The entire undercard for Saturday evening’s UFC Fight Night 25: Shields vs. Ellenberger show will stream live on Facebook. This eight-piece collection brings the total count of free fights to twelve with the Spike TV main card factored in.
The showcase fights on the Facebook preliminaries include the return of Evan “3D” Dunham, who will welcome The Ultimate Fighter’s Shamar Bailey to 155-pounds for the first time, and another lightweight contest pitting Cody McKenzie — the man with more guillotines than the Medieval Era — versus a more traditionally equipped submissionist in Vagner Rocha.
Welterweight Matt Riddle takes on UFC newcomer Lance Benoist, and ATT bantamweight Ken Stone finds himself in a must-win situation against Donny Walker. Jorge Lopez, an exciting new welterweight addition from the Wand Fight Team, makes his Octagon debut against Justin Edwards.
There was a minor shake up with some matches at tail end of the preliminary card: Mackens Semerzier has been replaced by Robert Peralta to face Mike Lullo, Daniel Roberts dropped out and Mike Stumpf will now fight Anthony Waldburger, and Seth Baczynski will step in for DaMarques Johnson against Clay Harvison.
The specs for each match up are after the break.
Evan Dunham (11-2) vs. Shamar Bailey (12-3)
Undefeated after seven fights, Evan Dunham came aboard at UFC 95 and make quick work of Per Eklund (right).
Dunham’s status and exposure gradually increased along with the clout of his opponents. Going into his UFC 119 bout with former champ Sean Sherk, Dunham had impressive wins over Marcus Aurelio, Efrain Escudero and Tyson Griffin, and 155 had a new rising star.
His split-decision loss to Sherk didn’t hurt his stock much, as most of the fans thought he deserved the nod anyway, but the first round thrashing delivered by Melvin Guillard did.
My take on Evan Dunham is that he’s phenomenal in his three respective dimensions of striking, wrestling, and submissions, and at his deadliest when he can draw from all those skills to exploit weaknesses.
The only time he was convincingly defeated was by an elite striker who forced him to stand by stuffing takedowns. Guillard was a bad match up. He made some rookie mistakes in the first round by trying to guillotine Sherk in the clinch, whose neck circumference fits a size 34 pair of Levi’s, instead of underhook.
Shamar Bailey was pretty hefty at welterweight and might be a powerhouse lightweight. The Indiana native and Integrated Fighting Academy team member was actually on a two-fight skid before appearing on TUF 13, though one of those losses was to Strikeforce lightweight Justin Wilcox at a 160-pound catch weight.
Bailey is a strong wrestler known (and often criticized) for prioritizing control. Chris Cope sprawled and brawled his way to a decision victory to knock Bailey out of the TUF brackets, but Bailey rebounded by defeating Ryan McGillivray at the live finale.
Bailey will probably have the strength and straight wrestling edge. Dunham has the longer and more effective striking, his takedown defense is ever improving (especially against the fence), his scrambling skills are unreal and his BJJ black belt under Wellington “Megaton” Dias will present way too many problems for Bailey.
My Prediction: Evan Dunham by submission
Cody McKenzie (12-1) vs. Vagner Rocha (6-2)
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Team Fancy Pants lightweight notched two more unofficial victories with his signature catch — against Marc Stevens on TUF and in the elimination bout in the qualifier episode — extending his actual streak with “The McKenzie-tine” to a dozen.
Longtime veteran Yves Edwards finally shattered the cohesion by handing McKenzie his first career loss on the Fight for the Troops 2 card in January. McKenzie is still relatively new to the sport and, at age twenty-three, has enormous potential if he continues to excel at this shocking rate. Though still unpolished in a few areas, mainly striking and wrestling, McKenzie has many years ahead of him to accrue technique.
Vagner Rocha, a skilled black belt under Pablo Popovitch, debuted against Donald Cerrone at UFC 131 and was consumed by an endless torrent of leg kicks.
Considering he was a late replacement for Mac Danzig and survived to a decision in a one-sided mauling, I see some bright sides in Rocha.
He showed a big heart and gritty determination. The fact that “Cowboy” was completely uninterested in engaging Rocha on the floor is a testament to his grappling voracity, and we all know how fluid and fearless Cerrone’s ground game is.
Rocha beat welterweight and high level BJJ player Igor Gracie at Bellator 11 and actually has adequate takedown skills, so he represents a tremendous threat at lightweight. Neither fighter is known for their striking; McKenzie will have the reach advantage and is surprisingly feisty in the clinch and Rocha will be stronger and more takedown oriented.
Unless he has the mindset and means to replicate Cerrone’s strategy, McKenzie will be overwhelmed by Rocha’s tip-top BJJ. McKenzie is a crafty young fighter with natural instincts and abilities, but Rocha should be able to force a grappling match, where the gap is simply too vast.
My Prediction: Vagner Rocha by submission
Ken Stone (9-3) vs. Donny Walker (15-7)
Yes, yes … I realize there are no easy fights at this level, but give Ken Stone some credit for taking on Eddie Wineland and Scott Jorgensen (#13 and #6 bantamweights) right out of the gate.
Against Jorgensen at the TUF 13 Finale (right), his striking — particularly his crippling Thai kicks — looked razor sharp.
Stone, a member of the renowned American Top Team, has finished all of his wins (5 subs, 4 TKOs) and possesses a lot of diversity. He has a slick sub game and a lot of snap on his punches and kicks.
Donny “Eagle Eye” Walker made his debut at UFC 132 in a losing effort against Jeff Hougland, which snapped Walker’s seven-fight stretch.
He’s been training in martial arts since age fourteen and has a rap sheet that stems back to 2004 with some reputable names on it (Jeff Curran, Cub Swanson).
Walker, a BJJ blue belt under Relson Gracie, held his own on the feet against Hougland (left) but couldn’t keep up with his sweeps and position-work on the ground.
We’ll finally get a chance to see some of Stone’s true colors and I think he’ll impress. Walker doesn’t have the strength or wrestling wit to rag-doll him like Wineland or Jorgensen did and Stone should be sharper on the feet and a step ahead on the mat.
My Prediction: Ken Stone by submission
Matt Riddle (5-2) vs. Lance Benoist (4-0)
You’ve probably never heard of Lance Benoist, so let’s start with some fun facts that fans should appreciate: in his five pro fights, he’s undefeated and has finished everyone in the first round (four subs, one TKO), he was also undefeated as an amateur where he finished sixteen of his seventeen opponents (fourteen in the first round), and (my favorite) he dropped out of college because it was interfering with his training time.
Benoist has good hands and an obvious propensity to finish fights, so I’m anxious to see how he performs against Matt Riddle.
Riddle was the TUF 7 fighter with no professional fights that earned a spot in the house with a Steve Nelmark-ish “that guy might be dead” knockout. He was eliminated by a Tim Credeur armbar, but kicked off his pro career after the show with three straight wins by decision.
His first loss was to Nick Osipczak via strikes, and Riddle rebounded with two straight wins (one a DQ over Greg Soto for an illegal kick, the other a rousing TKO of DaMarques Johnson) before falling to stiff boxer Sean Pierson in his last.
Riddle has worked his way up to a purple belt in BJJ and will benefit from beginning his career against UFC level fighters. He’s slightly favored to win on the betting lines but Benoist could be a serious sleeper.
Seth Baczynski (13-6) vs. Clay Harvison (7-1)
Baczynski, a member of The Ultimate Fighter 3 cast and the Power MMA Team, returns to the Octagon versus TUF 13’s Clay “Heavy Metal” Harvison. Baczynski has finished all thirteen of his wins (eight subs, five TKOs) and has won six of his last eight, with Roger Bowling and Brad Tavares getting the better of him.
Harvison has decent stand up and barely eked out the split-decision win over Justin Edwards in his lone UFC bout. Based on that performance, Baczynski’s wrestling, strength and experience should get him an early stoppage.
Jorge Lopez (11-1) vs. Justin Edwards (6-1)
Jorge “Lil Monster” Lopez is an understudy of the great Wanderlei Silva and another enticing prospect on the undercard. He holds wins over Chidi Njokuani (Anthony’s brother) and Waachiim Spiritwolf. Edwards actually looked strong in his fight with Harvison until his gas tank went dry, which turned the match into a snoozer but is an understandable adrenaline dump for a big stage debut.
He’ll need to have all his cardio and maintain his pace and clinch game to survive against Lopez, who will likely score a knockout or take a decision.
T.J. Waldburger(13-6) vs.Mike Stumpf (11-2)
Waldburger is a savvy grappler who recently defeated Pat Healy and slick submissionist David Mitchell in an entertaining ground war. Stumpf is a member of Team Curran with seven subs and two TKOs, but without experience against top competition. Waldburger is an unforgiving and technical grappler who should take full advantage of Daniel Roberts dropping out.
Mike Lullo (8-2) vs. Robert Peralta (14-3)
Lullo was the unfortunate first UFC opponent for lightweight Edson Barboza and Peralta is best known for upsetting Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg.
Lullo kicked off his career with a loss and then rattled off eight wins to attract the UFC’s attention. After the Barboza fight he’s dropped down to featherweight and has six wins by submission. He’ll be forced into a similar predicament of fending off a fierce striker to work his ground game. Peralta has won eleven of fourteen by TKO and fights at a frenzied pace, likely winning this one by another stoppage or a decision.
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