In what’s becoming increasingly familiar for fight fans on any given weekend, the UFC is right back in our grills with a phenomenal event in San Jose this Saturday night on pay-per-view. In fact, this card is packing solid fights from start to finish, making it a possible top contender for best show of the year. Admittedly, I might be overstretching it a bit, considering that statement is before the fact, but it is certainly a strong way to close out the tail end of the year.
When combining the star power from the main event and co-main event, you've got four fighters—two of which are legends and one well on his way—who at one point in their careers have been title holders.
Furthermore, the rest of the card boasts two more ex-champions squaring off for a chance at bantamweight kingpin Dominick Cruz and another fight between two starving welterweights vying for the opportunity to become the division’s No. 1 contender in the near future.
Let’s not forget the prelims during this orgasmo rundown of UFC 139. To keep the trend alive, there is one more guy, Miguel Torres, who used to wear gold and flirted with many pundits’ pound-for-pound lists back in the height of his career in the WEC.
On the featured Spike portion of the prelims, a former contender—who was on the verge of a championship run with current light heavyweight champ Jon Jones—is on deck to return to the upper echelons of the 205-lb stable. The list goes on; this is not an event to miss.
Beware: There is a lot of bling on this card
Now that we have established how intriguing UFC 139 is as a whole event, let’s take it a step further and briefly exam three bouts guaranteed to shake things up in and out of the Octagon. Obviously the top billings create all the bells and whistles, but the heart and engine of the event can easily be overlooked due to card placement. Be sure not to miss these top three fights before the co and main event.
You’d be hard pressed to come across a modern day UFC event with only four Brazilians competing; this is that card and half of them are in one match.
This battle has “brawl of the night” written all over it.
That is understandably a confusing statement at first, considering we’re dealing with two elite Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts by way of the sport’s mecca country. On paper this matchup would likely produce fireworks on the ground—unfortunately, something fans don’t see enough of—but if history is any lesson, two guys who share the same strength have a habit of testing each other in an unspoken challenge under a different discipline once the gate closes.
This can certainly be frustrating to watch from time to time. There’s nothing worse than enduring three rounds of mediocre boxing from elite wrestlers trying to show off a new skill like kids during show-n-tell (I’m looking at the Matt Hamills and Josh Koschecks).
Unlike our singlet slayers, Tibau and Dos Anjos have legitimate reasons to forego their specialty for striking from time to time. Their respective stand up games have progressively improved—particularly Dos Anjos, who knocked out former welterweight contender George Sotiropoulos at UFC 132 in Australia.
Of course, if the fight does go to the ground by their own admission, the two Brazilians will produce an even more intriguing affair. We'll have "shock and awe" regardless where this one ends up.
Since cutting down to 170 lbs, Kampmann has settled in nicely as a top contender at any given time of the year. What helps insure this position is the fact that he remains one of the most well-versed fighters in the division, utilizing all aspects of the game at a high level.
Unfortunately, he tends to stubbornly display these elements against his opponents’ strengths—brawling with Diego Sanchez, rolling with Jake Shields and striking with Paul Daley. Assuming he doesn’t choose to wrestle or brawl with Rick Story, that losing cyclical trend will be broken at UFC 139.
Both Kampmann and Story are a win or two away from being back in the mix, lingering around the framework of the welterweight title picture. In addition, both men are coming off losses—two for Kampmann and one for Story—making this a very competitive bout between too skilled fighters looking to avoid irrelevancy and regain momentum.
Like many close contests, the deciding factor will be determined by the fighter who can impose the right game plan and style (hate to sound too cliché).
Due to his indestructible chin, even if Kampmann gets cut off and caught by a bull-rushing Story, he should be able to withstand the storm. If it becomes a dog fight between cardio and durability, Kampmann will take the nod.
In all likelihood, Kampmann will avoid the latter scenario by using his superior footwork and striking technique, maintaining distance and scoring damage until Story's cardio is empty enough making him vulnerable for a finish.
Even if Story executes some takedowns on the Dane—assuming they are good enough to best Kampmann’s sprawl—he’ll be up against his opponent’s solid ground game. It’s hard to see an area beyond wrestling where Story will have a big enough advantage to defeat Kampmann.
Nevertheless, like most of Kampmann’s fights, it will be hard fought and entertaining.
This is a featured bout between two men looking for a chance to not only regain a title, but also seek revenge on the current champ Cruz, who has tallied a victory over both guys. In fact, Cruz marks the only smear on a near-perfect record for Bowles and crushed all dreams of being a UFC champion for Faber.
Needless to say, both fighters have a common goal, making it that much easier to look past one another. That common mistake would derail all chances at the belt, though—regardless, this will be a highly-contested fight for the No. 1 contender spot.
With so much at stake and a shared history of broken hands, look for each guy to have a more conservative feeling out period, pulling back on the throttle a bit in the opening round. Faber does have faster footwork, which will allow him better opportunities to avoid Bowles' power advantage and keep his back off the cage.
As a result, the California Kid will more than likely “hang loose” on the outside, strafing in and out from awkward angles to slow and frustrate Bowles until the time is right for a takedown.
Faber’s wrestling advantage isn’t as clear cut as some might think, though. Over confident shots, especially up against the cage, plays right into Bowles’ deadly guillotine choke. Even in the clinch, I don’t see Faber having his way with Bowles, who has comparable upper body strength.
All in all, the former WEC poster boy from Cali might be the slight favorite heading into the fight, but Bowles has all the tools for a reasonable upset victory.