Evan Dunham exchanging with Nik Lentz. Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
It's a welcome change of pace for MMA fans to be getting actual MMA this weekend in Canada for UFC 152. While everyone is concerned about Jon Jones, and whether or not he can keep his streak alive against a guy who last saw light heavyweight action when Jon Jones was making his MMA debut; among many other things, as Brent Brookhouse pointed out (I'm curious why he mentions the release of Step Brothers: because he hated or loved it?)...there's still plenty to talk about when it comes to the prelims.
T.J. Grant intends to cement his status in the lightweigh division against the once heralded Evan Dunham, and Vinny Magalhaes makes his long-awaited return against the sturdy, and respectable Igor Pokrajac at Light Heavyweight.
Everyone in this batch of preliminary action is on some sort of respectable run, so expect respectable action. This is one of the few fight cards where I can think of with only one truly weak link in the list, and that's Hamill vs. Hollett, which hopefully doesn't go to a decision to bury one of the bouts here that might otherwise be of value. Let's get right into the breakdown.
TJ Grant 18-5 vs. Evan Dunham 13-2
Grant had a tough time at welterweight despite being able-bodied in the division. Deciding to move down is always a tricky proposition. Some fighters assume a size advantage is always advantageous. That is demonstrably not the case. But Grant seems to have benefited. His win over Shane Roller is tainted with the painfully idiotic "verbal submission" ruling, but that he got himself in that position in the first place is laudable.
For Dunham, despite only two losses, it's been a bumpy road. Overnight he went from blue chip prospect to a LW bust after losing a highly questionable decision to Sean Sherk, only to follow it up his brilliant performance with a brutal knockout loss to a certifiable bust in Melvin Guillard. Despite that, Evan has bounced back, and he did so in his last outing by slugging it out with Nik Lentz.
First off, this is a fantastic matchup. It's exactly the kind of fight where both guys can scrap, and aren't stagnant in the transitions. I wouldn't expect Dunham to get caught in a submission, which is where Grant means business, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Evan's flaw reminds me of Tyson Griffin: he's too willing to fight with his opponent rather than against them. What I mean by that cryptic phrase is that he'll push back, but he doesn't initiate enough of his own pushing.
It's useful to remember that Dunham nearly lost his fight with Efrain Escudero as well. I don't think Grant is the kind of guy to capitalize on Evan's sloppiness, but I do think he's saavy enough to stay ahead on points every round.
My Prediction: TJ Grant by Decision.
ZP gifs and more analysis after the jump...
Igor Pokrajac 25-8 vs. Vinny Magalhaes 9-5-1
I was being somewhat facetious when I noted Vinny's "long awaited return" from fans. Frankly, there's nothing to indicate that beating some stand-ins for an Aunt Jemina bottle of syrup in M-1 has been evidence of being able to do the things he couldn't when Ryan Bader flyswattered him over the head at TUF 8.
But let's be real for a second. The guy is a phenomenal grappler. Nogueira fanboys (not that there's anything wrong with that) took issue with him comparing himself favorably as a grappler to Big Nog on the show, and guess what? He's a thousand times better on the ground, and certainly not someone you'll ever see getting kneebarred by Ricco Rodriguez. Remember Chris Weidman? The American grappler who has done well for himself in the cage, and on the grappling mat?
This happens only a minute into their bout. And just for shits and grins, here he is pulling off a banana split against Daniel Gracie.
These are not isolated incidents, and he's got the 2011 Mundials gold above 99 kg to prove it. What sucks about a fighter like Magalhaes is that he's refined to this raw talent into something other worldly, and uses that talent to explore other worlds. Don't! This is precisely what plagues so many specialists. They confuse being well-rounded with being willing to fight beyond their specialties when it should simply be that you improve your lesser skills to support your fundamentals. Imagine Canelo Alvarez kickboxing for the first time, using the first three minutes to clinch and knee or something. It's this false sense of accommodation that hurts fighters like Vinny.
Vinny would be wise to apply that line of thinking in his fight against Pokrajac. Igor is on a three fight winning streak against decent opponents, and has comfortably walked away with the victory in each. More importantly, he's winning with his fists. Something Vinny has tried and failed to do before.
It's difficult to determine how this fight will go down. It's a classic 'contrast of styles', which usually means 'fighter A sucks at what fighter B is good at/fighter B sucks at what fighter A is good at'. Vinny has shown some signs of improvement. In M-1 he consistently looks for the takedown, and still looks brilliant on the ground, but it always takes him awhile to set up, which will turn into a liability in the UFC. His last fight basically ended with a Brazilian-esque kick (skip to 15:30), which was nice, but not exactly telling.
I'm gonna drink the koolaid on this one, and pick Vinny. But I don't think he's gonna get the submission. I think it's gonna play like the Zayats and Nemkov fights, where he wades in with strikes to set up his takedown, only to struggle with the takedown. When he does, he'll create a scramble and position for submissions, but he won't get them, and it'll be the ugliest win on the card.
My prediction: Vinny Magalhaes by Decision.
Big thanks for Zombie Prophet as usual, who you can follow @ZProhet_MMA.
Feel free to follow me as well @DavidCastilloAC. Not that I tweet much.