Rather than depend on the crazy insane match up that is the Main Event to carry the whole card, this Saturday's UFC card is, as usual, crammed with a huge amount of good fights to set the mood for a championship fight in the deepest and most exciting division there is. When 9 of the scheduled fights are scheduled to air one way or another and top 135er Joseph Benavidez still ends up in the un-aired prelims, you know it's going to be a good MMA Saturday.
For the Co-Main Event, it's 'the California Kid' Urijah Faber taking on Eddie Wineland who, with his 4 fight win streak, serves as a great second test for Faber at 135. Faber dominated the Featherweights for a long time despite being small for that division but with the MMA talent pool growing exponentially, fighters need any edge they can get and the move to Bantamweight was a smart one. Wineland is no chump, but Faber used to be in the 'pound for pound best' discussion for a reason. His stand up is good, his wrestling is solid, and he's got submission chops, but his heart is his biggest asset. He fought through a 5 rounder with two broken hands and another one with no lead leg. Add that resilience to his well rounded skills and it's going to take a Cruz, Torres, or Bowles to stop him, if anyone at Bantamweight can. Faber takes it with a classic Faber performance, fast paced, flashy and dominant.
Also on the Main Card, Jim Miller takes on Kamal Shalorus in a bout that seems to be meant to keep Miller busy while a worthy opponent becomes available. Shalorus is a good wrestler but Miller has solid wrestling in addition to a good ground game and as he's proven before, his kickboxing keeps improving and I say that improved striking is what he'll use to get the win. Nate Marquadt takes on late replacement Dan Miller and even without the short notice, Marquadt is faster, stronger, and just better skilled. Miller is a tough fighter in the same style as his brother but not as successful. I think Marquadt will abandon the approach that lost him the Okami fight and go back to his bread and butter, aggressive striking. Cro Cop takes on Brendan Schaub and long gone are the days I expect Cro Cop to throw his classic deadly high kicks. Schaub's stand up technique is sloppy but he is fast, explosive, and powerful and much like he did Gonzaga, he beats Cro Cop by beating him to the punch all night.
On the Spike prelims, Edson Barboza takes Anthony Njokuani. Both are hard hitting Muy Thai specialists but Barboza seems to be the crisper of the two and that'll get him the win. His style reminds me of Jose Aldo and if he can prove he's more than a top of the line striker, he could be a threat to the guys at the top of his division. Also on Spike, Luiz Cane takes on Elliot Marshall and though Cane has had a rough couple of fights, he's still the guy that kicked Soukudju out of the UFC and Marshall is unskilled enough to get Cane back in the right direction.
Once again, we get even more preliminary matches on Facebook. Mike Pyle takes on Ricardo Almeida. Almeida is a whiz on the ground but Pyle has the better wrestling which usually let's the fighter dictate where the fight takes place, better striking than Almeida, and is also a whiz on the ground. Pyle seems more on the ball lately and takes it by mixing it all up and throwing off Almeida. Kurt Pellegrino fights Gleison Tibau and though neither is too relevant at Lightweight, both are good fighters and very evenly matched. Pellegrino's slight edge in the stand up should get him the win.
Joseph Benavidez fights Ian Loveland on the unaired prelims in a fight he should win on his way back to another title shot. The card is filled to the brim and with the acquisition of the WEC, we can expect more cards of this nature.