Daniel Roberts (12-2) vs. Rich Attonito (9-4)
TUF 11 alum Attonito makes his welterweight debut in this one.
After earning a pair of victories to start his run in the UFC, the American Top Team product was on the wrong end of a one-sided decision to David Branch back in December, and decided to make the move down in weight. The former Team Liddell fighter becomes yet another former collegiate wrestler to call the 170 pound ranks home, and will need to have a strong showing in his debut to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack.
Roberts steps up on short notice to replace Matt Brown opposite Attonito; Brown got promoted to Martin Kampmann’s place on the main card. Doing the UFC a solid is a smart move for Roberts, as the Team Cesar Gracie fighter seriously underwhelmed in his UFC 129 bout against Claude Patrick. Roberts looked tired early and offered very little, losing a lopsided decision.
He put together a solid three-fight winning streak after losing to John Howard in his debut, and has shown a strong submission game in the past. If he’s corrected his cardio issues, this could be Roberts’ chance to get back in the win column quickly. If not, a loss could spell the end of his time in the UFC.
Joe Lauzon (19-6) vs. Curt Warburton (7-2)
Lauzon should be looking at this as a make-or-break fight.
He’s been on the fringes of contention for a number of years, first appearing on the radar with his unexpected TKO win over Jens Pulver before starring opposite his former opponent on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then, he’s had an up and down run inside the Octagon, toppling middle-tier talent, but coming up short against the best of the bunch.
At 27-years-old and considering the serious depth within the division, it’s time for Lauzon to make a statement and cement his place as a contender or risk becoming another one of the numerous good-but-not-great lightweights on the roster.
Warburton sits in that group now, and can similarly use this bout as a means of escaping that distinction. He lost a decision to veteran Spencer Fisher in his debut, but rebounded with a solid win over Maciej Jewtuszko last time out. Though I don’t see a loss costing the Englishman his job, he needs this win to avoid being permanently stuck in this position moving forward.
On paper, this is a fight Lauzon should dominate; he’s far more skilled on the ground and has shown development with his hands over his last few fights. That being said, Warburton is a tough out who won’t roll over, so the end result should be a spirited affair.
Joe Stevenson (31-13) vs. Javier Vazquez (15-5)
You better tune into this one because it’s gotten all kinds of personal, and that tension could translate into a great fight on Sunday night.
Stevenson is making his featherweight debut in this one after dropping three straight to increasingly lower ranked competition at lightweight in the 18 months. The winner of TUF 2’s welterweight tournament is somehow still just 28-years-old, but he’s looked 38 over his last three outings and a chance of scenery was needed.
“Joe Daddy” is fired up for this one as well. Vazquez’s camp has gone to the no-longer-funny “Photoshop Contest” in advance of this fight, and some of the submissions have Stevenson admitting he might not be able to keep his emotions in check.
A decorated grappler, Vazquez is a difficult test for Stevenson for his first fight at 145 pounds. He looked good in wins over Mackens Semerzier and Pulver, submitting both in relatively short order before running into Chad Mendes last time out.
Though Stevenson looks to be on the decline, Vazquez’s team has given him added fuel for this fight. If I were the Cuban-born jiu-jitsu specialist, I’d have put an end to the Photoshop contest and offered Stevenson an apology, then slapped my camp around a little too.
When you’re already assured of getting punched in the face and a little beaten up, there is no need to give your opponent more reason to smash you.
Tyson Griffin (14-5) vs. Manny Gamburyan (11-5)
Griffin is in a difficult position heading into his first fight in the featherweight division.
On one hand, he’s facing an opponent who challenged for the 145 pound title last time out and holds a trio of wins within the division. On the other hand, a loss would be his fourth straight, and no matter how much you try to justify things, that’s a tough sell.
Featherweight is a much better fit for Griffin, as he won’t be at a physical disadvantage the way he was occasionally at lightweight. Still, he really needs to have a good showing here. As much as his loss to Lentz was questionable, the knockout against Takanori Gomi was not, and he did nothing to earn one-third of the results against Evan Dunham either.
For Gamburyan, this is his chance to get right back into the mix at the top of the division. A back injury kept him out of a proposed bout with Raphael Assuncao in March, so he’ll need to prove he’s healthy. People are curious to see how Griffin will do in his debut, which gives Gamburyan the opportunity to steal the spotlight in this one.