Leave it to the up and comers and hungry want to be's to pick up the slack for the UFC after last weekend's sub-par UFC 130 card. TUF 13 finalists Tony 'El Cucuy' Ferguson and Ramsey Nijem, along with lightweight contenders Clay 'The Carpenter' Guida (pictured at left) and Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis did what the headliners last week couldn't do; excite the crowd. With that, we have a new TUF tournament champion and a potential number one contender for the lightweight (155 lbs.) championship.
First, in the main event of the evening, Ferguson (11-2, 7 KO's 3 subs), a participant in season 13 of 'The Ultimate Fighter' (TUF) reality series, became this season's champ with a slick and convincing first round knockout over fellow TUF alum Nijem (4-2, 1 KO, 2 subs). Ferguson, a welterweight (170 lbs.) who fights out of Oxnard, California, a legendary hotbed for boxing, displayed those same boxing skills in picking apart his opponent and eventually landing a crushing left hook to the jaw. Ferguson was representing ailing UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar who was his coach on the show.
Meanwhile Nijem, who was representing number one heavyweight contender Junior Dos Santos, never got a chance to put to use the dominant wrestling skills that helped propel him to the finals. In winning, Ferguson secures a guaranteed six-figure contract with the UFC. Neither Lesnar, nor Dos Santos were present at the event due to Lesnar recovering from his second bout with Diverticulitis and Dos Santos preparing for his big fight next weekend, which I'll preview below.
While in the main event, it was a case of the striker defeating the wrestler, just the opposite happened in the co-main event. In that fight, it was the grappler Guida who was able to implement his wrestling and use it to garner a unanimous three-round decision over Pettis. Pettis, the last World Extreme Cagefighting Champion, did all he could to live up to his nickname 'Showtime', even attempting a roundhouse kick to the face off his back, but it wasn't enough to combat Guida's relentless ground and pound attack.
Guida (29-11, 4 KO's, 11 subs), a fan favorite because of his non-stop energetic frantic style, is now riding a four-fight win streak, including three submission finishes, and has propelled himself right in line to potentially fight the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard III. That fight of course will be for the lightweight championship of the world. Meanwhile Pettis (13-2, 5 KO's, 6 subs) at only 24 years of age, even with the loss remains at the top tier of the division as he continues to evolve his exciting game.
Now, onto the big boys and UFC 131 next Saturday June 11; this will feature heavyweight contenders Shane Carwin and the aforementioned Junior Dos Santos in the main event. Don't sleep, let alone blink on this one, because I anticipate it will not last long. Dos Santos (12-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) is undefeated in six fights in the UFC, winning all but one via TKO. Originally scheduled to fight Lesnar before he became ill, he now faces Carwin who possesses the exact record at (12-1, 7 KO's 5 subs).
Carwin is far from a throw in replacement, as he is a former interim world champion and possesses a very similar fighting style to Lesnar. I truly believe one punch is going to determine the outcome of this fight and it can easily come from either fighter, but I am predicting in the end it will be Dos Santos who will be left standing. While the book is still out on whether or not Dos Santos can fight off his back, which is a strong possibility against Carwin the wrestler that is still a mystery.
Meanwhile, we have seen a flaw in Carwin's game when he gassed against Lesnar and ended up getting submitted. According to Carwin, he has addressed this issue by changing his nutrition and training regimen. However, it is that one flaw and the fact that I believe Dos Santos is the better boxer that I give him the nod here.
One other fight I am looking forward to on this card features former lightweight contender Kenny 'Ken-Flo' Florian (13-5, 3 KO's, 9 subs) who will be making his featherweight (145 lbs.) debut. His opponent will be natural featherweight contender Diego 'The Gun' Nunes (16-1, 5 KO's, 6 subs). These are two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists with a wide array of striking skills as well. It will be interesting to see whether Florian can be as effective at 145 and whether Nunes can deal with Florian's size and experience; my pick is Florian by decision. We'll find out soon enough, enjoy the fights.