Zuffa ventures to the Windy City on Saturday, January 26th for UFC on Fox 6. The event is loaded with 11 fights overall: the 4-fight main card on Fox is headlined by newly minted flyweight champion defending the strap against atop to a trio of scintillating match ups, and the FX preliminary lineup features 6 scraps while a lone pairing on Facebook will ignite the action beforehand.
Here's how the whole shebang shapes up; the preliminary card analysis follows.
Fox Main Card (8:00 p.m. ET)
FX Channel Prelims (5:00 p.m. ET)
- age 28
- 5'10" (5'11" on UFC.com)
- 72.5" reach
- 19-5 record (13 subs, 2 TKOs)
- 6-3 UFC record
- Overall: submission specialist, decent to good wrestling, improved Muay Thai, former welterweight (3-0 since dropping to lightweight), long and particularly lanky 155er, difficult to finish (1 submission loss, 4 decisions)
- age 29
- 67" reach
- 15-6 record (5 subs, 4 TKOs)
- 9-4 UFC record
- Overall: started as a wrestler with a strong submission acumen but now stands as a 3-dimensional fighter with solid boxing, swarms relentlessly with a frenetic pace, also difficult to finish (1 TKO loss, 5 decisions), UFC losses to Sam Stout and Dennis Siver were controversial and could've gone his way
The Match Up
I still think Wiman is under-rated and I'd pick him over many top-tier lightweights, but Grant's length, especially when coupled with his ever-sharpening Muay Thai, and stellar submission grappling make him a tough match up. I wouldn't consider either fighter weak in any areas, but I'd give Grant the edge in submission grappling and Wiman the clear edge in wrestling and quickness. Striking-wise, Wiman has the cleaner technique and better defense, but Grant's reach and power advantage might balance that out.
The Case for Wiman: I don't think Wiman can finish Grant, so that places emphasis on his speed and frenetic attack, which consists of fluently shifting between well-timed and aggressive boxing combos, unpredictable level changes and exploding for takedown attempts while penetrating deep into the hips, and a relentless top game with an overbearing medley of ground flurries, guard passing and submission attempts.
The Case for Grant: It's not likely, but I do feel that Grant's spidery length and submission acumen could produce a finish. His size and range will make it tough for Wiman to close range, it will play out as a leverage advantage in the clinch and in takedown exchanges, and won't hurt from the aspect of snaking his limbs in and around for sweeps and submissions. I expect Grant to make Wiman come at him before launching long counters and circling into open space, trying to punish him with strikes while he's shrinking the gap and attacking the neck after sprawling with choke attempts.
Summary: Wiman has stifled standout submissionists with his suffocating top game, the most notable being the formerly undefeated phenom Paul Sass (12 of 13 wins by sub) in his last outing. In fact, I see this as fairly similar to that match up except that Grant will be less predictable and a better wrestler (especially defensively) and striker. He's not quite as outrageously volatile as Sass on the mat, but has the same type of dynamic and creative submission onslaught. Grant will also bring a better Fight I.Q. and more experience than Sass. I'm pretty much in agreement with the betting odds, which currently have Wiman as a very close favorite.
My Prediction: Matt Wiman by decision.
- age 31
- 68" reach
- 29-13 record (15 subs, 4 TKOs)
- 9-7 UFC record
- Overall: tenacious wrestler, hard-nosed gamer with a high pace, hair, clear specialty in wrestling though his striking and submission grappling has improved to a functional level, heavy on top-shelf experience, Greg Jackson trained
- age 29
- 73" reach
- 26-5 record (12 subs, 4 TKOs)
- 2-1 UFC record
- Overall: arguably the best and most technical sub-grappler at 145, decent takedowns with strong Judo but average (for the elite level) wrestling fundamentals, sub-par to decent striking with exceptional length and composure, never been finished, questionable intensity and Fight I.Q.
The Match Up
In Guida's featherweight premiere, he draws a complex grappler who generally sat just behind Jose Aldo in the world rankings at #2, but has since fallen toward the tail-end of the Top 10 after losing to Ricardo Lamas. Guida has the better wrestling but succeeding with takedowns will put him right in Hioki's sweet spot, so his sub-defense and level of commitment in grappling exchanges will be pivotal.
The Case for Guida: Really, if there was a theme with Hioki's infrequent defeats, Guida has the ability to fit that mold nicely. Hioki's loss to Lamas was his first since a veritable screw-job to Michihiro Omigawa in the Sengoku Gran Prix (though Hioki rebounded and went on to snare the promotion's title) and the only loss that was not a split decision since Hioki's first career blemish to Hiroyuki Takaya in his 4th pro-fight circa 2003. Hioki's defeats have been laid down by fast-paced aggressors with a dual-pronged attack of wrestling/control and striking with excellent submission defense. Compared to Lamas, for example, I'm not sure Guida has the same level of striking technique and submission defense (6 of 13 losses by submission), and definitely doesn't have the same punching power. He gets it done with a relentless work-rate and nonstop pressure with his striking and wrestling.
The Case for Hioki: The biggest concern is his mentality. Hioki suffers from being overly patient and reserved, especially in instances where killer instinct and a sense of urgency are required. Oddly enough, Guida's aggression might assuage that flaw by taking the fight to Hioki and reducing the need for him to engage. Hioki's length boosts his striking prowess and will be critical in making Guida think and work extra hard while exploding into close quarters, but his height could work against him if Guida can consistently drop to a low level and penetrate with takedowns. Hioki's chin is iron-shod and his clinch is robust due to his Judo acumen, and I see him wreaking havoc if Guida plays around the mat or tries to pass guard.
Summary: Though there's only one source posted for betting odds at the time of writing, they ridiculously favor Guida at -275. Before Hioki lost to Lamas, this would probably be considered a tailor-made match up for him, but I personally only see his chances as closer to even given Hioki's complacence. This will be Guida's speed, vivacious movement, phase-shifting and strategy versus the unparalleled venom of Hioki's grappling, mindset and altogether average striking and wrestling. I'm not confident that Clay can survive with Hioki on the mat without getting swept or subbed, but I do think he can score points with heated combos, and takedowns as well, but only if he ejects quickly. I see it about dead even and might be biased toward Hioki, but he's worth a look at the +200 odds he's holding now.
My Prediction: Hatsu Hioki by submission.
- age 29
- 74" reach
- 14-3 record (6 TKOs, 3 subs)
- 7-3 UFC record
- Overall: D1 All-American wrestler, TUF 8 winner, big punching power, youthful exuberance (strong, fast, athletic), showed amazing potential and improvement (started 5-0 in UFC) before hitting several speed-bumps (2-3 in his last 5), good pre-fight game-planning, aggressive wrestle-boxer with a power-over-finesse mentality
- age 42
- 74" reach
- 26-6 record (9 TKOs, 7 subs)
- 3-2 (2001-2003) and 4-2 (2009-present) UFC record
- Overall: Belarusian MMA vet, former Soviet national champion wrestler, heavily experienced at the top level, basic boxing but hits hard, questionable chin when tagged square (4 of 6 losses by TKO), never been submitted, old but still a big, hefty tank
The Match Up
I can't help but see this as Bader being a younger version of Vladdy. They're both wrestling-based brawlers who've injected some finesse to their offense, mostly on the feet. Thus, both have fearsome knockout power but their fundamentals are average and their defense is sketchy. They're both technical, top-tier wrestlers but Matyushenko is patient and strong whereas Bader is dexterous and explosive.
Summary: Vladdy's 42-years-old, for god's sake. It's impossible not to like and respect the guy though. Head-rattling blows will be hurled on both sides, so Vladdy will have a fair chance to press Bader's pause button. While his punches might also be straighter with more snap on them, Bader is a virtual carbon copy but drastically quicker and more agile on his feet; an advantage multiplied by the lumbering Matyushenko's recent Achilles injury.
My Prediction: Ryan Bader by TKO
25-year-old "Panzer" Krauss gets a bit of a softball here with Team Curran's Stumpf, who tapped to a T.J. Grant triangle in the 1st-round of his Octagon debut. I'm not saying Stumpf is a pushover, but big things were expected of Krauss after he debuted with an undefeated record in November of 2010 (with just 3 years of MMA experience) and defeated Mark Scanlon at UFC 122. Injuries have sidelined him and a decision loss to John Hathaway in May of 2012 is his only outing since.
Krauss is a boxer turned Judoka with decent wrestling and BJJ who now trains part-time at Roufousport. Stumpf has a wrestling foundation with mediocre striking and sub-grappling, and will also give up a few inches in height. Krauss' boxing and clinch-heavy style are formidable when he's 100% but Stumpf will grind him out if he's anything less than that or gasses.
My Prediction: Pascal Krauss by decision.
This is like a scaled-down version of Bader-Vladdy, as 28-year-old Jordan (9 TKOs, 3 subs) is a hefty wrestle-boxer just like 36-year-old Russow (4 TKOs, 8 subs). Russow has been touted a little more but his competition has generally consisted of either commanding wins over mid-level fighters or losses to big guns (Sergei Kharitonov by sub, Fabricio Werdum by TKO).
Jordan, a former LSU football player, moves extremely well for someone of his girth. Along with his athleticism, the southpaw has raw but effective wrestling, solid boxing with a laser-straight 1-2 and Greg Jackson in his corner. Russow is a burly old lion with a robust game overall. On the feet, he should have more power than Jordan but his preference of wide-sailing hooks over straight punches leaves some holes in his defense. His wrestling has been sound for the most part and his submission prowess is probably a level higher on both sides.
They're both coming off losses, Russow to Werdum and Jordan to Kongo by decision. Before their last turns, I was high on Jordan and luke-warm on Russow. Now, Jordan's confidence seems to be the key to unlocking his potential; perhaps he hasn't found his rhythm and identity as a fighter. Though Russow might have the old-man strength, Jordan should have a noticeable advantage with physical attributes like quickness, agility and explosiveness. For some reason, I can't shake the idea that Russow will just be tougher and more reliable mentally.
My Prediction: Mike Russow by late submission.
"Sapo" Natal (7 subs, 3 TKOs) draws debutante Spencer (2 subs, 2 TKOs) to open the FX prelims. Natal is a BJJ black belt who teaches grappling at Renzo Gracie's school in New York. He's broken even in the UFC with a draw to Jesse Bongfeldt and decision wins over Paul Bradley and Michael Kuiper betwixt losses to Rich Attonito and Andrew Craig. Natal has looked much better on the feet and bolted up his wrestling to complement his slick ground skills, so his diversity and experience make him a likely winner against a UFC first-timer with no A-level opposition on his record.
My Prediction: Rafael Natal by submission.
"The Grin" Thoresen (15 subs, 1 TKO) is even after a pair in the UFC (2nd-round sub over Besam Yousef, 1st-round TKO loss to Seth Baczynski). He's a sub-grappling specialist under Joachim Hansen and has a gangly 79" reach and good experience for a 28-year-old (he defeated the UFC's John Maguire by decision in BAMMA). Though winless in the Octagon, Mitchell's unsuccessful debut against T.J. Waldburger set a UFC record for most submission attempts in a fight and he proved he had a concrete chin and a big heart while Paulo Thiago wailed away on him at UFC 134 in Brazil.
Mitchell isn't a big striking threat so, in what seems like a competitive match up on paper, I'm leaning towards Thoresen for his slightly more polished striking and considerable length.
My Prediction: Simeon Thoresen by decision.