While all eyes will be on Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche this weekend as they step in to the UFC Octagon for the first time heralding a new era in MMA, the UFC 157 undercard has been overlooked somewhat. Here’s a brief breakdown as to why you should tune in a little early and catch the below fights as they unfold.
Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub (11-3-0) vs. Lavar “Big” Johnson (17-6-0) –
There is a reason why this fight was chosen as the prelims headliner. This is a do not blink fight that has the very real potential of a devastating finish. This should act as the perfect lead in fight for those on the fence about whether or not to shell out for the night’s main card as both men have scary knockout power and are not afraid to use it. Last time out, Schaub was on the receiving end of his second successive KO loss and Johnson found himself tapping out to an armbar courtesy of Stefan Struve. Both combatants need a victory to help regain some of that lost momentum. A win for either fighter cements their gatekeeper status in the heavyweight division, but a defeat will inevitably raise questions that neither fighter would like asked.
Michael “Maverick” Chiesa (8-0-0) vs. Anton Kuivanen (17-5-0) -
Michael Chiesa will be making his first appearance in the Octagon since he was crowned The Ultimate Fighter 15 lightweight champion having defeated Al Iaquinta via 1st round submission back in June of last year. First up for Chiesa will be Finnish fighter Anton Kuivanen. Having built up a respectable resume in Europe, Kuivanen has begun his UFC career in fairly anonymous fashion going 1-1-0 with both fights going the distance. This match-up, while competitive, feels as though it has been arranged by the UFC so as to ease Chiesa in to the deep waters of the lightweight division. This may be as a result of having seen recent TUF champs rushed in to higher level fights too soon and left somewhat exposed.
Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez (9-3-0) vs. Matt “The Real One” Grice (15-4-0) -
Having lost out to Diego Brandao in The Ultimate Fighter 14 featherweight final, Bermudez has rebounded with two straight victories and looked dangerous doing so. With his strong physique, knockout power and ever-improving ground game, Bermudez can be a future force in the division if nurtured correctly. Bermudez will be facing up to the 19-fight veteran Matt Grice. Grice, who is in his second stint with the UFC, has only suffered one defeat in his last six, which came against Ricardo Lamas in his Octagon return, but he soon bounced back with a decision victory over Leonard Garcia. Grice will offer Bermudez a real test of his credentials thanks to his well-rounded MMA game and superior fighting experience.
Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout (18-8-1) vs. Caros “The Future” Fodor (7-2-0) –
Caros Fodor was on a five fight win streak in Strikeforce and had begun to look like a potential contender in the shallow Strikeforce lightweight division. Fodor’s momentum was derailed in his last fight however when he came up against the ever-tough Pat Healy in the now defunct promotion. Fodor will look to get back on the right track and in the win column in this, his Octagon debut against the 14-fight UFC veteran Sam Stout. While he has compiled an even 7-7 record in his UFC career to date and ties for 6th on the all-time UFC fight night bonus recipients list, Stout has not looked the same fighter since the passing of his brother-in-law, friend and coach Shawn Tompkins. However, Stout is still a dangerous opponent for many UFC lightweights and his come forward style coupled with a reliance on his striking does tend to produce an exciting fight for the fans.
John Manley (7-1-0) v Neil Magny (7-1-0) –
Welterweights Manley and Magny will square off in a showdown between two ‘The Ultimate Fighter 16′ alums. On the back of a disappointing TUF season and with very few contestants making the season finale card, let alone being retained by the UFC, this fight very much has the feel of a loser leaves town scenario.
Nah-Shon “The Rock-N-Rolla” Burrell (8-2-0) vs. Yuri Villefort (6-1-0) –
The UFC 157 prelims kick off with a welterweight bout between two up-and-comers who have migrated over from Strikeforce and are both making their UFC debuts.