Tom Lawlor Rises as Middleweight Hopeful: Spiars' Quick Picks for UFN 20
Another night of free fights on Jan. 11, this time making a rare appearance on Monday night.
The card is littered with TUF winners, as well as contestants, and it offers the fans some potentially exciting matchups.
The night's main event could conceivably name B.J. Penn's next opponent, as Gray Maynard looks for an impressive performance against Nate Diaz.
Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard—Gray Maynard
Nate Diaz used his underrated jiu jitsu to storm through the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter, including a victory over his upcoming opponent, Gray Maynard.
While his career can be compared to a roller-coaster, Diaz always appears to be in the mix of the lightweight division, and should he win this Monday, things will look even brighter for the young prospect.
Although he isn't known for his striking, Diaz likes to scrap, and he will do his best to keep it that way.
However, Diaz usually winds up on his back in his fights, which doesn't really impose any threat to his plans. If a slight opening presents itself, Diaz will reach deep into his bag of submissions and end the fight quickly, exactly like his last fight with Maynard.
This time around, Gray "The Bully" Maynard is a different breed of fighter.
His best asset is obviously his wrestling, using his size and strength advantage to rag-doll opponents at will, before the eventual pummel-your-face technique. Scoring a takedown on him is almost impossible unless his opponent has a strong wrestling pedigree.
Maynard's striking has improved, but he mainly uses his combinations to set up a clinch or a takedown.
In the end, Maynard is just a more patient, more strategic fighter than Nate Diaz. The first time around, he was still settling into the cage. Expect a less-aggressive Maynard to grind out another decision.
Evan Dunham vs. Efrain Escudero—Efrain Escudero
In a battle of unbeatens, this fight seems to be getting overlooked as both opponents have the skills to make it the fight of the night.
Evan Dunham has shown that he can be an exciting presence inside the lightweight division, finishing off opponents left and right with his excellent submission skills.
He has the speed and accuracy to connect with his striking, and even the power to turn the lights out. However, Dunham does appear to telegraph certain strikes, which could ultimately be his downfall.
Efrain "Hecho en Mexico" Escudero has shown the fans what can happen when you duck while you should be weaving in his last fight against Cole Miller.
He is known for his tenacious wrestling attack, with powerful slams and consistent takedowns. He has a very solid base that has controlled his past opponents effortlessly.
With such a strong wrestling background, people often overlook his other skills, such as his jiu jitsu, and most recently, his striking.
Escudero had earned eight straight submission victories prior to his UFC debut, albeit, one of them was a submission due to strikes.
All in all, Escudero is better-rounded in this one, holding the distinct advantage in what should be a great fight.
Tom Lawlor vs. Aaron Simpson—Tom Lawlor
Aaron "A-Train" Simpson freight-trained his way into the UFC by using good ole fashion ground-and-pound, and he hasn't stopped since.
He has earned two victories inside the octagon with his wrestling, easily controlling his opponents before scoring the T.K.O victory.
Before scoring the takedown, Simpson sets up the shot with very light feet and continuous movement. He's good at feinting, and is even better at capitalizing on his opponent's reaction to that feint.
If Simpson started his MMA career earlier, there is no doubt that he would have been a stud, but the young guns like "Filthy" Tom Lawlor are taking over the sport.
The enthralling Lawlor has never made any attempts of covering up who he is or what he plans to do.
His second fight at middleweight, Lawlor holds a size advantage over Simpson, which bodes well for his wrestling game. Although he is an accomplished wrestler, he could do more to disguise his takedown attempts.
If this fight goes down, it would appear that Lawlor has the grappling advantage with a few submission wins feathering his cap, especially with Simpson's aggressive ground-and-pound.
Brad Blackburn vs. Amir Sadollah— Amir Sadollah
With an overall record of 15-9-1-1, "Bad" Brad Blackburn has quietly sneaked past the radar of many fans inside the UFC. Although his opponents no longer fight for the promotion, he holds a perfect record of 3-0.
He has used a crisp, systematic striking attack to pick apart his opponents until an opening appears. Blackburn has the power in his hands to finish opponents, making him very dangerous on his feet.
His sprawl could be better at keeping the fight standing, especially going into a fight against Amir Sadollah.
Sadollah holds a black belt in sambo, and has the ability throw Blackburn onto his back. Despite only holding a white belt in jiu jitsu, Sadollah is actually quite skilled with submissions in the form of sambo, and holds a clear advantage in grappling.
In his last fight with the one-trick pony Phil Baroni, Sadollah showed a dominant clinch game, showing off his much-improved muay thai attack.
Although he lacks the experience that Blackburn holds, Sadollah is coming in with excellent training and the advice of fellow Xtreme Couture fighters.
Watch for a Sadollah win to keep his momentum rolling in the welterweight division.
Chris Leben vs. Jay Silva—Jay Silva
Jesse Lennox vs. Rick Story—Rick Story
Nik Lentz vs. Thiago Tavares—Thiago Tavares
Mike Guymon vs. Rory MacDonald—Rory MacDonald
Kyle Bradley vs. Rafael dos Anjos—Kyle Bradley
Gerald Harris vs. John Salter—Gerald Harris
Nick Catone vs. Jesse Forbes—Nick Catone
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