UFC on FOX Sports 1 is a solid card from top to bottom, and there's no snark needed for any of the usual caveats. There are compelling matchups at every level of the card, and this weekend at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, the fireworks will begin with some intriguing Facebook Preliminaries.
Manvel (which I always thought was a nickname for the rather appropriate description of a human who looks half-anvil, like Manny) made a name for himself on TUF as a sturdy, stifling top control grappler with raw power in his hands. And he did it by getting through Matt Wiman, and Joe Lauzon, before injuring himself in the finale against Nate Diaz. Even his preliminary victory over Noah Thomas (the guy everyone remembers for his Tiki Torch backyard brawl with Marlon Sims) ended up looking decent enough in retrospect.
Since then he's had a very up and down career that has seen more downs than ups. He's 6-6 in the UFC, and has never found a rhythm in the octagon. How you destroy Mike Brown one night, and end up getting your head flung around like a Paddle Ball by Rob Emerson the next (with a punch thrown with Emerson on his knees and elbows no less) sort of defies comprehension. But he's not a guy to underestimate.
What both men can do: Cole's strength is his grappling. He was able to submit Jorge Gurgel, and in most fights it's evident that as a submission fighter, he's never content just to lay on his back and think about going for the submission. He just does it. He's been explicit about being someone that "finishes fights", and has no problem walking that walk. His last 6 wins in the octagon are by submission. He's a pleasure to watch when he focuses on implementing his ground game.
His striking is also a little better than mediocre. What he lacks in technique he makes up for in deceptive power, and reach. I hate extrapolating too much from his Ross Pearson victory, but as it's easily his most significant, it also represents what he's capable of. He had no problem exchanging with Pearson, so there's something to be said for tenacity.
For Manny, it's his top control with nets him wins. He's never been submitted because of his ridiculous center of gravity. Joe Lauzon and even Nate Diaz (in the limited amount of time the two fought) both seemed consumed by him like he was that oil slick monster from Creepshow. Manny has a decent arsenal of submissions, but he rarely elects to take chances. This makes him more dangerous to fans critical of such a style than to judges.
His wild brawling style isn't something I'd expect to see a lot of in this bout, but when he throws, he throws with authority. There's not much technique involved, but those Vovchanchyan ridgehands get the job done.
What both men can't do: The amount of things we can list here would exhaust even Marcel Proust, so I'll focus in just a few since I've still got two fights to preview and I'm already at 600+ words. Miller's problem is his defense on the feet. He has little regard for his health at times, and this has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion.
Likewise for Gamburyan. His short stature makes him seem more limited than he already is; he doesn't throw kicks, and his punches are all the same (winging rights and lefts).
X-Factor: Staying healthy, even during a fight has long been one of Gamburyan's biggest hurdles in trying to fight with any consistency. His shoulder will always remain a problem. It was injured before he entered Season 5 of TUF, and has been injured twice since then. One during the Diaz fight, and again before his bout with Diego Nunes at UFC 135. He has suffered five injuries total during his UFC/WEC tenure so don't be surprised if his fight finder ends up saying he lost by TKO (injury).
Ultimately I like Cole in this one. His reach will allow him to land from afar, and while I don't like his chances on the ground because Manny is more than capable of stifling him from the top, I think the cardinal rule applies; the longer the fight, the more the fight favors the more dynamic fighter. Expect Cole to land some good punches, and defend takedowns, but not always in that order.
Prediction: Cole Miller via Decision.
A fine matchup with both guys coming off of odd wins; as in, neither guy looked impressive in their last outing. I'm sure you think I'm insane to say that of Donovan, who scored FOTN honors, but he was "lucky" to beat Penner. St. Preux was lucky that eye poke didn't occur before the 3rd round.
What both men can do: Cody Donovan has a solid all around game, but he excels from his back, where he looks eerily similar to Cole Miller in terms of form; he's got quick setups, and never stops looking for the submission from his back.
OSP has a similarly well rounded game; strong kicks, decent punches, and a fluidity on the ground that betrays his technical deficiencies.
What both men can't do: Unfortunately the phrase "fluidity that betrays his technical deficiencies" describes the rest of OSP. He can throw a punch, but he can't chain them. He can land a takedown, but he can't create effective scrambles as a result. He can throw a kick...etc. At 30 years of age, I don't expect him to suddenly blossom.
Donovan, meanwhile, isn't a versatile striker. He seems to have decent power, but his defense will get him battered in this one. Penner is less skilled on the feet than OSP (though to be fair, he countered nicely) in my opinion, and he had no problem catching Donovan constantly shooting for takedowns, largely because Donovan failed to set them up.
X-Factor: A sinkhole directly underneath the octagon at the TD Garden.
Prediction: Ovince St. Preux by TKO, round 2.
What both men can do: Nijem has proven himself to be a solid prospect during his UFC tenure. With his wrestling prowess, it'll be very hard to for most opponents to stop him from dictating the pace early on. While he's not a strong striker, like many wrestlers turned mixed martial artists, he possesses good raw power, and throws with mean intentions.
Vick, another TUF alumni, will look to expand on his technically spotless record. Despite only four professional fights, he earned himself solid experience on the show, beating solid opponents in Joe Proctor and Daron Cruickshank. Vick is not just a smooth striker with fantastic reach (standing 6'3), but he varies his kicks well, going low (as he did against Cruickshank), as well as high. His high kicks are chambered well, with little wind up, and his grappling is incredibly fluid.
What both men can't do: Nijem's problem is that as he expends energy going for takedowns and slams, this leaves open to gassing. Being incredibly raw on the feet only exacerbates matters. I'd expect Vick to take advantage of this, though like many late bloomers, Vick himself steel leaves himself fairly wide open.
X-Factor: Vick's progression and Nijem's cardio. Vick has made subtle improvements to his game. Namely his takedown defense. If that progression continues, I like him to defend just enough so that later on in the feet, as Nijem theoretically gasses, Vick will pounce with his arsenal of kicks, punches, and knees. The fact that he land at a distance should make it even worse for Nijem. This is a tough one to predict, but I think Vicks uses his reach and array of strikes to take the V.
Prediction: James Vick by TKO, round 3.