UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez prelims preview for April 20

April 16, 2013


UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez prelims preview for April 20

John Boldrick – Just like many UFC events, the undercard for this Saturday’s UFC on FOX is strong enough to be a free card all on its own. Veterans of the WEC, Strikeforce and the Ultimate Fighter line the deep, eight fight preliminary card. Two former UFC title challengers will also be competing on the undercard, making this one of the most star studded prelims to date.

UFC on FOX 7 takes place on April 20, 2013 from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

Kicking off the Facebook portion of the night will be Clifford Starks. The Arizona Combat Sports product is currently 1-1 in his octagon career. He made his debut back at UFC 137, decisioning Dustin Jacoby, but lost to Ed Herman via rear naked choke last time out. A former NCAA wrestler, Starks is known for his solid takedowns and ground control. The fight will be Starks first in over 14 months.

He faces off against new comer Yoel Romero. A former Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, Romero faced Rafael Cavalcante in his Strikeforce debut. He looked strong in the first, but eventually faded and was TKO’ed in the second. While he may have Olympic level wrestling, Romero also relies on his hands, as all four of his wins are via (T) KO. Fans had better hope Romero has improved his technique and cardio since his last fight, or this one could be a short affair.

Before coming to the UFC, Anthony Njokuani had five decisions on his record. Five fights into his UFC career, he has 10. A feared striker, Njokuani has found mixed results since coming to the UFC.  At 2-3 in the UFC, Njokuani hasn’t really been able to get any traction. As has been the scouting report for some time, Njoukuani’s weakness has been his ground game. Last time out, The Assassin was dominated by Rafael dos Anjos. Here, he may need a win to keep his job.

Not many fighters come into the UFC off a loss, but Roger Bowling is one of them. A veteran of seven Strikeforce fights, Bowling lost his last fight to Tarec Saffiedine. The loss ended Bowling’s two fight win streak. Here, Bowling makes his lightweight debut.  Bowling is more known as a striker, although we may get to see more of his ground skills against an opponent like Njokuani.

A late addition to the televised prelim card sees a quick turnaround for T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw last fought about a month ago knocking out Issei Tamura. Here, he steps in for the injured Francisco Rivera for another fight. The ever improving Dillashaw has looked absolutely dominant in his last three fights, as training with Team Alpha Male has clearly helped him a lot. The owner of a well balanced attack, Dillashaw has many ways to beat opponents.

One of the sentimental favourites on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, Hugo Vianna has found his true weight class. After the show’s finale, Wolverine dropped to bantamweight and found success, KO’ing Reuben Duran. It was Vianna’s first stoppage victory, as his previous six wins had all come via decision. With a KO on his record, let’s see if Vianna opens up with his striking even more.

Tim Means only UFC loss to date has been to the sauna. Means was scheduled to face Abel Trujillo back in December, but injured himself slipping in the sauna. Officially, he’s on an 11 fight unbeaten streak, including a 2-0 run in the UFC. Mainly a striker, 13 of Means 18 victories have come via (T) KO, making him a feared man on the feet. On the ground, Means also has some skills, although 66 per cent of his losses have come via submission.

We didn’t know if Jorge Masvidal would make the jump to the UFC. Speculation ran ramped that Masvidal may take his talents to Japan, but in the end he chose to come to the UFC. Fans should be greatful of his choice. Originally a street fighter, Masvidal’s skills and fight attitude have translated well to the cage. With a 23-7 record, Masvidal has shown he isn’t afraid of anyone, stepping toe to toe with the likes of Joe Lauzon, Gilbert Melendez and Paul Daley throughout his career. While Masvidal has 11 stoppage wins on his record, his last seven fights have gone to a decision.

Team Alpha Male fighters continue, as Joe Benavidez is back in the cage. Last time out, Benavidez took home a decision victory over Ian McCall. Much like his camp’s leader, Benavidez has been spectacular outside fights championship fights and against anyone not named Dominick Cruz. His overall record is 17-3. Out of the three losses, two have came against Cruz (one in a title fight) and the last one came in a flyweight title fight to Demetrious Johnson. Here, Benavidez should look to use his all around skills and earn his way back to another title shot.

Darren Uyenoyama knows all about the UFC’s FOX deal. He debuted back at the first FOX event, defeating Japanese legend Kid Yamamoto by decision. He followed it up with an appearance at UFC on FX 5, again tasting victory, this time over Phil Harris. A Strikeforce vet, BC’s best attributes are clearly his ground game and speed. An absolute beast on the matt, Uyenoyama’s lighting fast pace makes him all the more difficult for opponents.

Maybe losing to Tony Ferguson was the best thing for Ramsey Nijem. Since the loss, Nijem is 3-0 and has looked good in his fights. He grounded and annihilated Danny Downes. He finished C.J. Keith. Last time out, Nijem beat Joe Proctor to keep his streak alive. Nijem is a lot like T.J. Dillashaw, as they both made it to the finals of The Ultimate Fighter and have improved ever since. Nijem has a strong, controlling ground game that is sure to give opponents fits.

Sometimes, stories do have a happy ending. After having originally made it onto season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, Myles Jury had to bow out due to injured. He reappeared on the show a few seasons later, but lost his first round. Jury was granted an official UFC fight, making the most of it with a submission victory over cast mate Chris Saunders. He then made is two for two with a victory over Michael Johnson. Jury is undefeated in his pro career, which isn’t much of a surprise when looking at his skill set.

Francis Carmont will want to make this fight more definitive. Last time out, Carmont won a split decision over Tom Lawlor with a highly questioned decision. While his first three UFC fights were clear victories, the grappling heavy affair at UFC 154 left some fans wondering. Still, it was the latest victory during Carmont’s nine fight win streak. Mainly a grappler with some solid striking to boot, Carmont has yet to be in trouble inside the octagon, although he hasn’t faced anyone with the standup of his opponent.

A former light heavyweight, Lorenz Larkin looked brilliant in his middleweight debut, decisioning veteran fighter Robbie Lawler. It was just the latest win in the undefeated career of The Monsoon. The owner of eight knockout wins, it will be interesting to see if Larkin has improved his grappling in recent months. Larkin was stopped by King Mo due to ground and pound, although the stoppage was later overturned due to a positive drug test. Still, the contest showed that Larkin is susceptible to the grappling game.

Chad Mendes was once seen as a decision fighter, although judging by his last two fights, you wouldn’t know it. Mendes is on a two fight first round stoppage streak, with the longest of the bouts lasting under two minutes. Money has been the division’s perennial number two, with his only loss in 14 pro fights coming to champion Jose Aldo. Mendes (yet another Team Alpha Male fighter) should continue to improve his striking, as the camp has recently hired Duane Ludwig as a striking instructor. It’s a scary thought to realize we may not have seen the best Mendes.

Another UFC 158 fighter competing on this card is Darren Elkins. Elkins steps in for the injured Clay Guida to battle Mendes. Since dropping to featherweight in 2011, Elkins is 5-0 and has looked solid. Last time out, Elkins TKO’ed Antonio Carvalho in the first round, showing some strong strikes. It was a welcome change, as the usual wrestling oriented Elkins let his hands go and it paid dividends. Here, it will be interesting to see if the quick turnaround hinders Elkins at all, otherwise it should be a battle of tough wrestlers with some powerful hands.



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