This Saturday, January 28, the UFC makes their second run on the Fox channel with UFC on Fox 2. The main card, scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, consists of three contests with marquee light-heavies Rashad Evans and Phil Davis forming the headliner.
Starting at 5 p.m. ET, a whopping six-piece lineup on Fuel TV will precede the main broadcast with one match being streamed on Facebook. These prelims will be analyzed in two segments of four fights each, the first of which (Part One) will be addressed herein. The following is the entire cast of characters for the Fuel TV undercard:
Evan Dunham vs. Nik Lentz
Mike Russow vs. Jon Olav Einemo
Johnny Bedford vs. Mitch Gagnon(Update: this bout has been scratched)
Cub Swanson vs. George Roop
Michael Johnson vs. Shane Roller
Joey Beltran vs. Lavar Johnson
Charles Oliveira vs. Eric Wisely
Chris Camozzi vs. Dustin Jacoby (on Facebook)
More UFC on Fox 2 Dissections
Michael Johnson (9-6) vs. Shane Roller (10-5)
Despite exhibiting the potential to break out of the basement level of the UFC's lightweight division, both Johnson and Roller have taken a loss in two of their last three. Johnson, a finalist on TUF 12, was unable to hold off a decision-stealing comeback from Jonathan Brookins after a commanding first frame in the reality show finale. He returned with a dominant stoppage over Edward Faaloloto at UFC Live on Versus 4 but then fell victim to the vacuum-like submission prowess of Paul Sass; again after assuming control early with a strong start.
WEC crossover Shane Roller, a three-time Division 1 All American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, has faltered twice since knocking out Thiago Tavares in his UFC debut. Melvin Guillard nullified his takedowns and swarmed with a ruthless combination for a first round TKO, while T.J. Grant, a former welterweight who was dropping to '55 for the first time, caught him in a third round armbar.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
On TUF, Johnson immediately stood out from the crowd and showed crisp boxing with heavy hands and solid wrestling.
When faced with a superior wrestler -- as he will be against Roller -- Johnson was hit-and-miss with his sprawl-and-brawl, which will likely be the same strategy for him on Saturday. He came out of the gate hurling leather with Brookins and seemed to have his number in the first round. As we see to the right, Johnson tailored his boxing to account for the risk of a Brookins takedown by ripping uppercuts and shovel hooks "from his pockets."
A wrestler has to dip his head when he's dropping levels for a takedown, and Johnson did a good job of streaking his fists through a lower target zone to keep Brookins leery about shooting. When Brookins was able to adhere, Johnson stayed upright with good balance, control of the head and use of the whizzer. His footwork is not bad offensively, but he sunk himself too deep in the pocket with a heavy front leg in many of the instances he was grounded against Brookins. His clinch game has also been stable, but he likes to go with a high grip and fire knees and dirty boxing, which should be more underhook-oriented against Roller.
Six of Roller's ten career wins are by submission with an even number of guillotine and rear-naked chokes.
Rather than being a fighter who is particularly adept with sub-grappling, Roller's imposing wrestling was generally the conduit to those catches. Don't get me wrong -- he's an adept scrambler and guard passer, but the bulk of his offense on the floor is propelled by explosiveness and high-level wrestling fundamentals rather than fluid finesse. His striking is similar, as it's accented by straight boxing with a busy jab and big power, especially in his right hand.
Roller had the awareness to pick up on the way Tavares kept backing out of the pocket in a straight line, and he measured his steps accordingly to add a few inches of his depth on the right cross he finished with.
Johnson has been comfortable off his back and might be able to stalemate Roller for a referee stand-up, but has lost five of his six by submission and would definitely be wiser to work his hands as much as possible. He's got a nice, stiff straight-left and the instincts to land the kind of low-range flurry that Guillard clipped Roller with.
I believe Johnson, who is only age twenty-five, is still coming into his own and steadily improving. I'd give him a legit shot to find Roller's chin in open space or catch him coming in for a takedown. He was in control early in both of his UFC defeats, but lapses, mostly mental, ended up costing him. However, I don't think his still-raw potential can compensate for the poor match up that Roller presents. He's a step up in overall status who specializes in the areas that Johnson has struggled with the most, though I wouldn't risk a wager at -182 on the betting lines.
My Prediction: Shane Roller by submission.
Joey Beltran (13-6) vs. Lavar Johnson (15-5)
Johnson, representing a new wave of incoming heavyweights from Strikeforce, will make his Octagon debut against Beltran, who has taken on the role of sentinel in the division. Johnson is a bulging 6'3" with a lot of strength and knockout power, winning thirteen of fifteen by TKO with two subs. "Big" has never gone the distance and only made it to the third round once. Four of his five losses are by submission and it's no secret that his ground game is a bit lacking. In fact, Johnson was tapped in his last two outings (Shane Del Rosario, Shawn Jordan), which darkened the seven-fight streak he assembled prior.
Beltran is a down and dirty slugger with a hard head and heavy hands, chalking up all but two of his sixteen wins by TKO with one submission and decision apiece. In the L-column, Beltran has proven to be highly durable and tough to finish with five decisions and one submission defeat (Tony Lopez by kimura in King of the Cage).
"The Mexicutioner" peed in the pool at what was expected to be Rolles Gracie's coming out party, rattling the highly touted BJJ practitioner with combinations in the second to steal the spotlight in their mutual debuts.
After further establishing himself with a decision over Tim Hague in his sophomore effort, hard times would befall Beltran. Losses would accompany three of his next four (Matt Mitrione, Pat Barry, Stipe Miocic) though he scored a TKO over Aaron Rosa betwixt the Barry and Miocic fights.
Both men are known for a stand and bang mentality, but Beltran's impervious chin and slight edge in the wrestling and agility departments are why he's a substantial favorite at -215. In the gif above, Beltran lands an opportunistic takedown on Division 1 wrestler Stipe Miocic (though the Croatian was admittedly gassed out at the time) and I'm expecting him to do the same with Johnson.
My Prediction: Joey Beltran by rear-naked choke.
Charles Oliveira (14-2) vs. Eric Wisely (19-6)
Oliveira was pegged as an exciting lightweight prospect after opening up with two consecutive submission wins over Darren Elkins (armbar) and Efrain Escudero (rear-naked choke). The Brazilian who goes by "do Bronx" made a careless mistake against Jim Miller and cried uncle to a kneebar, but the flaw was drowned out amidst his electric performance against Nik Lentz (right).
Despite the bout being overturned (No Contest) due to the illegal knee, Oliveira steamrolled the stubborn wrestler with his wicked Muay Thai in a fan-friendly battering.
Then paired with an equally malicious kickboxer in Donald Cerrone, Oliveira would eat a sharp left to the bread box before being finished with ground-and-pound, inspiring his plunge to featherweight.
Wisely, who reminds me of a miniature Spencer Fisher, is making his Octagon debut and is also a former lightweight who's recently dropped down to 145. Though his numbers don't look pretty, Wisely is a tough S.O.B. and no stranger to UFC-caliber opposition: he lost to Erik Koch early in his career and toppled Hermes Franca twice (TKO, decision) and Matt Veach (armbar) in the latter half. The surge earned him a shot in Strikeforce where veteran grappler and former welterweight Pat Healy defeated him via decision on the Challengers 18 card. Wisely is a Taekwondo black belt and adequately warded off the top game of Franca, a BJJ black belt, with a sufficient guard game.
Were he tackling more of a run-of-the-mill featherweight, I'd expect Wisely to be a surprisingly staunch challenge as a newcomer. He's an aggressive southpaw with powerful striking and he's capable on the mat. Unless he's adversely affected by the first-time weight cut, Oliveira's BJJ and Muay Thai was stellar against top-shelf lightweights and he'll be fairly tall for a featherweight (5'10"). Despite being skinny as a rail, he had wiry strength and showed some wrestling prowess in the higher weight class as well.
Wisely has never been finished and will probably check Oliveira's chin, which could make things interesting late in the fight -- Oliveira has just one win via decision and has only seen the third round two times in his career. His talent is inarguable but I'd say he's yet to prove his mettle. Still, Oliveira is a young kid (22) with an unlimited ceiling and the fiery onslaught he unleashes on the feet will be something Wisely has yet to encounter.
My Prediction: Charles Oliveira by decision.
Chris Camozzi (15-5) vs. Dustin Jacoby (6-1)
Two of the middleweight division's tallest competitors match here as TUF 11 product Camozzi (6'3") takes on relative newcomer Jacoby (6'4") from Finney's H.I.T. Squad. The duo are coming off losses: Camozzi to new entry Francis Carmont and Jacoby to D1 wrestler Clifford Starks in his debut, both by decision on the UFC 137 card.
Jacoby entered the UFC undefeated after six fights (5 TKOs, 1 sub), crushing all opponents in the first frame save one. Against Starks, he was simply unable to compete in the wrestling aspect, so I'm looking forward to seeing how he fares with Camozzi. Jacoby is lengthy and proficient in all areas, with his striking clocking in as his strongest facet. He's only twenty-three and stands as another solid prospect with room to grow.
Camozzi scrapped with Bellator middleweight Victor O'Donnell in his TUF 11 elimination bout but, despite earning a hard-fought decision, had to leave the house with a broken jaw. He beat James Hammortree at the show's live finale and then eked out a split decision over Korean Top Team's Dongi Yang in a semi-controversial outcome. Australian submissionist Kyle Noke would tap him with a rear-naked choke next, and Camozzi squeaked out another split-vote win over veteran Joey Villasenor in Shark Fights before re-emerging in the UFC against Carmont.
Camozzi comes in as a -210 favorite to win. That's perfectly understandable though I think Jacoby will make it much closer. Neither fighter has a true realm of specialty and prefer to stand up. Camozzi is an aggressive grinder where Jacoby is a little more artful and fluid. I'm tempted to take Jacoby for the upset, as his rangy striking could poke holes in Camozzi's brazen attacks on the feet, but I'll play it safe.
My Prediction: Chris Camozzi by decision.
All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Update: Lavar Johnson gif via Damn Severn