History Lesson: Varner has a nice string of performances going, which is unusual for a guy who was marked in the WEC as a very inconsistent fighter (which dates back to his Hermes Franca fight, where he tried to Usain Bolt his way across the octagon). With a win over Melvin Guillard, his opponent this time will the perennial veteran...Gleison Tibau, who will celebrate the fact that this will be his 20th fight (!!!) in the UFC.
What both men can do: The thing about Varner is that he seems to possess all the tools to be a world champion. His boxing is very impressive, and not just for a wrestler-turned mixed martial artist. He throws crisp combinations with speed and power, and absolutely adores going to the body. The bombs he landed on Joe Lauzon's kidneys were cringe-inducing.
His ability to properly wrestle is now just an addendum to his overall game. For Tibau, he's bringing with him the same tools he always does; size, crisp enough boxing, good grappling, and more size. Critics too often chalk his ability up to the fact that he's a treefolk in a lightweight Brazilian body. But he's a very calculating, competent fighter who does everything well to still have a career in the UFC, 20 fights into the Zuffa-owned promotion later.
What they can't: Tibau is similar to many lightweight fighters, in that he doesn't do that one thing well enough to have a chance against the elite. He's especially powerful with his strikes, and his grappling, while solid, doesn't threaten with any one go-to move. For that reason, I like Varner here. The striking will be relatively even early on, but I think Tibau could be a little rattled at some point. While he's never been officially knocked out, there's a time and place for everything, and Varner is as good as anyone at being a candidate to crack Tibau's chin.
It's not that I think Varner will win by knockout. It's that I think a few right hands landed here and there will put Tibau on the defensive.
X-Factor: Tibau shatters his endocrine system at the weigh-ins.
Prediction: Jamie Varner by Decision.
History Lesson: Gaudinot began his career on the Ultimate Fighter, merely as a plug 'with personality'. After all...nobody would remember him for his fighting ability. Instead he'd be remembered for a head that's been dipped in freeze dried guacamole. Now here we are standing in the presence of the impossible...Gaudinot is actually a solid flyweight, and that's the first thing I notice about him.
Amazingly enough, this is a fantastic fight that should take the place of Vera vs. Rothwell, were this a perfect world. Guadinot's opponent is Tim Elliot, a fighter with an awkward stance, and guts for days; his perseverance was on display against John Dodson, who yes, he probably caught on a 'bad day', but for which he still deserves credit. Both men are coming off wins; Gaudinot over John Lineker, Elliot over Jared Papazian.
What both men can do: Elliot's game is sort of difficult to translate into sentences. He switches stances a lot (presumably to better hide his takedowns), and leans in oddly with strikes. He throws a stiff jab, and is always looking for chokes. Normally I would chalk up the stance switching to wasted movement, but the fact that he lands his knee taps on the regular leads me to believe there's a connection. It's definitely a strength of his, and once on the ground, he's highly active. Not only does he use his strikes on top to set up position, but his position often sets him up to land better strikes.
Cat Power once said that 'life is hard, and it gets worse and worse and worse'...but the problem with cynicism begging for justification is that it's never seen the first 30 seconds of Gaudinot vs. Lineker. Those magical 30 seconds are on tap for me anytime things get "heavy". Like Bill Dance bloopers, your mind should never leave home without it.
Guadinot does the things most flyweights do well: which is fight. He's got solid combinations to go along with sturdy wrestling
What they can't: With that said, everyone has their flaws, and with Gaudinot, he can be bullied...which is essentially how he lost to Johnny Bedford. At 5'3, even most flyweights will have reach on him. Having said that, he's got the advantage on the feet against Elliot. Elliot's problem is that for the twisting and turning, he has a horrible habit of leaning down directly into strikes. I get that he's doing, and he has a good enough chin to get away with it, but it's a really bad habit that he'll end up paying for. Especially against someone who can throw combinations, like Louis.
X-Factor: Gaudinot has been out for almost 16 months. Ring rust? Some day there's gonna be scientific study done on this, and I'm betting it doesn't exist but we'll pretend it does in case Gaudinot fans need an excuse should he lose.
Prediction:Louis Gaudinot by Decision.
History Lesson: Krauss debuted in the UFC back in 2010 and has only fought 3 times in that span. His only loss was by decision to John Hathaway. As for Lim, he made a successful debut in Japan at the Silva vs. Stann card. This is a solid fight that will net the winner a very good opponent in the future.
What both men can do: Krauss has shown himself a student of the game when it comes to grappling. He's trained under the tutelage of many different grappling veterans. While his grappling is his strength (the RNC being his specialty), he's shown a willingness and ability to stand in recent years. He keeps a strong base, and chambers his strikes well from his traditional stance.
On the other end is more of a specialist. Lim loves to stalk his opponents. Constantly walking forward, he keeps his hands outstretched, always ready to unload that heavy right hand. When he wants, he flickers a good jab, and often opts for the outside kick.
What they can't: Having said that, it's difficult to say much about Lim's ground game. He's been able to bully his opponents in recent years, but that will not be the case against Krauss, who has proven himself to be durable in the UFC.To me, Krauss is still a solid prospect, with a lot of upside whereas Lim is the specialist who picks up wins only when his opponent plays his game. I like Krauss to stay upright, and compete on the feet just long enough turn an exchange into a scramble that allows him to secure the hooks, and ultimately the choke.
X-Factor: As an extension of the analysis, it's important to remember that Krauss had to pull out of the scheduled fight with Gunnar Nelson when a training partner caved in his entire abdomen with a single knee to the body. If his torso is really that vulnerable, I'd suspect Lim would be wise to target that area. He's already got a solid arsenal of knees to the body and head. Just saying...
Prediction:Pascal Krauss by RNC, round 2.
History Lesson: Chico gets hometown advantage in this one, despite recently getting his four fight winning streak broken by Dustin Kimura in his last bout. Kang is technically not coming off a loss because Alex Caceres decided to smoke weed before their bout. Which wouldn't have even been an issue if the judges got the fight right to begin with.
What both men can do: Chico is a sturdy, durable fighter who relies on his boxing to get him through most bouts. He switches stances well, striking from traditional as well as southpaw. His right hand is probably his best punch, which he'll throw as a hook, or just a nasty straight.
While his grappling is serviceable, he'll be looking to keep this one on the feet. Which leads me to Kang, who has proven himself to be an adept grappler. He had no problem going back and forth with Cacares (who has proven himself as anything but a punchline when it comes to grappling), and does solid work in top control, relying on guard passing and just general fundamentals to gain victory. He also owns one of the smoothest mount-to-armbar transitions you're likely to see.
What they can't: Unfortunately the same can't be said of his striking. His striking isn't terrible, but it's aided by the fact that he masks his flaws well with his grappling. His defense leaves a lot to be desired when the fight stays on the feet for too long, and this is where Chico will capitalize. It's not an easy pick by any stretch. On the ground, Kang has the advantage, and his submissions are slick enough that I wouldn't be shocked to see him outgrapple opponents better than Camus, but I like the matchup for Camus who I feel can keep the fight upright.
X-Factor: It depends. Does Chico Camus happen to be Alex Cacares' pot dealer?
Prediction: Chico Camus by Split Decision.