Last weekend BJ Penn and Nick Diaz did their thing and wowed us, and next weekend the UFC debuts on FOX with Cain Velasquez mixing it up with Junior dos Santos. But this weekend a UK installment awaits, an unloved and unwanted dose of UFC that’s been virtually forgotten by all, so the big question is, “Should I go hang out at Chuck E. Cheese on Saturday night and try to sneak into the ball pit, or should I stay home watch UFC 138 taped-delayed on SpikeTV?” You know, if the chances of you getting past the old security guard and actually making it into the ball pit are good – and you have a DVR to record the pre-recorded UFC – you might want to go with the first option. If, however, that ball pit will likely remain woefully out of reach, and/or you don’t have the kind of modern technology that allows you to be somewhere else when television programming beckons, sure, why not stay home? Britain’s “best” may not be on the card (Michael Bisping has got a date with Jason “Mayhem” Miller further down the line, and Dan Hardy is off getting his hair rehabilitated), but the main event promises to be a dramatic reenactment of William Shakespeare’s “I Punched His Freakin’ Head Off”. So! Preview!
-Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz – As TUF castoffs go, “The Crippler” has made a pretty decent name for himself testing chins, fighting hard and beating the occasional “name” opponent. And why not? Leben’s got a cast-iron chin and equally hard fists, so of course he’s going to put away guys like Wanderlei Silva, Jorge Santiago and Yoshihiro Akiyama, who are susceptible to getting punched in the face (or triangle, in Akiyama’s case). On the other half of the UFC 138 marquee bout is Munoz, who’s been steadily working himself up the rankings, eking out a win over Demian Maia but smoking B-level guys like CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson and Kendall Grove with his wrestling and power-punching. Therefore, putting Leben and Munoz together promises two things: fireworks, and zero movement in the middleweight division no matter who wins. Which is fine. Part of what makes this UFC a “throwaway” is the fact that in the grand scheme of things, none of the bouts matter. Yet what should make people tune in is the fact that Leben and Munoz will be more than ready to leave it all in the cage. As for a prediction… Leben via TKO. He’s got too much experience separating dudes from their consciousness, and Munoz looked stale against Maia the last time around.
-Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao – Brit bantamweight Pickett made a name for himself in the UK scene kicking ass in Cage Rage, and his well-rounded game saw him fair well in the WEC. Nova Uniao product Barao is currently riding a win streak a mile long, knows his way around a jiu-jitsu mat, and went the distance with veteran fighter Cole Escovedo in his UFC debut. That leaves us with two very experienced, very capable guys. Could a win here propel one of them toward 135-pound title contention? Sure, especially considering Scott Jorgensen’s defeat of Pickett led directly to a shot at the belt. I like Pickett’s odds in this match-up, and have him pegged for a hard-fought decision, but you never know. Barao could catch him.
-Thiago Alves vs. Papy Abedi – Former welterweight contender Alves has been on a steep downward slide since being laid on by champ Georges St. Pierre – Jon Fitch laid on him after that, and Rick Story punched him while threatening to lay on him – so you have to wonder if the Brazilian’s job is on the line. But you know what? That’s what Swedish (by way of the Congo) fighter Abedi is for, who is making is UFC debut, sports a grappling background less impressive than Alves’s, and who’s had a fraction of the fights. Yep, Alves is going to murder Abedi, and the crime scene is going to involve evidence of sprawls, knees and punches.
-Eddie Faaloloto vs. Terry Etim – For well over a year Etim has been on ice, nursing a rib injury while the lightweight world has been passing him by. And I bet you didn’t notice his absence, did you? Of course not. I say “Terry Etim” and you say, “Who? Who are you talking about?” Don’t worry, he’s just some Brit who can slap on subs and throw leather against C-level talent – which about describes Hawaiian fighter Faaloloto, who’s been on the wrong end of the violence in bouts against Michael Johnson and Anthony Njokuani. Etim should have the edge in experience and skill level, so unless Faaloloto brings a spiked bat into the cage, Etim will take this one easily.
-Anthony Perosh vs. Cyrille Diabate – It took Australian Perosh four tries, but he finally got a win in the UFC, tapping Tom Blackledge at UFC 127 with his black belt jiu-jitsu bag of tricks (actually, just a rear naked choke). Frenchman Diabate, on the other hand, has stepped into Octagon three times and has lost only once – and he’s shown sweet kickboxing ability along the way. So who’s going to impose their will? Well, if it plays out on the feet, Perosh is dead. And as Diabate ain’t too bad himself on the ground (he generally knows enough to survive), I’d say the cards are stacked against the Aussie.