UFC 123: Rampage vs. Machida Preview

I’m usually not one to be hyper-critical of UFC shows, subscribing to the belief that the worst of the best is usually still better than an average offering from the rest.

But here’s the thing: coming off of last week’s event in Germany, this weekend’s show in suburban Detroit (read: Auburn Hills) needs to be solid, at the very least. Drop-dead awesome would remove all risk, but since shows like that are few and far between, UFC 123 sure better hit the mark or we could have a pack of angry, hungry fans flooding the Internet and trying to find a way to make December 11th get here even sooner.

Since I’m looking forward to the last show in WEC history the week before – and to a lesser extent, the TUF 12 Finale – it would really work best for all involved if the eleven fights making up the event lived up to their potential and offered something most everyone is happy with.

Personally, I think we should be fine.

Tyson Griffin (14-4-0) vs. Nik Lentz (21-3-2)

My love of Lentz’s nickname / physical appearance combination aside, I will concede that his last bout was the visual representation of the word boring. Fifteen minutes of pressing Andre Winner against the cage will make even me, a staunch advocate against the use of that word in the description of this sport to use that word.

That is why his pairing with Tyson Griffin is perfect; the little man with the gigantic ass (facts are facts) has never been in a boring fight.

Getting lit up by Takanori Gomi last time out may have sucked for Griffin, but it wasn’t boring. His fight with Evan Dunham in Vancouver this summer was far from it, and the five Fight of the Night awards on his mantle should be enough to slam the point home.

On an unrelated note, though I know he’s going to come out to “Eye of the Tiger” like always, how awesome would it be for Griffin to step out to “Bootylicious” just once? Bonkers… just sayin’.

Paul Kelly (10-3-0) vs. T.J. O’Brien (16-3-0)

Lemme get this straight: O’Brien wasn’t good enough to fight his way onto this season of The Ultimate Fighter, getting tattooed by Marc Stevens in 13 seconds, but I’m supposed to believe he stands a chance against Kelly?

Never mind that Stevens was subsequently choked out not once, but twice, by the same move, but Kelly will be making his eighth trip inside the Octagon and has faced quality opponents as both a welterweight and lightweight in the process.

While the UFC was certainly in a pinch after Gabe Ruediger got hurt and had to pull out of the contest, couldn’t they have done better than the kid with the spider shaved into his head from the TUF 12 prelims?

Edson Barbosa (6-0-0) vs. Mike Lullo (8-1-0)

Though both are making their organizational debuts in this bout, I actually feel better seeing Lullo opposite Barbosa than his original opponent, Darren Elkins. Not because I think the XFO veteran has a better chance of defeating the impressive Brazilian newcomer from Florida, but it saves Elkins from becoming a descriptor.

See, my original plan was to petition that moving forward, the words “Darren Elkins” be used to describe any poor soul being fed to an impressive-looking UFC newcomer, as in, “Fighter X got the Darren Elkins when they offered him a bout with Fighter Y.”

Now, Barbosa faces a fellow unknown commodity and Elkins gets a reprieve on becoming a part of my vocabulary. Well, not really. See how that worked?

Karo Parisyan (19-5-0) vs. Dennis Hallman (45-13-2)

Fool me once is shame on you, and fool me twice is shame on me. On the off chance that Karo Parisyan pulls out of this bout at the 11th hour, thereby fooling Dana White for a third time, someone needs to tell me who gets shamed in that scenario? Joe Silva maybe?

All the positive energy I have is being directed to Parisyan right now, that he has dealt with his anxiety issues and is able to return to being a colorful and entertaining piece of the welterweight division. If his head is on right, the Armenian judoka is a dangerous fighter and potential dark horse contender heading into 2011. If not, we’re in for another epic Dana White audio clip. Win-win if you ask me.

With all the attention focusing on Parisyan’s return, Hallman falls well under the radar heading into this bout, and that is a dangerous thing. Guys with a legitimate 45 wins on their resume rarely go unnoticed at this level, yet people continue to sleep on “Superman.” He’s twice submitted Matt Hughes, in a combined 38 seconds no less, and has the grappling skills to hang with Parisyan a la Dong Hyun Kim.

Aaron Simpson (7-1-0) vs. Mark Munoz (8-2-0)

Earlier this year, Simpson coaxed a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings out of people who were smitten with his unbeaten record and late-in-life success inside the Octagon.

Those feelings, like the 36-year-old “A-Train,” got knocked off the track at the TUF 11 Finale by Chris Leben. Now, the Arizona State alum needs to right the rig or be left at the station. With that, I have filled by “train analogy” quota for the year.

Munoz is in need of a bounce-back performance as well, having most recently lost to the division’s new #1 contender, Yushin Okami, back in August. Heavy-handed with a very good collegiate wrestling base of his own, this is probably the ideal level for Munoz; his two forays higher up the food chain produced his two career defeats, while he looked most impressive in his comeback win against Kendall Grove, another fighter who should solely reside in this region.

The contest kicks off the Spike TV Prelims LIVE portion of the evening, and should hit the mark as far as the television side of things go; both like to keep a quick pace and swing with violent intent, the two key criteria to a good free TV lead-in fight.