UFC 132 happens this weekend, and shows the distinct difference in talent that the UFC is willing to put on free cards versus sell to the public for PPVs. While UFC on Versus 4 had some entertaining match ups, it pales in comparison to the fireworks we may see on this card- with explosive matchmaking fitting for Independence Day weekend (for those of us in the US).
Let's get straight to the questions surrounding the fights and my predictions.
-Shane Roller is three-time All American Division 1 wrestler out of Oklahoma State University who began his Mixed Martial Arts career nearly four years ago. He is a World Extreme Cagefighting product who faced many of the top WEC lightweights before submitting Jamie Varner by rear naked choke to gain entry into the UFC at WEC 53. Roller went 6-2 in the now-defunct promotion with his losses coming to the two fighters competing in the final WEC lightweight title fight, Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis. One would think with Roller's pedigree in wrestling that he would have a strong base to crossover into MMA, but this is simply not the case in my opinion- Shane has shown limited success integrating his takedowns into his striking. Roller almost always gasses if the fight hits the third round, but seems to have an incredible knack for securing fight-ending submissions to save himself from the judges. Shane has flashes of potential though- he was in a very close fight against Anthony Pettis before the last WEC 155 pound champ was able to secure a triangle choke, he beat the epitome of a wrestleboxer (who comes to fight, not to grapple) in Jamie Varner, and he beat Anthony Njokuani with one of his many career rear naked choke victories. His most recent win-knocking out Thiago Tavares- is easily his most defining, and the reason he was matched up against Melvin Guillard. Tavares was dominating early before picking the absolute worst time to lose track of his footwork, and Shane capitalized with a missing double jab and massive right that put Thiago to sleep.
- Melvin Guillard was originally known for his brash personality on The Ultimate Fighter 2, beginning his career in the welterweight division before moving down to his natural weight class at 155 pounds. At 27, "The Young Assassin" is pushing close to 40 career fights and comes in to Saturday on a 7-1 fight streak, with his last loss coming via guillotine choke to Nate Diaz almost two years ago. Within this streak, Melvin has beaten a decent amount of the top fighters in the UFC's lightweight division in Gleison Tibau, Dennis Siver, Jeremy Stephens, and most recently Evan Dunham at UFC: Fight for the Troops 2 in January. The biggest chink in Guillard's armor has always been his submission defense, with submissions accounting for 7 of his 8 career losses. His most recent loss to the younger of the Diaz brothers was more a lapse in judgment as he recklessly dove into Nate's guard after taunting the power of the Stockton product's strikes. Melvin has arguably the fastest hands at lightweight, possesses one punch knockout power, and as we've learned recently from Matthew Roth has absolute confidence in his Louisiana wrestling background to keep the fight where he definitely wants it- standing. Since his loss to Nate Diaz, Guillard moved camps to New Mexico and Greg Jackson where he has seemingly learned how to balance his dynamic athletic gifts with a gameplan and mental composure. This may have been the best career decision he ever made, as he's rattled off 4 straight victories and is in serious discussion for the UFC title. With the former #1 contender Anthony Pettis's hopes for his own shot recently derailed against the frenetic pace of Clay Guida, who has also found success under Greg Jackson, Guillard might find himself finally rewarded with a shot at the belt should he find success this weekend.
Questions: Has Shane Roller figured out how to successfully translate his excellent wrestling background into Mixed Martial Arts? Will his submission prowess enable him to overcome the odds in this fight and attack the perceived greatest weakness of his opponent? Will Melvin be able to avoid the mat in this fight? Also, does he sit back and jab out a decision much like his fight with Jeremy Stephens, or will he instead come out aggressive and looking to make a statement?
Prediction: I went with my heart twice for UFC on Versus 4, with Joe Stevenson and John Howard, and failed on both. This makes me second guess myself in picking another one of my favorite fighters, but here's the thing: Guillard has all the tools to beat Shane and make him look really bad while doing it. Melvin is incredibly fast and packs a serious whallop in all his strikes: just ask Waylon Lowe. Not only that, but he has the reach to compete with the taller strikers in the division, and the athleticism and compact frame to compete with the multitude of lightweight wrestlers looking to take him to the ground. What Shane brings to the table is his determination, willpower, and the fact that he's always dangerous. I've seen Shane in some bad positions before, but unless it was against the upper crust of fighters he has always managed to put a mark in the win column. The fact that the majority of his wins come by submission also lends to the uncertainly factor of predicting this fight.
Shane is a game fighter, but I think Melvin's striking is something that Shane hasn't experienced yet. In fact, Guillard just knocked out a seemingly better version of Roller in Evan Dunham. Melvin Guillard wins this fight by TKO. It could be an early opening that Roller exposes in his standing, the second round if Melvin needs time to pick his shot, or in the third round if Shane hasn't been able to fix his conditioning problems, but "The Young Assassin" ends this fight with strikes.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael Dos Anjos after the jump:
George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
Joe Silva has proved his invaluable worth to the UFC yet again in giving the fans this pairing.
- Rafael Dos Anjos is currently 3-3 in his UFC tenure, and many people may remember him from his battle with Tyson Griffin or most recently his loss to Clay Guida in which Rafael had his jaw broken surprisingly by "The Carpenter" and verbally submitted due the injury in the third round of their highly entertaining scrap. Dos Anjos brings not only a tight Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game, but an evolving skillset that gained the 26-year-old from Rio de Janiero three straight wins prior to his last loss. It will have been close to 11 months out of the cage when Dos Anjos enters the Octagon on Saturday night since the injury against Guida.
-George Sotiropoulos is another TUF product who began on the show and his subsequent UFC career in the 170 pound division, only to drop down to lightweight and ride an incredible streak of success that ended in a title contender fight against Dennis Siver in Sotiropoulos's native country of Australia in February of this year. George found no success taking down the stockier and stronger Siver, and found himself unable to mount offense against the German kickboxer. George started his career against some lower to mid-tier competition including Jason Dent and the now-featherweight George Roop, and then proceeded to tack on three solid 155 pound victories against Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino, and Joe Lauzon. He managed to kickstart Stevenson's recent four fight skid, end a four fight winning streak by Pellegrino, and then locked in a fight-ending kimura against the grappling-saavy Joe Lauzon after surviving a first round blitz. All told, Sotiropoulos amassed a 7 fight winning streak leading into the Siver fight, and was primed to deliver a title shot acceptance speech in his post-fight interview until someone forgot to tell Dennis the plan. What George brings to the table is a very legitimate black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, now training at the world famous 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu with Eddie Bravo. Bravo's techniques are especially applicable to MMA as he trains primarily without a gi and has a significant focus on applying the Rubber Guard, a technique I feel can only be beneficial to George if he's to compete against superior wrestler-based fighters at lightweight.
Questions: Will the time away from the cage prove to have improved Rafael's striking and evolved his jiu-jitsu or will he need time to shake off the rust? Does Dos Anjos have the capabilities to overcome a significant step up in competition, or is this a fight designed to get George Sotiropoulus back on the winning track? Does George look like he's improved his boxing and offensive wrestling skills?
Predictions: Surprisingly, this is another really hard fight to predict. This is because I believe the answer to my first question is that the time away from the cage has proved to be valuable at Rafael Dos Anjos's young age and he's been competitive enough from what I've seen of him to be a legitimate grappling threat to anyone at lightweight. Anyone at lightweight most likely doesn't include George Sotiropoulos, who has made a habit of positionally dominating many of the opponents he's faced. That is why I'm going with George. He's got sound enough boxing to control the distance of the fight and usually comes prepared with a good gameplan. Combine that with his grappling prowess and "supportive" fight attire and you have a very well rounded, smart fighter who is a threat to end the fight with a submission in any round. I don't see him submitting Dos Anjos, so i'll take George Sotiropoulos by decision.
Reposted in full from Head Kick Legend