Saturday at 6 p.m. ET is the time. The UFC's Facebook page is the place. Four live and free fights is the reason.
As a precursor to Spike TV's duplex of lightweight bouts, two top-ten bantamweights will engage in Brian Bowles vs. Takeya Mizugaki, along with middleweights Aaron Simpson vs. Brad Tavares, lightweight bangers Anthony Njokuani vs. Andre Winner, and UFC newcomers Jeff Hougland vs. Donny Walker in a bantamweight bout.
You know an organization is bursting at the seams with talent when the third- and seventh-ranked bantamweights in the world headline the basement level of the prelims.
Brian Bowles peaked with a three-piece showing in the WEC where he earned back-to-back "Submission of the Night" honors with dual guillotines over Damacio Page and Will Ribeiro, then obliterated the seventeen-fight streak of Miguel Torres to win the strap with a first round knockout.
His only career loss followed, as Dominick Cruz wrested the belt away when Bowles was unable to continue after the second round due to a broken hand. Bowles literally duplicated his winning ways by constricting Page with another guillotine to earn the sub-bonus in his UFC debut on the "Sanchez vs. Kampmann" show in March.
Takeya Mizugaki soared into the spotlight when he made his WEC debut against then-invincible champ Torres, shocking the world with a "Fight of the Night" performance in a five-round slugfest. In his ensuing five, Mizugaki has won three, falling to only the sixth-ranked Scott Jorgensen and fourth-ranked Urijah Faber, the latter's submission being only the second time Mizugaki has been stopped.
The breakdown on this scrap and the rest of the Facebook fights are in the full entry.
To the left we see the first style. While this version might not pack as much power as the loopers he throws from his pockets, the advantages are that his hand position is more conducive to deflecting punches, his chin is better tucked, and he's more on-balance with a strong center of gravity.
Additionally, from the very first counter he throws, his shots are crisp and highly accurate, while his hands are quickly retracted both to cover defensively and follow up with more strikes if necessary.
Though it works fine here, to the right we witness the second type of boxing Bowles exhibits. Notice how, right off the bat, both hands are along the belt-line as he charges into range winging punches.
Each right hand is wide, and he turns them over hard to generate a lot of force, but it was this style of punching that Dominick Cruz was able to pick apart.
Most of the wider punches shown here are hooks, but against Cruz, Bowles hurled sequential lefts and rights that were lower, more of a hybrid of the hook and uppercut like a shovel punch. This cancels out all of the advantages mentioned under the first category: his chin is further exposed, his guard is looser and more porous, and his balance is more compromised. It's very pre-UFC Wanderlei-ish.
Takeya Mizugaki is a brawler who also has a tendency to leave his chin exposed, just like Bowles, but has the power and timing to plug even the smallest hole in his opponent's guard ... just like Bowles.
To the left we see Mizugaki side-stepping a lazy lead-hook from Torres and slamming home a right hand with uncanny timing. Where Bowles seems to alternate from a distinguishably tight and clean style all the way across the spectrum to low and wide meathooks, Mizugaki is probably smack in the middle of those two extremes.
He stacks together nice mixtures of hooks and uppercuts downstairs along with straights and hooks upstairs. Both fighters throw in a few kicks, but in the free movement phase, generally restrict their striking to heavy-handed boxing combinations.
Continuing the one-and-off trend, Bowles can show busy head movement and use a lot of circles and angles one minute, then revert to straight-line advances and retreats the next.
If Bowles stuck to nothing but straight punches and dynamic angles, I'd give him a strong edge over Mizugaki, but his inconsistency gives him a comparable chance to get caught as he does to land the big bomb.
To the right, Bowles shows the type of leaping shovel punches that are an extreme departure from the no-frills and simplistic style he uses so well, as described above. We also see the increased hazards of the poor defense that accompany this drastic change of theme, as Cruz side-steps the bull-rush and plants a hard right hand that wobbles Bowles.
Mizugaki is one of the feistiest clinchers at bantamweight, willing to grind it out with knees and dirty boxing, where Bowles uses short strikes and his wrestling more in the position. Mizugaki is a great scrambler, with very crafty devices to stand back up.
To the right, Mizugaki shows a mean four-piece (mean lefts and right to the body, followed by a right uppercut and left hook), as well as his adroit scrambling to stand back up.
On the ground, Mizugaki has murderous ground-and-pound from the top, but that's a perch that will be difficult to obtain considering the strong takedown defense and quick shooting of Bowles.
The betting lines open with Bowles as the heavy favorite. That's hard to disagree with, considering that his wrestling and submission game is more proven than Mizugaki's at the top-level. While some of his stand-up habits could easily be exploited by Mizugaki's keen timing and wide array of strikes, Bowles should be able to grind out a decision or even create a submission opportunity with his striking and power-positioning on the mat. If he protects himself adequately, he can press the attack relentlessly and force Mizugaki to spend his time defending.
My Prediction: Bowles by decision
Anthony Njokuani (14-5) vs. Andre Winner (12-5)
Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry was another prime example of how tumultuous and unpredictable a fight between two electric stand-up artists can be. It carries a negative stigma, but one of the oft-neglected amenities of a "stand and wang" match is the dramatic changes in momentum each heated exchange can produce.
Those qualities all befit this pairing. Both Anthony Njokuani and Andre Winner are perfectly content to handle their business by chaining devastating combinations together until smelling salts are required.
Njokuani came up in the WEC and chiseled a rep as an incendiary kickboxer. He started on a high note -- losing his debut to Benson Henderson but demonstratively finishing Bart Palaszewski, Muhsin Corbbrey, and Chris Horodecki -- but ended with a fizzle, dropping two in the opening round versus Shane Roller and Maciej Jewtuszko.
The team Janjira Muay Thai fighter finished the inexperienced Edward Faaloloto in the follow up, then set the cage afire in a shoot-em-up scrap with Edson Barboza Jr. in a "Fight of the Night" loss for his Octagon debut.
Since his defeat at the TUF 9 Finale to fellow Team Rough House member Ross Pearson, Andre Winner scored consecutive wins (Roli Delgado, Rafaello Oliveira) but stumbled against the higher echelon lightweights in Nik Lentz and Dennis Siver. He carried a solid record leading up to the "USA vs. UK" reality show, winning nine of eleven in his homeland of England.
Even though it ended with a submission, Andre Winner was floored when trading strikes with Dennis Siver, so considering Njokuani's sole loss to strikes from a Jewtuszko spinning back-fist, I'd put their chins on an equally durable level.
Similar to the duality I described with Brian Bowles, these two kickboxers have markedly divergent styles. Andre Winner anchors his combinations with a rigid grasp of the sweet science. Though he'll open or close with a low kick, and he's adept with knees, the centerpiece of his boxing style is lightning-fast boxing.
He stays light on his toes, never seems to lose balance, displays excellent head movement and footwork, and has a near-perfect stance.
Winner's pure speed and agility pays dividends, as every movement is exacted with blinding quickness, both offensively and defensively. For a guy who seems to load a decent amount of grease onto his punches, he holds only two wins via TKO.
Anthony Njokuani's creativity and unpredictability are probably his best assets.
Drawing from an extensive array of Thai-based techniques, Njokuani weaves together a cryptic assembly of everything but the kitchen sink. Elbows, spinning back-elbows, straight and roundhouse kicks (from every direction and landing at every level), and the whole enchilada of punches make him extremely difficult to plan for.
Instead of trying to anticipate what clever amalgam of strikes he might braid together, it's easier to expect anything and everything, with shooting for a takedown being the only affront to scratch off the list.
Amidst the fireworks in Njokuani's fiery volleys with Barboza, most of the strikes that lanced through his guard were long and straight spears.
The sequence to the left depicts the trend of Njokuani's more open and loose style being penetrated by springing straight forward with quick and direct punches.
His ultra-dynamic style offers a bevy of whirling leather, but the two traits that Winner absolutely excels with -- tight, straight boxing and alarming speed -- might be the ideal formula to beat him to the punch.
The lines open with Njokuani slightly favored. Along with what I perceive to be a minor advantage in Winner's explosive striking, Barboza probably secured the extra oomph on the score cards by nailing a random takedown, even if he didn't do a ton with it. If Winner integrates a few duck-under double-legs, it will propel farther along in the judges' eyes and also give Njokuani a reason to hesitate and possibly drop his hands.
My Prediction: Winner by decision
Division 1 All-American wrestler Aaron Simpson has had an interesting ride.
Crushing his first four opponents, three in the opening frame, Simpson got an initiation run in the WEC against David Avellan. Notching a knockout eighteen-seconds in is MMA's equivalent of "passing with flying colors". Simpson was shipped over to the UFC where he upheld his trend of first-round stoppages against Tim McKenzie.
Fit for the next level, the Arizona native took on Ed Herman, and of no fault of his own, caught a lucky break when Herman wrenched his knee and couldn't continue. In his next big test, Simpson walked away with a split-decision against "Filthy" Tom Lawlor that a few scored for the latter, but probably wasn't outrageous enough to be considered controversial. Everyone can agree it was a very close and competitive fight, and let's be honest, it was hard not to be influenced by Lawlor's Harold Howard shenanigans at the weigh ins.
Still undefeated, Simpson would then lose steam in the second round and become overly familiar with Chris Leben's left hand, then tangle with another standout wrestler in Mark Munoz, who beat him at his own game. It's worth noting that, in a bout where the battle for control was paramount, Simpson finally scored a takedown on Munoz, but was stood up by the referee in the middle of a guard-pass after barely twenty-seconds had transpired on the ground. Simpson returned with a decision over Mario Miranda.
Brad Tavares was introduced to the MMA world through The Ultimate Fighter on season eleven. He also had kind of a weird route. A highlight-reel knee earned him a KO and a spot in the house, and an overtime round was required in his decision over James Hammortree. He faced Seth Baczynski next, a current teammate of his at the Power MMA Team, and advanced by eating an illegal soccer kick. Tavares was choked out by eventual winner Court McGee.
In "real action" after the show, Tavares rematched Baczynski and won by decision, then clipped veteran Phil Baroni in the first at a not-so-prime part of his long career.
Tavares has a perfect record, a mean set of hands, and the raw fighting instinct that most Hawaiians seem to be born with. While it's not a knock on his skills or potential, Tavares just hasn't faced anyone even close to the caliber that would inspire me to pick him against Simpson.
With deceiving strength, he's an easy task for no one, but I can't see him hanging with a D1 All-American on the ground. I wouldn't rule it out, but that leaves: Tavares catching Simpson on the feet, which is entirely possible, but largely dependent on the voracity of his takedown defense.
Tavares could definitely cause turbulence in the stand-up, and Simpson is far from immune to strikes, but the odds strongly favor Simpson avoiding trouble on the feet and handling Tavares with his wrestling.
However, I have to include that Tavares is a young kid at twenty-three, and has shown signs of devastating power at close range. This could potentially serve as his breakout fight with a head-cleaving set of uppercuts or knees if he can anticipate Simpson's takedown. Team Xtreme Couture will certainly equip him with an ideal strategy.
Actually, as I'm writing this, I'm starting to give Tavares more of a chance. While his past opposition proves almost nothing, Simpson's been clipped on the feet by Leben and Lawlor, and has drastically slowed down in later rounds. I suppose if Court McGee can dominate position and force a submission, Simpson should be able to muster up a rear-naked or guillotine, but keep your eyes on this one.
My Prediction: Simpson by submission
I won't pretend to be familiar with either of these bantamweights making their UFC debut. Based on their records, Hougland has quite an erratic track record in that he started off in 2002, losing four of his first five (one against Gilbert Melendez).
Those would be Hougland's only four career losses. He went on to fight twice per year in 2005 and 2006, disappeared for four years, then reappeared to fight twice per year again in 2010 and 2011. Seven of his nine wins come via submission, and seven were finished in the first round. He's billed as a BJJ brown belt and a "street kid headed to prison".
Training out of GriffinRawl Thaiboxing and MMA, Donny "Eagle Eye" Walker has won seven-straight, with notable losses to the likes of Cub Swanson and Jeff Curran. Walker is the NAAFS (North American Allied Fight Series) champion and is managed and coached by former UFC competitor Jason Dent.
The lines give Walker the edge, but since I'm making an uninformed prediction anyway, I'll go with Hougland for specializing in a singular area and sounding kinda mean.
My Prediction: Hougland by submission
Bowles vs. Cruz and Mizugaki vs. Jorgensen gifs from Caposa
All others from Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com