UFC 152:They’re Back! (The Prelims)

Much can (and will) be said about the totally inexplicable main event that headlines UFC 152 in Toronto, but it’s staying on the shelf until part 2 of my preview, which I’ll get to as soon as I write about 1,000 too many words about the prelims. Put it this way: I honestly didn’t believe that this was the fight they came up with. It took some hard evidence. I still like this card, though. Onto the prelims.

Charlie Brenneman vs. Kyle Noke

I’m not sure what to make of this one. Brenneman is a relentless wrestler who can dominate a fight if he gets on top. Charlie is one of those guys, though, that once he gets clipped, it’s only a matter of time before he goes down in flames. I’m not saying he has a bad chin; quite the contrary. His problem is that he’ll keep popping up from getting dropped, but he wont recover, and he’ll just leave himself open to more killshots.

The real question here is with Kyle Noke’s standup. Is it good enough to put Brenneman on roller skates? Honestly, probably. The Spaniard is tough and relentless, but he’s truly vulnerable on the feet. Noke by TKO.

Mitch Gagnon vs. Walel Watson

Mitch Gagnon is going to take down Walel Watson, and then he’s going to beat the piss out of him. Then, he’s going to get tired, and Watson is going to come back and win. That is all. For real. Gagnon blew it against Brian Caraway. Not good stuff.

Seth Baczynski vs. Simeon Thoresen

Thoresen made his UFC debut in April on the Sweden card, and he weathered an early storm from a better-than-expected Besam Yousef before taking him down in the second round and tapping him.

Baczynski isn’t playing games.

Seth Baczynski, on the other hand, seems to be patiently waiting his turn and beating up mid-level guys before he gets his shot at a top ten guy. Baczynski is good, a guy that can absolutely make you uncomfortable with how brutal and relentless he can be. I love MMA, but every once in awhile I’ll come across someone who makes me think “Geez, this dude is cold … I feel like I’m watching something that I can’t unsee”. Like, there’s getting your ass kicked, and then there’s … THIS. Cain Velasquez is one. Seth Baczynski is well on his way to becoming another. What he did to Clay Harvison should have been criminally investigated by the FBI.

Thoresen is a decent grappler and a good submission guy, but I see him having all sorts of trouble with Seth on the feet, which is where I think he takes this one. Thoresen will probably make the fight competitive with submission attempts, and I don’t see this as a complete blowout. A few knees and elbows will send Thoresen to his back before Seth beats on him to earn a TKO victory at the beginning of the third.

Jim Hettes vs. Marcus Brimage

This one reeks of “exciting prospect takes on journeyman who unexpectedly won his last fight”. Marcus Brimage can’t really be called a prospect. Even though he only has six career fights, he’s taken five years to get there. Having a UFC deal helps, of course, but the overall point is that Brimage can compete with UFC level guys, but probably won’t beat many of them.

Jim Hettes, on the other hand, appears to be on the fast track to UFC success. After a sloppy grappling match against Alex Caceres, Hettes really seemed to turn it on in his last fight, battering Nam Phan with rapid-fire ground and pound and superior grappling. Actually, that doesn’t even tell the full story. Hettes absolutely trashed Nam Phan on the ground, and he did so for a solid fifteen minutes. It was like he was fighting for his life.

Hettes punches from guard like most guys punch standing up. Slingin’!

If he continues to improve leaps and bounds from fight to fight (which tends to happen when guys are young, active, and hungry), then I don’t see why Hettes couldn’t throw himself into bigger fights. His standup still needs alot of work, but he definitely has the tools on the floor to do some things. I think he’ll tap Marcus Brimage relatively early after Brimage shows some resistance. Hettes by submission.

Lance Benoist vs. Sean Pierson

There are tons of fights like this in the UFC’s 170 pound division: two unheralded, tough wrestlers that would be welterweight champs in almost any other organization but are middle of the pack guys at best in this one.

Benoist gave Seth Baczynski all he could handle in his last fight, while Pierson got a much-needed win over Jake Hecht after losing his last two fights in one-sided and often embarrassing fashion.

To me, this fight could turn into a sloppy striking exhibition, as both guys are good wrestlers. Pierson is a solid boxer, and the fact that he’s a southpaw helps his case here as well. Benoist could always go into beast mode and savage the older Pierson, but I like Pierson to outbox Lance and earn a narrow split decision win.

Evan Dunham vs. TJ Grant

I remain flummoxed (love that word) as to why this didn’t make the pay-per-view card. I could understand if it was shelved for a fight that wasn’t as compelling of a matchup but included a bigger name … but Matt Hamill and Roger Hollett? Seriously? Are people really flocking to Buffalo Wild Wings and throwing UFC parties to watch Matt Hamill?

Dunham and Lentz put on a slobberknocker.

Regardless, this is a good matchup. Then again, it’s hard to make a bad fight at lightweight. Remember when Evan Dunham was sitting on the doorstep of contendership? Then, he dropped a fight to Sean Sherk in one of the all time decision heists, got kneed by Melvin Guillard, and the next thing you knew, he was outpointing Shamar Bailey with a look on his face that said “I was a contender … now I’m fighting Shamar Bailey”. In his last fight, he won a grueling affair with Nik Lentz, and that performance convinced me that Dunham has his mojo back.

TJ Grant was a decent welterweight, but he kept dropping fights to bigger, better wrestlers. 170 is just a brutal division to be in if you aren’t an above average wrestler, because sooner or later, you’re going to run into one of them. Then, he dropped to 155 and won two straight. He’s going to have to grapple with Dunham to beat him, as Evan is an excellent striker.

Dunham’s striking will be the difference here, as he cuts up Grant and pounds him out midway through the second round.

Vinny Magalhaes vs. Igor Pokrajac

Finally, a talented Magalhaes! No more Caio’s and Bernardo’s, please. After Vinny dropped fights with Ryan Bader and Elliot Marshall a few years ago, he signed with M-1, improved his standup, and did things like this.

That clip sums up Vinny’s career over the past few years. He’d sometimes do amazing things, but the competition he pulled them off against wasn’t exactly stern. There’s a reason that “M-1 grappling” became a meme.

Anyway, it’s nice to see him back in the UFC, and he’s going to get in there with a guy that, crazily enough, is on a nice run right now. When Igor Pokrajac came into the UFC, he seemed like just another tough guy that wasn’t super talented and would always flame out against guys who were. Pokrajac’s cardio and solid boxing should be enough to give Vinny fits. As I said, Vinny’s standup has improved, but Pokrajac isn’t one of those Russian journeymen that Vinny’s fought recently that folds up the second things stop going his way.

I’m interested to see if Vinny can get this fight to the ground. If he can, look for excitement. If not, look for Igor to pound Vinny out on the feet. Igor by TKO.

Overall record: 16-9

Part two coming tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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