UFC On Fuel TV 3: Facebook Preliminary Card Dissection

Fighter images via UFC.com

UFC on Fuel TV 3 is set for next Tuesday, May 15th, from the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia. The 6-fight main card begins on Fuel TV at 8:00 p.m. ET and is captained by a #1-contender bout between featherweights Chan Sung Jung, aka "The Korean Zombie," and Dustin Poirier. Prior to the Fuel TV show, the entire preliminary card will stream live and free on the UFC's Facebook page. The 6-piece undercard features the following matches, which will be analyzed herein:

Brad Tavares vs. Dongi Yang
Jeff Curran vs. Johnny Eduardo
T.J. Grant vs. Carlo Prater
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kamal Shalorus
Marcus LeVesseur vs. Cody McKenzie
Francisco Rivera vs. Alex Soto

Brad Tavares (7-1) vs. Dongi Yang (10-2)

Hawaiian Brad Tavares, who first appeared on TUF 11, has been absent since his unanimous decision loss to Aaron Simpson last July, which was the first official loss of his career. Tavares emerged on TUF after crushing 5-straight opponents (3 TKOs, 2 rear-naked chokes; 4 of 5 stoppages came in the 1st-round) to start his pro-MMA career. He scored 3 wins to advance to the semifinals (Jordan Smith by KO, James Hammortree by decision, Seth Baczynski by disqualification for an illegal soccer kick) but was submitted by eventual winner Court McGee.


More UFC on Fuel TV 3 Dissections

Jung vs. Poirier | Sadollah vs. Lopez | Cerrone vs. Stephens
Lawlor vs. MacDonald
| Maldonado vs. Pokrajac | Jabouin vs. Hougland


Hooking up with the Xtreme Couture team, Tavares led off his Octagon stint with back-to-back wins (Baczynski by decision in a rematch, Phil Baroni by 1st-round KO) before encountering Simpson. Despite the loss, Tavares showed some promising improvements against the D1 All-American wrestler, such as his feisty and technical takedown defense and, in the few instances he was able to unleash them, his ultra-heavy hands.

Dongi "The Ox" Yang trains at the Korean Top Team alongside main-eventer Chan Sung Jung. Though he didn't display the slick sub-grappling wizardry that "The Korean Zombie" is known for, Yang absolutely emulated his teammates penchant to exchange haymakers in his pre-UFC career. He made his Octagon debut against Chris Camozzi at UFC 121 with an undefeated 9-fight record, having decimated every opponent (8 TKOs, 1 sub; 5 1st-round finishes). He lost a controversial split-decision to Camozzi that many, including myself, scored in his favor. Yang rebounded with a 2nd-round TKO over Rob Kimmons but dropped a unanimous decision to Court McGee in a back-and-forth brawl in his last turn.

Complete preliminary card analysis in the full entry.

SBN coverage of UFC on FUEL TV 3

Tavares and Yang are quite similar. They're both athletic and physically-gifted specimens with the unabashed intention of smashing their way to a knockout with malicious boxing. Neither are known for their submission grappling prowess, yet they're both capable wrestlers with solid takedown defense, thunderous ground-and-pound and formidable knees and stability in the clinch.

Yang's background is a little more diverse: his MMA career started at heavyweight and he shrunk down to 185 for his UFC run, and he's a black belt in Judo, Taekwondo and Yong Moo Do (which Yang describes as "like a blend of Hapkido, Taekwondo and Judo"). Tavares' game boils down to simple but thoroughly effective boxing combinations, a concrete chin and raw toughness. He'll throw knees in the clinch but typically looks to free himself up in order to throw leather in open space.

While Yang might enjoy a slight edge in diversity and overall technique, Tavares has exhibited the better defense and timing. Yang, a southpaw, has a wicked straight left, attacks with an occasional low kick on the fringe and looks to pass and pound on the mat -- but he's been somewhat of an available target in the Octagon and he's prone to defensive lapses. His chin has allowed him to get back in the fight or come back and win, but Tavares will be the biggest puncher he's encountered and has a knack for knifing power-shots through his opponent's defense. On the same token, Yang represents the best striker that Tavares has tangled with, and McGee set up his choke-win on TUF by rocking Tavares with punches.

Anything can happen with the magnitude of their shared knockout power. On paper, this match up is razor-thin with a tiny advantage to Tavares, who seems to improve with each performance.

My Prediction: Brad Tavares by split-decision.

Jeff Curran (33-14) vs. Johnny Eduardo (25-9)

At age 34 and with a shocking 14 years in the fight game, Jeff "Big Frog" Curran represents a wealth of experience and knowledge for a modern-day bantamweight. The BJJ black belt focused on coaching -- with an emphasis on his cousin, Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran -- after suffering quadruple defeats in the WEC. Don't get the wrong idea: those losses came against the likes of then-ultra-elites Urijah Faber, Mike Brown at 145-pounds, and then Joseph Benavidez and Takeya Mizugaki after a drop to 135-pounds.

Curran bounced back from the losing streak by winning 4 of his next 5 to earn a shot in the UFC, where he drew another imposing force in perennial top-10er Scott Jorgensen. Curran dropped a unanimous decision that I thought he could've taken for matching Jorgensen equally with strikes and putting him on the defensive with his elaborate guard game.

Johnny Eduardo is a Nova Uniao bantamweight who just saw his 11-fight win streak snapped by Raphael Assuncao in his Octagon debut. The competitive decision showed Eduardo's furious combination of high-level Muay Thai and BJJ and, like all Nova Uniao fighters, his aggression is a distinct trademark.

Though both bantamweights are skilled strikers, submissions make up the majority of their career stoppages (Curran has 19 sub wins and 1 TKO, Eduardo has 13 sub wins and 6 TKOs). Eduardo is more of a straightforward brawler who unloads looping punches while Curran has become a deceivingly technical kickboxer. I see Curran's vast range of technique and exemplary fight I.Q. as the difference maker here. His past level of competition blows Eduardo's out of the water and his fundamentals should prevail over Eduardo's raw Thai onslaught.

My Prediction: Jeff Curran by submission.

T.J. Grant (17-5) vs. Carlo "Neo" Prater (30-10-1)

In this battle of lightweight submissionists, T.J. Grant is soaring after his lightweight debut resulted in an armbar victory over Shane Roller. The longtime welterweight has alternated wins and losses for his entire UFC career but seems to have found new life at lightweight. 13 of Grant's 17 wins are by catch (with 2 TKOs).

Carlo Prater was the unfortunate victim of controversy in his UFC 142 bout with Erick Silva. Silva clocked Prater with a punch but got a little overzealous with his finish-up ground strikes, allowing a few to drift toward the illegal strike-zone on the back of Prater's head. Mario Yamasaki curiously awarded Prater the win, which implies that he interpreted Silva's errant strikes as intentional. Prater is highly experienced against legit competition and also boasts an inflated submission record (16 of 30 by sub, 1 TKO).

The single and obvious core competency of both competitors is submission grappling; their wrestling and striking is neither poor nor exceptional, though a little behind the curve for a standard UFC lightweight. Prater will be no stranger to facing a welterweight-sized opponent, as he's a former 170-pounder himself. All things considered, Grant has shown a particular knack to enforce his grappling game unless faced with a superior wrestler or equally adept grappler. Prater is close to fitting into the latter category but hasn't fared well against gritty and determined fighters like Grant. I like Grant here by out-maneuvering Prater on the mat or catching him in a crafty lock during a scramble.

My Prediction: T.J. Grant by submission.

Rafael dos Anjos (15-6) vs. Kamal Shalorus (7-2-2)

Rafael dos Anjos returns after a tough split decision loss to fellow Brazilian Gleison Tibau at UFC 139. He began his UFC run with consecutive losses (Jeremy Stephens, Tyson Griffin), pieced together 3-straight (Robert Emerson, Kyle Bradley, Terry Etim) to build momentum, but dropped 2 of his last 3 (losses to Clay Guida and Tibau, defeated George Sotiropoulos).

Kamal Shalorus is facing a potential cut with 2-straight losses in the UFC (Jim Miller, Habib Nurmagomedov) after being an undefeated terror beforehand (7 wins, 2 draws). Shalorus, an Iranian-Persian fighter who repped Great Britain in Olympic wrestling, is a wild brawler who throws all his might into every strike. He has heavy hands and a crippling inside leg kick that has been known to stray toward the cup-region. He didn't seem like himself in his last outing against Nurmagomedov, who consistently beat him to the punch with quicker and longer boxing.

dos Anjos is a BJJ and Thai specialist with equally malicious kicks and punching power, though his kickboxing is much more harnessed and methodical. Shalorus will have a clear wrestling advantage but, not being the type to prioritize control, should have trouble containing the potent guard of dos Anjos. Both fighters have been a little streaky and inconsistent, but I like dos Anjos' ferocious technique over Shalorus' predictable blitz of haymakers.

My Prediction: Rafael dos Anjos by decision.

Marcus LeVesseur (21-5) vs. Cody McKenzie (12-2)

First, the specs on newcomer Marcus LeVesseur -- he beat Olympian Ben Askren in wrestling. That alone should signify his extraordinary wrestling prowess, but it's worth mentioning that, according to his Wiki page, LeVesseur went 155-0 in his college wrestling days. Since losing to Brian Cobb in 2008, "The Prospect" has won 10 of 12 with Dakoda Cochrane accounting for one of those defeats. Cochrane and Cobb are also the only fighters to submit him.

Cody McKenzie was a product of TUF 12 were he coined "The McKenzie-tine" for his unfathomable 10-fight win streak -- 12 if you include his unofficial TUF performances -- all finished with a guillotine or his modified version of it. His last guillotine choke was fitted to Aaron Wilkinson at the TUF 13 finale, but McKenzie has been twice submitted since by veteran Yves Edwards and decorated grappler Vagner Rocha, both by rear-naked choke.

This contest should hinge entirely on LeVesseur's submission defense; a specific area in which I am admittedly clueless. While LeVesseur's immaculate wrestling credentials make him far superior to the standard new guy, McKenzie has come along well with his striking and excels at unorthodox sub-tactics. Really, LeVesseur just needs to score takedowns without eating punches and smash McKenzie's head against the fence wall to limit his options from guard.

The McKenzie-tine has traditionally been applied from the front headlock position, which is where McKenzie will find himself often against the incoming shots of LeVesseur. That could be beneficial or one-dimensional if LeVessuer can defend it. Against my heart, I think it's safer to guess that LeVesseur can protect his neck on takedowns and score enough of them to earn a decision.

My Prediction: Marcus LeVesseur by decision.

Francisco Rivera (7-2) vs. Alex Soto (6-1)

Both bantamweights are winless thus far in the UFC: Soto was clipped by Michael McDonald for a 1st-round KO and Rivera, who's returning after compiling 2-straight wins outside the Octagon, lost to Erik Koch (1st-round head kick KO) and Rueben Duran (rear-naked choke).

Rivera has 5 wins by TKO with 2 decisions; Soto, a former Army infantrymen, brings 2 TKOs, 3 submissions and a decision. Both seem capable in all aspects -- yet Rivera has a slight edge in past competition but has faded in both of his losses. Still, his punching power and fight instincts are fully intact and I'll take him for the finish.

My Prediction: Francisco Rivera by TKO.

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