Just one more undercard before Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann...
History Lesson: Andrews, in a familiar storyline, is coming off his TUF stint. He was a blood and guts fighter on the show (earning a 'Fight of the Season' award after his battle with Luke Barnatt), eventually getting horrifically jabbed to death, and finished ("from the bottom!!", as Dana would remind us 20 times over) by Uriah Hall on the show. He debuted in the UFC with a win over Jimmy Quinlan.
As for Abedi, the fighter from Sweden who's been doing Judo since he was seven looks to finally make an impression after a lackluster string of fights.
What both men can do: Dylan is a striker by trade. Most of his wins are by TKO, though watching him, he doesn't seem to do any one thing in a flashy manner. He's got a very thudding, hard right hand (which he can throw from both stances), but most importantly, he's patient in the cage. He's also solid in the clinch, with heavy knees and a sturdy, durable base that can make it tough for grapplers to pull him down.
Abedi is still a bit of a question mark. To be honest, I couldn't really explain to you what kind of figher he is. Yea he has some nice TKO finishes on his resume, but when he made his UFC debut, it was pretty clear the quality of opposition didn't prepare him. Though to be fair, he debuted against Thiago Alves. Nonetheless, three fights in, and he hasn't impressed much.
This is the "what they are good at" section, so let's try this again. While Abedi doesn't stand out, he has still has raw power in his left hand from his southpaw stance. He's also got an excellent low kick from his left leg. He chambers them well, and doesn't get lost in wasted movement.
What both men can't do: Having said that, Abedi doesn't do much else. While he doesn't have any glaring flaws, he's a guy that can be taken down, and isn't particularly durable. His boxing is patient in a way that looks bad to the judges, but I don't mean that as a slam on the judges; he's not very active, and he counters by swinging wild one-twos.
Andrews has a similar problem, which is why this could be a potentially very ugly fight. Despite the reach advantage, Andrews doesn't use it particularly well. He keeps a very crouched, huddled stance, and prefers his battles in close. I'm not sure how that dynamic will play out, but I want to say it favors Dylan. His power will play a role, especially if he can land heavy punches to the body.
X-Factor: Abedi decided to cut to WW for his octagon debut, and subsequent appearances. With the move back to MW, it's possible the comfort in being at his natural weight (despite being a small MW) will play some sort of role.
Prediction: Dylan Andrews by Decision.
History Lesson: Edwards is a decent 2-2 in the UFC, and now fresh off a victory over Josh Neer in what felt like a minor upset (I know I didn't pick Edwards). He's up against a prospect whose 9 victories have all come in the first round.
It's worth highlighting that Thatch has some solid hype leading up to this fight beyond his record: Georges St. Pierre brought him in to prepare for Carlos Condit, and has called him MMA's next "big star". It's what you expect to hear between training partners, but still.
What both men can do: Edwards is a fighter who can be all over the place, technique wise, but it has been a good thing for him so far. His strength is his swift submission game. Even the technically sound Josh Neer has fallen prey to his signature guillotine (making it his 5th win by guillotine). Edwards will be looking for it at every turn.
However, that's not to downplay the rest of his game. A record like that usually indicates a good setup, and while I don't think Edwards is a submission marvel, he prepares his submission offense with a strong pace on the feet. Low kicks, spinning back kicks, and quick combinations highlight his transition game.
This will be a light contrast to Thatch, who is a pure striker. It's normally easy to criticize the opponents in a case like Thatch, given his finishes, but the majority of his opponents had winning records, and not the "3-1/2-0, just started a year ago" kind. He's got a very hard straight right hand, and heavy knees in the clinch. It's hard to say much about his ground game, as footage of Thatch is pretty limited.
What both men can't do: Edwards can be stifled by the wrestle boxers of the division, so the fight will depend on how well Thatch can keep in on the feet.
I like Thatch in this one, despite knowing less about him than Edwards. He's a huge WW, which leads me to believe he'll be able to keep the fight standing long enough to land a right hand. I'm getting a very Hugo Viana vs. Reuban Duran feeling about this bout.
X-Factor: Edwards nearly crotch kicked his way to defeat just seconds into his fight against Maguire. Getting kicked in the nuts in MMA is more Moore's Law than Murphy's. Thatch better bring a full on chastity belt, complete with the lock and key.
Prediction: Brandon Thatch by TKO, round 2.
History Lesson: Elkins is the guy everyone always picks to lose, and never does. Don't let the Chad Mendes obliteration fool you. A veteran with only three losses, this is exactly the kind of fight MMA writers get wrong. After all...Hioki is still so talented. With one loss in his last four in the UFC (the words Clay Guida are starting to sound suspiciously like Leonard Garcia at this point), Hioki absolutely needs this victory. He's the only fighter from Japan who still has the potential to hold a UFC belt, and he has yet to justify that notion.
What both men can do: Elkins just gets it done. He's the FW version of Jon Fitch. He has stifling top control, good standup, and can grapple. He does none of these particularly well, but his ability to combine each makes him a dreadful matchup for a lot of fighters.
Hioki's talents are well documented. He has other wordly grappling, which MMA nerds didn't notice until his complete dummying of grappling guru, Baret Yoshida. Not that his talent wasn't on display sooner, but this aspect of his game explains who he's so praised. His movement in top control is, in my opinion, the most fluid you'll see in MMA. Swift knee slice guard passing, an incredible base from mount, and slick armbar transitions...
What both men can't do: Yet for all that jelly, there's very little toast. He hasn't proven himself the finisher he was in Japan, though he's brought with him some of his bad habits. Hioki's problems, even before his UFC debut, had to do with his mental lapses. The same guy who can make a the grappler look like a novice can make the novice look durable (taking Brian Geraghty to decision is inexcusable). Some of this has to do with his standup, which he's too willing to indulge in. He's actually quite competent, and his range alone makes him difficult to deal with, but he doesn't have much power and his opponents generally fight more aggressively as a result, which looks good to-
X-Factor: The Judges. But hey...you can't leave it in the hands of the people who fail to do the job you're paying them for.
I'm still picking Hioki; for all of his faults, Elkins is like Guida-lite, and even Guida-heavy shouldn't have been enough. Hioki makes a statement in this one.
Prediction: Hatsu Hioki by submission, round 1.
History Lesson: Both guys are coming off tough losses, but not in danger of a pink slip. Though given High's inexplicable cut after one loss in the UFC in 2010, it's a wonder he's still here after losing to Erick Silva in June. High used to be considered a blue chip prospect until he became a now forgotten highlight reel of Marius Zaromskis.
What both men can do: I'd argue that High is still a very solid prospect. He's faltered on the big stage, but his unique combination of agile, fluid wrestling (an incredible single leg in particular) and solid enough boxing make him a threat to virtually one who is a perennial undercarder. He's got good kicks, and very active ground and pound when he turns it up.
Head is similar to High, but of the more submission-specialist variety. He's got decent hands, and a very tricky, fluid submission game.
What both men can't do: High's problem is that he doesn't back pedal well. Not that I could pretend to know what's going on in High's head, but he seems to have the problem many mixed martial artists have: he doesn't when his strikes call for more takedowns, and when his wrestling calls for more strikes. Having said that, I don't think Head's offense is enough to really threaten High enough to lose his composure.
X-Factor: The ghost of Marius Zaromskis.
Prediction: Jason High by Decision.