By Stephen Quinn
The UFC will open 2010 on Saturday night with another explosive night of fighting at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. A fight card that has been plagued by injuries has finally taken shape and has been filled with solid fighters across the board. Read on for a breakdown of Saturday’s fights to get the edge in your Fantasy League to start out the year.
JUNIOR DOS SANTOS VS. GILBERT YVEL
There isn’t a better fight to start of the Pay-Per-View than this one. With both fighters having something to prove and a vision of UFC gold around their waist, we should be in for a non-stop, action-filled bout that isn’t likely to go the distance.
With an overall record of 36-13-1, 1 NC, Gilbert Yvel knows the importance of making a good first impression on UFC fans when he makes his Octagon debut on Saturday night. Although Yvel has had over 50 fights in his professional career, he is still relatively unknown to casual fans here in the United States. He made his pro debut at the age of 20 and quickly earned a reputation for the brutal Muay Thai attack that he possesses, and after a nine-fight winning streak, Yvel quickly got the attention of PRIDE. Following a stint in Japan fighting among some of the best in the world, Yvel has gone 5-1, with his latest victory coming in June of 2009 over UFC veteran Pedro Rizzo.
Brazilian Junior Dos Santos wants to start his 2010 fighting campaign the same way he ended his 2009 one – with a win. Having won all three of his fights inside of the Octagon – with notable wins over Fabricio Werdum and Mirko Cro Cop, Dos Santos knows that by winning on Saturday night, he will put himself one step closer to potentially getting a shot at the title sometime in 2010. Showing just how great his striking can be, Dos Santos has yet to let one of his UFC fights go to the judges’ scorecards. Although he is primarily known for his striking ability, Dos Santos is becoming an increasing threat on the ground – studying his jiu-jitsu under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Fans watching on Pay-Per-View could quickly know which fight will win Knockout of the Night honors. With both fighters assumed to be coming in with the same game plan, this bout is likely not going to the judge’s scorecards. However, it will be interesting to see what happens if one of these fighters try and bring the action to the canvas. Regardless of both fighters being known for their standup ability, don’t be surprised if one of them – especially Dos Santos - is able to secure some kind of a submission.
JIM MILLER VS. DUANE LUDWIG
A native of Denver, CO., Duane Ludwig is looking to re-introduce himself to UFC fans that haven’t seen him since January of 2006, when he beat Jonathan Goulet. Prior to his appearance in 2006, Goulet beat Genki Sudo at UFC 42 in 2003. Although he is 2-0 in the UFC and has an overall record of 27-9, Ludwig hasn’t become a staple fighting the UFC, but on Saturday night, he plans to change all that. Ludwig knows that an impressive performance on Saturday night will help his case when it comes to becoming a permanent fighter in the UFC and there isn’t a better way to return from a three-year layoff from the UFC than to fight on the Pay-Per-View portion of the card.
With an impressive 15-2 record, Jim Miller, unlike many people, is looking for 2010 to be much like the end of 2009. At the end of 2009, Miller won both of his fights – with wins over Mac Danzig and Steve Lopez. With those wins, fighters in the lightweight division have started to take notice of the skills that he possesses. Miller knows that by winning on Saturday night, he will move one step closer to getting his shot at the belt.
In a contrast of fighting styles, it will be interesting to see how each fighter adapts from their original game plan to try and secure a victory. In a perfect world, Ludwig would be able to keep the fight standing for all fifteen minutes and on the other hand, Miller would like nothing more than for the fight to be on the canvas for all three rounds. It’s unlikely that either of these scenarios will play out so when either fighter is in the position they do not want to be in, it will be interesting to see how they respond.
JOE LAUZON VS. SAM STOUT
Having only had one fight in 2009, Canadian Sam Stout is looking for the New Year to be a more active one. Although his one fight was an entertaining victory over Matt Wiman that won Fight of the Night honors, Stout knows that he will need to fight more often and continue to win if he wants to become the second Canadian fighter to currently hold a UFC title – the other being welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
It didn’t take long for Joe Lauzon to know that he wanted to become a fighter. After starting to train halfway through high school, Lauzon continued to enjoy training throughout college. After graduating and getting a job, Lauzon soon took the next step to becoming a fighter – he stopped working and concentrated on fighting full-time. After moving his way up the ranks, he finally got his shot at the big stage with UFC. Since getting his shot, Lauzon has put together a 5-1 record inside the Octagon, and after losing to Kenny Florian, Lauzon is currently riding a two-fight winning streak – with wins over Kyle Bradley and Jeremy Stephens.
With the majority of Stout’s wins ending by KO or TKO, he will be looking to keep the action standing while trying to add another knockout to his record. For Lauzon, although he’s improving in his standup game, look for him to try and bring the action of the fight to the canvas. If the fight does end up on the canvas, look for Stout to try and scramble and get back to his feet. That may be easier said than done. If Lauzon is able to bring the action down, he knows that the fight may be near the end and has proven to be a finisher.
DUSTIN HAZELETT VS. PAUL DALEY
After watching the fame and success that fellow British fighter Michael Bisping has had, Nottingham’s Paul Daley, who was once in the British Army, saw no reason why he couldn’t have the same success when he made his Octagon debut. Well, he was right. After taking a fight on short notice against highly regarded Martin Kampmann, it took Daley less than three-minutes to win the fight. With that type of performance, it didn’t take long for everyone in the division to take notice. Although Daley was able to win his debut, it will be interesting to see how he performs when the pressure is on him to do so.
Dustin Hazelett started taking up martial arts in high school to learn to protect himself, but he learned that he could do more than just protect himself – he could fight for a living. After starting his career with a 7-2 record, Hazelett was ready for the UFC. After losing his Octagon debut in 2006, Hazelett has gone on to put together an impressive 5-2 record. Having not fought in 2009, it will be interesting to see if Hazelett enters the Octagon with any ringrust.
Look for Daley to come out and push the pace early – looking for another first round knockout. Not wanting to go to the ground, look for Daley to continue to move while on his feet – keeping Hazelett from being able to set up a takedown attempt. For Hazelett, look for him to try and bring the action of the fight to the canvas. Although he prefers to be on the ground, don’t be surprised if he keeps the fight standing for awhile. With his reach advantage, he may try to wear Daley down before he attempts a takedown.
RASHAD EVANS VS. THIAGO SILVA
Rashad Evans is entering this fight with the same mindset that he would have if he were fighting his originally scheduled opponent, Quinton Jackson. Regardless of whom he’s fighting on Saturday, Evans wants to prove that the fighter we saw the last time he was in the Octagon is not the real Rashad Evans. For Silva, he is looking for his 2010 fight campaign to start out with a bang – in order to move closer to a rematch with fellow Brazilian Lyoto Machida.
Since making his Octagon Debut at UFC 71 with a victory over James Irvin, Thiago Silva has looked like a better fighter nearly every time he fights. With a 5-1 record inside of the Octagon, Silva has proven that he has the ability to become champion. Like his opponent on Saturday night, his lone loss came at the hands of Lyoto Machida. Silva knows that in order to eventually get his shot to become champion, it starts with a victory over Rashad Evans. While currently riding a four-fight streak of not letting his fights go past the first round, Silva doesn’t see that streak coming to an end come Saturday night. By beating a fighter with the popularity of Evans and being in the main event of the UFC’s first show of 2010, an impressive win would do wonders for his career. Not only would the Brazilian gain popularity in the United States, but more importantly, it would move him near the top of the light heavyweight division.
After winning season two of The Ultimate Fighter as a heavyweight, Rashad Evans moved into the light heavyweight division. Having beaten the likes of Michael Bisping, Chuck Liddell, and Forrest Griffin, Evans took his unblemished record into the Octagon against Lyoto Machida last May. Unfortunately for Evans, the fight didn’t go as planned. Although he lost, Evans was able to get back into the gym to serve as a coach against Quinton Jackson on The Ultimate Fighter. After watching both fighters coach on season 10 of TUF, it became clear early that these two didn’t like each other and that Jackson knew how to get under Evans’ skin. At the conclusion of the season, both fighters were scheduled to fight each other until Jackson pulled out of their scheduled fight. Being the competitor that Evans is, he didn’t want to wait around for that fight. Instead, he’s getting back into the Octagon to start trying to move back towards Lyoto Machida. Evans knows the importance of winning on Saturday night for two reasons. The first being the obvious, Evans wants to move his way up the ladder to avenge his knockout loss to current UFC champion Machida. But along with wanting to climb that light heavyweight ladder, Evans would like nothing more than for his road back to the top to go through Quinton Jackson.
In a fight where both fighters could enter the Octagon with a different strategy, it will be interesting to see which one of them prevails. For Silva, look for him to keep the action standing – trying to end the fight with a vicious knockout. While on his feet, don’t expect Silva to throw many leg kicks – that may be all Evans needs to set up a takedown. Prior to getting into MMA, Evans was a world-class wrestler at Michigan State and may be looking to go back to those roots to secure a victory on Saturday night.