A huge clash between two of the UFC’s smallest scrappers will headline the event. Bantamweight division champion Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz will square off against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
With both men possessing long winning streaks, whose record will go down in the District? The answer is whichever bantamweight fighter can make their 126-135 lbs. weight range count the most pound-for-pound.
For capitol residents who won’t be cage-side, here’s a rundown of the card, along with fight-by-fight predictions:
Walel Watson (USA) vs. Joseph Sandoval (USA)
Sandoval began fighting in 2010 but has enjoyed meteoric success in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. Currently on a six win streak, Watson is just the right roadblock for a promising puncher like Sandoval. Nicknamed the “Gazelle” for his speed and agility, Watson has fought ten fights, won nine, and never made it to round three. Sandoval’s no slouch, but Watson’s extra experience and explosiveness will give him the edge here.
Josh Neer (USA) vs. Keith Wisniewski (USA)
Neer and Wisniewski own a combined 83 fights between them, and it shows. Each competitor is tough. Wisniewski once had his arm snapped at the elbow by an armbar, while Neer’s last match ended with him refusing to tap out of a chokehold and passing out from lack of air. Which fighter’s bark has more bite? Neer’s nickname is “The Dentist,” and given he began his career fighting in multiple bouts each night, it’s thus likely he knows a thing or two about taking out teeth.
Shane Roller (USA) vs. TJ Grant (Canada)
This one’s going to be a tough tangle. Roller is a three-time All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State University, while Grant has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Roller lost his last fight in July, while Grant missed his in June due to illness. A good guess is that Grant will be better rested for a fight. Grant will thus control Roller’s wrestling pedigree with his jiu-jitsu, and then beat him with his superior striking.
Mike Easton (USA) vs. Jeff Hougland (USA)
Jeff “Hellbound” Hougland has already scored a win in the UFC while Easton will be making his entrance into the league here. At first glace, Hougland—a talented submission specialist—has the edge given Easton has been out rehabbing an injury for almost two years. Easton has a secret weapon, however, and it’s the electric crowd who will be cheering on one of their own. An Anacostia native, Easton will have the home fight advantage to carry him through his UFC debut.
Michael Johnson (USA) vs. Paul Sass (UK)
Sass loves submission maneuvers so much that he’s won eight of his 11 victories with the triangle chokehold. Johnson, meanwhile, has been making the most as a runner-up on the 12th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s talent-scouting TV show. Johnson’s mix of striking, takedowns, and submissions is more versatile, but for someone as serpentine as Sass it only takes one mistake before it’s all over for his opponent. Betting money says the Brit will add another submission scalp here.
Yves Edwards (The Bahamas) vs. Rafaello Oliveira (Brazil)
Edwards has mounds of experience having competed for almost every MMA promotion in the world throughout his career. He also has 40 wins to Oliveira’s 14. Despite this, he’s getting on in years at age 34, and has proven spotty when starting a string of victories. Neither man is on a win streak here, so it’s likely Edwards will offer Oliveira some MMA education when they meet in October.
Matt Wiman (USA) vs. Mac Danzig (USA)
These two already met in June 2010 at UFC 115 in Vancouver, Canada. When last they faced off, Wiman won in the first round when he locked Danzig in a guillotine choke and the referee called the fight without Danzig ever giving up or passing out. It’s debatable whether or not Wiman would have won anyway, but the rematch between the two should be an even affair. Both men went through separate seasons of the “Ultimate Fighter” (Wiman was on season five, while Danzig was on season six), but only one won the entire contest. That man is Danzig, and the added incentive he has to prove he can beat Wiman means he’ll likely do just that.
Anthony Johnson (USA) vs. Charlie Brenneman (USA)
This one’s tough to call. Brenneman possesses terrifying takedown ability, while Johnson has a national and state division wrestling pedigree. Johnson’s mat background may make the difference here, as his ability to stop Brenneman’s takedown attempts will determine who controls the pace of the match. Should Brenneman strap into the driver’s seat, he’ll take his time and force a judges’ decision based upon his ability to score points and keep his opponents struggling for opportunities.
Pat Barry (USA) vs. Stefan Struve (The Netherlands)
Here’s a recipe for an interesting fight: take a 23-year-old and make him the tallest fighter in the UFC at nearly 7 feet. Now, pair him with a guy who has a kung fu and kickboxing background. The result is an exciting clash between reach and power.
Struve’s lanky limbs could keep Barry out of bounds, or Barry may just have something thinner to smash his way through. Given Barry has made a career out of kicking people’s calves so hard they can’t stand, it seems reasonable that he’ll cut “Skyscraper” Struve down to size here.
Dominick Cruz (USA – Bantamweight Champion) vs. Demetrious Johnson (USA)
Here’s a bantamweight brawl to end it all. Cruz is not only the division champion, but on a nine-win streak as well. Johnson, meanwhile, has chased his way up the ranks with four victories of his own. Both men follow the same formula to success—takedown fast, strike faster. There’s a reason Cruz wears the crown, however, and it’s his ability to trap foes in a tornado of strikes so pervasive they can’t even try their own. Johnson should turn this into a war, but Cruz’s whirlwind battering will drive his win column into the double digits.
Mark Hensch is a freelance journalist and former intern for The Washington Times. An avid MMA fan, he believes his love for the sport stems from wrestling and doing karate in high school. It may also have something to do with his large martial arts movie collection. Readers can follow Mark on Facebook and Twitter.
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