By: William Holmes
The Pay Per View offering by the UFC this Saturday offers not one, but two title fights, a third match between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard for the lightweight title, and another chance for Kenny Florian to obtain a UFC belt as he takes on Jose Aldo for the featherweight title. In addition, this card features a middleweight title between former #1 middleweight contender Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann, and lightweight contenders Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia. The following is a preview of this Saturday’s card.
Nam Phan (16-9) vs. Leonard Garcia (15-7-1); Featherweight
In boxing rematches often take years to develop, but in MMA they are a common occurrence with a quick turnaround. Saturday’s fight between Nam Phan and Leonard Gacria will likely have little impact on the featherweight title picture, but is almost guaranteed to be an exciting affair. The two met in December of 2010, which resulted in Leonard Garcia winning a controversial split decision. Nam Phan has gone 1-4 in his last five bouts, with his lone victory coming against a Rodney Rhoden, an unknown opponent at a smaller regional show. He was TKO’d by Michihiro Omigawa in 2009, a lost by majority decision to Mike Brown in August of this year. Garcia’s record in his past five fights is 2-2-1. He lost his last fight to Chan Sung Jung in March of this year by submission late in the second round, and lost to Mark Hominick by split decision.
Neither fighter has an impressive record or resume, but both are known for competing in highly entertaining scraps. The loser of this fight will likely be on the cutting blocks in the UFC. This will likely be a standup affair, featuring sloppy striking, but exciting moments. Even though Nam Phan has been struggling as of late, he should have received the judges’ decision in their last matchup, and he should win by decision in this rematch.
Melvin Guillard (29-8-2) vs. Joe Lauzon (20-6); Lightweight
Since 2008, Melvin Guillard has gone 8-1. Three of his last four fights he won by KO or TKO. Melvin Guillard is on track for a possible title shot. Early on in his career he showed a weakness for submissions. Of his eight losses, seven have been by submission. Conversely, Guillard is very talented on his feet. Of his 29 wins, 19 have been by KO or TKO. Guillard’s recent string of victories can be attributed to him joining Greg Jackson’s fight camp. Guillard has serious power in his hands, and his ground game and ability to avoid the takedown has improved tremendously. In January of this year he defeated the very tough Evan Dunham, and with another victory or two he should earn himself a title shot.
Standing in his way is the veteran Joe Lauzon. Lauzon has been a veteran of the UFC since 2006, and is known for his excellent jiu-jitsu skills. Of Lauzon’s twenty wins, sixteen have come by submission. In his last five fights, Joe Lauzon has gone 3-2. Lauzon has no problem beating on the mid level competition, but whenever he faces off against the upper echelon of the lightweight division, Lauzon comes up short. His most impressive victory to date came against Jeremy Stephens in February of 2009. He’s had disappointing losses against George Sotiropoulos and Kenny Florian. These were fights that had Lauzon won, he would have been considered a possible top ten lightweight candidate.
Guillard has to prove that he can avoid submissions and the takedown in order to be seriously considered for a title shot. Lauzon is the perfect opponent for him to prove this. Lauzon will likely threaten Guillard throughout the fight with submissions, but Guillard’s hard training at Jackson’s MMA should pay off on Saturday leading him to another TKO victory, and a possible shot at the lightweight belt.
Chael Sonnen (25-11-1) vs. Brian Stann (11-3); Middleweight
This will be Chael Sonnen’s first fight since coming within minutes of taking Anderson Silva’s title in August of 2010. Immediately after that fight, reports came out that Sonnen tested positive for steroids and he has not fought since then. Saturday’s fight with Brian Stann will be Sonnen’s chance to prove that he deserves a rematch with Silva. Sonnen was the last middleweight champion in the WEC, and has gone 3-2 while fighting for the UFC. He holds impressive victories over Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami, and Dan Miller. Sonnen’s biggest weakness is getting caught in submissions, tapping out, then later claim he never tapped out. Sonnen’s first fight was in 1997, and is one of the few veterans whose game has evolved as the sport has evolved. Sonnen possesses very strong wrestling, and a solid ground and pound.
Brian Stann briefly held the WEC light heavyweight belt before losing it to Steve Cantrell. Since dropping to the middleweight division Brian Stann has gone 3-0, with his most impressive victories being over the very tough Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago. Stann possesses excellent knockout power, and average jiu-jitsu skills. The last time he faced a fighter with strong wrestling was when he took on Phil Davis, in a fight he lost by decision.
If Chael Sonnen can shake off the ring rust that comes with a year long layoff he should win this fight by decision. A few takedowns and some ground and pound will be more than enough to get him the victory, and he shouldn’t have to worry about Stann pulling off a submission from the ground. However, Sonnen has to be careful on his feet, because Stann has the ability to pull off a knockout victory.
Jose Aldo (19-1) vs. Kenny Florian (14-5); Featherweight Championship
This isn’t Kenny Florian’s first chance at UFC gold. He previously fought for the UFC lightweight belt against Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn, and came up short both times. He’s hoping a drop down to the featherweight division will lead to success this time around. In his past five fights Florian has gone 3-2. A decision loss to the powerful Gray Maynard in August of 2010 precipitated his drop to the featherweight division. A decision victory over Diego Nunes in June of this year gave Kenny Florian the right to challenge for the title. Florian’s strength is obviously his jiu-jitsu, as nine of his victories have come by submission. His striking is underrated, and he is able to use it effectively to set up his submissions. Florian has only been TKO’d once in his career.
Jose Aldo is on most pundits top five pound for pound list, and deservedly so. His only loss came in 2005, and he has chewed up and spit out the best the featherweight division has to offer since then. He had a closer than expected fight against Mark Hominick in April of this year, but he still won that fight decisively. Aldo’s standup is deadly and explosive. Twelve of his victories have come by KO or TKO. If Aldo has a weakness, it may have been exposed in his last fight. He began to visibly tire in the later rounds and Hominick, and Florian’s best chance at victory will be if he takes the fight the distance.
Expect Aldo to win this fight by KO or TKO, as his striking is at a much higher level than Kenny Florian. The longer the fight goes, the better the chances are for Florian to pull of an upset.
Gray Maynard (10-0-1) vs. Frankie Edgar (13-1-1); Lightweight Championship
Frankie Edgar exploded into the radar of MMA fans when he upset former lightweight kingpin B.J. Penn two times in a row. Edgar is not known for his knockout power or his ability to finish fights, but he has outstanding cardio and pushes the pace of his fights with crisp striking that few can keep up with. His only blemishes on his record came against Gray Maynard, a close decision loss and a controversial draw in January of this year. Eight of his victories have come by decision, but he has beaten some very tough opponents. The list includes B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Hermes Franca, Tyson Griffin, and Jim Miller.
Gray Maynard trains out of Xtreme Couture, long considered one of the best MMA camps in the world. The Michigan State alumnus has yet to face defeat while fighting for the UFC. His list of defeated opponents include Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian, Nate Diaz, Roger Huerta, and Jim Miller. His wrestling is outstanding, and he carries some heavy power in his hands. However, Frankie Edgar is one of the few lightweights who has the wrestling ability needed to keep the fight standing, and this matchup will be the power striking of Maynard against the precision striking of Edgar.
This fight is hard to pick, and will likely be very close like the previous two. Maynard will pose the biggest threat to Edgar in the early rounds when his conditioning has not been drained and his power is still strong. Edgar should pull away towards the later rounds with his frenetic pace and pin point accuracy, and gain a decision victory to retain the lightweight title.