Carlos Condit (26-5) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (14-0-1)
The unbeaten Kim gets absolutely no love from the vast majority because he’s (1) a judoka who out-grapples opponents, (2) a bit of a blanket at times, and (3) hasn’t come close to finishing a fight in three years.
I’m not saying you have to finish fights to get recognition, but Kim hits the trifecta for turning off fans. He gains back a couple points for awkwardly proclaiming he wanted to fight GSP after Nate Diaz nearly stole a win from him in the final round at UFC 125, but not enough.
He’s like Lyoto Machida heading into the Thiago Silva fight. Almost gave away a win against Tito, unbeaten but no big wins, zero “Oh Wow!” moments. Then he goes out, blasts Silva right at the close of the opening round, and not only is all forgotten, but he’s given a heavy push.
Would the same kind of solid finish do the same for Kim?
The final WEC welterweight champion, Condit lands on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from his opponent. The guy is one of the all-time exciting fighters — that’s right, I said it — and has delivered four pretty impressive performances since coming to play with the big boys.
He’s made no bones about being ready to challenge his teammate if given the opportunity — which I’m sure Dana White likes to hear – and is coming off a wicked counter-hook knockout of Dan Hardy back in October 2010.
Another memorable outing here, and he could be making his UFC main event debut in 2012.
Ryan Bader (12-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (15-8)
This fight makes no sense to me whatsoever.
Despite the fact that Tito has done the same fantastic job he’s always done of (1) selling the fight and (2) selling himself, that facts remain the same.
Ortiz hasn’t won since 2006 and his last two victories came against the pumped up, broken down remains of Ken Shamrock. He’s lost three straight, is winless in five, and is coming off a fight where he lost to the confirmed gatekeeper of the light heavyweight division, Matt Hamill.
What in there sounds compelling enough to put him in the middle of a pay-per-view card and makes Bader ask for this fight?
Listen, I completely understand the cache Ortiz’s name still carries with casual fans, and the elfish amount of marketability it give Bader if he’s the guy to finally retire “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” but it’s not like Bader isn’t already a well-known commodity.
He won Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter and is coming off a trio of main card appearances on pay-per-view events. Everyone remembers him smashing on Keith Jardine, he beat “Little Nog” in the co-main event of UFC 119, and lost to Jon Jones just under four months ago. How much more recognizable does the kid want to be?
Personally, I think the risk is greater than the reward here. While I don’t see Bader having any trouble with Ortiz, he stands to lose much more than he gains should Ortiz manage to pull off the upset.
Unless he ends this quick or in impressive fashion, I can’t see a win doing much for Bader’s standing and prospects at this point.
Wanderlei Silva (30-10-1) vs. Chris Leben (25-7)
slobberknocker: a fierce and violent fight amongst two people, or a number of participants that eventually turns into a full-fledged donnybrook
Call it a slobberknocker, a donnybrook or anything else you want; at the end of the day, this one is going to be a serious brawl with two guys who want nothing more than to give and take punishment for the sake of entertaining the fans.
No wonder Silva is one of the most universally beloved fighters in the sport. As for Leben, his penchant for punching people in the face while eating his fair share of knuckle sandwiches has him walking to the Octagon for the 18th time.
He’s tied with Michael Bisping for the most wins by a fighter who has never challenged for a title with eleven, and has made one less trip to the cage than GSP.
Neither of those stats really mean anything here. No stat does, actually. This one comes down to who lands the harder punch first.
If both fighters were in their prime, I’d be pegging this as Fight of the Year. Since they’re both on the wrong side of that line, whoever makes solid impact with the sweet spot first is getting their hand raised.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of fight, and I’ll be watching intently at home on Saturday night; I just don’t want people to read too much into whatever transpires.
Both guys are on the fringes of contention, and making a run at the title is about as likely this fight being an uneventful wrestling match.