No less than eight solid match ups from the UFC on Versus 5 fight card will be streamed live and free on the UFC's Facebook page Sunday night starting at 5:45 p.m ET. The C.B Dollaway vs. Jared Hamman pairing was recently added to the prelims, but I'll be previewing that separately.
This entire event is loaded with salivating fights that will be a challenge to predict, and the Facebook echelon is no exception. I usually feel the slightest flicker of an initial impulse toward one fighter or another, but there's a substantial case for almost every match up unfolding in either direction.
Team Alpha Male's Joseph Benavidez vies to retain top contender honors versus former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland; Team Jackson's Austrailian rep, middleweight Kyle Noke, will attempt to douse Ed Herman's "Short Fuse;" and another constituent of the BloodyElbow Scouting Report surfaces in light-heavyweight Ronny Markes, who meets Czech clobbering machine Karlos Vemola.
The meanest beanpole in the lightweight mix, ATT's Cole Miller, tangles with T.J. O'Brien, the runner-up for the most wins by triangle in MMA history; adroit wrestlers Jacob Volkmann and Danny Castillo clash in a powerhouse lightweight duel; Alex Caceres, aka "Bruce Leroy", sho'nuff needs to find the glow against UFC newcomer Jim Hettes, and Muay Thai aficionado Edwin Figueroa will pose an unfriendly welcome to the bantamweight division for burly veteran Jason Reinhardt.
Allow me a slight digression: Major utility companies in the U.S. have outsourced their customer billing structures to a separate entity; meaning, when I pay my energy bill, the company that takes my money tacks on an additional charge to complete the transaction. The point? We should all step back and appreciate this rocking lineup of free fights, because we live in a world that has become so insatiably greedy that you have to pay money just to be able to ... pay money.
The whole enchilada is previewed in the full entry, so buckle up for a marathon analysis.
The second (Benavidez) and twelfth best (Wineland) bantamweights in the world will engage here.
The two blemishes on the record of Benavidez came from current divisional champ Dominick Cruz, the first at WEC 42 in a Fight of the Night performance, the second at WEC 50 in Cruz's first title defense; both decisions.
Benavidez has tore through the rest of his opponents, the most noteworthy being violent first round stoppages over Rani Yahya via strikes and dual guillotines fitted to former champ Miguel Torres and Nova Uniao BJJ black belt Wagnney Fabiano.
Eddie Wineland became the WEC's first bantamweight champion by knocking out Antonio Banuelos back at WEC 20 in 2006. He had a thoroughly forgettable birth in the sport, winning just three of his first eight fights with four losses and one draw.
Some type of positive metamorphosis must have occurred, as Wineland went on to win fifteen of his next eighteen fights-- twelve of which were finishes-- and cement himself as a . He lost his WEC title to Chase Beebe and dropped fights to Rani Yahya by submission and Urijah Faber by decision in his last outing at UFC 128.
Wineland is an experienced and aggressive wrestle-boxer with a highly resilient clinch game.
He definitely has the more polished boxing technique -- as his crisply delivered body shot KO of Will Campuzano shows -- and, while Benavidez is probably the better wrestler, Wineland is a stubborn bull to take down.
Urijah Faber came out with the intention of taking Wineland down early, but his strong base, cat-like balance and excellent use of the whizzer made the task quite a challenge.
At 5'4", Benavidez is fairly short, which will have advantages and disadvantages. In the clinch, his squatty and powerful frame lends itself to takedowns, especially with underhooks or the body lock.
Standing, his primitive charge while winging helicopter hooks is only effective at close range, and Wineland's straighter and longer punches make it tough to get inside when fused with technical footwork.
Benavidez excels with snaring "gimme subs" from the top, usually flowered by his vicious strikes. His sweet spot against Wineland will be surrounding himself with heavy leather while maneuvering into clinch range to work takedowns, looking to inflict massive damage with ground-and-pound and pressure with choke attempts.
Keys to Victory for Wineland
- Avoid the bullrush -- Benavidez's striking is merely a smokescreen to set up takedowns. It's basic, and maybe even a little sloppy, but it gets the job done if he connects. Wineland will have to employ circling to avoid contact and staunch takedown defense to break free if he's tied up.
- Box the brawler -- Wineland has phenomenal hands and superior technique. It could be a long night for Benavidez if Wineland refuses to be cornered and clinched up. Benavidez unleashes an ungodly volley hoping to pounce when his opponent stands still and covers up, so Wineland will have to sting with long counter-shots while backpedaling, but never allowing himself to get pinned on the fence.
Keys to Victory for Benavidez
- Get inside -- his physical stature makes him more dangerous the closer he is. His striking is deadly when he's in your face, and he alternates quickly to clinching and takedowns.
- Get on top -- On top is where he's an offensive leviathan, and Wineland's guard is probably his weakest position.
The betting lines have stretched out for Benavidez in the last few days. I think Wineland will be a handful on the feet and in the clinch, but the style that Benavidez brings does offer the better chance of being invoked. I would not be surprised to see the crafty Wineland pull off the upset here with a fine-tuned sprawl and brawl, but Benavidez will likely get ahold of him and wear him down in later rounds.
My Prediction: Joseph Benavidez by decision
TUF alums meet in this grappling-based middleweight match up. Herman's fiery back and forth war with eventual show winner Kendall Grove was impressive enough to earn him a fight contract and make his second place finish more impressive than most.
I think Herman's five and four record after the show is more sturdy than it seems: one loss was to submission genie Demian Maia, another a competitive split-decision to gamer Alan Belcher, and he wrenched his knee horribly against Aaron Simpson and showed exemplary valiance in the defeat. The fourth was tapping to a Jason MacDonald triangle after the Grove fight.
I thought Noke was a lock for The Ultimate Fighter 11, but he wilted under the relentless takedowns of Kris McCray in the quarters. The Greg Jackson trained Aussie has solid kickboxing and a venomous grappling game, but will be up against the same type of stifling wrestling in Herman that he faltered with on the show.
Though a new face in the UFC, Noke has split fights with George Sotiropoulos before their Octagon days, holds a win over Brian Ebersole, and drew with Mack truck puncher Hector Lombard. Since his 2008 knockout loss to Scott Smith in EliteXC, Noke is on a five-fight hitch, with three of those coming under Zuffa's banner, all finishes: Josh Bryant by TKO, Rob Kimmons and Chris Camozzi by sub.
A lot of the individual strengths for each fighter come with an equalizer.
Noke has the more diverse and technical kickboxing arsenal, but Herman's no-frills boxing is highly effective and more powerful. Herman is easily the better wrestler and top player, but has shown a slight weakness when faced with a high level and thorough BJJ acumen that Noke brings.
The betting lines have Noke edging Herman out, but I think I'll go against the grain.
I believe Herman can needle straight lefts from the southpaw stance to answer Noke's diverse striking, control the momentum with explosive double legs and rugged in-fightinhg, and shun submission attempts on the canvas.
Both fighters bear traits that have unhinged the other, but the tiny difference is that Noke has more to prove after the way McCray handled him, and Herman can shower brutal strikes from the top.
My Prediction: Ed Herman by decision
I'll lead by admitting that I'm completely torn on this match up.
As a three-time NCAA All American and Big Ten champion, few can match Volkmann's wrestling credentials.
After debuting in the UFC with consecutive welterweight losses to Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann, Volkmann dropped to lightweight and pegged three straight, all decisions: Ronys Torres (split), Paul Kelly (unanimous) and Antonio McKee (split).
Though it was not a dominant performance, Volkmann's solidified his grappling prowess in his recent entanglement with voracious wrestler Antonio McKee, who has tossed around a few decent middle- and light-heavyweights in his day.
Danny "Last Call" Castillo is the second Team Alpha Male rep on the Facebook prelims and another WEC crossover. Before the promotion folded into the UFC, Castillo etched a respectable five wins and three losses. His defeats were delivered by the upper echelon in Donald Cerrone and Shane Roller by submission, and Anthony Pettis by TKO.
His biggest win was out-scrapping the dynamic Dustin Poirier, which remains as the only blemish "The Diamond" has experienced, and also upset Joe Stevenson by decision in his Octagon debut. Castillo has a wrestling background as well, but Volkmann was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Sherdog.com:
"He’s an NAIA [wrestler]. You know what NAIA is?" Volkmann asks. "It’s like a high school wrestler, so it’s like a college wrestler going against a high school wrestler."
Volkmann has the more esteemed singular proficiency, but Castillo has a brawling style that's well tailored to MMA.
In the signature Team Alpha Male style, he storms forward with a incessant bombardment of strikes while interchanging level drops.
Volkmann's stand up is nothing special for the top level, but he's more methodical with straighter punches. Castillo is more volatile, but also more predictable, and Volkmann will likely be an immovable force as far as securing takedowns goes.
Castillo won't be able to put a lot of mustard on his punches for fear of getting caught off balance or wrapped up, so while the safe pick is Volkmann by way of smothering with intense control, Castillo is a wild card with a big heart.
I'm surprised to see that the betting lines range from even to nudging toward Castillo. He's the more diverse competitor but I don't think he can overcome Volkmann's one area of expertise.
My Prediction: Jacob Volkmann by decision
Leland Roling continues to peg the up and coming stars as another entry from the BloodyElbow Scouting Report makes his debut in the big show.
Brazilian Ronny Markes from the Nova Uniao Kimura squad has been called upon to replace the injured Stephan Bonnar to face light-heavyweight Karlos Vemola.
Markes enters the bout fresh off a decision over Paulo Filho and holds a nicely balanced finishing ratio with five wins by TKO and four by submission.
Vemola has split results in his two Octagon performances, suffering his only loss to stifling wrestler Jon Madsen at heavyweight, but dropping to 205 and returning with a vengeful throttling of Seth Petruzelli. Vemola trains with the London Shootfighters team and the decision with Madsen was the only time he's ever been past the first round in his career.
Vemola is basically a battering ram with a brush cut. The sequence to the left versus Petruzelli captures his style perfectly.
He buries his chin and blitzes forward behind a cascade of power punches until he can tie up and devour with takedowns.
Vemola has an equal amount of stoppages by submissions and strikes at four apiece, but every catch was a rear-naked choke propagated by his thunderous striking.
Vemola goes ballistic with his ground-and-pound like a shrieking housewife mashing a spider on the counter top.
It's not the most elegant approach, but if MMA has taught us anything, it's that the end result is the only thing that matters.
There are quite a few unknowns surrounding this match up: just like Vemola has yet to face a sub-specialist like Markes, the level of competition that Vemola represents will be a vast increase from what Markes has tackled on the Brazilian fight circuit.
To the left is Ronny Markes drubbing Paulo Filho with his equally malicious assault.
The marked difference is that Vemola unsheathes a series of left and right hands, where Markes pumps out a wide range of devastating techniques.
The other significant disparity is that Markes is slapping around a 5'8" former middleweight in Filho and Vemola is a 6'0" former heavyweight and muscle-bound baboon.
I'm going to stay safe and play the odds on this one, veering toward Vemola based on past level of competition.
This will turn out like two alpha lions being locked in a in a closet, so expect a fan-friendly mutual massacre.
My Prediction: Vemola by TKO
I won't claim to be intimately familiar with the UFC newcomers in the next two bouts.
O'Brien was the unfortunate KO victim of Marc Stevens in the opening eliminator round to make it into the TUF house. He was finished by Paul Kelly at UFC 123 after the Brit tore into him with ground-and-pound.
Cole Miller is extremely experienced for age twenty-seven and still showing serious improvement. He's tightened up some holes in his gangly striking game -- as Ross Pearson discovered the hard way -- and has always wielded a top-notch Jiu-Jitsu game.
He's coming off a decision loss to Matt Wiman on January's Fight for the Troops 2 card. O'Brien (6'2") will offer the rare occasion of putting Miller (6'1") at a height disadvantage, but the ATT-honed product should have more weapons in more areas, and needs to win to keep from being swallowed by the hungry ranks at 155.
My Prediction: Cole Miller by submission
"Bruce Leroy" gets a tough draw in Jim Hettes, who makes his UFC debut after submitting each of his eight opponents.
Hettes is a brute in the clinch due to his Judo and wrestling background, obviously has formidable submission skills, and is no slouch standing either.
Caceres showed promise with his creative striking and a lightning-fast triangle off his back, but I don't think he has the power on the feet nor the skill on the ground to avoid being submitted by Hettes.
My Prediction: Jim Hettes by submission
McDonald is a rising star who applies a medley of boxing, wrestling, and submission threats at a frenetic and tenacious pace. He usually steamrolls his opponents, but Figueroa, in a fight he accepted on short notice, proved to be a feisty challenge in his UFC debut.
Figueroa commented on the short-notice bout to UFC.com:
In my last fight, I didn't perform at all like I normally fight. I had an eight month layoff then took the fight with six days’ notice having a pulled groin, 26lbs cut, and against a heavily favored opponent. I came up short on the decision, won "Fight of The Night", sacrificed my first loss, but got to prove I belong in the UFC. Now I get a full camp and remind myself how a Saekson trained fighter really fights.
The defeat was the first of his career and the Muay Thai specialist from Team Saekson Janjira will look to showcase his skills and re-establish his rep against veteran Jason Reinhardt.
Reinhardt was a lightweight for most of his career until suffering his first loss to Joe Lauzon way back at UFC 78 in 2007. Reinhardt notched two more wins in '07 and '08 -- though his opponents currently have a combined record of two wins and sixteen losses -- before reappearing in the Octagon at featherweight and tapping to a Tiequan Zhang guillotine.
Reinhardt will plunge another weight class and make his bantamweight debut versus Figueroa. He holds seventeen wins via submission and is now training out of the Wand Fight Team's satellite school in Illinois. Reinhardt was a compact bundle of muscle in higher weight classes, so it's hard to imagine him packing into a bantamweight frame.
Against McDonald, Figueroa rattled off the kind of top-notch Muay Thai you'd expect from a student of Saekson Janjira, but his composure on the ground to nullify McDonald's swarming top game was what impressed me.
Reinhardt's best weapons are his aggression, strength and capable BJJ skills, but in both of his career losses he faded when he was unable to overwhelm with his initial outburst.
Figueroa should be able to circle away from his aggressive charges and sting with counters while scrambling free of any trouble if he is taken down. He wields a level of Thai ferocity that can end the contest quickly, and I see him unleashing a flurry of strikes for a TKO within the first two rounds.
My Prediction: Edwin Figueroa by TKO
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com