We’re back with another roundtable discussion that hits the real issues surrounding the UFC on Versus card. Who has the most to gain? Who will be looking for a new job? Who is going to win the main event? The answer to these questions and more are kindly spelled out by your panel of MMA experts:
1. Pick two guys from the undercard that you feel could be solid top ten guy in their respective weight class before it is all over. And which two guys will be looking for a new job?
DUNN: I have one guy that can fill both shoes, Eric ‘Red’ Schafer. If he wins, he’s on the road to being considered a top fighter in a lot of people’s eyes and can SLOWLY start climbing back up the ladder. On the flip side, he is .500 in the UFC and since he doesn’t tear through highways in his monster truck or slaps nurses around, he doesn’t have much fan appeal. Because of that, if he loses, he may be getting the pink slip. A dark horse to keep an eye on is John ‘Doomsday’ Howard. He’s definitely got some cage experience in the UFC now with three wins under his belt. With a win on the undercard, especially in a KO fashion, you can expect to see him start making some waves on the main card.
BOTTER: Brendan Schaub has all the athletic tools to become a top ten heavyweight. That’s not to say that he’ll ever contend for the heavyweight championship, but he’s got enough tools in the bag to be just on the outside looking in. I’ve also got to look at Clay Guida as a potential top ten lightweight, but he’ll have to improve on his even record in order for that to happen. Chase Gormley and Duane Ludwig will find themselves in the unemployment line come Tuesday morning.
ALEXANDER: On the undercard, I just don’t think there is any potential top 10 talent, though Schaub has only been in the spotlight a few fights. I hear great things about him. We just have to see how he reacts to the Big Country KO he got at the TUF Finale. I think that Chase Gormley with a loss would be finding a small time promotion. And much to my disappointment, “Bang” Ludwig would be also. I hate to see great talent get the boot, but with Zuffa you gotta win or put on a show.
BROWN: Call me crazy, but I still think Clay Guida has the drive and determination to make it back to at least the neighborhood of the top ten. He’s at Greg Jackson’s now and that seems to work out well for most people. I also think Brendan Schaub will continue to grow as a fighter and will be a guy in the heavyweight division that nobody wants to fight. As for firings, I think most likely to be unemployed would be Duane Ludwig and Shannon Gugerty.
2. Which former perceived contender (Guida, Gonzaga, Kongo, Vera) has the greatest chance of returning to glory?
DUNN: For the love of Arianny’s sports bra, please don’t let Guida have another chance at glory – unless it’s in the WEC. He will never, never, never ever, never, did I say never? NEVER win the lightweight belt in the UFC. I like any of the other above mentioned fighters chances if they win their fight.
BOTTER: I’d have to give the nod to Gonzaga. The dude hits hard and has a fantastic jiu-jitsu game. He has a much better chance of beating Junior than many are giving him.
ALEXANDER: This is a tough one to answer. To me, I can see all of these guys moving back into contention. I feel that this event will actually give us the answer to this question. Decisive wins on Sunday will answer this question for each of these fighters.
BROWN: While I did say I liked Guida in the previous question, of these four, I think Gabriel Gonzaga is presented with the greatest opportunity. He’s fighting a legit top-ten guy, so a win on Sunday would instantly put Gonzaga back on the short list of guys who could get a title shot.
3. Which fight on the card are you most looking forward to watching (and why)? Which fight is most likely to be fight of the night?
DUNN: I have one answer for both questions: Vera vs. Jones. I am so stoked for this fight. I expect this to be a barnburner. Jones is amazing and is the top LHW prospect in my eyes. Now, if Vera can come out aggressively and win, then this will be the momentum that Vera needs to start his title hunt. Look out for Gonzaga and Dos Santos to possibly steal the Fight of the Night. On a side note, this is one of the UFC’s best cards yet.
BOTTER: I’ll answer both of these questions with one simple answer: Dos Santos vs. Gonzaga. I believe it’s going to be a hard -hitting fight that ends with a spectacular knockout. If it goes the distance, we’re guaranteed to see a knockdown, drag-out brawl. The UFC loves those kinds of fights, which is why I’d give it the Fight of the Night nod as well.
ALEXANDER: I want to see the Dos Santos vs. Gonzaga fight. This is a huge fight for both guys for different reasons. It’s hard to go against Guida for a Fight of the Night vote, but I gotta say the main event seems very interesting to me. I think this match up of styles could bring some great action and possibly the Fight of the Night.
BROWN: I’m most excited about the Jon Jones vs. Brandon Vera fight. I have a feeling Jon Jones is the real deal, but this fight will help solidify my assumption. As for the Fight of the Night, I’m going to go out on a limb and go with James Irvin vs. Alession Sakara. I have a feeling this one will basically be a 15-minute boxing match, full of huge shots and lots of action. I choose this one over the Dos Santos/Gonzaga fight because I don’t think that fight will last long enough to earn FOTN.
4. With a convincing win over Gabriel Gonzaga, where does Junior Dos Santos land in your ranking of UFC heavyweights?
DUNN: I have always billed Junior and Cain Velasquez as the top prospects and so far they have proved me right! With a win, Junior better be 1 or 2 in the division and very close to a fight for the belt. Of the top guys, he is the most well-rounded. He’s great on the ground and has semi-trucks at the ends of his arms. Before he is done with his career, he will have tasted gold.
BOTTER: I’d say that he probably joins the top three heavyweights in the UFC and top five in the entire sport. All of the heavyweight talk these days centers around Cain Velasquez, but I’m not sure Velasquez has faced better talent or been better in his wins than Junior.
ALEXANDER: I think Dos Santos (with a victory over Gonzaga) would be in line to face Cain Velasquez. This would make sense for Joe Silva and the heavyweight picture in the UFC.
BROWN: I’d rank Dos Santos third in the UFC heavyweight division behind Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir. I think a convincing win over Gonzaga gives him a better body of work than Cain Velasquez.
5. Who do you feel has more to gain (and why) in the main event fight of Jon Jones vs. Brandon Vera?
DUNN: I feel that Vera has more to gain as the underdog. Jones is on a meteoric rise, and a win is almost expected. Vera is already a big name with people, and still has a big fan base pulling for him. It’s like when Randy, Chuck, or Tito wins one fight in a division then the fans want to see them fighting for a title. Vera could ride this win into a huge fight. If Vera can be Jones’ kryptonite, expect to see him in the thick of things come the summer.
BOTTER: Brandon Vera really isn’t going to gain much from beating Jon Jones. Yeah, we know Bones is a top-notch prospect, but that’s all he is at this point. He’s mauled everyone in his path, but what has he proven? He’s got the chance to prove something by beating Vera in this fight. In a way, Jones and Vera are kindred spirits. Vera was once considered a major prospect like Jones, and he’s still skilled enough to be a threat. A win for Bones here proves that he’s ready to face bigger names.
ALEXANDER: I’d have to say Jones. You look at Jon Jones and he is certainly on his way up. Vera is making a very motivated return. Most thought he won the fight against Couture. I think this fight will tell us a lot about Jon Jones and how good he really is. The first card on Versus could turn out to be one of the best free cards we have ever seen.
BROWN: My original thought was that Vera had more to gain from beating Jones. But as I sat and thought more, Vera still has “name value.” While a win over Vera might not mean what it used to, Jones will have that big-name “W” that he needs to get the truly marquee fights in the division.
James Irvin vs. Alessio Sakara
DUNN: Irvin by KO – actually this can only end in a KO.
BOTTER: Sakara via decision.
BROWN: Irvin by decision
Cheick Kongo vs. Paul Buentello
DUNN: KONGO by KO
BOTTER: Buentello by KO
BROWN: Buentello by KO
Junior Dos Santos vs. Gabe Gonzaga
DUNN: Dos Santos by KO. I’m calling three KO’s.
BOTTER: Dos Santos by TKO
ALEXANDER: Dos Santos
BROWN: Dos Santos by TKO
Jon Jones vs. Brandon Vera
DUNN: Jones…by…KO. Yes folks, all four fights end in KO. You heard it here first.
BOTTER: Jones by TKO
BROWN: Jones by decision