The UFC is set to put on its second UFC Fight for the Troops event on Jan. 22, with the main card airing live on Spike TV and two preliminary fights streaming live via Facebook.
The Facebook approach is a new and interesting one for the UFC, but it’s another way to give the fans more action, something that’s always welcome.
The event goes down at Fort Hood outside of Killeen, Tex., and features 11 bouts in all.
The MMA DieHards panel of writers – Bob Badders, Hector Castro, Jason Kelly, Maggie Krol and Conner Cordova – gathered to make their picks for the entire card.
Three fighters earned unanimous nods from our panel as favorites in their fights.
Featherweight Mike Brown (24-7) gets the panel’s nod over Rani Yahya (15-6), lightweight Cole Miller (17-4) takes the win over Matt Wiman (12-5) in all five panelist’s opinions and heavyweight Pat Barry (5-2) is expected to defeat Joey Beltran (12-4) according to our fine group of prognosticators.
The panel was divided on the other eight contests, which brings us to the “Counterpunch,” where one of the writers in the minority defends his reason for going against the popular opinion. Unfortunately, two of our panelists – Hector and Maggie – were unable to contribute analysis to their picks due to their trip to Texas for the event. In their place, we have alternates – Rob Tatum, Bryan Henderson and Cameron Chow – filling in to provide their thoughts on some of the minority picks.
BW: Will Campuzano (8-3) vs. Chris Cariaso (10-2)
Picking Campuzano: 4 (Badders, Cordova, Kelly, Krol)
Picking Cariaso: 1 (Castro)
Henderson: For me, this is little more than the flip of a coin. I could go either way, but I’ll side with Cariaso. Campuzano has the reach advantage and a six-inch height advantage. That’s going to be hard for Cariaso to overcome.
Cariaso has proven that he can grind out decisions, while having a hard time finishing opponents. That comes into play here, as Cariaso won’t come close to stopping Campuzano, but will show the better technique in doing just enough to get the job done. While it won’t be pretty, I’ll say Cariaso can overcome the height disparity to pull off an ugly split decision win.
WW: Charlie Brenneman (12-2) vs. Amilcar Alves (11-2)
Picking Brenneman: 4 (Badders, Castro, Kelly, Krol)
Picking Alves: 1 (Cordova)
Cordova: One lone loss in the UFC shouldn’t define a career, but it can. Both of these guys are coming off of losses to top tier fighters, and with their UFC records so young, this is a make or break situation. Both are solid, well-rounded mixed martial artists, and with their backs against the wall, you can expect them to come out guns blazing. In situations like this, where both fighters are so close in skill, I have to go with my gut. Alves by submission in the second… there I said it! Woo… glad that’s done.
LW: Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire (18-3) vs. Waylon Lowe (9-3)
Picking Lowe: 3 (Badders, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking Freire: 2 (Castro, Krol)
Henderson: I’m somewhat surprised I’m even writing this as a “counterpunch” pick. Is it the fear that Freire will be overcome with Octagon jitters that has him checking in as the panel’s underdog in this fight? Or is it the level of competition they’ve faced?
Lowe has managed just one win in two tries inside the Octagon, and that win came via split decision over Steve Lopez. Meanwhile, Freire has nine more pro fights, nine more career wins and the Shooto welterweight (154 lb) title to his name. Sure, the competition hasn’t been on the same level as what Lowe has faced, but that can often be said of Brazilian stars making their move to the UFC.
“Chiquerim” will be the latest Brazilian import to impress in the UFC, and Lowe should be the perfect showcase fight to introduce Freire to the American fans. Given that this is Willamy’s first time in the Octagon, I see him struggling in the early going, but pulling out a second-round submission victory.
WW: DaMarques Johnson (11-8) vs. Mike Guymon (12-4-1)
Picking Johnson: 4 (Badders, Castro, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking Guymon: 1 (Krol)
Tatum: In what is a likely win or go home fight, welterweights Guymon and Johnson will face off on the Fight for the Troops undercard. Both fighters are coming off recent losses and will look to get back on track at the other’s expense.
Guymon enters the bout with a 1-2 record inside the Octagon, and was recently submitted by Daniel Roberts at UFC 121 in October. The “Joker” is a well-rounded veteran, whose submission skills cannot be taken lightly.
Johnson, meanwhile, is a US Army and TUF veteran who is looking to get back in the good graces of the promotion. Despite an even record of 2-2 inside the UFC, Johnson is likely facing the chopping block after missing weight in his last outing against Matt Riddle in August. A clearly gassed Johnson was TKO’d in the second round.
Based on what I have seen from both of these fighters, I know that Johnson is the more explosive (and younger) of the two, but his conditioning and submission defense have some holes. Guymon, on the other hand, while possessing deficiencies in his standup, is more capable of dictating the pace and location of the bout. If Johnson can keep it standing, he could easily score a highlight reel KO over Guymon, but I fully expect the “Joker” to take this fight to the mat and claim a decision victory over an exhausted Johnson.
LW: Yves Edwards (39-16-1) vs. Cody McKenzie (12-0)
Picking Edwards: 4 (Badder, Castro, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking McKenzie: 1 (Krol)
Chow: You’re right Yves Edwards, this isn’t the French Revolution, but the guillotine will reign supreme this weekend. The experience is on Edwards side, but the win will be on Cody McKenzie’s record when fight is over.
Edwards has stated that he’s not afraid of McKenzie’s signature move, but so had McKenzie’s previous ten opponents. Michael Jordan wanted to put the ball in the hoop and Tom Brady wants to complete passes, but it’s hard to stop the best of the best. Make no mistake about it, Cody McKenzie is one of the best when it comes to slapping on a guillotine.
I’m not saying McKenzie is going to win by guillotine, but he will win because of the threat of a guillotine. Edwards may be so focused on not being submitted in one way that it could lead to another opening. If McKenzie has a chance to slap on his special grip, Edwards’ experience won’t matter.
FW: Mark Hominick (19-8) vs. George Roop (11-6-1)
Picking Hominick: 3 (Badders, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking Roop: 2 (Castro, Krol)
Tatum: Admittedly, I’m playing the devil’s advocate in this fight. The Canadian, Mark Hominick, comes in riding a four-fight win streak and has been promised a title shot at featherweight juggernaut Jose Aldo if he disposes of George Roop, as expected. To be honest, I take issue with two things, the first being promising Hominick a title shot, but not Roop (although Roop is not deserving at this point), and giving UFC 129 two title fights. Traditionally, the two title fight scenario has provided lackluster performances (UFC 100, UFC 111, UFC 112 – decisions with champions retaining their belt), and since a certain Canadian fighter (GSP… cough) was responsible for two of those, this may be the UFC’s way of trying to accommodate that scenario.
Regardless of my issues with surrounding circumstances, I still believe Roop is worthy of consideration after his absolute destruction of Chan Sung Jung at WEC 51. Many expected “The Korean Zombie” to handle Roop easily, but in a classic case of styles making a fight, Jung’s aggressive nature proved to be his downfall as Roop sent him to the hospital with a vicious headkick. While Hominick is much more technical and disciplined than Jung, he’ll still have to deal with Roop’s 6-foot-1 frame and length, something rarely seen at 145 pounds.
On paper, this is a mismatch. And I’m a huge fan of Mark Hominick’s precision striking. You wouldn’t catch me placing money on this pick, but I’m just hopeful that Roop can throw a monkey wrench in the UFC’s plans and force them to rethink announcing title shots to one competitor and not the other.
HW: Matt Mitrione (3-0) vs. Tim Hague (12-4)
Picking Mitrione: 3 (Badders, Castro, Kelly)
Picking Hague: 2 (Cordova, Krol)
Cordova: Interesting, is the first thing that pops into my head when I think of this fight. Both guys are scrappy and durable. The thing that really stands out to me is how unorthodox they are! Mitrione’s stand up is so out there, and Hague just seems to pull it out, sloppy or not. In my opinion, Hague gets a bad rap. Todd Duffee got him just right to get that kind of finish, it seems like everyone forgot about how much abuse he took from Pat Barry and still won! I think Hague is taking this one on grit alone. The Canadian is bringing this one home.
LW: Evan Dunham (11-1) vs. Melvin Guillard (26-8-2)
Picking Dunham: 3 (Badders, Castro, Kelly)
Picking Guillard: 2 (Cordova, Krol)
Cordova: First off, I just have to say this main event is off the hook, two dynamic up-and-comers in the UFC going head to head with everything on the line! Fight of the Night potential, for sure. Both of these guys are extremely talented and dangerous when in their element. Really, this fight comes down to who imposes their will first, and trust me, we’re going to find out fast.
I see Dunham being the aggressor out of the gate, using lateral to cut off Guillard’s movement, then trying to pin him against the cage to get the take down. Here is where Evan is going to run into some problems; when he tries to rush Melvin, he is going to eat counters all day. Guillard is going to circle off the cage and pick him apart from the outside. If Guillard can keep this fight on the feet, I think he will catch Dunham late in the first round.
When Melvin Guillard brings his A game, he is a force to be reckoned with. Dunham has the tools, but I think Melvin has the one punch KO power to put him away.
Every Friday, MMA DieHards will take a look – with video footage when possible – at the previous week’s action at small regional and international shows with a focus on UFC and Pride veterans, consensus-ranked fighters and up-and-coming prospects. Here’s what went down between Jan. 14 and Jan. 20:
Hoosier FC 6: New Years Nemesis (Valparaiso, Ind.; Jan. 14)
TUF 12 alum Andy Main (5-1) snagged Bobby Reardanz (6-6) in a second-round armbar for the submission victory…WEC veteran Joe Benoit (11-4) submitted Ken Jackson (8-6) by way of a first-round armbar.
100% Fight 4 (Paris, France; Jan. 15)
UFC veteran Lucio Linhares (15-6) locked in a triangle choke in the second round to submit fellow UFC vet Xavier Foupa-Pokam (21-15) in a fight that made Sherdog’s list of 10 January Tussles Worth Watching.
The Cage Inc.: Battle at the Border 8 (Hankinson, N.D.; Jan. 15)
WEC veteran Clint Godfrey (12-3) successfully defended his Cage Inc. featherweight title with a first-round rear naked choke submission of Charlie DuBray (7-4).
Centurion Mixed Martial Arts (Balneario, Santa Catarina, Brazil; Jan. 15)
Flyweight Jose Maria Tome (24-2) secured a rear naked choke on Anderson Cruz (2-2) in the first round for the submission win.
King of the Cage: Confrontation (Santa Fe, N.M.; Jan. 15)
Bellator veteran Donald Sanchez (22-10) retained his KOTC bantamweight (145 lb) belt, submitting Scott Bear (3-4) via guillotine choke in the first round.
Midwest Cage Championships 31: Full Force (Des Moines, Iowa; Jan. 15)
Ronnie Britt (17-3) locked in a guillotine choke to submit Eric Irvin (2-1) in the first round.
Rumble on the Ridge 16 (Snoqualmie, Wash.; Jan. 15)
Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Mike Hayes (15-4-1) submitted Strikeforce vet Matt Kovacs (6-5) via third-round rear naked choke.
Ultimate Cage Battles: Pride & Glory (Parma, Ohio; Jan. 15)
UFC veteran Forrest Petz (22-9) earned a unanimous decision over Bellator veteran and former NFL running back Herbert Goodman (16-10) in the evening’s main event.
X-Fight MMA 1 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jan. 15)
Team Nogueira fighter Andre Santos (23-4) utilized an anaconda choke to submit Alberto Dos Santos (0-3-1) in the first round.
George Roop has to be better than the plan to stop him.
When the featherweight sets foot inside the Octagon on Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2 at Fort Hood, outside of Killeen, Tex., he will not only have to overcome his opponent, Mark Hominick, but also a strategy devised by a trainer with inside knowledge of his abilities.
“Without a doubt, Shawn Tompkins is one of the greatest coaches in the world,” Roop told host Joe Rizzo of Rear Naked Choke Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “He’s going to be able to put together a great gameplan for Hominick in order to try to beat me at everything.
“On the other hand, I have great coaches here in Tucson as well. We’ve put together a great gameplan as well. You’re a different animal when you’re in there in the cage. It’s not training. You become a different animal when you step in there to fight. It’s a whole different level, and I plan on taking it to a whole nother level.”
Once upon a time, Roop trained under Tompkins and alongside Hominick. Now, he’ll stand opposite his former teammates and try to play the spoiler. With a win at Fort Hood, Hominick has been guaranteed a title shot against the UFC’s first ever featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, but a win for Roop does not come with the same assurances. Roop’s plan is to change that.
“They’re not going to have any choice after this fight but to give me the title shot,” said Roop. “Really, who else are they going to give the title shot to? I’m not going to give them a choice in the matter.”
The ride to this stage in Roop’s career has seen a roller-coaster’s worth of ups and downs, both in weight and fight outcomes. He began his career as a 145-pounder, competing primarily for the Arizona-based Rage in the Cage promotion and capturing the organization’s featherweight crown. However, a move to the bright lights of the UFC also meant a move up in weight, and so Roop went to 155 pounds to compete on season eight of The Ultimate Fighter.
“The Ultimate Fighter changed my life completely,” Roop said. “It really showed me what I needed to do to get to that next level and become a mixed martial arts fighter. I was fighting at 155 pounds – I was walking around at 155 pounds at that time, so it was a tough weight class to compete in, especially with those bigger stronger guys.
“When you get an opportunity, whether it be at 185 pound weight class, I’d have been fighting at that. You get an opportunity, you run with it.”
Despite fighting larger men, he advanced to the semifinals of the reality series before being eliminated by Phillipe Nover. He then competed on the TUF 8 Finale, losing his official lightweight debut to Shane Nelson. Roop fought twice more at 155 under the UFC banner, defeating Dave Kaplan and losing to George Sotiropoulos, before receiving his walking papers from the promotion.
The Tucson native returned to his roots – and the featherweight division – by defeating Matt Dell in front of a hometown crowd at Rage in the Cage 137. The win earned him another shot with a Zuffa-owned company, World Extreme Cagefighting.
Roop again shifted weight classes, cutting down to 135 pounds for an unsuccessful bantamweight debut against Eddie Wineland.
“I tried to drop down and flirt with 135 pounds,” he said. “It’s definitely not something I’ll ever do again.
“You know, 145 pounds, I feel very comfortable at. It’s my natural fight weight. I feel like I can dominate the 145-pound division.”
That was it, Roop had finally pinned down his ideal competitive weight after changing divisions four times. He returned to the featherweight ranks at WEC 47, fighting to a draw with Leonard Garcia. The contest might not have produced a clear winner, but it did earn both fighters “Fight of the Night” bonuses.
The bonus money didn’t stop there, as Roop’s next outing delivered a “Knockout of the Night” check and put him back in the win column. His victim was “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, and his weapon of choice was a head kick – after all, how else would you drop a zombie than with a headshot?
The lighter weight divisions come with a reputation for delivering consistently entertaining action, and the arrival of these legions of 135- and 145-pounders in the UFC could spell a decrease in bonuses for the bigger guys. As for the featherweights and bantamweights, the letters U-F-C spell bigger bonus money than what was available in the WEC.
“It would be big money,” Roop said. “I’m definitely shooting for the bonuses. My main goal is to win the fight. Hopefully I can walk away with two bonus checks – Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night bonuses.”
While Roop hopes to take home multiple bonuses on Saturday, his goals do not end there. He’s also seeking to insert his name into the featherweight contender conversation. However, his former teammate and training partner, Mark Hominick, stands between him and that objective. Their history won’t deter Roop on Saturday, as his focus remains clear.
“Friends aside, I’m going in there to take him out,” Roop stated. “It doesn’t matter to me, at the end of the day it’s a job and I’m going to get paid.”
Every sport has a breeding ground for its future stars. In the case of mixed martial arts, the worlds of grappling, kickboxing and amateur wrestling are most likely to spawn the next Demian Maia, Mirko CroCop or Brock Lesnar. Collectively, these sports fall under the umbrella of “combat sports.” Every Wednesday, MMA DieHards reports on the biggest happenings in each of these realms of combat.
Grappling & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
by Gianni Grippo, four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion
The first of many big competitions has taken place in 2011, and the tournament was the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials installment in Lisbon, Portugal, where the champions were awarded with their pass to the main event in Abu Dhabi, this coming April.
The list of talent that will be in Abu Dhabi has grown deeper after this past weekend and is shaping the April event to be one to remember. In the under 65 kg (143.3 lb) division, the ultra-popular, battle-tested veteran Wellington “Megaton” Dias secured his place amongst the list of top competitors taking their talents to the Middle East with an impressive performance and another piece of hardware to show off to his fellow teammates and students.
If there was a debate to who was the big standout in this competition, it would most likely end with everyone agreeing that the standout was Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes. Recently coming off his double gold performance at the South American Open with two wins over former world champion Mario Reis, Mendes did not slow down. Tanquinho owned his under 74 kg (163.1 lb) division by getting the submission in his first two contests and winning the finals by an 18 to 0 score. So, it is safe to say that in Abu Dhabi he will be a formidable foe for anyone that steps opposite him on the mats.
In the under 83 kg (183 lb) division, Alan “Finfou” Nascimento was the main man and took gold, cleaning out his division while also being vice-champion on the absolute podium. With the big boys, Yan Cabral was the tournament’s under 92 kg (202.8 lb) champion, beating the eventual absolute champion Lucio “Lagarto” in the final. Lastly, in the over 92 kg weight class, Jose Junior took home the gold, cleaning out his bracket.
On the ladies side, Michelle Nicolini was triumphant in the under 63 kg (139 lb) division, beating a tough up-and-comer in Mackenzie Dern. Also, in the over 63 kg division Monica Silva was crowned champion and awarded the trip to Abu Dhabi.
Back to the United States, another popular and increasingly growing competition, the 6th Arizona Open, will be held on Feb. 26 and 27, which will include the super-match between two perennial black belt world champions in Jonathan “JT” Torres and Kron Gracie. So mark your calendar for those days and be ready for an awesome black belt matchup!
by Staff, The Open Mat
Indiana redshirt freshman Ryan Leblanc may have a record of 7-6, but if you look a little deeper you will see four of those loses came to top twenty wrestlers Zack Toal (2-1), Kyle Blevins (3-1), Luvsandori Turtogtokh (6-3) and most recently Cody Yohn (2-0). This makes LeBlanc one of those diamond in the rough types you don’t want to face coming down the stretch run or come tournament time. He is also just one piece to the Hoosier line up that has gone 10-3 and seems to be a program with the cup half full. With wrestlers such as Kirk Kinser, Paul Young, Matt Powless and Rick Alcala all ranked nationally and guys like Matt Ortega and Leblanc wrestling well, the future look’s bright in Indiana. (in-depth coverage)
Earlier in the month we saw our share of upsets at the Virginia Duals and National Duals, the upsets have kept coming! Most recently, Navy knocked off perennial powerhouse Lehigh 19-15. Navy rattled off four wins in a row from 157 to 184. I don’t think Lehigh expected to drop matches at three of those weights with nationally-ranked Austin Meys and Rob Hamlin
dropping matches to Matt Demiceil and Luke Rebertus respectfully. The upset bug also hit California this week when Wyoming dropped a dual to Cal Poly 18-16. The Mustangs won in spite of Filip Novachkov dropping a 6-5 decision to Tyler Cox and having a fourth stringer in the line up because of injuries. We are now into the meat of the season and I expect plenty of fireworks between now and March. (in-depth coverage)
After a sluggish start to the season, Rutgers Mario Mason solidified his name to be amongst the title contenders with a 3-1 OT win over Bucknell’s previously unbeaten Kevin LeValley. The match was controlled by Mason the entire time as he came close on several takedown attempts and flustered LeValley, who never really got his offense going. Mason, a former No. 1 recruit out of Blair Academy, N.J., has produced 13 wins in a row since losing to Columbia’s Steve Santos. Among his wins in that stretch are two top five ranked wrestlers in Frank Molinaro and LeValley. This Friday should be real interesting as No. 8 Brian Stevens heads into Jersey with Virginia Tech in what will not only be another big test for Mason, but might just be the biggest college match to date in N.J. As great as Iowa vs. Oklahoma State was, this season continues to be special because of the performances of teams like Wyoming, Cal Poly, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. Also with the emergence of Cornell and Penn State as National front runners, I am definitely enjoying this new era of parity. (in-depth coverage)
Top 10 Teams in DI Wrestling
2. Penn State
7. Oklahoma State
9. Virginia Tech
A complete listing of individual and team rankings can be found on The Open Mat website.
Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum
Despite a quiet week of action, the kickboxing world has a number of significant bouts in the coming month.
The most notable fight of the last week took place in Bangkok, Thailand, at Isuzu Thai Fight 2011: Thailand Qualifier on Saturday, Jan. 15, as Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee defeated Kem Sitsongpeenong by decision.
Fighting Jan. 22 is “The Contender Asia” participant Dzhabar Askerov. He will face Italian Riccardo Lecca in Rome at KnocKOut. Also on the card is Bruno Franchi taking on Marco Pique.
Back to back K-1 Max 70kg (154 lb) champion Giorgio Petrosyan will now face the aforementioned Thai standout Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee at Thai Boxe Mania 2011 on Jan. 29. It was recently announced that Petrosyan’s original opponent, WBC MT middleweight champion Yohan Lidon, will not be returning to 70kg.
A 72kg (158.4 lb) tournament featuring Jeremy Marin, Sebastien Billard, Aydin Tuncay, and Karim Ghaiji has been added to the previously announced La Nuit des Titans VI event on Feb. 12.
Mix Fight Promotions head Sefer Goktepe recently stated that he is in talks with Dutch promotion It’s Showtime to bring an event to Germany in the middle of June. Rumored participants include Gago Drago, Tyrong Spong, and Mosab Amrani.