Brian Bowles (9-1) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (14-5-2)
Takeya Mizugaki is the Arn Anderson of the UFC.
Where are my wrestling fans that remember Arn Anderson? “The Enforcer”? Anybody?
“Double A” was a great worker, technically proficient, capable of putting on a great show every time he took to the ring, but he was never the star attraction. As a founding and long-time member of The Four Horseman, Anderson played wingman to Ric Flair. He was a tag team specialist, and the only singles title he won was the NWA/WCW Television title, the equivalent to the Intercontinental belt in the WWE.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, that’s the way I see Mizugaki. If they introduced a belt for the best non-headlining fighters to challenge for, it would be his. The trouble is that belt doesn’t exist, and Mizugaki is left to alternate wins over the best of the non-championship bunch with losses to the bantamweight elite. From this moment on, I’m hereby bestowing the nickname “The Enforcer” on the Japanese fighter.
The trouble for “The Enforcer” in this one is that he’s facing one of those elite fighters that have given him so much trouble.
Bowles is a former bantamweight champion making just his second appearance since losing the belt to Cruz in March 2010.
Finally at full health, Bowles beat Damacio Page in the exact same time and fashion he did the first time in their second meeting. He’s fallen out of the title talk a little because of his time on the sidelines, but a win here puts him right back in the hunt.
George Sotiropoulos (14-3) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (14-5)
For the love of all things right in the world, please let these two highly skilled and talented jiu-jitsu players do battle on the ground.
If this fight hits the canvas, it could be beautiful and compelling; two quality black belts fishing for submissions, fighting for position, and showing the artistry of high level jiu-jitsu. If it stays standing, get ready for some relatively ugly kickboxing.
Sotiropoulos is one loss removed from an eight fight winning streak and being within spitting distance of a lightweight title shot. Dennis Siver scuttled all that at UFC 127 – in the Aussie’s backyard no less — leaving “Sots” to regroup and start all over.
Last time we saw dos Anjos, Clay Guida was grinding a shoulder into his face against the cage, earning a submission win at UFC 117. While we were a little confused initially, it turned out that Guida had broken the Brazilian’s jaw. Finally ready to return, he gets a chance to make a quick impact in the rankings by upsetting Sotiropoulos in this one.
The ground is where they’re both most comfortable, so I really hope it goes there. Bad kickboxing sucks.
Melvin Guillard (27-8) vs. Shane Roller (10-3)
No disrespect to Siver and Matt Wiman, but this fight should be kicking off the main card. There is no telling what is going to happen in this one, which makes it a must-see for Saturday night.
Guillard has explosive striking and is slippery quick. He’s unbeaten since moving his training to Albuquerque, won four straight and seven of his last eight, and starched Siver in 36 seconds when they met three years ago. Last time out, he buzz-sawed his way through Evan Dunham, finishing the promising prospect with a barrage of knees and punches along the cage.
Roller brings a wrestling base and successful collegiate career with him into the cage, however, he showed in his last appearance that he’s packing a pretty solid right hand as well.
The former Oklahoma State standout walloped Thiago Tavares at UFC Live in Louisville, and brings a nice little two fight winning streak into this one. He’s won five of his last six, the only hiccup being a three round struggle with Anthony Pettis at WEC 50.
The deciding factor in this one could be which fighter is able to use their sneaky talent the best. While everyone talks about Roller’s wrestling and right hand, he’s got submission game that has been coming along nicely over the last few years.
Conversely, no one ever seems to remember that Guillard was a state wrestling champion in high school, probably because he either uses it defensively or to hand over fights to Nate Diaz.
Matt Wiman (13-5) vs. Dennis Siver (18-7)
Here’s why I slagged this bout just a minute ago:
Wiman has won three-in-a-row, but one of those was the wonky Mac Danzig fight at UFC 115 and another was a win over Shane Nelson. Siver, meanwhile, is coming off a big upset over Sotiropoulos, but outside of that, his biggest win is Spencer Fisher.
Here’s why I’ll slag this bout again right now: I have a feeling it is going to be a horrible start to the pay-per-view.
Listen, there is a huge difference between Siver fending off Sotiropoulos’ attempts to bring their fight to the ground and doing the same against Wiman. A guy like Wiman with a wrestling base brings a very different setup to his takedowns, and he’s got much more fluid stand-up than Sotiropoulos too.
As always, I could be wrong. Siver could have morphed into the lightweight, German Chuck Liddell who can’t be taken down and wings all kinds of awesomeness at you from crazy angles, but I’m not sold.
If he proves me wrong here, I’ll never slag him again. If he doesn’t and this fight goes the way I think it will — grind central to a decision win for Wiman – expect a rousing chorus of “I Told You So” in Monday’s 10 Things We Learned column.