Just one week after the UFC blew through Newark, the big show lands at the Key Arena in Seattle for UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis. Besides the four-fight main card, which kicks off at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Spike TV, UFC Fight Night 24 boasts a compelling undercard that features heavyweight contenders, exciting young prospects, TUF vets, and at least one Internet forum superstar. I’m not saying this is a better event than UFC 128 — but if you ask me, there are more reasons to be genuinely curious. For example…
Will Phil Davis break out? “Mr. Wonderful” is a perfect 4-0 in the Octagon, and is coming off a wicked Submission of the Night performance over Tim Boetsch at UFC 123. But let’s be honest — Lil’ Nog is a huge step up in competition, especially on relatively short notice. Nogueira was most recently outpointed by Ryan Bader, another young fighter with a strong wrestling base, which has to be encouraging for Davis coming into this fight. If Davis can avoid getting torn up by Nogueira’s superior striking and leave with a victory, it launches him into title-contender territory. Not bad for a guy who made his pro debut two-and-a-half years ago.
Will Anthony Johnson make weight? Both Johnson and Dan Hardy are promising a stand-up bash fest with none of that lovey-dovey stuff on the ground. Yawn. I’m more interested in the recent rumors that the notoriously oversized Rumble was walking around at 235 pounds before his training camp for this fight. Will he be drained by yet another brutal cut to 170? Following a botched weigh-in against Yoshiyuki Yoshida and an ugly loss to Josh Koscheck, Johnson needs to avoid repeating either of those scenarios if he wants to keep his job. Or, you know, just move up to middleweight so we don’t have to keep bringing this up.
Will Garcia vs. Jung II hold a candle to the original? When Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung first met at WEC 48, it was a Fight of the Decade candidate that was unfortunately marred by a very controversial decision win for Garcia. Now that Jung has a chance for revenge, how will things play out the second time? Will he have to literally kill Garcia in order to get some credit from the judges? I’m cautiously optimistic, but if Jung has really given up his “Zombie Style” for good, we could be looking at a very different fight.
Remember Bruce Leroy? The afro is back, baby. An injury prevented Alex Caceres from competing against Nam Phan at the TUF 12 Finale in December; he’ll be making his official UFC debut as a featherweight this Saturday against Mackens Semerzier, the WEC vet who shocked the world by submitting Wagnney Fabiano at WEC 43, then dropped his next three fights. The “win or get fired” threat-level for this match has been elevated to ‘High’ — and there’s no way Caceres wants to go back to fighting in backyards.
Was Jon Madsen‘s last fight just a fluke? After three dreadfully boring wins over Justin Wren, Mostapha Al-turk, and Karlos Vemola, I was ready to write Jon Madsen off for good. Then he blitzed Gilbert Yvel at UFC 121, earning a TKO victory in under two minutes. Of course, his overall strategy didn’t really change — get the takedown, throw some punches from the top — but his sense of urgency was noticeably different. At UFC Fight Night 24, he’ll be facing Mike Russow, best known for his Hail Mary knockout of Todd Duffee. Russow is a tough customer with great submissions and only one loss on his record (thanks to Sergei Kharitonov at PRIDE 33). Still, if Madsen can maintain the aggression we saw in his last performance, he’ll be very hard to deal with.
The future of the bantamweight division? Michael McDonald has been fighting professionally since he was 16, and became the youngest fighter on Zuffa’s roster when he made his WEC debut against Clint Godfrey in November, at the age of 19. McDonald won by first-round armbar. Now he’s back against late replacement Edwin Figueroa, a 3-0 Texan who most recently beat up a 1-14 fighter. This will not go well for Edwin Figueroa.
Can Sean McCorkle back up his words this time? Having the gift of gab is a double-edged sword. Without his wit and “Internet stardom” on the UG, Sean McCorkle would probably still be toiling away in super-heavyweight fights in Indiana. “Big Sexy” was able to basically talk his way into a UFC contract — and a successful debut against Mark Hunt — but in his follow-up match against Stefan Struve, McCorkle’s fingers wrote a check that his fists couldn’t cash. Now he’s facing Christian Morecraft, who has also had the pleasure of being TKO’d by Struve. In the lead-up to the fight, McCorkle is still doing what he does best. And he’d better win this time, because if he doesn’t, he’ll look like a complete jackass.
The full lineup for “UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis” is…
Alex Caceres vs. Mackens Semerzier [FW]
Jon Madsen vs. Mike Russow [HW]
John Hathaway vs. Kris McCray [WW]
Michael McDonald vs. Edwin Figueroa [BW]
Sean McCorkle vs. Christian Morecraft [HW]
Johny Hendricks vs. TJ Waldburger [WW]
Mario Miranda vs. Aaron Simpson [MW]
Waylon Lowe vs. Nik Lentz [LW]