While the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens take a week off preparing for the "HarBowl" the UFC takes center stage on FOX this Saturday night.
UFC on FOX 6 takes place at the United Center in Chicago and you would think Michael Jordan is running out of the tunnel again because the crowd will be going crazy all night long with the card UFC matchmaker Joe Silva lined up.
Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson puts his flyweight belt on the line against one of the most athletic fighters in the UFC, John Dodson.
There is a 99.9% chance this will be the last time we see Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the UFC and he has his hands full against the most hyped light heavyweight since Jon Jones. Glover Teixeira has won his last 17 fights and has finished 16 of them, 13 never made it to the second round.
This is the first month of 2013, but when Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone lock horns in the middle of the cage there is a good chance we could see the "Fight of the Year" in January.
Two of the most underrated fighters in the UFC start off the fireworks on FOX's main card when Erik Koch and Ricardo Lamas square up to inch closer to a featherweight title shot.
The prelims feature Clay Guida making his featherweight debut against Hatsu Hioki. Ryan Bader returns for the first time since being KO'ed by Lyoto Machida in August. He takes on one of the savviest veterans in Vladimir Matyushenko, who enters the Octagon with a career 26-6 MMA record. Also, Matt Wiman, T.J. Grant, Mike Russow, Shawn Jordan and Pascal Krauss are featured on the prelims on FX that will set the tone for the main card on Saturday night.
Let's jump right into it and breakdown all four of the fights on the main card.
Erik "New Breed" Koch (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Ricardo "The Bully" Lamas (12-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
This is a huge fight in the featherweight division. Jose Aldo has dominated the 145-pound division, reeling off 14-straight wins, and five-successful title defenses. Aldo is a perfect 3-0 inside the Octagon but he will have his toughest test next Saturday against former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar.
The winner of the Koch-Lamas fight will be right in the thick of things for the next title shot. Especially if it's an entertaining finish. Both of these guys know an impressive knockout or submission will go a long way in determining who gets the next shot at the featherweight belt. Chang Sung Jung, better known as "The Korean Zombie," is probably the next in line to get the title shot but the winner of this fight will have an outside shot to earn the next title opportunity.
Only one thing has been able to stop Erik Koch lately: injuries. He's excited to finally be back after an unfortunate 2012. He hasn't fought since dominating Jonathon Brookins at UFC Fight Night 25 on September 17th 2011. He was scheduled to fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 143 but had to pull out with an undisclosed injury. Then, he was suppose to fight Jose Aldo at UFC 153 for the featherweight title, but had to pull out with a knee injury.
Luckily, Koch is back at 100% and will finally get his feet wet again inside the Octagon. He enters Saturday night on a four-fight win streak and hasn't lost since Chad Mendes beat him nearly three years ago. Koch is a perfect 2-0 in the UFC, beating Brookins and Raphael Assuncao. He is the only fighter to ever knock out Assuncao, who has 23-career MMA fights under his belt.
Koch is still not even close to reaching his potential, and that is scary for everyone in the featherweight division. Koch trains at Roufusport under Duke Roufus and his striking has improved tremendously since joining Roufus' camp. Two of Koch's three career knockouts have come within his last three fights. He gets to work on his stand-up with Anthony "Showtime" Pettis and improve his wrestling with Ben Askren everyday at Roufus' camp. Askren defended his Bellator welterweight title belt for the third consecutive time on Thursday night and is now a perfect 11-0. There is not a better wrestler in all of MMA and Koch's wrestling game has improved tremendously since spending time with Askren.
Koch will have his hands full against Ricardo Lamas though.
"The Bully" is the perfect nickname for Lamas because that is exactly what he tries to do in every fight. He is one of the biggest and strongest featherweights in the division. Dropping down to 145-pounds was the best decision he made. He has been unstoppable in the featherweight division and is a perfect 3-0 at 145-pounds. He dominated the No.1 contender Hatsu Hioki, then submitted Cub Swanson in the 2nd-rd., and ran through Matt Grice in his UFC debut with a 1st-rd. TKO. If Lamas can run his win streak to four he has a good chance to take on the winner of the Aldo-Edgar fight.
Lamas is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division but his wrestling is his bread and butter. During his college wrestling career at Elmhurst College (D-III) he won over 100-matches, was a former two-time CCIW champion and was named the CCIW's "Most Outstanding Wrestler" during the 2003-04 season. The one thing that makes Lamas dangerous, he's good no matter where the fight ends up. He is a very versatile fighter and has shown he's durable too. He has three-career knockouts, three-submissions and has gone the distance six-times in his 14-fight MMA career. Lamas is anxious to put on an exciting show in his hometown, but it'll be important he doesn't get too excited and get off his game-plan.
This fight is a toss up. Koch hasn't fought in 16 months so Octagon rust could be a factor. Both are two of the top featherweights in the UFC and both are capable to finish the fight at any time. Both have finished three of their last four opponents. Koch has never been finished in his career and both of Lamas' losses were by knockout. If Koch can keep this fight on the feet he has a really good chance to walk away with a win. Lamas has been bigger than his previous opponents but Koch's size will be the difference in this fight. Koch will keep this fight on the feet and control where the fight goes. If Lamas can get this fight to the ground he has a good chance to make his hometown crowd happy and leave the United Center with his fourth straight victory.
PREDICTION: Erik Koch (2nd Rd. TKO)
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (19-4 MMA, 6-1 UFC)
Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (15-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Everybody has been waiting over a year for these two to fight. The winner will most likely get the next title shot against the winner of the Ben Henderson / Gilbert Melendez fight.
Anothony Pettis has been on the shelf since his impressive head-kick KO against Joe Lauzon last February. He had surgery on his shoulder and is finally back at 100%. He got off to a slow start in his UFC debut against Clay Guida, but he's been impressive his last two fights. "Showtime" is the only man to beat the current champion Ben Henderson in the last five years. They had one of the best fights in MMA history when they battled back and forth for 25 minutes. Pettis landed his famous "Showtime Kick" in the fifth and final round that earned him 48-47 unanimous decision to take home the WEC lightweight belt in the organzations last fight card.
Pettis is one of the most versatile strikers in the lightweight division and is one of the most well-rounded fighters at 155. 12 of his 15 wins have been finishes. He has six-TKO's and six-submission wins in his career. He is comfortable wherever the fight ends up and can finish the fight standing up or from his back.
Cerrone has only had one bad performance inside the Octagon and that was against a very tough Nate Diaz. He has won two fights in a row and eight of his last nine. "Cowboy" is one of the most game fighters you will ever see. He is one bad dude and there might not be a more resilient fighter in the lightweight division. He showed he can take a punch when he took on one of his best friends, Melvin Guillard, finishing him in the 1st-rd. with a nasty head-kick KO. Cerrone added Guillard to the list of Jeremy Stephens, Dennis Siver, Charles Oliveira, Vagner Rocha and Paul Kelly to the hitlist among his six-career UFC victories.
Cerrone is in the same boat with Pettis when it comes to being a well-rounded fighter. He doesn't have any weaknesses in any department. All four of his losses have come against very good competition. Ben Henderson beat him twice and he was on the wrong end of unanimous decisions against Jamie Varner and Diaz.
This fight has a very good chance to contend for "Fight of the Year" honors in 2013. Both guys are very versatile fighters and both said they are going to keep this one on the feet. We have heard that before, but let's hope both guys stick to their claims. Both have combined for 27 finishes and both are looking to add another one to the list on Saturday night. They are tough guys to finish though, Cerrone was submitted by Ben Henderson, and that is the only time either one has been finished. I see this one going all three rounds in a back and forth stand-up war, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one of them finish the fight early. This one has a really good chance to take home "Fight of the Night" honors.
PREDICTION: Anthony Pettis (Split-Decision)
Glover Teixeira (19-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (32-10 MMA, 7-4 UFC)
Rampage Jackson and the UFC had a good run for six years, but that time is coming to an end after Saturday night. Rampage says he still wants to fight, but outside of the UFC. Jackson is the former UFC light heavyweight champion and was the one who put a halt to Chuck Liddell's dominance in the 205-lb. division.
Jackson has beat the who's who during his MMA career. Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Matt Hamill, Wanderlei Silva, Marvin Eastman, Matt Lindland, Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman and Liddell are just some of the notable names he's beat in his long career.
However, things haven't been going that well for Rampage over the last two and half years. He's lost two in a row and three of five. Both wins went to the scorecards and Jackson will tell you himself he hates letting fights go to the judges. It seems like Rampage is finally 100% for this fight and looking to make a big splash in his last fight under the ZUFFA brand.
Glover Teixeira is an absolute beast. He has dominated in both of his previous fights in the UFC but is taking a huge step up in competition. 17 of his 19 wins have come by knockout or submission. He has 14 first round finishes and if he makes Rampage No. 15 he will be fighting for the belt pretty soon.
Teixeira has a ton of power in both hands and is exceptional on the ground. He has a granite chin and hasn't been finished since his MMA debut in 2002. The last time he lost was in 2005 against Ed Herman in his fourth career fight. The Brazilian has been training with John Hackelman and Chuck Liddell at "The Pit" and also spent some time with Lyoto Machida getting ready for Jackson.
If these two get in a slugfest it is not going to go all three rounds. Both have great power in both hands. They have combined for 26 knockouts and 28 first round finishes. Both of them come to finish fights. It's bout time someone is finally coming to fight Rampage Jackson and willing to go toe-to-toe with the former UFC light heavyweight champion. Teixeira is the favorite in this fight, but I think Rampage is getting overlooked. He is finally back at 100% and he's taking on a guy who will finally stand with him. Teixeira is a bad man and both of these guys have more power than anyone else in the division. This is going to be a very entertaining fight and expect a ton of fireworks in the co-main event. Teixeira is finally taking a huge step in competition and he needs to make a statement to prove he should be fighting for the belt before 2013 is over. Rampage is eager to leave the UFC with an impressive win against Teixeira, who is supposed to be the next great light heavyweight inside the Octagon.
PREDICTION: Rampage Jackson (1st RD. TKO)
John "The Magician" Dodson (14-5 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson (16-2-1 MMA, 4-1-1 UFC)
You need to staple your eyelids to your eyebrows for this fight because you won't want to blink during this one. These two guys are the fastest fighters in the UFC and it'll be a very entertaining title fight.
Demetrious Johnson was the happiest man in the world when the UFC made a flyweight division. He was undersized fighting at 135-pounds. He still gave Dominick Cruz one of his toughest fights when he lost a five-round decision to the bantamweight champ. "Mighty Mouse" has gone 2-0-1 in his three fights at 125-pounds. He dominated Ian McCall in their rematch and won a split-decision against Joseph Benavidez, and most people would agree it shouldn't have been a split-decision. Johnson clearly won three of the five rounds.
Johnson is one of the most durable fighters in the UFC. He is comfortable no matter where the fight ends up. He is comfortable on his back and has amazing footwork. He is one of the hardest fighters to hit, he does an outstanding job moving in and out of the pocket. It will be extremely hard for John Dodson to land one of his power shots cleanly. "Mighty Mouse" is superb at getting his opponent out of his game-plan and forcing the fight he wants. Johnson has gone 6-1-1 in his last eight fights and has looked phenomenal at 125-pounds. Of his 16 career wins he has three-knockouts, six-submissions and seven-decision victories. He has a very high gas tank and could go 10-five minute rounds if he had to. In his last nine fights he has out-landed every opponent but one, Dominick Cruz landed one more punch than Johnson.
John Dodson is the most explosive flyweight in the division. Joseph Benavidez has a ton of power for a flyweight, but he doesn't have the power that "The Magician" brings to the table. Johnson didn't have much problem dealing with Benavidez's power, only getting rocked once in the 25-minute fight. There is no doubt Dodson is the most athletic fighter in the flyweight division and you could make the argument that he is the most athletic fighter in the UFC. He is 5'3" and can dunk a basketball. That is insane! Too bad dunking a basketball doesn't do any good for you inside the Octagon so it will be important for Dodson to find a way to use his athleticism to his advantage. Johnson is an outstanding fighter at fighting his type of fight, it will be crucial for Dodson to stick to his game-plan. Dodson is the "TUF season 14" winner and is hoping to extend his win streak to six on Saturday night.
This fight is going to come down to whoever implements their strategy better. Both are two of the most athletic fighters in the UFC and it'll come down to if Johnson can stay away from Dodson's power. Dodson has six-career knockouts and is hoping to become the first fighter to ever finish Johnson. It is going to be extremely tough for Dodson to land a power shot because of Johnson's quick footwork. Johnson will try to defend his flyweight belt for the first time on Saturday night and he's going to have his hands full against a very tough John Dodson.
PREDICTION: Demetrious Johnson (Unanimous Decision)
-Don't forget to follow me on twitter: @zpoff13