This week marked 20 years since UFC 1, and here we are today at UFC 167 from Las Vegas, Nevada. Georges St-Pierre looks to successfully defend his welterweight title yet again, and he'll go up against Johny Hendricks, a gifted KO artist with a great collegiate wrestling background. It's a great fight on a night where you'll see several top flight fighters inside the Octagon on this momentous occasion.
Before we get to the main event (and the main card), we'll look at the preliminary card. I'm sure many are looking forward to the UFC debut of Sergio Pettis, plus a FOTN candidate between Donald Cerrone and Evan Dunham. The UFC 167 preliminary card starts on Facebook/Youtube at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT, and continues on Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT.
Cerrone has been one of the UFC's (and WEC's) most entertaining fighters in the lightweight division. The problem for "Cowboy" has been his ability to get a win over top 10 competition, and that was prevalent again in his 2013 losses to Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. Cerrone did squeeze in a win in between those losses by starching K.J. Noons for 15 minutes. According to Cerrone, this will be his final fight at 155 lbs before a planned drop to featherweight.
Dunham was supposed to be a potential contender at lightweight, and while you can't write him off completely, chances are he won't be able to reach the level of the elite. He lost a tight decision to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FX 8, which dropped him to 3-4 in his last 7 after an 11-0 start to his MMA career. Dunham's highlights include a KO of Per Eklund in his UFC debut, a late submission win over Efrain Escudero, and a FOTN victory against Nik Lentz. While most of Dunham's wins are by submission, he's more than willing to duke it out on the feet, which has led to some great bouts over the past few years.
After going nearly two years between fights, it looks like Ed Herman is back on a regular fighting schedule. The TUF 3 runner-up is coming off a FOTN win over Trevor Smith at UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle, and he did so by standing and trading instead of taking the fight to the ground. Before the Smith fight, "Short Fuse" was loaned to Strikeforce for a one-off bout against Ronaldo Souza, and was on the receiving end of a kimura in the first round. He's settled in to a gatekeeper role at middleweight, and when healthy, he's a difficult outing for most opponents he faces.
This is Leites' second fight in his second stint in the UFC, with the first one ending in August 2009. The BJJ black belt lost a miserably boring title fight against Anderson Silva, and was cut after a controversial split decision loss to Alessio Sakara. After a 6-1 post-UFC performance, the Brazilian was brought back and made his return at UFC 163 in Rio de Janeiro, where he outclassed Tom Watson en route to a unanimous decision. Leites is replacing Rafael Natal, who stepped up to fight (and be knocked out by) Tim Kennedy earlier this month in Fort Campbell.
Story holds the achievement of being the only man to defeat tonight's welterweight title challenger Johny Hendricks. "The Horror" Story won a unanimous decision over Hendricks back in 2010, and then followed that up by beating Thiago Alves in 2011, but his title aspirations have taken a sharp turn for the worse. An upset loss to Charlie Brenneman in June '11 started a run that has seen him lose 4 of his last 6 fights, including a lackluster performance against Mike Pyle at UFC 160.
Ebersole hasn't competed in the Octagon for well over a year. The 32-year-old long time veteran of the sport last fought at UFC 149 in Calgary, where he took a short notice fight against James Head and lost an otherwise dreadful split decision. That snapped a run of 11 straight victories, with his loss against Hector Lombard coming via knee injury.
Mexico's Perez is an intriguing prospect out of Greg Jackson's camp. Perez's UFC debut ended in a bit of controversy when he locked in an armbar against John Albert, but the fight was stopped by referee Kim Winslow when she believed that Albert verbally submitted by yelling in pain. Albert didn't tap, but the scream was enough to give Perez the win. His next two fights saw him KO Ken Stone in just 17 seconds and then pound out Byron Bloodworth in less than 4 minutes. The competition level was raised this past August when he took on Takeya Mizugaki, and while he engaged in a fun back-and-forth war with the former WEC title challenger, Mizugaki emerged the victor by split decision.
Figueroa won FOTN in his UFC debut back in March 2011, losing a unanimous decision to Michael McDonald in Seattle. He was given essentially a "gimme" in his 2nd fight, sending Jason Reinhardt out of the UFC with a second-round TKO. The Texan picked up a controversial win over Alex Caceres, which saw Figueroa kicked in the groin twice, resulting in two points deducted from Caceres' scorecard. Figueroa was manhandled by Francisco Rivera at UFC 156, and this year he hung in tough but couldn't handle the ground game of Roland Delorme. It's quite possible that with a loss tonight he will be cut from the UFC.
High made his return to the UFC just over three years after he was cut for losing his debut to Charlie Brenneman. "The Kansas City Bandit" won 7 straight following his unexpected release, including 3 in a row in Strikeforce. High was due to fight Ildemar Alcantara at UFC on Fuel 10 in Brazil, but was promoted to a fight with Erick Silva when John Hathaway pulled out with an injury. In just 71 seconds, High was submitted via triangle armbar, marking his first ever submission loss in professional MMA. High finally picked up a UFC win with a wicked guillotine choke victory over James Head at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis.
Lapsley is one of just two fighters making their UFC debut tonight. The 33-year-old has bounced around from small-time promotion to small-time promotion, and he was most recently on the wrong end of a controversial technical submission loss to Jay Hieron. Lapsley fought Hieron in the Bellator season 4 welterweight tournament, and was deemed to be unconscious by referee Josh Rosenthal after Hieron sunk in a rear naked choke. That was proven to be incorrect, but the loss stood and it stands as his last defeat. He's since won his last 4, with 3 coming by way of submission.
Yes, Sergio Pettis is the younger brother of Anthony Pettis, the current UFC lightweight champion. At just 20, Pettis is one of MMA's youngest and most talented prospects in the organization, particularly as flyweight and bantamweight look to get a foothold in the UFC. If you take into account his 4 amateur wins, Pettis is undefeated in 13 MMA fights. He's toggled between 125 and 135 lbs in his short career, and possesses a powerful kicking game, good Muay Thai, and an active guard. Pettis was supposed to fight Vaughan Lee, but Lee puled out with an injury, and thus we have the replacement opponent in Campuzano.
Campuzano's 5 WEC and UFC fights ended with 4 defeats and a single FOTN win over Coty Wheeler at WEC 46, but his unsuccessful UFC tenure saw him out of the promotion in early 2011. Post-UFC release, Campuzano has won 5 straight fights, with 4 of them coming at flyweight. His best win is a KO (at flyweight) over Josh Sampo in May of last year. Campuzano was able to take this fight on short notice at bantamweight because his last fight, a split decision over Hideo Tokoro, was also at bantamweight. Expect a drop to flyweight for him regardless of tonight's outcome.
Donovan was called up to the UFC on just over a week's notice to fight Canada's Nick Penner at UFC on FX 6 in Australia. Having been knocked down twice, Donovan rallied in the opening round to floor Penner with a left hook, and the ground-and-pound put Penner out cold for the 1st round KO win. Donovan would not make another comeback victory against Ovince St. Preux, who knocked him out in just a minute. The hard-hitting Villante does not match up favorably for his tendency to get cracked.
Villante is a former collegiate football player who went into professional MMA just four years ago. After a 7-1 start to his career, which took place exclusively at the famed Ring of Combat promotion in New Jersey, Villante signed on with Strikeforce in 2011. Villante lost his first two Strikeforce bouts, but returned to light heavyweight for his ensuing 3 fights, of which he won all of them. Gian's UFC debut ended in controversy when he lost a technical decision to Ovince St. Preux following a 3rd round eye poke. Referee Kevin Mulhall immediately ended the fight when Villante said he couldn't see out of his right eye, with no recovery time given afterward. St. Preux was awarded the majority decision, doubling Villante's disappointment, which he'll look to erase with his first UFC win.