Punch Drunk Preview: Ultimate Fight Night 22
Have I ever told you how much I love mid-week MMA events? Honestly, there may not be anything better.
While I love spending a Saturday pouring over the copious amounts of content out there in advance of a fight, have an event pop up mid-week to deliver some relief from the annoyances of the work week and help us escape the two more days until the weekend is outstanding.
We get a double dose of awesome this week as the debut of Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter will follow Ultimate Fight Night 22. Free fights and the start of what should be an interesting season of The Ultimate Fighter – who could ask for anything more?
Brian Foster (13-5-0) vs. Forrest Petz (18-5-0)
When we last saw Brian Foster, the HIT Squad trainee was getting his knee jacked up courtesy of Chris Lytle. Seven months later, returns to the cage looking to even out his record against veteran Forrest Petz in what is essentially a “loser leaves town” match to kick off the night.
Foster might get a little more room to breathe if he happens to lose because he (a) looked good in defeat against Rick Story in his debut, (b) looked great in sending Brock Larson packing from the company and (c) is relatively young with room to improve. Petz doesn’t have the same kind of margin of error.
“The Meat Cleaver” dropped a split decision to Daniel Roberts at UFC 116, pushing his Octagon record to 2-4 and leaving him looking at a trip back to the regional circuit if he can’t deliver an impressive performance this time around.
Both fighters will approach this bout with a sense of urgency which could make the opening encounter a very entertaining affair.
Anthony “TJ” Waldburger (13-5-0) vs. David Mitchell (11-0-0)
This is an exceptionally hard fight to diagnose and discuss because Waldburger hasn’t fought in a year, while Mitchell is best known for defeating the fighter formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver now known as “Inmate 473264 – Machine, War” by controversial split decision last October.
Mitchell has the prettier record and holds wins over regional vets Poppies Martinez, Tim Mackenzie and Bobby Green, but his hometown opponent has faced the stiffer competition overall.
Waldburger has split a pair of fights with TUF 4 contestant Pete Spratt, dropped contests to both Josh Neer and Ricardo Funch and was last seen earning the nod over Pat Healy at Shark Fights 6 last September. He’s also one of the 72 men to defeat Shannon “The Cannon” Ritch.
They each have a penchant for finishing fights via submission, so we could see some savvy work on the ground from these two. To put it another way, expect to hear a lot of boos, even though Waldburger is fighting close to home.
Rich Attonito (8-3-0) vs. Rafael Natal (12-2-0)
Attonito earned a solid win over Jamie Yager at the TUF 11 Finale back in June, while Natal enters off a win over former UFC title challenger Travis Lutter on the Moosin: God of Martial Arts show a month prior.
Both fighters come from excellent camps – Attonito trains at American Top Team, while Natal is a part of the Gracie Fusion team that has produced UFC lightweight contender Rafael dos Anjos – and are eager to prove they are long-term options in the middleweight division.
While ground-based fighting stand out as the primary styles of both fighters – Attonito was a D1 wrestler at Hofstra, while Natal is a BJJ black belt under Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes – both have shown a willingness and ability to remain standing and throw hands. Natal knocked Lutter stiff at the Moosin event, and Attonito’s hands looked solid opposite Yager in June.
Tomas Drwal (17-3-0) vs. David Branch (6-1-0)
Both men are coming off loses where they were left on the wrong side of the highlight reel.
Drwal was left writhing in pain courtesy of an extended heel hook from main event participant Rousimar Palhares at UFC 111 in March, while Branch being powerbombed by Gerald Harris made its way onto SportCenter, even catching the eye of LeBron James.
They were each supposed to face alternate opponents here – Drwal was slated against Nick Catone and Branch was scheduled to face Aaron Simpson – but injuries have brought them together.
Branch desperately needs a win to avoid a 0-2 opening to his UFC career, as the mark usually also spells the end of UFC careers. He looked solid against Harris up until he was slammed into oblivion, and must a better balance between his striking and trying to utilize his jiu jitsu.
Unlike Branch, Drwal is probably safe from getting canned as he has had some success at both the light heavyweight and middleweight level in the past and was simply overmatched in each of his UFC defeats.
Jared Hamman (11-2-0) vs. Kyle Kingsbury (8-2-0)
No disrespect to either Hamman or Kingbury, but I have next to no interest in this fight.
Hamman got starched in his debut against Alexander Gustafsson and followed it up by beating Rodney Wallace in a bout that earned Fight of the Night honors at UFC 111. “Sho Nuff the Master” dominated the first round, but as the fight wore on, Wallace was “Sho Nuff Exhausted” and Hamman was able to earn the decision. Some were impressed, though I was not.
As for Kingsbury, he was the de facto leader of Team Nogueira on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, earning the title because of his spirit and heart, not his success in the cage. He actually lost to eventual winner Ryan Bader in the qualifying stage, got on the show due to an injury, lost to Krzysztof Soszynski in the opening round and then dropped a unanimous decision to Tom Lawlor on the finally.
Somehow, Kingbury managed to stick around and get a win over the now departed Razak Al-Hassan at UFC 104. When the most memorable part of your fight is the fact that you came out to “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran…
Yves Edwards (38-16-1) vs. John Gunderson (23-7-0)
Edwards makes me happily reminiscent for the old days of MMA and the UFC, when guys used to fight with ridiculously named styles that they made up themselves. The Bahamian utilizes thugjitsu, which ranks right up there with Benji Radach’s Face Smash Fu as the best style in MMA today.
Outstanding style names aside, Edwards has fought a laundry list of talented opponents over the years and is also one of the 72 men to defeat Shannon Ritch. Edwards rebounded from a May loss to Mike Campbell by earning the nod over Luis Palomino last month at Bellator 24.
Gunderson was originally schedule to face Efrain Escudero, but injuries across the card moved the TUF 8 winner into the co-main event, leaving “Quick Guns” to contend with Edwards. The Team Tompkins trainee is no stranger to opponent changes, as his last bout ended up being against Mark Holst after original opponent Paul Taylor was unable to compete; it was the second time the fight between the two has been scrapped.
Edwards has the look of a “one-and-done” returnee in this one – a Texas native with enough name recognition to not only draw a couple extra fans out of their homes but be a solid feather in the cap of Gunderson if he’s successful.