The FX card for UFC 162 unites a mixture of prospects, and veterans for what should prove to be a very intriguing undercard that while light on competitiveness, should more than make up for in violence.
Chris Leben infamously began his career as the show's coddled bad boy on the debut season of TUF. Shortly after his TUF stint, he developed into a reasonable fighter, scoring some rather impressive victories along the way. However, he's clearly on a downward spiral at this point. He's 0-2 right now, and up against a reasonable opponent in Andrew Craig. Crag is fresh of a loss as well, but it was the first of his career.
The matchup: Just to cut right to the chase, this is an interesting fight for both guys. Leben will do what he always does; get punched in the face, and hope his opponent hasn't gotten out of the way of his wild hook by the time he releases. Leben's an interesting case study in a lack of mechanics creating efficiency. His boxing is notoriously plodding, and predictable, but he lands anyway.
Leben really does have an underrated ground game, but it's hard to say whether or not he'll need it. Chris is good at defending takedowns early, but he's shown a tendency to gas, and there's a question about his focus. Outside factors have been a constant in his career, from his arrest after the Alessio Sakara fight, to his positive steroid test following the Michael Bisping bout. It's tough to predict what kind of Leben will show up; the game underdog that fought and beat Yoshiro Akiyama, or the oxycodone-fueled journeyman that got beat by Mark Munoz.
Not to make light of Leben's problems, but his health should be a concern for everyone involved. In addition, Craig won't be a pushover. Craig is fairly manic. He's got a quick release when it comes to punching, and does a lot of things at a fairly high pace, resembling a larger but less skilled Urijah Faber.
Still, Craig is no lock. He got hurt by Natal, and Leben could capitalize on his recklessness. With that said, Leben is too erratic at this point in his career. He used to have sturdy takedown defense, and even that seems to waning, which should play a factor against Andrew, who is prone to trip takedowns.
Prediction: Andrew Craig by Decision.
Both fighters have had little time to acclimate themselves into the UFC, but both have won their UFC debuts, with an assist from Joe Silva.
Parke took out Colin Fletcher in his last bout in a fight that was very very light on action. His clinch grinding style didn't earn him style points, but it'll prove useful against Tokudome, who would prefer to be in top control, or on the feet.
The matchup: Tokudome is like a lot of fighters from the current Pancrase scene; fluid, but not dynamic. While he's got range, he doesn't use it well. Just watch his bout with Isao Kobayashi; he gets blitzed, rocked, and figures his best way to get himself out of the fish dance hole is by swinging some more. Needless to say, it doesn't end well for him. For whatever reason, Shooto (see the Mizugaki/Osawa for another example) and other low profile Japanese organizations always have these sorts of fights on display.
Luckily for Kazuki, Parke won't bullrush him. Parke will look to do what he does best, imitating Jon Fitch, but with less grace. I like Tokudome to utilize his Judo to prevent Parke from getting inside, or establishing 'cage control'. I don't like his chance of convincing the judges of his victory, however.
Prediction: Kazuki Tokudome by Decision.
Gonzaga was on a nice little run before getting his brainstem obliterated by Travis Browne. We have rules against brainstem punches right? Anyway, Gonzaga has always been a talented HW. With his incredible jiu jitsu pedigree, and a heavy right hand, you'd think it would take him to the top. And it almost did at UFC 74. Alas...Gonzaga shares a bit in common with Dave Herman; two fighters are who don't seem psychologically equipped to handle aspects of MMA that would otherwise benefit them.
The matchup: This fight goes one of two ways. Either one guy loses quickly, or both guys embarrass themselves slowly. This will be a dreadful fight to watch if it goes three rounds. Herman fights like he wish he had a sleeping bag in the cage with him, right next to a plate of smores and those creepy Stephen Gammell-drawn Scary Stories children's books. He looks like he'd rather have a campfire.
Pretty much any derogatory statement about Herman, you can fill in the blanks here. The guy just doesn't seem to care. Gonzaga at least tries, and that will be the difference. Gabe is a fighter that relies on momentum. If he has it, he wins. If he doesn't, or it sways in his opponent's favor, he loses. Still, Herman's porous defense will leave him vulnerable to Gabe's right hand, and a knockdown will lead to a submission.
Prediction: Gabriel Gonzaga by Decision.
Edson Barboza (11-1) vs. Rafaello Oliviera (15-5) Lightweight
Even though Barboza had an impressive win in his last outing, chances are, the loss to Jamie Varner still lingers for most people. It was a brutal beatdown over a prospect many believed was can't-miss in terms of potential. Nonetheless, in MMA, you're allowed a brutal whipping every once in awhile. Not event he greats (our headliner included) have avoided brutal losses.
His opponent is expected to be another victim. Oliviera isn't being given much of a chance in this bout, which is wise, but not certain. I remember seeing his debut live at UFC 103 against Nik Lentz. However it played for those at time, the crowd seemed into it. Oliviera would be wise to keep the fight at a similar pace; in close, and at full speed.
The matchup: Unfortunately for a guy like Rafaello, who isn't a dynamic wrestler, Barboza has some decent takedown defense. While Barboza is still raw in this area, preferring the high-wire sprawls, and limp legs ala Jose Aldo, it's not always wise against a fighter with a strong grip, or an ability to land strikes in the transitions, which is how Varner scrambled his brains like eggs.
Edson won't have to worry about Oliviera's takedowns, but you don't have to be wrestling dynamo to end up on the ground, and Barboza needs to learn how to comfortable from his back moving forward.
Still, Barboza is a treat to watch, and this bout should prove to be another showcase. His height alone will make Oliviera's ability to get inside virtually impossible.
Prediction: Edson Barboza by TKO, round 2.