UFC 130 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada will take place next Saturday, May 28, 2011.
Originally scheduled to headline this event was the third matchup between the UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, and the No. 1 contender, Gray Maynard.
Unfortunate injuries to both fighters have scrapped this main event battle.
To fill the void of this epic trilogy between Edgar and Maynard will be a light heavyweight clash between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Matt "The Hammer" Hamill.
Additionally, the co-main event features the former UFC heavyweight champion, Frank Mir, slotted to face Roy "Big Country" Nelson.
In middleweight action, the technically precise, hard-hitting ex-Marine Brian Stann will square off against former Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago.
Additional fights include a wonderful welterweight bout between Thiago Alves and Rick Story, as well as an action-packed bantamweight battle between Miguel Torres and Demetrious Johnson.
Please follow along as I provide analysis and in-depth previews and predictions of all the night's fights.
I welcome your comments.
"Like" me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter @magnus06
The night's events will begin on Facebook with a bantamweight matchup between Renan Barao and Cole Escovedo.
Barao, nominated as Sherdog's top prospect in their list of "10 Brazilians to watch in 2010" is also a training partner will the current UFC featherweight champion, Jose Aldo.
With an overall MMA record of 25-1, Barao brings a tremendous amount of experience into the Octagon with him.
Recording 12 victories by submission, this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt is dynamic on the ground and is well versed in the stand-up striking department.
Challenging Barao is Cole "Apache Kid" Escovedo.
With an overall MMA record of 17-6, Escovedo has challenged some of the sport's best featherweight fighters including Jens Pulver, Urijah Faber, and Michihiro Omigawa.
Looking to make a name for himself within the UFC bantamweight division, Escovedo will have his work cut out for him against the dynamic Barao.
Both fighters possess a balanced fight game. However, Renan Barao is a more developed bantamweight fighter and will rely on his overwhelming experience edge to obtain a victory in his UFC debut.
I foresee a back-and-forth affair with Barao securing a submission victory in the third round via rear-naked choke.
Prediction: Renan Barao via rear-naked choke Round 3
The night's second matchup featured on Facebook is another bantamweight bout between Michael "Mayday" McDonald versus Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso.
Possessing an overall MMA record of 12-1 with seven knockout victories, McDonald brings a high-level stand-up ability inside the Octagon.
Beginning to train in kick-boxing at the age of 10, "Mayday" is extremely comfortable exchanging in the middle of the Octagon.
Opposing McDonald will be Chris Cariaso.
A Muay-Thai practitioner with an overall MMA record of 11-2 with seven decision victories, like McDonald, Cariaso is also comfortable on his feet.
Seemingly lacking the knockout power, Cariaso's conditioning enables him to stay busy and earn points on the judges' scorecards.
Not only does McDonald have the height and reach advantage over Cariaso, he also possesses the ferocity to secure a knockout victory inside the Octagon.
Prediction: Michael McDonald earns a Round 2 TKO victory
This lightweight matchup will be extremely interesting.
Gleison Tibau, a savvy veteran with a 22-7 mixed martial arts record, is well known for his ability to make the 155-pound weight ceiling, yet arrive on fight day at nearly 185 pounds.
Sabotaging success in the past due to this drastic weight cut, when Tibau's weight is not an issue, he is a truly gifted fighter.
Possessing a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and training with American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, all the pieces of training will be in place for Tibau to be successful in this fight.
Opposing Tibau will be the former International Fight League competitor, Bart "Bartimus" Palaszewski.
Also possessing a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Palaszewski surprisingly has fought in 49 total MMA events, earning 35 victories.
A diligent worker inside the Octagon, "Bartimus" has a balanced attack securing 16 knockout victories and 11 wins by submission.
A battle of these two veterans will come down to conditioning. Understanding Tibau's deficiencies in this department in the past, I believe that Palaszewski's hand will be raised in victory on Saturday night.
Prediction: Bart Palaszewski will earn a three round split decision victory
Spike TV will air two preliminary card fights. The first will be a middleweight matchup between Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove and Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch.
At 6'6" 185 pounds and with a 79-inch reach, Grove is all elbows and knees and utilizes them well with his Muay-Thai background.
Losing five of his last nine fights in the UFC since 2007, Grove is an enigmatic presence inside the cage.
With glimmers of dominance overshadowed by an inability to maintain a high level fight game, Grove needs to secure a victory against Boetsch this weekend to remain employed by Dana White and the UFC.
Competing the majority of his career at light heavyweight, Boetsch will be making his middleweight debut at UFC 130.
Talented enough to remain relevant within the UFC, "The Barbarian" is not exceptional at any one facet of the fight game.
A balanced fighter with six knockout victories and five submission wins, Boetsch can challenge on his feet or off of his back.
Knowing the importance of this matchup, Kendall Grove will look to be the aggressor and dominate Boetsch in the stand-up affair.
Considering the extreme weight-cut for a more suited light heavyweight, Boetsch will face dire challenges against Grove.
In the end, I believe that Kendall Grove will dominate Boetsch on their feet, wearing down "The Barbarian," earning a TKO victory.
Prediction: Kendall Grove Round 2 TKO victory
This bantamweight fight between two high-octane MMA future superstars may steal the Fight of the Night honors and make Dana White very proud.
The former WEC bantamweight champion, Miguel Torres stands a towering 5'10" tall at a mere 135 pounds. With an obvious reach and height advantage, Torres utilizes all that length during the stand-up wars.
With an impressive overall MMA record of 39-3 with 23 submissions, Torres is known to wear down his opponents on their feet and secure a submission victory on the ground.
Challenging Torres will be Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson.
At 5'3", 135 pounds, Johnson is a non-stop spark plug inside the Octagon with the cardiovascular ability to push the pace from bell to bell.
Lacking in experience, "Mighty Mouse" has an equally impressive 9-1 overall MMA record, with five decision victories.
A relentless worker inside the cage, Johnson will definitely push the pace against Torres attempting to wear down his opponent.
Fighting conservatively in his previous matchup, expectations for Torres will be very high for this former champion to finish Johnson and ultimately challenge for the bantamweight title.
Knowing this, I believe that Demetrious Johnson will fight with an ultra-aggressive style, pushing the tempo not allowing Torres to become comfortable within his fight strategy.
A victory for "Mighty Mouse" will be paramount to his career. And, in the end, I believe he will weather the stand-up storm that Torres brings to the Octagon and ultimately be awarded a decision victory.
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson via unanimous decision victory
The first of two potentially explosive fights on the main card features "The All-American" Brian Stann versus Jorge Santiago.
Stann, the former WEC light heavyweight champion, earned a decisive victory over the steel-jawed Chris "The Crippler" Leben back on New Year's Day at UFC 125.
Lambasting Leben with a flurry of punches, kicks, and knees, Stann steam-rolled through "The Crippler" en route to a first round TKO.
Technically proficient in his stand-up with dynamite in his hands, the "All-American" has shown gaps in his ground game leading to defeats under the UFC banner.
Opposing Stann will be the Sengoku middleweight champion, Jorge Santiago.
A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Santiago has accumulated an overall MMA record of 23-8 with 12 submission victories.
Competing against a variety of top-tier talent, Santiago has faced Chris Leben, Trevor Prangley, Jeremy Horn, and Alan Belcher in his past.
A dynamic fighter who is balanced in his stand-up and ground game, Santiago will present a wide array of challenges for Stann.
This fight should be action packed with tremendous fireworks while standing. Look for explosive punches, body crunching knees, and a variety of kicks to be executed by both fighters.
Santiago holds the advantage on the ground and Stann's ground defense is suspect.
In the end, I believe that Stann's technical striking will earn the "All-American" a TKO victory and elevate the former Marine one step closer to a title shot with Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight championship.
Prediction: Brian Stann TKO victory Round 2
The bookend fight to save the ratings on this card will be Thiago "The Pitbull" Alves versus Rick "The Horror" Story in a welterweight duel.
A revolutionized Alves entered the Octagon back in December of 2010 at UFC 124 and put on a striking clinic against the hard-hitting John Howard.
Mixing a variety of strikes with various leg kicks, and by changing the angles of attack, Alves was able to keep Howard off-balance securing a unanimous decision victory.
With back-to-back losses to Jon Fitch and Georges St-Pierre prior to UFC 124, "The Pitbull" implemented a nutritional change to his preparation and the results were evident with his conditioning, speed of attack, and stamina against Howard.
Opposing Thiago Alves will be the 26-year old Southpaw, Rick Story.
Story has an overall MMA record of 12-3, 5-1 in the UFC.
A tremendously gifted fighter, Story is willing to stand and trade with anyone in the center of the Octagon.
Stepping up in the level of competition against Alves, "The Horror" will need to bring his A game to Las Vegas to earn a victory against "The Pitbull."
Definitely a Knockout of the Night potential in this matchup, I do not see this fight going the distance.
With both competitors willing and capable of knocking out the other, this battle should provide the fans with tremendous excitement and a (T)KO victory.
In the end, I believe a renewed Thiago Alves will be declared the victor.
Prediction: Thiago Alves via TKO in Round 3
In the night's first heavyweight battle, Stefan "The Skyscraper" Struve faces Travis "Hapa" Browne.
In addition to standing 6'11" tall and weighing nearly 255 pounds, Struve has an 83-inch reach.
With an overall MMA record of 21-4 with 14 submission victories, the Dutch man is equally versed on the ground.
Willing to mix it up, Struve is known for his propensity for violence inside the Octagon.
At times, this no-holds barred mentality has served "The Skyscraper" well. Other times, for example, against Junior dos Santos, Struve was picked apart and would have been better served attempting to fight dos Santos on the ground.
Regardless, Struve will enter the cage willing and capable to compete in all facets of this matchup.
Challenging Struve will be the heavy-handed Travis Browne.
At 6'7" 255 pounds, Browne will match Struve in the size department.
Accumulating eight knockout victories during his young career, "Hapa" will be looking to chop down "The Skyscraper" at UFC 130.
In the end, I believe that Stefan Struve's all-around fight game is better than that of Travis Browne's.
If Struve can minimize damage in the stand-up department, he will secure a victory.
Holding the advantage in the jiu-jitsu game, taking the fight to the ground and working for a submission win will serve Struve well.
Prediction: Stefan Struve via triangle choke Round 3
The fourth fight on the main card features the second heavyweight matchup of the evening between Frank Mir and Roy "Big Country" Nelson.
Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion has fought for the UFC since 2001. With an overall MMA record of 14-5, Mir's five defeats have all come by way of knockout.
Considered to be one of ultimate fighting's top heavyweights prior to his motorcycle accident in 2004, Mir's return to the Octagon has been marred by upset defeats and eye-popping victories.
Losing to Brandon Vera in 2006, Mir rebounded by defeating both Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira in 2008.
Earning victories in two of his last four fights, Mir needs to secure a win against Nelson to place him back into title contention for the UFC heavyweight championship.
Season 10 winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Nelson's appearance should earn him the nickname, "don't judge a book by its cover."
Defying the odds from a physique stand-point, "Big Country" mystifies logic by possessing excellent cardiovascular conditioning, great boxing skills, and black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie.
Considering that both Mir and Nelson are excellent ground practitioners, this fight will be won in the stand-up striking department.
Pushing the tempo and landing a solid punch will determine the victor.
Nelson survived a brutal beating at the hands of Junior dos Santos without being knocked out, providing him the edge with the solid jaw.
In the end, I believe that Roy Nelson will defeat Frank Mir.
Prediction: Roy Nelson via TKO Round 3
The main event of the evening features former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson taking on Matt "The Hammer" Hamill.
Jackson, a seasoned veteran within the mixed martial arts community, has a total of 39 fights to his credit, with 31 victories.
Coming off a split decision victory over Lyoto Machida, one would think that momentum is on the side of "Rampage" for this matchup.
However, recently Jackson has been quoted as stating, "I'm not interested in Fighting Matt,I rather fight Rashad,I have unfinished business with him" (www.mmamania.com, May 18, 2011).
Seemingly uninterested in facing Hamill, an unmotivated Jackson may arrive to compete in this main event.
However, knowing far to well that a victory against Hamill will place "Rampage" one step closer to a future battle with Evans may be the spark necessary to instill the dedication needed in Jackson to win this fight.
Matt Hamill comes into this fight with the mindset that Jackson is a launching pad into the UFC light heavyweight contention discussion.
"The Hammer" understands all to well that a victory over "Rampage" will be the biggest victory in his young career.
A solid striker with dynamite in his right hand, Hamill has recently incorporated a variety of leg kicks to his offensive arsenal.
Both fighters have solid wrestling. And therefore, the grappling game should be even.
I feel the difference in this fight will be Hamill's utilization of leg kicks and Jackson's inability to adequately defend that attack.
Leg kicks open up the boxing game, and Hamill will look to follow up a leg kick with a heavy right hand.
Questioning Jackson's motivation for this fight, I favor a slight upset with Hamill securing a (T)KO victory over the more experienced Jackson.
Prediction: Matt Hamill TKO victory Round 3