The anticipation starts to pulsate hours leading up to major events, not only for the fighters, but also hardcore fans. Our lasting thoughts about who can do this or should do that or will win to move on to fight this guy, among many more things, begins to settle into place on the day of the card after sending countless hours online perusing sites and articles and blogs weeks leading up to the big day.
There’s still time to really narrow down the particular elements of each fight, even on a Saturday, one last opportunity to put all opinion and analysis into perspective—the conclusive breakdown while everything is still fresh in our minds.
As a result, I want to dissect the one most crucial element of each main card fight, pull out the smoking gun that will likely turn the tide in favor of the man who is able to execute a particular strength or expose a certain weakness in his opponent.
Despite the shortage of encompassing star power emulating from UFC 130, most of the matchups offer some exciting possibilities that should produce very solid encounters between all around quality fighters. Matt Hamill, Rick Story, Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve share a common desire to prove tonight that they are all ready to propel their careers into the next level of contention in their respective divisions.
It’s a buffet of hungry fighters, all wanting to make that transition into the spotlight—a chance to make their case that they belong among the top half of their weight class.
So, let’s filter through all the overwhelming conditional predictions, the numerous hypothetical situations, and get to the bottom of each main fight. What is the lingering “X-Factor” during each bout that all fans should be mindful of?
Brian Stann vs. Jorge Santiago
X-Factor: Stann’s ground game, in particular his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Everybody knows he is a hard-hitting, mentally tough middleweight, but after taking a peak at his previous fights, his ground experience is nothing compared to Santiago’s, who is a crafty BJJ black belt with 12 submission wins.
Unlike Stann, who can be stiff at times, the Brazilian switches levels very well and possesses a very unpredictable offensive approach that helps him utilize all his well-rounded skills as a fighter. If Stann has trouble reading his opponent’s intentions, take-down setups and striking angles, he will more than likely find himself defending submission attempts off his back.
Thiago Alves vs. Rick Story
X-Factor: Whether or not Story will be successful pushing the pace, taking the fight to Alves, making him retreat towards the cage. On paper, Story is honestly out of his league locking horns with a fighter of Alves’ caliber at this point in his young career. But, it’s obviously an effective way to gauge where you stand in the division and what you need to work on to get to the next level.
Historically, Alves has trouble defending take-downs while backing up. His explosive stand-up becomes easier to work through when he’s retreating as well. If Story gives up too much ground though, Alves has a solid enough sprawl away from the cage and pin-point striking power pushing forward to make Story’s night a hard lesson learned.
Stefan Struve vs. Travis Browne
X-Factor: Has Stuve become comfortable enough fighting in his extremely lengthy frame to prevent Browne from getting on the inside and causing havoc. As a tall fighter, Struve must fight like a tall fighter, find his center of balance.
There’s a harmonious mixture between fending off opponents with your reach and being confident with your higher center of gravity, which will always be a point of contention for Struve. At his young age, the Dutch fighter is constantly evolving and improving, so it will be interesting to witness his improvements this time around.
Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson
X-Factor: Frank Mir’s fighting aggression has been in question lately, especially after his fights with Shane Carwin and Mirko Cro-Cop. When Mir taps into his natural aggression, he becomes much more dangerous to his opponents, putting together his combinations and landing serious power—just ask Cheick Kongo and Big Nog Nogueira.
With that said, Mir was notoriously timid against Carwin and Cro-Cop, which lead to a brutal TKO loss and a forgettable knockout victory. Mir will already have more tools to work with: reach, size, power, technical striking and BJJ. If he can fuel those attributes with some forward movement and urgency, he should be able to make quick work of Roy Nelson.
Rampage Jackson vs. Matt Hamill
X-Factor: Whether or not Hamill will get reeled into a stand-up brawl, in turn negating his true advantage over Rampage—his wrestling. Throughout the last couple of years, Hamill has shown great improvement in this stand-up, but has often disregarded his strengths and prematurely relied on his second rate striking in his fights, putting himself at risk of losing.
Hamill’s striking is not even in the same sport, let alone the same league as Rampage’s. His striking speed and defense is a huge liability when he decides to stand—which would be disastrous against somebody like Rampage, who possesses serious punching power, defense and footwork.
If Hamill becomes too eager to move forward standing, his chances of winning decrease tenfold, thanks to one murderous left hook that has caused many men to fall asleep over the years. There’s no doubt that Hamill will get a low return if he decides to exchange with Rampage.
On the other hand, if he using his dominant wrestling to get Rampage on his back, Hamill has a real chance of upsetting the favorite and advancing to a higher slot in the peaking order. Everybody knows Rampage is vulnerable to leg kicks and getting worked from bottom position—two weapons Hamill should have no problem inflicting.