For its fourth installment on Fuel TV, the UFC will visit the HP Pavillion in San Jose, Calif. The Wednesday night event on July 11 pits decorated wrestlers Mark Munoz and Chris Weidman against each other in a five-round affair. Each will be looking to secure their spot in the middleweight pecking order and prove they’re ready for a title shot.
Although the event is taking place in the U.S., there is an international flavor to the card. Between the 22 combatants, the countries of Brazil, England, France, the Czech Republic, Japan and New Zealand are all represented.
Like past Fuel TV cards, the lineup is a mix of rising young talent and veterans looking to get back on track. Notably, TUF runner-up T.J. Dillashaw faces a stiff test against submission ace Vaughan Lee, Joey Beltran returns to the promotion at light heavyweight to face knockout artist James Te Huna and veteran Aaron Simpson makes his 170-pound debut against Kenny Robertson.
The six-fight main card airs live on Fuel TV beginning at 8 p.m. ET, whereas the preliminary card is slated to stream on Facebook starting at 5:30 p.m ET.
The MMA Corner’s panel of Corey Adams, Rob Tatum and Sal DeRose break down the entire card below.
Adams: In a striker vs. grappler match-up, the first fight of the main card is sure to be a closely contested bout.
The Brazilian Dos Anjos will play the grappler role, as his best option will be to take this fight to the ground against Njokuani, who has an impressive stand-up game. The holder of eight submission wins will have to overcome a reach disadvantage, however, if he plans on getting a win.
Njokuani will be five inches taller than his opponent and will use that reach to throw many strikes Dos Anjos’ way. “The Assassin” has had problems with submission artists in the past, but should have learned his lesson by now.
The Njokuani family will make it two wins in two weeks as Anthony will put on a similar showing as his younger brother Chidi, and earn a decision victory.
DeRose: Like Corey mentioned, this is a striker vs. grappler match-up, and Njokuani will enjoy a nice size advantage that will play a factor in the fight.
If Dos Anjos wants to get this fight to the ground and be in his comfort zone, he is going to need to get inside the reach. Njokuani will most likely use push kicks and jabs to keep Dos Anjos at bay and give him a tough time.
Njokuani has some crisp striking that will help him along in this fight. If Dos Anjos gets it to the ground, he will have to make every second count and work for constant submissions because he might not get another chance.
I think Njokuani utilizes his size advantage and keeps Dos Anjos at bay to get the W by decision.
Tatum: Having witnessed both of these fighters in person on numerous occasions, I am going to have to agree with my fellow panelists in predicting this fight goes the distance.
While I think it would be a mistake to count out Dos Anjos—ask George Sotiropoulos about that—his striking technique is far from polished. His go-to punch is his lead uppercut, but he’ll have to get through a significant reach disadvantage to land it. As both Corey and Sal mentioned, his best chance to win this fight is undoubtedly on the mat.
Njokuani has come a long ways since the WEC, despite being just 2-2 with the UFC. He displayed vastly improved takedown defense against veteran wrestler Danny Castillo, and that will be a huge factor against a dangerous grappler like Dos Anjos.
I’ll echo the rest of panel, as Njokuani’s crisp, clean Muay Thai is going to be more than enough to outscore his Brazilian foe. Look for the lopsided decision to fall in his favor.
DeRose: T.J. Dillashaw is a tough wrestler coming out of Team Alpha Male and coming off a big win over Walel Watson earlier this year. Dillashaw almost won TUF 14, but ran into trouble against John Dodson and got knocked out in the finals. Dillashaw looked great in his last fight against Watson though, dominating the much bigger Watson on the ground with his wrestling on his way to earning the decision victory.
Vaughn Lee is also coming off a big win, with his being a submission victory against “Kid” Yamamoto. Lee became the first person to submit the Japanese legend and earned ‘Submission of the Night’ honors for his armbar against Yamamoto.
Lee knows how to submit his opponents, but Dillashaw has good enough wrestling to neutralize anything and everything he will try on the ground.
Dillashaw takes the fight by decision and moves closer to the top of the pack at bantamweight.
Tatum: Although I was equally impressed with Dillashaw’s performance against Watson, he’s still very green as both a striker and a grappler. He had countless opportunities to finish Watson, but was unable to secure a submission.
Lee’s record may not be the most impressive, but he’s really turned a corner over the last three years. After losing a close battle with Chris Cariaso at UFC 138, Lee shocked the MMA world by becoming the first to submit Japanese wrecking machine Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto in February.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Dillashaw is going to land a takedown in this fight, but unfortunately for the TUF alum, that’s exactly where Lee wants him. Lee secures his second straight ‘Submission of the Night’ bonus with a slick armbar just minutes into the fight.
Adams: With my fellow panelists split on this fight, it looks like I have the final say.
Rob is correct that Lee is getting better and better in every fight, and the Londoner will be at top form in his next appearance inside the Octagon.
But the Team Alpha Male member, Dillashaw, is one of the top prospects out there right now. He may have lost to Dodson, but that’s not necessarily a knock on him with Dodson being so talented. At only 26 years old, Dillashaw is on a fast track towards the top and will showcase a better skill set in this bout.
I’ll echo Sal and take Dillashaw by decision.
Tatum: In a fight with an international flavor, Czech powerhouse Karlos Vemola will look to pick up his second straight win at 185 pounds against Frenchman Francis Carmont.
It’s hard to fathom that just two years ago Vemola was competing in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Despite his wrestling credentials, he was simply too small to hang with the caliber of fighters in the UFC’s heavier divisions. However, in his middleweight debut against Mike Massenzio, he looked just as explosive in a lopsided submission win. His strategy in this fight is simple: put Carmont on his back and pound away from the top position.
Carmont enters the contest on a significant winning streak dating back four years and stretching seven fights. Since joining the Tristar gym in Montreal, Carmont’s skill set has become much more complete. Like Vemola, he’s a big middleweight and possesses a massive 78-inch reach. Although a good portion of his wins have come by submission, Carmont will need to keep Vemola at distance and look to pick him apart on the feet.
Vemola’s reckless aggression, coupled with his strong chin, will allow him to get inside and put Carmont on his back. Once on top, it’s just a matter of time before the referee pulls Vemola off a bloodied and beaten Carmont to secure a first-round TKO victory.
Adams: Carmont certainly has looked impressive in the UFC with a record of 2-0, but I’m going to agree with Rob and go with “The Terminator” as well.
Carmont certainly has an impressive resume with his winning streak while training with the likes of Georges St-Pierre, but his run has to end sometime, and it will against Vemola.
After going from weight class to weight class, Vemola has finally found his niche at 185 pounds. Vemola dominated a tough wrestler in Massenzio in his last fight and should be able to do the same against Carmont if he can avoid going to a decision.
This fight won’t go the distance as the bigger, stronger Vemola will earn an early submission in round one.
DeRose: No arguments here from me! I think Vemola looked good against Massenzio last time out, and of course you can’t overlook the size and reach advantage he’ll enjoy now that he has shrunk down from heavyweight to middleweight.
Carmont will come into this fight well-trained though and have a good game plan in place from his time at Tristar, so I think that at least gives him the mental edge in the fight.
This fight’s going to inevitably end up on the ground, and I think once it gets there, there is no way Vemola loses the fight as he will just pound away from the top with short elbows and punches to end Carmont’s night early.
I think the move to middleweight was a great one by Vemola, and he’ll notch another victory in his new weight class. Vemola by first-round TKO.
DeRose: This will mark Kenny Robertson’s return fight to the UFC after a one-fight stint outside of the organization. Robertson’s one bout in the UFC was against Mike Pierce, which I think gives us a little idea of how this fight will go.
Robertson lost by TKO, and if that happened against Pierce, I think the same thing will happen against another good wrestler like Aaron Simpson.
This is Simpson’s first fight at welterweight, so there could be some kinks that have to be worked out with the weight cut that could affect him come fight night.
Robertson will have to bank on that and hope the gas tank of Simpson has a huge hole in it and hope he tires out quickly to work a possible submission victory.
All in all, though, I think the Pierce fight gives me an idea of how this goes. I think Simpson takes a second-round TKO victory.
Adams: It’s hard not to pick against Robertson, who is 11-1, but the 37-year-old Simpson still has a run left in him in this new weight class.
Simpson is coming off a close split decision loss to Rony Markes in February, so you know “A-Train” will be motivated to get back in the win column.
With a solid grappling game, Robertson will want to take this fight to the ground and avoid the power of Simpson’s hands. As Sal mentioned, this will be similar to Robertson’s fight with Pierce, but Simpson will be even larger with the drop to 170 pounds.
With a combination of wrestling ability, power and size, Simpson will be too much for Robertson to handle. Look for Simpson to earn the unanimous decision in his welterweight debut.
Tatum: The biggest wild card in this fight has to be how Simpson’s body responds to the additional weight cut. Granted, he’s a veteran wrestler, but at 37, how will it affect his cardio?
Robertson’s record might look nice on paper, but other than his recent knockout of UFC vet Lucio Linhares, he lacks the experience against tough competition that Simpson possesses. He was outclassed by Pierce, a fighter whose style is very similar to Simpson.
The grinding, controlling attack of Simpson has been effective against nearly every type of fighter he’s matched up against, and there’s very little reason to believe it won’t work against Robertson. As long as Simpson’s gas tank holds up for three rounds, he’ll claim a clear-cut decision win in his 170-pound debut.
Adams: Joey Beltran will return to the Octagon after getting released in early 2012, but this time he will take on one of the rising fighters of the light heavyweight division.
With the exception of his loss to Alexander Gustafsson, Te Huna has been on a roll, piling up three UFC wins. All three of those wins came by knockout or TKO, so it appears we may be witnessing a new threat in the 205-pound ranks.
Beltran is a guy who has never really impressed in the UFC. “Mexicutioner” went 3-4 before getting released, and the guys he beat aren’t on Te Huna’s level. Expect these two to slug it out, with Beltran’s only hope being to clip his opponent in a wild exchange.
This fight will end in favor of Te Huna. He’ll be the faster, more technical striker and spoil Beltran’s UFC return with a TKO early in the fight.
Tatum: Corey nailed this one on the head.
Beltran is better suited for the 205-pound division after being a punching bag at heavyweight. Yet, other than his knockout loss to Lavar Johnson, Beltran’s chin has held up as well as anyone. However, it’s hard to have confidence in a guy whose most useful weapon is his durability. Sure, he’s got 11 wins by knockout or TKO, but the majority of those came outside the UFC against lesser competition.
New Zealand’s Te Huna has been on quite the path of destruction over the past five years. Other than a shoulder injury suffered against Hector Lombard and the submission loss to Gustafsson, Te Huna has managed to go 8-2 over that time period. And seven of his eight wins have come by either KO or TKO.
This fight will come down to Beltran’s ability to take a punch and Te Huna’s ability to deliver one. Te Huna is the faster, more athletic fighter and he’s going to show it against Beltran. Look for the “Kiwi” to score a vicious second-round TKO win.
DeRose: I’ll say the same thing as everyone else: this is a really good move for Beltran, who now returns after a one-fight stint outside the UFC.
Beltran can take punches and dish them out, which is definitely something he will need against Te Huna, who in my opinion is definitely the better man coming into this fight.
Te Huna has some nice striking, and I think there’s no question this fight stays standing, which plays into the hands of Te Huna. It’ll be interesting to see how Beltran fares at 205 pounds.
In the end, I agree with everyone else here and will take Te Huna by TKO, but in the third round as I think Beltran’s chin can take punishment for a couple rounds.
Tatum: Whenever two highly-credentialed wrestlers get together, it’s rare to see them actually engage in a wrestling match. Expect nothing less when Munoz and Weidman lock horns in the night’s main event.
Munoz does possess a slight edge in the wrestling department, having captured a NCAA title, but it’s the striking attack of “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” that has proven to be his biggest weapon. Against Weidman, it should be more of the same, as he’ll look to get inside Weidman’s reach and batter his younger foe with strikes.
Certainly Weidman’s reach advantage and his boxing development under Ray Longo will be a factor, but realistically, Weidman wants this fight on the ground. He’s shown a slick ground game in his time with the promotion, but that was set up by his wrestling.
The wild card in this fight is its five round duration. Munoz has trained for a 25-minute fight before, having headlined UFC 138 last fall. But for Weidman, this is uncharted waters. Weidman will have to hope for some mistakes from his more experienced opponent if he wants to keep his unblemished record intact.
With a potential title shot on the line, Munoz isn’t going to let it slip through his hands. Look for the veteran to score a third-round TKO and hand Weidman his first loss.
DeRose: Rob makes this easy for me as he has pretty much stated anything and everything I would say.
Weidman is getting into a striking match with Munoz most likely in this fight, and that is something that nobody should want to do. Munoz packs some serious punch in his hands that will stagger Weidman and put him out if it lands.
I also think this being a five-round affair plays into Munoz’s hands, as Weidman looked gassed last time out against Demian Maia in a three-rounder. Granted, Weidman was fighting on short notice—very, very short notice—but this also being his first five-round fight, I think it still plays a huge factor.
Being someone who has attended Hofstra, I want to pick Weidman just out of pride for my school. And my heart is saying pick Weidman, but my gut is saying “Pick Munoz, you idiot!” I’ll take Munoz by fourth-round TKO.
Adams: Not only is “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” one of the nicest guys in the UFC, he is also arguably the most talented middleweight, other than Anderson Silva.
With his credentials, Munoz is deserving of a title shot right now, but with Chael Sonnen getting another chance at Silva, Munoz will have to square off with the undefeated Weidman. As Rob stated, the veteran has waited so long for a title shot and won’t let it slip through his hands.
Weidman has been impressive ever since he came into the UFC, but I don’t believe he’s on Munoz’s level. Like my colleagues mentioned, Munoz has an underrated stand-up game to go along with his wrestling and is very capable of handing Weidman his first loss in knockout fashion.
Munoz gets the win by TKO in round two.
Adams: Raphael Assuncao has been out of action since August 2011, but will be eager to return to add on to a win from UFC 134. Expect the Brazilian to take control of this fight on the mat and defeat Issei Tamura by decision.
DeRose: I thought Tamura looked good when he knocked out Tiequan Zhang at UFC 144. I have to agree with Corey here though: Assuncao will take control of the fight on the ground and dominate Tamura en route to a decision victory.
Tatum: Tamura was fortunate to get a UFC bout coming off a loss, and was even more fortunate to claim victory and earn a second bout. However, his draw in his second Octagon appearance is a superior grappler and much more difficult test in the Brazilian Assuncao. I’ll agree with Sal that Assuncao takes a dominant decision win.
DeRose: From the research I had to do on Marcelo Guimaraes, it seems to me the Brazilian has really good grappling and sets his takedowns up pretty well. Dan Stittgen has some pretty good grappling as well, but I think the UFC newcomer takes the win by submission.
Tatum: As if Stittgen’s UFC debut against Stephen Thompson wasn’t a difficult enough test, he’ll now welcome Jungle Fight champ Guimaraes to the Octagon. Unfortunately for Stittgen, he’s again being fed to the wolves, as the Brazilian will take home a lopsided decision win.
Adams: I’m not all that familiar with the Brazilian Guimaraes, but from what I hear he’s legit. Expect Stittgen to come out eager to get back on track, but he will have a tough test in front of him and will end up on the wrong end of a decision.
Tatum: It’s unlikely that this match-up is going to produce many fireworks as both fighters have failed to produce a finish in the last year. Andrew Craig looked good against an injured Kyle Noke in his UFC debut, but Rafael Natal won’t be surprised by any aspect of his attack. Look for Natal to take home a decision win.
Adams: Until I see Craig compete one more time in the Octagon, I’m not sold on him. Like Rob mentioned, not the most exciting, but this fight should go to Natal. A late submission is possible, but the smart bet is to take “Sapo” by decision.
DeRose: As has already been mentioned, this fight will probably be the best time to refill on nachos and drinks as I don’t think it’ll be very entertaining. I think Craig got lucky, as Noke was hurt the last time out, so I see this as a big one-sided affair with Natal getting the decision.
DeRose: Sweet, a flyweight fight! Josh Ferguson drops down to a more natural weight after an impressive first fight on TUF was followed by him getting dominated by bigger fighters in his next two contests. Chris Cariaso was a good bantamweight though and I think he fared well at 135, so now at 125, Cariaso will take the fight by decision.
Adams: It’s remarkable that all eight of Ferguson’s wins have come by submission, but he is just 1-3 in his last four fights. Cariaso should control the pace of this fight and add another decision victory to his long list of scorecard wins.
Tatum: Corey alluded to it, but I’ll come out and say it: Ferguson is not UFC material at this point in his career. Even in his more natural weight class, he’s going to get run over by Cariaso. Cariaso’s improved grappling should be more than enough to fend off any submission attempts from Ferguson, and he will pick the TUF alum apart en route to a decision win.
Adams: Both Damacio Page and Alex Caceres are in desperate need of a win, as the two bantamweights have a combined UFC record of 1-5. Caceres hasn’t really impressed in his fights since coming off The Ultimate Fighter, whereas Page has fought the best 135-pound fighters in the world. Advantage to the Jackson-trained fighter, Page.
Tatum: This loser-goes-home fight pits a cagey WEC veteran in Page against a polarizing TUF alum. Both fighters have the same hole in their game: submission defense. Ten of their combined 12 losses have come by tapout, and expect number 11 to take place on Wednesday night. Page by second-round guillotine choke.
DeRose: Like Corey mentioned, Caceres hasn’t fought the same competition as Page has, and Caceres has looked mediocre in his fights since dropping from lightweight down to bantamweight. In this fight to see who keeps their job, I’ll take Page to secure a submission victory.
Top Photo: Mark Munoz celebrates a win (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)