Previewing UFC Fight Night 121

The UFC returns to FS1 Saturday night live from Australia with a top 10 Heavyweight showdown featuring a former Heavyweight champion. The UFC has yet another card this weekend, and this time it is coming from Sydney, Australia. The Norfolk main card certainly delivered some excellent fights and finishes last Saturday, and this card has a chance to keep some of the momentum rolling. The card features a replacement in former Heavyweight Champion Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (21-7-1 #2 Ranked Heavyweight) taking on Marcin “Tybur” Tybura (16-2 #8 Ranked Heavyweight). Werdum stepped in for Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt (13-11-1 1NC) on short notice after some comments about memory issues led to the UFC pulling Hunt from the card. There are 13 fights on the card Saturday, so let’s get into breaking them down.

Kicking off the night on UFC Fight Pass was a fight that was rescheduled over security concerns at UFC Fight Night 118 as Anthony “Freight Train” Hamilton (15-8) takes on the debuting Polish fighter Adam Wieczorek (8-1). Anthony Hamilton was knocked out in 24 seconds about a month ago. Now it was a brief sort of flash knockout and he was up and recovered very quickly to even dispute the knockout in the Octagon. He even hinted at retirement following his 3rd straight loss and 2nd via knockout. Hamilton needs to stay out of danger as best he can and try to get off the heavy hands that got him to the dance. With 3 straight losses even in this depleted Heavyweight division, it could be the last time we see him in the UFC if something doesn’t change. Adam Wieczorek will be looking to make a statement in his UFC debut. Adam has rattled off 7 straight victories all by finish with 3 knockouts and 4 submissions in that stretch. The only blemish on his record is to fellow Polish Heavyweight Marcin “Tybur” Tybura (16-2 #8 Ranked Heavyweight) in his 2nd career fight. Wieczorek has some serious ground skills, and that could make a serious difference in this one. Prediction: Adam Wieczorek via TKO.

Up next we move on to                the Flyweight division as Jenel “The Demolition Man” Lausa (7-3) is set to take on Eric “Showtime” Shelton (10-4). Jenel Lausa is 1-1 in the UFC and has gone the distance in both of his UFC fights. Lausa has been a very well rounded finisher at the professional level with 2 knockouts and 2 submissions to go along with his 3 decisions. Lausa is a guy who is looking to make an impression in a Flyweight division that is really begging for contenders to emerge. Season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter Semifinalist Eric Shelton has lost via split decision in both of his UFC appearances. Shelton is a talented submission artist who has 5 career submissions, and he is in desperate need of a win to ensure his spot on the UFC’s roster. The former Caged Aggression Flyweight Champion is looking to regain the form that got him into the Tournament of Champions season of the Ultimate Fighter and secure his first UFC victory. Prediction: Eric Shelton via Decision.

The final UFC Fight Pass Prelim of the night is a matchup in the Women’s Strawweight division between Alex “Astro Girl” Chambers (5-2) and the debuting Nadia Kassem (4-0). Alex Chambers has been out of action for over 2 years since dropping her last fight in the UFC. At 39 she is in desperate need of getting in the win column as father time is always looming in the MMA world. The Australian native is fighting in her own back yard and will be looking to add a finish to her 2 career knockouts and 2 submissions. If Chambers is planning on making a run towards the top 15 this would be a great start. Nadia Kassem is a 22-year-old prospect has dispatched all 4 of her career opponents via knockout or TKO. Also from Australia, she will be looking to take on the new challenge of the UFC’s smallest weight class. The question will become can she withstand the pressure that comes with a UFC debut. Her striking has clearly carried her to this point, and she may rely on it to make an impressive debut. Prediction: Nadia Kassem via TKO.

The 155lb division kicks off the FS1 Prelims as Australia’s Damien “Beatdown” Brown (17-10) steps into the cage to take on Frank “The Crank” Camacho (20-5). Damien Brown has racked up a 2-2 record under the UFC banner since March of 2016 including being on the winning and losing end of a first-round knockout. Brown has an impressive 8 submissions in his MMA career but has yet to finish anyone on the mat in the UFC’s Octagon. He will be looking to get a big victory to kick off the night, and it is something that can get him on the right side of .500 in the UFC. Frank Camacho suffered a unanimous decision loss in his UFC debut back in June, so a win would be of the utmost importance in his second go in the cage. Camacho is a power puncher who has put together 15 knockouts through his 20 wins. Camacho had moments in his UFC debut where he appeared to catch his opponent with a big punch but was unable to capitalize. That could have been a situation with it being his UFC debut and the nerves that come with it. Camacho will need to get his striking out early to see if he can try and disappoint the Australian fans with the result in this one. Prediction: Frank Camacho via TKO.

Rashad “Daywalker” Coulter (8-2) made his UFC debut in May, and now will welcome Australia’s Tai Tuivasa (5-0) to the UFC. Rashad Coulter was in a bit of a grueling war in his UFC debut loss to Chase “The Vanilla Gorilla” Sherman (11-3) that won him Fight of the Night even with the loss. Prior to that loss, Coulter had knocked out 5 straight opponents. Coulter’s cardio leaves a bit to be desired, but he has some solid power, which is what is needed in a Heavyweight division. He wobbled Sherman in his only UFC fight and has the potential to do the same here. Coulter’s striking isn’t the most technical, but if he is able to find his spot he could get his first victory in the UFC. For Tai Tuivasa his UFC debut comes in his 6th professional fight. His biggest win to date is over Ultimate Fighter Season 10 cast member James “The Hammer” McSweeney (15-15) just over a year ago. The 24-year-old Sydney native will be looking to enter the UFC with a serious bang and enter a Heavyweight division that needs as many solid prospects as possible. Prediction: Tai Tuivasa via TKO.

In a fight that was moved from UFC 216 last month we finally get the matchup between Nik “The Carny” Lentz, and former Bellator Champion Will “Ill Will” Brooks (18-3). Nik Lentz suffered a decision loss back in February that snapped a 2 fight winning streak. Lentz has been a mainstay in the UFC since 2009, and always seems to string together wins. He is a guy who uses his wrestling and grappling to take control of fights. He also has knockout power with 7 career knockouts. Lentz could play the spoiler here and potentially end the run of Will Brooks in the UFC. Will Brooks has gone 1-2 since joining the UFC and has been finished in his last 2 appearances. Once you can throw out the window as his opponent missed weight, but in his last appearance, he was tapped. Brooks needs to regain that grind mentality that got him to the top of Bellator’s Lightweight division. Brooks has finishing ability as well with 5 knockouts and 4 submissions, but he primarily ends up in the judges hands. If he can’t get a win here this could be the end of the line and could have a return to Bellator in his near future. Prediction: Will Brooks via Decision.

Closing out the FS1 prelims we get another Flyweight bout between Ryan “Baby Face” Benoit (9-5) and Ashkan “The Assassin” Mokhtarian (13-2). Ryan Benoit has gone 2-3 in the UFC in alternating fashion since debuting in 2013. Benoit has faced some stiff competition as 2 of his losses have come to guys currently ranked in the Top 10 of the division. He also holds a knockout win over Top 5 Flyweight Sergio Pettis (16-2 #4 Ranked Flyweight) which looks very good on the resume. Benoit has added 6 more knockouts to his career total giving him 7 over the course of his 14 fight career. Benoit will need to make sure he keeps the fight on his feet against a more accomplished grappler, but if he is able to uncork his striking early he could make quick work to close out the prelims. Ashkan Mokhtarian dropped a decision in his UFC debut back in June but returns to the cage looking to get his first UFC victory. Mokhtarian had runoff 6 straight wins leading up to his debut. He has been a rather prolific finisher having stopped 12 of his 16 opponents with 6 submissions and 6 knockouts. The advantage here may be on the mat for Mohktarian, but he will not back down when it comes to battle on the feet. This one should be a banger to close out the prelims. Prediction: Ashkan Mokhtarian via Decision.

As we kick off the 6 fight main card from Sydney on FS1 we get Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (15-1) taking on his 4th scheduled opponent for this one card late replacement Shane “Sugar” Young (11-3). Alexander Volkanovski is riding a 2 fight win streak in the UFC, and even though his opponent has been changed 3 times since he was announced for the card he will be ready to go wen Saturday comes. Volkanovski is a power puncher who has knocked out 9 of his opponents throughout his career including his opponent in his UFC debut. His ground game may come in handy in this one considering he is facing a young fighter in his UFC debut. A win here could go a long way to getting him a top 15 opponent in a pretty solid 145lb division. For Shane Young, he enters the UFC on very short notice. The 24-year-old Australian native has 5 knockouts and 4 submissions to his name including 3 finishes in his current 5 fight win streak. He will debut on the main card against a guy on the verge of the top 15. The element of surprise may be on his side, but who knows if that will outweigh the first time UFC jitters. He has a huge chance on his hands to step in and make an immediate statement as he does enters the highest level of MMA in the world. Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski via Decision.

“The Spartan” Elias Theodorou (14-2) returns to the Octagon to take on previously ranked Daniel Kelly (13-2). Elias Theodorou suffered a tough unanimous decision loss that halted a 2 fight win streak back in July. Prior to that Theodorou had been very impressive in his appearances. Theodorou puts pressure on his opponents but also can back it up with knockout power. The question will become how he will deal with the judo and grappling of a guy like Kelly. Theodorou also can throw some heavy hands and look for the knockout if he plans on keeping this a standing showdown. Daniel Kelly at 40 years old made a run all the way to the top 15 before suffering a rough first round knockout loss in his last outing. A 6-2 record in the UFC for the former Olympian has been nothing but impressive. However, the question is can he continue to battle father time? Kelly’s goal will be to get this fight to his advantage using his judo and go for the win that way. He holds a win over a former world champion and is filled with experience. Will he be able to harness of that and get back in the win column? Prediction: Elias Theodorou via Decision.

The next matchup is a pair of Welterweights looking to get back in the win column as Australia’s Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews (11-3) takes on Serbia’s Bojan “Serbian Steele” Velickovic (15-5-1). For the 23-year-old Matthews this will be the 8th time he makes the UFC walk and he has gone 4-3 in those previous 7 outings. He has hit the first losing streak of his career, but the future is still bright for him. Matthews has used his striking and grappling to finish a combined 9 opponents. Two of his losses came against guys who are now in top 15 rankings including a guy who recently challenged for a title in Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee16-4 #8 Ranked Lightweight). He will need a lot to take down Velickovic who has shown some serious heart in the Octagon. Velickovic dropped his most recent outing in September to Darren Till (16-0-1 #7 Ranked Welterweight), but in that fight showed a chin that was unflappable despite the heavy shots from Till. Velickovic is only 28 years old and has showed a solid ground game prior to joining the UFC with 8 submissions. In the UFC he has seen the judges more times than not, but he also owns a knockout win. If he can get in early on Matthews he could really put a damper on the young prospects UFC status. Prediction: Bojan Velickovic via Submission.

“The Dirty Bird” Tim Means (27-8-1 1NC) stepped in on late notice here to get a chance to fight one more time in 2017 and he will take on Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad (12-2).  Tim Means is one of the most fun fighters to watch in the UFC currently. His striking and constant attacking style makes anyone he faces have to deal with his pace. Means has knocked out 18 opponents in his career and will be looking to do the same here. He will have the chance to go 2-1 in 2017 and build up a 2 fight win streak heading into next year. Belal Muhammad has strung together 2 straight victories in 2017 including a very impressive unanimous decision victory his last time out. Muhammad has a boxing background, and he uses that striking prowess to pick apart his opponents. He seems to find the judges more and more in his victories, but he does have 4 knockouts to his name. He will need to deal with the long and lanky Means and try to get inside on him while avoiding the elbows. This one could see a performance of the night bonus when the night is all said and done. Prediction: Tim Means via TKO.

The Co-Main Event is up next in the newly formed Women’s Flyweight Division as UFC veteran Bec “Rowdy” Rawlings (7-6) moves weight classes to welcome Jessica-Rose Clark (7-4 1NC) to the UFC. Bec Rawlings had lost 2 straight fights at 115lbs after 2 victories. She dropped her UFC debut and her record in the UFC is 2-3. Rawlings uses her grappling and clinch game to keep her opponents at bay on the feet, and has finished 4 fighters on the mat via submission.  Rawlings will be looking for the fresh start the new weight class provides her, and make her claim for the rankings at 125lbs. Jessica-Rose Clark will make her first appearance in the UFC off a victory in her last fight for Titan FC. Clark has gone to the scorecards in 7 of her 11 career fights, so we may be in for the full 15 minutes with this matchup. As a late replacement for the Co-Main event in her home country, there is almost no doubt that the adrenaline will be running high and some first-time UFC jitters may play a role. A win here against a UFC veteran in a newly created weight class could go a long way as her UFC journey begins. Prediction: Bec Rawlings via Decision.

Former Heavyweight Champion Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (21-7-1 #2 Ranked Heavyweight) returns to the cage just over a month from his last fight to take on Marcin “Tybur” Tybura (16-2 #8 Ranked Heavyweight). Fabricio Werdum is arguably the best heavyweight in MMA history. He holds victories over serious legends of the sport along with holding the UFC title. Werdum’s ground game is far and away the best in the world at Heavyweight, and he showed that against last-minute opponent Walt “The Big Ticket” Harris (10-7) at UFC 216 in early October. Stepping in on late notice to take on Tybura is a risk though considering he is 1 win away from challenging for the title. Werdum can sometimes over extend on the feet, and we have seen him get his lights turned off before against talented strikers. However, if Werdum can get the fight to the ground it will be a wrap in the blink of an eye. Marcin Tybura initially scheduled to take on Mark Hunt, but he replaced one legend in Hunt for another in Werdum. Either one would have been the biggest step up in competition for the 32-year-old Polish Heavyweight. He has ran off 3 straight victories including 2 knockouts in his charge up to the top 10. He will have his hands full with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Werdum. If Tybura is able to pull off this upset he would jump into the title picture in a wide open Heavyweight division, but that is a tall task. This one could be over very quickly and either way, a title challenger could emerge. Prediction: Marcin Tybura via TKO.

The Australian crowd will be fired up for the UFC’s return to the land down under. Even without fan favorite Mark Hunt atop the card, they will be excited to cheer for a card packed with Australian born fighters. The card doesn’t jump out at you with marquee names, but it does have a lot of fun fights schedules. With next week being a trip to Shanghai for the UFC a good showing on FS1 could lead more people to the FUC Fight Pass card. Let’s hop ewe get another really entertaining set of fights.

 

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