UFC 165 snuck right up on us, as Ultimate Fighting Championship takes the Octagon to the north as the Air Canada Centre plays host to ‘Jones vs. Gustafsson’ tomorrow night (Sept. 21, 2013).
Headlining the Fox Sports 1 prelims, Canadian Tristar member and TUF runner-up, Mike Ricci (8-3) will have his native countrymen behind him as he tries to string two wins in a row after recently coming out victorious over Colin Fletcher at UFC 158. Ricci faces fellow TUF alum Miles Jury (12-0) who lost to Al Iaquinta in the midst of TUF 15, but has won three in a row since then. Jury has most recently knocked out Ramsey Nijem at UFC on FOX: “Henderson vs. Melendez.” This should be a good fight between two young bucks looking to climb up the lightweight ladder. Jury has ended ten fights in the first round, only going to decision once against Michael Johnson at UFC 155. At one point, Ricci was being called the lightweight GSP, and while that was certainly premature, he has good ring (cage?) IQ and a smothering ground game. Just not as smothering as his gym-mate. I can’t see Ricci wanting to keep this standing up for long, as his weakest point is his stand up. Compared to Jury at least. Jury also has better takedowns compared to Ricci’s defense. This may or may not be close in the first round, then Jury could have his way with Ricci, unless Ricci stuns him.
At bantamweight, Ivan Menjivar (25-10) is coming off the first submission loss of his career, losing to Urijah Faber at UFC 157. He’s facing Wilson Reis (16-4), who is actually stepping in on late notice twice in a way, stepping in for Johny Bedford in Brazil briefly and then for Kid Yamamoto to face Menjivar. Reis is one of those rare Bellator to UFC transplants, and has gone 4-0 since losing to Patricio Frieire in Bellator. He’s got great BJJ, better than Menjivar but both men could make this a stand up battle. Menjivar would give Nick Diaz fits, with his utter love of throwing “spinning ****” but as long as this stays standing up, you will see Menjivar holding the advantage. Menjivar has 19 finishes to Reis’ 16, so this could very likely end in a clear winner. I wouldn’t bet on it going to the judges.
At welterweight, Chris Clements (11-4-1) comes back from his overturned loss to Matt Riddle from UFC 149, which was changed into a No Contest after RIddle once again tested positive for marijuana. Clements has 10 TKOs in his career, with his only decision win coming in a split over Keith Wisniewski at UFC 145. Simply put, Clements doesn’t do too well off his back, but luckily that won’t be a factor against his opponent, Stephen Thompson (7-1), whose karate attack should keep the fight standing. Thompson came into the UFC with much hype surrounding his kickboxing prowess, and it intensified even further after his knockout of Dan Stittgen at UFC 143. Then, like so many lately, he fell to Matt Brown’s never ending intensity and pressure. After taking more than a year off, he fought and decisioned Nah-Shon Burrell at UFC 160. This fight should be all stand up, which lends itself to Thompson, or so you would think on paper. This may sound weird, but despite all of the awards and accolades in kickboxing, technically, Clements is the better MMA striker, and has the skills to “make things happen” against the cage. No matter what happens, this should be a fun fight to watch.
At bantamweight opening up the FOX Sports 1 prelims we have Mitch Gagnon (9-2) taking on the undefeated Dustin Kimura (10-0). Let me get this out of the way: Kimura has never won by kimura, but that’s okay, he’s still a submission specialist, winning seven of his 10 bouts by submission. Kimura looked soft in his promotional debut, almost getting wrestled into the mat like so many “submission guys” by Chico Camus at UFC 156, but Kimura was able to overcome and submit Camus by rear naked choke. The Canadian, Gagnon, will have his country behind him, and will also, in my opinion, boast a better top game, as Kimura doesn’t really mind working his active guard. This fight does have all the trademarks of what could be a thrilling grappling battle, and both of these men have the goods to finish most bantamweights around their ranking on any given night, so this could be a fun watch. Between the two grapplers, there are 16 submission wins, with only Gagnon losing to submission once, to Bryan Caraway via rear naked choke at UFC 149. I’m looking forward to this one.