The MGM Grand Garden Arena plays host to one of the biggest fight cards of the year, as Anderson Silva defends his middleweight title against Chris Weidman and a solid undercard awaits with plenty of interesting action. UFC 162 is the cherry on top of the UFC Expo weekend, and the cards around these annual events are always great top to bottom. This prelim lineup is no exception.
Headlining the FX prelims is TUF 1 vet and fan favorite Chris Leben (22-9) taking on the relative newcomer in Andrew Craig (8-1). The last few years have been rough for ‘The Crippler’, with a one-sided loss to Mark Munoz in November of 2011 leading to Leben testing positive for a banned substance which got him banned from the sport for a year. He came back rusty and lost in a dull affair against Derrick Brunson in a fight that put people to sleep in a way Leben isn’t known for. Craig is also coming off a loss, the first of his career, to Ronny Markes in Brazil earlier in the year. This is a good ‘comeback’ fight for a less rusty Leben. Craig is good in all areas but doesn’t shine anywhere, and he would probably be just fine with standing in the middle of the Octagon and trading with Leben. An impressive knockout win over a big name could get Craig noticed on even bigger stages. Craig has shown good resilience, and he can take a beating, so this should be an interesting fight with both men looking to trade bombs. The closeness of this fight is reflected in the odds, as they are the tightest of the undercard. Craig is a -155 favorite (bet $155 to win $100) while Leben is a +145 underdog (bet $100 to win $145) at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Lightweights up next, with the TUF: The Smashes lightweight winner Norman Parke (17-2) standing across the cage from long-time Pancrase vet Kazuki Tokudome (12-3-1). Parke is a fantastic grappler, and has finished 12 of 17 opponents by submission, but he couldn’t do that on TUF, decisioning every opponent, including Colin Fletcher to win the show. Tokudome is a good overall fighter, winning 7 out of his last 8 fights, but he’s never fought a wrestler quite like Parke. The Brit is currently the -200 favorite, while the comeback on Tokudome is +185. This will be a battle of gas tanks and takedown defense, because Park is absolutely ruthless with his shot attempts. Tokudome holds the advantage on the feet.
The heavyweights enter the cage with former heavyweight title contender Gabriel Gonzaga (14-7) looking ready to bounce back from his slightly controversial loss to Travis Browne in April of this year at the TUF 17 finale, where he took massive elbows to the side of the head. His opponent is a guy who absolutely needs a win in Dave Herman (21-5) who has lost his last three fights in a row — all by brutal finish. To be exact: a TKO loss to Stefan Struve, knocked out brutally by Roy Nelson at UFC 146 and submitted by Big Nog at UFC 153. This comes after a great body of work by Herman where he finished 20 of 21 wins across Bellator, Sengokou and Elite XC. Perhaps it’s the quality of opponent, but Herman has not looked like his killer self, and now he’s fighting for his life in the Octagon. Gonzaga is a BJJ specialist, and one of the best practitioners in the heavyweight division, both of these guys have heavy hands and a desire to win, so it should be a slobberknocker until Gonzaga moves in for the sub. That more well-rounded game has Gonzaga pegged as a -230 favorite, while Herman is a +210 underdog.
Edson Barboza (11-1) looks to continue his reign of terror in the UFC lightweight division, one fight removed from his stunning knockout loss at the hands of Jamie Varner, and ready to start his streak anew. He takes on Rafaello Oliveira (15-5), who is finally on the winning side of the column after dropping his last two UFC fights to Yves Edwards and Gleison Tibau in 2011. Oliveira won his last fight against Yoislandy Izquierdo at UFC 148, and looks to win his first back to back fights in the Octagon. Barboza, if you don’t already know, is a killer. His highlight reel, spinning heelkick knockout of Terry Etim was the 2012 knockout of the year, and he has every tool needed to hurt an opponent on the feet. Barboza has a three inch height advantage, and he easily outmatches Oliveira on the feet. Rafaello needs to get it to the ground to make it competitive, but that will prove to be a tough task. Barboza is currently one of the biggest favorites on the card at -540, with Oliveira a steep underdog at +460.