With all the buzz surrounding the UFC 97 main card, there has been little talk about the under card. As of late, the prelim bouts have been producing some great fights. Of those, many have been tv-worthy and made it onto the pay-per-view.
With that being the case, I anticipate 97 being action-packed. Let’s dig into what these prelim match-ups mean, and what to expect.
Xavier Foupa-Pokam (20-9-0) vs. Denis Kang (31-11-1): No-one is saying much about Pokam, because hardly any mainstream fans know anything about him. Here’s something to know – he’s on a seven fight win streak and fresh off a flying knee KO victory. Talk about momentum, right? Kang however, knows how to put together a win against tough competition and will surely be looking to make amends for his UFC debut loss to Belcher. I’d say there’s more pressure on Kang here, than the newcomer. The difference though, will be that Kang knows how to maintain composure under the big lights.
Ed Herman (16-6-0) vs. David Loiseau (18-8-0): Herman’s lost two in a row and has publicly stated he’s fighting to keep his job. On the other hand, we have a solid David “The Crow” Loiseau who is re-entering the UFC after stringing together impressive victories outside of the Octagon over the past couple years. Loiseau trains with GSP, and the Canadian has proven he possesses vicious ground-and-pound as well as KO power in his striking. Herman’s tough, but this is one heck of a challenge in fighting a hungry, and extremely talented Loiseau.
Sam Stout (14-5-1) vs. Matt Wiman (10-4-0): Stout has won two and lost four in the UFC, but is an example of a fighter who is truly better than his record reflects. Wiman will look to bounce back from a 2008 loss to Jim Miller, but will need to bring his A game, as Stout has shown his striking to be among the best in the world. I’m expecting a war between these two. Look for Wiman to work his ground game when Sam’s punches become too much to handle.
Jason MacDonald (22-11-0) vs. Nate Quarry (16-3-0): Outside of the Liddell fight, this is the match-up I am most looking forward to. Quarry and MacDonald are both coming off disappointing losses, but are some of the most resilient guys in the middleweight roster. Quarry has been training on the ground more to prepare for the submission game of MacDonald, and will bring his always razor sharp striking into this match. MacDonald needs to keep his mental game strong, as conditioning has never been the aspect in question.
Eliot Marshall (6-2-0) vs. Vinny Magalhaes (3-3-1): This could turn into a ground battle as the two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialists may look to test each others’ submission defense, but don’t be surprised if Marshall comes into the fight with improved striking. Also remember, Marshall is coming off a submission win and Magalhaes most recently suffered a brutal TKO loss to Ryan Bader.
Mark Bocek (6-2-0) vs. David Bielkheden (13-6-0): This is a mystery fight in terms of how it will go, as Bocek likes to work for the submission, but Bielkheden having no problem standing with his opponents. Match-ups like these make for potential fireworks that come out of the woodwork. Both men have momentum, coming off respective wins.
Ryo Chonan (15-9-0) vs. TJ Grant (13-2-0): Grant’s a submission specialist and is cruising on a four fight win streak leading into this UFC debut. He’ll need to rely on those ground skills if he wants to take out opponent Ryo Chonan. “The Piranha” hails from Japan and is looking to increase his stock after a unanimous decision loss to Brad Blackburn in December. Ryo’s comfortable standing up or on the ground and may decide to stuff TJ’s takedowns.
As always, we’ll be providing you with picks/predictions leading up to UFC 97, as well as LIVE fight results.