Evan Dunham (11-2) vs. Shamar Bailey (12-3)
After winning his fight against Ryan McGillivray at the Season 13 Finale in June, Bailey now makes the move down to lightweight. It’s a good choice for the undersized wrestler, but one that present a tough test right out the gate in the form of Dunham.
It hasn’t even been a year since Dunham was considered a rising star in the division. He got gypped out of a win against Sean Sherk at UFC 119, then was fed a beating by Melvin Guillard at Fight for the Troops 2. He’s battled injuries since and fallen into the background, but gets the chance to earn a good win here.
This could be a make-or-break fight for both fighters. Losing three straight would be hard to survive for Dunham, and Dana White was no fan of Bailey’s efforts last year on TUF, so he’ll need to do more than grind out a win from top position if he wants to earn a little job security.
Cody McKenzie (12-1) vs. Vagner Rocha
The Guy Fawkes of the UFC returns to face a fellow submission specialist in this one, and hopefully Rocha offers more in his second appearance than he did in his first.
Facing Donald Cerrone on short notice is a tall order, so I’ll cut Rocha some slack. That said, he looked thoroughly disinterested in engaging in that contest, and needs to step it up this time around.
After somehow scoring yet another win by guillotine in his TUF 12 Finale bout with Aaron Wilkinson, McKenzie put up a heck of a fight in a losing effort against Yves Edwards last January, sharing Fight of the Night honors with the veteran for his troubles.
If you’re not a grappling fan, this might be when you want to go get everything set up for the fights on Spike TV.
Alan Belcher (16-6) vs. Jason MacDonald (25-14)
Returning from a detached retina that put his career in jeopardy, Belcher hopes to pick up where he left off prior to the injury. His back-to-back wins over Patrick Cote and Wilson Gouveia had him climbing the middleweight rankings, and a win here would get him moving up the ladder once again.
For MacDonald, this is a chance to get a good win over a talent opponent who may not be all the way back just quite yet. The Canadian looked good in his own comeback fight at UFC 129, subbing Ryan Jensen in the first round, and has the ground game to catch Belcher if he get sloppy at any point along the way.
This bout is also the rubber match in the continuing battle between myself and Duane Finley in our ongoing series The Face-Off, so you better believe I’ll be watching intently.
Jonathan Brookins (12-3) vs. Erik Koch (12-1)
This is such an awesome fight. My personal opinion is that it should have been the co-main event, but that’s just me.
Brookins drops back down to featherweight as he finally getting back in the cage after having won TUF 12. The meditative Floridian showed tremendous composure and strong jiu-jitsu in running the table on TUF, and he’ll need to show more of the same here as Koch is a serious test.
A 22-year-old Duke Roufus student, Koch’s only loss in his career came to featherweight title contender Chad Mendes. He’s rattled off three straight wins since then, all in the first round, the last two netting him the Knockout of the Night bonus.
Koch is on the fringe of being a contender, and a win for Brookins would put him there as well.
Court McGee (13-1) vs. Dongi Yang (10-1)
The man with the best beard in the UFC returns to try to collect his second win since winning Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter.
McGee looked good in beating Ryan Jensen in his post-TUF debut. He lost the opening round handily, but battled back nicely in the second and forced Jensen to tap in the third.
Yang has gone 1-1 in his two trips to the Octagon, losing a split decision to Chris Camozzi in his debut before dropping Rob Kimmons back in March. He went 9-0 with nine finishes prior to arriving in the UFC, so he has the talent to test McGee in this one.
Jake Shields (26-5-1) vs. Jake Ellenberger (24-5)
In the last decade, Shields is 20-3-1. He’s 15-1 in the previous six years, his only loss coming to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129. It doesn’t get said enough, so allow me to say it: Jake Shields is bad ass.
Look at who he’s beaten in those past six years before you try to argue otherwise.
That’s what makes this fight so appealing. Shields is unquestionably a top 5 welterweight—top 3 even—but Ellenberger looks to have the skills to hand him a second consecutive loss. He’s like a mini Dan Henderson; power in both hands, good wrestling, hard to put away.
Some people might not like it, but I think this is a great main event for a free show on Spike.
Enjoy the fights!