UFC 144 is in the books and less than a week later the UFC will leave the Land of the Rising Sun and travel to the Land Down Under to put on its second installment on FX. Taking place on March 2 at the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia, UFC on FX 2 promises to be a great night of fights.
Thiago Alves will be taking on Martin Kampmann in the main event. Looking to get his footing back after a rocky past two years, Alves is motivated to show he belongs at the top of the division. Kampmann stands in his way, however, and looks to start his own winning streak again. Both are coming off wins and want to show that they are in the upper echelon of the welterweight contenders.
Alves vs. Kampmann is only the icing on the cake for a card that is the first step in ushering in a brand new UFC champion. UFC on FX 2 will host the semifinals for the inaugural flyweight championship, with both tiers of the semis on the same night, back-to-back. Demetrious Johnson will square off against Ian McCall, and Joseph Benavidez will face Yasuhiro Urushitani to determine the two men to fight for the undisputed title. Court McGee and Constantinos Philippou will kickstart the night with a great middleweight match-up as well.
Alves vs. Kampmann headlines a great main card, which will start with a single preliminary bout on Facebook at 5:30 p.m. ET and continue with six prelim contests on Fuel TV. Prelims will start 6 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on FX at 9 p.m. ET.
The MMA Corner’s panel of Gregory Chase, Bryan Henderson and Corey Adams will break down the four main card bouts in this edition of the Round Table.
Henderson: Since Court McGee won The Ultimate Fighter 11, he’s faced an increasingly difficult level of competition with each outing. That continues here with Philippou.
Philippou had a lengthy run of wins under the Ring of Combat banner, and after losing his Octagon debut, he’s bounced back with solid wins over the likes of Jorge Rivera and Jared Hamman. He’s also proven to be a tough foe to finish, with his only losses coming via decision against Ricardo Romero and Nick Catone.
Philippou has ended fights more often via his fists, while McGee prefers submissions. Philippou finished Hamman in the first round, but I think McGee will prove to be a tougher out. McGee has impressed me so far in his time with the UFC, and I think that continues here. I’ll pick McGee to hand Philippou a submission loss.
Adams: Along with Bryan, I have been impressed with McGee, both when he was in The Ultimate Fighter house and in the UFC. Whenever a guy completely changes his life from drugs and alcohol and fully commits to becoming a better person and fighter, I’m a fan. McGee is a physical specimen with an all-around game consisting of boxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling.
Then there’s Philippou, who really surprised me with a first-round knockout win over Hamman. I personally counted Philippou out in that fight, but he has a solid training staff at Matt Serra’s gym in New York, which will really help him become more well-rounded.
If Philippou doesn’t have a ground game strategy prepared against McGee, he’ll get submitted. I agree with Bryan, but I have McGee winning by decision instead.
Chase: My fellow panelists said it well. Court McGee is a fighter I was impressed with from his early fights on TUF. His story is great, but his work and skills are a testament to just how much he has improved over the years.
McGee is on a tear right now, with eight wins in a row. He has won his fights dominantly and will look to do the same against Phillippou. Philippou is certainly one of McGee’s biggest challenges to date and vice versa. He has been using his hands to throw him into the mix of middleweight contenders, and his recent KO was particularly impressive.
I will have to go with McGee winning this one and continuing his success inside the Octagon. I think his superior ground game will make a difference in this fight, and he could very well issue Phillippou his first submission loss.
Adams: Of the two flyweight tournament fights, this one has the possibility of stealing the show, as both Johnson and McCall are two of the most exciting lighter-weight fighters.
Many know “Mighty Mouse,” a former WEC contender and the last to challenge Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight championship. In that fight with Cruz, Johnson was at a huge disadvantage due to the fact that Cruz is five inches taller with a bigger body frame. However, Johnson is still very talented, with a lightning quick pace that is difficult to slow down.
While many are familiar with Johnson, some forget that McCall fought in the WEC as well. “Uncle Creepy” only went 1-2 in the promotion, but one of those losses came against Cruz. Since stepping away from the blue mat, McCall has gone 4-0, including a win over Darrell Montague that earned him the Tachi Palace flyweight championship. I think many casual fans will overlook McCall in this fight, but he is certainly capable of fighting for the flyweight title.
But even with that said, I think “Mighty Mouse” will be too much to handle. Johnson will use his normal attack, staying light on his feet and bouncing around, avoiding the attacks by McCall to earn a unanimous decision.
Chase: As Corey pointed out, this one has the potential to be the best fight of the night. In fact, I think it will be the best. Johnson is someone who I always love to watch fight. His quickness and heart are incredible, only to be rivaled by someone like Frankie Edgar. I know that I am in for a great display of MMA when “Mighty Mouse” steps in the Octagon.
He does have to get through McCall, and props must be given where they are due. McCall is on a four-fight winning streak and has had the advantage of already fighting at flyweight, whereas Johnson has had to stay at bantam up until now. McCall has good hands and will be a great person for Johnson to face.
However, I think Johnson wins this one decisively. McCall will be making his UFC debut, and against a guy like Demetrious Johnson, that is a formula for a disappointing night for McCall. Johnson has fought tougher guys and has been fighting on the big stages for years now.
There are no words to describe how excited I was to hear Johnson would be fighting on one tier and Benavidez on the other. I admittedly am looking past this fight and looking at a showdown of Johnson and Benavidez, but anything can happen in a fight. I will predict Johnson wins this one against McCall with ease, and as a future prediction, wins the flyweight belt!
Henderson: The flyweight tournament and the long overdue arrival of the 125-pounders in the UFC really has me pumped. And this fight is a perfect example of why. We get to see a guy that the UFC and its fans see as a potential king of the mountain at flyweight face off against a man who many consider the top active flyweight out there right now. This is a chance to see how McCall really stacks up against what the UFC will put together, which is an elite level of competition.
The thing is, you cannot sleep on McCall. Yes, he fought in the WEC and only went 1-2. But flyweight is “Uncle Creepy’s” natural weight class, and in the 125-pound division he has ended the reign of Jussier “Formiga” da Silva as the top flyweight in the world, as well as ending the reign of top-10 flyweight Darrell Montague atop the Tachi Palace Fights flyweight division. And as Corey pointed out, McCall did hang in there with Dominick Cruz during McCall’s WEC stint, losing a unanimous decision in the end. His only other loss came to Charlie Valencia, while he also tallied a win over Coty Wheeler at the heavier weight.
While I want to see the proven flyweights storm into the UFC and steal the show, it’s hard to look beyond Johnson’s accomplishments inside the Octagon. This guy is fast, he’s got great wrestling and he’s only been defeated by the current bantamweight champion and the veteran Brad Pickett. It’s difficult to see him losing here. I think McCall will keep it close, and I definitely wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see him emerge with his hand raised, but I’m going to take “Mighty Mouse” to do just enough to edge out McCall on the judges’ scorecards.
Chase: This fight will be one of the most exciting, only to be possibly trumped by the Johnson/McCall fight. Benavidez is coming off of three great wins and has gotten two of them under the UFC banner since the merger with the WEC. He has shown some great explosive power and the ability to finish the fight wherever it goes. He is currently 15-2, with his only losses coming courtesy of the current bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz. Both were decision losses, but now he gets to work toward a brand new title.
However, Urushitani has other plans. Urushitani has been on a tear in Japan and will look to pull off an upset in his UFC debut. He has great judo and striking, and is on a five-fight winning streak.
This is a fight where I have to strongly go with Benavidez. Not to overlook the talent of Urushitani, but there are many factors going into this fight. The biggest for me is that this is Urushitani’s UFC debut. He will be fighting in a new organization (not to mention the biggest) in a new country (he has never fought outside of Japan or Korea) against a seasoned and tested fighter who has only lost fights to a man who is considered one of the pound-for-pound best in the world. He will most likely have the crowd against him and has never fought the caliber of opponent that Benavidez will bring to the table. I will predict Benavidez wins this one early on, via TKO or submission.
Henderson: It’s tough to think of one of the top flyweights in the world as an underdog. Urushitani has long been among the top five at flyweight, much like Benavidez has been among the elite bantamweights.
The problem here is that we’re getting our first exposure to the flyweights, and when you think about it, all three of the other competitors in this tournament have at one time or another fought one weight class up under the Zuffa banner. Urushitani is the one guy who has been a mainstay at flyweight rather than a recent arrival from the bantamweight ranks. He’s also fought the elite of the 125-pound class – guys like Mamoru Yamaguchi, “BJ” Kojima and Kiyotaka Shimizu. The problem is that we haven’t had the same level of exposure to these smallest of fighters like we have to the bantamweights.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to pick Urushitani to win here, but we do have to look at him as being just as deserving of a spot here as any of the other three men in this tournament.
Although Urushitani might be fighting in Australia for the first time, I think the bigger thing to consider is that Australia keeps the 11-year veteran closer to home – and his own time zone – than if this fight had taken place on U.S. soil. He should have a better Octagon debut than the majority of Japanese fighters, who usually have to trek all the way to the U.S. for their UFC debuts.
Benavidez fought and won once in Japan, so he’s already proven that a journey across the Pacific doesn’t spell doom for his chances. Although I have much respect for Urushitani, the biggest factor for me is Benavidez’s drop from bantamweight. He’ll be the bigger fighter coming into this bout, and coming from Team Alpha Male, he’ll bring a good wrestling base with him.
Urushitani isn’t much of a finisher, with six of his fights ending in a draw and another 17 ending in decisions. I don’t think he has the skill set to grind out a decision against Benavidez; the opposite is likely, with Benavidez utilizing his wrestling to keep Urushitani on his back for the majority of the three-round contest to take the unanimous decision.
Adams: When I look at the second flyweight semifinal, it appears to be a bit more slower paced. As mentioned by my fellow panelists, Urushitani has been to the judges’ scorecards 17 times, and Benavidez has gone to two straight decisions in his most recent bouts.
Both Bryan and Gregory have laid the fight out perfectly. Benavidez will be the stronger, more athletic fighter when they step into the Octagon, which will give him a significant advantage. Once Benavidez gets on top of Urushitani, the fight will be over, either by submission or clear-cut decision.
Urushitani will try to get the judges’ nod, but the kid from California will utilize his high-level wrestling to move to the finals by decision.
Adams: Aside from these two headlining a solid card in Australia, this fight is a huge bout for both men in the welterweight division, with a win pushing them further up the ladder. A loss would more than likely mean they will never be a top-three 170-pounder.
Once considered one of the most dangerous welterweights on the planet, Alves went from being a force and fighting Georges St-Pierre for the title, to going 2-2 in his last four outings. “Pitbull” did look impressive in his last bout with a first-round submission victory over Papy Abedi at UFC 138. A win over Kampmann would be huge for Alves and would instantly put him right in the mix of the division. Fans want to see the “Pitbull” of old, where he dismantled his opponents by knockout. As of late, he hasn’t had any highlight-reel performances, but in this fight we may see Alves return to top form.
But in his path will be Kampmann, who is coming off a decision win over Rick Story at UFC 139. The decision was very close, but should be credited, as Story is a tough opponent to face. Kampmann is in the same situation as Alves: he is trying to make a case for why he should be consided a serious contender. The only issue I have with Kampmann is that he hasn’t defeated a true welterweight with a high-level skill set. “Hitman” does have impressive wins, but has had many big fights that could have possibly earned him contendership fights.
Now for my prediction, I’m going to go with Alves. The power in his hands will be too much for Kampmann, who has lost three times in his career by knockout. “Pitbull” gets the win by second-round TKO.
Henderson: It’s been a while since Kampmann has really impressed me. If I had to point to a specific moment where his career really turned, it would have to be the outing against Paul Daley, where Kampmann chose to stand and paid the price. I just cannot get over that poor tactical move.
Alves also seemingly has reached the peak of his career. He’s been able to prey on the lower half of the division, but since earning a title shot, his performances against the top half of the 170-pound class have been disappointing.
The question here is one of whether Kampmann chooses to stand with a striker or opts to take Alves to the mat, where Kampmann is the superior grappler. I think Kampmann learned his lesson against Daley, and he’s also shown glimmers of solid strategic planning in recent performances. He’ll look to expose Alves’ weaknesses by getting this fight to the ground. I don’t think Kampmann will be able to find the submission, but he’ll work from top position to earn all three rounds on the judges’ scorecards to take home the decision.
Chase: I have to side with Adams and say that Kampmann is going to have issues with Alves. Alves is a tough guy, and has the hands to put anyone down. He has the raw explosive power that will be tough for Kampmann to handle.
This isn’t to knock Kampmann, since he brings a ground advantage to the fight. Kampmann is in the same shoes as Alves in that they need this win to get back on track toward the upper echelon of the division. Alves is coming off a big submission and Kampmann is coming off of a decision, following two decision losses before that. Alves, I think, is hungry again and wants to show that he belongs at the top, and he has been working to evolve. I am bias, but Alves trains out of American Top Team, a camp I highly respect, and I assume he has been working to improve his ground game since losing to the likes of GSP and Fitch. I think anything Kampmann brings to the table, he will have a good answer for it.
Kampmann can still submit him, but that requires having Alves on the ground. I think Alves will use his striking and strength to keep it standing and eventually get a TKO.
Top Photo: Thiago Alves (Sherdog)