The UFC production team makes the cross-country trek for the second show in seven days as UFC Fight Night 24 hits Spike TV from the Pacific Northwest just a week after UFC 128 rocked New Jersey harder than Springsteen in his heyday.
While the card has undergone a number of changes since the original lineup was announced, each shift has made the event better.
Nam Phan squaring off with Leonard Garcia would have been good, but Garcia facing “The Korean Zombie” for a second time is awesome. Tito Ortiz facing fellow veteran Rogerio Nogueira was an okay main event, but switching Ortiz for Phil Davis makes things a lot more entertaining.
Cards on the table: I love all the changes because I’m going to be in Seattle (well, I’m in Seattle right now) covering this event for Heavy, so getting an even better lineup for my first assignment for the site is gravy on my french fries, maybe with some cheese curds mixed in.
I love poutine.
Here’s what’s going down at Fight Night 24.
Waylon Lowe (10-3-0) vs. Nik Lentz (20-3-2)
I will forever hold a special place in my heart for Lentz because he’s one of few fighters in the sport who actually fits his nickname to a tee; the dude looks like a “Carny,” which is probably where he got the name in the first place.
Anyhow, this night is bound to get off to a slow start because Lentz and Lowe are two of the most agonizing fighters to watch compete, as both are top-control wrestlers who don’t do much other than work for top control and stay in place once they’re there.
I hate using this word when describing fights or fighters, but if the boring shoe fits…
The really freaky thing to consider is that Lentz is unbeaten through his first five fights in the UFC; he’s gone 4-0-1 and gone to the scorecards at the end of each of those fights. Talk about a guy who is maximizing his time in the Octagon.
Lowe has managed back-to-back wins after stepping in as a late replacement punching bag against Melvin Guillard in his debut. He too has logged the maximum amount of time possible in the cage over those two victories, scoring painful-to-watch decisions over Williamy Freire and Steve Lopez. Neither remain with the organization, so take that however you will.
Since no one outside of the Lowe and Lentz family and friends groups will really be too focused on the details of this fight, I might just use the guaranteed 15 minutes as an opportunity to stock up on beverages and use the facilities before the real entertainment begins.
Michael McDonald (11-1-0) vs. Edwin Figueroa (7-0-0)
This is one example of a change that didn’t go from good to great, as McDonald was originally slated to face Nick Pace. The Team Tiger Shulmann fighter was forced out due to an unspecified injury, and has been replaced by organizational newcomer Figueroa.
Either way, McDonald is the main attraction in this bout; a 20-year-old wunderkind who has already earned wins over respected veterans like Manny Tapia and Cole Escovedo. He also earned a first-round submission win over Clint Godfrey in his WEC debut, and is a fighter to keep an eye on in the bantamweight division.
Figueroa has stopped all seven men he’s faced thus far in his career, never venturing past the 90-second mark of the second round. While he’s accomplished the feat against unknown opponents in various regional events, it shows he’s got solid power and knows how to finish an opponent when he’s got them on the ropes.
That being said, beating Johnny Bedford at KOK 9 is a lot different then stepping under the bright lights on the big stage against a promising young talent on two weeks notice.
Mario Miranda (12-2-0) vs. Aaron Simpson (7-2-0)
This should be a fun little scrap.
Simpson has come back down to earth after winning his first three fights in the UFC, losing back-to-back bouts as he stepped up in competition. He looked gassed after just one round with Chris Leben last June, and was simply overmatched against the powerful Mark Munoz at UFC 123, so it will be interesting to see which version of “The A-Train” shows up in this one.
At his best, Simpson is a strong wrester with solid conditioning and decent power, but it’s been three fights since we’ve really seen that from him; he didn’t look good over the final two rounds of the Tom Lawlor fight. An official three-fight losing streak could spell the end of the 36-year-old’s run in the UFC middleweight division.
There is no way to know what to expect from Miranda at this point either, as the AMC Pankration product is 1-2 in the Octagon, but lost to a pair of fighters higher up on the food chain than he was at the time. Demian Maia is a top 5 middleweight, and the departed Gerald Harris is a tremendous athlete who was made an example of after his one-and-only UFC loss.
In between those two bouts, Miranda sent David Loiseau packing from the UFC for a third time with a savage beating at UFC 115 in Vancouver.
He probably falls somewhere between the guy who looked outstanding against Loiseau and the man who was manhandled by Maia in Boston, but he needs to have a strong performance here. With the eventual influx of talent that will come over from Strikeforce as contracts expire, we could see a few more fighters falling by the wayside, and the loser of this one could be one of those castaways.
Hendricks stepping in on short notice to replace Dennis Hallman is another one of those positive changes I spoke of in the opening. Not that I have anything against Hallman, but he doesn’t have an awesome Grizzly Adams beard like Hendricks.
This is a fortunate break for Hendricks, who was supposed to face Paulo Thiago on the March 3rd Versus card before the Brazilian was forced to withdraw at the eleventh hour. Prepared and in need of a fight, Hendricks jumped at the opportunity to get in the cage here.
The former All-American at Oklahoma State is coming off the first loss of his career, and actually brought the man who beat him, Rick Story, in to help him prepare for his originally scheduled fight. Like his long-time teammate Shane Roller, Hendricks is a work in progress with his hands, but a tremendous wrestler. He’s shown power in the past, stopping both Amir Sadollah and Charlie Brenneman, but his bread and butter will always be his skills on the ground.
Waldburger got the better of David Mitchell in his UFC debut and beat veteran Pat “Bam Bam” Healy for the Shark Fights welterweight crown in the fight prior. He also boasts wins over current welterweight Brian Foster and former UFC competitor Pete Spratt, as well as Shannon Ritch, but so do close to 70 other guys.
The Texas native appears to be taking the Joe Stevenson route, as this will be the 19th professional bout for the 22 year old who got his start with a first round loss to Sammy Say when he was just 17-years-old.