Chris Leben vs Andrew Craig
The popular and longtime UFC veteran Chris Leben returns to take on the hungry but rather unknown Andrew Craig. Craig’s rise to fame came against Rafael Natal, where he showed heart and determination after being rocked several times, resulting in a comeback knockout in the later stages of the final round. Craig, though recently lost by unanimous decision to Ronny Markes, in a fight where he almost came back in once again. Leben returns for the second time since his year long suspension and looks to rebound from a lackluster defeat to Derek Brunson. The 32 year old Leben has fought 31 times, 20 of which in the UFC, and while title hopes are long gone, the highlight reel can always use more film. Leben who carries heavy hands will look to keep this one standing, and knockout Craig, that’s a given. Craig, a wrestler, will look to mix in his improving striking with his wrestling to bring the fight to the mat. Leben has since moved camps from Hawaii to California to train at Alliance MMA, which is home to the likes of Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, and Alexander Gustafsson. As for the result of this fight, although I believe Craig is a game opponent for Leben, his striking defense is suspect. He has been rocked several times, but also, and to his credit, he has the ability to come back in the final rounds as we’ve seen in the past. But, Leben carries too much punching power in his hands than say Rafael Natal, and with that I think Leben puts Craig to sleep at sometime in the second round.
Norman Parke vs Kazuki Tokudome
Ultimate Fighter winner Norman Parke returns for his second fight inside the Octagon against the gritty Kazuki Tokudome. Parke carries a record of 17-2, is on a 7 fight win streak, and has won 17 of his last 18 fights. In the victory over Colin Fletcher, Parke was relentless with takedowns, and top position in route to a unanimous decision. Tokudome who made his UFC debut in Japan also returns for the second time inside the octagon. Tokudome is riding on a 3 fight win streak, and has won 7 of his last 8. The former Sengoku and Pancrase title challenger defeated longtime veteran Cristiano Marcello in his debut unanimously. Tokudome survived Marcello’s early strikes, and wore him down with takedowns, a smothering top game, and some striking of his own come the third round. I expect this fight to take place everywhere, but I also think that Parke is more well rounded to control the fight. I take nothing away from Tokudome, who clearly showed he wasn’t afraid of the 4th degree black belt Cristiano Marcello on the ground. I just think that Parke’s overall game is more defined, and I think this one goes the distance with the decision going to Parke.
Edson Barboza vs Rafaello Oliveira
Rafaello Oliveira is serving a late replacement for the injured John Makdessi, and has a tough task in front of him in the young phenom Edson Barboza. Oliveira’s future in the UFC is heavily dependent on this fight as this is already his second stint, and before winning his last fight, he dropped the first two. Oliveira’s chances in this fight are realistically low unless he can grind down Barboza with relentless takedowns. If this fight stays on the feet like I believe it will be, Barboza who has some of the most dynamic striking in the UFC will easily overwhelm Oliveira. With that said, Barboza will win this one early, tally his 12th victory, and 9th by knockout.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs Dave Herman
Dave Herman entered the UFC heavyweight division with buzz, and debuted with a TKO victory over Jon-Olav Einemo, in which he earned fight of the night honors for. Since then, it’s been nothing but a downfall with three straight defeats (all finishes), testing positive for Marijuana in his last fight in Brazil, and subsequently being suspended for six months and ordered to undergo treatment . Now Herman returns from this hiatus, and undoubtedly needs a victory to keep his UFC career going. Gonzaga, a late replacement for Shane Del Rosario, will look to bounce back from a quick defeat at the hands of Travis Browne. Before the defeat, Gonzaga had made the most of his second stint in the UFC, going 2-0, with two submission victories. Although the consensus leans to Gonzaga, and for the right reasons. Gonzaga is more well rounded, and it seems obvious that he will take Herman down and submit him. BUT, for some odd reason I see Herman having a Stipe Miocic moment, and using his height and slight reach advantage to out strike Gonzaga. Don’t call it an upset? I would like to add though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gonzaga submitted Herman in the first round, that is all…
Seth Baczynski vs Brian Melancon
UFC 162 will mark the first time Seth Baczynski fights since his 4 fight win streak in the UFC was snapped by Mike Pierce. Baczynski aka the Polish Pistola has made the most of his second stint in the UFC, going 4-1 and finishing 3 of those fights. Baczynski’s mixed martial game is most effective when the fight hits the mat, as he has an arsenal of submissions, and is very slick on his back. Melancon will be making his UFC debut, and fighting for the first time in nearly two years. Melancon an ex Strikeforce fighter went 1-1 before an injury, and series of life events that almost caused him to walk away from the sport. When the UFC came calling, Melancon did too, and he has a tough test in not only in his opponent, but in battling ring rust and UFC debut jitters. Melancon although rather inexperienced in mma, carries some heavy hands, and has pretty decent boxing. His flaw is in his striking defense, and opponents have been able to take him down. If Seth Baczynski can avoid slugging it out with Melancon, and take this one to the ground, it shouldn’t be long until he latches on a submission. I think at some point in the second round Baczynski will finish the tough Melancon.
Mike Pierce vs David Mitchell
I’m not going to over analyze this, and I really don’t understand the matchmaking in this fight. Mike Pierce since joining the UFC in 2009 has recorded 8 wins, and has only has been defeated three times to the likes of Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck (split decision), and title challenger Johny Hendricks (split decision). Pierce is currently riding on a 3 fight win streak, most recently defeating Seth Baczynski by decision. Mitchell, on the other hand is 1-2 in the UFC, and is coming off his first UFC victory over Simeon Thoresen (whom was cut after the loss). Mitchell was once regarded as an up-and-coming fighter beating the likes of ex UFC fighters War Machine and Tim McKenzie, and also beating current UFC fighter Bobby Green. Entering the UFC, Mitchell was 11-0, but would drop consecutive defeats to TJ Waldburger, and Paulo Thiago. Now, with his UFC career on the line, and at 33 years of age, a tough task in beating a vastly underrated fighter in Mike Pierce stands in the way. Unfortunately for Mitchell, Pierce is an excellent wrestler, has a smothering top game, and can be noted for being a grinder. Pierce has faced tougher competition than Mitchell, and has fared well. Ideally Mitchell’s chances rely in using his height and slight reach advantage to keep Pierce at bay. I really don’t see that happening though, and I expect Pierce to control the fight and grind out another decision victory.