UFC 155 Fight Card: Power Ranking the Preliminary Card Bouts
UFC 155 is one of the best cards of 2012, and the UFC made sure to reflect that in the preliminary card. While the main card has seen a slew of injuries, the preliminary card has remained incredibly compelling.
We have established veterans like Jamie Varner, Melvin Guillard and Leonard Garcia. We have top-10 mainstays in Brad Pickett and Chris Cariaso. And we have hot up-and-comers in John Moraga, Michael Johnson and Erik Perez.
Each bout is quite compelling, so why don't we do what Bleacher Report does best? Power rank these fights!
No. 7: Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodworth
In a division short on title contenders, sometimes this is the sort of less-than-exciting match that comes up.
Erik Perez is on a seven-fight winning streak and his two fights in the UFC have both been stoppage victories. Byron Bloodworth, meanwhile, has not fought in more than a year. That last fight was his UFC debut, where he was knocked out by Mike Easton.
While Mike Easton is a solid fighter (he is 3-1 in the UFC), in this writers opinion, the bout has a distinctive “feeding time” feel to it. The UFC is trying to bulk up Erik Perez's resume and they want Byron Bloodworth to be a bullet point on it.
Sure, this is the bantamweight division. Sure, this is a fight that has a level of relevance to the title picture, as it can hurtle Perez into the upper echelon of the division. Sure, it can end in a wild knockout.
Still, I find myself not especially excited about this fight. The fact that it's buried in one of the most thoroughly-stacked preliminary cards you'll ever find certainly doesn't help, either.
No. 6: Michael Johnson vs. Myles Jury
The fact that this is the second-lowest ranked fight on this preliminary card is not an indictment of Johnson or Jury. It's just a testament to how awesome this card is.
Michael Johnson, in case you somehow missed him, is the hyper-talented TUF 12 runner-up. He is 4-2 in the UFC and is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, most recently knocking out Danny Castillo at UFC on FX 5. Myles Jury, meanwhile, is 10-0 in his MMA career and won his UFC debut by choking out Chris Saunders.
This is a great fight between two lightweight prospects who have well-established grappling and striking skills. The fight could end anywhere, at any time. And once again, it's the second-lowest ranked fight here!
How great is that?
No. 5: Phil De Fries vs. Todd Duffee
Todd Duffee, best known for his seven-second knockout of Tim Hague in 2009, is finally returning to the UFC after being surprisingly and mysteriously cut following his shocking knockout loss to Mike Russow. After sitting out all of 2011 with a knee injury (and making a cameo in Michael Jai White's Never Back Down 2 film), he punched his ticket back to the UFC by punching out long-time Bellator heavyweight Neil Grove.
Phil de Fries joined the UFC in 2011 and is 2-1 so far. He beat less-than-amazing heavyweights Oli Thompson and Rob Broughton, while losing to Stipe Miocic. De Fries owns some solid grappling skills, but at age 26, he remains a prospect with an unknown ceiling.
The heavyweight division is terribly thin these days, and every middle-of-the-pack fighter therein is in his mid-30s (save Stefan Struve). Shane Carwin, Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Cheick Kongo, Frank Mir, Daniel Cormier, Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva are all between 33 and 38 years old. How much fight any given one of them has left in the tank at this point is a mystery, but regardless, over the next few years, the heavyweight division is going to be seeing lots and lots of fighters leave.
The fight itself is a standard grappler vs. striker job. The implications, though, reach further than that. Pay close attention to this one, folks.
No. 4: Leonard Garcia vs. Max Holloway
It's do or die time for Leonard Garcia. Again.
Garcia is 1-4 in his last five fights, and even that's a bit generous. He hasn't won a fight by anything other than a controversial split decision since he knocked out Jens Pulver in 2008. Think about that. George W. Bush was president the last time Garcia actually beat an opponent.
Max Holloway, meanwhile, is replacing an injured Cody McKenzie. McKenzie, who is 2-3 in the UFC, was a much safer match for Garcia, as Max Holloway owns two scary UFC wins.
While this clocks in at No. 4, make no mistake—this is a fight that could easily end up as Fight of the Night. Garcia is no stranger to brawls, and while he hasn't won much, he has also never lost by knockout. As we've seen many times, he has enough scrappiness that this is probably going to end up a downright brawl that goes to decision, or may end up a huge highlight knockout for Max Holloway.
This, surprisingly, ends up on the Facebook leg of the event, so make sure to have the UFC “liked” or you're gonna miss it!
No. 3: Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland
Here we have a compelling bout between two of the bantamweight division's best finishers. With Michael McDonald set to face off with Renan Barao, this could very well be an important step towards determining the next contender in the bantamweight division.
Eddie Wineland is not quite back in the title picture yet. After putting together a solid four-fight winning streak in the WEC, he lost his UFC debut against former featherweight champ Urijah Faber, and followed that up with a loss against two-time bantamweight contender and unanimous No. 2 flyweight Joseph Benavidez. Make no mistake, though, Eddie Wineland is a legit fighter, and he demonstrated it when he knocked out Scott Jorgensen in June.
Brad Pickett is the one who may find himself fighting for a belt in 2013, though. With back-to-back wins over Damacio Page and Yves Jabouin, both of which got fight night bonuses, Pickett has found himself near the top of many bantamweight rankings, and a fan favorite. If McDonald beats Barao, and Cruz stays out of commission, we could see a McDonald vs. Pickett match come up in late summer 2013.
All that aside, this is an exciting bout between two bantamweights known for their great finishing skills. They have a combined eight bonuses in the WEC and UFC and are more than capable of delivering the Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night or Submission of the Night. Watch for this one on FX.
No. 2: Chris Cariaso vs. John Moraga
Speaking of bouts in the lighter weight classes that could be the precursors to title fights, here we have a flyweight fight between Chris Cariaso and John Moraga in the second spot.
As we all know, the flyweight division is a work in progress, making any exciting win enough to vault somebody into a title fight. Such was the case with John Dodson, who will be facing off with Demetrious Johnson next month. Such could be the case right here, tonight.
Chris Cariaso, a long-time bantamweight mainstay, won his flyweight debut in July when he outshined Josh Ferguson in all three rounds. A WEC veteran, Cariaso is 5-2 under the Zuffa umbrella and could very easily end up fighting for the belt if he beats Moraga in convincing fashion.
Moraga made his presence in the flyweight division known back in August when he floored Ulysses Gomez with a scary wave of elbows and punches. Another big knockout and Moraga, who has an 11-1 MMA record, may very well get the chance to avenge the lone loss on his record, which came in 2010 courtesy of John Dodson.
Flyweight fights are guaranteed fireworks, so expect these two to zip around the cage and swap big hits. Then watch for the winner to potentially end up fighting for the flyweight in Spring 2013.
No. 1: Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner
This was my most-anticipated fight for the TUF 16 Finale. My excitement has not waned. This should be the favorite for Fight of the Night.
Guillard and Varner, as stated, were supposed to square off at the TUF 16 Finale. The bout was canceled just hours before it was scheduled to happen when Varner began vomiting, and was quickly rescheduled to fill out the card for UFC 155 after Phil Davis vs. Forrest Griffin was scrapped.
Guillard and Varner are two of the better strikers in the lightweight division. Guillard's strong kickboxing is a sight many UFC fans are familiar with. Varner's pure boxing skills, however, remain under-appreciated by some.
Both fighters could be fighting for their jobs here, in spite of the fact that they are coming off Fight of the Night performances. This means we have two exciting fighters with knockout power about to put it all on the line. Get buckled in for this one!