UFC 158: St. Pierre vs. Diaz at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada will begin with a solid night of fights on the Facebook preliminary card. It's amazing to think a fighter with a win over one of the top 6 six welterweights on the main card is being featured in the vicinity of dinner porn, and status updates.
These are merely appetizers to the main course, but like a good cheese stick dipped in marinara, they promise to go down smoothly, as a number of fighters are either looking to continue their winning ways, or are rebounding from tough losses.
Rick Story has had an uneven WW career to say the absolute least. He debuted with a loss to John Hathaway, then went on an absolute tear that included a win over Johny Hendricks, whom many consider to be the real number one contender. He then lost to Charlie Brenneman and Martin Kampmann. Now everyone knows him as the guy who got the sinuses choked out of him by Demian Maia.
For Mulhern, this fight is about proving, as some of his cohorts have, that Strikeforce fighters were every bit as good as their UFC counterparts.
What both men can do: The book on Story is similar to any other wrestle-boxer. He'll strike to set up his wrestling if his opponent likes to strike, but will use his wrestling to set up strikes if his opponent prefers to grapple. He's got decent strikes, and solid power (though nothing other worldly), and likes to throw in combination. Like most wrestle-boxers, that's the extent of it: they can throw a left hook, right hand combination, but are otherwise lacking in versatility. Still, Story can get in the trenches, and especially for a guy like Mulhern, can bully him in the clinch if he wants.
For Mulhern, as he'll be the taller fighter, he'll need to fight at range. He can box (a bit), so if he chambers his punches he can land from afar, but he'll eventually need to put Story on his back.
What both men can't do: Unfortunately for Quinn, he moves forward when punching, which makes the takedown easier to get for Story, who will already have a massive advantage in the wrestling department. Plus, despite his grappling pedigree, Mulhern works better in top control. Still, as we saw against Jason High, he's capable off his back, willing to go for heel hooks, and go straight to rubber guard when called upon.
Still, that's not what I predict. Story will score some punches on the feet, and out-muscle Quinn. Rick has steadily improved on the feet, winning heated exchanges against Kampmann, and I think will continue that experiment, which will pay dividends.
Prediction: Rick Story by TKO, round 2.
Dillashaw looks to continue his winning streak against the Shooto stalwart who made his debut brutally knocking out the Mongolian Wolf. Dillashaw, like his Alpha Male peers, will look to use the patented stream-of-consciousness improv style brand of mixed martial arts they're known for, while Tamura will look to slow down the pace.
What both men can do: Dillashaw likes to do what Alpha Male is known for, which is to win scrambles, and benefit in the transitions. It makes fights look erratic, and off-kilter, but it's difficult for opponents to figure out. TJ is a little less like Benavidez and Faber, though, in that his style is slightly more streamlined. He prefers the fight on the ground, and works capably and aggressively from top control.
Tamura is like a lot of Shooto guys: mostly well rounded fighters who don't excel at any one particular thing. Tamura has a strong base, and likes to control the fight from the top. He's got a decent double leg for a Shooto fighter (which doesn't set the bar very high, granted) and it's his only chance here. He must get the fight to the ground and pray the judges mistake him for Leonard Garcia.
What both men can't do: Unfortunately Tamura, despite the blasting of Zhang Tiequan, isn't a diverse boxer. He doesn't jab, and when he does exchange, it's just wild flailing.
Truth be told, this is just a mismatch. I think it'll go to a decision, but Dillashaw has real upside at Bantamweight whereas Tamura is just a journeyman.
Prediction: T.J. Dillashaw
It's been a long time since we last saw Roop in the cage. He was knocked out by Cub Swanson and has since had to deal with nagging injuries that knocked him out of fights against Antonio Carvalho and Yuri Alcantara. Duran is also coming off a loss in a fight many expected him to win against Hugo Viana. Both bantamweights are better than their recent losses would indicate.
What both men can do: For Roop, he's got several things going for him. He knows how to starve himself well. Whether or not going on the Christian Bale diet will prove successful is another story. The other is that he's over six feet tall and uses his height relatively well. He started off as a very average fighter and turned into a well rounded mixed martial artists over night. He's got decent pop in his punches and mixes his boxing up by using both feet at range. I know Korean Zombie fans prefer to forget his loss to Roop, but being able to land short chopping kicks like that is what makes him dangerous on the feet.
Duran is no slouch. He's well rounded, but he's at his best when he's swinging or on top. He's got raw power and a good double leg. This will prove to be a tough fight for both men.
What both men can't do: Roop's problems haven't changed since he was the early victim of Phillipe Nover's hype train on TUF 8. He has a tendency of leaving himself wide open. Duran will have no problem finding the sweet spot early. Roop can take a punch; he just can't take too many, Cub Swanson's howitzer notwithstanding. He's always open for the overhand, which is why I think Duran picks up the win here. Neither guy has great defense, but Duran at least gets caught in the middle of an exchange whereas Roop just gets caught regardless.
Prediction: Reuben Duran by Decision.