Boston plays host to UFC on FOX Sports 1, which is also known as UFC Fight Night 26, which is a ridiculously stacked card to celebrate the inaugural launch of this new channel from the FOX Sports network. No longer will the UFC prelims be on FX or Fuel, the whole card aside from a few Facebook prelims will be on FOX Sports 1, which is nice. The less channel flipping the better.
Headlining the prelims are two bantamweight contenders, Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett (23-7) looking to move up and into title contention by defeating his opponent, recent number one contender, Michael McDonald (15-2). McDonald was last seen losing to interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao deep into the 4th round via arm triangle and Pickett has had back to back split decisions, 1 win and 1 loss. He lost to Eddie Wineland after getting dropped nearly five times in their bout, but came back and won a close one in Sweden on Fuel TV against Mike Easton. Pickett is a really fun to watch brawler with good power and a nice chin, but McDonald may be his toughest opponent in years. The 22-year-old has awesome knockout power and is a hell of a talent for his age. Both of these guys will probably want this to be a stand up war, with McDonald holding the slight reach advantage at 2 inches. Between the two of them, an ‘of the night’ bonus could very likely come from this match.
The great Irish hope comes to Boston, as the insanely hyped dual Cage Warrior champion Conor McGregor (13-2) looks to debut on United States soil in a big way against the TUF contestant Max Holloway (7-2). Holloway has the size advantage on Conor, but McGregor has far better power and technique in his stand up game. He’s always going for the finish, which can lend him to putting his chin out in dangerous places, and he took some unnecessary shots in his ultimately one-sided win in his debut against Marcus Brimage earlier this year. Holloway is always down for a scrap, and this is a fight that could devolve into an all out brawl, and is yet another contender for Fight of the Night. Holloway has a good chin and can absorb lots of punishment closing the distance, but McGregor will no doubt test his chin.
Mike Brown (26-8) is coming out of retirement just so he can fight in Boston, with a near 16-month layoff from his last fight in which he won via decision against Daniel Pineda. Now the 37-year-old former WEC featherweight champion will take on Steven Siler (22-10). Siler is a well-rounded fighter, and has the ability to pick apart the war-torn Brown, but he lacks takedown defense, and Brown is good at takedowns. It’s kind of that simple. However, the question is if the crafty vet has enough in the gas tank to either finish Siler, who is ten years younger, or be able to win two rounds against him. Brown is 4-4 since dropping his featherweight title to Jose Aldo way back in 2009, so does he still have it in him? Siler will no doubt put on the pressure to see. Siler is trending up, winning 17 out of his last twenty fights, where Brown has been happy taking Nam Phan and Pineda to the judges. This could be interesting.
TUF 14 winner, Diego Brandao (17-8) has gone 3-1 in his tenure inside the Octagon, and is currently on a 2-fight winning streak since losing to Darren Elkins at UFC 146. Simply put, Brandao is a beast who wants to finish the fight standing up or on the ground and he has the striking and BJJ skills to do so (you may remember him destroying three opponents in a row on TUF 14 with vicious knockouts). Standing across the cage from him is Daniel Pineda (18-9) who was able to overcome losing two in a row (to Mike Brown and a vicious KO loss to Antonio Carvalho) with a brilliant Submission of the Night winning kimura over Blackhouse bred striker, Justin Lawrence. Pineda has never gone to the judges in a win, has a dozen submission victories, and can throw some leather as well. This may bode well for Brandao, who can explode and knock out anyone in the 26-year-old’s way. I know I’ve said it multiple times, but this is also a major contender for ‘barn burner.’
Then to send off the Facebook prelims, a pair of favorites from Team Pulver on TUF 5 do battle, with Manny Gamburyan (12-7) making his return to the Octagon after a year absence due to injuries, against another fighter who has had his share of injuries, Cole Miller (19-7). This is one of those amazing moments where you can admire the differences in the human body. Miller is 6 foot 1, while Manny is five foot five. This isn’t good for the Armenian judo player, as he is likely to get boxed up by the ATT trained Miller. Both men have good jiu jitsu, and I would say an equal ground game in general, but it really is going to be a long night for Manny if Miller intends to stick and move and utilize his length. If Manny gets inside, however, he has the power to being Miller down to the ground, an area where Miller doesn’t hate being, with his brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.