The Mandalay Bay will host Saturday's UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar Elite light-heavyweights top off the stacked main card as former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazilian veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. As usual, the FX channel and Facebook will whet your appetite with a solid preliminary card.
Here's the entire event lineup followed by the breakdown of the preliminary card match ups.
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Chico Camus vs. Dustin Kimura
Lightweight bout(13-3) --
I never realized how similar Tibau and Dunham are until the wheels started turning on this match. They're both 5'10" lefties with solid boxing, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu. That medley of traits earned Dunham the "3D" nickname that, for some reason, never seems to have caught on. Tibau has become a gatekeeper of sorts, which is an outright honor considering how loaded the UFC's lightweight class is, and Dunham was an undefeated "Future of the Division" prospect until his initial ascension stalled with a few losses.
I wouldn't call Dunham's last decision loss to T.J. Grant controversial, even though that case can be made and a few media outlets penned him in for the win, but his first career loss to Sean Sherk at UFC 119 definitely fit that bill. Betwixt those flaws was a definitive and inarguable knockout loss to Melvin Guillard, but Dunham piled on a pair of wins (Shamar Bailey by decision, Nik Lentz by TKO) leading into the Grant fight.
Tibau has engaged a legion of top-shelf talent and still emerged with a 10-5 UFC record. Since his decision loss to Jim Miller in September 2010, Tibau has notched wins in 4 of his last 5 and the only loss -- to rising Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov -- was ultra-competitive throughout. Despite losing every round on the judges' score cards, most media members saw it the exact opposite and gave Tibau all 3 rounds.
I expect this match to be quite evenly contested as well. At the core, I consider them altogether comparable in striking, wrestling and grappling, yet Tibau, a rhino-sized lightweight known for his extreme weight cuts, is the more physically imposing fighter, which will probably give him a slight push in the clinch and wrestling categories.
Both Dunham and Tibau are respected BJJ black belts. However, Dunham's submission prowess is more spectacular than he gets credit for: pre-UFC, he not only defeated but submitted Cleber Luciano (2008 No-Gi World Champion, TUF 11 BJJ coach) and Team Alpha Male's Dustin Akbari (2012 World No-Gi 3rd place, Ultimate Fitness BJJ coach). Tibau seems to apply his submission grappling from a positional standpoint to complement his striking and, like with everything else, attacks with a steady, low risk and methodical pace, whereas Dunham is more aggressive, dynamic and venomous when pursuing catches.
The Brazilian has made encouraging strides with his boxing, particularly in his defense, and lances straight lefts and rights from a compact stance. He's not the type to unload many kicks, massive haymakers or flying knees, and really doesn't do anything extraordinary or flashy on the feet. Dunham is more of a head-hunter who hurls wide-sailing hooks and uppercuts in the pocket and commands range from the fringe with a laser-straight 1-2. His straight left hand is deadly and his best weapon on the feet, albeit a tad under-used.
The difference here boils down to their contrasting conduct and mentalities: Tibau will steadily plug away with pressuring combinations while following behind his punches to clinch up and impose his size and strength; Dunham always has electric spurts of volatile offense and generally prefers to sling heavy counters while circling into open space, but his go-for-broke style can also actualize as a defensive liability and is surely the source of his ebb-and-flow rhythms.
You are free to choose which mindset will be more effective. While Dunham falling back for a sacrifice guillotine in the clinch or winding up with a corkscrew punch could be the kind of over-assertive tactics that unfold with Tibau surviving and grinding out the round on top, they could also be received as the most memorable offense of the round or even finish the fight.
My Prediction: Evan Dunham by decision.
In the sophomore outing of his long awaited return, respected journeyman Jay Hieron welcomes former Strikeforce welterweight contender Tyron Woodley to the Octagon. Woodley was a D1 wrestler at the University of Missouri and his raw wrestling skill has been substantial enough to carry most of the load in his 11-fight venture. He's coming off his first career defeat, which was a devastating 4th-round salvo of punches and elbows from Nate Marquardt.
Hieron drew a big gun in Jake Ellenberger in his first UFC match since October of 2005, and dropped a competitive decision to the top contender at the UFC on FX 5 show. Along with a contentious split-decision loss to Bellator champ Ben Askren, Hieron remained undefeated since eating an errant jack-hammer from Brad Blackburn in the IFL circa 2007 (11-2 in his last 13).
Woodley is billed as a purple belt in BJJ and has incrementally improved his striking to a serviceable level, but Hieron is a game wrestle-boxer with a considerable advantage on the feet. While few can match Woodley in the takedown department, Hieron is a feisty wrestler himself: he earned a Ju-Co wrestling championship at Nassau Community College, transferred to Hofstra University (Division 1) and went to nationals his junior year, and was ranked #3 going into his senior year but was booted from the squad for a wacky-tobackey violation.
It looks like I'm going against the grain in this one too, as Woodley's wrestling advantage doesn't outweigh Hieron's edge in height (5'11" vs. 5'9"), reach (75" vs. 73") experience (especially top-shelf experience) and striking technique and power.
My Prediction: Jay Hieron by decision.
Green is another Strikeforce crossover who strung 4-straight wins together under the Strikeforce banner after dropping a split decision to Gesias Cavalcante in his debut. Barring that loss and another in his 3rd pro fight, Green has only been defeated by UFC caliber opposition: Dan Lauzon, David Mitchell (both submissions) and Tim Means (TKO). Green is exceptionally athletic and managed to accrue 2 King of the Cage championships within his first 3 years of MMA as an unpolished talent.
Volkmann has been on fire since dropping to lightweight: he rattled off 5-straight, suffered a hiccup in the form of a Paul Sass triangle-armbar and rebounded with a 1st-round rear-naked choke on Shane Roller in his last. Volkmann was a 3-time D1 All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota and his tenacious style has transferred to MMA quite effectively. He's also started to infuse his offense with submission technique by pursuing arm-triangle variations from the front headlock and in top position.
Green might never be a contender, but his fearless and frenzied style makes him a sensible addition that action-hungry fans should be able to appreciate. He's extremely athletic and aggressive, a stout wrestler and he throws his hands like a madman. His introductory match-making is quite unfavorable, as Volkmann's powerhouse wrestling and unforgiving control seems tailor-made to muffle his ferocity.
My Prediction: Jacob Volkmann by submission.
Vallie-Flagg is the 3rd and final Strikeforce newcomer on the FX prelims, and one to watch out for. The 34-year-old Jackson-Winklejohn rep started his career in mediocre fashion by splitting his first 6 fights but went undefeated in the 11 that followed (10 wins, 1 draw). His latest entry was a split-decision victory over "JZ" Cavalcante that was really more definitive than the split-vote implies, and his overall record stands with 5 TKOs, 5 subs and 5 decisions.
Thugjitsu master Yves Edwards has endured some serious ups and downs since he left the UFC in 2006 on the heels of a TKO loss to Joe Stevenson, but his latest tenure is a rock-solid 4-2 pace that includes a pair of raucous knockouts (Jeremy Stephens, Rafaello Oliveira), a submission (Cody McKenzie) and a decision (John Gunderson). On the flip side, he was out-gunned by lanky TUF winner Tony Ferguson and finished by a picture-perfect left hook from Sam Stout.
Vallie-Flagg is a burly lightweight who will have the edge in chin resistance (never lost by TKO), physical strength and wrestling. He will not, however, have the edge in submission grappling (all 3 losses by submission) nor overall technique against Edwards. At his age, it's tough to call Vallie-Flagg an up-and-comer or a young lion but he's definitely a sleeper after being relegated to Strikeforce preliminary cards. I'll side with the cunning and tactical vet, though I think this is much closer than the betting odds would indicate.
My Prediction: Yves Edwards by submission.
UFC 2nd-timer and Roufusport fighter Chico Camus (4 TKOs, 3 subs) looks to build off a strong effort over Dustin Pague in his premiere (unanimous decision win) against undefeated Hawaiian debutante Dustin Kimura (6 subs, 2 TKOs). Camus was gritty on the feet, with takedowns and in top control against Pague, and his combination of persistent striking and submission defense earned him the nod.
Kimura is coming in as a virtual unknown and untested against top competition, but with an obvious affinity for submission grappling. While I'm not sure how talented he is nor whether Camus can hang with him on the mat, I am sure that Duke Roufus and company will equip the experienced and seemingly well-rounded Camus with an ideal game-plan. Save a blockbuster debut from Kimura, Camus should be too tough and smart for him.
My Prediction: Chico Camus by TKO.
In what should be a fan-friendly firecracker, aggressive brawlers EdwinRoland Delorme was changed to a No Contest after his drug test was flagged for "an undisclosed over-the-counter stimulant." Rivera's latest sequence springs from back-to-back stoppage losses to Erik Koch in the WEC (TKO) and Rueben Duran in his Octagon debut (rear-naked choke).and Francisco Rivera will start the festivities. Tarnishing what would have been his 3rd 1st-round TKO in his last 4 fights, Rivera's destruction of
Figueroa hasn't been in action since his highly debatable split-decision win over Alex Caceres in February of 2012, much of which was facilitated by Caceres being docked 2 full points for consecutive and cringe-inducing (but still unintentional) nut shots. That win came on the heels of a 2nd-round shellacking of Jason Reinhardt after Figueroa earned fans with a gutsy decision loss to Michael McDonald in his UFC premiere. Figueroa also holds a TKO win over the UFC's Johnny Bedford.
Rivera had some holes in his game before, namely with fizzling out late, but seems to be putting things together nicely now, and might have the heaviest hands in the division. Figueroa has a brick chin and excellent recovery, can take it as well as he can give it, and he's shown the heart and cardio to keep pushing hard for all 3 rounds. I see this as an entertaining mutual massacre where Rivera will have to take a strong lead early in order to stifle Figueroa's ability to come back late.
My Prediction: Francisco Rivera by TKO.