A handful of fighters take up space in LA this February 28th for a night you'll likely forget. Here's a breakdown anyway.
The Line Up
Middleweight Mark Muñoz vs. Roan Carneiro
Bantamweight Roman Salazar vs. Norifumi Yamamoto
Welterweight Dhiego Lima vs. Tim Means
Heavyweight Derrick Lewis vs. Ruan Potts
Lightweight James Krause vs. Valmir Lazaro
Featherweight Masio Fullen vs. Alexander Torres
Mark Munoz -325 Roan Carneiro +265
Norifumi Yamamoto -330 Roman Salazar +270
Dhiego Lima +105 Tim Means -125
Derrick Lewis -500 Ruan Potts +400
James Krause -175 Valmir Lazaro +155
Alexander Torres +135 Masio Fullen -155
3 Things You Should Know
1. This undercard has two high profile fighters in a decline so steep, the oddsmakers are no longer giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Mark Munoz is fighting against his doctor's orders after blowing his MCL and PCL. While I don't pretend to know what's best for a 37 year old professional athlete, I'll breathe a sigh of relief the day we stop treating injuries like mere obstacles. It's kind of noble in the heat of the battle, but training through this kind of stuff seems more than a little dimwitted. To be fair, Munoz is fighting against his doctor's orders against UFC also-ran Roan Carneiro. Roan is infamous in his day and age for being an elite jiu jitsu guy who managed to get submitted anyway. His bout with Jon Fitch wasn't an upset at the time back in 2007 so much as it was a shock of seeing a black belt get wasted in his own pugilism turf.
Munoz isn't as big a favorite as you might suspect. He should be. Munoz' problem is that against the elite, he's gonna get destroyed in spectacular ways, and seems to look hopeless in the process. It's a unique ability for someone who is so talented otherwise. Which is why a win should be clockwork against a fighter who hasn't changed much since starring in Warrior as a Greg Jackson-esque gym guru's prize prospect, nevermind his ignominious UFC exit (losses to Ryo Chonan and Kevin Burns are even worse when watching then on paper). Roan is still a threat on the ground, and I wouldn't be surprised if Munoz gets one scare, but Munoz should be able to pelt him on the feet even though his striking only seems to ever appear when he's on the ground.
Kid Yamamoto used to be an icon among MMA fans. I've written about Kid a lot, charting his debut, its failure, and what it meant in a broader context. One of the things I neglected to mention were in his injuries, which can't be understated. However, Kid is not like Frank Mir, who seemed to raise his game in spite of his injuries. Instead Kid looked like a weakened version of his previous self. This was in addition to the fact that age and decline hit fighters in lower weights harder where speed is 'das capital'.
So it's weird to see him still wearing the gloves. He's winless in his three UFC bouts. All of them have been emphatic, and only his bout against Demetrious Johnson was worth qualifying as tough competition. Now he's in it with a fighter who is kind of a journeyman, but the kind of journeyman Kid loses to these days. Salazar is your garden variety Little Debbie snack who needs no introduction. You know what you're getting. He knows how to strike, has competent wrestling, but unlike other jack of all trade types, has good enough movement to be a threat. I think he's strong enough and durable enough to force Kid's retirement. Something that's been long overdue.
2. A few TUFers from the international seasons will be looking to establish some momentum against opponents who are of a similar caliber.
Lima seemed like a decent fighter on an otherwise putrid TUF season. One of the first thing that sticks out is his striking acumen. While he doesn't really use it to the kind of effect you would assume, he's clearly educated on the sweet science. He slices with a penetrating jab, and stays effective at range with right leg kicks that get opponent's attention. Against Tim Means, I expect him to land with regularity when he commits to what he can do, but Means is a real scrapper; a massive WW, Lima will have his work cut out for him trying to land inside while Means tries to crater Lima's face inside the clinch.
Torres and Fullen are two guys who project to have some very limited careers. There are fighters who can barely make it because being well rounded these days is often a smokescreen for being mediocre. These two are barely even well rounded. Torres' two wins have come against opposition with a combined record of 1-2. The win percentage of Fullen's opposition is damn near close despite a wealth of experience by comparison. I think Fullen's striking and experience should be able to give him the advantage against the grappler centric Torres.
3. The best of the rest would otherwise be a complete waste of time, but this time we're at least saved by Lazaro vs. Krause.
Before talking about a solid fight, somehow, someway Ruan Potts was able to recover from that body shot he received by Anthony Hamilton. It's impressive that Potts was able to survive. The fight may have been dreadful, but Potts showed moxy in being able to withstand an alimentary canal explosion. The man they call "Fangzz", 'they' probably being whoever controls the UFC truck, won't have a long UFC career. This is pretty much the nicest way to put it. And that's even if he somehow beats Derrick 'The Stereotype' Lewis. He won't because Lewis will aim with his heavy right hand and kill Potts dead with a pancreas punch, but at least he won't have to see a disgusting bruise to show for it. I hope.
Krause has put together a pretty solid record, quietly racking wins against guys you might not otherwise expect if you were a casual fan randomly paying attention to the names on Fight Pass. His biggest advantage is his mere presence; a big boned 6'2, Krause seems to be able to soak up damage due to his 'prodigiousness'. But he's a skilled fighter who stays active and composed on the feet to be effective. As for 'Bidu' Lazaro, I was kind of surprised to see his performance against Vick. Part of that comes from Vick being overrated despite not being popular, but part of it also comes from Lazaro's fluid, striking presence. However, I think Krause is a little like Vick, but better. So I don't see any reason why Krause can't accomplish what Vick did.