UFC 167: Fox Sports 1 previews and prognostications

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Plenty of solid fights dominate the Fox Sports 1 card for UFC 167. Who will win in the battle of once-contenders when Donald Cerrone faces off against Evan Dunham? Can Rick Story prove his win over Johny Hendricks was no fluke against Brian Ebersole?

Donald Cerrone (20-6-1 NC) vs. Evan Dunham (14-4) Lightweight

When we last left our heroes...There's no way this fight doesn't deliver, so let's start with that. Both guys have led incredibly similar careers insofar as they were once thought of as blue chip prospects, only to stumble along the way. Despite losing their identity as contenders, both men are quality LW's in what could easily be fight of the night.

Cerrone is currently 4-3 in his last seven. He's looked very good in victory, and only seemed to be out of his element against Anthony Pettis, the current LW champ. I thought the dos Anjos fight was competitive, but I don't feel like either fighter ever really took control, and dos Anjos is quietly one of the better LW's in the division.

Evan is currently 3-4 in his last seven, but one of this occurred in the land before time apparently, as Sean Sherk is on his loss column. Dunham was also beaten by Rafael dos Anjos in his last bout.

What both men can do: Cerrone has always been a threat on the feet to anyone who steps in the cage with him. The fact that he's got an adamantium chin, brutal leg kicks, and brutal leg kicks, means even standup specialists may want to avoid the striking battle (see Melvin Guillard). His boxing isn't bad, though sometimes a little erratic, and he's a real treat to watch when he's stringing together his jab with his straight right.

Also, Cerrone is a very solid, offensive grappler. He's an underrated thinker in the cage, as he's prone to a rather solid knee tap (as he showed against Jamie Varner), and is able to generally transition where ever he needs to.

Dunham is very similar to Cerrone except his striking is 'grungier'; he's technically sound, and throws straight punches, but can get caught in firefights, and is sometimes slow to defend against quicker fighters. Like Cerrone, he's an excellent grappler, able to scope out the chokes available to him well in advance.

What both men can't do: I've already covered some of their weaknesses. In addition, Dunham is a slow starter. I prefer Cerrone here because I think his ability on the feet is much sharper. Evan still has solid enough technique to keep it close, but Evan, despite being durable, is the kind of guy who sometimes takes more punishment than is necessary, and you need only watch the Nik Lentz fight to realize his shortcomings on the feet.

X- Factor: Round one. This is exactly the kind of fight where it could be close, and if it is, what Dunham did or didn't do will be the deciding factor, as it's often been in his bouts.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone by Decision.

Ed Herman (21-9-1 NC) vs. Thales Leites (21-4) Middleweight

When we last left our heroes...I can't get over how appropriate this fight is. It's the kind of fight I feel has happened before.

I could never pinpoint what made Herman's career so durable. He's a solid fighter, but seems to pick up wins he shouldn't while racking up losses he shouldn't either. Nonetheless, he's got a solid record right right now at 4-1-1 NC over his last six. The loss was to Jacare, and the NC to Jake Shields. Not bad.

As for Leites, he's also got only one loss in his last six, in this case to Matt Horwich (which he avenged), at Powerhouse World Promotions: War on the Mainland, Violence near the Beach, Slaughter in Santa Monica...or whatever arbitrarily long subtitle for said midwestern promotion was.

For a guy who once fought Anderson SIlva for the title, this is a departure. But he seems to have his head on straight, and with his talent, it's something we should all welcome.

What both men can do: Herman's striking is pretty fundamental and slow, but he's able to really throw leather at times. I mean, just look at his bout with Trevor Smith. Honestly I thought that fight was comically over the top, with both guys looking like they were shadowboxing for Zuffa cameramen in a Buzz Lightyear suit.

But it was fun, and that's the kind of heart Herman brings. He's a very saavy grappler, and is incredibly underrated in that respect. Much of this describes Leites in a way. Leites entered the UFC with a lot of hype thanks to BJ Penn, who put in a good word to the Zuffa brass, and only truly disappointed once.

Leites brings a solid grappling pedigree to compliment his striking. He actually wasn't doing too bad against Martin Kampmann in his debut, and has made small but significant improvements over the years (his gas tank failed him in that fight).

What both men can't do: It's that polished striking that I think is the deciding factor here. I believe this is a very close fight, but I believe Leites' improvement, and movement and technique on the feet will net him the win over an often sloppy Ed Herman who won't be strong enough to grind out a decision through top control.

X- Factor: Ed Herman wears an Anderson Silva costume Al Jolson style, and Leites pulls guard for fifteen minutes.

Prediction: Thales Leites by Decision.

Brian Ebersole (50-15-1-1 NC) vs. Ricky Story (15-7) Welterweight

When we last left our heroes...It's been forever since we last saw Ebersole in the cage. In this case forever was in 2012, and he he's done something unique since then - take time off. It's a bizarre concept for a lot of people, but sometimes it's the best medicine.

Dr. Phil cliches aside, Ebersole is 11-1 in his last 12. His opponent, Rick Story is in a different place...also coming off a loss, but 2-4 in his last six. Right now, the fighter with a win over the WW title contender is known more for his brutal neck crank nose faucet loss to Demian Maia. He'll need to be sharp against the crafty veteran in this one.

What both men can do: Ebersole is a strange case...none of what he does seems to pass the eyeball test, yet his record says otherwise. With his hard straight left from his southpaw stance, sturdy wrestling, and eccentric kicks...no opponent will ever mistake him for a run of the mill wrestle-boxer.

He's also incredibly effective in the clinch. One of the reasons why I like this fight is that so is Rick Story. He's a strong wrestler who has excelled recently at throwing hard left and right hooks from his southpaw stance (often going to the body) to effectively switch levels when he needs to.

What both men can't do: Ebersole is pretty solid defensively, but he's also fairly workmanlike, and can be swarmed if done intelligently. He's hittable for the most part, and despite having a good chin, will not score points with the judges if Story lands his punishing combos.

It's difficult to really judge this fight. I favor Story because I like what he can do on the feet and how he can get it to the ground when he wants, but Ebersole has solid chops on the ground, and could potentially even submit Story. I personally doubt it, and like Story to land combinations in close and on the outside for a very tough, clinchy, decision.

X- Factor: This is exactly the kind of fight judges screw up.

Prediction: Rick Story by Decision.

Erik Perez (13-5) vs. Edwin Figueroa (9-3) Bamtamweight

When we last left our heroes...Both guys are coming off losses, but both are very similar in that they're well rounded and dynamic, but just can't quite compete with the upper echelon.

What both men can do: One of the things I like about Perez is that when he strikes, he keeps the combinations going, and does it all inside. He keeps his hands close to his body, and lands chopping hooks in tight. He looked good against Mizugaki. Most of his wins are by submission (4 of his 7 are by RNC), so he's capable on the ground as well.

Figueroa captured the hearts of MMA fans around the world with his slugfest with Michael McDonald on less than two weeks notice. He throws wild lopping right and left hands from his traditional stance, and has 6 KO's to his name of a possible 9 to prove it.

What both men can't do: I like Perez to outbox Figueroa. While Edwin's power is an immense equalizer, I just think Perez is the much better technician and has good enough defense that he should be able to avoid being hit.

X- Factor: The ghost of Alex Caceres' feet.

Prediction: Erik Perez by Decision.

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