Airing at 8:00 p.m. ET on the FX Channel, heavyweights Travis Browne and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva spotlight this Friday's UFC on FX 5 show from The Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Leading into the featured FX broadcast will be a seriously stacked 6-fight preliminary card on Fuel TV at 5:00 p.m. ET plus another pair on Facebook beforehand to start the festivities.
This preliminary assembly is the best of the year and virtually overflowing with compelling, high-level match ups. Settle in -- this will be a lengthy excursion but the card's prestige warrants such detail.
UFC on FX 5: Fuel TV Preliminary Card
UFC on FX 5: Facebook Preliminary Stream
Atop the Fuel TV preliminary card, 15-year veteran Edwards is still plugging away at the top level and will match the speed and finesse of his kickboxing against Stephens' rugged punching power. In Edwards' latest UFC stint -- the 3rd of his lengthy career -- he's gone 3-2 with a decision win over John Gunderson and impressive stoppages over Cody McKenzie (rear-naked choke) and Rafaello Oliveira (TKO). However, he enters the Octagon having dropped 2 of his last 3 with losses to Sam Stout (KO) and Tony Ferguson (decision).
Stephens is also in desperate need of a victory on the heels of consecutive decision losses (Anthony Pettis by split vote, Donald Cerrone by unanimous). Stephens, who is 7-6 in the UFC, has been afloat in the middle of the division for some time but does a few reputable wins (Rafael dos Anjos by TKO, Sam Stout by split decision) to offset his struggles.
Continued in the full entry.
Edwards has the classic kickboxing and BJJ combo while Stephens, also a kickboxer at heart, now sports his improved wrestling as his secondary asset. Stephens was distinctly one-dimensional during the dawn of his UFC career but has made noticeable strides with his takedowns and clinch control. Rather than inflicting significant offense on the mat, the end result is inevitably that Stephens now poses a dual threat on the feet and opponents have an additional tactic to be wary of.
Standing, both fighters employ a varied arsenal of strikes -- Edwards is a technical machine who hurls more kicks -- especially high kicks, which are devastating and well timed -- and Stephens prioritizes power over clean fundamentals and stays busier with his hands in the pocket. Edwards will definitely prefer to crack off quick and precise combinations from the fringe whereas Stephens will be inclined to transmit his heavy boxing at close range.
X-factors include how Edwards' submission grappling, which is just as slick as his stand up, might neutralize Stephens' wrestling, and Edwards' chin resistance, which might be dwindling at the tail-end of his career. He was 43-fights deep when he suffered his first defeat via strikes, a positional elbow-fest underneath grappler Joe Stevenson's crushing top game at UFC 61, and his remaining 3 TKO losses transpired within the 18 outings since. Incurring all of his TKO losses in the last third of his tenure could indicate a trend.
In this closely contested pairing, I like the uncanny timing, length and striking sophistication of Edwards. Stephens is a Pitbull and a continuously overlooked lightweight who can compete with anyone in the division. His raucous punching power can end the fight or change it's course quickly, but I feel Edwards is a little too polished on the feet and that his crafty submission grappling will negate Stephens' newfound wrestling game.
My Prediction: Yves Edwards by decision.
More UFC on FX 5 Dissections
In another cutthroat match up, Team Alpha Male's Castillo looks to extend his 3-fight streak against the recently soaring Johnson. Since losing to Anthony Pettis in a 2010 WEC affair, Castillo has barreled his way to wins in 6 of his last 7; a sequence that includes reputable names like Dustin Poirier, Joe Stevenson and Anthony Njokuani (the latter in a late-notice bout).
Johnson, a TUF 12 finalist, has won 3 of 4 since Jonathan Brookins out-worked him at the live finale. He slaughtered Edward Faaloloto with strikes, tapped to a heel hook from sub-whiz Paul Sass and then racked up the biggest wins of his career over Shane Roller and Tony Ferguson. Johnson's boxing, footwork and takedown defense seems significantly sharper with each performance. Castillo, who was an NAIA All-American, is a wrestler by trade but also throws malicious haymakers on the feet and has basic submission capabilities. Johnson is also a sound wrestler but that skill actualizes in reverse to enable his crisp and explosive handiwork on the feet.
Johnson's showcase turns against Ferguson, a lanky and perilous striker, and Roller, who boasts superior wrestling credentials compared to Castillo as a 3-time D1 All-American, portend an increasingly bright future. His proven ability to adhere to a rock-solid sprawl and brawl strategy hint toward a decision win, though Castillo is one of the most rugged and hard-nosed gamers in the weight class.
My Prediction: Michael Johnson by decision.
In what should be his 2nd bid at 155 pounds (he weighed in at 158.5 vs. John Makdessi), Hallman, a vastly experienced veteran, draws Brazilian firecracker Tavares. To define how truly battle-hardened Hallman is: his loaded 65-fight record might still be missing a few matches, he's been tangling with top-rate competition for 16 years -- think about that ... 16 years -- it took him a total of 37 seconds to submit legend Matt Hughes -- twice -- and Hallman even contested Jens Pulver for the UFC lightweight championship way back at UFC 33 in 2001.
Few realize how competitive the ol' graybeard has been since Hallman rectified the mystery behind his unusual fatigue, which was due to an undiagnosed case of Celiac disease. "Superman" has soared in 8 of his last 10; the only flaws being welterweights John Howard (by Hail Mary TKO with 5 seconds left in the 3rd after Hallman handily won every round) and Brian Ebersole, who escaped trouble early and smashed the banana-hammock-clad Hallman with elbows. Wins in that stretch include a decision over Ben Saunders, a 1st-round KO of Karo Parisyan and a quick rear-naked choke locked on Makdessi in the recent catch-weight affair.
Tavares is a ridiculously frenetic scrambler with high-paced submission grappling and capable wrestling, though he's a tad under-sized at 5'7". He compensates for his compact frame with blinding pressure, considerable strength and a low center of gravity. Tavares split his opening 6-fight run in the UFC with 3 wins and losses apiece. He's gained momentum in his latest 6 outings with 4 wins, a loss (Shane Roller by TKO) and a draw (Nik Lentz). His victories include decisions over Manny Gamburyan and Sam Stout (though the latter was debatable) and a positionally dominated TKO over Spencer Fisher.
Tavares' UFC losses -- Roller, Kurt Pellegrino, Matt Wiman and Tyson Griffin -- all have something in common: a resolute grasp of both wrestling and submissions. His striking is not terrible and has improved, but Tavares is at his best when he can swarm his opponent with takedowns and wreak havoc with a dizzying onslaught of guard passing, submission attempts and ground strikes. Hallman, an early upstart under catch-wrestling extraordinaire Matt Hume, specializes in wrestling and submission grappling. He's also a hefty lightweight who's held his own against reputable lightweights and even some middleweights so, barring Tavares blasting him with a wayward punch or struggling with the Brazilian's quickness, I expect Hallman to impose his takedown prowess and shut down Tavares' submission attempts.
My Prediction: Dennis Hallman by decision.
Resplendent wrestling accolades underscore this lightweight match up, as Roller and Volkmann both boast the prestigious honor of being 3-time Division 1 All-American wrestlers; Roller at Oklahoma State University and Volkmann at the University of Minnesota, where he was also the Big Ten champion. Roller is a member of the aptly titled Team Takedown where he trains with standout wrestlers in Johny Hendricks and Jake and Jared Rosholt; Volkmann reps the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy alongside the mysteriously absent Sean Sherk and female force Kaitlin Young.
While their wrestling credentials are nearly identical, Volkmann has the better adapted acumen for MMA. Even though he's coming into this bout on a loss to Paul Sass, that 1st-round triangle-armbar snapped Volkmann's 5-fight win streak since dropping down to lightweight. Conversely, Roller is fresh off a smothering decision over John Alessio that ended his 3-fight skid. Neither are dominant strikers; Roller's shown shades of quality with momentous power but looked pretty wide and unkempt as of late and Volkmann's takedowns are so alarmingly effective that he's rarely forced to duel on the feet.
My inclination is to take Volkmann by simply beating Roller at his own game, but if Roller can shuck off his attempts or even make Volkmann work hard for takedowns, his slight edge in striking could unfold as a major factor.
My Prediction: Jacob Volkmann by decision.
It's at about this point that the appealing depth of this show's roster becomes apparent -- this bout and those above would be right at home as main-card filler on a major pay-per-view.
Skilled featherweight sharpshooters Nunes, a Black House rep, and staunch veteran Palaszewski should provide an all-out war. Both fighters are incredibly crisp kickboxers who round out their games with solid wrestling and BJJ and, coincidentally, have both dropped 2 of their last 3. Palaszewski, a longtime lightweight, will enjoy 3 inches of height (5'9" vs. 5'6") and reach (70" vs. 67") but face a deficit in the quickness department. Nunes is a little more explosive and violent on the feet whereas Palaszewski is more methodical and judicious with his strikes.
This one's a coin toss. The betting odds haven't published yet but I assume Nunes will be a slight favorite as a former contender at featherweight. My gut instinct is that Palaszewski's size/length and Fight I.Q. will afford him momentum-stealing takedowns as long as he can avoid the lightning-fast power of the feisty Nunes.
My Prediction: Bart Palaszewski by decision.
In flyweight action, debutante Phil "Billy" Harris meets crafty grappler Darren Uyenoyama, who made his Octagon premiere with a wily dismantling of Norifumi Yamamoto. Harris is an English submission specialist who's on a 5-piece roll and has won 13 of his 21 overall victories by catch (with 4 TKOs). Uyenoyama is a talented grappler with calculating takedowns and guard passing with an excellent mastery of position. Though I'm not intimately familiar with Harris, Uyenoyama should be a load at 125-pounds and gets the nod for his tactical brilliance.
My Prediction: Darren Uyenoyama by decision.
LeVesseur flaunts an amazing Division III wrestling history with a 155-0 record and 4 national titles, and he's secured 10 TKOs and 7 submission wins in MMA. He's fallen to all the top competition he's faced, including Cody McKenzie in his debut, which was an indelible display of abysmal Fight I.Q. on LeVesseur's part for the way he handed McKenzie his neck (loss via "McKenzie-tine"). Prater is an experienced BJJ player with decent wrestling and average striking, but should have the grappling chops to burn LeVesseur on the mat.
My Prediction: Carlo Prater by submission.
How this compelling match up gets relegated to the dregs of the card is beyond me. While I'm whining: what does Mike Pierce have to do to get some notoriety? The guy's only UFC losses are ultra-close decisions to elite welterweights in 7th-ranked Jon Fitch (who Pierce blasted off his feet in the 3rd round), 2nd-ranked Johny Hendricks and 6th-ranked Josh Koscheck -- and I scored the latter pair of split-decision defeats for Pierce.
He draws a newly slimmed down Aaron Simpson, who's been a staple at middleweight but just notched a decision over Kenny Robertson in his welterweight debut. Simpson was a 2-time D1 All-American wrestler at Arizona State University and has made gradual strides with his boxing. While not as decorated, Pierce wrestled at Portland State University but has been hell on wheels for the most noble takedown artists.
Pierce is broad as a barn and excels at in-fighting. He treats his foes to a dynamic and immovable wall of thunderous elbows and short-range punches, preferring to tangle in the clinch. Past performance might indicate that Simpson can eke out a decision, but his odometer is about to roll (age 38) and Pierce's confidence and clout increases with each outing.
My Prediction: Mike Pierce by decision.