To me, the UFC on Versus 2 card is not so impressive for the top few fights on the card, but for the overall consistency from the opening bout to the main event. On the preliminary portion of the card, there are quality fighters and UFC veterans such as Paul Kelly, Jacob Volkmann, DaMarques Johnson, Matt Riddle, James Irvin, Brian Stann and more. There’s also the noteworthy debut of unbeaten Brazilian prospect Charles Oliveira. The biggest question of the night may be whether we’ll see any of these solid matchups during the telecast, to which every MMA fan should be hoping the answer is “yes”.
Steve Steinbeiss vs. Rob Kimmons
Steinbeiss has fought once in the WEC and once in the UFC, but is no doubt best known for quite frankly being screwed over in his bout with Ryan Jensen last September. Caught in a guillotine, Steinbeiss gave a thumbs-up to indicate that he was fine, only to have referee Gary Ritter stop the bout, anyway. It would be a shame if Steinbeiss’ back was against the wall now in his fight against Kimmons, but the reality of today’s UFC means that it probably is.
Kimmons has been a mixed back in his four UFC bouts, winning against Rob Yundt and Joe Vedepo while losing to Dan Miller and longtime veteran Jorge Rivera. With 27 pro bouts, Kimmons is no rookie himself, and must defeat Steinbeiss to prove that he belongs in the UFC, at least in the immediate future. In my eyes, he should be able to do just that. He’s a better grappler than Steinbeiss and will work hard to get him to the mat. Steinbeiss doesn’t have the necessary power to put Kimmons on his butt, and may win the striking exchanges, but I just don’t expect those exchanges to happen very often.
Prediction: Kimmons by submission
Darren Elkins vs. Charles Oliveira
Elkins has some high-profile names on his record, with wins over Pat Curran, Gideon Ray, and most recently, Duane Ludwig (who suffered a gruesome ankle injury in their fight, forcing a stoppage). Meanwhile, Oliveira is unknown to all but those who follow the world MMA scene, as he has racked up twelve wins against no losses while fighting mostly in Brazil.
Still, Oliveira should be the favorite in this one, because he has a high-level skill that allows him to finish the fight at a moment’s notice. Elkins, who is pretty good all-around, does not. He has the best edge in the striking game, where Oliveira is similar to many Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists in that he has a lot of work to do. However, Oliveira is capable of getting the mat to the floor by any means necessary, and Elkins is just as likely to make a bad decision by taking Oliveira down, himself. I think if Elkins could keep this standing the majority of the time, he’d have a good shot to expose the Brazilian’s weaknesses, but I see this fight hitting the mat early and often, with Oliveira taking advantage.
Prediction: Oliveira by submission
James Irvin vs. Igor Pokrajac
This may be the first fight I’ve ever predicted where the deciding factor was the weight class that the fight is taking place in. After seeing Irvin weigh in while looking like Christian Bale in “The Machinist” before losing a middleweight fight to Alessio Sakara in explosive fashion, there’s no way I’d predict him to beat just about anyone at 185 pounds. Thankfully, Irvin won’t be making us look at an emaciated version of himself tomorrow at the weigh-ins, as he has wisely decided to jump back up to light heavyweight.
He will take on Pokrajac, who like Irvin, carries a two-fight losing streak with him into the Octagon on Sunday night. Pokrajac unquestionably wants to be on the mat in this one, as his striking is easily the biggest hole in his game, and happens to be Irvin’s strength. Speaking of strength, Irvin’s advantage in pure power will help him to keep the fight standing, especially if Pokrajac comes in high in order to clinch and work for takedowns against the cage. I think that Irvin eventually lands something that Pokrajac won’t be able to come back from in this one.
Prediction: Irvin by KO/TKO
Mike Massenzio vs. Brian Stann
This one is a tough fight to pick. Massenzio is a once-promising fighter who has been sidelined by injuries that have kept him out of the Octagon since December of 2008. Meanwhile, Stann is a hard-nosed competitor who has pretty good all-around striking and very suspect takedown defense. Both are sporting even records in the UFC, and both are coming off of losses, so this may be yet another fight-for-your-job bout on the prelims for Sunday.
Massenzio will undoubtedly be thinking “takedown” throughout the fight. Stann would be an obvious favorite in a kickboxing match, but the threat of takedowns will keep him from being able to confidently plant his feet and swing like he would prefer to. Furthermore, we don’t know how the weight cut to middleweight will affect him. He seems like he should be fine (he was never a big light heavyweight), but who knows? At the same time, Massenzio has plenty of “ring rust” from his long layoff, and who knows whether he’s completely healthy or not?
Really though, I think ring rust is kind of a farce, since fighters are actively training whether they are in the cage or not. Really, what’s the difference between waiting six months to fight (as UFC fighters routinely do nowadays) or a year and a half? Either way, it’s a long-ass time, right? I’m going to go with Massenzio here, because I think he can get enough takedowns to grind out a competitive decision.
Prediction: Massenzio by decision
DaMarques Johnson vs. Matt Riddle
Johnson has won two in a row since losing to James Wilks on the finale of “The Ultimate Fighter 9″, while Riddle has a 4-1 record in the organization (Riddle is the rare pro fighter to have had all of his fights take place in the UFC). Johnson is pretty much the guy that you saw on TUF: dynamic, athletic, but prone to mistakes and lapses in judgment that can cost him against a competent opponent. In fact, Riddle is pretty much the polar opposite of Johnson- he doesn’t do anything that will be likely to headline a highlight reel, but he will stick to his strengths and happily grind out a win when he’s able to do so.
The tricky thing here is that Johnson is able to crank out a win at any point in this fight, which makes choosing Riddle by decision a bit of a crap-shoot. I don’t think Johnson is nearly as dangerous to Riddle on the mat, however, as Riddle is usually pretty solid when it comes to his top game. The mat is also where I expect the majority of this fight to take place, especially if Riddle is to win, which I’m picking him to do.
Prediction: Riddle by decision
Paul Kelly vs. Jacob Volkmann
It’s a hard-knock life being a UFC lightweight, as the division is now chock-full of capable and dangerous opponents, making it hard for the Paul Kellys and Jacob Volkmanns of the world to do much besides stay afloat. Both fighters are coming off of wins, but Volkmann has won just 1 of his last 3, while Kelly has split his last two bouts. The road won’t get much easier for either fighter with this bout, as each of the two has the skills to potentially exploit the weaknesses of the other.
In Volkmann’s case, that would mean working tirelessly for takedowns and maintaining control until he can wear Kelly down. For Kelly, that means keeping the fight vertical and working a high-volume striking strategy to pile up the points and eventually overwhelm Volkmann. Of course, neither path to victory is a given, as Kelly has pretty good takedown defense and can scramble to his feet on many occasions, while Volkmann provides a rather easy target but does have some power to threaten Kelly with during exchanges.
In such a case, it’s sometimes best to just pick the best overall fighter, so I’ll do that and pick Kelly. I don’t know how he’ll do it, but I think he’ll pull it out in a very difficult fight.
Prediction: Kelly by decision (maybe)