Update: The UFC has now announced that these matches will stream live and free on Facebook.
More UFC on Fox 3 Dissections
Replacing TUF 14 castmate Johnny Bedford, Roland Delorme will face fellow Canadian Nick Denis. Saturday's show will serve as the sophomore efforts for both bantamweights, each of whom were victorious in their debuts. Delorme, a BJJ brown belt and Judo black belt, is best known for choking out the Ferguson brothers: B.J. Ferguson in the opening qualifier match (triangle choke) and Josh Ferguson at the TUF 14 Live Finale (rear-naked choke). He was defeated by eventual finalist T.J. Dillashaw on the show, who tied on a choke after dropping Delorme with a punch.
In his Octagon debut against Joseph Sandoval, Denis accrued the distinguished honor of being the first fighter to single-shot KO an opponent with an elbow in the UFC since Bobby Hoffman circa 2001. He made his first big splash in the 2009 Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix and blasted out Seiya Kawahara with a 1st-round volley of punches but suffered that same fate against #5 ranked featherweight and Bellator juggernaut Marlon Sandro in the next round.
Denis is boldly unafraid to reflect his soft side and the duality of man as a self-professed "Ninja of Love" and connoisseur of "Cuddle-Jitsu," yet the fact that he's definitively finished all 11 of his past opponents (10 TKOs, 1 sub; 7 in the 1st-round) and is just an inherently violent young man overall stamps his effeminate tendencies A-OK in my book.
A highlight reel of Denis' typical devastation and the complete analysis for both dark matches await in the full entry.
Denis is a black belt in Kyokushin karate and raw gamer who became the Canadian King of the Cage bantamweight champion before bulking up to featherweight to compete overseas. Both of his career defeats came under the Sengoku banner, as Yuji Hoshino would latch on a 2nd-round guillotine following his loss to Sandro. This inspired a return to his original fighting weight that proved successful in the form of a monumental slam-knockout of Nick Mamalis before Denis clobbered Sandoval in his last turn.
Based on Delorme's TUF stint, his submission grappling, sweeps and transitions are top-notch and his Judo base provides solid trips and throws from the clinch. His stand-up is mediocre but balanced out by his proficiency elsewhere. Denis is billed as a brown belt in BJJ, like Delorme, yet prefers to unload on the feet. His offensive wrestling is functional but his takedown defense can be sketchy because he's such a frenetically aggressive madman on the feet. He whirls low, mid-level and high kicks from the fringe and applies tight and capable boxing (he's got a nasty uppercut) but, in the clinch, prefers to uncork an array of Thai elbows and knees.
Delorme is a ground specialist who will enjoy a slight height (5'9" vs. 5'7") and even slighter reach (71" vs. 70") advantage. Denis is easily the more well-rounded candidate with more impressive experience, agility and Fight I.Q. I was impressed with the fortitude of Delorme, who seems to recognize his weaknesses and capitalize on his strengths by imposing his ground game, but without forcing the issue. He's constantly at work on the mat and excels at creating opportunities to submit, sweep or scramble with an active set of hips.
Perhaps on account of my own oxymoronic appreciation for spooning and face-punching, I've been a fan of Nick Denis since his Sengoku stint and feel that his crowd-pleasing diversity and assertiveness will carry him upward in the division. Boxing-wise, he has a knack for stringing together high-volume heaters and throws blistering combinations down the pipe with seriously unfriendly intentions. Delorme should be able to initiate a clinch when Denis is squeezing the trigger and score a takedown or two, but I imagine Denis has the grappling chops to survive and scoot back to his feet, where their deficit in skill is much more noticeable and much farther in his favor.
My Prediction: Nick Denis by TKO.
Mike Massenzio (13-6) vs Karlos Vemola (18-2)
Karlos "The Terminator" Vemola made his Octagon debut as an undefeated (7-0) heavyweight at UFC 116 and dropped to light-heavyweight after Jon Madsen out-grappled him to a decision. Vemola proved that his punching power and wrestling credentials (6-time Czech wrestling champion) held water when he absolutely rag-dolled and clobbered the resilient Seth Petruzelli at UFC 122, which was the crusty veteran's first and only TKO loss.
Vemola encountered a hulking Brazilian sleeper in Ronny Markes in his next, who dazzled in his debut by out-wrestling the wrestler and inflicting his dual-pronged BJJ and Thai onslaught. Having lost 2 of 3 in the UFC, the muscle-bound Vemola, who's finished all 8 of his wins (4 subs, 4 TKOs) is now shrinking his massive frame into 185-pound proportions for a middleweight run.
Despite a less than stellar record, Team Bombsquad's Mike Massenzio seems to be putting the pieces of his combat background together and finally finding himself as a fighter. Massenzio was a 2x state wrestling champion in high school and a Ju-Co national champion who wisely complemented that trade with submission grappling and a Golden Gloves title in boxing.
Though he's faced a litany of steep competition, some under adverse circumstances (such as his short-notice clash with 205-pounder Krzysztof Soszynski), Massenzio has registered a forgettable 2-4 run since joining the UFC in 2008. His losses, however, are all quite respectable: C.B. Dollaway by TKO, Brian Stann (in Stann's middleweight debut) by triangle, Soszynski by decision and the leg-savaging Rousimar Palhares by heel hook in his last. His stint began with a 1st-round kimura on Drew McFedries and his true potential was on full display in his decision win over Steve Cantwell, in which Masssenzio brilliantly pressured by alternating between crisp, aggressive boxing and well-timed double-leg takedowns.
In regards to artistry and mentality, Vemola is much more primitive in his approach. The beast-like leviathan morphs into a whirlwind of nonstop haymakers and pursues his opponent until they are unconscious or in range for takedowns. Though not the most technically sound strategy, Vemola's brute strength, unbridled aggression and gaudy punching power leave him impossible to overlook or under-rate. His overwhelming physical stature and bloodlust was impressive at 205 and could be insurmountable at 185 if he can retain those same qualities after the weight cut.
Unfortunately, Vemola was such a gargantuan at light-heavy that I'm admittedly skeptical that he can. Massenzio has been knocked out by lesser punchers, so a Vemola TKO is far from unfathomable -- but he trains with a great camp who will likely have him prepared for the Czech's wild meat-hooks. I expect Vemola to be hell on wheels for the first 5 minutes and then gradually fizzle out as his heavily muscled frame depletes him of oxygen.
I'm mildly surprised to find Vemola as a narrow favorite on the betting lines at -135, but Massenzio's sub-standard record and Vemola's drop in weight is the probable cause. If Massenzio prioritizes defense, head movement, gluing his hands to his chin and using footwork to avoid corners, I feel he can endure the 1st-round fury and out-technique a winded Vemola in the later rounds by snaring a decision or manipulating a sub.
My Prediction: Mike Massenzio by decision.