UFC 161 “Henderson vs. Evans” prelims preview

June 6, 2013

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UFC 161 “Henderson vs. Evans” prelims preview



Alexander Lee – In just two years, the once indomitable Jake Shields has gone from dueling Georges St-Pierre in front of a crowd of over 55,000 people in Toronto to the main event of the preliminary card, a time when everyone is still settling into their seats.  The circumstances speak to the depth of the welterweight division; not only how difficult it is to stay on top, but that the UFC can afford to use high-calibre fighters like Shields on free TV to entice last minute PPV buys.

UFC 161 preliminaries will be airing live on Facebook starting at 6:35 PM EST and continuing on Sportsnet at 8:00 PM EST.

5 of the 6 preliminary bouts feature Canadian fighters: Haitian born Yves Jabouin (Montréal), Mitch Clarke (Saskatoon), Roland Delorme (Winnipeg), Sean Pierson (Toronto), and Sam Stout (London)

Entering his 12th career fight, Clarke (0-2 UFC, 9-2) has never fought outside of Canada and he’s also yet to record a UFC win in two tries.  The going only gets tougher in his third attempt as he faces off with British welterweight transplant John Maguire (2-2 UFC, 18-5), who is also looking to snap a two fight losing streak.

Delorme (2-0 UFC [1 NC], 8-1 [1 NC]) has emerged as legitimate threat in the bantamweight division.  It’s no secret that he wants to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible and while that may sound one-dimensional, that one dimension has been pretty darn effective so far.  A painful first round loss to Francisco Rivera was erased when Rivera failed a drug test, but it was still a valuable experience for Delorme who now gets a chance to show how much he learned from it when he meets Edwin Figueroa (2-2 UFC, 9-2).

In his first UFC appearance, Pierson (3-2 UFC, 13-6) looked so good against Matt Riddle that he may have inadvertently created unrealistic expectations for himself.  A dream booking in his hometown turned into a nightmare when Pierson’s original opponent was replaced by Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger.  Coming off that loss, Pierson was booked to face perennial top 10 welterweight Dong-Hyun Kim, another fighter who was too much for Pierson at that point in his career.  He’s won two straight since then and looks to add to that with a victory over Kenny Robertson (1-2 UFC, 12-2).

 

Three matches to keep an eye on:

 

On Facebook:

Bantamweight bout: Yves Jabouin (3-2 UFC, 1-2 WEC, 18-8) v. Dustin Pague (1-3 UFC, 11-7)

At a glance, this looks like a nice opportunity for “Tiger” to bounce back from a tough KO loss at the hands of Brad Pickett.  I feel that the UFC isn’t doing him any favours by matching him up with a hungry fighter like Pague, who is going to be competing as if his livelihood depends on it (which it probably does).  Pague is well liked by the company (a result of having fought three times in three months last year) but they can’t keep him around if he doesn’t end up on the right side of a decision and soon.

Jabouin has a knack for targeting his opponent’s weaknesses, a skill that might not be necessary against the scrappy Pague.  The old adage “be first” will be important here as Pague will try to muck things up so as not to give Jabouin any time to implement a game plan.  Jabouin had a lot of trouble with Walel Watson, a long and lanky fighter similar to Pague, so it will be important to see what adjustments he’s made to be able to close the distance and do some damage.

 

On FX:

Lightweight bout: Sam Stout (8-7 UFC, 19-8-1) v. James Krause (0-0 UFC, 0-2 WEC, 19-4)

Krause’s nickname may as well be “Missed Connections” as he’s been as close as you can get to fighting in the UFC without actually doing it.  He was part of the Zuffa-owned WEC where he fought the likes of Ricardo Lamas and Donald Cerrone before being released.  A year later, the WEC fighters would be brought into the UFC fold.

The next opportunity came in the form of an Ultimate Fighter qualifying match, but Krause was upset by the relatively unknown Justin Lawrence and denied entry into the house.  So close again and yet so far.

Now in the midst of a 7 fight win streak, Krause finally booked a ticket to the octagon when Isaac Vallie-Flagg had to bow out due to an injury.

Laying down the welcome mat is “Hands of Stone” Stout, a fighter with 15 UFC appearances under his belt.  Krause is a tricky opponent who will know better than to stand in front of Stout.  He is aggressive with submissions and has extraordinary flexibility (according to Stephan Bonnar, Krause can put both his feet behind his head!) making him a headache on the ground.  Stout’s takedown defence and clinch work have improved by leaps and bounds since his younger days, so Krause is going to have to show him something on the feet to open up Stout’s defences.  Even though this is Krause’s first taste of UFC action, this should be a close one.

 

Welterweight Bout: Jake Shields (2-2 UFC [1 NC], 27-6-1 [1 NC]) v. Tyron Woodley (1-0 UFC, 11-1)

If you blinked, you missed Shields’ return to the middleweight division.  Even more confusing, his win over Ed Herman was overturned to a No Contest after Shields tested positive for a banned substance.  So he’s…”returning” to welterweight…?

When Shields was the Strikeforce middleweight champion, Woodley was rising up through the welterweight rankings.  Calling this an SF superfight is probably overselling it, but it is an intriguing match of two strong grapplers whose careers are heading in different directions.

Shields was put on the fast track to a title shot, even though a) he looked awful in squeaking by Martin Kampmann and b) he is not a draw to the casual fan.  That kind of booking is blessing and a curse.  Every fighter dreams of getting a shot at UFC gold, but where do you go after that if you don’t get it?  Shields has been adrift after the loss of his father and being stopped by Jake Ellenberger (only the second time Shields had ever been knocked out).  A win over Yoshihiro Akiyama and the move back to 185 barely registered with fans so Shields finds himself back where he started.

Standing across from Shields is the man-who-would-be-Strikeforce-king, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley.  A long awaited SF welterweight title shot ended in disappointment for the previously undefeated wrestler as he was pummelled by Nate Marquardt.  Woodley eliminated any doubts about his ability to cope with a loss, starching veteran Jay Hieron in 36 seconds.  The former JuCo wrestling champ presents a serious threat to Shields’ comeback hopes, so much so that Woodley is actually favoured going into Saturday’s meeting.  Shields’ stand-up has been stagnant for years while Woodley’s has gotten better, so a striking match will favour the latter.  Woodley also has elite takedown defence, meaning Shields will have to work hard to set up his game changing top control.  With all that said, there’s no substitute for experience and Shields has been counted out and proven folks wrong for years.

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