UFC 127 will take place Sunday, February 27th from the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. The event will air live in the United States on Saturday, February 26th at the regularly scheduled time of 10:00 PM EST on pay-per-view with live preliminary bouts airing on both ION and Facebook. While the card hasn't garnered a lot of interest from fans due to the lack of major names on the main card, the main event showdown between B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch will determine the next challenger to Georges St. Pierre's crown, an intriguing match-up considering Penn's move up in weight and the fact that both men were badly battered by St. Pierre in previous contests.
The UFC's push to provide fans with more fights has dramatically increased over the course of the last few cards, and UFC 127 will provide fans with five preliminary bouts for fans to watch for free through various outlets. Spencer Fisher vs. Ross Pearson, James Te Huna vs. Alexander Gustafsson, and Riki Fukuda vs. Nick Ring will air live on ION at 9:00 PM EST while Anthony Perosh vs. Tom Blackledge and Zhang Tie Quan vs. Jason Reinhardt will air live on Facebook at 8:00 PM EST. Become a fan of the UFC on Facebook for access, and check your local listings for ION.
Lightweight: Ross Pearson (11-4, 3-1 UFC) vs. Spencer Fisher (24-6, 9-5 UFC): By far the most intriguing fight on the undercard on Saturday at UFC 127 is the match-up between The Ultimate Fighter season nine winner Ross Pearson and long-time UFC veteran Spencer Fisher. Fisher enters the contest following a spirited decision victory over Curt Warburton at UFC 120 in October while Pearson is coming off a disappointing loss to Cole Miller at UFC Fight Night 22 in September. The loss erased much of the hype surrounding Pearson, and it has created some doubt as to whether he can punch his way to victory against a proven striker in Fisher.
The question that needs to be answered here is whether Fisher's wins over above average punchers like Sam Stout, Matt Wiman, and Jeremy Stephens prove he can defeat Pearson on Saturday night. After all, Cole Miller is far from a honed sniper as Matt Wiman showed us at UFC Fight for the Troops 2. In my mind, Pearson's last fight was a bit of an anomaly, especially since we saw a solid performance against Dennis Siver at UFC Fight Night 21.
Pearson's hesitance and inability to find his range early against Miller sunk him, but I think he'll show fans that he's a much better fighter than the loss shows. Fisher will give him all he can handle in this match-up. I'm just not convinced he can out strike the Brit here. I'll take Pearson via decision.
Light Heavyweight: James Te Huna (12-4, 1-0 UFC) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (10-1, 2-1 UFC): By all indications, this looks like a showcase fight for Alexander Gustafsson. Te Huna, while being a powerful puncher who can end a fight quickly, doesn't have the resources available that Gustafsson has in his training camp. Furthermore, the regional scene in Eastern Europe and in the Nordic region has prepared Gustafsson for the road ahead while Te Huna's proving ground is right now in the UFC.
While Te Huna's power makes me a bit hesitant to believe this will be an easy stroll to the Octagon for Gustafsson, he is a longer fighter who can keep opponents at bay with his reach and footwork. On the ground, Gustafsson has all the tools to submit Te Huna. Gustafsson should have an edge in every aspect of this fight. A submission is an enticing prediction, but I'll rely on his hands to do the work on Saturday. Gustafsson via TKO.
Middleweight: Nick Ring (10-0, 0-0 UFC) vs. Riki Fukuda (17-4, 0-0 UFC): Japan hasn't produced a plethora of wrestling talent in the sport of mixed martial arts, but Fukuda may be one of the few fighters from the Land of the Rising Sun who possesses a wrestling base that has found success. With a seven-fight winning streak on the line, Fukuda will hope to prove that Japan can still compete in the top promotion in the world. Unfortunately, highly-touted middleweight prospect Nick Ring stands in his path, and he possesses the skills to wreak havoc on Fukuda's means to victory.
Fukuda's wrestling is his greatest asset, and his toughness and drive to win a fight by any means possible has allowed him to string together an impressive streak of victories in recent years. While those attributes resonate with fans, that doesn't change the fact that Fukuda is technically deficient in the stand-up department. It has improved considerably over the years, but Ring is a better striker on paper. Being tough isn't going to help Fukuda on the scorecards, and Ring's crisp kickboxing should be enough to pick apart Fukuda and win him the decision.
Light Heavyweight: Anthony Perosh (10-6, 0-1 UFC) vs. Tom Blackledge (10-6, 0-0 UFC): Perosh may be a second-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Carlos Machado, but it hasn't translated to overwhelming success in mixed martial arts. Perosh's weaknesses in the stand-up department along with his inability to deal with more powerful strikers has been an ongoing theme throughout his career. Blackledge doesn't sport a more impressive record by any means, but he does possess the power to bomb Perosh early. I'll take Blackledge via TKO.
Featherweight: Zhang Tie Quan (12-1, 1-1 UFC) vs. Jason Reinhardt (20-1, 0-1 UFC): Central Illinois' favorite can crusher, Jason Reinhardt, returns to action in Australia as he battles Chinese import Zhang Tie Quan in a potential loser-leaves-town showdown. As you may recall, Reinhardt was the man with an undefeated record of eighteen wins when he came into his UFC debut back in November of 2007. It took Joe Lauzon a mere one minute and fourteen seconds to prove that Reinhardt was a paper fighter who had never been tested. Unfortunately, Reinhardt hasn't learned from his mistakes, crushing a fighter with zero wins and five losses on his record along with an abysmal 2-11 veteran in two appearances since the loss. That's my local MMA scene, folks. Be very thankful for what you have elsewhere.
Quan will be the better fighter in all areas with the exception of the wrestling department, and Reinhardt's reach, one of the worst in MMA, will make it hard for him to stand and bang with Quan for too long. Reinhardt will either get tagged early or eventually shoot and get entangled in Quan's solid grappling skills. Quan via submission.
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt (5-7, 0-1 UFC) vs. Chris Tuchscherer (18-3-0-1, 1-2 UFC): What can I say about this fight? It has no relevance in the divisional standings. Heavyweight might be a shallow division, but neither fighter in this contest is knocking on the door of the upper-echelon of the division. Mark Hunt is being kicked down the stairwell of retirement at this point in his career, and this will be his last attempt to prove that he has something, anything left in his tank to win.
I would love to scream at the top of my lungs "PRIDE NEVER DIE!" and lock in Mark Hunt to win, but Hunt is well past his fighting prime. Tuchscherer's wrestling and large 6'1" frame will be too much for Hunt to overcome in this match-up. If there is one advantage, it's the fact that Tuchscherer has zero striking ability. Hunt might be able to bomb "The Crowbar" with a heavy dose of leg kicks and punches, but I'm a man of little faith when it comes to Mark Hunt these days. I'll go with Tuchscherer via submission.
Lightweight: Maciej Jewtuszko (8-0, 1-0 UFC) vs. Curt Warburton (6-2, 0-1 UFC): A western European regional clash featuring two solid prospects that takes place thousands of miles away in Australia? Sounds like a missed opportunity to draw fans in those markets. Oh, and if that wasn't enough -- the UFC relegated it to the non-televised preliminary card. Take that UK and Polish fans.
In any case, that doesn't change the importance of this showdown. Both Jewtuszko and Warburton are proven strikers in their short time in the sport. Jewtuszko is the more aggressive of the two while Warburton is more prone to patiently picking apart opponents. Both styles have advantages, but Warburton's history against aggressive strikers like Jewtuszko doesn't inspire confidence in his success at UFC 127. He leaves his chin open to incoming punches, and Jewtuszko's diverse Muay Thai attacks on the feet will eventually find a home against a surprised Warburton at some point in this fight. I'll take Jewtuszko via TKO.