Call me a mark, but UFC on FOX 11, coming to us from Orlando, Florida, has one of the best collections of fights on a prelim card in a long time. Seriously. Don’t believe me? Read below. I will try to convince you of this awesomeness.
In the prelim main event on FOX Sports 1, lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov (21-0) will continue on his road to a title shot when he faces Rafael dos Anjos (20-6), winner of five straight including Donald Cerrone and Evan Dunham. This fight could steal the show if Khabib doesn’t run over Dos Anjos. While dos Anjos has put together some good striking to compliment his excellent BJJ base, Khabib is on a different level. There’s a reason why so many have avoided fighting him, and it’s because he’s championship material. The scary Russian sambo practitioner has gone 5-0 in the Octagon, with wins over Pat Healy, Gleison Tibau and Abel Trujillo to name a few. His takedowns are second to none. He has fantastic cardio, and matches up well with anyone outside of the best stand up fighters. Both of these men are great on the ground, but the edge goes to Khabib in the strength department. It will be tough for Dos Anjos to get an edge in submission-wise, but he can work off his back well.
Welterweight Thiago Alves (19-9) will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon after two years of absence due to injuries. He’ll face Seth Baczynski (19-10) in what should be a gutsy scrap that we know and love both of these fighters for, no doubt. On the feet, Alves very obviously has the advantage. His muay thai and scathing leg kicks will outdo anything Baczynski can handle standing, but the big X-factor here is the fact that Alves has had the last two years off. Ring rust is real, and while Baczynski isn’t the toughest opponent Alves has faced, he might as well be. Seth has the ability to get the job done everywhere. He’s not flashy, he’s a grinder of sorts that can take someone out of their game. We’ll see if he can do that against the rusty Alves. If not, expect Thiago to pick him apart on the feet like it’s 2009.
Strikeforce never die! This fight should be fantastic; Pat Healy (31-18-1) is trying to get his 0-2-1 UFC skid on track after being primed to fight Gil Melendez for the Strikeforce title before the company folded. His opponent is also coming off a loss, as Jorge Masvidal (25-8), former Strikeforce contender and winner of three out of his last four since losing to Melendez in Strikeforce should make this an entertaining battle. Both men are scrappers, and big 155ers. Healy is more of a grinding, submission wrestler with underrated standup, while Masvidal has cardio for days, has a beautiful jab and great takedown defense. These men are like yin and yang. From their look all the way down to their fighting style. Luckily, styles make fights, and this should be quite the show. Expect Healy to close the distance and get out of Masvidal’s peppering range so he can make the fight into a dirty boxing session that would make Randy Couture proud. From there, it will be a battle of the takedowns vs takedown defense. Healy has a better submission game, and is likely stronger than Masvidal, but Jorge is a little more eloquent in his overall game, and may be able to finesse a win here with his superior cardio and range.
A personal favorite of mine, Jordan Mein (27-9) took a year off after averaging about five fights a year since he began fighting in 2006 after he lost to Matt Brown in a spectacular fight at UFC on FOX: Henderson vs Melendez. We’ll see if his return to the drawing board made a difference, as he’s facing incoming welterweight Hernani Perpetuo (17-3), a late replacement fighting out of the famed Nova Uniao camp of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I know I’m high on this card, and this is just another reason why – both of these guys bring it. While I don’t have the most tape on Perpetuo, his seven KOs and four submissions are impressive, and Mein can fight from just about everywhere. The big issue is Mein’s submission defense. He’s improved with each outing, but he hasn’t fought a ground fighter quite as good as Perpetuo in his career. On the feet, this should be Mein, but it could also devolve into an all out war, with blood soaking the inside of the Octagon. It could also be a smooth transition battle if Perpetuo gets him down and on top of the Canadian, but all signs point to – stand up war. In which case, bet for the TKO win in some sort of parlay, leaning towards Mein.
Estevan Payan (14-5-1) has his back against the wall/cage, as he’s lost his last two fights in a row, but he may see the light at the end of the tunnel, because he’s facing a second late-replacement in Alex White (9-0). White has overcome plenty of adversity in his life – homelessness, bullying and now he’s climbing another mountain when he takes on Payan with little notice. Still, Alex has finished all but one of his fights, subbing six opponents on the independent circuit. Both men will likely lay it all out on the line, with Payan having the massive training and quality opponent advantage.