Before Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos step into the cage Saturday night, a number of talented fighters will do battle on the undercard. Sam Stout, Yves Edwards, Chris Weidman, Krzysztof Soszynski, and Joey Beltran are among the big names who will kick off the show. MMAFrenzy.com’s Pete Sumulong helps break down all the matchups.
Lightweight Bout: Sam Stout (16-6-1) vs Yves Edwards (40-16-1)
Breakdown: When you put two technical strikers with a history of exciting fights in the cage anything less than fireworks would be disappointing. Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout has been on a roll lately, having won three of his last four fights. A five time “Fight of the Night” award winner, Stout supplements his kickboxing with a granite chin and excellent conditioning that he has used to outlast the likes of Joe Lauzon and Matt Wiman. While Stout’s striking is precise and technical, he lacks knockout power, as evidenced by the number of decisions on his UFC record. Long-time veteran Yves Edwards is settling back into the Octagon after a four year absence. Following wins over John Gunderson and Cody McKenzie, the master of Thug-jitsu will look to impose his will on Stout. Edwards, like Stout, is a technically precise striker. Where he differs from Stout is in his creativity and knockout power, as he has utilized jumping knees and kicks to put his opponents to sleep. Edwards is more than willing to mix it up on the ground as well, as he has seventeen submission victories to his credit.
The outcome: These two will engage in an exciting back and forth battle, with Edwards landing heavy shots on Stout. Edwards will mix up the strikes with takedowns and ground work, but the game Stout will not be finished. Yves “Thugjitsu Master” Edwards will get the victory by unanimous decision.
Middleweight Bout: Jesse Bongfeldt (15-4) vs Chris Weidman (5-0)
Breakdown: Joe Rogan’s unofficial favorite fighter, Jesse “Water” Bongfeldt returns to the Octagon after scoring a majority draw against Rafael Natal at UFC 124. Bongfeldt is an aggressive striker with a very tricky and active guard. Bongfeldt was on a seven fight win streak up until the draw, and finished all those opponents, including UFC mainstays Sean Pierson and T.J. Grant. Bongfeldt will need to have every submission trick at his disposal as he takes on powerhouse All-American wrestler Chris Weidman. Weidman made his UFC debut on short notice against Alessio Sakara, and turned in a veteran performance that belied his actual experience level. An injured Weidman used sharp boxing and superior wrestling to control the battle-tested Sakara en route to a unanimous decision victory. Weidman kept his cool in the striking exchanges and did not panic when Sakara landed heavy blows. A talented wrestler who defeated both Phil Davis and Ryan Bader in collegiate competition, the sky is the limit for Chris Weidman.
The outcome: Bongfeldt will offer Weidman a serious challenge off his back, as he is known to throw punches and elbows and work for numerous submissions. Weidman, a disciple of former welterweight champ Matt Serra, will no doubt be ready for these submission attempts. Weidman will take advantage of Bongfeldt’s aggressive striking and land takedown after takedown. Chris Weidman will win this fight by unanimous decision.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Krzysztof Soszynski (25-11-1) vs Mike Massenzio (11-4)
Breakdown: Even the kid who won the National Spelling Bee would have trouble spelling Krzysztof Soszynski. Thank God for cut and paste. Krzysztof will look to continue his winning ways after taking a decision victory over Goran Reljic at UFC 122. Krzysztof looks like a crazy action movie villain and fights like one too. The ex-bodybuilder goes in only one direction in his fights, forward, and swings away with reckless abandon. While Krzysztof is a slow and awkward striker due to his muscular frame, he packs heavy power into his punches. Krzysztof is also a handful on the ground as he’s racked up four kimura victories, his most impressive victim being Brian Stann. Mike Massenzio is now the third scheduled opponent for “The Polish Experiment,” as both Anthony Perosh and Igor Pokrajac have been scratched from the card. A natural middleweight, Massenzio accepted the fight earlier this week. Massenzio is a grappling expert who submitted Drew McFedries in his UFC debut. After losing to C.B. Dollaway, Massenzio took almost two years off, only to be submitted by Stann in his UFC return. The odds are stacked against Massenzio here, but if he can use his wrestling to nullify Krzysztof’s striking, then he has a shot.
The outcome: Massenzio is stepping up a weight class and fighting one of the physically strongest competitors in the light heavyweight division. He has nothing to lose. On the flipside, four days to prepare for Krzysztof Soszynski is not enough. Krzysztof “The Polish Experiment” Soszynski will overpower Massenzio and rack up a second round knockout victory.
Middleweight Bout: Nick Ring (11-0) vs James Head (7-1)
Breakdown: Nick “The Promise” Ring (not to be confused Nick “The Engagement” Ring) returns at UFC 131 for the first time since a controversial decision win over Riki Fukuda at UFC 127. And by controversial, I mean not a single person thought he won. Most of you remember Ring from his stint on TUF 11, where he dealt Court McGee his only loss of the tournament. Ring looked rusty in the Fukuda fight, and will need to impose his will on James Head early on. Ring is a slow fighter, but he makes up for that with strong leg kicks and a decent ground game. James Head is making his UFC debut on the heels of a February decision win over UFC veteran Gerald Harris. The Oklahoma based fighter is a terror on the ground and aggressively assaults his opponents with ground and pound and submission attempts.
The outcome: Ring looked slow and passive against Fukuda, and I believe Head will employ the aggressive strategy of taking Ring down and working from top position. In my opinion, Harris is a tougher test than Ring, and Head should dominate this contest. James Head will defeat Nick Ring by unanimous decision.
Featherweight Bout: Dustin Poirier (9-1) vs Jason Young (8-3)
Breakdown: Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier picked up the biggest win of his career at UFC 125, as he absolutely dominated the highly touted Josh Grispi in a one-sided decision victory. Poirier battered and overwhelmed Grispi with strikes and was able to neutralize Grispi’s excellent submission skills. The “Diamond” also owns three submission wins in his career. Jason “Shotgun” Young enters this fight as a replacement for Rani Yahya. While Yahya is one of the world’s top grapplers, Young brings a completely different skill set to the table. The British fighter is making the drop from lightweight and brings a patient, calculated striking style to the cage. “Shotgun” possesses heavy hands and great knees from the clinch, but is susceptible to submissions.
The outcome: It’s not often your Octagon debut coincides with the performance of your career, but that was the case for Poirier at UFC 125. Poirier will use his fluid striking to pick apart the Octagon newcomer. Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier will cruise to a second round TKO victory via strikes.
Heavyweight Bout: Joey Beltran (12-5) vs Aaron Rosa (16-3)
Breakdown: The one thing I admire the most about Joey Beltran is his unbelievable capacity to take punishment. You could literally hit the man in the head with a shovel and he would not go down, just ask Matt Mitrione and Pat Barry. Don’t expect technical striking or breathtaking submissions from Beltran – the man loves to brawl and displayed his toughness and heavy hands in wins over Rolles Gracie and Tim Hague. Beltran comes forward from the bell and is very effective closing the distance and throwing short, hard punches. Strikeforce veteran Aaron Rosa makes his UFC debut on the heels of a submission win over heavyweight prospect Abe Wagner in Titan FC. The heavy-handed Rosa is a slow, plodding fighter that likes to work his opponents up against the cage in order to negate their movement. Rosa likes to utilize dirty boxing and takedowns off the cage and is a master at the rear naked choke.
The outcome: This is the kind of fight both guys love. Expect an all-out slugfest in close quarters. It won’t be pretty, but expect Joey Beltran to win by KO in round three.
Michihiro Omigawa (12-9-1) vs Darren Elkins (11-2)
Breakdown: Well-respected international veteran Michihiro Omigawa can’t catch a break in the Octagon. After an unsuccessful lightweight run in the Octagon in 2007, Omigawa defeated the likes of Hatsu Hioki, Marlon Sandro, and Nam Phan in DREAM. Upon his return in the Octagon as a featherweight, Omigawa was rudely welcomed by the second best featherweight in the world, Chad Mendes. Mendes’ size and wrestling proved too much for the game judoka. Omigawa is an aggressive fighter who complements heavy hands with excellent judo takedowns. Though his record may not be sterling, Omigawa is a tough out for anyone in the UFC. Darren Elkins would like nothing better than to take you down and pound you out. In the UFC, bad things happen if a Darren Elkins fight ends up on the ground. In his fight with Duane Ludwig, an Elkins takedown resulted in a gruesome ankle injury that ended Ludwig’s night. The exact opposite came out of the Charles Oliveira fight, as an Elkins takedown led to a slick armbar submission by Oliveira. When in top control, Elkins is relentless with punches and is adept with taking his opponent’s back.
The outcome: Omigawa generally has problems with strong American fighters, as evidenced by his losses to Mendes and Matt Wiman. Elkins will make life hell for Omigawa early, but the Japanese veteran will turn the tide and soften Elkins up with strikes. Michihiro Omigawa will win by guillotine choke submission in round three. All that international experience has to count for something right?