By: William Holmes
UFC 131 returns to Canada with a major heavyweight attraction. This card lacks in title fights, but is still packed in meaningful fights that will determine who gets to receive future title shots, and features the debut of a highly sought after heavyweight prospect. The following is a preview of the fights being broadcast on Spike and the main PPV card.
Jesse Bongfeldt (15-4-1) vs. Chris Weidman (5-0); Middleweight
Chris Weidman fights in his second fight in the UFC, after dismantling Alessio Sakara at UFC Live 3. As a former fighter for Ring of Combat, Chris Weidman is a fighter who appears to be well suited to compete in the UFC. Jesse Bongfeldt fought to a draw in his first fight in the UFC against Rafael Natal, and his biggest victory has come against T.J. Grant.
This should be a fight for Weidman to really showcase his talents on the free Spike undercard to the UFC audience. Every fighter in the UFC is talented, but the Matt Serra trained protégé really showed off his poise and talent against the very tough Sakara. I fully expect Weidman to take this fight easily and put other fighters on notice that he may be a fighter to avoid.
Sam Stout (17-6-1) vs. Yves Edwards (40-16-1); Lightweight
Everytime the UFC has an opportunity to show some of the preliminary fights on Spike before a a PPV card, they make an attempt to showcase a fight between two fighters with solid stand up skills who will likely put on an exciting fight. This matchup is that fight.
Neither Sam Stout or Yves Edwards is likely to fight for a title soon, but both fighters are well respected veterans who’ve been in the sport for a long time. Yves Edwards has been fighting since 1997, a rarity in the lighter weights in MMA. He’s on a two fight win streak in the UFC, and Stout represents his toughest test since his return. However, whenever Yves appears to take a step up in competition to challenge one of the top lightweights, he appears to come up short.
Stout has gone 3-3 in his last six fights in the UFC, with notable victories over Paul Taylor, Joe Lauzon, and Matt Wiman, and tough losses to Jeremy Stephens, Terry Etim, and Rich Clementi. I think the Sean Tompkins trained Sam Stout will be too much for Yves Edwards to handle, and I expect an exciting knockout that causes more fans to buy the PPV.
Donald Cerrone (14-3) vs. Vagner Rocha (6-1); Lightweight
Fan favorite and WEC veteran Donald Cerrone fights Vagner Rocha in his UFC debut. Rocha has fought mainly as a welterweight, and has previously fought for both Bellator and Strikeforce. Cerrone has won his last three fights, with victories over Paul Kelly, Chris Horodecki, and Jamie Varner. Rocha will surely be tested here as Cerrone will be his toughest fight to date.
Usually when a fighter drops a weight class, he does in an attempt to gain a strength advantage on possible opponents. However, Donald Cerrone is a very big lightweight, and trains out of Greg Jackson’s camp so you know Cerrone will have an effective game plan coming into this fight. I expect Cerrone to keep this fight standing, and punish Rocha to win this fight by a decision.
Demian Maia (14-2) vs. Mark Munoz (10-2); Middleweight
Whenever you have a matchup between a top notch jiu jitsu practitioner and a top notch wrestler, it often turns into a standup battle. I expect this fight to be exactly that. The winner of this fight will likely be considered for a future title shot.
Both fighters have average standup with many holes in their defensive standup game. Maia has won his last two fights by decision after his loss to Anderson Silva, beating Kendall Grove and Mario Miranda. Mark Munoz won his last two fights against C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson after losing against Yushin Okami. If this fight goes to the ground, I expect Maia to win by decision. However, Munoz’s wrestling is very good, and Maia has not yet shown to have a strong enough takedown game to take a top notch wrestler down.
This fight will likely be a sloppy standup affair, and since Munoz has the heavier hands over Maia, I think he will eventually connect with one of his power shots putting Maia out. The eventual question then becomes, will Munoz be willing to put friendship aside and challenge training partner Anderson Silva for a shot at the belt.
John Olav Einemo (7-1) vs. Dave Herman (20-2); Heavyweight
Dave Herman makes his UFC debut against Pride Veteran Einemo, who hasn’t fought since he defeated James Thompson in 2006. Dave Herman’s record should really read 20-1, as one of his losses was a disqualification against Sokoudjou. His other loss was an upset in Japan, but if you’ve watched Herman fight, you know he has the talent to be a competitor in the UFC.
Einemo is one of the few European fighters who is known for his jiu-jitsu. However, like the Maia vs. Munoz fight, Herman’s wrestling is very good and he should be able to keep the fight standing. In Herman’s lone real loss he gassed against his opponent in the second round. If Herman has been taken his training seriously, and shows up to this fight in shape, he should defeat Einemo easily. Of Dave Herman’s 20 victories, only one has gone to decision. I do not expect this one to go to decision, and believe Dave Herman will have a resounding victory to introduce himself to the UFC heavyweights.
Junior Dos Santos (12-1) vs. Shane Carwin (12-1); Heavyweight
Two fighters with identical records face off in the main event with a possible title shot against the feared Cain Velasquez in the heavyweight division. Shane Carwin has not fought since his defeat to Brock Lesnar in about a year, and will likely have ring rust coming into this matchup. Dos Santos has been on a tear since entering the UFC defeating Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Gilbert Yvel, Fabricio Werdum, and Stefan Struve. Carwin’s biggest victories have come against Frank Mir and Gabriel Gonzaga.
Both fighters have very heavy hands, but Junior Dos Santos has shown to be the more technically sound striker. Dos Santor has yet to be tested against a strong wrestler who actively goes for the takedowns, and Carwin may be wise to try to win the match with takedowns and ground and pound. However, I think a year layoff will be too much for Shane Carwin, and a fight against a weaker opponent may have been the wiser choice for him to shake off the ring rust.
If Carwin can show that he has the endurance to make it past the first round this fight will be very interesting. But, I think Junior Dos Santos will push the pace and test Carwin’s chin and cardio, and will eventually overwhelm him to win a TKO victory. A future matchup between Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez would be one that the UFC should be able to hype easily.