UFC 132 Fight Card Preview: Dennis Siver and the Lightweight Division
UFC 132: Cruz vs. Faber 2 features some incredibly exciting fights throughout the entire card. This isn't just a night to order the Pay-Per-View—this is a night to sit down for six hours and watch the preliminary fights on Facebook and Spike TV as well.
While there are intriguing match-ups throughout, including a Bantamweight title fight, this card, more than any other, will seriously alter the Lightweight Division.
Dennis Siver vs. Matt Wiman, Melvin Guillard vs. Shane Roller, George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Njokuani vs. Andre Winner are all fights that contain potential major players in the division.
I've made my predictions already, but let's take a look at who could potentially match-up the best with the top of the division.
Dennis Siver is coming off of the most impressive performance of his career. This isn't necessarily because it was the most dominant, but because it came against the highly skilled George Sotiropoulos.
The German kick-boxer was able to hand Sotiropoulos his first loss inside the Octagon—and end any title shot hopes as well.
His previous fight against Andre Winner also showed signs of his development, as he earned his first "Submission of the Night" bonus after a rear-naked choke finish in the first round.
According to the USA Today and SB Nation Consensus Rankings, Dennis Siver is listed at No. 15 in the Lightweight Division. Unfortunately, a win over the un-ranked Matt Wiman doesn't do much for his title hopes. Ideally he'd get a shot at someone like Ben Henderson or Anthony Pettis, with a win.
Still, Siver is probably three more wins away from a title shot. Wiman isn't a big name in the division and it is unlikely that he'll go into a No. 1 contenders bout with a win over him. It's more likely that an additional win over a Top 10 ranked opponent will get him there.
The question about Siver is his ground game and wrestling ability.
Everyone is aware that he can strike, but the only time he's had to defend takedowns recently was during his bout against Sotiropoulos—who isn't known for his wrestling. While he did finish Winner on the ground, it was after knocking him down—and again, Winner isn't known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
It's possible that Siver can contend for a title shot, but he'll have to continue to evolve in the grappling realm because the top guys in the division—Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Jim Miller—all have great wrestling backgrounds.
Matt Wiman, like Dennis Siver, is coming off of the most impressive win of his career. His complete domination of Cole Miller gave him enough momentum for the UFC to give him a fight with a fairly highly ranked opponent.
Still, "Handsome" Matt Wiman is dealing with a big step up in competition. His fight over Mac Danzig was stopped quite prematurely when the referee thought Danzig was out, and the fight before that—a decision win over Shane Nelson—didn't move much either.
When Wiman has faced some of the better competition that the division has to offer—guys like Jim Miller and Sam Stout—he has struggled. However, Wiman is just 27 years old and is still evolving as a fighter. It's possible that his fight over Cole Miller is a sign of things to come.
Dennis Siver will be the biggest test of Wiman's career and a win—even an unimpressive one—will prove a lot to his fellow lightweights.
As of right now, it's hard to think of Wiman being a top contender because he's never proven himself against top competition. It'll take several fights to change that perception.
Melvin Guillard is a difficult guy to figure out. It seems he fights much better when he has something to prove against higher competition. His fight against Evan Dunham was easily the most impressive performance of his career.
Even though he's been fighting since 2002, Guillard is just 28 years old. Since making the move to Greg Jackson's camp after a submission loss to Nate Diaz, he's seriously improved in all areas. His submission defense, hands, conditioning and demeanor are all better. He's 4-0 since making the move to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Guillard, who is ranked at No. 11 in the USA Today and SB Nation Consensus Rankings, has expressed displeasure in being given a fight against Shane Roller and his lack of respect in the division.
“I honestly felt after the [Evan] Dunham fight that it was going to move me a lot higher,” Guillard told ESPN.com ahead of his UFC 132 bout with Shane Roller. “But they’re still ranking guys like Dennis Siver ahead of me, and I knocked this chump out in less than two minutes. He even called me out again, trying to fight me again. But a lot of fights aren’t making sense, and I don’t really have a choice [but to fight Roller] because of the traffic jam with the weight class."
I don't think a fight with Roller makes much sense, honestly. Roller is un-ranked and Guillard has won four straight. Hopefully, he'll be getting a contender if he impresses with a win over Roller.
A motivated Melvin Guillard could be a force in the division. The move to Greg Jackson's was definitely the best thing for his career. Greg Jackson has proved that he can make champions.
Shane Roller is coming off of a pretty ridiculous win over Thiago Tavares in March that saw him get battered for the entire first round and part of the second, only to win by knockout seemingly out of nowhere. He'd never before finished a fight by KO or TKO in the UFC or WEC.
Still, Melvin Guillard hits a lot harder than Thiago Tavares and he's not likely to be caught the same way. However, Roller has shown his ability to submit quality fighters like Jamie Varner and Anthony Njokuani once he drags them to the ground—a problem that Guillard has had in the past.
Guillard's takedown defense and submission defense is much improved though, and this fight is a terrible match-up for Roller. An upset-win over Guillard, however, will catapult him in the rankings.
Roller only lost twice in his WEC run, going 6-2, with his two losses coming to Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis. As of right now, Roller isn't even sniffing contender status—but a win over Guillard would do a lot to change that.
Ah, George Sotiropoulos. What a nice run he had.
A heavy underdog to Joe Stevenson, Sotiropoulos made his name known in front of his Australian fans by dominating the former No. 1 contender. Afterward, he went on to defeat Kurt Pellegrino and finish Joe Lauzon via kimura.
After going undefeated in the UFC for seven straight fights—in fact, his last loss was by disqualification against Shinya Aoki back in 2006—Sotiropoulos finally ran into Dennis Siver, who was able to keep the fight standing.
Sotiropoulos is, in my opinion, the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in the Lightweight Division. He has an amazing guard due to his flexibility and ability to use the rubber guard; he also has impressive guard passes and submissions. He's dangerous everywhere on the ground.
The issue is that after showcasing his skills, people have begun to avoid them. Sotiropoulos will have to improve his wrestling, because everyone will be looking to avoid the takedown against him. Rafael dos Anjos is a solid grappler, however, and it could make for an extremely exciting grappling display if this fight gets to the ground.
On the other hand, it could make for three rounds of boxing. Sotiropoulos has improved his hands significantly over the course of his run in the UFC and he should be able to beat dos Anjos wherever the fight takes place.
Sotiropoulos was close to a title shot before the Siver fight and this one should get him back on track for a main card fight against a Top 10 lightweight.
Rafael Dos Anjos
Rafael dos Anjos is a well-rounded fighter that just hasn't really been able to get it done against the high quality lightweights in the UFC.
In his first fight in the UFC, he was knocked out by a vicious uppercut at the hands of Jeremy Stephens. He followed that up with a loss to Tyson Griffin.
Dos Anjos proved his worth with three straight wins against Rob Emerson, Kyle Bradley and Terry Etim, but unfortunately followed that with a loss to Clay Guida after suffering a broken jaw.
George Sotiropoulos is one of those top lightweights, therefore dos Anjos will struggle. It seems he is at a disadvantage wherever the fight takes place.
However, if he does manage to pull off a win against Sotiropoulos, he's immediately going to rocket himself up in the rankings.
Andre Winner seemed to have a lot of promise after his first few fights in the UFC. He lost The Ultimate Fighter Finale in a razor-close decision to Ross Pearson, but followed that up with a knockout of Rolando Delgado and a win over Rafaello Oliveira.
He ran into "The Carny," Nik Lentz, however, who exposed Winner's inability to grapple—an apparently common trait for much of England's Team Rough House.
Another loss came at the hands of Dennis Siver, who actually managed to out-strike the Brit, dropping him in the first round and subsequently submitting him on the ground.
A fight against Anthony Njokuani is, most likely, a fight to remain in the UFC. It should be an extremely exciting match-up, considering both are high quality strikers, but Winner must get a win here in order to remain relevant in the division.
Another import from the WEC, Anthony Njokuani lost his first bout in the UFC to the extremely dangerous Edson Barboza—but it was the first fight Barboza didn't manage to finish in his 8-0 MMA career.
Despite a tough performance against Barboza, Njokuani is just 1-3 in his last four fights, losing by submission to Shane Roller and by TKO to Maciej Jewtuszko. His only win came against the relatively unknown Edward Faaloloto.
Much like his opponent Andre Winner, Njokuani needs to win this bout to remain in the UFC and continue to work his way up. At one point in the WEC, he won three straight "Knockout of the Night" bonuses, so he is a talented striker—he's just not very well rounded.
An impressive performance against Winner would do a lot for his career. Although this is an under-card bout, set to air on Facebook, this could very well be a contender for "Fight of the Night."