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UFC on FX 6: Fuel TV Preliminary Card Dissection

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Staff match-up geek Dallas Winston breaks down each fight on Friday's UFC on FX 6 preliminary card.

From the Gold Coast Convention Center in Gold Coast, Queensland (Australia), UFC on FX 6 goes live this Friday (December 15, 2012). The main event consists of UK rep Ross Pearson, who won Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), making his return to the lightweight class after a brief stint at featherweight to face Aussie George Sotiropoulos. The pair served as opposing coaches on TUF Smashes, and both the lightweight and welterweight finalists from the show will square off on the main card as well, along with an alluring middleweight bout pitting Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares.

A 6-piece preliminary card ensemble will kick the event into action on Fuel TV at 6:00 p.m. ET before the main card airs on the FX channel at 9:00 p.m. ET. The Fuel TV preliminary lineup is as follows:

UFC on FX 6 - Fuel TV Prelims

Chad Mendes vs. Yaotzin Meza
Joey Beltran vs. Igor Pokrajac
Seth Baczynski vs. Mike Pierce
Ben Alloway vs. Manuel Rodriguez
Brendan Loughnane vs. Mike Wilkinson
Cody Donovan vs. Nick Penner

Chad Mendes (12-1) vs. Yaotzin Meza (19-7) -- Featherweight Bout

No offense to UFC newcomer Yaotzin Meza, but the card took a hit when Nova Uniao phenom Hacran Dias (21-1), the originally intended opponent for Chad Mendes, withdrew with an injury.

Meza hails from the MMA Lab fight team, which houses the likes of UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and fellow UFC on FX 6 cast member Seth Baczynski. He's the reigning Rage in the Cage featherweight champion and will enter the cage on Friday having won 7 of his last 8 bouts. Meza has a background in wrestling, though only at the high school level, and he's also touted as a BJJ and boxing practitioner on his bio.

He'll have a tall order (figuratively speaking) in Team Alpha Male's Mendes, who's thoroughly handled each of his 13 adversaries save pound-for-pound juggernaut and UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo. Undefeated at the time, Mendes earned a title shot through 6 consecutive wins spread out between his WEC and UFC tours but crumbled in the 1st-round thanks to a perfectly timed knee from Aldo at UFC 142 in Rio. Mendes responded to his first career loss by plastering Cody McKenzie, who valiantly accepted the fight on short notice, with an oxygen-sucking jack-hammer to the body and follow up punches in the 1st round at UFC 148.

Mendes is an animal: his wrestling has been virtually unstoppable to everyone not named Aldo, his boxing game has become almost as frightening as his takedowns, and his agility, strength and athleticism are frankly unparalleled at 145-pounds. It would take an extraordinarily stellar prospect to get my vote over Mendes in a late-notice UFC debut and Meza, while a decent candidate, isn't the exception.

My Prediction: Chad Mendes by TKO.

Joey Beltran (14-8) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-9) -- Light-heavyweight Bout

A former heavyweight, this striking-centric tilt is Beltran's sophomore effort at 205-pounds after an unsuccessful premiere against brick-fisted boxer James Te Huna. "The Mexicutioner" ignited his UFC run with back-to-back wins as a heavyweight (TKO over Rolles Gracie, unanimous decision over Tim Hague) but went on to drop 4 of his next 5 against steep competition (Matt Mitrione, Pat Barry, Stipe Miocic, Lavar Johnson; win over Aaron Rosa by decision) to inspire dropping a weight class.

Pokrajac is a Croation Top Team rep with heavy hands who just saw a 3-fight win streak snapped by a Vinny Magalhaes armbar at UFC 152. "The Duke" is an avid finisher with 13 TKOs, 8 submissions and just 4 decision wins. In the UFC, his losses have been dealt by elite grapplers (Magalhaes, Vladimir Matyushenko), top-shelf strikers (Te Huna) or exceptionally sized and athletic veterans (Stephan Bonnar), and he's actually made a career out of feasting on mid-level brawlers (Fabio Maldonado by decision, Krzysztof Soszynski by TKO, James Irvin by submission).

I'm open to the thought of Beltran revivifying his stock as a 205er but would still stamp him as a mid-level brawler until he proves otherwise -- I don't think his heart and toughness can compensate for Pokrajac's speed and power. The Croatian's scorching boxing, quick hands, and solid combo of wrestling and BJJ should propel him to a convincing decision if he can't close it out on the feet.

My Prediction: Igor Pokrajac by decision.

Seth Baczynski (18-8) vs. Mike Pierce (16-5) -- Welterweight Bout

In what is easily the most compelling and relevant affair on the undercard, these hard-nose and physically imposing welterweights are under-rated terrors in the division.

Arizona's Baczynski, who appeared on TUF 11, met Brad Tavares and lost on both occasions: he was DQ'd for an illegal soccer kick on the show and then suffered a respectable decision loss in the rematch at the live finale, and was subsequently released. That 2010 defeat was Baczynski's last, as 6 consecutive wins would follow: a pair outside the Octagon to earn another shot (both TKO stoppages), then 4-straight once he was back inside the infamous 8-sided cage (Clay Harvison and Matt Brown by submission, Lance Benoist by split decision and Simeon Thoreson by 1st-round KO).

Pierce probably has the most respectable set of losses in the UFC. Despite being on the wrong end of decisions in bouts against prestigious opposition in Jon Fitch (unanimous), Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck (both split), Pierce convincingly proved that he was on their same level. There's a case for scoring his 3rd-round comeback against Fitch a 10-8, which would've resulted in a draw, as well as for giving him the nod against Hendricks and Koscheck; the latter pair of bouts were the type ending with the incomplete feeling that neither competitor substantially out-performed the other. Though his lack of big-name wins justifies his #15 spot on the welterweight world Meta-Rankings, I believe Pierce is Top-10 caliber.

Pierce and Baczynski are among the biggest welterweights in the division, though in starkly contrasting shapes -- Baczynski is a long and agile 6'3" tall with a stretchy 75" reach, and the shorter Pierce stands just 5'8" tall but his hulking frame and broad shoulders may as well measure 5'8" wide. Though both have a base in wrestling and are a bit primitive when striking from outside, they prefer to handle their business in the clinch: Pierce with a thorny array of in-fighting weaponry (dirty boxing, short elbows and knees) from the single and double collar tie while Baczynski , who uses a similar box of tricks, does his best work applying massive leverage with the Thai plum against the fence.

Pierce deserves the push he's getting on the betting lines (average of -250) for his consistency and superior level of past competition, but I'd say Baczynski is the livest dog on the prelims and worth a hard look with odds in the realm of +180. The vast disparity in size should dictate this encounter: it's more likely that Pierce's beefy strength and low center of gravity will intensify the stifling properties of his under-hooks and body lock in the clinch, especially if he disrupts Baczynski's close-range striking by pursuing takedowns in tie-ups.

However, Baczynski's monumental 7" height advantage could also create vital space to keep his hips back and out of reach while making his striking much harder for Pierce to deal with. Baczynski has a great over-the-top elbow that's tailor-made for a shorter fighter looking to lock horns with under-hooks, and Pierce's lower-stanced attack will also leave his head more susceptible to Baczynski's stiff knees in the clinch. Watch out for the under-dog in this one.

My Prediction: Mike Pierce by decision.

Unfortunately ladies and gentlemen, you're on your own from this point forward. I don't have a shred of pertinent knowledge or insight on the remaining trio of bouts, the audacity to pretend like I do nor the time to accrue it. Please be gentle and, if you cannot, remember to blame Kid Nate.