In one of the most anticipated fights of the year, Georges St-Pierre will defend his UFC welterweight championship against the polarizing figure of Nick Diaz this Saturday at UFC 158 in Montreal, Canada. With those pesky press conferences out of the way and completed with minimal fuss we can all look forward to a contest over 18 months in the making and one that should surely be worth the wait. But before GSP, Diaz and a plethora of other 170lbs standouts enter the Octagon as a part of the main card; there are several fights of value and significance to be found on the undercard. Here’s why you should be paying attention a little earlier on Saturday night.
Patrick “The Predator” Cote (18-8-0) vs. Bobby “Vicious” Voelker (24-8-0) -
Cote will be making his welterweight debut at UFC 158, having seen a rematch with middleweight Alessio Sakara nixed when Sakara was forced out of the fight through illness. Cote, who is best known for unsuccessfully challenging Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title back in 2008, is in his second stint with the world’s premier MMA promotion and has started life back in the UFC in unconvincing fashion. Cote returned to the UFC with a loss against Cung Le in a rather lacklustre outing and was last seen sneaking a DQ victory over the aforementioned Sakara as a result of strikes to the back of his head. Cote will need his previously dangerous striking to be on point if he is to take home the W this Saturday but in an unfamiliar weight class and with his form appearing to have deserted him; this could be a long night for “The Predator”. After starring for Strikeforce in its prospect-driven Challengers series, Bobby Voelker will be making his first appearance for the UFC this weekend and his first fight since a July 2011 victory over Roger Bowling. Voelker possesses heavy hands and not a lot else, however in Cote, Voelker has an opponent who is more than willing to oblige him in a stand-up battle which will likely leave the fans happy and the judges with very little to do.
Dan Miller (14-6-0) vs. Jordan “Young Gun” Mein (28-6-0) -
Having taken a brief break from fighting to care for his son, Miller returns to the Octagon this Saturday to take on the debuting Jordan Mein. Last time we saw Miller it was June 2012 and he had completed a successful transition to the welterweight division by submitting Ricardo Funch, this after having spent his entire career competing as a middleweight. Dan Miller can be a dangerous opponent for most on his day as he is a durable, well-rounded mixed martial artist who has displayed his stellar submission skills on numerous occasions. Mein’s record compared with his age does not make sense on paper. On the one side of the sheet, Mein is a 23-year old prospect making his UFC debut; and on the other Mein has fought a sizeable 34 times and been in the cage with welterweight names such as Tyron Woodley, Evangelista Cyborg and Marius Zaromskis. I suppose the correlation between these two factors becomes a little clearer when you realise that Mein’s first amateur fight took place when he was just 14. Mein is a fierce striker who will enter this fight with a substantial advantage on the feet over Miller and should look to avoid the mat to secure victory for fear of playing in to Miller’s active submission game.
John “The Bull” Makdessi (10-2-0) vs. Daron “The Detroit Superstar” Cruickshank (12-2-0) -
If this fight manages to go all three rounds, I will be very surprised. Both Makdessi and Cruickshank have big knockout power and very aggressive striking games with more than half of each man’s victories coming via KO or TKO. In Makdessi’s last Octagon appearance he was seen out-pointing Sam Stout at UFC 154 to halt a two-fight losing skid which had derailed the building hype around the Canadian lightweight. Cruickshank, a former competitor on The Ultimate Fighter, is coming in to this bout on the back of a devastating KO win over Henry Martinez at UFC on Fox 5 which extended his current win streak to six, the best of his career so far. Put this one down as a serious contender for Fight of the Night if both men revert to type.
Rick “The Horror” Story (14-6-0) vs. Quinn Mulhern (18-2-0) -
Having reeled off a six-fight win streak including wins over Johnny Hendricks and Thiago Silva, by early 2011 Rick Story was being talked about as a serious contender and future title challenger in the welterweight division. Fast forward to the present day and Story is 1-3 in his last four fights and is coming in to this bout on Saturday fresh from having his head squeezed like a California orange at the hands Demian Maia at UFC 153. If you haven’t seen this, look it up. It’s disgusting. You’ll love it. Up against Story and making his promotional debut is Strikeforce veteran Quinn Mulhern. Mulhern brings in to this fight a great deal of experience and success from his time spent with King Of The Cage where he managed to capture the promotions welterweight title back in 2010. In more recent news, Mulhern has managed to compile a 9-1 record in his last 10 contests with three of those victories coming recently under the Strikeforce banner, including a notable victory over Brazillian prospect Yuri Villefort last time out. While Mulhern should be able keep his job regardless of the outcome of this fight due to his recent record and because he was a late replacement for the injured Sean Pierson, Story may not be so blessed. Story’s rapid rise to the top of the 170lbs ranks has only been equalled by his drastic fall from grace and another loss in his UFC career may be one too many for his employers to stomach.
TJ Dillashaw (6-1-0) vs. Issei Tamura (7-3-0) -
Since finishing up second best at The Ultimate Fighter season 14 finale, TJ Dillashaw has made steady progress within the bantamweight division. The Team Alpha Male product has dispatched with Walel Watson and Vaughan Lee in his last two outings and on Saturday night Dillashaw will be facing off against Japanese fighter Issei Tamura. While Tamura possesses a smothering grappling style that will pose a problem for several of the UFC’s 135lbers, Dillashaw is not one of these opponents. Dillashaw has a strong collegiate wrestling background which has transitioned well to MMA, solid submission skills as well as a developing striking game that should be more than enough to handle Tamura with relative ease and reaffirm Dillashaw’s prospect status.
George Roop (12-9-0) vs. Reuben Duran (8-4-0) -
First up on the undercard is a bantamweight tussle between George Roop and Reuben Duran. Roop is making his 135lbs comeback after being on the losing end in three of his four UFC fights as a featherweight. Duran has also hit a rough patch in his UFC career as he has only the one victory in his last three contests. While these aren’t the elite of the division, Roop’s aggressive style and Duran’s durability should prove to be worth a watch.