UFC fans, it’s that time of the year. The uFC puts forth four FOX cards every 12 months, with a late January card, mid/late April card, late July card, and mid-December card being the norm over the past few years.
Occasionally, a championship bout headlines a FOX card, but that has not been the case since December of 2013, when Demetrious Johnson knocked out Joseph Benavidez to retain his Flyweight strap. As a result, some FOX cards have been, well, subpar.
However, the tonight’s card might just be the perfect FOX card! In a time where the UFC is scheduling multiple title fights for every pay-per-view event, it’s become typical for the headlining bout of FOX cards to be top contender bouts. Tonight’s card offers just that.
Overall, the card is stacked. Every single bout, from the opening Fight Pass battle to the headlining tilt, is intriguing. Usually, I don’t watch Fight Pass prelim fights. When those fights used to air on youtube and Facebook, I always tuned in. Nowadays, I only tune in whenever there’s a Women’s Strawweight fight on that portion of a card, a la PVZ/Curran back in November, or Gadelha/Lahdemaki.
The only time I actually cared about an entire Fight Pass section of a card was UFC 185, when I actually attended the entire card from the start. This FIght Pass portion, however, might be even better than that of UFC 185. After all, how many cards are opened up by a recent TUF winner? Alas, Eddie Gordon was just that, having won TUF 19 just over nine months ago. Granted, he may not be the most entertaining fighter, but for him to be placed so low on a card serves as proof as to just how laded this card is.
The other two Fight Pass bouts are definitely worth checking out as well. The Diego Brandao/ JimmyHettes is a fight between two finishers with terrific submission skills. On top of that, Brandao is a knockout artist. Even though he gasses out relatively quickly, he has big-time finishing skills. So, either he’ll get the quick finish, or Hettes will get it done once Brandao gasses. Regardless, this is a fight that could still make it on the main card of several Brazilian UFC offerings. And yet, it finds itself deep within the corners of this card.
Simply put, the two Fight Pass headliners deserve better than their spot. George Sullivan has won 12 of his last 13 fights, and is 2-0 in the UFC. Oh, and he’s a knockout artist. Meanwhile, Tim Means has won three straight UFC fights since returning to the promotion with a loss to Neil Magny, and he’s won 16 fights via knockout. And yet, this will be his second time on Fight Pass since his return. This fight could make it on a televised portion of any card, and yet it too finds itself buried on the Fight Pass Prelims.
As for the televised prelims, well, they would be a perfect undercard for any Fight Night main card. The opening bout between Takeya Mizugaki and Aljamain Sterling is definitely worthy of being on FOX. Simply put, it is a good fight. Both fighters are skilled, and near contender status in the shallow Bantamweight division. The fight may not be entertaining from bell to bell, and it will likely go to decision, but it’s a terrific bout nonetheless.
The follow-up bout between Cory Anderson and Gian Villante holds a lot of intrigue as well. Anderson was the other winner from TUF 19, while Villante is a local MMA journeyman who returns to the New Jersey area, in a fight where virtually anything can happen.
The top to prelim bouts are nothing short of spectacular. Ovince St. Preux is one of the most dynamic fighters in the UFC, but he struggles with wrestlers. Patrick Cummins is just that, a very good wrestler. However, his chin is not the best, and OSP is as shifty as they come. Whether he learned anything from the fight against Bader is unknown, so this fight could deliver, or be a snoozefest.
As for Beneil Dariush vs. Jim Miller, the fight between these two prelim headliners should be nothing short of great. Both fighters always bring it, and since Miller is basically a gatekeeper at this point, a win for Dariush could make him a fighter that could viewed as a contender, sooner rather than later. That said, Miller has faced a lot of opponents that were in the same situation as Dariush is in at the moment. More often than not, he prevails. Will Dariush be able to tear through that curtain, or will Miller come away with a big win? Regardless, the fight should be a good one.
And then, there’s the main card. Simply put, there’s something for everyone. For those who enjoy female fights that could either be great or boring, there’s Felice Herrig vs. Paige Vanzant. What about a fight that’s sure to be fast-paced and entertaining from bell to bell? Worry not, as Cub Swanson and Max Holloway have that covered. For fans of squash matches, Jacare Souza vs. Chris Camozzi 2 will likely be just that.
Oh, and there’s that main event, too. Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida are amongst the cream of the crop in the Middleweight division, amassing quite a lot of success over their time in the sport. Rockhold was the final StrikeForce Middleweight champion, whose stock spiraled out of control after Vitor Belfort head-kicked him into oblivion back in May 2013. He has since won three straight fights, all via unique finishes, and finds himself on the cusp of a title shot with a win tonight.
Standing in Rockhold’s way is “The Dragon” himself, Lyoto Machida. Arguably the best Karate practitioner in MMA history, the former Light Heavyweight champion finally dropped down to Middleweight, after getting robbed at UFC 163 against Phil Davis in August 2013. He has since won three of four fights, with the lone loss coming in last July’s title fight against Chris Weidman. Despite a ridiculously slow start, something he has been known for, the counter striker roared back in the final two rounds of the classic bout, making tonight’s fight the quintessential title eliminator. He won his follow up fight against CB Dolloway last December, and a win tonight will get him that shot.
From a grading perspective, the Fight Pass card deserves a perfect 10/10, while the FOX prelims and main card each get an 8/10. Overall, this card gets about a 9 out of 10, and that makes this a virtually perfect FOX card, in my book.