The UFC left 2015 in a cloud of dust with one of the most dynamic cards of the year. Now, it looks to resurrect the magic to bring 2016 to life. On Saturday, at UFC 195 in Vegas, fight fans should (hopefully) be over their New Year’s Day hangovers and ready for a memorable kick-off to 2016.
Just two days into January, Saturday’s main event is already plastered with the makings of a Fight-of-the-Year candidate. Not far behind in the barnburner-potential category is a Heavyweight co-main event with serious title implications.
Add to that a handful of entertaining main-card scraps and a healthy offering of fun prelim fights, and we’ve got ourselves resolved for a great year inside the Octagon.
Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit (Welterweight Championship)
If you happen to know someone who knows nothing about MMA or has never seen a fight before, making them tune into the welterweight championship showdown between Robbie Lawler (26-10:11-4) and Carlos Condit (30-8; 7-4) may have them thanking you for changing their lives into that of a lifelong MMA fan. This one has the potential to steal any show on which it would happen to occur .
The champion’s resurgence into the baddest 170lb fighter walking the planet is now one of lore as “Ruthless” has catapulted from the reckless, grinning sledgehammer we remember wading into fire to pummel the Chris Lytle’s and Tiki’s of the world, to the slightly-less-reckless, grinning sledgehammer who, in his most recent fight, defended his belt for the first time in an all-out war with Rory McDonald in one of the greatest fights we have ever witnessed. In the past couple of years, we have seen the emergence of a more calculated, technical, albeit still devastating, striker as Lawler has reaped the benefits of his newfound discipline and found success against some of the world’s best.
The champ will undoubtedly require that discipline to stifle the challenge of Condit, who again will chase the undisputed title which has thus far eluded him. Condit suffered an unfortunate injury in a TKO loss to Tyron Woodley that kept him sidelined for more than a year. When he returned, however, “The Natural Born Killer” did so with gusto, battering and slicing Thiago Alves before doctors intervened between the second and third rounds.
While the brutal power of Lawler is undeniable, Condit is one of Greg Jackson’s finest and will not only bring a sound game plan but a stellar muay Thai attack and a slick submission game that lends him the confidence to commit to his diverse striking attack.
While the champ is no doubt a force to be reckoned with, with the capability of ending this fight in a blink, make no mistake, Condit will bring Lawler as great a challenge as he’s faced in his career. This one will be one for the books.
Andrei Arlovski vs Stipe Miocic
In a battle of the big dogs, surging, and resurging, contenders Andrei Arlovski (25-10; 14-4) and Stipe Miocic (13-2;7-2) will go to war in what will likely crown the next contender to challenge the victor in the upcoming rematch between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. Even without the title implications, this one is appointment viewing.
Arlovski has had more ups and downs in his career than an EKG but recently, he has been riding high. The “Pitbull” is currently riding a 6-fight winning streak into Saturday’s co-headliner, 4 of which have come since his return to the UFC. Arlovski’s recent career resurrection has included wins over top contenders Antonio Silva and Travis Browne as well as former champion Frank Mir.
Arlovski has possibly only one more hurdle left to clear before a potential shot at the heavyweight title but that hurdle is a tall one. Stipe Miocic is also the owner of an impressive recent resume sitting at 4-1 in his last five fights with the lone loss coming at the always dangerous hands of former champ, Junior dos Santos. Like Arlovski, Miocic is potentially one emphatic win away from title contention and dispatching the former champ would certainly help his cause.
While Arlovski’s history of violence needs little explanation, let’s remind ourselves that “The Pitbull” is one of the divisions more well-rounded fighters with both incredible knockouts and submissions littering his record. Miocic, on the other hand, possesses a crisp boxing game, complemented by a Division-1 collegiate wrestling background that has made him a handful for every opponent he has faced so far. Saturday night will be no different as both men will look to play to their own strengths and avoid that of their opponent. If these two big men bring the action they are both capable of, the winner should leave no doubt of a claim to the title shot.
Lorenz Larkin vs Albert Tumenov
Welterweights Lorenz Larkin (16-4; 3-4) and Albert Tumenov (16-2; 4-1) will look to break out of the pack and into the proverbial mix as they square off in their mid-card bout at 195. Both 170-pounders have seen great success as of late and each will look to continue theirs with a decisive win.
A 3-fight losing streak at middleweight had Larkin rethinking how his career would play out. Ultimately, “The Monsoon” decided to make the drop to 170 and the results have been impressive. Larkin is the owner of a very diverse and creative array of attacks and has used them since his drop to welterweight, scoring impressive knockouts of Santiago Ponzinibbio and John Howard. Larkin is looking to recreate that success this weekend.
Tumenov, however, will be no easy challenge for the adopted welterweight. Currently riding a 4-fight win streak, including 3 impressive stoppages, Tumenov will certainly be looking to break into challenges with higher ranked opponents with an impressive win. A well-rounded striker in his own right, “Einstein” has shown to be opportunistic, adapting range and mixing in takedowns very well.
At their best, these are two of the 170lb division’s most exciting fighters and fans could be in for a treat if both show up Saturday on their A-game.
Diego Brandao vs Brian Ortega
Likely to be the highest-paced fight of the main card, TUF: season 14-winner, Diego Brandao (20-10; 6-3) goes to war with (technically) unbeaten prospect Brian Ortega (9-0-1; 1-0-1).
After suffering back-to-back first-round knockouts to two of the featherweight division’s best in now-lightweight Dustin Poirier and now-champ Conor McGregor, TUF winner, Brandao has bounced back nicely with stoppages of Jim Hettes and Katsunori Kikuno. Brandao is an ever-aggressive fighter with a varied arsenal of attacks on the feet, possessing power in both his hands and feet as well as a lightning-quick submission game that begs viewers not to blink, lest they be scouring replays for a glimpse of the finish.
Brandao will look to play spoiler to the rise of loss-less Ortega who, while scoring sensational finishes over Thiago Tavares and Mike De La Torre, had his submission of De La Torre overturned when his post-fight drug test showed Drostanalone in his system. Rebounding from the infraction with his TKO of Tavares, Ortega looks to get the ground back under his feet with another exciting finish. Ortega is one of the most exciting in the division and has often showed to be wild and a little reckless, however, with a nasty guard game like he displays, he brings the confidence of fighting, and winning, off his back.
Although both fighters have shown increased polish to their skills over their recent fights, neither has shown the ability to resist an all-out brawl. Look for this one to get crazy before it gets pretty.
Tony Sims vs Abel Trujillo
After Kelvin Gastelum fell off the card with a late injury, the lightweight matchup of Abel Trujillo (12-7; 3-3) and Tony Sims (12-3; 1-1) gets a main card bump to the night’s opener.
Trujillo is looking to snap a 2-fight skid of back-to-back submission losses in Saturday’s main card opener. Prior to suffering losses to Gleison Tibau and Tony Ferguson, “Killa” had put together back-to-back KO’s of Jamie Varner and Roger Bowling. Trujillo is a scary-powerful striker, but has shown a noticeable lack of discipline when engaged in a firefight, often willing to eat a few to give a few. Regardless of this reckless nature, the danger he brings is clear and present and he still possesses quick fight-ending ability.
Sims made his UFC debut in June with a spectacular first-round KO of Steve Montgomery, but fell short in his sophomore appearance, dropping a unanimous decision to Olivier Aubin-Mercier. “2.0” brings a strike-heavy attack to the cage on Saturday. Very active on his feet, Sims’ footwork allows him to work angles from both the south and north paws. Sims hands have proven very heavy in the past and that could benefit him greatly, should his opponent get wild and careless.
While this fight is likely to take place solely on the feet, save for a knockdown or two, it may very well be the man who can dictate where this one takes place with his hand raised at the end. Either way, these guys have an opportunity to shine and benefit from the late shuffle to pay-per-view.
Preliminary Bouts (Fox Sports 1)
Masanori Kanehara (25-12; 1-1) vs Michael McDonald (16-3; 5-2)
Nina Ansaroff (6-4; 0-1) vs Justine Kish (4-0; 0-0)
Drew Dober (15-7-1; 1-3-1) vs Scott Holtzman (8-0; 1-0)
Kyle Noke (22-7-1; 6-3) vs Alex Morono (11-3; 0-0)
Early Preliminary Bouts (UFC Fight pass)
Joseph Duffy (14-1; 2-0) vs Dustin Poirier (18-4; 10-3)
Joe Soto (15-4; 0-2) vs Michinori Tanaka (10-1; 1-1)
Edgar Garcia (14-4; 0-1) vs Sheldon Westcott (8-3; 0-2)