Easily the match with the biggest implications is going to be the women's fight. Sarah Kaufman may have already had her title shot against Ronda Rousey under the Strikeforce banner, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't be able to work her way back to a rematch under the right circumstances and she is surely talented enough to do so. Her road there could start with this fight against a very tough and very game Leslie Smith.
Two other fights on here should be fun ones to watch as well and the other one... well... you know what I'm trying to say. Someone could always get KO'd and thats worth seeing.
Don't ask me why these two traditionally 155ers are taking this fight at welterweight. I don't even work here. But expect a good standup battle.
Now that Melvin Guillard has been released from the company, Stout might be free from competition for the title of most inconsistent fighter in the UFC at this point. He has alternated wins and loses for the last 7 fights at this point and can look like a title contender one fight to a guy who doesn't look like he belongs in the Octagon. To his credit, he did lose his head coach Sean Tompkins a few years ago... but if he is ever to make a move now is the time. He isn't a youngster anymore.
Noons greatest claim to fame is being one of only two people to stop Nick Diaz in a fight. While that is a hell of an accomplishment (even if it was a doctor stoppage), he hasn't done much else since Diaz avenged that loss. He has a reputation as a talented striker, but has one finish in the last 6 years. Though coming off of a victory over George Sotiropoulos, it was an uninspired affair that didn't do much to endear him to the fans or UFC management.
Stout is a sound boxer that employs a punches-in-bunches style that may remind some of the Diaz brothers. The Diaz brothers utilize better technique though and less of a brawling style than Stout. Nonetheless, Stout's technique is nothing to sneeze about and his chin his stout too (See what I did there! I know. Not funny). For years the knock on him was that boxing was the only thing that he did. He was done an efficient job of mixing things up recently (leg kicks, takedowns) to help dispel that fact. The bigger issue is that he has checked out mentally in some fights (Tompkins death).
While Noons has continually been lauded as a great striker, his recent record of finishes (mentioned earlier) and the fact that he couldn't finish a chinny Sotiropoulos leaves the conclusion that his abilities are overrated. The isn't to to say he sucks as he is still a very technically sound boxer. But his power has either vanished or never existed. He throws the occasional kick and has a tough chin to crack as the last time he was finished was 7 years ago. He needs to find his killer instinct if he wants to stick around long term. (I swear I just typed something similar to that last paragraph...)
The biggest problem with Noons is that everyone knows what is coming: he wants to keep the fight on the feet the whole time. He has scored one takedown in his last 14 fights on 5 attempts. Ouch. To his credit, he shows a very good sprawl and takedown defense in general, but his lack of diversity gives his opponents one less thing to worry about. He has exhibited solid submission defense, but similar to takedowns, he hasn't been credited to attempting one in any of those 14 fights by Fight Metric.
Noons submission defense may not matter as Stout rarely ever attempts subs himself. But as I mentioned earlier, Stout has learned to go for the occasional takedown and his wrestling overall is... we'll say respectable, but incorporating it made all the difference in his most recent victory over Spencer Fisher as the striking was pretty even. He has always had an excellent sprawl, but as has already been implied, it likely won't matter in this fight.
These fighters are similar on so many levels that I gotta go with the one with the better all-around game. I don't expect Stout to score a lot of takedowns, but he'll get just enough that he'll get the nod from the judges in a relatively even striking affair. Stout by Decision
Leslie Smith (6-4-1) vs. #5 Sarah Kaufman (16-2, 1 NC), Women's Bantamweight
Kaufman finally found an opponent that could stay healthy! After two potential opponents dropped out in a weeks time, Smith accepted the call.
Smith jumped at the chance to save the day for the UFC to step in for a rematch against Kaufman. They passed over her once before when Kaufman's original opponent Shayna Baszler got hurt in favor of Amanda Nunes, but couldn't say no to her twice after Nunes went down as well. Their first match in Invicta was highly competitive and some felt Smith won and she undoubtedly came closest to ending the fight . She dropped to flyweight after that and lost to Barb Honchack for Invicta's title and now jumps back up to 135 to enter the UFC.
Kaufman has had to deal with a string of bad luck since coming into the UFC. Her first scheduled UFC match with Sara McMann was cancelled for personal reasons for McMann (we have no clue what they were), lost to Jessica Eye in a fight that most felt she won (was later turned to NC after Eye tested for Mary Jane), and was almost without an opponent again (twice!) when Baszler and then Nunes got hurt. She is determined to change her run of luck and she'll have something to say about it.
I have yet to see a boring Leslie Smith fight. In her 6 fights for Invicta, she has scored 4 Fight of the Night bonuses largely thanks to her willingness to stand and trade. While she throws a lot of punches, she eats a lot of shots herself as a result, but she has yet to lose via KO/TKO. It wouldn't be inaccurate to label her a brawler, but it almost seems unfair to say that about her as she throws a little bit of everything: punches, kicks, elbows, knees, the kitchen sink... you name it she throws it and does so with a fair amount of skill. Her technique does get sloppy when the leather starts flying fast, but as a fight fan, she is more than forgiven in my book for the joy those exchanges bring me.
Kaufman has some of the most technically sound boxing (if not the most) in the women's division. Her stance and footwork is textbook, as are her strikes. There isn't any specific technique she throws that really stands out as she is solid in all areas. She shows good combinations with her kicks and punches and is highly effective in the clinch with her dirty boxing along with knees to the body, which is where she had the most success against Smith the first time around. To find a weakness in her striking is difficult. If I were to find something though, I would have to say that she gets a little to tentative at times and she isn't very dynamic.
Kaufman prefers to keep the fight standing, but she isn't exactly weak on the ground either. She is very powerful and a good wrestler capable of bullying her way through a bad situation. Her slam of Roxanne Modafferi from a few years ago is a perfect example of that. None of her victories have come by submission, but she does own strong and busy GNP which can and has ended fights. Her only losses have come at the hands of slick submission experts, so I wouldn't label her submission defense a liability, but it is certainly possible to catch her in one. Seeing Honchack have success in controlling Smith on the ground, I think Kaufman will try to make this go-round more of a wrestling match.
I won't pretend that Smith has the strength the match Kaufman's wrestling, but she does a pretty good job of staying on her feet. She has a good submission base as she trains at Cesar Gracie jiu-Jitsu (what!), but has shown a preference for using GNP. Considering Kaufman has been caught before, I would expect Smith to change things up and perhaps be more aggressive in locking down a hold rather than trying to crack Kaufman's chin this time. Smith is completely no frills though, which was illustrated when she suffered a wardrobe malfunction against Raquel Pennington and didn't bother to acknowledge it until the round was over. She wants to win and doesn't care how she does it (or how she looks in the process).
The last fight was awesome and I would expect both of these ladies to be willing to throwdown again in this fight. There will be tweeks here and there from both sides... but I expect Kaufman to be better prepared. Especially when you consider she has been training for a fight for weeks now. Smith has had one week. Kaufman by Decision
I don't know anyone that is excited about this match. Jimmo is hated on by many while O'Connell is largely unknown. I hate putting it that way... but there you have it.
Jimmo has garnered the wrath of many MMA fans for his tendency to score uninspired decision wins, some of which were 5 round snoozefests. He is a smart fighter though which accounts for the number of decisions on his ledger as he doesn't take unnecessary risks... which is generally the same thing that people complain about with GSP. Let me make this clear: Jimmo is no GSP, but the criticism he receives is similar.
O'Connell is a longtime veteran on the regional scene making his UFC debut (replacing an injured Steve Bosse) fighting out of Jeremy Horn's camp. His most notable victory is over Marvin Eastman, who has gone 3-7 since washing out of the UFC 6 years ago... not the most impressive. He is respected throughout the MMA community though and puts on some fun fights.
If you want to see for yourself why Jimmo has so many haters, watch his fight with Igor Pokrajac which was a clinch-fest against the cage and Jimmo scoring uninspired GNP. Its pretty typical of what to expect. He's a pretty big 205er and knows how to use his size to his advantage... thus why so much of his fights are spent in the clinch. His wrestling is underrated and he is good at maintaining control from the top position. He rarely goes for the submission, so O'Connell likely has little to worry about there.
O'Connell is a bit harder to figure out as there is very little footage to find on him. What is out there shows that he is very aggressive in looking for submissions. The funny thing is that only three of his victories have come by way of submission, all of them by RNC. He is certainly capable of more than that though and very active off of his back. He uses his GNP in differently depending on the situation. He can make it heavy to finish off an opponent or largely keep it busy to wear down an opponent and force a transition, but not so heavy that he tires himself out either. In other words, he is pretty savvy.
His standup game looks worrisome to me. He seemed to have some pretty poor defense as he leaves himself pretty wide open to get struck. Granted, I was only able to find actual fight footage of just two of his fights and neither of them lasted more than two minutes... so anything I say needs to be taken with a grain of salt. He did show the ability to throw a good combination together and some power behind his punches, which his 7 KO/TKO's should illustrate as well.
I fully expect Jimmo to keep this fight standing. His muscular frame may not look like it is very fluid for throwing kicks, but he is a 4x National Karate Champion in Canada and owns a second degree black belt in it as well. Ask James Te Huna how his kicks feel. As for his punching power, all you need to do is watch all 7 seconds of his match with Anthony Perosh to know that he does have dynamite in his fists. Because of his conservative style though, Jimmo doesn't always exhibit these things as he knows the potential damage to himself is minimized if he pushes his opponent against the cage or maintains top control. As a result, its easy to forget that he has a very solid all-around striking game.
I don't want to knock on O'Connell, but he really struggles to jump out at you as a guy who will be able to stick around the UFC for a long period of time. Jimmo isn't exactly championship material himself, but he does belong in the organization and is being given an opponent that is facing a big step up in competition. Jimmo by TKO 1st Round
Roop continues to play the gatekeeper role in this match as he tests Kimura to see if he is ready to introduce himself to a ranked opponent.
Roop has had an overall successful UFC/WEC career when you consider that he has been the underdog going into almost all of his matches and has been able to maintain employment with Zuffa since 2008 outside of a one-fight stint in 2009. He's even scored some impressive victories along the way such as Chan Sung Jung and former WEC champ Brian Bowles.
Kimura is a youngster at 24 years old and has been inconsistent in his short stint with the UFC. He was losing his debut pretty decisively until pulling out a sub in the last round against Chico Camus followed by an emphatic loss to Mitch Gagnon and just as emphatic victory of Jon Delos Reyes. He has the talent to make a run up the rankings... he just has to put it all together every night he steps into the Octagon.
Roop's biggest weapon is easily his size. I can't say that I'm aware of any other bantamweight at 6'1. He seems to have figured out how to more effectively use it. He's always thrown a lot of strikes, but has improved his accuracy while having an effective mix of kicks and punches. He still lets his opponent into his range more often than he should, but like I said, he is using his range more effectively. He doesn't appear to be very strong with his lanky frame, but 3 of his last 4 victories have come by KO/TKO, including his highlight reel head kick that put the Korean Zombie out cold.
Kimura has holes in his striking that a semi could drive through. His opponents have almost outlanded him 2-to-1 on significant strikes in the UFC, not the type of numbers conducive to long term success. This isn't a problem that just occurred once he made it to the big promotion... his final fight before coming to the UFC he was dominated on the feet until he landed a one punch KO in the final minutes of the fight. He has some power, but he needs to work on his movement, stance, and striking technique or his UFC stint won't last as long as he would hope.
What Kimura does have going for him is one of the most aggressive submission games in the UFC. Camus handed Kimura the victory in his debut by repeatedly taking the fight to the ground despite Kimura making attempt after attempt for submissions before finally scoring one. I would imagine he wouldn't have too much difficulty attaching himself to one of Roop's long limbs if the opportunity presents itself. However, Roop will be expecting this and with Kimura's striking deficiencies, don't expect Roop to take the fight to the ground. Whether or not Kimura can get the fight to the ground is a mystery... I can't recall even seeing a takedown attempt from him.
Roop has tightened up his submission defense from his early career when 4 of his first 5 losses came via submission. He has not been submitted since. He doesn't often look for submissions himself, preferring to stay on top and utilize GNP. What impresses me the most about Roop's ground game is his selectivity in who he takes down there, showing good judgement with regards to when it will be to his benefit to go to the ground. His wrestling has looked improved over the last year or so and though I don't expect him to go to the ground, he knows how to utilize a nice double-leg against the cage.
Kimura has way too many holes in his striking for Roop not to recognize the advantage that he owns. I admit that Kimura is the better grappler, but he hasn't shown if he can dictate where the fight goes. Roop's height is also a conundrum that can be difficult to solve and I haven't been impressed by Kimura's ability to game plan to this point. Roop by TKO 2nd Round
Record for last Card: 6-1, 1 NC
Record for Year: 70-45-1, 1 NC