Posts Tagged ‘UFC Fight Night 23’

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Counterpunch: UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2

Evan Dunham (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

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.

Punch Drunk Radio: Diaz-Mayhem, Kimbo, Camaro vs. Octagon Girl

Punch Drunk Radio with Pete Sumulong and Cameron Chow is on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. Pete and Cameron cover UFC Fight for the Troops, the Nick Diaz-Mayhem Miller feud and the latest Kimbo Slice news.

You also have to decide between a Camaro and dinner with the Octagon Girls.


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George Roop: Playing the Spoiler

George Roop (photo courtesy of MMA Junkie)

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.”

Matt Mitrione: Grabbing the Spotlight

photo courtesy of Hector Castro/

Say what you want about Matt Mitrione, but understand the man certainly has conviction.

Maybe it is because of his background as a football player or maybe it’s just his personality, but his fight plan isn’t about stopping what his opponent does nearly as much as it’s centered on the heavyweight imposing his will on anyone that stands across from him.

“It doesn’t matter what the other guy does, it matters what I do and it’s up to me to enforce that,” Mitrione explained to Joe Rizzo and Jeremy Fullerton during his appearance on Rear Naked Choke on the MMA Diehards Radio Network.

“I’ll watch film to see what a guy does just so I can set him up and make him fall for what I want to do. That’s really it. I don’t care what he does and how he does it because he’s going to fall victim to what I want him to. That’s the way it’s going to be every time.”

Mitrione will look to force the action once gain this Saturday when he steps into the most high-profile fight slot of his young career at UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2. He will take on Canadian Tim Hague in the second to last bout as part of a stacked card for the military personnel at Fort Hood outside of Killeen, Texas. The undefeated Mitrione (3-0) is coming off a unanimous-decision victory over Joey Beltran at UFC 119 that earned him Fight of the Night honors. He’ll try to move up the ranks in a deep heavyweight division by taking out the more experienced Hague.

Mitrione is a newcomer to mixed martial arts, but has risen fast in the UFC thanks to a charismatic personality and an ever-expanding repertoire. The former defensive tackle was an All-Big 10 selection during his senior year at Purdue University and made it to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He spent four seasons with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings before stepping away from the game in 2006. He entered the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter with no professional fighting experience, and despite being eliminated in the quarterfinals, was granted a spot in the season’s finale against fellow cast member Marcus Jones. Mitrione won his MMA debut via a second-round knockout, and followed that win up with a TKO of Kimbo Slice at UFC 113 and a victory over Beltran.

Hague, meanwhile, is a veteran of 16 fights who will be in his third stint with the UFC. Hague was cut from the promotion following three straight losses to Todd Duffee, Chris Tuchscherer and Joey Beltran, but was brought back after consecutive knockouts of Travis Wiuff and TUF 10 competitor Zak Jensen in his home province of Alberta. Notable among Hague’s 12 victories is a submission win over Pat Barry, a training partner of Mitrione, at UFC 98 in May of 2009. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, Hague has heavy hands and is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt, a combination which Mitrione knows can present a problem for him if he’s not careful.

“Honestly, I think the Tim Hague fight has (Fight of the Night) potential,” Mitrione said. “Tim is much better than what he gets credit for. He’s a huge body, and, contrary to what people think, there aren’t many 290-pound men that can give and take a punch and hold a jiu-jitsu game like he does. He has so much power – he primarily throws a lot of hooks, and overhand right and jabs – and if one of those three punches lands you’re going to know it. He has a good knee, a good Thai clinch; he’s a tough dude.”

Even though Mitrione has significantly less experience when compared to Hague, he feels one of his biggest assets is his ability to absorb information at a fast rate. He trains at Roufusport Martial Arts in Milwaukee under legendary kickboxer Duke Roufus and alongside the likes of Barry, Alan Belcher and Anthony Pettis. Because of his pro football experience, Mitrione is able to worry less about the physical aspect of training and competition and concentrate more on technique. The result has been the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder showing an increased arsenal in each of his fights.

“I have so many things to focus on because I’m so new, but the main thing is the technical aspect and not the physicality,” Mitrione said. “I can focus on the rolling part of jiu jitsu instead of the cardio. There’s a great learning curve, but in this camp and the last camp I didn’t have to get the shit kicked out of me because my body is already acclimated to highly-physical situations. It’s more about ‘What’s the spacing of this or the timing of this combination or what’s the counter to this submission’.”

When Mitrione and three other former NFL players – Jones, Brendan Schaub and Wes Shivers – appeared on TUF 10 it was a big storyline and a bit of a novelty. Now, with both Schaub and Mitrione having early success along with rising prospect Ovince St. Preux, a former University of Tennessee linebacker, doing well in Strikeforce, the football player turned fighter trend is becoming less of a fad and more of a realistic avenue for many athletes. Each of the aforementioned guys are great athletes – you have to be to play high-level football – and they also bring a unique perspective to the MMA world. Getting punched in the face for a living certainly isn’t easy, but either is life on the gridiron. Hopefully the politicians in New York understand that.

“There’s really no comparison to the violence in football and in MMA,” Mitrione said. “If you have somebody land a shin across your forehead you’re not going to be around very long in MMA, but what your neck and major joints go through on a football field is exponentially worse. People don’t understand the impact football has on your body. Take the fastest, most explosive person you know and run into them full speed 12 times a game and see how that goes.”

So will we see an influx of football players or other athletes into the MMA world? Maybe down the road, but not just yet.

“Hopefully as the paychecks in MMA increase football guys will realize they don’t have to face getting cut in training camp every year and all that BS,” Mitrione said. “It will give people like me the confidence to say, ‘I can do this’. Guys are explosive enough to succeed in this sport, it’s more of a question of can we take the pay cut and still support our families. In the NFL I made $16,000 in one week and now I train three months to make maybe eight or $10,000. Most guys are like, ‘Why would I do that?’ They just hold onto the pipe dream (of playing in the NFL) and hope it works out.”

Excited not only to fight Hague but to perform in front of the American troops, Mitrione said there’s a good chance he’ll have a big surprise in store on the day of weigh-ins.

“I might have a big-time celebrity coming out with me, so that will be cool if it happens,” Mitrione said. “If it happens it will be known at weigh-ins, and I can’t wait to see the reaction of the troops. The only thing I’m saying is that he lives in Nashville and wears a cowboy hat.”

Rizzo asked Mitrione if he had anything else in his bag of tricks, like maybe a “Showtime” kick. Mitrione laughed that one off, but promised he would have something up his sleeve for the soldiers.

“I will be doing some crazy shit in this match, rest assured.”

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