Yves Edwards. Photo courtesy of Bodog Entertainment.
The UFC will hold their second event of the new year this Saturday in the form of UFC Fight Night 23, (or UFC Fight for the Troops II, whatever you want to call it really) which will take place at the Fort Hood military post just outside of Killeen, in hopes of raising money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
A total of eleven fights are scheduled for the card, spearheading by a main event lightweight duel between Evan Dunham and replacement opponent Melvin Guillard. Matt Mitrione and Tim Hague will collide in the co-headliner.
Here’s a look at the event’s preliminary bouts, which feature notables Yves Edwards and former WEC featherweight champ Mike Brown among others. We’ll have more on the main card tomorrow.
The fight: Edwards will try to keep a career resurrection going against McKenzie, who will be looking to do one thing and one thing only: catch Edwards in his patented guillotine, a move that has finished all but two of his career opponents. A win for McKenzie would continue a slow building process for him while a victorious Edwards would almost certainly find himself facing top competition in the lightweight division, of which he was the uncrowned king for nearly two years.
What to look for: While Edwards is a decent grappler himself, he’ll likely look to take advantage of McKenzie’s limited stand-up skills, but may have to stray away from some of his more flashier strikes in order to limit potential takedown opportunities. McKenzie can bank on the one or two usual opportunities where fighters usually leave their neck open during a fight, but will have to stay sharp throughout.
My pick: McKenzie’s guillotine is very dangerous, but Edwards should be able to keep his distance and pick McKenzie apart en route to a late TKO stoppage.
The fight: Both Johnson and Guymon will be looking to stave off possible extraction from the UFC in the form of a much-needed win in this one. It seems as if both fighters have struggled against opponents that are more aggressive than him, even though Johnson has been able to pull off a pair of come-from-behind victories thus far in his post-TUF stint.
What to look for: Guymon will be looking to take the fight to the ground, where he is most comfortable and content to grind away at opponents with unrelenting ground-and-pound. However, he faces yet another foe with solid jiu-jitsu from the bottom in Johnson. Guymon will need to be careful to not get caught in anything, or else his feel-good story of making it to the UFC will be ending almost as quickly as it came.
My pick: I want to see nothing more than a successful Guymon in the UFC, but the level of competition in the modern day King of the Cage ranks rarely prepares a fighter for top-level competition. Johnson via submission.
The fight: Brown jumps right back into action just weeks after a disappointing split decision loss to Diego Nunes. He now faces Yahya, an uber-dangerous grappler who is looking to prevent a third straight loss. Brown surely wants to extend his stay in the UFC after a one-and-done showing at UFC 47 nearly six years ago.
What to look for: Yahya will obviously look to drag Brown to the canvas. Brown has a strong top game and has improved his submission defense, but has been susceptible to getting caught in the past and may not want to risk things against someone as slick as Yahya. This one should play out like your classic striker vs. grappler battle.
My pick: Yahya has been known to score some lucky takedowns over the years but his technique is sloppy and a decent wrestler in Brown should be able to shake him off. I like Brown with a stoppage via strikes within the first two rounds.
The fight: Friere, better known as “Chiquerim”, makes his long-awaited UFC debut after recovering from a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines since last May. Fans still remember Lowe as the victim of another highlight-reel KO by Melvin Guillard, but the Philadelphia native quietly put together a solid decision win over Steve Lopez at UFC 119 in the fall.
What to look for: This fight should be Friere’s coming out party and a nice introduction to the UFC fans. Lowe is a solid wrestler and trains with a great camp in American Top Team, but is still lacking in the other areas of his game. Friere is very much a well-rounded fighter and will give Lowe fits wherever the fight goes.
My pick: I’m thinking that Friere is going to catch Lowe during one of his takedown attempts, be it a knee or a choke. I’ll go with the latter. Friere by submission.
The fight: Here are two fighters with a ton of potential that fell short in their last fights. Brenneman scored a decision over Jason High in his UFC debut, but fell to Johny Hendricks over the summer, as did Alves, who was went the distance but was overpowered by Mike Pierce.
What to look for: Brenneman is a decorated collegiate wrestler and a two-time All-American. He’ll be able to dictate where the fight takes place. However, he has been known to get caught up in a slugfest from time to time, as was shown in his loss to Hendricks. Aware that this bout will likely end up on the mat, Alves, a black belt in BJJ and judo, will look to stay busy from the bottom in hopes for a grabbing a submission.
My pick: Keeping it simple here. Brenneman via unanimous decision.
The fight: Campuzano can sleep easy knowing that the chances of him getting caught in another choke like the one Nick Pace forced on him during The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale are slim, but he will still be tested against Caraiso, a Strikeforce and EliteXC veteran proficient both standing and on the ground.
What to look for: Both fighters look to push the pace and the style clash should make for an exciting bout. The tempo could be even higher than expected due to both likely needing a win to stay in the UFC. I look for a competitive matchup that will stay on the feet and hit the mat multiple times throughout.
My pick: Cariaso has the edge in experience and has surprisingly compete on some bigger stages prior to the UFC while Campuzano had a three-fight stint in the WEC before the merger. It’s a pick-em here. I’ll go with Cariaso in a close one.
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