UFC 122: Marquardt vs. Okami Preview

Fresh on the heels of Thursday’s penultimate WEC event comes another free offering from the fine folks at Zuffa.

The UFC returns to Germany for a Saturday show on Spike TV that features a title eliminator tilt in the main event where Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami will battle for the right to challenge for the middleweight title in 2011. For Marquardt, it is a potential second chance, while Okami steps into the Octagon hoping to secure his long-awaited first shot at UFC gold.

While the remainder of the card features a collection of new names, foreign talent (some of whom are local) and former TUF competitors that will leave some underwhelmed, to me, this is a chance to showcase some new talent in another of the UFC’s emerging markets. And its free, and free is good.

Kris McCray (6-1-0) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (8-0-0)

The night kicks off with a combination of all three elements typical of these events: former TUF competitor, local draw, and a new name, all rolled into one.

McCray makes his return to the Octagon after falling to Court McGee at the TUF 11 Finale, and does so in front of a pseudo hometown crowd; a military child, McCray was born in West Germany before it was no longer separate by a large, graffiti-tagged wall.
Prior to hitting the TUF House, McCray ran through regional competition in the UWC, using his wrestling base to dominate six-straight opponents. Though he showed great resolve while working into the finals from the wild card position, “The Savage” also showed a somewhat limited arsenal which will need to have expanded for him to have a long-term future with the organization.

Rocha makes his UFC debut off eight-straight wins, with a pair of sevens in the mix: seven victories by submission, and seven fights ending in the first round. While none of the names on his list on conquests will ring a bell, rattling off eight-straight wins is impressive no matter who you’re fighting.

Seth Petruzelli (14-6-0) vs. Karlos Vemola (8-1-0)

People love “The Silverback” and I understand why: he’s engaging, owns a smoothie shop and ruined an entire organization with a one-footed jab to the glass jaw of Kimbo Slice.

From an organizational standpoint, he’s also willing and able to put on entertaining bouts with lesser known names, as witnessed by his “welcome back” fight to the UFC opposite Ricardo Romero. This time, Petruzelli welcomes Vemola to the light heavyweight ranks, a second consecutive tough test for the likeable EliteXC assassin.
The 25-year-old Czech drops to 205 after suffering a loss to Jon Madsen in his UFC debut. Entering on a eight-fight smashing streak – all eight wins came by first round finish – it was clear that a cut to light heavyweight made the most sense for “The Terminator.”

A second-straight loss for either one of these fighters could mean an exit from the company, so expect both to come out winging heavy hands from the word “go.”

Duane Ludwig (27-11-0) vs. Nick Osipczak (5-2-0)

Long-time veteran competitor Ludwig makes his return to the cage after an awful ankle injury ended his bout with Darren Elkins back in March, stepping up to the welterweight division to face former British TUF competitor Osipczak.

This might be just the kind of contest Ludwig needs to return to the win column in the UFC. Finally facing someone who isn’t going to submit him in the opening stanza, Ludwig’s heavy hands and solid stand-up should play well opposite the Brit. The only lingering question will be the impact of the ankle and his eight-month stay on the sidelines.

Osipczak is a member of the TUF 9 cast who has shown promise, despite dropping two-in-a-row. Out-wrestled by Greg Soto last time out and narrowly edged by Rick Story the fight before, Osipczak also gets away from his personal kryptonite – wrestlers – and gets a chance to show off his striking also.

Not many people survive three-straight losses in the cage, so expect both men to come out swinging for the fences, and continued employment.

Pascal Krauss (9-0-0) vs. Mark Scanlon (7-0-0)

This one could turn out to be really fun.

A pair of unbeaten, young talents, Krauss is the hometown favourite, obviously, while Scanlon comes from the feisty Team Kaobon camp in Liverpool that has produced Terry Etim and a trio of Pauls – Kelly, Sass and Taylor.

Both fighters favour submissions and will be looking to prove they belong with the big boys, so we’ll either end up with a mediocre kickboxing affair that sometimes happens when two grapplers collide, or we’ll get an intriguing back-and-forth on the canvas tat solidifies one or both as options in the welterweight division moving forward.

Vladimir Matyushenko (24-5-0) vs. Alexandre Ferreira (18-6-0)

Everyone knows what they’re going to get with Matyushenko, an experienced wrestler who has faced all kinds of quality opponents over his career. “The Janitor” brings a quality top game, good clinch work and a collection of fantastic hats into the cage.

Ferreira brings an outstanding grappling pedigree into the cage, and wins over current and former UFC competitors Fabio Maldonado, Brandon Lee Hinckle, and Heath Herring. I know that’s not a real who’s who of top talent, but “Cacareco” has submitted seven-straight opponents, and 17-of-18 overall.

Kyle Noke (17-4-1) vs. Rob Kimmons (23-5-0)

The former bodyguard of the late Steve Irwin, Noke is an under-the-radar kind of guy. His time on TUF 11 made him more of a household name, but people seem to miss the fact that three of his four career losses have come against Scott Smith, George Sotiropoulos and Hector Lombard. That’s some quality opposition.

Kimmons is a good-but-not-great middleweight who admirably answers every UFC phone call with his hat and lunchbox in hand. He is, essentially, he perfect type of fighter for a card like this and an opponent like Noke.

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