I decided to break this one up into two parts. Part 2, featuring the co-main and main events, will be posted on Tuesday.
The UFC starts off its second year on Fox this Saturday, with another title fight airing on free television. This time it’s the flyweights getting the rub, as Demetrious Johnson looks to make his first successful title defense against the division’s no. 1 contender, John Dodson. Also slated for the Fox portion of the card is what may be the final UFC fight of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, who has blasted the UFC in the media at every turn, and made it clear he intends to take his drawing power someplace else.
Erik Koch and Ricardo Lamas kick things off once the FX prelims conclude, in a fight that moves one of them close to a featherweight title shot, something that is becoming harder and harder to come by these days. Remember when all Kenny Florian had to do was make the weight-cut and squeak past Diego Nunes to get a shot? And when Mark Hominick had to beat George Roop to get his? Now however, you have to rack up impressive wins just to get a fight that looks like it could produce a worthy injury replacement in a future number-one contender fight.
Lamas has the aforementioned win streak, beating Hatsu Hioki, and Cub Swanson most recently. Erik Koch comes into this fight after a long layoff, and was originally set to get a title fight against Jose Aldo but was forced out by injury. He beat Jonathan Brookins and Raphael Assuncao back-to-back in 2011, and his only career loss is to Chad Mendes, whose only career loss is to Jose Aldo, whose only career loss is to pavement. (That’s actually not true, he did lose once back in 2005, but where would I be if I let facts get in my way?) Both of these guys know that beating the other will put them at the front of the line for the winner of Aldo/Edgar, or into another number-one contender fight should Aldo win and then make the jump to 155 lbs. See what I mean about featherweight? I’d have to say this is Koch’s fight to win, he’ll most likely push the pace wherever the fight goes, and wait for Lamas to make a mistake and finish him.
Next up is huge fight in the lightweight division, where the winner should be the next number-one contender for the title at 155 lbs. Seeing a pattern here? Anthony Pettis came into the UFC in 2011 with a guaranteed title unification fight, with his WEC lightweight title being his ticket to the UFC strap. Fast forward two years, Pettis is 2-1 in the UFC, no title fight yet, and Gilbert Melendez is the one in the unification fight, coming over as the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion. Throw in the fact that Pettis was promised a title fight again after his last win, and that Eddie Alvarez was offered a UFC contract guaranteeing him a title fight upon arrival, and it really looks like Pettis is getting the raw end of the stick here. He’s hoping the third times a charm when it comes to promised title fights, as a win over Cerrone on Fox would put his name back in the mouths of casual and hardcore fans alike.
These guys are both dynamic strikers, and although Pettis didn’t fare well against the grinding style(that day) of Clay Guida, against Cerrone he’s likely to keep the fight standing and look for his next highlight for the ages. Cerrone has to know it will be coming, and will try to kickbox his way to victory. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Pettis will win, and also that his next fight will be for the belt.