeled a salvo of kicks and swarmed Tokoro on the feet, but the crafty veteran employed his serpentine ground wit and put Uyenoyama into defensive mode by transitioning seamlessly from one submission attempt to another.
Tokoro took a decision but the entertaining contest proved that there was much more to Uyenoyama than his high caliber BJJ background. He arced a variety of kicks from outside and engaged at close range with a whirlwind of punches and knees.
His capacity to scramble at a frenzied pace while constantly pressuring with strikes -- especially against such a seasoned ground technician -- established Uyenoyama as a bright prospect in the overseas landscape.
He closed out 2008 with another win in Strikeforce but the Dream promotion was unable to coordinate a match up, depleting the momentum Uyenoyama charged versus Tokoro.
Sidelined until mid-2010, Uyenoyama was baited with another last minute chance to face a challenging opponent. He agreed and took on submission whiz Tomoya Miyashita with two-weeks notice and lost by guillotine.
In his last outing, Uyenoyama made his Shooto debut against featherweight (132-pound) champion Shuichiro Katsumura in a non-title affair. He endured the spidery grappler's clutches and notched a definitive second round TKO.
After ironing out some contract disputes and nursing a hand injury from bashing the Shooto champ, Joe Silva has paired Uyenoyama with a fighter he's fully familiar with.
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto was once a top pound-for-pound candidate based on his vicious reign of terror as an undersized lightweight.
His father was an Olympic wrestler and Kid was a three-time high school state wrestling champion in California. After his first eighteen MMA fights and only one defeat, Yamamoto cemented a celebratory reputation as a straight up killer with intractable bloodlust.
BB gun shootouts with the Yakuza, violent knockouts, highlight reel stoppages and controversial punches in spite of the referee's efforts to intervene all punctuated Yamamoto's polarizing swagger and perpetuated his bad boy persona.
Yamamoto was on top of the world until he announced his intentions to follow in his father's footsteps as an Olympic wrestler. A dislocated elbow would crush those hopes and also mark a dark turning point in his MMA career.
Flaunting a sterling 17-1 record, Kid's anticipated return to the rings resulted in consecutive losses to Joe Warren in Dream and then-Sengoku featherweight champ Masanori Kanehara at the K-1 Dynamite! New Year's Eve show.
The uncanny footwork and beautifully set up takedowns of "Mighty Mouse" were unstoppable and the decision loss was another disappointing step for the former legend.
Yamamoto was understandably pegged for North American success due to his appealing medley of powerful wrestling, devastating striking and killer instinct. Now, considering his recent slide, it's difficult to discern whether the many years of high level competition are taking their toll or if Yamamoto just hasn't been able to get his groove back.
Uyenoyama is a reputable addition to the UFC, yet his style is about as good as it gets for Kid from a match up standpoint. Yamamoto has demonstrated phenomenal submission defense and defeated a stout list of legit BJJ virtuosos in Jeff Curran, Royler Gracie, Caol Uno, Genki Sudo, Rani Yahya and Bibiano Fernandes.
With formidable but wide and loose striking and lacking a wrestling pedigree, I see transitions and scrambles as the one area where Uyenoyama could wreak havoc. Kid's stand up is tighter, more explosive and packs serious power, while his wrestling credentials and sub-defense should see him through in the clinch and on the mat.
This is a do-or-die fight for Yamamoto and his career and relevancy are on the line. I expect him to blast off crisp combinations from a balanced stance, use his boxing and clinch heft to repel Uyenoyama's advances and capitalize on his takedown prowess with short and controlled spurts of top control and ground and pound. The newcomer is tough to finish and has a lot of heart, so a decision is probable, but I'll guess Yamamoto can get a hard-earned stoppage.
My Prediction: Kid Yamamoto by TKO
Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres competed as a lightweight on TUF 12 where he lost a decision in the semifinals to Michael Johnson.
Despite being undersized and out-wrestled, Cacares put on a gutsy performance and proved his striking and heart were strong foundations that could be built upon.
Now at a wee twenty-three years of age, Caceres has nine total fights, two of which were contested in the Octagon after the show ten-pounds lighter at 145.
Potent featherweight Mackens Semerzier made short work of him with a first round rear-naked choke at Ultimate Fight Night 24.
Next up was undefeated newcomer Jim Hettes at the UFC Live on Versus 5: Hardy vs. Lytle card. Hettes finished him with the same submission though the foray played out as an entertaining, back and forth grappling war.
Caceres was game on the ground and displayed an encouraging level of technical submission defense and scrambling before he was caught in the second.
Standing, Caceres has great instincts for striking with sharp kicks and decent boxing.
He has a natural, slippery agility that helps him stay free of contact and able to pester with his incessant kickboxing. He's also shown a knack for triangle chokes and has a pretty feisty guard for such an inexperienced competitor.
I see him as an unpolished talent with a ton of potential who is combating his usual size and strength disadvantage by dropping all the way down to 135.
A former (and the first) WEC featherweight champion, Escovedo has endured the perils of MMA's worst case of staph. The infection permeated into his spine and caused temporary paralysis. The doctors told him he'd be lucky to even walk again, shifting the focus from fighting to trying to lead a normal life.
Defying the odds, "The Apache Kid" returned from a three-year absence with a vengeance.
After his Octagon debut against Barao, Escovedo digested a crippling body shot in the Takeya Mizugaki fight that took the wind out of his sails early in the first. The staunch boxer would overwhelm Escovedo with strikes for a referee intervention in the second.
Cole has a very wide and aggressive stand up style punctuated by a lot of kicks and a long, straight right.
In the clinch, Escovedo goes high for the Thai plum and pelts hard knees, generally unafraid of being taken down as it only leads the fight to his area of specialty.
Originally nicknamed "The Triangle," ten of Escovedo's seventeen wins are via submission -- nine of which were triangle chokes -- with six coming by way of TKO.
He has one of the most dynamic and fluid guards in the division, but his lack of a wrestling pedigree usually relegates him to battling off his back, which is a risky avenue from a judging perspective.
Along with the wrestling aspect, Escovedo's standing defense leaves a little to be desired. He has a tendency to drift straight back and drop his hands when pressed with punches, but performs very well when he's not letting his opponent dictate the exchanges.
Subtle tactics like the cleaving elbows he throws in the clinch and off his back are signs of the diversified arsenal he's accrued in his decade of MMA.
Caceres will be the taller and quicker fighter with the tighter stand up, leaving the door open for him to beat Escovedo to the punch while avoiding the clinch and submission attempts.
He might be able to replicate the survival mode he underwent in the Hettes fight, but he's over-matched against the throng of weaponry Escovedo unfolds on the mat. It will be interesting to see whether Escovedo is content to trade or will opt to pursue takedowns and exploit his edge on the ground.
Given the slight striking advantages of Caceres, he's still not a power puncher and Escovedo has paraded a firm resilience to punishment in all forms. I expect Caceres to be successful early in pressuring on the feet but eventually fall into the depths of Escovedo's grasp in later rounds.
My Prediction: Cole Escovedo by submission
Uyenoyama gifs via Caposa
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com