We start February with the UFC's first PPV of the new year, it's annual Super Bowl weekend show. Unlike past years where the precursor to the Super Bowl was a Las Vegas card, they're moving to Newark, New Jersey this year with the "Big Game" not too far away in East Rutherford. Two title fights are on the line as well as a battle to stay relevant in the heavyweight division between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem.
Before we get to the main card, let's turn our attention to the seven preliminary card fights. A total of six fighters are making their respective promotional debuts, which is a bit unusual for a PPV prelim. We still have our fair share of veterans and a couple of guys who are potentially on the chopping block. The UFC 169 prelims get underway on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT. From there, the remaining four bouts air live on Fox Sports 1 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.
John Makdessi (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) vs. Alan Patrick (11-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) - Lightweights
Makdessi had a dynamite start to his UFC career when he beat Pat Audinwood in Montreal and then knocked out Kyle Watson with a spinning backfist in Toronto. He lost his next two fights and missed weight badly against Anthony Njokuani, which left him with an uncertain future. The Canadian used his takewondo-based striking to great effect in beating veteran Sam Stout, and he recently put in an outstanding showing with a 1st round KO of Renee Forte at UFC 165.
Patrick is a bit of a grinder, and after finishing his first 3 opponents he went to the scorecards in 5 of his next 7 fights, all of which came in Brazil. The 30-year-old made his UFC debut in Barueri last October against Garrett Whiteley and was able to finish him with strikes in the 1st round. Tonight's fight marks the first fight for Patrick outside of Brazil, and it'll be a stylistic clash when he meets Makdessi in this FS1 headliner.
Chris Cariaso (15-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC) vs. Danny Martinez (16-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) - Flyweights
Cariaso was a veteran of the WEC and crossed over to the UFC once the latter merged the roster's together. He edged out Will Campuzano before dropping a split decision to Michael McDonald. Cariaso's move to flyweight came after the division was implemented in 2012 and he scraped by with a controversial win over Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 144 in Japan. The Californian won against Josh Ferguson but lost his next two fights to contenders John Moraga and Jussier Formiga. He got back on the winning track with a TKO of Iliarde Santos in Brazil.
Martinez is an interesting case. He has beaten absolutely no one of note but has lost to 3 fairly prominent fighters in 3 different weight classes. The 28-year-old holds losses to Jussier Formiga, Mark Hominick, and Joseph Benavidez, but hasn't been finished by any of them. Martinez most recently appeared on TUF 18 as a bantamweight, but lost in the season premiere to Davey Grant by armbar. He's filling in for the injured Kyoji Horiguchi, so it's a big opportunity that Martinez shouldn't let go to waste.
Catone is returning to middleweight after a disastrous and brief run at welterweight. After a cuts stoppage loss against Chris Camozzi he moved to 170 lbs, where talented submission artist T.J. Waldburger choked him out in the TUF 16 Finale. "The Jersey Devil" then failed to make weight against James Head at UFC 159 and was ultimately hospitalized for dehydration. Catone now returns to middleweight for a fight where he'll have a home state crowd behind him.
The Englishman has not looked that stellar in the UFC, dropping decisions to Brad Tavares and Thales Leites with a TKO win over Stanislav Nedkov sandwiched in between. His win over Nedkov was a wild brawl that netted him a KOTN and FOTN bonus. Watson is known as a brawling type striker who favors his boxing more than anything else. He also enters the cage in a gorilla mask, so bonus points to him for entertainment value.
Iaquinta was the prohibitive favorite heading into TUF 15, and he advanced all the way to the finals as predicted, but Michael Chiesa pulled off the shock result and choked him unconscious in the 1st round. After a long layoff (partly due to injuries), the Long Island native returned to the cage at UFC 164, where he showed great boxing skills against Ryan Couture and won a unanimous decision. Iaquinta then took on Piotr Hallmann in Manchester, England and picked up another decision victory.
Lee's professional MMA career is not even two years old and he's already in the UFC. The Michigan native has won his last 4 fights by submission, with his last 2 fights ending in a combined 2:10. Granted, he's young and hasn't faced any notable competition yet, so even someone like Iaquinta is a big step up for him as he makes his promotional debut.
Hester first made a name for himself on TUF 17, when Jon Jones chose him as his first pick in team selection. Unfortunately, he didn't live up to the billing and was choked out by Jimmy Quinlan in the round of 16. He took care of business in the season finale, knocking out Bristol Marunde with a 3rd round standing elbow. Hester then finished up 2013 with a win over Dylan Andrews, but it was marred by Andrews injuring his shoulder in the process, necessitating a fight ending corner stoppage.
Enz was Uriah Hall's first opponent on TUF 17, with Hall winning the fight by unanimous decision. That was the last we heard of Enz, who at least escaped the reign of punishing terror Hall put through the TUF house throughout the season. So what's he been up to since the TUF taping? He's fought 3 times in Alaska, finishing all of his opponents in the 1st round and within 75 seconds. Enz will look to grapple, something Hester has struggled with in the past.
Tony Martin (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Rashid Magomedov (15-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) - Lightweights
Martin has barely gotten his feet wet in professional MMA, but the Minnesotan has kept an active schedule and an undefeated record in his two year career. His biggest win to date is a majority decision over TUF 8 finalist Philippe Nover. He's got 6 submission victories to his name, and his diverse set of submissions will be put to the test against a solid grappler in Magomedov.
Magomedov is another Dagestani prospect, joining the likes of Rustam Khabilov, Ali Bagautinov, and Frodo Khasbulaev in the MMA world. While his bread and butter is his striking, he's never been submitted and is a big fighter at 155 lbs after previously competing as a welterweight. As shown in yesterday's GIFathon, Magomedov can fend off a submission attack and turn it right into an offensive opportunity, so Martin has to watch out for Magomedov's brutal ground-and-pound.
Magny was one of the few to survive the dreadful TUF 16, but if he can't find any sort of consistency soon then he'll be cut like the rest of them. He won his UFC debut against fellow cast member Jon Manley, who was promptly cut from the promotion. Magny was then pitted against submission ace Sergio Moraes and was essentially taken to BJJ school by the Brazilian, losing the fight by mounted triangle choke at UFC 163. The 26-year-old ended 2013 with a decision loss to Seth Baczynski.
Not much is known about Umalatov, but "Cobra" can definitely be considered a submission specialist, with 7 of 9 finishes coming by tapout. He's spent his career in his native Russia fighting nondescript opposition so this is definitely a new experience for him. Oh, and he also fought a one-off in a promotion called Dictator Fighting Championships. I kid you not.
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