Scott Jorgensen (12-4) vs. Jeff Curran (33-13-1)
Jorgensen is one of the many incredibly talented bantamweights who is getting a bit of a raw deal since the move to the UFC.
His only loss over his last seven fights came in the final WEC bantamweight title fight in December 2010. He steamrolled Ken Stone back in June, and is still buried on the preliminary portion of this event, welcoming veteran Jeff Curran back to the big leagues.
Curran has put together a 4-1 record since dropping his final four fights int he WEC and being released. He is as savvy as they come and very skilled on the ground, but hasn’t had much success against quality competition in recent years.
Still, the 34-year-old has the ground game to give Jorgensen fits if he makes the mistake of going to the floor with “The Big Frog.”
Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2) vs. George Roop (12-7-1)
I know there are a lot of people wondering how in the hell George Roop makes it onto a pay-per-view card, but this is all about his opponent.
Hioki is the consesus #2 featherweight in the world, with a pair of wins over Mark Hominick from their days in Montreal’s TKO organization, as well as victories over Takeshi Inoue and Marlon Sandro. My assumption is that this fight is on the main card so that if (when?) Hioki defeats Roop, fans will have had the chance to see the next man to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title.
Of course, Roop can throw a monkey wrench into things with another explosive finish like the one he delivered against “The Korean Zombie” back in the WEC. The former Ultimate Fighter cast member notched a good win over Josh Grispi last time out, and his length is very problematic in the 145-pound division.
That said, Roop is 4-4-1 over his last nine fights against mostly middle-tier competition. Hioki has proven himself to be the real deal thus far, and this feels like an introductory bout before moving him into the title picture opposite Aldo in 2012.
Mirko Cro Cop (27-9-2) vs. Roy Nelson (15-6)
This is one of those fights that makes me mad because the name value of the fighters gains them main card real estate despite the fact that they’re a combined 0-4 in the last calendar year.
I also don’t know why you don’t save Cro Cop for the February show in Japan? He seems to fight every six or seven months, so he mostly likely won’t be ready to return by then, even if he comes through this one with a clean bill of health. Of course, after his last two sluggish performances, I didn’t expect to see him back in the Octagon at all.
Nelson really needs a good performance here. His first two fights in the UFC moved him up the ladder, but he’s come crashing down in his last two. There are ways to justify each — Junior dos Santos has bludgeoned everyone, and he had walking pneumonia at UFC 130 in May — but at the end of the day, if he can’t put together a quality effort against Cro Cop, he’s in serious trouble.
Cheick Kongo (16-6-2) vs. Matt Mitrione (5-0)
If you’re not excited for this one, there is something wrong with you. Seriously.
Kongo is coming off his damn-near-finished knockout win over Pat Barry at UFC on Versus 4 in Pittsburgh, and would be riding a three-fight winning streak if he didn’t grab Travis Browne’s shorts so much at UFC 120. Still, he’s 2-0-1 since losing back-to-back fights to close out 2009, and the toughest test to date — by far — for Mitrione.
There isn’t anyone who thought that coming off TUF 10, Matt Mitrione would be the last member of that cast to suffer a loss in the Octagon. Most people didn’t expect much out of the former NFL defensive lineman, but he’s shown tremendous athleticism and development since then, stopping back-to-back opponents while wining all five of his fights.
The winner of this one becomes the best of the not-quite-contenders-yet set, a group that includes Browne, Nelson, and Brendan Schaub, all of whom are potential opponents for the winner as well.
BJ Penn (16-7-2) vs. Nick Diaz (25-7)
I too would have liked to see Diaz face Georges St-Pierre — or St- Pierre battle Carlos Condit for that matter.
Ultimately, I think a bout with Penn is an even better match-up for Diaz in his UFC return. It’s a better stylistic match-up for him, and f he loses, we won’t have to listen to excuses about GSP holding him down and not being a real fighter.
Penn will bring the fight to the former Strikeforce champion, and has a very comparable style with excellent boxing and a very slick ground game.
Diaz will have two inches in the height department and a four-inch reach advantage, both of which he’ll have to use to his advantage against the game former lightweight and welterweight champion.
The winner moves a step closer to title contention and the loser remains a force in the welterweight ranks.