UFC Fight For The Troops 3 full preview and breakdown

November 6, 2013

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UFC Fight For The Troops 3 full preview and breakdown



“UFC Fight For The Troops 3” airs live tonight (Wednesday, November 6.)  Preliminary coverage begins on the UFC’s official YouTube and Facebook pages at 3:10 PM (EST).  Coverage continues on Sportsnet 360 at 5 PM (EST) leading up to the main card at 7 PM (EST).

If you’re wondering how the UFC roster has ballooned up to almost 400 fighters, look no further than the acquisition of Strikeforce back in March 2011 and the pipeline that is The Ultimate Fighter.  Of the 26 fighters on Wednesday’s card, 10* were on the Strikeforce roster when the rival company was acquired by Zuffa back in March 2011 and 8 are former TUF contestants.

(*Amanda Nunes, Liz Carmouche, and Alexis Davis left to compete for Invicta FC due to the UFC not having a women’s division at the time)

These men and women have received more exposure than your average mixed martial artist, yet they remain relatively unknown to the world at large and even the most hardcore MMA fan could struggle to sort through them.  Let’s start with the preliminary card.

 

Preliminary thoughts:

 

  • Lorenz Larkin (0-1 UFC, 13-1 [1 NC]) has a donut in the UFC win column so far, the result of an unfortunate loss to Francis Carmont.  There’s no shame in losing to Carmont, he of the spotless UFC record.  The tough part is that several media outlets scored the fight in favour of the dynamic Larkin.  He knows as well as anyone that he needs to shore up his ground game or he won’t last long at this level.  His opponent, Chris Camozzi (6-3 UFC, 19-6), has solid jiu-jitsu and he’ll need to get this to the ground early.  Once Larkin gets his striking going, he’s tough to stop.

 

  • With a female co-main event, it would be easy to forget that there’s another female fight on the card involving Germaine de Randamie (1-0 UFC, 4-2) and Amanda Nunes (1-0 UFC, 8-3).  De Randamie aka “The Iron Lady” won multiple kickboxing titles before making the move to MMA in 2008.  That expertise has not lead to highlight reel KOs, though she did look outstanding against Hiroko Yamanaka in her last Strikeforce appearance.

 

In her UFC debut, Nunes made short work of Sheila Gaff.  Gaff was too small for the bantamweight division, so it should be interesting to see how Nunes fares against a taller, rangier foe.  “The Lioness” has won all of her fights by TKO or submission.  She’ll be more than happy to stand and bang even if luring De Randamie into a jiu-jitsu contest would be a more favourable scenario.

 

  • Dennis Bermudez (4-1 UFC, 11-3) has made a habit of squeaking out close, entertaining decision victories.  In the wake of the titanic Jon Jones/Alexander Gustafsson and Gilbert Melendez/Diego Sanchez clashes, many fans are still buzzing about Bermudez’ bloody war with Matt Grice in February.  Bermudez has high level wrestling to go along with a willingness to throw caution to the wind.  If he’s looking for another Fight of the Night bonus, he’ll have a willing partner in “Super” Steven Siler (5-1 UFC, 23-10) who is booming in popularity after knocking out former WEC champ Mike Brown.

 

  • The already dense lightweight division got another top flight name with Bobby Green (1-0 UFC, 20-5).  He’s quietly put together five straight wins dating back to his Strikeforce days.  His UFC debut against Jacob Volkmann couldn’t have gone better.  Green outlasted the normally irrepressible Volkmann and managed to choke him out in the third round.

 

Funny thing is, Green might not even be the most exciting prospect in this fight.  At UFC 161, James Krause (1-0 UFC, 20-4) kicked the proverbial door down, roughing up and eventually submitting UFC veteran Sam Stout.  He even threw in a cartwheel kick for good measure.  For their efforts, Green and Krause have justifiably been rewarded with the preliminary main event spot.

 

The main card:

 

Lightweight Bout: Colton Smith (1-1 UFC, 3-2) v. Michael Chiesa (2-1 UFC, 9-1)

 

There’s no nice way to say it.  Smith and Chiesa are two of the least regarded TUF winners.  Smith claimed the welterweight crown in what turned out to be a lame duck season before the show underwent a massive overhaul; Chiesa came out on top of the disastrous TUF: Live experiment (though the cast was respectable).

Like headliner Tim Kennedy, Smith is an Army man that can look forward to a boost from the folks down at Fort Campbell.  He’s dropping to a more fitting weight class and he recently spent time with the Greg Jackson camp.  The time is now for him to prove that he’s more than just the best fighter of a weak TUF crop.

Chiesa looked fantastic until running into Jorge Masvidal, an opponent that was just too experienced for him.  Smith and Chiesa are strong wrestlers, though Chiesa has shown a willingness to stand and exchange.  Smith is more of the classic grappler, shooting early and often.  They often say “be first” inside the octagon and that should be the key to winning this match-up.

 

Lightweight Bout: Jorge Masvidal (2-0 UFC, 25-7) v. Rustam Khabilov (2-0 UFC, 16-1)

 

We just mentioned how Chiesa was overwhelmed by Masvidal back in July; this time it’s Khabilov playing the role of the young gunner who will either stand and be heard or be sent to the back of the line.

In just under five minutes of total cage time, Khabilov has looked sensational.  He has proudly displayed the art of Sambo, much to the detriment of Vinc Pichel who was suplexed into oblivion and Yancy Medeiros who suffered a freak hand injury defending a Khabilov takedown.  Khabilov is a fighter with a catchy hook, which is rare in the modern era of MMA where so many fighters have the same look, the same background and the same training.  Khabilov is going out there to grab you, pick you up and drop you on your head.

That will be easier said than done against a seasoned competitor like Masvidal.  He’s won 3 straight since failing to take the Strikeforce lightweight title from Gilbert Melendez.  Melendez won definitively that night, but the one thing he couldn’t do was take Masvidal down and for someone renowned for his ground and pound that’s no small thing.  Khabilov might find himself having the same problem and that will either expose him or allow him to show how comfortable he is standing.

To put it frankly, Khabilov hasn’t beaten anyone nearly as good as Masvidal.  On the flipside, the level of competition that Masvidal has faced is in a whole other league.  At 28 years old, he’s in the prime of his career.  Already, young and hungry wolves are lining up to take his spot.

 

Middleweight Bout: Ronny Markes (3-0 UFC, 14-1) v. Yoel Romero (1-0 UFC, 5-1)

 

Markes is undefeated in the UFC, so you think he’d be a bigger deal by now.  Sadly, injuries and uneventful decisions do not a contender make.  Markes debuted in August 2011.  This will only be his 4th UFC appearance.  That’s a schedule for big ticket stars, not talented fighters who need any opportunity they can get to make a splash.  Instead of being in the contender’s circle, Markes is facing off with Romero, an unproven but dangerous fighter.

As nice as Romero’s short MMA career has been, he’ll always leave us wondering what could have been if he had started training in this sport earlier.  He was famous long before entering MMA, having won a silver medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympics and laying claim to multiple victories over the legendary Cael Sanderson.  Strikeforce didn’t know what to do with him.  He’d already competed against the best in the world…it just wasn’t in MMA.  For all the fame he’d experienced, he was still a neophyte cage fighter.  He was thrown to the wolves against former light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijão” Cavalcante and it ended about as well as you’d expect.

Romero dropped to middleweight and defeated Clifford Starks in blowout fashion for his first UFC win.  Thus far, Markes has been able to impose his will on his opponents, but it’s hard to imagine him doing that against a grappler as strong as Romero.  The last elite wrestler he faced was Aaron Simpson and he did just enough to win by split decision.  He’ll need to be better here.

 

Women’s Bantamweight Bout: Liz Carmouche (1-1 UFC, 8-3) v. Alexis Davis (1-0 UFC, 14-5)

 

How different would the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division look right now if Carmouche had upset Ronda Rousey?  Would it even exist?  That’s not a knock against Carmouche, but outside of Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg and the retired Gina Carano, there aren’t any female fighters who could be considered legitimate stars.  I highly doubt they would have gone forth with the most recent edition of TUF if Carmouche were the champion.  If she’d managed to hold on to that choke, the state of women’s MMA would be completely different.

She might not be gracing the cover of ESPN’s body issue, but she’ll be the belle of the ball on Wednesday.  Carmouche proudly served the US Marine Corps for five years.  In that time, she developed the kind of toughness she would one day need to step into the cage with and nearly upset the best female fighter in the world.  Continuing her run of big ticket fights, this will be Carmouche’s third straight appearance on the main card portion of a UFC event.

For some time now, Davis has been pegged as a potential opponent for Rousey having gone 6-1 in her last 7 fights.  She has a better jiu-jitsu pedigree than anyone Rousey has faced so far and there’s the belief that the champ would have considerable trouble slapping her trademark armbar on the Port Colborne, Ontario native.

None of that will matter if Davis can’t get past Carmouche.  Davis’s size and advanced grappling give her an edge over just about everyone and her only weakness appears to be mental blocks that stop her from taking it to the next level.  She lost to fellow Canadian Sarah Kaufman in what would be a title eliminator.  This is her second chance at that elusive shot.

 

Middleweight Bout: Tim Kennedy (1-0 UFC, 16-4) v. Rafael Natal (5-2-1 UFC, 17-4-1)

 

Kennedy is the forgotten star of Strikeforce.  Much like Brian Stann, Kennedy’s history with the US military made him an easy sell for the mainstream audience that the company was reaching out to.  He was able to back it up to with wins over Trevor Prangley, Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler.  He had two opportunities to capture the organization’s middleweight title and though he fell short against Jacaré and Luke Rockhold, he went five rounds both times and showed he could compete with the best.  When Strikeforce began to crumble, its promotional power became nil and fighters like Kennedy suffered.  He finally debuted in the UFC against Roger Gracie and though he won, it was a forgettable performance.  Kennedy is a good fighter and he has the opportunity now to prove it to a whole new audience.

Playing the role of spoiler is Natal, who has been feasting on low to mid tier competition.  Kennedy will be his most important opponent yet, at least in terms of name value.  Since losing to Andrew Craig, Natal has strung together 3 straight wins and he earned his first Fight of the Night award against Tor Troéng.  The award was proof that he was capable of putting on an entertaining contest and the UFC could afford to give him a main event slot.

I’m somewhat surprised that they would give Kennedy such a tough opponent as Natal is no cakewalk.  This could end up going to a close decision and if it goes the wrong way a lot of troops will be leaving unhappy.  Then again, Natal is a more even match than Kennedy’s originally scheduled opponent: Lyoto Machida.  Just picture last Saturday’s card with Kennedy in place of Mark Muñoz.  Machida might have been sent to Guantánamo.

Kennedy has the mindset to pressure and get takedowns, something that might play into the hands of the crafty Natal.  The Brazilian is more than comfortable off of his back and he has good scrambling ability.  Should the grappling become a stalemate and the two fighters end up throwing hands, it’s Natal who has the raw power advantage while Kennedy will have to push the pace and make sure his opponent never gets comfortable.  With every successful maneuver, Kennedy will build momentum and he just might be able to ride the military fervor to what would be one of the biggest wins of his career.

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