UFC 150 Fight Card: Keys to Victory for Every Fighter
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Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar have already spent 25 minutes inside the cage together, so they have a good idea what type of opponent they will be facing when they square off in a rematch at UFC 150. However, both fighters are likely to make adjustments to give themselves the best chances of walking away with the lightweight title.
Saturday's co-main event also includes a matchup between two lightweights who are very familiar with one another. Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard were longtime teammates at Jackson's MMA, so they know what is going to be thrown at them at UFC 150. It would not be surprising, though, to see one of these fighters switch up their usual fight approach in an effort to throw their opponent off.
Heading into August's biggest MMA event, let's take a look at what Henderson, Edgar, Cerrone, Guillard and each of the UFC 150 fighters must do to secure victory.
Nik Lentz vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
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After being criticized early in his UFC career for being a somewhat lackluster fighter, Nick Lentz seemed to partially abandon his wrestling in an effort to please fans. While he accomplished that in two Fight of the Night performances, Lentz's record has suffered.
In both of his UFC losses, Lentz has failed to out-wrestle his opponents. It was wrestling that helped Lentz to an undefeated UFC record in his first seven Octagon appearances. It is wrestling that can put Lentz back on track toward becoming a contender in the world's premier MMA organization.
Like Lentz, Mitsuoka is at his best when working from the top position. Therefore, the result of this matchup could ultimately come down to which fighter is able to secure the first takedown or each round.
Mitsuoka should attempt to bait Lentz into swinging wildly to start the fight, which will open up the opportunity for a takedown. If Mitsuoka can score a takedown in the opening minute, it will set an important tone that will have Lentz thinking more about defending takedowns than using his wrestling offensively.
Dustin Pague vs. Chico Camus
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Competing for the third time in two months, Dustin Pague should be concerned with overtraining at UFC 150. For that reason, and because he has never won a fight that has gone the distance, Pague should look to put Chico Camus away as quickly as possible.
Fighting a Roufusport fighter and having picked up eight of his 11 career wins by submission, Pague's best chance to stop this fight early will probably be by taking Camus to the ground. Camus has not been submitted in his 14-fight career, but the UFC newcomer has also not had a chance to prove he can defend submissions against an opponent of Pague's caliber.
It's hard to say exactly what weapons Camus, entering this fight without any experience against UFC-level competition, would have at his disposal against an opponent like Pague. However, training out of Roufusport, Camus has developed some high-level striking.
In addition to keeping this fight standing, Camus should try to set a fast pace against his potentially overworked opponent. If Camus can take this fight into the third round, there's a good chance he will be on his way to victory in his UFC debut.
Ken Stone vs. Erik Perez
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Compared to Erik Perez, Ken Stone is a more seasoned veteran who has gained experience against some of the top bantamweights in the sport. Though both fighters are most dangerous with submissions, Stone is a more methodical ground fighter than the more reckless Perez.
Stone will need to turn this fight into a technical one and avoid brawling with Perez. If he does that, Perez is bound to become frustrated and poorly attempt a takedown from distance, which will give Stone the opportunity to secure a guillotine choke or spin behind and threaten with a rear-naked choke. Those two submission variations account for all of Stone's submission wins and six of his 11 career victories.
Though he lacks in experience against Stone, the 22-year-old Perez is the more athletic and explosive fighter in this matchup. Like his fight against John Albert, Perez will want his bout against Stone to turn into a wild one with back-and-forth submission attempts.
If Perez can bait Stone into wild scrambles, there is a good chance he will be able to power through an armbar attempt early in the fight. Perez will probably need to end the fight quickly, as all four of his losses have come in the third round after draining himself with his wild fighting style.
Jared Hamman vs. Michael Kuiper
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With all but one of his 11 career wins coming via stoppage, Michael Kuiper is a fight finisher both standing and on the ground. If Jared Hamman is going to end this fight before Kuiper does, he will need to use his length to keep distance and remain standing.
Hamman has never been submitted, but he is most capable of beating Kuiper on his feet, where he has recorded 10 knockouts in 13 career victories. The 30-year-old has the chin to take Kuiper's best shots and knockouts of C.B. Dollaway and Travis Wiuff suggest Hamman is capable of becoming the first fight to finish Kuiper.
Kuiper may be more well-rounded than Hamman, but his chances of winning this fight on the ground. Hamman possesses knockout power and a solid chin, a dangerous combination should Kuiper elect to stand toe-to-toe with his opponent on Saturday.
A judo black belt, Kuiper should look to make use of his ground game in this fight. In order to do so, Kuiper will need to press forward on his feet and work his way inside his opponent's long reach. Hamman has never been submitted, but Kuiper is capable of becoming the first to force a tap from the veteran.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Tommy Hayden
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Wrestling and ground-and-pound have led Dennis Bermudez to many of his wins, but he may want to test out his striking against Tommy Hayden before committing to the ground game. Though Hayden lost via submission in his UFC debut, the 26-year-old does pose a threat to Bermudez with multiple submission wins of his own.
After beating Pablo Garza, Hayden is a bit of a step back in competition for Bermudez, who hasn't gotten much work on his stand-up game during competition. Considering all of his losses have come via submission, Bermudez should look to stand with Hayden initially. If he finds himself in trouble on his feet, Bermudez always has his wrestling to fall back on.
Clearly, Hayden needs to take advantage of Bermudez's submission defense, which appears to be the most significant hole in his game. Against a solid wrestler like Bermudez, that may even mean pulling guard. It's a low-percentage strategy, but so are Hayden's chances of winning.
There's a good chance Bermudez will do the work for Hayden, though, by looking for an early double-leg takedown. If that's the case, Hayden will need to quickly tangle Bermudez up in his guard before eating too many heavy punches from the TUF runner-up.
Justin Lawrence vs. Max Holloway
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During his TUF appearance, Justin Lawrence had little difficulty standing with any of his opponents. His only real difficulty came against a wrestler in Mike Chiesa, who was able to wear Lawrence down to the point of exhaustion in the third round.
Opposite Chiesa, Max Holloway is a striker who doesn't have the same grinding mentality capable of testing Lawrence's conditioning. Instead, Lawrence should be the fighter who pushes the pace in this matchup and may even look for a takedown himself against the 20-year-old Holloway, who will quite frankly be out-muscled by many foes at featherweight until he fills out his frame.
Though Holloway lacks in strength, he makes up for it with one of the longer reaches in the 145-pound division. Lawrence is a dangerous striker, but he has been tagged before and could be again if Holloway keeps his distance and utilizes kicks effectively.
If he allows Lawrence to work inside, Holloway is going to quickly find himself on his back or on the end of a brutal combination. Holloway is a skilled striker, but he doesn't possess a ton of power, having only scored one knockout in his pre-UFC career. Thus, Holloway needs to keep this fight technical and stay away from exchanging power shots with Lawrence.
Yushin Okami vs. Buddy Roberts
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While Yushin Okami showed some solid striking through the first two rounds of his recent bout with Tim Boetsch, the Japanese middleweight didn't make use of his excellent wrestling enough and ended up paying for it in the form of a third-round knockout.
Facing another large, powerful middleweight in Buddy Roberts at UFC 150, Okami will need to learn from his bout with Boetsch. Taking Roberts to the ground will remove most of the risk Okami in this matchup. Most of Okami's more decisive victories have come when he was able to work from the top position. If he can get back to utilizing that game plan, Okami will return to the middleweight title picture in short order.
Roberts had a strong start to his UFC career, bullying Caio Magalhaes for three rounds in his June debut. However, Okami will be a huge step up in competition for Roberts, who may not be quite ready for a bout with an elite middleweight.
Against Magalhaes, Roberts stuffed 13 takedown attempts. He'll need to be as good, if not better, in that area against Okami. There's no guarantee Roberts will win if he can keep this fight standing, but his four-inch reach advantage and heavy hands could make him the second straight fighter to upset Okami via knockout.
Jake Shields vs. Ed Herman
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For as much success as he has had in MMA, Jake Shields remains a rather one-dimensional fighter. It's no coincidence that, during his UFC career, Shields has won both fights in which he's scored a takedown and lost both fights in which he hasn't.
It's fairly obvious, but Shields will need to maintain the top position against Ed Herman in order to avoid a third loss in four fights. The 33-year-old Shields made the move to middleweight in an effort to make what could be a final run at a UFC title, so an upset loss to Herman in his return to the 185-pound division could spark retirement consideration.
After a knee injury took away two years of his career, Herman has stormed back with three straight wins and will have a chance to finally break through to contender status against Shields.
He's the underdog in this matchup, but Herman has more ways to win than Shields. In his past three fights, Herman has won on his feet, off of his back and from the top position. The longtime UFC veteran has the tools to shock Shields from anywhere, but his focus heading into this fight must be on shutting down the former Strikeforce champion's takedowns. Should he accomplish that, Herman could become the newest addition to the increasingly interesting middleweight title picture.
Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard
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There are no secrets heading into this bout. Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard are former training partners who know what type of opponent they will be facing in one another.
Cerrone is the more technical striker, but he realizes Guillard's biggest weakness is on the ground. Nine of Guillard's 10 career losses have come via submission, while Cerrone has forced 13 opponents to tap in 18 MMA wins.
"Cowboy" won't shy away from a stand-up battle at first, but he knows he'll have to go to the ground at some point in this fight to ensure victory.
Guillard has crazy striking power, but that won't be enough against the granite-chinned Cerrone. Long criticized for mental lapses, Guillard will need to fight a very intelligent fight to best the more well-rounded Cerrone on Saturday night.
Unless he has turned into a black belt overnight, Guillard will want to avoid the ground game altogether. And while he isn't as technical as Cerrone on his feet, Guillard is a superior athlete with lightning quickness. Instead of looking for the knockout with every strike, Guillard needs to move in and out on Cerrone and pace himself for a three-round war.
Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar
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Most of the attention around this main event has focused on Frankie Edgar's efforts to reclaim his title and his potential move to featherweight. It seems by the lack of attention he has received in comparison to Edgar that some people may have even forgot that Benson Henderson is the current lightweight champion.
That may be just how Henderson wants things to be, though. Not the bit about the lack of recognition for his accomplishments, but the ability for Henderson to fly under the radar and focus on putting together a more dominant performance in his rematch with Edgar.
Henderson's game plan heading into UFC 150 should be the same as it was heading into UFC 144. The large lightweight needs to bully his much smaller opponent by pressing forward and looking for takedowns. Henderson can't allow Edgar to find his range early and utilize his fast footwork.
Against the larger Henderson, Edgar will only look for takedown opportunities when they are given to him. Even then, Edgar will probably only use the takedowns as a way to score points on the scorecards before allowing Henderson to stand.
Edgar's quickness is a problem for any lightweight. He was able to sting Henderson a number of times in their original meeting and will again if the champion doesn't put him on his heels.
It's the same strategy that has led him to become one of the better lightweight in MMA history. Edgar needs to use his quickness and head movement to bob in and out on Henderson while securing an occasional takedown. It also wouldn't hurt to avoid being significantly rocked in a fourth straight fight.