Anticipation for this event was massive. It’s still pretty solid, but admittedly, things have cooled a little in the last ten days; that’s what happens when the championship main event in the final week before the fight.
The funny thing — in the “that’s kinda cool,” not a “ha-ha” sense — is that even minus Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit, this is still a pretty strong line-up. I get that losing a title bout takes some of the shine off of the proceedings, but don’t sleep on this event just because it’s short a certain French-Canadian champion.
Here’s a look at what you can expect tomorrow night in Las Vegas.
Clifford Starks (7-0) vs. Dustin Jacoby (6-0)
Jacoby hasn’t even stepped into the Octagon yet and his UFC journey has already been a wild one.
The unbeaten 23-year-old stepped up to replace an injured Tim Credeur opposite Brad Tavares. In the wake of GSP’s injury, the duo were promoted to the main card, but that only lasted a day or two. Tavares came down with an injury of his own, got replaced by Starks, and the two neophytes with no losses between them will now kick off the card.
Starks fought just 13 days ago, defeating Artenas Young by unanimous decision. Whether or not that has an impact on his performance could be a determining factor in this fight.
Chris Camozzi (15-4) vs. Francis Carmont (16-7)
The UFC gets a “high five” for bringing back Chris Camozzi.
Despite having won his first two bouts in the organization, the Ultimate Fighter Season 11 alum was released following his loss to Kyle Noke at UFC 127 in February. The 24-year-old middleweight went out and got a good win over tough veteran Joey Villasenor in May, and now he’s back where he belongs.
Camozzi will welcome TriStar product Francis Carmont to the Octagon for the first time. Born in France and training with the talented group in Montreal, Carmont has won all four of his fights since returning from a two-year break from competition. Last time out, he needed just over two minutes to stop UFC veteran Jason Day.
Ramsey Nijem (4-2) vs. Danny Downes (8-2)
After earning a lot of television time and advancing to the finals on Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, Nijem was starched by Tony Ferguson in the battle for the six-figure contract. This is a must-win match-up for the charismatic wrestler, who follows many of his fellow cast members down to lightweight for his post-TUF debut.
Downes has earned a reputation as a kid that is tough to put away. The Duke Roufus trainee put up a good fight against Jeremy Stephens on short notice last time, and gets an opponent more his speed this time around.
With the massive collection of talent in the lightweight ranks, neither fighter can afford a second consecutive loss.
Brandon Vera (11-5) vs. Eliot Marshall (10-3)
Everyone knows “The Brandon Vera Story” by now, so instead of rehashing it all, I will simply say this: he’s talked a very big game for a very long time. Now it’s time to show up.
For Marshall, this is another chance at another chance. Despite a 3-0 record heading into the fight, he was released following a loss to Vladimir Matyushenko in march 2010. He won three straight, stepped up on short notice against Luiz Cane, and was punished by the heavy-handed Brazilian.
He’s said it’s “UFC or bust” from here on out, so a win will be the only way for him to keep his fighting career moving forward.
Tyson Griffin (15-5) vs. Bart Palaszewski (35-14)
Our Under the Radar fight for UFC 137, these two former lightweights square off in the 145-pound ranks here, both hoping to make a run at the featherweight title in 2012.
Griffin debuted in the division back at UFC on Versus 4, scoring a majority decision win over Manny Gamburyan. It was a hard, close fight against a former title challenger, and while not necessarily the flashy first impression he was hoping for, it ended his three-fight losing streak.
Finally making his UFC debut after an illness scratched him from UFC 130 in May, Palaszewski is well-rounded and exceptionally experienced. He has proven knockout power and an underrated ground game, and could be an instant contender in the division.
With the shallow talent pool at the top of the featherweight class, the winner of this one will move into “one win away” territory heading into the new year.
Dennis Siver (19-7) vs. Donald Cerrone (16-3)
With the lightweight title situation resolved, the time has come to start sorting out the contenders at the top of the 155-pound division as well, and this bout will aid in that process.
Siver has climbed the ladder in the last two years, stringing together four consecutive wins, most notably defeating George Sotiropoulos at UFC 127. He followed that up with a close decision win over Matt Wiman.
Cerrone has posted three wins in the Octagon already this year, and steps in here to replace Sam Stout. He’s worked his way up the ladder since coming over from the WEC, and has won five straight overall.