This Sunday marks a new chapter for the UFC as they make their debut on the Versus network. Outside of the the fact that Versus is home to the WEC this move makes little sense as it seems to be a step down even from Spike. However, there are a few interesting fights so let's break down the card:
Brandon Vera vs Jon Jones
Vera is 11-4 with eight wins by stoppage. He is a muay thai fighter with a background in wrestling and jiu jitsu. Vera doesn't have a lot of fights but he has fought some very tough guys at heavyweight and light heavyweight.
Jones is 9-1 with seven wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with a multi faceted striking attack. Jones hasn't fought nearly the same level of competition as Vera and this will undoubtedly be his toughest test to date.
This is a very interesting fight due to the distinct contrasts in style. Vera is the grizzled veteran with great striking who uses his grappling to stay standing. Jones is the athletic up and comer who wrestles first and strikes second.
Personally I think this fight comes down to two factors, can Vera outsmart the ultra athletic but inexperienced Jones and can Vera stay standing? My bet is that as good a game plan as Vera might have it won't compensate for not being able to stay upright. I'm picking Jones to win a much talked about decision that will only feed the hype machine.
Junior Dos Santos vs Gabriel Gonzaga
Dos Santos is 10-1 with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is a striker who is learning the jiu jitsu game. Dos Santos has been on a tear in the UFC but Gonzaga may be his toughest test to date (depending on how you feel about Fabricio Werdum).
Gonzaga is 11-4 with all 11 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu artist with very powerful striking. He is the definition of a gate keeper, crushing the riff raff and losing to the top notch guys.
No matter what, this fight should be exciting as neither of these guys has gone to a decision. I don't think Dos Santos is riff raff so I expect him to soundly beat Gonzaga by TKO in the second round. This will be a major feather in the cap of Dos Santos who would become a legitimate title contender if he wins.
Cheick Kongo vs Paul Buentello
Kongo is 14-6-1 with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer. He has had some wins in the UFC but has never beaten anyone of note (except an out of shape Mirko Cro Cop).
Buentello is 27-11 with 26 wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer too. He has also never beaten anyone of note in his stints with the UFC, Strikeforce, and Affliction.
This has to be a candidate for fight of the night. Both of these guys love to trade shots and neither one will be looking for the take down.
Buentello is the older more out of shape fighter. Kongo also has more tools in his striking belt than just heavy hands. I would be really surprised if Kongo doesn't win decisively. I'm picking him to win by KO in the first round.
Alessio Sakara vs James Irvin
Sakara is 14-7 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a boxer. He has had a mostly down career but did recently take a very surprising decision from Thales Leites.
Irvin is 14-5 with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. He has fought some tough guys but with little success and is coming off almost a two year lay off.
This should be a good stand up fight as well but this one is much tougher to call. I would think Sakara is the better pure boxer and has the heavier hands. So I'm going to take a shot in the dark and go with Sakara by KO in the first round.
Clay Guida vs Shannon Gugerty
Gugerty should be right in Guida's wheel house stylistically. Guida's non stop pace and superior wrestling should allow him to control this fight from wire to wire. I'm picking Guida by decision.
Eliot Marshall vs Vladimir Matyushenko
Matyushenko is the superior wrestler and he will use it to stay standing and away from Marshall's strength on the ground. Matyushenko also has a serious experience advantage. I'm not sure Marshall is ready for this level of competition so I'm picking Matyushenko by TKO in the second round.
John Howard vs Daniel Roberts
Both guys are solid on the ground but this is Roberts' UFC debut and Howard has been in this rodeo plenty. I think Howard's striking and experience make the difference. I'm picking Howard by KO in the third round.
Brendan Schaub vs Chase Gormley
Schaub makes his comeback after getting KO'd in the TUF finale. Schaub should be the better striker and Gormley is more well rounded. This is a tough fight to call but I'm going with Gormley to use his wrestling to earn a decision victory.
Mike Pierce vs Julio Paulino
Pierce is no joke and this will be Paulino's UFC debut which makes for a bad combination. This battle between two wrestlers probably means a good stand up scrap. I'm going with my gut on this one and picking Pierce to win by decision.
Eric Schafer vs Jason Brilz
The question in this fight is can Schafer's jiu jitsu overcome Brilz's wrestling. I'm betting yes. I'm picking Schafer to win by submission in the first round.
Duane Ludwig vs Darren Elkins
Ludwig has beaten some top fighters in his day but that day has come and gone. However, this will be Elkins' toughest fight to date and I'm not sure his stand up game is ready for Ludwig. I'm picking Ludwig to get a swan song in the UFC with a TKO victory in the first round.