Stage two of UFC 140: Jones vs. Machida requires a jump from Facebook over to ION Television where four more preliminary match ups will air before the live pay-per-view.
The ION broadcast consists of Igor Pokrajac vs. Krzysztof Soszynski (light-heavyweights), Jared Hamman vs. Constantinos Philippou (middleweights), John Makdessi vs. Dennis Hallman (lightweights) and Yves Jabouin vs. Walel Watson
Igor "The Duke" Pokrajac has had a rough go in the Octagon, dropping three of his five contests. The Croatian Top Team fighter opened up with back to back losses against Vladimir Matyushenko (decision) and James Te Huna (TKO) but landed a rear-naked choke on James Irvin to stay afloat. He then split results in his last two outings, finding himself on the wrong end of a decision with Stephan Bonnar and scoring a much-needed stoppage over Todd Brown at the UFC Live on Versus 3 card in March.
Soszynski set sail in the UFC impressively by catching his signature kimura on Shane Primm and Brian Stann followed by a first-round TKO over the durable Andre Gusmao. "The Polish Experiment" looked solid in a decision loss to Brandon Vera before his duo of fights with Bonnar, in which he took the first by what turned out to be an accidental headbutt, propagating a rematch where he was finished in the second round. K-Sos has since racked up two in a row over Goran Reljic and Mike Massenzio, both by decision.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Pokrajac is a big finisher, stopping twenty of his twenty-three wins with twelve TKOs and eight subs. He's tough all around but the fight-ending capability of his kickboxing is his brightest tool.
He has heavy hands, a sharp variety of kicks, solid takedown defense and a good clinch. Pokrajac is also a highly aggressive fighter who pushes the pace fervently like Soszynski, so this should be an enjoyable scrap. He spends most of his time trying to close distance, corner his opponent and unreel his hands with unfriendly intentions.
If he is able to drive his foe against the cage, Pokrajac is brutal with knees and dirty boxing from the Thai plum.
He's most formidable when he can oppress his foe with the perils of a relentless onslaught, either through the consistent pressure of his varied striking or by more physical means in the clinch. Considering Soszynski's size and strength as a former heavyweight who also happens to be a rugged bulldozer in the cage, Pokrajac will have his hands full trying to impose his will.
We all know that just because you look all mean and scary doesn't mean you're a good fighter. Soszynski, however, is the exception to that rule. Gritty, tough as nails, hard-nosed and scrappy to the core are all befitting descriptions for the way the burly southpaw conducts himself in the cage.
Keeping his guard up and his elbows glued to his ribs, Soszynski generates massive power with his clean one-two; the combination he prefers to press forward and drizzle his opponent with repeatedly (though his hand position in the gif to the right might not jive with sound defense).
His left hand is always cocked and ready to drill home and his clinch tactics are downright violent and nasty. To the left, Soszynski's effective clinch control is apparent. He excels in getting a vice-lock grip on his opponent's arms and/or head to set up his strikes, which generally consists of big knees to the head and body or short-range dirty boxing. He's one of the stronger 205-pounders who's a nightmare to tangle with. Soszynski's days with Team Quest endow him with the exhausting, clinch-mashing style their premiere fighters were known for.
Grappling-wise, K-Sos is mostly a stifling top player who wields a frenetically charged assembly of short punches and elbows. He did snatch an armbar from his guard to advance on The Ultimate Fighter 8 but finishing from that position has been somewhat rare.
With the similar approach of out-striking and out-muscling one another, I think Soszynski should have the edge with punching power, strength and dictating the pace. He definitely has a superior level of experience and this list of advantages should outweigh Pokrajac's submission acumen, which is probably a bit better.
My Prediction: Krzysztof Soszynski by TKO
Makdessi, an undefeated Canadian and member of the renowned Tristar Gym, is one of the rare few to employ traditionally styled Shotokan karate in the UFC with exceptional effectiveness.
As with other standout practitioners of more traditional martial arts like Lyoto Machida (Shotokan) and Cung Le (Sanshou), Makdessi befuddles opponents with brilliant footwork and excellent control of distance with an unorthodox menu of striking techniques.
In addition to his stellar footwork, Makdessi sets up his strikes by disguising them in a wide variety of feints.
After winning his first seven pro fights, Makdessi drew Team Bombsquad's Pat Audinwood in his Octagon debut at UFC 124. The result was a fifteen-minute long highlight reel where Makdessi unleashed lead-leg hook kicks, back spinning hook kicks, spinning back fists and constantly flicked out a side kick just like a jab.
Makdessi's lead-leg hook kick is, quite simply, sweet. The kick covers many different ranges and Makdessi employed it as a distance weapon brilliantly.
Against Audinwood, Makdessi firmly established how dangerous he is from outside by first plunging a series of side kicks through, mostly to the body. Audinwood, struggling to defend the barrage, started to dart to his right to side-step and counter. Preying on this pattern, Makdessi then started to throw the hook kick (left). He hops forward to swallow up the open space and chambers the kick just like he does when unrolling the side kick. Instead of extending his foot straight forward, Makdessi arcs it out to the right before sweeping it back hard to the left. The travel is just like a hook punch except with the foot and from way outside.
Even though Makdessi isn't a large lightweight, he's a little tank and his takedown defense has been solid, specifically on account of his footwork and deft movement. However, it's worth noting that Audinwood, a capable wrestler and overall grappler, attempted only two takedowns despite getting lit up on the feet; Kyle Watson, who is a strong, high level submissionist (but not known as a wrestler) only pursued three attempts.
Gratuitous nudity references aside, Hallman was paired with the surging Brian Ebersole and vaulted out his corner, flashed a high kick to set up his shot and had adhered himself to the back while trying to snake in a choke less than ten seconds in.
One of Matt Hume's original AMC Pankration catch wrestlers, Hallman has sixty-six "official" fights that stem back to 1996, though the veteran has hinted that there are too many to keep track of. Hallman boasts an outrageous thirty-nine submission victories, two of which were against a young Matt Hughes; wins that turned heads and put Hallman on the map.
Marking his sixth return to the Octagon at the TUF 10 Finale, Hallman was literally seconds away from securing a unanimous decision when John Howard connected with a Hail Mary flurry that stopped the fight at 4:55 of the third round (below).
Hallman, who had been suffering inexplicable spats of major fatigue in fights and training at the time, discovered that he had Celiac disease and adjusted his diet accordingly, which led to a huge boost in stamina. Reinvigorated, he out-wrestled Ben Saunders for the upset decision and clipped Karo Parisyan (right) quickly in the first to construct a respectable streak.
After competing at 170 (and even 185) for the bulk of his career, Hallman is now taking the plunge to 155 for the first time in a decade. His thirty-six year old frame has a lot of mileage, but he was a strong wrestler at welterweight and could spring some surprises in this new weight class.
Makdessi deserves to be the favorite here. My only hesitation is how unproven he is against legit takedown threats like Hallman, who will be persistent and aggressive unlike his past foes, and the complete unknown of his grappling and submission defense. My standard format is to lean toward the more proven fighter, i.e. Hallman.
Makdessi's amazing striking, reactions, defense and footwork alone might warrant a nod in his direction, but I'm having trouble dismissing the number and caliber of takedown attempts he's encountered. Hallman will be an entirely different animal. An unknown for Hallman is that his virgin cut to 155 could end up draining him or magnifying his prowess.
For betting purposes, though Makdessi is the safer choice, I see more risk than reward in his -160 odds. Since my predictions are for shits and giggles, I'll retain my stubborn outlook and take a chance on Hallman for the upset.
My Prediction: Dennis Hallman by submission
Hamman unleashed his wild fury on the feet to notch a second round TKO though, no disrespect intended, I thought Dollaway completely gassed out in the first round. Regardless, Hamman proved that his technical takedown defense and scrambling is a legit strength and his kamikaze striking, while a bit sloppy, is quite effective.
Hamman might work his way into the hearts of fans for his berserk and breakneck habit of throwing his hands like a madman. Contrasting with his reckless striking, Hamman's takedown defense and feisty defensive scrambling is textbook from a fundamental standpoint.
Against a strong 205er in Kingsbury (left), Hamman keeps the whizzer on his left side and completely neutralizes Kingsbury by isolating his right arm with wrist-control, then pulls it aside to expose Kingsbury's midsection for a stiff knee. Hamman ended up losing a decision but showed great athleticism, a big heart, a durable chin and huge potential in the process.
A member of the Serra-Longo Fight Team, "Costa" Philippou is an undefeated pro-boxer who also tried out for the Olympics in his homeland of Greece.
Costa fell by decision to Nick Catone in his UFC debut, which was only his second career loss; the first was delivered by eventual UFCer Ricardo Romero in his MMA debut. His boxing looked frighteningly sharp in his last outing, where he eked out a split decision over the game Jorge Rivera.
Philippou seemed to have fortified a lot of small details such as his footwork, takedown defense and control of range. He looked vastly improved compared to his Octagon debut against Catone.
Costa began as mostly a one-dimensional boxer, though his rugged aggression and overall toughness made his transition to MMA smoother. Now, under the watchful eye of legend Matt Serra, he's rounded out his arsenal with capable BJJ, scrambling and clinch skills.
Rivera may have slowed down over the years, but he's still a beast in tie-ups and with close-range brawling, and Philippou matched him in his strongest areas with inspiring success. Normally, someone with his impressive boxing acumen would be ideal to expose the holes in Hamman's stand up.
The catch is that Hamman has a brick shithouse for a chin and is a massive middleweight (6'3") with exceptional strength and agility. He's also patched up some of his defensive flaws and continues to enhance his arsenal at a rapid rate.
Hamman is favored on the betting lines for this one. He's coming off a huge win over Dollaway and should be a physically imposing leviathan at 185. Philippou's precise boxing should cause a lot of problems for him: I see him getting tagged while bombarding wide combinations and struggling with Costa's footwork, bobbing and weaving and intelligent execution.
The only thing I'm sure of is that this will end quickly and/or be a "Fight of the Night" candidate. I'll go with the crowd and pick Hamman with the important disclaimer that Philippou could easily snare the upset with accurate hand-work.
My Prediction: Jared Hamman by decision
Jabouin is an ultra-exciting kickboxer trying to establish himself after crossing over from the WEC. He was the victim of Pablo Garza's flying triangle in his Octagon debut at UFC 129 and crept by Ian Loveland by split decision in his last outing at UFC 134.
Though his record may seem unflattering, his losses are all respectable (Sam Stout, Jonathan Brookins, Raphael Assuncao, Mark Hominick, Garza). Jabouin's leg kicks are crippling and he attacks with flying knees and spinning back kicks regularly.
Walel "The Gazelle" Watson put his elongated bantamweight frame (5'11") to good use with an arresting TKO on the UFC Live on Versus 6 card over Joseph Sandoval.
I haven't seen much of this kid but, based on what I have taken in, he could turn out to be a considerable talent with proportions and striking that a lot of 135ers will struggle with.
His unparalleled height and reach are the only things keeping me from a confident pick in Jabouin, who is a stand up marauder with power and experience.
As usual, I'll go with the more established striker and make the newcomer earn his stripes, though I wouldn't be surprised if Watson's length compensates for his lack of top-shelf opposition.
My Prediction: Yves Jabouin by TKO
All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com