CUNG LE (7-2, O-1 UFC) vs. PATRICK COTE (17-7, 4-7 UFC)
Patrick Cote makes his Octagon return after winning four fights in a row in lower MMA organizations. He is replacing Rich Franklin, who took the place of Vitor Belfort, in the UFC 147 main event against Wanderlei Silva. Patrick Cote was once regarded as one of the best middleweight fighters in the world. He challenged Anderson Silva at UFC 90 and was the first fighter to ever make it to the third round against the middleweight champ.
Cote busted his knee in the third round and tore his ACL. He was never the same fighter for the next two years following this injury. However, things have changed for Cote over his past four fights and he looks to continue his recent success against one of the most dangerous strikers in MMA.
Cung Le was one of the best fighters to fight in Strikeforce. Le dismantled Frank Shamrock to win the Strikeforce middleweight belt in 2008. Le had other things on his mind though, and starred in multiple movies to build his acting career. However, he still had that itch inside to get back to MMA. He made his UFC debut on Nov. 19, 2011, and went toe-to-toe with Wanderlei Silva. Silva won via TKO in round two, but Le showed he can hang with one of the best strikers in the world. Le looked gassed in that fight and Silva took advantage of it. If Le comes in shape and doesn't gas out after round one, Patrick Cote will have his hands full.
This is a huge fight for both of these men. Cote needs a win so he can stay in the UFC. Le needs a victory so he can keep getting big fights inside the Octagon to make the big paydays. Cung Le is one of the most dynamic strikers in MMA. Patrick Cote brings heavy hands to the table and if he connects you are in deep trouble.
This should be a very exciting fight with both guys keeping the fight on the ground. Cung Le is the favorite entering the fight, but Patrick Cote has a ton to prove and he wants to make a statement that he is here to stay in the UFC. I could see this one stealing fight of the night honors along with the knockout of the night bonus.
DONG HYUN KIM (15-1-1, 6-1 UFC) vs. DEMIAN MAIA (15-4, 9-4 UFC)
Both of these fighters are two guys that continue to go under the radar. Kim is one of the best judo fighters in the world. Maia is one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters in MMA history. Whoever can control the pace of the fight will walk away victorious.
Kim's only loss in his career was to the current interim welterweight champ, Carlos Condit. Kim has beaten the likes of Nate Diaz, Sean Pierson, Amir Sadollah, T.J. Grant, and Matt Brown during his UFC career. He is the reason why Nate Diaz moved down a weight division. Kim dominated Diaz for three rounds, which is very rare.
Maia is capable of being one of the best fighters in the welterweight division. This will be his first fight at 170-pounds after dropping down from 185. He is hoping a change in weight class will help him get to a title shot quicker. However, he has gotten away from what he is best at. His boxing has improved since his UFC debut in 2007, but he depends on it too much. His submission game is off the charts. Eight of his career fifteen wins have been via submission. Maia has fought the best of the best, and earned a title shot against Anderson Silva at UFC 112. He lost via decision, but showed he can take some shots.
This will be an interesting fight. Both of these guys are the best at what they do and it will come down to who can implement their game plan. If Maia can find a way to get it to the ground he will have a good chance to lock up a submission. Kim wants to keep the fight standing so he can put his judo-attack in full effect. This fight will be like a chess match and whoever is patient with their attack will have a good chance at getting checkmate.
CHAD MENDES (11-1, 2-1 UFC) vs. CODY McKENZIE (13-2, 2-2 UFC)
Cody McKenzie has his hands full as he makes his featherweight debut against Chad Mendes. The only time Mendes has tasted defeat was against current featherweight champ, Jose Aldo. Mendes trains with Team Alpha Male, one of the better camps in the world. Cody McKenzie is a very game opponent, and was a fan favorite when he was a member of Team GSP during season 12 of the The Ultimate Fighter.
Everyone knows what Cody McKenzie is going to try. 11 of his 12 wins have been via guillotine choke. He is not the most well-rounded fighter, but he has an excellent chin and can take some big shots. He won't mind when the former "Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year" takes him down. Expect McKenzie to try and sneak in a choke when Mendes tries to put him on his back. McKenzie can lock in a guillotine from any position and won't be scared if he gets put on his back.
Chad Mendes is arguably the second best featherweight in the world. His wrestling pedigree speaks for itself. He wrestled for Cal-Poly State University and finished second in the 2008 NCAA National Championship. He compiled a 30-1 record during his senior year at Poly. He continued his wrestling dominance in his WEC career as he went through the likes of Cub Swanson, Javier Vasquez, Erik Koch, and Anthony Morrison. Mendes is one of the best fighters in the UFC at controlling were the fight goes.
Cody McKenzie trained with Mendes' camp for a few months, Team Alpha Male, after his stint on The Ultimate Fighter 12, and I think this will help Mendes avoid the guillotine choke. That is McKenzie's only real way of pulling out this fight and Mendes will stay out of harms way. Mendes should be able to control the pace of this fight and dominate McKenzie for all three rounds. Chad Mendes needs to have a good showing if he wants to be in consideration for getting a second crack at Jose Aldo's 145-pound belt in the near future. He is two great performances away from getting another shot at the featherweight belt.
MIKE EASTON (12-1, 2-0 UFC) vs. IVAN MENJIVAR (24-8, 3-1 UFC)
This is going to be a very entertaining fight. Not many people have heard of these two men because the bantamweight division is a fairly new division in the UFC. Ivan Menjivar and Mike Easton will look to jump into the top-ten in the 135-pound division.
Ivan Menjivar was close to getting an interim title shot with Urijah Faber after Dominick Cruz tore his ACL. That shot went to Renan Barao instead. Menjivar wants to showcase he should be considered for a title shot in the near future, and he will get his chance on Saturday night against a very good opponent. In Menjivar's 24 wins, he has finished 18 of them. Nine by (T)KO and nine by submission. He has a very well-rounded game and is always looking to finish the fight. Menjivar trains with one of the best camps in the world. Tristar Gym is home for George St. Pierre, Rory MacDonald, and many other top fighters in the world. Expect Menjivar to come in with an excellent game plan to make sure he inches closer to the next title shot in the bantamweight division.
Mike Easton has been on a tear of late and has won his last seven MMA fights. He has a well-rounded attack and is comfortable wherever the fight ends up. He is the underdog heading into this fight with Menjivar, but I would not be shocked to see him pull off the upset. Both of these guys need this fight bad to catapult into the top-ten in the bantamweight division. Easton trains with Alliance MMA, which is one of the top camps in the United States. Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, and Eddie Yagan are just some of the names helping Easton prepare for Saturday night's fight.
This is going to be a very competitive fight and I really would not be shocked to see either one of these guys pull it out. Ivan Menjivar is more well-rounded as a fighter, but Easton is not too far behind. Both of these guys should put on a great fight. Dana White always tries to put on an exciting fight to open the pay-per-view card, and he was right on the money electing these two to start it off.
QUICK GLANCE AT THE PRELIMS
KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV (17-0, 1-0 UFC) vs. GLEISON TIBAU (25-7, 10-5 UFC)
This is a huge fight for both of these guys. Gleison Tibau has won his last three fights inside the Octagon and five of his last six. He is working his way up into the top-ten in the lightweight division. If he puts on a good fight and dominates Nurmagomedov, expect Tibau to get a top-ten lightweight in his next fight. This is a huge step up in competition for the Russian native, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who will look to make a name for himself in his second career UFC fight. If he can pull off the upset he could be a name to pay attention to down the road.
MELVIN GUILLARD (29-10-2, 10-6 UFC) vs. FABRICIO CAMOES (14-6-1, 1-1-1 UFC)
This fight is tailor made for whoever executes their game plan. Melvin Guillard is known for his knock out power and Fabricio Camoes is a dangerous submission artist. Guillard has shown horrible submission defense in his past. If Guillard can keep the fight on the feet, it is trouble for whoever his opponent is. 19 of his 29 MMA victories have been via knockout. In nine of his 10 losses he has lost via submission. Camoes does not want to stand toe-to-toe with Guillard. If he can find a way to get this fight to the ground his chances skyrocket. Guillard has been training with the Blackzilians, and spent time in Greg Jackson's Camp, so he should know he has the experience and should be able to execute his game plan. Guillard has faced off against some of the best fighters in the 155-pound division and this should play a factor in this fight.
CONSTANTINOS PHILIPPOU (10-2, 3-1 UFC) vs. RIKI FUKUDA (18-5, 1-1 UFC)
Constantinos Philippou has quietly been on the rise in the middleweight division. He has won his last three fights against three very solid opponents. He beat Jorge Rivera, Jared Hamman, and Court McGee (winner of season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter.) If he wins his fourth straight fight inside the Octagon convincingly, his next opponent will be a top-ten fighter in the middleweight division. Riki Fukuda is looking to make a splash inside the Octagon. This is a big fight for Fukuda. He knows a victory over Philippou will skyrocket him in the middleweight division. Expect an exciting fight as both fighters are trying to stay relevant in the 185-pound division.
SHANE ROLLER (10-6, 1-3 UFC) vs. JOHN ALESSIO (34-15, 0-4 UFC)
This fight is a big fight in the sense that the winner gets to keep fighting in the UFC, and the loser will more than likely get cut. Shane Roller was one of the top names coming into the UFC when they merged the WEC into the organization. He won four of his last five fights in the WEC, with the only loss coming to Anthony Pettis. Since joining the UFC, he has compiled a 1-3 record, and a loser of three straight. Roller was close to being in the top-ten before his three-fight skid. Now he is just hoping to stay in the UFC. He needs a good performance and a win against Alessio on Saturday. John Alessio has fought all around the world during his 14-year MMA career. The guy knows how to put on a fight. He will be looking for his first win inside the Octagon, and it might be the last chance he gets. The winner stays under contract in the UFC, while the loser will receive their pink slip.
YOISLANDY IZQUIERDO (6-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. RAFAELLO OLIVEIRA (14-5, 1-4 UFC)
This is the only fight on the card that will be on the Facebook prelims. So if you are a die-hard MMA fan you will be logging into your Facebook account and tuning in. All of the other 10 fights will be airing on pay-per-view and FX. Both of these guys are looking to make a name in the lightweight division. This is a big fight for Izquierdo because he has more of an upside than Oliveira and he will get his chance to display this on the Facebook prelims. If Oliveira drops this contest, it might be the end of the road for Oliveira. This is his second-stint for the organization and this could be his last shot to stay in the UFC.