Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia
6/11/11 – 8 p.m.
Michihiro Omigawa (12-9-1) vs. Darren Elkins (11-2)
This is an interesting bout to get the night started. Darren Elkins is still fairly new to the UFC with only two bouts behind him. (W-Duane Ludwig, L-Charles Olivera) So with a win over the older, washed-up, Ludwig and a loss to up-and-coming lightweight Olivera, it left Elkins in a hazy area as far as who his next opponent should be. That’s when Elkins made the move to cut 10 pounds and take a fight in the UFC’s recently-merged featherweight division. Unfortunately, Joe Silva didn’t cut any slack when looking for an opponent to face Elkins in his FW-debut, as he faces the #5 featherweight in the world, Michihiro Omigawa.
For Omigawa, who also has fought at lightweight recently, tonight is an opportunity to return to his comfort zone at 145 lbs. After being wrestled to the ground for a constant 15 minutes against the bulky lightweight Chad Mendes, Omigawa comes back down to his more natural weight class. Beware of choosing Omigawa too quickly in this one, though.
Elkins is a hellraiser, he will come at Omigawa quickly and furiously. Though this has troubled Elkins in the past (Olivera 1st submission) it is still his style of fighting, and difficult for some to adjust to quickly. More Omigawa warning signs? Out of 3 career fights in the UFC he is 0-3, all decision losses. Furthermore, in only 5 fights out of his native country of Japan, Omigawa is 0-5. Will this be a factor tonight? Only time will tell, but I feel like it’s going to take a couple of minutes inside the cage for Omigawa to feel comfortable enough to fight his own style, unfortunately a couple of minutes will be all it takes for Elkins to knock Omigawa unconscious. Elkins via 1st RD TKO
RESULT: ELKINS VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
Although I called the winner of this fight, I didn’t in reality. Anyone who watched this fight almost certainly saw it differently than the way it was scored by the judges. I had it 29-28 Omigawa but I wouldn’t have argued with it being 30-27. How this was unanimous I’ll never know. Luckily, UFC president Dana White agrees and rewarded Omigawa by still paying him a win bonus.
Joey Beltran (12-5) vs. Aaron Rosa (16-3)
In the 2nd fight, we get to see our first heavyweight match of the evening as the slumping Beltran faces Aaron Rosa making his UFC debut and coming in on a 4 fight win streak. This fight SHOULD be a good one, as Beltran is likely fighting to continue his UFC career. I say should, though, because Beltran is not known for putting on an exciting show, and Rosa could have some serious butterflies as he ascends his way towards the top of each MMA promotion he fights in. Not much to breakdown in this match, as we’ll instead be looking for who is going to be the first man to gas themselves out and lose. I predict a boring fight, but with Rosa coming out of the cage victoriously.
Rosa – 3rd Round Unanimous Decision
RESULT – BELTRAN VIA 3RD RD TKO
I’ve gotta give it to Beltran after that performance, even though it was his style of a fight…a brawl I should say. I thought Rosa would look a little more conditioned in his first UFC fight, disappointed.
Dustin Poirier (9-1) vs. Jason Young (8-3)
In another 145-lb Featherweight match-up we see Louisiana-native Dustin Poirier take on London’s Jason Young. Young is fairly new, as he is making his UFC debut tonight, and is a big underdog against Poirier who’s among the top 10 featherweights in the world at age 22. This fight should be a little more interesting than at first glance though, the 145 lb guys have stamina for days and usually put on a show for all fight fans.
Poirier shocked many people with his most recent victory over Josh Grispi at UFC 125, as Grispi would have likely been fighting Jose Aldo for the 145 lb title had he beaten Poirier. As long as Poirier didn’t let the huge win go to his head, he should still be driven to climb the ranks for a shot at Aldo. Anybody against Jose Aldo is going to be a long shot, but it’s important for the UFC to promote these smaller guys with the featherweight division still being fairly weak, albeit the addition of Kenny Florian to the weight class sure helped. That said, Poirier should still be motivated post-Grispi and pound Jason Young tonight. Poirier via 2nd RD KO
RESULT: POIRIER VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
Entertaining fight from start to finish. Young looked impressive and was definitely ready coming into this fight, Poirier was just too much for him though. I think Young is safe to stay in the UFC for now, though.
Nick Ring (11-0) vs. James Head (7-1)
This is a middleweight bout good enough to replace a questionable fight that somehow made it onto the main card, but more on that later. Ring is an undefeated middleweight, who many will recognize from Spike’s The Ultimate Fighter show, he is also a Canada native so expect the crowd to get incredibly loud when this guy walks into Rogers Arena tonight. Although many feel the judges wrongly gave him the win against Riki Fukuda in his last bout, Ring remains undefeated and will use his boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, and overall toughness in his fight against James Head.
Head comes into this fight looking to burst onto the UFC scene, with this being his promotional debut. Although he’s got a loss coming into tonight, it came via decision so he’s still never been finished in his professional career. He’ll have to use his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu against Ring to have any chance in this fight. His confidence should be sky-high though, as he is coming off a 15-minute decision victory against former UFC highlight machine Gerald “Hurricane” Harris.
Ring via Unanimous Decision
RESULT: RING VIA SUBMISSION (REAR NAKED CHOKE)
Ring kept his record perfect by punishing Head throughout the duration of this fight before finishing him near the end of round three. Look for Ring to get a big step up in competition after this win.
Krzysztof Soszynski (25-11-1) vs. Mike Massenzio (12-4)
In the first Light-Heavyweight fight of the evening we get to see “The Polish Experiment” Krzysztof Soszynski, a UFC veteran who has also appeared on a prior season of The Ultimate Fighter go up against a struggling middleweight looking to find a new home in the 205-lb division, Mike Massenzio.
Soszynski is certainly not in the mix as far as being a contender in Light Heavyweight and has essentially been a gatekeeper for the division, as he will continue to do tonight. One would be pretty safe saying that the loser of the fight will be looking for a new promotion to fight for.
Massenzio comes into the contest having lost 3 out of his last 5 fights, all at middleweight. He was a U.S. High School National wrestling champion, and went on to eventually win a JUCO National Championship for wrestling in 2004. Massenzio as a result of his wrestling, evolved his ground game and is also a talented Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappler. It’s no secret that Massenzio will be looking to take this fight to the canvas. In a great fight for their UFC lives, Soszynski will continue on as the coolest looking gatekeeper for the Light Heavyweight Division.
Soszynski via 2nd RD TKO
RESULT: SOSZYNSKI VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
“The Polish Experiment” needed the win here and he got it over Massenzio, but was disappointed in his performance. You could tell it bothered Soszynski that the UFC changed his style of opponent just days before the fight, but he won anyway. Massenzio certainly deserves some credit for stepping up to this challenge and grinding it out for 15 minutes.
Jesse Bongfeldt (15-4-1) vs. Chris Weidman (5-0)
This is the first of the two Spike televised preliminary fights and it should be an exciting one. Jesse “Water” Bongfeldt is another Canadian middleweight that’s sure to get the crowd riled up as he tries to get his first win since coming to the UFC, earning a draw against Rafeal Natal at UFC 124. Bongfeldt has plenty of experience in the cage, fighting Jamie Varner in only his 3rd career bout, and going on to face other past and present UFC fighters Jonathan Goulet, TJ Grant, and Sean Pierson.
Experience is what he’ll need going up against Chris Weidman, one of the most highly-touted middleweight prospects I can remember for a long time. Weidman was so hyped that in his UFC debut, Joe Silva pitted him against “Legionarius” Alessio Sakara who has over 5 years of UFC experience. Weidman got the decision victory, but didn’t look as impressive as he should have, and realized it immediately apologizing for his performance in the post-fight interview.
Weidman should come out much more aggressively this evening and control where the fight goes from the moment the cage is closed. Bongfeldt has the fans, but Weidman has the skills.
Weidman via 1st RD TKO
RESULT: WEIDMAN VIA 1st RD SUBMISSION (STANDING GUILLOTINE)
Weidman continued to impress with another 1st round victory to add to his record. Since he’s been getting so much attention after only two fights, and showing great improvement, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a middle of the pack contender in this weight class now.
Sam Stout (16-6-1) vs. Yves Edwards (40-16-1)
The 2nd televised fight features two of the most experienced lightweights in the UFC today. Seriously.
Sam Stout never shies away from putting on an exciting fight, taking home 5 “Fight of the Night” bonuses in his 11 career UFC bouts. Undoubtedly the most accomplished of the Canadian fighters competing tonight, Stout is looking for a win to propel himself back into the mix of contenders at the 155 lb Lightweight division.
And Yves Edwards? Is 48 fights enough experience? I would say so, Yves has been fighting since 1997 and is still going strong, most recently defeating TUF finalist Cody McKenzie. The 34-year old Edwards grew up in the Bahamas and is sure to represent his native country better than Kimbo Slice did. Look for Stout to work his jab throughout the duration of this fight, and box his way back into contention.
Stout via Unanimous Decision
RESULT: STOUT VIA 1st RD KO (PUNCH)
Stout really did a good job of getting in and out with his striking before sneaking in the KO punch late in the first round. I really thought this had potential to be another Fight of the Night for Sam Stout, but instead he takes home Knockout of the Night. $70,000
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (14-3) vs. Vagner Rocha (6-1)
The main card features former WEC #1 contender Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and UFC newcomer Vagner Rocha. Cerrone rides a 3-fight win streak coming into tonight and looks to be thrown into the long list of contenders at 155 lbs. Mac Danzig was originally supposed to be Cerrone’s opponent for this fight, a much more appealing match-up, but was forced out of the bout with an injury.
“Cowboy” Cerrone will look to extend his win streak tonight by pushing the pace against Rocha and not allowing Rocha to work his BJJ. This fight is enormous for Vagner Rocha, being only 6-1 and fighting on the main card of a UFC event, he’s going to gain tons of experience and has a lot to gain, with little to lose being the underdog. Cerrone on the other hand will be expected to perform as usual, but better not be looking beyond Rocha to his next fight, because a loss tonight would hurt his career badly. Expect Greg Jackson’s camp to have Cerrone focused and ready to go.
Cerrone via Unanimous Decision
RESULT: CERRONE VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
This was another fight where we had a disappointed winner in the post-fight interview. Cerrone was really looking to finish Rocha, not wanting to have yet another decision win, but he shouldn’t be too disappointed as he did well enough to earn a 30-26 from one of the judges.
Jon Olav Einemo (6-1) vs. Dave Herman (20-2)
These two UFC newcomers will be making a splash in the Heavyweight division tonight, looking to become an immediate contender at 265 lbs. I still don’t understand how this remained on the main card after UFC removed Einemo’s original opponent Shane Carwin from the fight. However, given their records, one of these UFC rookies will catapult themselves among the top heavyweights fighting in the promotion, that quickly.
Einemo is a former Abu Dhabi world champion (2003) and is a highly touted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. His only loss came to Strikeforce’s Fabricio Werdum, who’s now known as the man who ended Fedor’s heavyweight reign. It should be noted this is Einemo’s first MMA match since in nearly five years. (Nov. 2006)
Herman has been fighting much more often on his way to building that impressive 20-2 record, his most recent loss being a DQ against Sokoudjou in May 2010, for an illegal knee.
I’m not really sure what to expect when these heavyweights collide tonight, probably a slow first round learning each others tendencies.
Einemo via RD 1 Submission (Armbar)
RESULT: HERMAN VIA 2nd RD TKO
Truly an entertaining fight. These guys had so many momentum changes at several different points during both the 1st and 2nd round. I thought Herman was being too careless at first in this fight, but their performances earned them both Fight of the Night honors, $70,000 each.
Demian Maia (14-2) vs. Mark Munoz (10-2)
In this middleweight matchup, either the wrestler Munoz or grappler Maia will emerge as one of the top middleweight’s chasing Anderson Silva’s belt.
Munoz is an accomplished back-to-back All-American wrestler out of Oklahoma State. At 33 years old, he needs this victory over Maia to make a real push for the title before it starts getting too late. Don’t expect Munoz to utilize his wrestling so much though, with Maia being a world-class grappler. Instead Munoz will look to keep this one standing and pick Maia apart with his improved boxing skills.
Demian Maia is coming off two consecutive victories, both of them being unanimous decisions. He’s going to have an incredibly hard time trying to get Munoz to the ground, so he’ll have to find a different way to get the judges to point this fight in his favor. I don’t see Maia discovering that success tonight, or in the future. Maia begins to fade out of the middleweight picture for good tonight.
Munoz via Unanimous Decision
RESULT: MUNOZ VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
I have to give Maia more credit than I did in my preview to this fight. He surprised everyone by being the one pushing the pace for most of the fight. Munoz was more shocked than anyone, and took several punches from Maia but regained his composure and earned the W from the judges.
Kenny Florian (14-5) vs. Diego Nunes (16-1)
UFC 131’s co-main event is a special treat for fight fans as Kenny Florian makes his Featherweight debut against Diego Nunes, marking Florian’s 4th weight class to compete in since entering the UFC, more than anybody else in the promotion, ever. (185, 170, 155, and now 145)
For Florian to earn a win in his lightest weight class yet, he’ll have to go through Jose Aldo’s training partner Diego Nunes. While Florian is never afraid of a challenge, he could be biting off more than he can chew with this fight. Florian is a skilled boxer and muay-thai artist fighting out of Boston, MA…boldly wearing a Boston Bruins jersey to last night’s weigh-ins in Vancouver amidst the Stanley Cup Finals.
Diego Nunes, is a much more low-key fighter training out of Brazil as a talented kickboxer, who mixes in elements of Jiu-Jitsu into his game. He fights at a steady pace, but all too often fights all the way to the decision. Both of these guys will be ready to grab a submission tonight if the opportunity arises, but be ready to watch an all-out war for 15 minutes. Appropriate co-main event!
Florian via Unanimous Decision
RESULT: FLORIAN VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
I still stick with what I said about this being an appropriate main event, even if it wasn’t good enough to earn FON honors. It was the fast paced struggle that I expected to see, and wouldn’t be surprised to see Florian go ahead and earn a shot at Jose Aldo’s title.
Junior Dos Santos (12-1) vs. Shane Carwin (12-1)
In the final bout of the evening, we will find out who’s going to be the newest #1 contender for the heavyweight title and a chance to fight champion Cain Velasquez.
Technically, both of these guys should have already had the title shot that they’re fighting for tonight, especially Junior Dos Santos.
Dos Santos fights out of Salvador, Brazil with team Black House, which trains several of the best fighters in today’s MMA world. He’s 6-0 since joining the UFC and all six fights have been against top heavyweight fighters. For some reason though, he has been consistently spoon-fed steady talent rather than a contender spot, or title shot. That can all end tonight for the 26 year old Dos Santos, as he faces Shane Carwin who is conveniently very much like his original opponent stylistically in Brock Lesnar. Big. Huge. Wrestler.
Shane Carwin however, shares the same 12-1 record as Dos Santos, but unlike Junior, had a title shot around this same time last summer against Brock Lesnar. Anyone who watched that fight knows that Carwin had Lesnar dangerously close to being finished before punching himself out and losing all stamina between rounds 1 and 2…eventually being finished by submission in round 2.
Nobody expected that fight to go to the 2nd round last year. Not many expected to last more than one minute.
Nobody expects tonight’s main event to last all three rounds, either. Especially Shane Carwin.
It has been a year since Carwin was in the cage, meanwhile Dos Santos has been focused, chipping away at the heavyweight division since he came into the UFC. Tonight Dos Santos will be ready for Carwin to repeat his fury, but don’t look for that to happen. If Carwin paces himself and can land 1-2 of his heavy hooks to rock Dos Santos, he can finish the fight the right way this time. The trouble is being able to land a hook, or any punch for that matter, against Junior Dos Santos or other Black House notables.
Dos Santos via 2nd RD TKO
RESULT: DOS SANTOS VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
Dos Santos did it! The heavy hands of Shane Carwin were scary, but Dos Santos was so quick with evading most of Carwin’s power shots, while at the same time peppering Carwin’s face with quick strikes. After round 1 I never expected Carwin to last the remainder of the fight so he earns some respect for gutting out that performance.
UFC 131 was a rare fight card that greatly exceeded expectations, as most of the fights from top-to-bottom were unappealing due to there being so many injuries and need for replacements. The management did a great job of finding these opponents, I’ve watched several cards with much more attractive fights on them that I wish I had never wasted time doing, but that certainly wasn’t the case tonight!