Matt Brown "headlines" a solid undercard also featuring the return of Mike Swick this July 11, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Line Up
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
Matt Brown -185 Tim Means +160
Cathal Pendred -120 John Howard +100
Alex Garcia -400 Mike Swick +325
Cody Garbrandt -600 Henry Briones +450
Louis Smolka -115 Neil Seery -105
Cody Pfister +165 Yosdenis Cedeno -190
3 Things You Should Know
1. UFC Fight Pass needs more fights like Smolka vs. Seery, and Pfister vs. Cedeno. It might actually be worth buying if we were guaranteed a steady stream of sweet chin music.
And why shouldn't Smolka enjoy the fruits of his labor?
This was easily one of the more impressive KO's of the year. The fighter from Hawaii Elite MMA has been doing underrated work even when you ignore his last bout. Ozkilic may be getting his walking papers, but he's a solid fighter, and Smolka didn't embarrass himself against Chris Cariaso. All the same, he's facing a very tough opposing style in Neil Seery. Despite his age, Seery blends his technical boxing and acumen into a very deliberate tapestry of violent attrition. He's not a massive puncher, but his accuracy, technique, and durability make him the ideal foil for the somewhat aloof kickboxing of Smolka.
Pfister didn't look very impressive against James Moontasri, who himself didn't impress against Joe Ellenberger. And that's why this fight is worth a Fight Pass spot; it will end quickly, or failing that, end violently. Pfister is a young kid who deserves the benefit of the doubt. He's got a solid foundation to work with, having kickboxing experience and workmanlike wrestling acumen but it's hard to envision a world where he's able to deal with Yosdenis' power. Cedeno isn't exactly a prospect, so if Pfister has suddenly picked up new tricks, he could conceivably grind a win out, but I wouldn't bank on it. Especially as Cedeno has gotten valuable training experience with teams like the Blackzillians.
2. Cathal Pendred vs. John Howard feels like Joe Silva trolling UFC fans. Cody Garbrandt vs. Henry Briones does not.
But that's the cost of being a public figure. Just like Pendred can criticize Rogan's commentary, Rogan can criticize Pendred's fighting. And nothing about a Pendred fight inspires excitement except for the modest exhilaration of "fondly" remembering some of the most awful fights in UFC history. But Pendred doesn't need to worry about whether or not he's a punchline for bloggers who get bored easily watching him fight. He's 4-0 in the UFC. No matter how he got there, he's moving forward at his own pace so he's doing something right.
Unfortunately this could finally be Pendred's moment to turn that criticism around, and yet it might not matter because John Howard has been in just as many stinkers as Pendred. There's just no way I can see this fight being anything other than the equivalent of hanging out with your grandmother at a smocking guild. Both guys have a tendency to experience bouts of narcolepsy in the clinch. Howard is a decent puncher, but he's completely averse to pulling his right hand trigger. Pendred just grinds out what he can with takedowns without offering much else. He can take the criticism however he likes, but his 4-0 streak will end if isn't able to diversify his game. Even guys lampooned as "lay and prayers" like Jon Fitch always had deft grappling to be successful (his solid if amusing display against Diego Sanchez, while kind of outlier, is nonetheless an example of what I'm talking about).
Garbrandt is being given a bit of a political soft ball, but that's fine. Young prospects need fights like this. If you happened to miss his fight with Marcus Brimage, find it. If not, here he is in action.
He's different than his Alpha Male brethren in that his striking is much more focused, and linear. Instead of winging big shots to phase shift, or switching levels to land big shots, Garbrandt stays on the pocket with excellent combinations that have a good degree of pop hence his six knockouts in six fights.
3. Alas, Matt Brown vs. Tim Means and Mike Swick vs. Alex Garcia punctuate the Fox Sports 1 card with some solid welterweight action.
Brown gave a few of the past and present WW champions all they could handle. I was almost certain Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler would just blaze through Brown, but his ability to turn the phrase "pressure fighter" into something meaningful, fiercely efficient has made me look like kind of an idiot in recent years. I could never wash the Sadollah off him in my mind. He's in another tough fight that feels eerily familiar to the Seth Baczynski he lost back in 2011; a big framed WW who doesn't back down easily, and can apply pressure of his own. The only reason Means isn't a better underdog here is that he's so good in the clinch, he's more likely to die by the sword than continue living by it. This fight is way more competitive than it looks, and I'll keep on being a modest skeptic when it comes to Brown, especially as age catches up to him, but he should be able to outclinchwar Means.
Swick's return is frankly, welcome from this writer's point of view. Knee injuries and misdiagnosed stomach diseases have kept less active than he would like, and he took some time off in recent years to build Thailand's premiere MMA gym. Swick started out as a Dustin Poirier type (if you ignore the TUF aroma); a very slick, high ceiling prospect still a little rough around the edges. He became a solid MW until running into Yushin Okami, who was a tank back then. And he had consistent success until 2009 and 2010. He's always been craftier than given credit for. But it's hard to envision dealing with Garcia's strength and power. It's true Swick bares a modest resemblance to the Magny's style, who defeated Garcia, but unlike Magny, Swick has a history of being overpowered and against DaMarques Johnson, which is a really special fight that deserves lots and lots of rewatches, his cardio became an issue. I just don't think time has been very kind to Swick.
Matt Brown by Split Decision
Alex Garcia by Decision
Sean Spencer by Decision
Cody Garbrandt by KO, round 1
Seery by TKO, round 2
Cedeno by TKO, round 2