UFC 145: Keys to Victory for the Preliminary Card Fighters
The UFC 145 Jones vs. Evans preliminary card offers up a nice variety of big, small, and perfectly in-between fighters and fights on April 21st from Atlanta, Georgia.
All fights will be available to fans as they happen, with Brimage vs. Blanco and Wisniewski vs. Clements being streamed live on Facebook. The remaining four fights will be shown live on FX TV.
The televised bouts will feature some popular TUF Alumni, as Mac Danzig will battle Efrain Escudero, and Matt Brown will face Stephen Thompson. The preliminary card will be concluded with a colossal heavyweight clash between two young, hungry beasts, as Travis Browne will clash head-on with Chad Griggs.
It is poised to be an electrifying night of fights before it even hits the main card.
Here are the keys to victory for each preliminary card fighter.
Featherweight: Marcus Brimage (4-1) vs. Maximo Blanco (8-3)
Brimage is only fighting in his second fight in the UFC, and his first one was on a TUF finale card. Fighting on a pay-per-view card is a step-up, and the key to victory for him must be to go in and stay calm, despite the show that will be going on around him. Blanco has a bit more fight experience than he does, but is making his UFC debut, and if Brimage can stay calm out of the gate, he should make for a good fight.
His chin better be ready too.
Blanco is making his UFC debut, but is the more experienced fighter in this matchup. His poise and nerves should not be an issue, and the key for Blanco is to get off in the exchanges first. I believe he has a slight advantage over Brimage in quickness and diverse striking, and if he can use his footwork to keep Brimage off balance, and pop him when he ventures in, Blanco should be able to get a decision.
His chin better be ready to take a few as well.
Welterweight: Keith Wisniewski (28-13) vs. Chris Clements (10-4)
This is Wisniewski's second go-around in the UFC and he is a known ground fighter who can take a lot of punishment and persevere. If he wants this fight to go his way, he better take it down to the ground as soon as he can. His key to victory will be taking this fight down to his world and keeping it there. I don't see things going well for him if Clements puts his hands on him for any type of sustained attack.
Clements has been fighting for years, but he is making his long-awaited debut in the UFC. Clements has ten wins in his career, all by knockout, and that is the blueprint to victory here. When Clements hits you, he hurts you, so he simply must keep this fight on the feet as much as possible to win. He has a very underrated ground game, but I'm not sure he wants to test that out against a grappler like Wisniewski.
Clements has fifteen minutes to stay out of trouble and land a shot. If he does, it's over.
Lightweight: Mac Danzig (20-9) vs. Efrain Escudero (18-4)
Mac Danzig fights best when he is on the fast-paced attack, and it's pace that will win him this fight too. If Danzig can dictate the pace and not let Escudero breathe in this fight, he will be able to wear him out and score a decisive victory. Danzig's fights are exciting and unpredictable, and he executes his transitions extremely well.
Whether he keeps it a striking war or moves it in tight all night, if Danzig can push the cardio he will break Escudero down.
Escudero has faced some of the toughest in his division in his time in the UFC, with tough results. It seems when he gets in the matches with top-level guys, his cardio can't hold up. Proper weight cutting, improved cardio and conditioning is key if Escudero wants to execute his game.
If he can stay fresh, Escudero has a chance in this fight by taking Danzig down and staying on top of him, maybe even pulling out a submission from there. I believe he is physically stronger than Danzig, but not if he gasses.
Lightweight: John Makdessi (10-1) vs. Anthony Njokuani (14-6)
Makdessi is a fantastic striker and this is a nice matchup for him. I don't think that Njokuani will take a page out of Dennis Hallman's book and take him down right away, so this fight could be an exciting one. If this fight is fought mainly on the feet as I expect it will be, Makdessi's footwork, angles and toolbox of unpredictable strikes will be his key to victory.
Njokuani has a slight reach advantage, especially with his kicks, so Makdessi will have to keep moving and keep his angles sharp and unpredictable, or he could be the second to hit the mark all night.
Njokuani is counting on speed and reach to land more than Makdessi, and he is bang-on with the latter. I think the speed game will be a wash in this one, as Makdessi is as quick as they come, but the reach will be the key to Njokuani landing more shots. If Njokuani can use his footwork to stay directly in front of Makdessi, he may be able to pick him apart from there.
Kicks from the outside may be the key to victory for Njokuani
Welterweight: Matt Brown (13-11) vs. Stephen Thompson (6-0)
This fight was made to be a stand-up war but Brown might want to disregard that if he wants to take home a victory. Brown should go in, get in the inexperienced Thompson's face and put him on his back first, before he starts dropping bombs on him from there. If Brown wants to keep it a standing slug-fest, his striking will be a step behind.
Brown should be able to defend any submission attempts Thompson throws at him while on his back, and we all know that Brown can take a whole lot of punishment. If he gets on top of Thompson he should win.
Thompson has burst onto the UFC scene with his beautiful head-kick KO-victory against Dan Stittgen in his debut in February. Brown is a step up from Stittgen, and the accomplished kickboxer is going to have to rely on a sustained attack to take out Brown. If this fight stays standing, Thompson will surely score enough to win, so his takedown defence and wrestling will be key to keep the fight in his world.
If it is a stand-up war, I like Thompson's chances at an exciting KO.
Heavyweight: Travis Browne (12-0-1) vs. Chad Griggs (12-1)
There are two key components to victory for Travis Browne, and they are totally under his control. Improved conditioning is the first thing Browne will need in this fight, as the fresher fighter will do the damage. The real keys to victory for Browne are his camp and his game plan. Browne trains in Albuquerque under Greg Jackson, and that guidance will be a clear advantage for him. Jackson will surely lay out a game plan to victory, and Browne simply has to be in shape to execute.
His UFC experience may also be a key if he can pounce on Griggs early.
Griggs is making his debut in the UFC, but has fought three times for Strikeforce, so the bright lights won't be totally foreign for him. Griggs has power and surprisingly good cardio for a big man. If Griggs can set and maintain a quick pace in the fight, whether it stays standing or goes to the ground, he may be able to wear down Browne and score late.
Griggs has probably been drilling his takedown defence most in his camp an keeping the fight on the feet will go a long way to getting him the win.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA, MMA Editor at CKSN.ca and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.