On Saturday night, the UFC delivers their third event in tandem with the United States Armed Forces, as UFC: Fight for the Troops 2 comes to you live on Spike TV from Fort Hood, Texas.
The UFC first landed on a U.S. Military base with Fight Night 7, where Diego Sanchez knocked out Joe “Diesel” Riggs in the first round of the main event. In December 2008, the initial Fight for the Troops event took place in Fayetteville, North Carolina and raised more than $4 million for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund during the broadcast.
Though the fight card has undergone some changes since being originally announced, the event still showcases a number of emerging talents looking to keep the ball rolling in the new year.
Mark Hominick, Matt Mitrione and the main event lightweights always deliver exciting fights, and combined with the rest of the fighters on the card, they will make you forget that Mike Swick and “The Korean Zombie” are M.I.A.
Will Campuzano (8-3-0) vs. Chris Cariaso (10-2-0)
Not only is this the kick-off fight of the night, but there is also a good possibility that this one is a “Loser Leaves Town” match as well.
Cariaso lost at WEC 53 just a month ago to Renan Barao, and Campuzano is coming off a submission loss to Nick Pace two weeks earlier at the TUF 12 Finale. With the increased size of the UFC roster, neither of these fighters can afford to put a second straight loss on their resume, so expect these two bantamweights to bring it in full force to start the night.
Campuzano has faced the more name-brand opposition as a result of having the longer tenure with the WEC, but Cariaso brings a better record and the top overall win, his WEC 49 victory over Rafael Rebello. This one should go the distance, as neither have shown a strong history of finishing.
Charlie Brenneman (12-2-0) vs. Amilcar Alves (11-2-0)
Last March, AMA Fight Club product Brenneman debuted with a unanimous decision win over Jason High, running his winning streak to six and setting himself up as a potential prospect in the welterweight division. His status took a hit when Johny Hendricks laid him out at UFC 117, and now the former Pros vs. Joes winner is in need of a rebound win.
Alves lost his opening fight in the organization in August, tapping to a Mike Pierce armbar at UFC 118. Like Brennemen, the Nova Uniao product needs to get back in the win column in this one; despite a solid overall record, an 0-2 start in the UFC doesn’t often allow a third trip to the cage.
What is curious about Alves is that despite holding a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Pierce not only dominated the action on the ground with his wrestling, but secured a straight armbar in the third round to score the win. Brenneman has a similar collegiate wrestling background to Pierce, and while not as thick as the Brave Legion fighter, he could certainly follow the same path to victory here.
Waylon Lowe (9-3-0) vs. Williamy “Chiquerim” Freire (17-3-0)
I know I’m supposed to stay unbiased and that anything can happen, but I feel bad for Lowe here.
The 30-year-old stepped in on short notice against Melvin Guillard in May and got stopped by a big knee in the opening round. While he rebounded with a split decision win over Steve Lopez in his “thanks for helping us out” second bout, he’s getting thrown in here with a dangerous opponent in the debuting Freire.
“Chiquerim” comes into his UFC debut riding an eleven-fight winning streak that spans back to September 2007. In that time, he captured and defended the Shooto 154-pound title, a belt previously held by standouts like Takanori Gomi, Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri.
While the fighters he’s beaten will be unfamiliar to most, rest assured that Freire belongs in the UFC.
Mike Brown (24-7-0) vs. Rani Yahya (15-6-0)
Former featherweight champ Mike Brown steps in for the injured Chang Sung Jung and despite having been the top 145-pound fighter in the world just 15 months ago, a loss here would likely be the end of Brown’s time as a Zuffa employee. That’s intense.
I fail to believe that Brown has suddenly become a mid-level fighter; he was so good against Urijah Faber and showed dominance in defeating Anthony Morrison and Cole Province since losing the belt. At 35, Brown is a little beyond his prime, but having competed on a high level for so long, it’s hard to know if his recent lack of success against top competition is a bump in the road or the start of an extended downhill journey.
Yahya is a tremendous grappler, and the three-straight Submission of the Night awards he earned between WEC 36 and WEC 42 prove that, as does his first-round finish of Mark Hominick in June 2007. That is the positive; the negative is that Yahya is only a tremendous grappler.
Like many BJJ standouts, the rest of Yahya’s offensive tools in the cage are nowhere near his grappling acumen and it has proven to be his downfall when the chips are down. He’s dropped two-in-a-row to opponents who were able to exploit his stand-up game, and the tough-as-nails Brown fits that bill on a normal day; now that he’s back into a corner, this could get messy.
DaMarques Johnson (11-8-0) vs. Mike Guymon (12-4-1)
The recurring theme of fighters in jeopardy of losing their jobs comes up again here, as both Johnson and Guymon enter off losses and need to prove why they should remain among of the welterweight ranks.
In two of his three UFC bouts, Guymon has been submitted in the opening round, first by Rory MacDonald and most recently by Daniel Roberts; in his other appearance, “The Joker” got the better of Fight for the Troops 1 headline Yoshiyuki Yoshida. While getting beyond the first five minutes is far from a guarantee, it will be a good start for the 36-year-old veteran.
I had high hopes for Johnson heading into his bout with Matthew Riddle back in August, but those hopes were dashed even before he hit the Octagon. The TUF 9 finalist failed to make weight and was stopped late in the second round by the his fellow former TUF competitor, halting his modest two-fight winning streak in the process.
Johnson served for the United States Army for eight years and if the chance to collect a victory in front of the men and women at Fort Hood doesn’t bring the best “Darkness” we’ve seen to date into the cage, nothing will.
Cody McKenzie (12-0-0) vs. Yves Edwards (39-16-1)
It still amazes me that Cody McKenzie has earned eleven-straight wins by guillotine and 12 consecutive overall; the former is far more improbable than the latter, but both are pretty impressive.
If he’s to run his winning streak to lucky #13, McKenzie will earn his biggest victory to date, as Yves Edwards is a proven veteran with more than 50 fights under his belt. Though he has 16 losses on his resume, not a single one has come by way of guillotine either.
Edwards has fought some of the top 155-pound talent in the world over his lengthy career, but in recent years, he’s come out on the wrong side of the results in those bouts; his last “big name” win was back in February 2005 when he earned a split decision over Hermes Franca. Since then, the founder of the thug-jitsu fighting style has gone 10-8, though he’s put together a nice 5-1 run over his last six fights.
As confusing and convoluted as that last paragraph may sound, that is what happens when you’re trying to handicap an Edwards fight; you really don’t know what to expect when he steps into the cage, making him the polar opposite of McKenzie.