UFC 161 “Henderson vs Evans” main card preview

June 9, 2013

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UFC 161 “Henderson vs Evans” main card preview



Alexander Lee – A word of advice to the UFC: Don’t book any more interim bantamweight title fights in Canada.

The last time the (temporary) 135 pound strap was scheduled to be defended in Alberta, over half a dozen fights had to be altered or outright cancelled due to a litany of injuries.  A similar fate has befallen UFC 161 in Winnipeg.  Fewer matches have been affected, but both the main and co-main event were derailed by interim champion Renan Barão and Antônio Rogério Nogueira having to pull out of their respective bouts.  Thankfully, a fan friendly main event featuring Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson remains to cap off a night of solid action.

UFC 161 is Saturday, live on PPV starting at 10 PM (EST), with preliminaries starting on Facebook at 6:35 PM (EST) and continuing on Sportsnet at 8:00 PM (EST).

 

Heavyweight Bout: Pat Barry (5-5 UFC, 8-5) v. Shawn Jordan (2-1 UFC, 14-4)

It’s fighters like Barry who do everything in their power to make sure the fans get their money’s worth.  There’s no elegant way to put it: this is a battle between two big dudes.

The last time Jordan visited Canada, he was nearly booed out of the building.  If there was one enduring image from the dreadful UFC 149, it was Jordan with his head ducked down low and his shoulder buried in Cheick Kongo’s stomach, pressing against the cage and futilely searching for a takedown.  Prior to that, Jordan was a fighter with a high finishing rate and he showed that in a blowout of Mike Russow back in January.

Of course, Barry has been boosting cards for years.  Whether he’s on the prelims, the main card or headlining on free TV, you know you’re going to see something savage happen even if it’s Barry that is on the receiving end of it.  I’ve written before that some fights are too close to call due to the competitors being so diverse and well rounded; in this case, it’s too close to call because either guy could land a kill shot at any moment.

 

Women’s Bantamweight Bout: Alexis Davis (0-0 UFC, 13-5) v. Rosi Sexton (0-0 UFC, 13-2)

The women’s bantamweight scene keeps rolling along with the addition of Davis and Sexton, consensus top five fighters in their respective weight classes (135 and 125).

Davis has won five of her last six fights, with the only loss being against nemesis Sarah Kaufman.  That rematch was a star turn for Davis, even in defeat.  The fight was an all out war that left Davis battered and bruised and wearing the proverbial “crimson mask” à la Ric Flair.  Davis confirmed what most people already knew: she’s a world class competitor.

Sexton is actually making a jump up from her natural class of flyweight to be part of the UFC’s female revolution.  She’s going to be giving up a considerable amount of size, but she’s used to that.  Her jiu-jitsu is no joke, but Davis is on another level.  The Port Colborne, Ontario native boasts black belts in two different forms of jiu-jitsu.  She is incredibly poised and patient, making her lethal on the ground.  Sexton has never been submitted, so you have to wonder if something is going to give in that department.  These two are a legitimate threat to put on the “Fight of the Night”, so the boys better step up their game.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Ryan Jimmo (1-1 UFC, 17-2) v.  Igor Pokrajac (4-4 [1 NC] UFC, 25-9 [1 NC])

It took New Brunswick’s Ryan Jimmo five years to make it to the UFC.  It took him 7 seconds to get his first UFC win.

Undefeated in 16 fights, the former Maximum Fighting Championship title holder shed his reputation as a “points fighter” by blasting Anthony Perosh with an overhand right.  It was an introduction louder than a thunderclap.  Next up was the heavy handed James Te-Huna and Jimmo nearly added to his highlight reel with an opening round head kick that rocked Te-Huna.  Te-Huna recovered and controlled the rest of the fight to take the decision, snapping Jimmo’s incredible win streak.

Pokrajac is a perfect fit right now, a fighter with years of experience who will push Jimmo to be at his best.  A win could propel Jimmo to another milestone: an appearance across the border.

 

Heavyweight Bout: Roy Nelson (6-3 UFC, 19-7) v. Stipe Miocic (3-1 UFC, 9-1)

Similar to Pat Barry, “Big Country” Nelson has the ability to make any card memorable.  Just drop him in, add water and within minutes, voila!  You have someone getting their teeth punched in.  Unlike Barry, Nelson has flirted with being a contender and a win over the once beaten Miocic gets Nelson that much closer to giving Dana White an ulcer.

Miocic lost by TKO in his first UFC main event (UFC on Fuel TV 5) against Stefan Struve.  Struve was supposed to be a “step-up” fight to continue Miocic’s ascent.  Seven footers don’t like to be stepped on.  Miocic worked the body well in the early going, but he was caught off guard when Struve poured it on in the second round.  Coming off that loss, the UFC has done him no favours by pairing him up with Nelson.  At this level, heavyweights can go from undefeated to unconscious in the blink of an eye.

 

Light Heavyweight Bout: Rashad Evans (12-3-1 UFC, 17-3-1) v. Dan Henderson (6-3 UFC, 29-9)

(*due to the late promotion to the main event, this fight is scheduled for 3 rounds, not 5)

For more in-depth coverage, see Dwight Wakabayashi’s main event breakdown.

You know fans are spoiled when we have to “settle” for a main event involving two of the best 205ers to ever compete in MMA.  While neither man is at the peak of their prestige, they’ve barely lost a step when it comes to delivering on fight night.  Both are coming off of frustrating losses that should be looked at as aberrations rather than concrete evidence of a decline.  Let’s keep in mind that Evans is not far removed from going five rounds with the champ and Henderson authored a classic throwdown with Shogun Rua.  This is a match-up of substance.

In Evans, Henderson is going to be faced with an evasive opponent in the vein of Lyoto Machida.  He was unable to solve the Machida puzzle (few have), but the lessons from that fight should benefit him greatly.  Evans isn’t nearly as deliberate as Machida, relying more on traditional head movement and feints.  He’s definitely not going to stand in front of Henderson so that the former PRIDE champ can lay him out with a trademark “H-bomb”.

The key for Henderson will be patience.  He might be eager to press the action after dropping that close decision to Machida, but over aggression could lead to Evans scoring points and maybe even taking down the former Olympian.  It’s hard to imagine Henderson winning rounds without landing that one, momentum shifting shot, especially if he’s not able to do so early in the contest.  A prolonged battle clearly favours the younger Evans.

As for the stakes, the winner avoids a costly losing streak, gets on the shortlist for the next title shot and takes bragging rights in the light heavyweight pantheon for the rest of eternity.  Other than that, it’s just another fight.  No pressure, fellas.

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