This fanpost was originally meant to be just a post about my picks for the event and why (sort of like with what I did for UFC 149). But then I realized that so many of my picks for this event involved a line like "I don't know what to make of this guy right now." So I figured I'd focus on that instead. There's a lot of X factors going into UFC on FOX, which is funny, because the main event and co-main event are, in my opinion, near certainties.
Hell, I already wrote a fanpost about how Shogun is better than Vera in just about every aspect of MMA and that Vera essentially stands no chance (tko second round, btw). As for Machida vs. Bader, Bader is still too green, too "basic" of a fighter, and too lacking in the more cerebral side of MMA to solve the Machida puzzle. Machida has proven again and again to be too elusive to grab the takedown on (unless you're Jon Jones) and Bader's technically limited, though power, striking plays exactly into Machida's game.
From there, however, my picks fall apart. So, here are the mystery men (no, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, and William H. Macy are, unfortunately, not fighting):
1. Jamie Varner
I feel like I should pick Joe Lauzon in this fight. Lauzon is great at snatching submissions, and submissions have proven to be Varner's achille's heel time and again. This should be a simple pick....but I honestly don't know what to make of Varner right now.
Against all odds, he easily disposed of Barboza. In fact, his last three fights, knockout wins over Edson Barboza, Drew Fickett, and an unknown Nate Jolly, lasted a grand total of 5:12. For the record, the last time Varner posted back-to-back (t)ko wins was back in 2008 when he won the WEC title.
Lauzon is always deadly and his style is the one that has proven to be Varner's downfall. I will pick Lauzon by submission based on that but....I just don't know what to make of Jamie Varner right now. Since his embarassing loss to Dakota Cochrane, the guy has looked like an absolute animal with savage knockout power. It's just too hard to gauge where he's at, and who he is, right at this moment.
2. Mike Swick
And he's on the main card, no less.
Swick's an interesting case because before his long absence, I'd say that DaMarques Johnson is just the type of fighter that he'd crush. That is, a decent, solid fighter who is well outside the top ten but whose striking and speed don't match to Swick and who lacks the wrestling to put him on his back.
So, if I pretend that this is the same Mike Swick from the past, this is a clear Swick win. But....Swick has been gone for two and a half years, largely due to injuries, his continual stomach issues, and other business ventures. That's a LONG time. Who can say what Mike Swick looks like right now? In the time that Swick has spent away from the sport, DaMarques Johnson has fought SIX times. As far as I'm concerned, Swick is a huge question mark.
3. Josh Grispi
A similar story to Mike Swick. Josh Grispi has not fought in 14 months due to injuries. That always raises questions of what a fighter will look like.
But there are bigger questions surrounding Grispi. At the time where he left, we had seen a tale of two Grispis. He went from absolutely TEARING through the competition in the WEC, with wins over the likes of Mark Hominick, Jens Pulver, LC Davis, and Micah Miller, to looking like a completely different guy when he made his UFC debut, losing brutally to Dustin Poirier and George Roop. Grispi in the UFC just did not look like the guy in the WEC. He was slow, seemingly lacking in confidence, and just not sharp at all. So...which guy shows up on Saturday?
Worse still, if you believe that "UFC Grispi" was the result of "octagon jitters", you could argue that the stress will be even higher for Grispi now. Both he and Yahya are likely fighting for their jobs here, and he's coming back from a huge lay-off. It's hard to imagine him being less nervous now. In Yahya, he's also facing a guy who HAS picked up a big win the UFC and a guy with the BJJ background to nullify his submission skills. No guillotines here. But despite that, if WEC Grispi shows up, well, all bets are off.
4. Wagner Prado
Who the hell is Wagner Prado?
Let me say that Phil Davis has every reason to win this fight. Prado is 8-0 against complete unknowns in Brazil and Davis is a world-class wrestler. That is the recipe for a long night for Prado, who also only holds a blue belt in BJJ.
But...I can't help but see the parallels between this fight and Junior Dos Santos' debut against Fabricio Werdum. Like that fight, this one was slapped together at the last minute (due to Chad Griggs' injury). Dos Santos entered the UFC with a record of 6-1, all first round finishes, and a Team Nogueira member. Prado enters the octagon at 8-0, also against unknown Brazilians, with 7 wins by knockout, 6 in the first round. Like Dos Santos, he is a long-time Team Nogueira member.
I'm not saying that Prado is the next Dos Santos....but you never know and the parallels are there. Davis had better not have made the same mistake Werdum made in taking his unheralded opponent lightly (who is also, funnily enough, the same height as Dos Santos - a very tall 6'4).
5. Cole Miller
Last fight was Cole Miller's featherweight debut. It bears mentioning that Miller is 6'1. That is ridiculous for a featherweight.
Miller, however, also looked like ass at 145. He was slow, plodding, and a shadow of his former self. He was soundly beaten by Steven Siler.
Now he faces Nam Phan. It's a fight the old, 155 Miller would take handily, I think...but has he figured out 145 yet, or are we back to slow, zombie Miller?
I guess you could also argue that Phan looked like ass in his last fight as well, though I tend to believe that's more due to Jimmy Hettes being a beast that no one knew about.
This is a fight I've been wanting for years now. The similarities between the two are striking - both have power in their hands, both are excellent judoka and have a judo base for their MMA game, and both are in their second stint in the UFC.
The other parallel, that makes this bout an unknown, is that while both have absolutely torn it up in other organizations (Gamburyan in the WEC, Omigawa in Sengoku and DREAM), both have also completely stalled out in the UFC...in two separate stints. Between all their UFC runs, Omigawa stands at an awful 1-5 and Gamburyan at a tepid 2-5. It's very possible that both men are fighting for their jobs in this one.
So...will we finally see the potential Omigawa showed in Japan and/or that which Gamburyan showed in the WEC? Personally, I think their judo nullifies each other and we're left with a boxing match between two incredibly stiff boxers, with Omigawa losing a decision due to being even stiffer than Gamburyan. But honestly, I don't know. So much of what we know of these guys regarding what their strengths are, we know from their performances in other organizations - strengths that have just not manifested in the UFC. Frankly, every Omigawa or Gamburyan fight in the UFC is a mystery as a result and now both of them are in the cage at once, doubling that x-factor.
....but hey, on the more certain side, Ulysses Gomez is making his UFC debut. I'm looking forward to it and think he's going to be a factor in the UFC's flyweight division for a long time to come (though for what it's worth, Moraga seems pretty sharp too). Now let's get Mamoru Yamaguchi and Darrell Montague and there.