After years of following the company and allocating hard-earned cash on videos and PPVs, yours truly will be attending his first UFC event in Broomfield, Colo.
UFC On Versus 1 will be headlined by the young phenom Jon "Bones" Jones against the hit-or-miss Brandon "The Truth" Vera. The night's co-main event features Junior "Cigano" dos Santos in a pivotal fight against Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga.
The anticipation, once only slightly pestering, is now breeding into a pool of intolerable eagerness.
My mind is so wrapped around what is to be its first UFC experience, the only way to escape the clutch is to dive even deeper and go over every aspect of the card, starting with a light-heavyweight bout between Eric "Ravishing Red" Schafer and Jason "The Hitman" Brilz.
Both fighters are coming off a loss—Schafer to fast-rising prospect Ryan Bader; Brilz to submission fighter Eliot Marshall—and are in need of a victory to keep footing in a very stacked division.
Some would look at the records—Schafer (11-4), Brilz (17-2-1)—and think that Brilz holds the experience edge. But you have to look at the opponents to see that the advantage actually falls in Schafer's hands.
Now in the talent-rich division, neither opponent holds a victory over any of the big-name fighters, but Schafer has been involved in some wars with a few.
He has battled it out with some talented fighters through six fights, while Brilz has been at a standstill in the division through three fights against the company's mid-level guys.
Although Brilz hasn't had a step-up in competition yet, he shouldn't be overlooked. He has a fair amount of experience and has been known to rattle the brains of his opponents with some very heavy hands.
If he connects with one of his punches, it could be disaster for Schafer. However, Brilz has a very limited selection of strikes in his bag, and Schafer's work with Duke Roufus and Pat Barry has cleaned up his striking considerably.
Expect a more polished attack from Schafer filled with range-finding jabs and quick counters. Red should be able to get the better of Brilz on the feet, and he will likely find his comfort zone relatively early against the telegraphed striking of his opponent.
Sometimes Schafer tends to get too relaxed, though, and he has eaten some knuckles as a direct result of it. Despite this, he has the wits to recover quickly and regain his composure while his opponent swarms him.
Brilz has taken some big shots as well, but unlike Schafer, he has a really tough time clearing the birds from his senses and getting back with the plan of attack. Instead, he usually winds up in retaliation mode and finds himself in precarious positions.
It's likely after an exchange of combinations that these two will end up locking horns.
In the clinch, while Schafer searches for a limb to latch onto, watch out for some heavy bombs over the top from Brilz. The heavy hands will likely find their mark more often than the submission specialist's peppering shots.
Regardless, Brilz's strength lies within his ground game, where he likes to rain down destruction. He has the strength and takedowns to get this fight to the ground. Even with his wrestling background, he still tends to telegraph his shoots.
Brilz needs to mix it up with combinations if he wishes to wrestle Schafer down, as Red's sprawl is severely underrated. That's if Schafer even wants to defend the takedown at all. After all, he is a highly decorated grappling machine.
So there is a great chance that this fight will wind up on the ground, with Brilz delivering punishing strikes from the top. He holds the definitive advantage in the ground-and-pound department, but he is too aggressive for his own good.
The legitimate black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Schafer has the moves and quickness to separate a limb in the matter of a few seconds. Brilz has had his fair share of submission wars, but he hasn't grappled with the caliber of Schafer.
This fight offers a very intriguing, stylistic match-up, pitting an aggressive ground-and-pound fighter against a crafty jiu jitsu artist. It should be interesting to see how these two adapt their styles in this one.
Range attack: Schafer
Clinch attack: Brilz
Takedown defense: Schafer
Ground attack: Brilz
Submission defense: Schafer
UFC On Versus 1 Official Picks
Schafer over Brilz
Keep an eye out for coverage on Mike Pierce Vs. Julio Paulino in the next couple of days.