Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
UFC on FOX 6 is filled with plenty of quality fights, and the preliminary card is no exception. There are 7 fights instead of 8 following Michael Kuiper's fights with Buddy Roberts and Josh Janousek being scratched after injuries to Roberts and Janousek. You have the debut of Clay Guida at 145, rising Canadian lightweight T.J. Grant fights Matt Wiman, and 42-year-old Vladimir Matyushenko fights Ryan Bader.
This might be the toughest fight to pick on the prelims, and it's arguably the best one, which is why it closes out the FX broadcast. The Canadian submission specialist has a 3-0 record at lightweight, including an uspet win over Evan Dunham at UFC 152 where he displayed impressive striking. Wiman is by far his toughest test, as he's never been submitted and is on one of the best runs of his career. Grant's improving skillset has made this the must-see matchup of the preliminary card.
Wiman is a grizzled veteran who is just about never in a boring fight. He has a well-rounded game and only Spencer Fisher's flying knee has stopped him. Wiman went to England to take on another lightweight prospect in Paul Sass, who specializes in triangle chokes and heel-hooks. The fight went to the ground immediately, and not only did Wiman fend off Sass, he pulled off a 1st round armbar win to end Sass' unbeaten run. That win improves him to 5-1 in his last 6, with that one loss a narrow decision against Dennis Siver. While he hasn't quite been able to beat the top of the division, a win over Grant would once again establish his current position as one of the best fighters in the "2nd tier" of the UFC's stacked lightweight division.
Guida is in a must-win situation following a two-fight losing streak, including an absolute stinker against Gray Maynard. He's starting his career anew at featherweight, where he should hold a significant strength advantage in the wrestling department. His cardio is one of the best in the sport, and his ability to push the pace and hold inferior wrestlers down could make him a force at 145. There are still questions of how aggressive he'll be in his striking and going for submissions, and his first test is one of the best FWs in the world.
Hioki was deemed the best featherweight outside of the UFC when he was signed by the promotion in 2011, but his narrow win over George Roop did nothing to suggest that was true. He put on a grappling clinic against Bart Palaszewski in Japan at UFC 144, but his road to a title shot was derailed by Ricardo Lamas at UFC on FX 4 in June. He hold a reach advantage in the stand-up, but his path to victory is usually through takedowns and submissions. We could be in for an exciting ground battle if Hioki is aggressive in his submission attempts, as Guida has a clear wrestling advantage. Guida has been submitted 6 times, while Hioki has never been finished in his 5 losses.
Bader was once seen as a potential contender at 205 lbs, but his 2-3 record since 2011 has effectively buried those aspirations. His two-fight win streak was snapped last August when Lyoto Machida knocked him out in the 2nd round in a largely non-competitive battle. He is known for his powerful right hand and strong takedowns, which he's successfully used in virtually all of his UFC wins, including winning The Ultimate Fighter on one-punch against Vinny Magalhaes.
Matyushenko is in his 40s and certainly past his best, but he's had a good 2nd run in the UFC. He went 4-1 with a single loss to Jon Jones -- this was Jones' fight immediately prior to defeating Ryan Bader in February 2011 -- but another talented prospect in Alexander Gustafsson flattened Matyushenko in the 1st round at UFC 141. Vladimir did not fight at all in 2012, battling a torn achilles tendon.
Natal's time in the UFC has been fairly mixed. The Brazilian failed to win his first two fights against Rich Attonito and Jesse Bongfeldt respectively, but then won his next two fights before losing by KO to Andrew Craig. It's fairly reasonable to suggest he could be cut with a loss tonight. Before entering the UFC he knocked out Travis Lutter, the Michael Jordan of BJJ. A recent problem for Natal has been fading in the later rounds, which cost him against Craig, Jesse Bongfeldt (scored a draw), and nearly against Michael Kuiper.
Spencer is a last-minute replacement for the injured Magnus Cedenblad. He's done so much as move up from welterweight to be an undersized middleweight to mark his UFC debut. Spencer, nicknamed "Black Magik", has won 3 straight fights in the regional circuits. He's fought in both Legacy FC and Bellator during that streak. Spencer is naturally an underdog in this one, but stranger things have happened when opponents are switched near fight time.
The only heavyweight fight on the entire card pits Chicago-native Mike Russow against former LSU fullback Shawn Jordan. Russow is coming off a TKO loss to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 147, marking the first time he'd ever been stopped with strikes. Mike is best known for his Homer Simpson-esque ability to absorb punishment against Todd Duffee, and ultimately knocking Duffee out cold with 2:25 left in the final round. But beyond that, he is quietly 4-1 in the UFC and his only other career loss was in 2007 against Sergei Kharitonov. Laugh at his physique and his hammerfist of doom all you want, he's proven to be a more than competent HW in the sport.
Jordan fought in Strikeforce, going 1-1 with a win over Lavar Johnson and a loss to Devin Cole. He debuted in the UFC with a TKO win over Oli Thompson last March. Fighting on short-notice for the injured Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Jordan lost a unanimous decision to Cheick Kongo. While he possesses powerful striking, he lacks the submission game of Russow, so that could be a big challenge to face come fight night.
Krauss' nickname is "Panzer", which is German for "Tank". What does that have to do with this preview? Nothing in particular, it's just a cool nickname. Anyway, the German hasn't had much action in the UFC since he debuted in 2010. He won FOTN honors in a decision win over Mark Scanlon, but injuries prevented him from competing at all in 2011. His only fight of 2012 was a decision loss to John Hathaway. The 26-year-old primarily goes for submissions, particularly the rear-naked choke, which he's used in 4 of 7 submission wins. Krauss currently trains under Duke Roufus in Wisconsin.
Stumpf has faced a similar level of inactivity recently, with just 1 UFC fight in just under 2 years. That sole fight was in September 2011 against T.J. Waldburger, who submitted him in the first round. Like Krauss, Stumpf generally wins by submission, with 4 of his 7 wins coming by rear-naked choke. Krauss is the favorite in this one, and if Stumpf doesn't pull off the upset he's quite likely on his way out of the UFC.
This is as close to a "loser goes home" matchup as you'll see. The Joachim Hansen-trained Thoresen has 15 of 17 career wins by submission, including one in his UFC debut against Besam Yousef. He was knocked out in his next fight against Seth Baczynski at UFC 152. The list of notable opponents he has fought is sparse, but he does hold a decision win over current UFC middleweight John Maguire.
Mitchell is in must-win mode, having not fought in over a year as well as losing both of his UFC fights (to T.J. Waldburger and Paulo Thiago). He's never been submitted and 9 of his 11 wins have come via submission. His most notable win is a split decision against former UFC fighter and porn star War Machine. This is sure to be another predominantly grappling affair, with a place in the UFC likely at stake.