DIEGO SANCHEZ VS JOHN HATHAWAY
Looking to rebound from a loss to BJ Penn the last time he was in the Octagon, Diego Sanchez has one goal in mind – to move his way back up the ladder – this time in his former division at 170 pounds - in hopes of fighting once again for UFC gold. On the other hand, however, John Hathaway knows the significance of keeping his unbeaten streak alive by adding a big name to his fighting resume.
By beating Kenny Florian to win season one of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez quickly made a name for himself in the UFC. Known for his wrestling and relentless pace, Sanchez quickly moved up the welterweight ladder by winning five straight fights that included notable victories over Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, and Joe Riggs. Looking nearly unstoppable, Sanchez put his then perfect 19-0 record on the line when he faced Josh Koscheck at UFC 69. Due to their history during TUF, this fight became personal to both men, as each knew a victory would put them near title contention. Many considered Sanchez to be the favorite in the fight, but Koscheck ended up putting the first loss on his record. After the bout, Sanchez returned to the Octagon to take on Jon Fitch, and in a fight where Sanchez didn’t quite look like himself, he was on the short end of a split decision. After two rebound wins, Sanchez moved down to the lightweight division. Looking like the Sanchez of old, he quickly moved up the ranks with wins over Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida that earned him a shot at then lightweight champ, BJ Penn. Although the one-sided fight was stopped due to a gash on his forehead, Sanchez showed heart by going nearly 25-minutes with Penn. Having not fought since December of 2009, a rejuvenated Sanchez has moved back up to the welterweight division in hopes of making it a nightmare for all his opponents.
A former rugby player in the United Kingdom, British fighter Jon Hathaway brings his undefeated 13-0 record into the Octagon on Saturday night. After winning ten straight fights outside of the UFC, Hathaway has quickly made a name for himself by seemingly winning all three of his fights inside of the Octagon with ease – with wins over Thomas Egan, Rick Story, and Paul Taylor. However, Hathaway knows that Saturday night will be the toughest of his career. Being the first fight of the televised portion of the Pay-Per-View, Hathaway knows he has the ability to widen his popularity with a strong performance while millions of people watch around the world.
With the strong wrestling background that Sanchez possesses, look for him to do what he does best – bring his opponents to the canvas so he can display his brutal ground and pound – in hopes of the referee being forced to stop the fight. On the other side, look for Hathaway to try and take a chapter out of Koscheck’s book – by trying to keep the fight more like a boxing match. It will also be interesting to see how Hathaway holds up if the fight reaches near the 15-minute mark.
ANTONIO ROGERIO NOGUEIRA VS JASON BRILZ
The twin brother of former UFC and PRIDE heavyweight champion Minotauro Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira or “Little Nog” was originally set to face former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin until Griffin had to back out of the fight due to an injury. By making a name for himself in PRIDE, Nogueira put together an impressive resume by beating fighters like Kazushi Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem (twice), and Dan Henderson. The native of Brazil made his Octagon debut in November of 2009. It took less than two minutes for him to show fans that may not have seen him fight in PRIDE to see the talent he possesses when he knocked out Luiz Cane at UFC 106. Once again, Nogueira (18-3) will get his chance to show everyone watching Pay-Per-View from around the world that he has the skills to make a run at the light heavyweight title.
With an impressive 18-2-1 record, North Dakota native Jason Brilz jumped at the opportunity to fight a well-respected fighter like Nogueira on short notice. With a 3-1 record inside of the Octagon, Brilz knows that he is sitting in the middle of a stacked light heavyweight division. With a win on Saturday night, Brilz knows that his dream of becoming a UFC champ will become more and more of a reality. On the other side of the coin, Brilz knows that losing will put him out of the title picture for the time being.
It will be interesting to see what game plan these fighters come in with. Surprisingly Brilz, who is known for his strong wrestling and submission abilities, may not want to bring the action of the fight to the canvas because although that is what he does best, Nogueira is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion. For Little Nog, on the other hand, he will be comfortable wherever the fight may end. Nogueira doesn’t mind using his extraordinary ground game but at the same time, some people may not know that he won a Bronze Medal in Boxing at Pan American Games in 2007.
TODD DUFFEE VS MIKE RUSSOW
Fighting out of Las Vegas, NV., Todd Duffee may have had the most spectacular debut in UFC history. In his first ever fight inside of the Octagon; Duffee scored a record-breaking seven-second knockout victory over Tim Hague at UFC 102. With only six professional fights to his name, Duffee has only let one opponent go past the first round. It may be rare that you see a fighter with only six total victories throughout his career being put on the Pay-Per-View portion of a UFC card, but this just shows the fighting ability and excitement that he brings to the table.
Like his opponent, this will be the second time Mike Russow steps into the Octagon. At 12-1, 1 NC, Russow made his UFC debut by winning a unanimous decision over Justin McCully at UFC 102. Since his victory, Russow has shifted his attention to end all the hype that his opponent is receiving. For the first time in his career, Russow will have the chance to show everyone watching on Pay-Per-View that he has the ability to move his way up the heavyweight ladder – in hopes of getting that coveted shot at the title.
In a contrast in styles, it will be interesting to see what style prevails. Look for Duffee to come out quick while throwing punches. Since he has been working with well-respected standup coach James Gifford, look for him to come into the fight on Saturday night with an even more polished standup game. With the wrestling ability of Russow, Duffee will look to stay away from the cage – trying to keep the action in the center of the Octagon. For Russow, look for him to wait for his opportunity to get a takedown, but he will need to be careful – in order to get the takedown, Russow will need to get within striking distance of his opponent. If the fight does end up on the mat, look for Russow to try and stay busy so the action isn’t stood back up.
MICHAEL BISPING VS DAN MILLER
Having lost two of his past three fights, British superstar Michael Bisping knows Saturday night’s outcome may be the most important of his fighting career. Prior to his fight with Dan Henderson, Bisping had strung together an impressive 6-1 record since the finale of season three of The Ultimate Fighter – with the sole loss coming at the hands of Saturday’s main event fighter, Rashad Evans. At UFC 110, Bisping lost a close decision (one that some believe he won) to PRIDE and UFC veteran Wanderlei Silva. Bisping (19-3) believes that he is one of the top fighters in the world and plans to prove that on Saturday night.
Having lost two straight fights inside the Octagon, New Jersey native Dan Miller (11-3, 1 NC) knows that it is imperative for his hand to be raised at the end of the fight. With so many great fighters in the middleweight division, Miller knows that if he wants to start climbing the middleweight ladder he will need a win and to do it in spectacular fashion. There’s no better way to show fans that he has what it takes to be in the UFC then to create a highlight reel fight on Pay-Per-View. Although he has lost two straight, Miller had strung together three straight victories in his first trio of Octagon appearances. He believes Saturday night will be the first fight in a long line of consecutive victories.
With this fight meaning so much to both fighters’ respective careers, it will be interesting to see if both fighters come into the Octagon with a conservative game plan. Look for Bisping to do what he does in most of his fights - stand and trade punches with his opponent. For Miller, he will want no part of standing toe-to-toe with Bisping. Look for him to wait for his opportunity to bring the action to the ground – in order to try and win by submission.
QUINTON “RAMPAGE” JACKSON VS RASHAD EVANS
In the main event of UFC 114 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV., Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will square off against Rashad Evans in a fight that has reached a fever pitch in terms of anticipation. The war of words between the two has continued to escalate ever since they coached season ten of The Ultimate Fighter against each other, and while in the UFC it’s rare to see two fighters that truly dislike each other, during last week’s pre-fight conference call, it became clear that both fighters are looking to make a point come Saturday night.
With a 30-7 record, Rampage is one of the biggest names in MMA. Prior to fighting inside the Octagon, he gained his ruthless reputation in the PRIDE organization. After losing his first fight to Kazushi Sakuraba, Rampage went on to compile a 12-4 record with big wins over Kevin Randleman, Murilo Bustamante, Ricardo Arona, and former UFC champion Chuck Liddell. Since moving over to the UFC, it didn’t look much different than his fights in PRIDE. For some former PRIDE fighters, it took some time for them to get adjusted to the new rules and the Octagon. This wasn’t the case for Rampage. After an opening fight against Marvin Eastman that he won with ease, he was given a shot at the title against Liddell. It didn’t take long for Rampage to beat Liddell again. In the first round, Rampage won by knockout and was crowned the new light heavyweight champion. After beating Dan Henderson, Rampage lost a decision to Forrest Griffin. Since his defeat, he has gone on to beat Wanderlei Silva (something he couldn’t do in PRIDE) and Keith Jardine – who is training partners with Rashad Evans. Seeing his teammate defeated, Evans jumped into the Octagon and challenged Rampage. On Saturday night, they will both get that chance.
A native of Niagara Falls, NY, Rashad Evans beat Brad Imes in the finale of season two of The Ultimate Fighter to win a UFC contract. Since the finale in November of 2005, Evans has put together a 8-1-1 record – with notable wins over Stephan Bonnar, Michael Bisping, Forrest Griffin, a draw with Tito Ortiz, and a knockout victory over former champion Chuck Liddell. After holding the 205-pound title for a little over five months, Evans was defeated by Lyoto Machida. Showing the heart that Evans possesses, he didn’t let the loss affect him, and he returned to the Octagon to win a decision over highly touted Thiago Silva. Evans knows that a victory over Rampage will give him a guaranteed title fight against newly crowned Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
With months of verbal jabs, face-to-face confrontations, and Twitter battles, it will be interesting to see if both fighters can keep their cool once the Octagon gate closes come Saturday night. Both know that if they enter the Octagon with too much emotion, that could lead to them being fatigued the closer it comes to the 15-minute mark. Although many believe that due to their dislike of one another, this fight will be a standup war, don’t be surprised if Rampage looks to bring the action of the fight to the canvas. With the speed, boxing technique, and relentless cardio that Evans possesses, Rampage may look to ground and pound his way to victory or attempt the slams that he made famous. But quite possibly the biggest question entering this fight may be what kind of shape Rampage is in. Although people in the Rampage camp claim they have never seen him train with such dedication, it still leaves people to wonder if stepping away from MMA to film The A-Team movie will hinder his fighting ability – something Rampage quickly dismisses.