A week removed from an exciting UFC on FX 8 card that was highlighted by the return of Vitor Belfort and a stunning spinning heel kick, the UFC returns with its traditional Memorial Day card. UFC 160, headlined by heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez’ first title defense since regaining gold, makes its way back to Las Vegas inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena. In his way is Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. In the co-main event, former champion Junior Dos Santos battles New Zealander, Mark Hunt, in a pivotal matchup to decide the next heavyweight contender.
Before that goes down live on Pay-Per-View, a stacked undercard will again broadcast in two parts. The first part will stream on UFC’s Facebook page followed by another round of preliminary fights on the FX network. For a preview and some predictions of the night’s preliminary action, read on.
After Icelandic BJJ prodigy, Gunnar Nelson, sustained a knee injury, Rick Story accepts the offer and fills in to take on Mike Pyle. Known for his well-roundedness and toughness, Pyle has looked solid as of late. While not exceptional in any one department, he has shown the ability to compete with most welterweights in all facets of the fight game. He carries an impressive three-fight win streak and has past wins over the likes of John Hathaway, Ricardo Almeida, Josh Neer, with a recent dominant TKO win over James Head at the Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale. Story, meanwhile, is just a bulldozer. He likes to come forward and land anything he can. Getting his hands on his opponents and grinding is his preference but he has no problem turning fights into wars, which typically results in success for him. Story may not be the most technical striker, but he is very capable of decent offense, thanks to a granite chin and extreme resiliency. The tougher of the two take this, as Rick Story pushes Pyle around and gets the decision win.
Offense in spite of defense will be the theme of this fight, as featherweights Max Holloway and Dennis Bermudez each hope to make it four in a row. Holloway, last seen squeaking by Leonard Garcia, looked to be dominating the former featherweight title challenger with pinpoint striking until he ran out of gas late in the fight. A long, gifted striker, he uses reach and great use of combinations to land on the feet. Unfortunately, he lacks wrestling and this major flaw could be his down fall. Bermudez can and will wrestle. Also a very competent striker, he looks his best when mixing them both. As he showed against Matt Grice in their “Fight of the Night” battle, he’s comfortable everywhere and he can take a shot and keep pressing. As both men are extremely tough, look for Bermudez to weather the Hawaiian storm and use ground-and-pound to stop Holloway by TKO late.
In the battle of TUF America versus TUF England, “Ultimate Fighter 16” winner, Colton Smith, faces “Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner, Robert Whitaker. Much like he did against Mike Ricci in victory on his show’s finale, Smith can stick to a steady game plan of closing the distance and working for the takedown to ride out a decision. Whitaker, on the other hand, likes to strike and use combinations, as evidenced in his finale win over Brad Scott. Unfortunately, he’ll never see the opportunity to separate and land. Smith stays on him and grinds out the decision win.
The undefeated Nurmagomedov possesses all the qualities of a rising star. He is athletic, tough, and extremely tenacious. In very impressive wins over Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau and Kamal Shalorus, the Russian utilized his entire tool belt and showcased abilities in every position. His only real uncertainty has been his awkward striking, which he has still used to dispatch foes. Trujillo is another of the many tough guys on the card. He loves to scrap and can generate some heavy offense, as he did against Marcus LeVesseur at UFC on Fox 5 en route to a TKO win. Much to Trujillo’s dismay, he won’t be the tougher or better skilled fighter this time around. Khabib Nurmagomedov runs over Trujillo in any which way he decides and finishes by TKO.
Thompson, a very skilled striker, has been on the shelf for over a year due a knee injury. In returning, he’ll look to erase a decision loss to Matt Brown at UFC 145. Prior to that fight, he made his UFC debut with a wonderfully, well-timed head-kick to the head of Dan Stittgen, resulting in a devastating knockout. Burrell, although not quite to the level of Thompson, is also an adept striker. More geared toward boxing, he mixes in comparable wrestling to feature a more complete package than his upcoming foe. Burrell will look to improve on his gritty debut win over Yuri Villefort at UFC 157. His ability to mix takedowns with his striking should be the difference. Look for him to exploit Thompson’s complete lack of any takedown defense, as Burrell cruises to what appears will be an easy decision victory.
Former WEC bantamweight champion, Brian Bowles, makes his return after a very disappointing submission loss to Urijah Faber more than a year ago, as he battles rugged Las Vegas-based product, George Roop. With the exception of that loss and a past dismantling at the hands of current bantamweight king, Dominick Cruz, Bowles has been great. The heavy-handed wrestler has proven to be one of better fighters in the division and owns a notable KO of former WEC bantamweight ace, Miguel Torres. Roop, on the other hand, has done just enough to keep his roster spot in the UFC. Outside of impressive knockouts of “The Korean Zombie” and Josh Grispi, he hasn’t done much to impress. Still, he can hold his own, as he has done in a very difficult weight class. However, it won’t be nearly enough. The better all-around Bowles wins by TKO.
The up-and-down Jeremy Stephens drops a weight-class and welcomes Strikeforce import Estevan Payan. A loser of three straight, Stephens makes his debut as a featherweight after a slick counter-punch knockout loss to long-time veteran, Yves Edwards. While “Lil’ Heathen” has shown flashes of greatness with his exceptional punching power and solid wrestling base, he has also shown his inability to be consistent. His opponent, Payan, also likes to trade. After victories over Alonzo Martinez and Mike Bravo while competing for Strikeforce, he’ll make his first Octagon appearance against a guy who will be happy to stand and slug with him. In doing so, Stephens will offer him a taste of serious firepower. Stephens wins by KO.
Photo by Eric Bolte – USA TODAY Sports