Only one day away from the cursed card of UFC 108 and everyone is wondering if the injury bug is going to claim another victim. It seems doubtful, but then again, it seemed doubtful before Steve Cantwell had to pull out of his fight with Vladimir Matyushenko, eventually causing the fight to be dropped from the card.
The night was also suppose to feature Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cain Velasquez, Carlos Condit, Tyson Griffin, Sean Sherk, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Rory Markham.
UFC 108 was suppose to be a card that was going to set the new year in the right direction, and despite the changes to the line up, it still has the potential to do so, as these type of cards usually generate more exciting fights than the stacked cards.
Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva—Thiago Silva
Although it appears that "Suga" Rashad Evans wants his next opponent to be Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the ultimate goal of every fighter is to be the champion. A former light-heavyweight champion, Evans know he is in dire need of a victory to remain in the title hunt.
As he continues to train, Evans is steadily evolving as a complete fighter. He once relied on his wrestling attack to out work his opponents on his way towards victory, but his time down at Jackson's MMA has turned him into a devastating striker as well.
In fact, he just might hold the striking advantage in this fight. The counter attack of Evans is very accurate, and even more deadly when combined with the speed advantage that he holds over most of the division.
However, against Thiago Silva, Evans' speed advantage won't be of much help to him. Silva's speed is often over-shadowed by his menacing aggression.
Silva is a fighter that loves to slice the necks of his opponents, sending them into la-la land with chirping birds and twinkling stars circling around their head. His work down at American Top Team has lethally combined his aggression with a clean striking attack that includes beautiful counter strikes.
Effectively turning Silva into a dangerous machine, considering he's already known for his brutal knockouts, but what makes him so dangerous is that Silva is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Silva will try to keep this one standing, but if Evans chooses to wrestle him down to the mat, fans might be indulged with the often forgotten grappling ability of Silva, in fact, his effortless ability to pass through guards will likely show another glaring hole in Evans' attack.
Paul Daley vs. Dustin Hazelett—Dustin Hazelett
Paul "Semtex" Daley stormed on to the UFC scene with a brutal, standing TKO over former welterweight contender, Martin Kampmann.
Fans were treated to the explosive power that his hands possess, and with his victory, Daley was tossed into the category of potential contenders.
What really makes him a dangerous opponent is his ability to keep a fight on the feet, as his sprawl negates all but the elite wrestlers of the division. Upon exiting from a failed take down, Daley can whip out painful uppercuts, making his opponents think twice about another take down attempt.
This may spell trouble for Dustin "McLovin" Hazelett, as he relies on his grappling ability and has struggled in the fights that were kept standing.
At the young age of 23, Hazelett still has room to improve on his weaknesses, which he continues to do. While people rant and rave about his grappling prowess, they seem to look past the subtle striking improvements that he makes.
Hazelett is lighter on his feet, his punches are of the snapping variety as opposed to the pushing type, his head movement and foot work are slightly more agile.
Regardless, Hazelett's plan is to submit the arrogant British striker, and he has the ability to do it. His reach advantage can keep Daley at bay until he decides to use his unfounded strength to attempt the take down.
Here, Daley is a fish out of water that's stuck in the middle of the Sahara desert.
Joe Lauzon vs. Sam Stout—Joe Lauzon
Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout gained many fans due to his fights with Spencer Fisher, for his never-let-up attitude and his ability to go all out for the entire fight.
He is a well conditioned athlete that has the stamina to hang with the best of the lightweight division, especially with his extensive work over at Xtreme Couture.
As evident by his nickname, Stout brings some explosive strength in with his hands. In addition to his stone hands, Stout also possesses a granite chin, useful for his fighting style of trading leather on the feet.
One area that he has often struggled in was the grappling department, which may be his downfall against Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon.
The speedy Lauzon is very light on his feet, and has the quickness to either shoot in for the clinch, or to avoid the heavy hands of Stout. Once in the clinch, Lauzon has a high take down percentage, whereas Stout tends to struggle with the sprawl.
On the ground, Lauzon holds a serious advantage over his opponent with his crafty jiu jitsu. His transition attempts are lightning quick, and he has the sweeps to get out of any disadvantageous position, which is remarkable for a jiu jitsu purple belt.
This could be end up being the fight of the night, with either guy having his hand raised, it just appears that Lauzon has more credentials to pull it off.
Duane Ludwig vs. Jim Miller—Jim Miller
Duane "Bang" Ludwig makes his return to the UFC after nearly four years of absence, and his nickname alludes to what he is planning to do.
Ludwig wants to come in and bang away with his opponents, he is a heavy handed striker (that seems to be the theme with this cursed card) that has learned to patiently time his opponent's rhythm.
He has fought in several established promotions against a number of skilled fighters in Jens Pulver, Genki Sudo, B.J. Penn, Tyson Griffin, Josh Thomson, Paul Daley, and Takanori Gomi, giving him the experience edge.
His biggest flaws come from his back, Ludwig just hasn't evolved his jiu jitsu enough to be able and hang with the all-around fighters such as Jim Miller.
While Miller isn't a feared striker in the sport, he can't be considered a slouch either. He is effective at moving in with different angles on his attack, enough to throw of his opponent and gain the clinch or score the take down.
With a background in wrestling, Miller has the skills to rip Ludwig from his feet and throw him to the ground. His stout frame gives him a trusty base to work with, where he can either rain bombs, or if he chooses, Miller also has a very underrated jiu jitsu attack, taught to him by Renzo Gracie.
So while he doesn't excel at one certain area like Ludwig, Miller comes in with a complete package to get the job done.
Junior dos Santos vs. Gilbert Yvel—Junior dos Santos
Gilbert "The Hurricane" Yvel is set to make his UFC debut after receiving another single fight license to fight on American soil.
The Holland born fighter is known for his highly aggressive attack and his deadly muay thai striking. He lethally combines his reach advantage with his power and speed, making him a wrecking ball when he's on his feet.
He prefers the stand up game, and he continues to develop his sprawl, but it hasn't improved enough against good wrestlers.
He isn't lost in the grappling world though, as he is a purple belt in jiu jitsu. However, he still loses the fundamentals from time to time off of his back, letting his opponents easily pass his guard.
But with the recent trend of Junior dos Santos' fights, this one has the potential of staying on the feet.
Junior has steam-rolled through his first three UFC fights with some, yet again, heavy hands and one of the most dangerous and fastest uppercuts inside the octagon. So much so, that fans haven't really had the chance to see what he can do on the ground.
With a brown belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, under the tutelage of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, dos Santos is certainly a well-respected grappler, but you wouldn't be able to see that with his UFC performances.
Training with the likes of Rodrigo Nogueira, Rogerio Nogueira, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Jose Aldo, Paulo Filho, Ronaldo Souza, and Rafeal Cavalcante surely gives dos Santos the edge in fighter camps.
Even still, as referred to earlier, this one will likely be a stand up war that has little chance of going the distance.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
Martin Kampmann vs. Jacob Volkmann—Martin Kampmann
In his UFC debut, Jacob "Christmas" Volkmann went the distance with welterweight contender, Paulo Thiago.
His quick striking appeared sloppy and telegraphed, although he did find the clinch on occasion and scored a few take downs.
Volkmann showed some really good submission defense, as well as surprising Thiago with a darce choke from the bottom.
In the end, Volkmann didn't show the finishing ability needed, especially if he's going to keep swimming with the sharks of the division, like Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann.
Kampann lost some serious clout in his hunt for the title with his loss to Paul Daley, but he always bounces back stronger, hungrier.
The clean, counter boxing attack of Kampmann is a plus against Volkmann's telegraphed strikes. Although he's not the best on his feet, Kampann has the power to put people down, especially with Volkmann's questionable chin.
His Danish Thai knees will likely find their target on "Christmas'" head as he shoots for a take down.
If and when this fight does go down, the Xtreme Couture fighter Kampann has a few tricky submissions down his sleeve as well.
Dan Lauzon vs. Cole Miller—Cole Miller
Dan Lauzon made his UFC debut at the age of 18, and while he ended up losing, he held his own against a very game Spencer Fisher.
Since then, Lauzon has gone to fight in smaller promotions, where he has cleaned up his striking, both offensively and defensively.
The take downs from Lauzon are good, but inconsistent as well. Still at the age of 21 though, there is an unlimited potential for him.
Training with his older brother Joe, Lauzon has also picked up a little bit of jiu jitsu, however, Cole "Magrinho" Miller has him outclassed in that market.
Over at American Top Team, the brown belt of Miller is tested on a daily basis against quite a few black belts. He is very slick on the ground with his long limbs, and transitions with the best of them.
Even before the fight hits the ground, Miller is very comfortable on his feet with a tremendous reach advantage. His footwork can be a little bit sloppy from time to time, but it's usually effective at keeping his foe out of reach.
Although he is young himself, Miller also has far more experience than Lauzon heading into this fight.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Un-aired)
Ryan Jensen vs. Mark Munoz—Mark Munoz
Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Pyle—Jake Ellenberger
Rafaello Oliveira vs. John Gunderson—Rafaello Oliveira