UFC on FX 5: B/R Staff Preliminary Card Predictions
We are in the midst of a stretch that features four straight weekends with UFC events, and the third card on that lineup should produce some exciting matchups in Minnesota.
A fight between heavyweight contenders Travis Browne and Antonio Silva headlines UFC on FX 5, and the main card has some of the promotion's most promising fighters set to compete.
Guys like John Dodson, Jussier Formiga and Jake Ellenberger are all slowly becoming more and more well known, and since all three fighters possess near-championship-caliber skills, Friday night’s main card should produce some highlights for the up-and-coming fighters.
But as much fun as the main card looks, the fighters in the preliminary bouts on Fuel TV may produce even more action than their better-known counterparts.
A lightweight slugfest between Jeremy Stephens and Yves Edwards headlines the prelim portion of the card, and with a lineup stacked with battles in the lower weight classes, we can expect a ton of action on Fuel TV Friday night.
Who's going to pull out the win in Minnesota? Bleacher Report Featured Columnists John Heinis, Matt Juul, Dwight Wakabayashi and Vince Carey have the answers.
Darren Uyenoyama vs. Phil Harris
Matt Juul: Journeyman grappling ace Darren Uyenoyama will drop down to flyweight for the first time in his career when he takes on UFC newcomer Phil Harris this Friday.
Both men are solid grappling specialists who will likely cancel out each other's ground skills, resulting in a less-than-stellar stand-up battle. Harris has a few more knockouts on his record than Uyenoyama, but hasn't finished an opponent via strikes since 2006.
Harris also has more career bouts than Uyenoyama, but doesn't have a successful track record against higher-level fighters. "Billy"'s sole high-profile bout was against Jose Aldo in 2005 and ended in brutal fashion for Harris, who lost via TKO in the first round. "BC," on the other hand, is coming off a decision win in his UFC debut over Kid Yamamoto, and sports a perfect record in Strikeforce.
In the end, Uyenoyama will outwork Harris and take a victory in his flyweight debut.
Darren Uyenoyama via Unanimous Decision
John Heinis: Uyenoyama is coming off a big upset over Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and looks to make it three straight against Phil Harris. Don't be surprised if the Englishman gives Uyenoyama all he can handle, though.
In 21 career wins, Harris has 13 submissions to his credit and is a formidable force on the ground in his own right. However, his submission skills are not elite, and he has a questionable chin: In nine career losses, Harris has been finished eight times (four knockouts, four submissions).
Harris will put up a fight, but Uyenoyama's heavy hands and solid mat work will get the best of him.
Darren Uyenoyama via Round 3 TKO
Vince Carey: The flyweight division always delivers, and there’s no reason to believe Uyenoyama and Harris will put on anything other than an exciting bout.
A lot of fight fans were impressed by Uyenoyama’s win over Kid Yamamoto at UFC on Fox 1, where the grappling ace showed off tremendous poise on the ground and used his jiu-jitsu skills to frustrate his Japanese opponent for the majority of the fight.
Harris won’t exactly be a cakewalk for “BC,” but eventually Uyenoyama will get the fight to the mat and will instantly be a threat to finish the fight.
Almost half of Harris’ nine career losses have come by submission, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Uyenoyama is able to lock something in when the fight hits the floor.
Darren Uyenoyama via Round 3 Submission
Dwight Wakabayashi: Uyenoyama is a surging fighter coming off a debut win over Japanese legend Kid Yamamoto nearly a year ago, and his overall slick and experienced game is just coming into full prime. He is facing replacement and UFC newcomer Phil Harris, and anything can happen in a fight, but I see this one being lopsided.
Darren Uyenoyama via Round 1 Submission
Bart Palaszewski vs. Diego Nunes
Matt Juul: Featherweight standouts Bart Palaszewski and Diego Nunes are both coming into this fight following tough losses earlier this year.
Palaszewski fell short against Japanese star Hatsu Hioki at UFC 144, while Nunes was edged out of a decision by divisional newcomer Dennis Siver in April.
The Brazilian seems to have lost his killer instinct since joining the Zuffa family and has not finished an opponent in any of his WEC or UFC fights. Palaszewski, however, has submitted or knocked out four of his last five opponents and is always looking for the finish.
This fight will be determined by who can control the pace and dictate where the fight goes. Nunes will have to play a technical game and keep "Bartimus" on the outside in order to avoid his power. However, if the Polish-American featherweight can catch Nunes against the cage and start pounding away at him, he will probably come out on top.
Bart Palaszewski via Split Decision
John Heinis: Both these guys have been so close to a featherweight title fight in the UFC, but simply have not been able to dial in their A-game against elite competition. Additionally, Palaszewski and Nunes have each lost two of their past three. At best, the loser gets relegated to gatekeeper status. At worst, he gets his walking papers.
A standup war would be nice to see here, as these guys love to stand and bang, but Palaszewski probably has the faster, more powerful hands. Nunes, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, probably has a slight advantage on the mat...but I doubt the fight goes there for very long.
As in his fight with Dennis Siver, Nunes may, again, be too tentative and just pull the trigger too late, allowing "Bartimus" to walk away with a close-decision win.
Bart Palaszewski via Split Decision
Vince Carey: Bart Palaszewski and Diego Nunes have proven to be legitimate competitors in the featherweight division, but due to recent losses, both fighters are in desperate need of a win on Friday.
Palaszewski was most recently outgunned by Hatsu Hioki at UFC 144 in Japan, getting out-pointed both on the feet and the mat by the Japanese contender.
The loss killed the momentum that Palaszewski had gained by knocking out Tyson Griffin in his UFC debut, and it also sent him tumbling down the rankings in a tough 145-pound division.
Also slipping down the rankings is Nunes, who has gone just 2-2 since making the jump over to the Octagon from the WEC. Losses to Kenny Florian and Dennis Siver have taken away Nunes’ spot in the top five of the weight class, and “The Gun” will need a solid performance against Palaszewski to earn some momentum back.
This should be a razor-close fight, with both fighters having their moments, but in the end Nunes will just be a bit too fast for “Bartimus” on the feet and should earn a decision win.
Diego Nunes via Split Decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: In a battle of opposite styles, Nunes will try and point-strike his way to a win, while Palaszewski will be looking to make it a bit more dirty and personal. I like Bart's chances.
Bart Palaszewski via Unanimous Decision
Jacob Volkmann vs. Shane Roller
Matt Juul: Loudmouth lightweight Jacob Volkmann will have a tough time trying to grind away a win against former WEC star Shane Roller this Friday.
Like Volkmann, Roller is a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, but has better finishing skills than "Christmas."
Volkmann has pretty much used his superb wrestling skills to dominate opponents at lightweight, except for his last bout when he was submitted by Paul Sass, and will have a difficult time trying to impose his will against Roller. As long as the former WEC standout can keep the fight standing, he should be able to beat Volkmann up with his striking.
If the fight does go to the ground, Roller may have a shot at submitting Christmas—whose last two losses have come via tapout—despite both men owning six sub wins each. Roller, who owns tapout victories over the likes of former WEC champ Jamie Varner, just seems to have a better killer instinct and should be able to put Volkmann away in this fight.
Shane Roller via Round 2 TKO
John Heinis: A lot of fans will probably use this fight as the perfect opportunity for a bathroom break, as it puts two grinding lightweight wrestlers against one another. Neither man has done particularly well against above-average competition, save for Roller's WEC win over former champion Jamie Varner, so the loser here is between a rock and a hard place.
Volkmann's won five of his past six, though he was tapped out in his most recent performance at UFC 146 by submission specialist Paul Sass. While "Christmas" is all about takedowns and top control, believe it or not, he has some pretty submissions to his name. Of course, the same can be said of Roller.
It's tough to call a matchup between these two mirror images, but given that Roller has lost three of his past four, it's hard to believe that Volkmann isn't at a better point in his career than Roller.
Jacob Volkmann via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x 3)
Vince Carey: Two of the most accomplished wrestlers in the UFC’s lightweight division are set to go head to head here, and since both fighters have suffered through some lackluster fights over the course of their UFC careers, the loser could find himself looking for a job.
Volkmann is most famous for his tendency to call out Barack Obama after winning his fights, but the Minnesota-based wrestler is also one of the hardest fighters to beat when he gets his opponents on their back.
That’s likely the game plan against Shane Roller, but Roller is an All-American wrestler in his own right, and that alone should make this interesting
I wouldn’t be surprised if these two ended up in an exhausting battle in the clinch, with neither fighter able to get the takedown they so desperately want, and that could lead to another rough performance for both men.
In the end, I think Volkmann’s wrestling is just a tad bit better, and he should be able to drag Roller to the mat at least a few times during this fight. The trick will be to keep him there, but Volkmann’s top control is usually very good, and I see him earning a clear decision here.
Jacob Volkmann via Unanimous Decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: Volkmann needs to use all his savvy and his skill to get a bounce-back win after his recent loss to Paul Sass. He was on quite a roll before his surprise loss and will be looking to make amends on Roller. Roller is coming off a squeaky win over John Alessio and needs to get some sort of roll going to keep his place. He simply can't do it the way he did in his last one, or the fans will boo him all night.
Jacob Volkmann via Round 3 Knockout
Thiago Tavares vs. Dennis Hallman
Matt Juul: UFC veteran Dennis Hallman has experienced a renaissance in his career now that he is fighting at 155. He should have a war on his hands when he takes on Thiago Tavares.
The Brazilian is coming into this bout following back-to-back wins over vets Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher. Hallman will be another tough journeyman, but will only be a true threat on the ground.
Tavares is an excellent ground fighter as well, but will likely look to keep this fight standing. I don't think Hallman will have a strength advantage, despite spending most of his career in a higher weight class, so the Brazilian shouldn't be too worried about being overpowered.
I actually expect Tavares to impose his will and use his heavy hands to put Hallman away.
Thiago Tavares via Round 1 TKO
John Heinis: Ignoring the blue Speedo incident from UFC 133, Dennis Hallman is one of the most entertaining journeyman fighters to watch in the sport. With an incredible 51 wins—40 by submission—to his credit, "Superman" is one tough customer when the fight hits the floor.
That makes notoriously tough Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Thiago Tavares an intriguing matchup. Tavares has underrated wrestling add to his quality submission. He does have a questionable chin, but Hallman's striking is likely not good enough to take advantage of that.
This is another very tough bout to call on the undercard, but I just have a gut feeling that Hallman will do just a little bit more to wear out and frustrate the Brazilian en route to a razor-thin decision.
Dennis Hallman via Split Decision
Vince Carey: The UFC’s lightweight division is beyond stacked with possible contenders at the moment, and due to the influx of contenders, veterans like Thiago Tavares and Dennis Hallman are being overlooked despite some very good performances as of late.
Tavares won a hard-fought contest over Sam Stout at UFC 142 this January and has been pushing for a top contender since starting his two-fight win streak last August.
He may get his wish if he can defeat Hallman, but Tavares is going to have to overcome the massive size advantage Hallman has over most 155-pound fighters.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see Hallman drag the fight to the ground and attempt to break the will of Tavares, but the Brazilian is a tough fighter to hold down and always tries to put on a show.
Tavares is going to make this a fight, and Hallman is going to have to respond in turn if he wants to earn the win here.
Hallman is a gritty veteran and has quite a bit of Octagon experience at this point, so I think he’ll be able to live up to the challenge and earn a very close decision win.
Dennis Hallman via Split Decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: It's going to be tough for the veteran Hallman to implement his game plan of grab-hold-and-grapple for a submission against a guy like Thiago Tavares. Tavares is strong and slippery, and his footwork is pretty slick too.
Hallman is sure as hell gonna try, though, and his determination just might win the day. Tavares will look to move and strike and keep it on the feet as much as he can.
Dennis Hallman via Unanimous Decision
Danny Castillo vs. Michael Johnson
Matt Juul: TUF alum Michael Johnson seems to have found his stride in the UFC and will be taking a step up in competition when he takes on Team Alpha Male product Danny Castillo.
Johnson has gone 3-1 since his finale loss to Jonathan Brookins in 2010, recently defeating former TUF winner Tony Ferguson in May. Castillo, on the other hand, is riding a three-fight win streak and has gone 6-1 in his last seven fights.
This fight will be a high-paced, high-energy fight with both men looking to stand and trade blows. Castillo has better overall skills and mixes in his takedowns better than Johnson, so expect "Last Call" to push some ground action if he gets beaten to the punch standing up.
Castillo should be able to control the pace on the ground and will look for submissions, considering Johnson's less than stellar jiu-jitsu. Expect to see a rare tapout win by the Team Alpha Male standout.
Danny Castillo via Round 3 Submission
John Heinis: Don't look now, but Danny Castillo is quietly riding a three-fight win streak and is victorious in six of his past seven. His opponent, Michael Johnson, has his stock on the rise as well, with consecutive wins over Shane Roller and Tony Ferguson.
Rescheduled from the cancelled UFC 151, expect a lot of jockeying for position here as both wrestlers fight to gain and maintain the top position. Johnson has the heavier hands, while Castillo, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, has the superior submissions.
Castillo is super tough and very hungry, but I just feel that Michael Johnson is ever-so-slightly better here.
Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x 2, 30-27)
Vince Carey: One of several fights on this card that was originally part of the cancelled UFC 151 event, there may not be a closer bout on the lineup than Michael Johnson and Danny Castillo.
Johnson was a huge favorite to win his season of The Ultimate Fighter a couple of years ago, but he showed he still needed to improve when he was defeated in the finale by Jonathan Brookins.
After a rough 1-2 start to his Octagon career Johnson has rebounded nicely with a two-fight winning streak, taking out TUF 13 winner Tony Ferguson in his last bout by using his improved striking skills to frustrate his opponent.
However, Johnson may not get a chance to stand and trade very often in a fight against Danny Castillo.
Castillo’s wrestling has become his bread and butter, and he has the ability to finish the fight both with his ground-and-pound and submission games.
Another tough fight to call on a fight card full of close matchups, but I think Castillo is a little better at everything and should easily earn a decision win here.
Danny Castillo via Unanimous Decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: Both these fighters are riding nice winning streaks right now with some very tough victories along the way. Castillo has fought the tougher opponents and he may have experience on his side. Johnson's game is just a little more explosive and determined, and I think he will be able to grind out a win with his strength and wrestling.
Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision
Jeremy Stephens vs. Yves Edwards
Matt Juul: After back-to-back tough losses to Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis, lightweight Jeremy Stephens may be on the chopping block if he losses to longtime veteran Yves Edwards.
"Lil' Heathen" will be very motivated in this fight with his back against the wall, and it should make for an exciting fight against the "Thugjitsu Master."
Edwards will have a slight advantage on the ground, but Stephens will have a definite edge standing up with 14 of his 20 wins coming via knockout. Edwards has a decent chin but has been overwhelmed in the past by hard, early strikes. If Stephens can pour it on early, he should come out of this fight with his hand raised.
Jeremy Stephens via Round One TKO
John Heinis: Jeremy Stephens is the perfect example of an "almost there" fighter in the UFC: he can give just about any top-10 fighter in the lightweight division a run for their money, but in 14 Octagon appearances, he still lacks a signature win.
Yves Edwards won't provide that, but he will likely provide a nice bounce-back win after "Lil' Heathen" has lost two straight to Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone.
Edwards, 60 fights into his career at 36 years old, has lost two of his past three and his fight with Stephens will be his one and only in 2012. Edwards still possesses above-average striking and tricky submissions, but he just doesn't have the speed or the chin that he used to.
Desperate to keep his job, hard-hitting Stephens sounds like a pretty rough opponent for Edwards.
Jeremy Stephens via Round 2 KO
Vince Carey: This is probably the funnest fight on the card, and knowing how much Jeremy Stephens and Yves Edwards love to stand and trade, there’s no chance this fight makes it to the judges' scorecards.
Both of these lightweights possess serious knockout power and the stand-up skills to utilize it, and this should be a flat-out brawl while it lasts.
Edwards might be a little better when it comes to technical striking, and he could end up tagging Stephens on the feet and winning a round or two, but in the end I think his ability to take a solid punch is going to be tested a bit too often here.
Stephens hits like he has bricks taped to his gloves, and we’ve seen him win quite a few fights with just one well-placed right or left hand.
I’m looking forward to this fight more than any other on the preliminary portion of the card, and I’d love to see it go the distance in an epic slugfest, but Stephens just has too much power to ignore here.
Jeremy Stephens via Round 2 KO
Dwight Wakabayashi: A fight with these two in it is always exciting, so who knows what can happen when they turn on each other this weekend. Stephens is a crazy, all-out brawler but a brawler with skill, and Edwards is smooth and dangerous on his feet in many ways. These two are gonna lock horns, and I just don't like Edwards' chances of coming out on top.
Jeremy Stephens via Round 1 KO