Opening the main card on Saturday night at UFC 127, middleweights Chris Camozzi (14-3, 2-0 UFC) and Kyle Noke (18-4-1, 2-0) will put their promotional undefeated streaks on the line as they vie to impress fans and garner some consideration for a move up the ladder. Noke is the slighty more experienced fighter on paper with over twenty professional bouts under his belt, and he's faced much more notable competition. Katsuya Inoue, Hector Lombard, Scott Smith, and fellow Aussie George Sotiropoulos to name a few. Unfortunately, Noke was never able to surpass the skills of those fighters, although he did manage to take a draw decision away against Lombard and defeat Sotiropoulos early in his career.
Camozzi has followed the typical progression of a highly-touted prospect. Strings of victories over progressively better competition followed by a bump in the road when pitted against a known veteran. Jesse Forbes and Jesse Taylor provided those major setbacks. Fortunately for Chris, The Ultimate Fighter was his way into the Octagon. While his stint on the show only lasted fifteen minutes due to an injury sustained in a decision victory over Victor O'Donnell in the show's opening elimination round, he has succeeded in his two stints following the show, decision wins over James Hammortree and Dong Yi Yang.
The clash at UFC 127 will mark another crossroads for Camozzi. Noke has walked this path before and failed, but he's also fought more notable names and won a few of those contests. Camozzi hasn't. He's failed at every major step up the ladder until recently, and it's debatable whether Hammortree and Yang are considered better talent than other prospects outside of the promotion. An emphatic win, live on a pay-per-view broadcast, could prove to be career-making for Camozzi.
Noke's arsenal of weapons is vast. He has above average skills on both the ground and feet, focusing mostly on wrestling and boxing to get the job done in the cage. He's also difficult to read in terms of what type of gameplan he'll bring to the table as he's prone to strike from range with some opponents while relentlessly taking down others. Interestingly enough, Noke chose to blast double legs on a submission fighter in Rob Kimmons, paying dividends for him from top control as he rained down elbows and punches.
It might not be a foregone conclusion, but the smart play here is to avoid Camozzi's massive length on the feet. Camozzi is no slouch on the ground by any means, but Noke hasn't been submitted in close to a decade. He's also proven his effectiveness from top control in past fights against better grapplers than Camozzi, leading me to believe Noke can win on the ground.
I'm not overly impressed with what I saw in Camozzi on The Ultimate Fighter. I do, however, understand that the show can transform fighters into better versions of themselves, but his stand-up defense didn't inspire confidence that he can avoid being punched out despite what his record indicates. I think Noke's strengths give him the edge in both areas in this fight. I think Noke will ultimately take the safer Greg Jackson gameplan and work from the floor. I'll take Kyle Noke via submission.