UFC Fight Night 24 Preview

Leonard Garcia (15-7-1) vs. Chan Sung Jung (10-3-0)

These two met in the best ugly fight of 2010, slugging it out for three rounds on the Spike TV Prelims live portion of the WEC’s lone pay-per-view event. If the sequel is half as entertaining as the original, it will easily win Fight of the Night honors.

Garcia is the king of split decisions. Each of his last two wins have come through questionable 2-1 selections from the judges, and he somehow managed to convince one judge that he’d also beaten Mark Hominick in between those victories. Previous to that, he battle George Roop to a rare split draw.

If you add his loss to Manny Gamburyan to the mix and score his bouts with Jung and Nam Phan properly, the Greg Jackson product should be 0-4-1 over his last five. Instead, Garcia is 2-2-1 in that span and the biggest beneficiary of the “swinging hard scores you points with the judges” plague that is afflicting the sport right now.

Jung became an overnight sensation in North America with his truly zombie-like performance the first time around with Garcia, but followed it up by getting knocked out by a perfectly timed headkick from Roop. As cool as his nickname and walkout t-shirts may be, Jung is officially 1-3 in his last four fights, and has sworn to employ a more measured, less chaotic style moving forward.

I’m curious to see if “The Korean Zombie” can stick to his promise in this one, as Garcia is notorious for drawing opponents into the sloppy affairs he so often wins by split decision. If Jung can keep to the game plan, land consistently like he did the first time around, and not eat so many punches, he should get back in the win column.

Then again, he should’ve won the first fight.

Amir Sadollah (4-2-0) vs. DaMarques Johnson (8-3-0)

In the span of eight days, Sadollah was scheduled to face three different opponents.

Originally slated for what would have been a great kickboxing match against Duane Ludwig, “Bang” was forced off the card with an injury and replaced by fellow TUF winner James Wilks. A week and a day later, Wilks was also out with an injury, replaced by Johnson, the man he beat in the TUF 9 welterweight finale.

It feels like I say this before every Sadollah fight, and maybe I do, but the charismatic TUF 7 winner needs another solid victory here to keep what little momentum can be built off beating Peter Sobotta going. Outside of his win over C.B. Dollaway, each of the other three men he’s beat have been released, while he’s come up short against the two solid contenders he’s faced to date.

Johnson is a tough guy to face as a last minute replacement. While he’s just 3-2 over his five UFC appearance, Johnson has looked very good at times, earning a pair of bonus checks from his wins over Edgar Garcia and Brad Blackburn, and sending Mike Guymon into retirement with a body triangle submission back in January.

I always believed Johnson would end up being the best of the bunch coming out of the welterweight pack on TUF 9, and that seems to be the case.

Dan Hardy (23-8-0, 1 NC) vs. Anthony Johnson (8-3-0)

I honestly wouldn’t trade places with Anthony Johnson for all the money in the world.

The gigantic welterweight is coming into this fight after a 16-month layoff that included knee surgery, and gets to return to the cage against a pissed-off and hungry Dan Hardy.

No thanks.

As always, the question of the hour with Johnson is his weight and conditioning; that’s what happens when you miss weight twice in a seven-fight span and walk around north of 220 pounds between fights. I’m no doctor, but cutting upwards of 23 percent of your body weight repeatedly can’t be easy and definitely isn’t good for you. Yet Johnson insists on fighting at the 170 pound limit.

Hardy is eager to put 2010 behind him and get back in the win column. While he benefitted from the added exposure of facing GSP at UFC 111 last March, he was handily defeated on that night, than got dropped by Carlos Condit on his home turf seven months later, leaving him winless for the year.

Though the talkative Brit has become a divisional afterthought in the wake of his two-fight skid, Hardy is a more complete and focused fighter today than he was heading into his title fight with St. Pierre last March, and he intends to show that against Johnson. He’s always been dogged for being pushed along too quickly because of his quick wit and British passport, but the truth is that Hardy is a very talented fighter and better than a lot of people give him credit for, including me.

He hopes an impressive win over Johnson will be the first step back into contention, and hopes for a rematch with Condit sooner rather than later.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-4-0) vs. Phil Davis (8-0-0)

I’ll spare you the cliches about the veteran squaring off with the rising prospect and make no mention of torches being passed. What I will say is that this bout will give us a more accurate measure of where Phil Davis is at in his development, and a win should vault the former Penn State standout into the top 10 of the light heavyweight division.

Nogueira is the perfect guy to face Davis at this point in time; he’s a crafty veteran with very good hands and a strong ground game. If he can keep it standing, Nogueira has the knockout power and technically sound boxing to keep Davis off balance and really test the unbeaten prospect. On the ground, he’s a legitimate black belt who won’t be as easily dominated as the four men Davis has beaten thus far in the UFC.

It’s those talents and abilities that makes the introduction of Davis into the main event – thanks to yet another Tito Ortiz injury – such an intriguing story. Davis has yet to really be tested since debuting at UFC 109, earning unanimous decisions over Brian Stann and Rodney Wallace, while submitting Alexander Gustafsson and Tim Boetsch before and after the Wallace win.

Theoretically, Nogueira will be able to push Davis in all the areas that he has excelled in thus far. The beauty of this fight is in the potential of Davis coming in and continuing to go unchecked in the Octagon. While some would surely attribute that to the rapid decline of Nogueira’s overall abilities, I think it would be a further indication that Davis has a very bright future in this sport.

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