On a card of under-appreciated matchups, all eyes are on Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua. There are a few unknowns that will be floating around inside the Staples Center, as well as inside millions of homes across the world.
Will this officially become the Machida Era?
Will Shogun live up to the hype he yielded coming from Pride FC?
Either way, Oct. 24 will bring UFC fans a night of exciting fights before an answer shows itself. Additionally, Spike TV will once again air two (possibly more) of the preliminary fights due to the smashing success they had with the preliminaries from UFC 103.
Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua- Lyoto Machida
A never before seen version of Rua will enter the UFC cage this coming Saturday. The version that Pride fans have come to know and love, the version that most mainstream American fans have gone on to say was a figment of imagination.
Rua will bring a highly-disciplined version of his very aggressive muay thai. His focus will shatter that of any other Shogun that anybody has ever witnessed. This will be America's introduction to the consensus No.1 light heavyweight of a few years back.
But the question is, how can this outstanding fighter defeat an opponent that is as elusive as Machida?
The answer is that he most likely won't. Like Rua, Machida will have the focus of a Tibetan monk. Machida is a true practitioner of martial arts, practicing the focus and discipline before any of the actual motions. Training in karate as a child has instilled these attributes into the core of Machida, and it's likely that fight fans will never see "The Dragon" break from that mold.
Machida's speed and elusiveness will cause Rua's game-plan to crumble like a charred home in a wind storm. His karate stance has been a nuisance for all of his opponents, and Rua's aggressive attack will likely put "Shogun" in the same scenario. Machida's patience and timing makes him one of the best counter-strikers in the sport as well.
Expect a slow start to the fight, followed with an unexpected and dramatic finish.
Ben Rothwell vs. Cain Velasquez- Ben Rothwell
If this article was written a month ago, the pick would have been for Cain Velasquez. He's a two-time All-American wrestler out of Arizona State that has garnished a perfect record of 6-0 by way of the ground-and-pound.
The work ethic and drive of Velasquez makes even the biggest of health nuts cringe from exhaustion. On top of that, his chin appears to be made of granite, taking multiple shots from one of the deadliest strikers of the UFC's heavyweight division in Cheick Kongo.
But that was before further review of IFL stand-out Ben Rothwell. Already a veteran of the sport, Rothwell has earned a 30-6 record at the age of 28, earning 17 of those wins by knock out, 11 more by submission.
Rothwell will bring in a powerful, all-around attack, something which Kongo has been highly criticized for the lack of. Rothwell's mammoth build, mixed with his underrated sprawl, will make things increasingly difficult for Velasquez. Rothwell is also surprisingly tough to keep down for a large man.
Another note to point out was the fact that when Velasquez was rocked by Kongo, Kongo was stepping backwards in fear of the takedown. Rothwell will likely be more willing to advance on Velasquez in search of the knock out.
Josh Neer vs. Gleison Tibau- Gleison Tibau
Josh Neer will be stepping up to this fight after Sean Sherk's controversial removal, but that's beside the point.
Neer is a lightweight that can't be taken lightly, his all-around game has caught many fighters off guard, such as: Mac Danzig, Din Thomas, and Joe Stevenson. His striking is aggressive as any other lightweight, luring many opponents into his gameplan. Expect the young veteran to bring in his A-game after his one-sided loss to Kurt Pellegrino.
If one were to look at the column with the L above it, they would notice that a majority of Neer's defeats come at the hands of a superior ground fighter. While Neer is no slouch on the ground, Gleison Tibau makes him look like dirt on a white carpet.
Gleison Tibau is the Thiago Alves of the lightweight division, packing serious weight by the time the referee begins the fight. Tibau is a very dominant wrestler that can take down just about anyone with ease. Once on the ground, the black belt in jiu jitsu will show his patience and strength, likely frustrating Neer on his way to a submission or decision victory.
Spencer Fisher vs. Joe Stevenson- Joe Stevenson
Spencer Fisher continues to climb the lightweight ladder in search of his fourth consecutive victory. Like all of his previous fights, Fisher will put on a show for the fans first, and then search for the victory.
Fisher is another fighter that is dangerous from just about every position, although his greatest strength lies in his explosive and highly-entertaining striking. His boxing and muay thai often averts eyes away from his effective sprawl, as well as his dangerous guard.
While Fisher has finally gained some of the respect he deserves, he has the daunting task of fighting one of the strongest lightweight competitors in Joe Stevenson.
Stevenson's boxing may have some technique to it, but his game-plan will likely be to clinch and obtain a takedown. From here, Stevenson will use his phenomenal grip to keep Fisher down in search of a submission. His black belt in jiu jitsu, mixed with his solid wrestling, will likely keep Fisher on his back in chagrin.
Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida- Anthony Johnson
If anyone knows a thing or two about Yoshida, they know that avoiding his clinch is a must in search of the victory.
Yoshida is a fourth degree black belt in Judo, and he showcases it beautifully. Although he isn't known as a fearsome striker on the feet, he is outright deadly in an offensive position on the ground. His ground-and-pound can be very painful and if his opponent survives, Yoshida is also very quick in snagging a submission attempt.
Anthony Johnson will come in to this fight looking to avoid the clinch, and he will likely utilize Josh Koscheck's game-plan against Yoshida.
One of the bigger welterweights, walking around at 200+ pounds, Johnson brings in plenty of power. He also brings in the speed and athleticism of some lightweights, making him that much more dangerous. Johnson will likely use his size and wrestling background to keep this fight standing and keep Yoshida at a distance. Johnson's patient attack might keep him at bay until a sloppy takedown attempt by Yoshida surfaces, where Johnson will release the inner pitbull and finish the fight in a frenzy.
PRELIMINARY CARD (SPIKE TV)
Ryan Bader vs. Eric Schafer- Eric Schafer
The Ultimate Fighter Eight light heavyweight winner, Ryan Bader, looks to continue his slow, methodical rise up the ranks.
Bader has earned a perfect record of 9-0, mostly due to his wrestling background from Arizona State, where he was a teammate of Cain Velasquez. What most people don't know is that Bader is a skilled boxer as well and he's made it clear that this area of expertise is where he plans on keeping this fight. That's hard to believe though as a wrestler will always be a wrestler.
Eric Schafer comes into this fight looking to prove to everyone that he is more than just a submission fighter, as two of his last three fights ended in a t.k.o victory. However, don't expect Schafer to avoid his bread and butter of jiu jitsu. The black belt will likely goad Bader into the ground game, where he is no joke but tends to tire easily.
Expect a drawn-out chess game on the ground, where Schafer will catch "Darth" in a submission and shock TUF fans all over the world.
Patrick Barry vs. Antoni Hardonk- Antoni Hardonk
Expect this fight to be a K-1 style brawl with maybe, just maybe, some elements of MMA somewhere in the mix. Both fighters are accomplished kick-boxers that decided to make the transition to MMA.
Antoni Hardonk has battled with some of the best heavyweights that the UFC offers in Frank Mir and Cheick Kongo. Albeit, both outcomes resulted in a loss, Hardonk carries a considerable edge in the experience department. Hardonk is also the much larger, and presumably stronger, athlete in this fight. His takedown defense is underrated as well, although that attribute will probably watch this fight cage-side with the rest of his corner.
Patrick Barry has a notable advantage in the sport of kickboxing, but only recently made the move to the sport of MMA in 2008. At the age of 30, Barry is learning very quickly about the ups and downs of the sport training under Duke Roufus. In addition to kickboxing, Barry is skilled in muay thai as well. After a very disappointing loss to Tim Hague, expect a more patient Barry to elevate his game.
Yushin Okami vs. Chael Sonnen- Yushin Okami
Rob Kimmons vs. Jorge Rivera- Rob Kimmons
Razak Al-Hassan vs. Kyle Kingsbury- Kyle Kingsbury
Stefan Struve vs. Chase Gormley- Chase Gormley