This column highlights five past bouts from fighters competing on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 58. These fights represent some of the highest moments in the careers of their respective participants, and should serve to pique your interest heading into the event. 1. Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader – UFC on Fox 4 Upcoming Bout: Lyoto Machida vs. CB Dollaway
Facing an Arizona-based wrestler on Saturday night, it’s only fitting that we go back to take a look at the last time Machida faced a member of the Power MMA team. On that night back in August of 2012, Bader needed to employ a similar gameplan to what Dollaway will look to do, and it didn’t turn out so well. Machida was able to keep Bader at range, slow the fight down and eventually when the wrestler got frustrated trying to work from the outside, he got caught rushing in.
Of course, if Machida can’t land that solid counter, who’s to say this fight doesn’t end up like the ‘Rampage’ or Phil Davis fights, where his output simply isn’t enough to sway the judges against a more aggressive opponent? Of course, he’ll have five rounds to land something against Dollaway, whereas he only got three in those other bouts, so he likely is able to find the strike he landed on Bader, but going back to watch Dollaway’s teammate could be very instructive as to what we see on Saturday night.
2. Renan Barao vs. Brad Pickett – UFC 139 Upcoming Bout: Renan Barao vs. Mitch Gagnon
I think lost in the aftermath of UFC 173 and UFC 177 is just how good Renan Barao is in pretty much every area of MMA. This fight against Brad Pickett was really his coming out party as a legitimate bantamweight contender, and given how both Pickett and Gagnon are very aggressive starters, and I can see how we might see something similar when Barao makes his return to the Octagon.
Pickett came out swinging in this one, and it took all of one combination for Barao to stun him with some return fire. Being the tough/stubborn fighter that he is, Pickett kept marching forward into more strikes until eventually Barao dropped him with a knee followed up by about a 30-punch combination. He then dished out some ground-and-pound before executing one of the more physics-altering back takes in MMA history.
As I said earlier, I could see something similar happening in the Gagnon fight, but there are a couple hints throughout this fight that Barao doesn’t react overly well to getting hit, so perhaps a glimmer of hope remains for the Canadian come Saturday night.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksrxNoes1Mo 3. Mitch Gagnon vs. Rejean Groulx – Ringside MMA 10 Upcoming Bout: Mitch Gagnon vs. Renan Barao
I’ve always enjoyed this bout, and I’ve seen it a handful of times already. I must say however, going back and watching it this time around, I was shocked at how much Gagnon’s game has improved. His striking looks pretty terrible in this bout, as he seems afraid to exchange. Contrasted with the almost bull-like striking that he uses now, it’s a testament to what putting in the right work can do. Aside from that, the fight is just fun. Groulx was game, firing back with combinations in exchanges, and surviving some predicaments on the ground that many have not been able to escape.
I’m not going to pretend that this will offer any insight to Gagnon’s upcoming bout against Barao, so just sit back, grab the popcorn, and enjoy this one instead.
4. Yuta Sasaki vs Yo Saito – Shooto Rookie Tournament Final 2010 Upcoming Bout: Yuta Sasaki vs. Leandro Issa
I could watch Yuta Sasaki grapple all day. First, he’s a very good grappler, but there are a lot of fighters who are good grapplers that don’t exactly compel you to watch. Almost as important as his competency is how much fun he is to watch. In just his fifth MMA fight, Sasaki showed glimpses of what he has become, as the grappling has always been there. His striking is still a work in progress, but at least he’s not afraid to throw.
At one point in the first round, Sasaki is framing a triangle and his opponent lifts him up for a slam. Instead of taking the slam, Sasaki rotates himself in mid-air to threaten with an armbar instead. There are some wonderful grappling moments from Sasaki in this bout, and I imagine we’re going to see plenty more over the next few years in the UFC.
5. Jake Collier vs. Gabriel Checco – RFA 19 Upcoming Bout: Jake Collier vs. Vitor Miranda
Jake Collier is definitely a solid prospect, but he faces an interesting test in his UFC debut. This fight shows Collier facing a grappler in Checco, but on Saturday night he’ll be taking on a fairly technical kickboxer in Vitor Miranda. Despite Miranda having the more polished striking game, I think Collier can do some good work on the feet in this one with his decent counter-punching, and his solid kicking game (especially to the body of a fighter who has never cut down to middleweight before).
The big edge for Collier will come if he can get Miranda to the ground. Checco has a far more dangerous submission game than ‘Lex Luthor’, and Collier dealt with him well on the ground. I expect him to be more willing to stay on top if he gets there against Miranda, and that will help the prospect wear down the aging Miranda. It’s not the easiest UFC debut ever, but I still feel like Collier can make a good first impression.