Breaking down the bouts that make up Saturday’s fight card
Saturday night, UFC 132 brings to a close a tremendous run of six consecutive weekends with a premiere mixed martial arts event on the calendar.
UFC 130 may have missed the mark to start of this extended run, and Strikeforce’s voyage to the Lone Star State left people wanting more. That being said, the last UFC pay-per-view hit all the marks and Sunday’s event on Versus ended with an a thunderous bang courtesy of Cheick Kongo.
Picking up where Pittsburgh left off, UFC 132 boasts a main card headlined by the first ever UFC bantamweight title fight, an historic moment dwarfed by the dislike the warring parties have for one another.
From the potentially epic brawl that could erupt between Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben to what could be Tito Ortiz’s final fight in the UFC, the main card is full of enticing story lines. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the next welterweight title contender could be determine as well..
The cloudy race for top contender status in the lightweight division could continue getting clearer with the trio of competitive contests slated for Saturday night, one on the main card and the others showcased on Spike TV.
All in all, UFC 132 has the markings of a marquee event capable of producing some 4th of July fireworks a couple days early.
Jeff Hougland (9-4) vs. Donny Walker (15-6)
I’m sorry, who?
No one saw the announcement of this bantamweight bout coming when the UFC added Hougland and Walker to the lineup. While new fighters enter the fray all the time, they’re usually guys who are on somebody’s radar. Neither of these men fit that bill.
For what it’s worth, Hougland is putting together an interesting career. He started out 1-4 including a loss to Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez at WEC 6. He then proceeded to rattle off four straight wins, take four years off, and come back to add four more victories to his record. “Hellbound” has finished each of his last four opponents by submission in the opening round, and has never gone to a decision in his career.
Walker is a 31-year-old from Cleveland who brings a seven fight winning streak of his own into his Octagon debut. Included in those conquests is Bellator tournament semifinalist Kenny Foster.
While he’s got the most name brand win of the two newcomers, it doesn’t help Walker’s odds that four of the six losses he’s suffered have come by submission, and Hougland almost always win by forcing his opponent to tap.
Anthony Njokuani (13-5) vs. Andre Winner (11-5-1)
There is little chance of someone getting submitted in this one, as Nigerian-born kickboxer Njoukani meets British boxer Winner. Of course, now that I’ve said that, watch somebody connect on a Peruvian necktie or a gogoplata or something.
Chances are though that neither guy will be going out of their comfort zones too much, as both are in desperate need of a win. Some believed Njokuani deserved the nod in his last fight with Edson Barboza. Regardless of your views on the verdict, a loss here would move him to 1-4 over his last five fights and that’s not a good look for anyone.
Winner is in a similar boat, bringing a two fight skid into this one. After showing all kinds of potential on Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter and through his first two post-TUF appearances, Winner’s grappling deficiency has been exploited in his last two.
Getting wrestled to a decision by Nik Lentz is one thing; having German striker Dennis Siver take you down, tap your arm in a body triangle and choke you out is something entirely different.
Both fighters have their back against the wall, which should prompt them to come out swinging. I’ve probably just jinxed it again, meaning we’ll get a sluggish grind from two guys who can’t really wrestle.
Brad Tavares (7-0) vs. Aaron Simpson (8-2)
Tucked away on the undercard, far away from the spotlight is this little gem; the kind of fight I get hyped for each and every event.
Tavares is a talented striker best known for his time on Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter. He kneed former prospect Jordan Smith into oblivion to get into the house, and knocked veteran Phil Baroni out of the UFC with one in his first fight away from the Reality TV franchise.
Simpson became a feel good story early in his UFC run; an older guy getting into the sport later than most, cruising out to a 7-0 start to his career. Then “The A-Train” got knocked off the rails by Leben. Mark Munoz handed him a second straight defeat five months later before Simpson literally wrestled out a win against Mario Miranda this past March.
The reason I like fights like this so much is because I think Simpson is a guy who people put too much stock into and Tavares is a kid who isn’t getting enough credit. Simpson could end up wrestling away another decision, but Tavares has all kinds of knockout power, and if Simpson comes in sloppy, it’s lights out.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m right. We’ll find out Saturday night.