A pair of TUF 11 alums meet in this one, with both bringing four-fight winning streaks to the table.
Camozzi was forced to withdraw after earning a place in the house in a hard-fought battle with Victor O’Donnell, but has since rebounded with wins over James Hammortree at the Finale last June, and a split decision win over newcomer Dong Yi Yang at UFC 121. The 24-year-old Camozzi has solid Muay Thai and a developing jiu jitsu game, but will face his toughest test to date in this one.
A veteran of the sport with wins over fellow UFC 127 fighters George Sotiropoulos and Brian Ebersole, Noke fights on home soil for the first time in nearly three years. Now training with the elite team at Jackson’s in Albuquerque, the former bodyguard of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin has finished each of his two fights since emerging from Season 11 as a potential middleweight to watch.
While neither fighter is at the point of being considered a contender, this is a bout to determine which of these two takes the next step up the ladder, and kicks off the main card with the first of three consecutive bouts featuring hometown favorites.
Chris Lytle (30-17-5) vs. Brian Ebersole (46-19-1, 1 NC)
When these two veterans take the cage on Sunday morning in Sydney, they will bring 112 combined fights with them inside the Octagon. To put that in perspective for you, the remaining 8 fighters on the main card have a combined 179 fights amongst them.
While Lytle undoubtedly feels a little letdown in not facing Carlos Condit as originally planned, the resurgent veteran will undoubtedly bring his A-Game in this one, as he always does. The Indiana firefighter has spoken of his desire to face Georges St. Pierre in the future, and needs to run his current winning streak to five if he has any hopes of that happening.
After sometimes sacrificing victory for the sake of putting on an exciting performance for the crowd, Lytle has found a way to blend the two over his last four bouts; he’s still a highly-entertaining fighter, but the 36-year-old has also started playing to his strengths a little more, and should continue to do so here.
Ebersole gets the chance of a lifetime here, stepping in for the injured Condit on the main card in his UFC debut. An American who has primarily fought in Australia over the last four-plus years, Ebersole has lost just once in his last 12 bouts and is 16-3-1 over his last 20, though he hasn’t defeated a fighter of Lytle’s standing in some time.
George Sotiropoulos (14-2-0) vs. Dennis Siver (17-7-0)
Undefeated in the UFC, Sotiropoulos is one of a handful of lightweights currently waiting for things to shake out at the top of the division. Having earned consecutive victories over Joe Lauzon, Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Stevenson dating back to last year’s Australian debut, the 33-year-old jiu jitsu black belt looks to add a seventh-straight win inside the Octagon to his resume and maintain his place in the upper echelon of the 155-pound division.
While some groaned when this fight was announced, believing Siver to be a step back on the difficulty scale for Sotiropoulos, the German kickboxer has put together back-to-back wins and is 5-1 over his last six appearances in the UFC. Though he hasn’t faced the same level of competition as his Australian opponent, Siver has steadily been improving his jiu jistu as a complimentary weapon to his striking, and showed his development last time out, submitting Andre Winner in the opening round.
This is the quintessential trap fight for Sotiropoulos; a bout in front of a partisan crowd against a fighter many expect him to easily defeat. While it could very well play out that way, Siver could certainly play the spoiler here.
Michael Bisping (20-3-0) vs. Jorge Rivera (19-7-0)
Let’s just get this over with right now: Rivera’s videos antagonizing Bisping have been awesome, and listening to the obviously rattled Bisping respond has increased the interest in this fight tenfold.
Everything Bisping has said leading up to this fight has merit; he has faced better competition than his opponent and does have the better all-around skill set. The knock against the TUF 3 winner, in addition to his lack of knockout power, has been his inability to win the big one as of yet; he shines against solid competition, but is 0-3 in fights with proven commodities Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans.
While Rivera isn’t on the same level as the three men who have beaten Bisping to this point in his career, he is a cagey veteran with serious knockout power, not to mention having gotten into Bisping’s head.
Rivera may have won the battle leading up to the fight, but he’s got his work cut out for him once the cage door closes. This would be the biggest win of his lengthy career and catapult him higher in the rankings than he’s been before, two things that could certainly weigh heavily on a fighter.
That said, Rivera has endured personal tragedies in his life that are paramount to anything he can experience in the cage, and should come in relaxed and looking to back-up his outstanding string of viral jabs at Bisping in this one.
B.J. Penn (16-7-1) vs. Jon Fitch (23-3-0, 1 NC)
For some people, this fight is the antithesis of anything they want to see in the cage; perennial contender and grinder extraordinaire Fitch against the polarizing and enigmatic Penn.
For others, this is a must-see match-up between not only two of the top welterweights in the sport, but two of the best pound-for-pound competitors in mixed martial arts.
Love him or hate him, Penn is a sublime talent capable of beating just about anyone on any given night. He was fit and focused for his meeting with Matt Hughes at UFC 123 and it showed in the fight; Penn dropped the former welterweight champion in just 21 seconds.
After starting his career 2-2 with a No Contest against Team Dagger alum Solomon Hutcherson, Fitch has gone 21-1 over his last 22 fights.
Let me say that again: Fitch is 21-1 over his last 22 fights, the lone loss coming to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
As with Penn, it’s impossible to deny Fitch’s talents; while you can dislike his wrestling-based style and seven consecutive wins by decision, the American Kickboxing Academy product has beaten a list of quality opponents inside the cage and is unquestionably one of the very best welterweights in the world.
While it probably pained Dana White a little to admit it earlier this month, this bout will produce the next title challenger in the welterweight division, or at least one of them, depending on how the UFC decides to proceed if St. Pierre beats Jake Shields and vacates the belt after UFC 129.
Both fighters have a great deal of respect for each other and want to prove that they’re deserving of another crack at the welterweight crown. All those elements should combine to produce a very entertaining main event.