Urijah Faber vs Renan Barao
When news that Dominick Cruz suffered a torn ACL, and would be forced to withdraw from his rubber match with Urijah Faber, fans were upset. However as far as it goes this is a worthy consolation prize. Since dropping to 135lbs Urijah Faber has looked fantastic in his dominating performances over Takeya Mizugaki, Eddie Wineland, and Brian Bowles. Since Cruz took the 135lb belt nobody has looked better against him than Faber did in their fight last july. Renan Barao has turned into quite the phenom since entering Zuffa. Submitting Chris Cariaso, knocking out Brad Pickett, and dominating Scotty Jorgensen for three rounds have put him into title contention.
Standing I have to consider power a wash. Both these guys have done things in this division that hadn't seldom been done before with their hands. Striking technique I'm splitting into traditional and unorthodox categories. Barao is the better traditionally technical striker with that Nova Unaio brand muay thai. Faber is easily one of the most unorthodox strikers of the last ten years. On the ground things become a bit less complicated. Faber will enjoy a wrestling advantage here, while Barao is the better jiu jitsu fighter. I believe Faber will have better cardio if this see's the later rounds. What this comes down to is both these guys are killers who finish fights when given the chance. I forsee problems for Faber here dealing with Barao's kicks. The last time Faber fought someone like this he could barely stand after a few rounds with Jose Aldo. Now Faber has to deal with a teammate of Aldo's who looks to be no less brutal with the delivery of those leg kicks. Faber may have a speed similar to Barao's here, which may help him in the meantime. However if he can't check those kicks early and often or find a way to make Barao pay for them immediately he's going to find himself with hampered mobility. I just think Barao is going to prove to be too much, and won't hold back on Faber when he's got him in position for the kill like Aldo did.
Prediction: Renan Barao by SubmissionHector Lombard vs Tim Boetsch
After his comeback victory over Yushin Okami, Tim Boetsch now finds himself welcoming longtime Middleweight stalwart. Whether or not that's a good thing has yet to be seen. Lombard has spent nearly the last six years undefeated. Going 23-0-1 in that time. Boetsch has had success since dropping to 185lbs thusfar, despite being dominated for two rounds by Yushin Okami before coming back with a blitz to finish "Thunder". Both of these guys have monster power in their punches and in general. We'll see a battle between Lombard's Judo and Boetsch' so called redneck judo. As far as it goes I give the advantage in overall striking to Lombard, as well as a slight edge in striking power given his affinity for aggression and ability to find opponents with his hands more often than not. Grappling has to be an advantage for Lombard as well, I'll take world class judo here. Boetsch does have one area in which he will have a distinct advantage, and that's in cardio. Lombard has been known to punch himself out and gas in later rounds before. Boetsch seems to pace himself well and could take over late if Lombard begins to get tired. I see this fight playing out mostly standing up. I don't think Boetsch can get it to the ground early on and I don't think Lombard will want to go to the ground at all. Most likely someone is getting knocked out here, and unfortunately for his 185 run I think it's Boetsch getting caught early on.
Prediction: Hector Lombard by (T)KOCheick Kongo vs Shawn Jordan
This is yet another replacement fight in a year chock full o' injuries. Cheick Kongo was originally slated to fight Minotauro Nogueira before the realization that his arm had not fully yet healed forced Minotauro to pull out. Kongo had a rough time in his last outing, being pummeled by Mark Hunt. Meanwhile Jordan found success in his UFC debut against Oli Thompson via second round knockout. Standing this fight is fairly even, with Kongo getting an edge in overall striking technique. That being said this is the heavyweight division, and everyone has knockout power. On the ground Kongo has the better wrestling, while Jordan has better submissions. If it goes to the ground whomever ends up on top is probably going to win.
Prediction: Shawn Jordan by (T)KOBrian Ebersole vs James Head
Brian Ebersole has made a bit of a name for himself in the UFC Welterweight division. With his promotional debut he almost did the impossible when he had Chris Lytle badly hurt from a flying knee. Since beating Lytle Ebersole has strung together three more consecutive victories and most notably dominating TJ Waldburger, as well as pounding Dennis Hallman out via ground and pound. James Head has has varied success thusfar in his young UFC career, splitting his two fights. Head pose an interesting matchup here for Ebersole in that he appears to have a decent striking repertoire, as well as a ground game he has used to some success. The problem here is that Ebersole is a bad matchup for him style wise, as well as the fact that Ebersole is on fire lately. If Head can't stay upright to land some of those power shots he's going to have a very difficult time finding ways to win. Standing the advantage goes to Head in overall technique, though Ebersole throws some of the wackiest ones around. Striking power I'm going to call a wash with a slight favor to Head. James has shown more consistent power in his strikes while Ebersole relies mostly on surprise tactics to land big, but anyone who rocks Lytle as hard as Ebersole did has some serious power despite the fact that it was a flying knee. On the ground I have to give the advantage to Ebersole. If this goes to the ground he's going to find a way to get on top if he's not already on top. Once there he will absolutely stifle Head with top control and ground and pound. Unfortunately for Head I don't see him successfully keeping this fight where he needs it to stay in order to win.
Prediction: Brian Ebersole by Decision.