Anybody else enjoy the break from the UFC? If you didn't, I've got good news! Over the span of 16 days, starting on the 11th, there are gonna be 4 UFC events. So get ready to feast!
A pretty solid Fight Pass undercard took a hit when it lost the Alp Ozkilic-Dustin Ortiz scrap, but the five fights left provide enough intrigue. Enough to make you go out and buy Fight Pass if you haven't already? No... but if you already own it there is no reason not to watch.
There are a couple of prospects that have enough promise that I could see them entering the rankings before you know it (I'm not gonna give a time frame) and even a former title challenger. Now the appetizer is done, dig in to the main course:
A couple of big boys relatively new to the company go head-to-head in a division in desperate need of some new blood in the rankings. Either one could potentially break in there by the end of the year.
Rosholt is the most hyped prospect in the heavyweight division right now and with good reason. High expectations often follow a 3-time wrestling All-American. He didn't look great in his debut against Walt Harris as he was knocked down twice and Harris' athleticism really shown early in the match so as to make Rosholt's athletic ability seem menial in comparison, especially considering he doesn't look like one at first glance. But he won the fight for a reason with a couple of adjustments and should continue to improve.
Omielanczuk doesn't have nearly the same hype as Rosholt and looks less athletic (he is, but not a bad athlete himself). But a 12-fight win streak should be enough to get most people to turn their heads. Similar to Rosholt, he may not have looked as impressive as most expected him to in his UFC debut against Nandor Guelmino, but he got the job done with emphasis when he finished the Austrian with one punch.
There is no denying that Rosholt has some work to do with his boxing. That isn't to say his hands aren't heavy (he does own a one punch KO on the regional scene), but his technique looked a bit sloppy against Harris. To his credit, he has only been fighting for 3 years at this point. He was able to make up for it by showing some nice kicks to the legs and body, though he was lazy at times with those as well. He was getting into trouble with Harris when he was waiting for Harris to throw first to try and counter him. Once he was the aggressor, the fight started going his way. Translation: he needs to stay aggressive.
Omielanczuk surprised many with his one punch KO over Guelmino as he owns a reputation as a grappler. But he does have a kickboxing background and shows it by throwing a variety of kicks and also has a habit of opening his fights with a roundhouse kick to the head. Considering his reputation as a grappler, it should be no surprise that he enjoys clinching and shows effective dirty boxing and knees to the legs and midsection. I question how effective it will be here with Rosholt's wrestling background. He may be the better boxer at this point though.
The ground game will likely be the deciding factor here. Omielanczuk is a better wrestler than he gets credit for as he is capable of scoring a double-leg and I've even seen him score a single low poke to get his opponents down. From there he prefers to get mount and rain down GNP. Now he has never scored a stoppage from his GNP, but he gives his opponent just enough room to try and get out and capitalizes on their attempt to escape and will capitalize on whatever limb is available. Do I think he'll be able to do this to Rosholt? With all due respect... no.
For reasons unknown, Rosholt only gave two real efforts to get the fight to the ground with Harris (my guess is he respected Harris' athleticism too much). One of them succeeded and he was able to ride out the round from there and scored with some punches from up top, proving himself to be very heavy from the top. His quickness can catch his opponents off guard when he goes for the takedown. I don't expect much with regards to submissions out of him besides those that largely come from brute strength (such as a keylock, which he has scored), but his brawling style of wrestling doesn't really acclimate too well to subs.
I didn't like this match-up for Omielanczuk at first, but the more I looked into it the better I feel about it. I still think Rosholt will take it though, especially if he comes out aggressively. Omielanczuk isn't a pushover, but he hasn't faced big guys (like Rosholt's size) in the European scene anywhere near Rosholt's talent. Omielanczuk has never been finished, but Rosholt will make it a first. Rosholt by TKO 3rd Round
Coming off of a loss at featherweight, Yahya makes his return to the bantamweight division against the lanky TUF vet Bedford. Will it really make a difference?
At 5'10, Bedford is about as tall as they come at bantamweight (well, besides George Roop). The UFC liked him enough to book him opposite Eddie Wineland after his UFC debut, but he has had injury issues and fought only two more times since December of 2011. Combine that with the fact he is coming off of a loss, he could be dispensable to the UFC if he losses here.
Yahya is one of the most talented grapplers in any division as his Abu Dahbi Submission title would suggest. He has fought as an undersized featherweight for the last 3 years despite having fought extensively before at bantamweight, including a shot at the WEC title at the age of 22. Much time has passed since then and his star has lost it shine to it as he returns to the weight class.
Bedford is aggressive in just about every area. He loves to throw overhands and knees to his opponents from the clinch from which his height comes in handy. He does himself a great disservice though by not utilizing a jab which would be a great weapon at his size. He doesn't throw leg kicks as often as he should either. I know I'm making it sound like Bedford is horrible with his striking, which isn't true (he is actually a very sound boxer)... but he could be so much better!
It doesn't matter whom Yahya faces: his opponent will almost always have the striking advantage. That isn't to say Yahya is helpless standing as he has developed serviceable boxing in which he is quick and technically sound... but there is little oomph behind those shots as there is a reason he has never won a fight via KO/TKO. He he throws some fast leg kicks too which have some sting to them. But like most world-class grapplers, he uses his striking to set up takedowns.
What is Yahya's biggest weakness (yes, more than his striking) is his takedowns. Though he has improved some over the years, he is still extremely clingy to his opponents legs in an effort to drag them down. You know the position... the one where you open yourself up to standing strikes from your opponent. When the fight does get to the ground though Yahya is as dangerous as anyone. Bedford will have to stay active if he gains the advantage on the ground as Yahya will not allow him to rest. If there is a submission available, he will take it as he is extremely aggressive. He was outmuscled by Tom Niinimaki on the ground in his last fight, but that shouldn't be such a concern with the weight drop.
Bedford is a good grappler himself (8 submission victories, brown belt in BJJ, and wrestled at Cleveland St.), but needs to remember who he is in there with. If he gets top position, I expect he'll be OK if he doesn't get careless and he could end the fight similar to the way he did with Louis Gaudinot with vicious GNP and knees. But the big red flag here: 9 of Bedford's losses have come by submission. Yikes. What more do I need to say?
I like Bedford as he really is tough as nails. But while he has improved his submission defense over the years, he has never faced a specialist the caliber of Yahya either. I fully expect Yahya to catch him in a submission at some point. Yahya by Submission 2nd Round
Am I the only one who feels like Leites is taking a step back by facing Smith, who lost to Leites' last opponent Ed Herman, whom Leites beat? Leites hasn't lost since then. What the hell?
Leites will forever be remembered for his pathetic bid at Anderson Silva's title at UFC 97, which is a little (just a little) unfair because Leites has put together a hell of a career. He'll never contend for the title again, but he is one of the most feared submission specialists who has done a commendable job of improving his striking. Translation: a tough out for anyone.
Smith spent most of his career at 205 (some fights at heavyweight as well) and dropped down as his competition got better. Though his 2-2 record since the move may not indicate it, it was the smartest move he could make as he isn't exactly physically strong even at middleweight. Like Leites, he is a submission specialist, but far from being as well-renowned.
Leites' biggest problem was often his inability to get the fight to the ground as his takedowns were putrid. Since his return to the UFC this past summer, he has scored 8 of his 17 attempts, a very respectable figure, especially when you consider his background is strictly BJJ, not wrestling. Most of his takedowns have come from judo trips though, which looks much improved from his first stint. He doesn't worry much about being taken down himself since he prefers to have the fight on the ground, so his opponents rarely attempt that. He employs slick transitions from one submission to the next which is what makes him so dangerous. Once he is on top of his opponent, he can pass their guard like a hot knife through butter and he landed a lot of shots on Tom Watson showing solid GNP.
Smith is the better wrestler of the two (wrestled at Iowa St. and was a NJCAA All-American before that) and owns 9 of his victories via submission. I won't be surprised to see him believe in himself that he'll be happy to oblige Leites on the ground. I don't agree with this strategy, but Smith has been the type to throw caution to the wind as his slugfest with Ed Herman demonstrated and he has traditionally been aggressive in looking for submissions. His defense isn't bad and I could see him surviving what Leites throws at him... but I struggle to see him effectively being the aggressor on the ground with an expert such as Leites.
While he gained a lot of fans in his slugfest with Herman and demonstrated great toughness, Smith is still fairly pedestrian when it comes to striking. He is very flat on his feet and lacks hand speed. His lack of speed is exacerbated by his preference of overhand punches. He does throw the occasional jab that is effective despite how awkward it looks at times. His leg kicks are probably the most fluid part of his striking, but it really isn't saying a lot.
Leites isn't going to put many people (if any) to sleep with his striking by any means, but he has made himself respectable. He still uses it largely to get the fight to the ground, which he did perfectly against Watson to perfection to open the fight as he landed a beautiful combination to initiate the clinch for the takedown. He showed a much improved jab with some snap on it, but for the most part there is very little power in his punches.
Smith should try to keep the fight standing cause he does have it in him to land a bomb to put Leites to sleep. Everyone knows Leites will try to get it to the ground, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Smith let it go there. Smith is as game as they come, but I don't think he is on par with Leites. Leites by Submission 1st Round
About a year ago, both of these guys were seen as a dark horse to enter the rankings. Now they may need a win to just stay employed.
Craig was an injury replacement against Kyle Noke two years ago and was able to spring the upset. Since then, his fan-friendly style has allowed him to carve out a nice role on the roster and is young enough at 28 that he could enter the rankings in about a year. He did some work with Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn in preparation for this fight, a first for him.
Camozzi is on a two fight skid after winning four in a row. He got his start in the UFC from the 11th season of TUF and has been able to stick around outside of a brief departure in the middle of 2011. Though younger than Craig (by about a year), he is much more experienced. However, his ceiling seems to be much lower too.
Craig is an underrated athlete whose athleticism comes through in his striking. He is deceptively quick and is very well-rounded with his striking utilizing everything: punches, elbows, knees, and head, leg, and body kicks. He's able to throw some short punching combos as well. His major problem is that he is a slow starter and often allows his opponents to tee off on him before he finds his range. Maybe it has something to do with his gas tank as he has yet to tire in a fight despite his active style.
Camozzi is a bulldog with his always moving forward style. He is tough-as-nails and willing to eat a punch to land one. Considering he is usually the physically stronger fighter, it isn't always a bad strategy. Because of that strength he is comfortable working against the cage or clinch and utilizing dirty boxing. Being a southpaw, he has a nice right jab and some solid leg kicks as well. He isn't particularly fast so he isn't the best counter puncher.
What is confusing about Camozzi is his unwillingness to take the fight to the ground. He isn't a great wrestler, but he is capable and very strong for the weight in addition to his high school wrestling background. He refused to take Lorenz Larkin to the ground despite the fact Larkin's background is in kickboxing with little grappling. According to Fight Metric, he has not landed one takedown in 10 UFC fights. With his solid knowledge of chokes (5 submission hold victories, all chokes), it makes it even more astonishing.
Craig on the other hand doesn't have a wrestling background (he's from Texas, obviously he played football), but has shown a greater willingness to implement takedowns into his strategy, often going for a double-leg. His GNP isn't overpowering, but it is busy and he owns a brown belt in BJJ. With someone as strong as Camozzi, I expect him to try to submit him rather than pound him out, though it is worth noting Camozzi is a brown belt himself.
Camozzi reminds me of a better version of the Chris Leben that Craig faced last summer. Craig was able to pull that out, but it wasn't exactly in an impressive manner. Still, I feel Craig was embarrassed by his last performance against Luke Barnatt and I expect improvement out of him. Camozzi hasn't done much diversify his attack in his time in the UFC and don't expect him to here. Craig by Decision
A pair of highly touted prospects make their UFC debuts to open up the card. Who gets their UFC career off on the right foot?
Alers has been on many top prospects lists for the last year or so as he has won and twice defended the Cage Warriors featherweight title. He has had issues with his training camps as of late and split with Alliance BJJ to go to Tough as Nails, though neither would be considered large camps. Main reason I make note of this is that it could be an X-factor... for good or bad.
When I said highly touted prospects, I was being serious. But Omer was touted back in 2011 with one match since then... though he did look great in it. Still, he is only 25 and perhaps the break was good for him. But after watch Noad Lahat struggle in his UFC debut after fighting sporadically leading into his fight, I can't help but think otherwise for the German-based fighter.
There is no argument that Alers strength is on the ground. With 9 submission victories among his 12 total, opponents don't need to see tape of him to know he is dangerous to grapple with. As athletically gifted as he is, scrambles are often where he owns the biggest advantage as his combination of strength and explosiveness is difficult to match. I wouldn't say he is slick with submissions (and that isn't intended to be an insult, it just means he doesn't seem to pull them out of nowhere), but he wisely favors position over submission and is very workman-like in scoring the tapout. If that isn't coming, he has some very good GNP.
Omer isn't a novice by any means on the ground... he owns 10 submission wins himself and is also comparably quick in scrambles. But he hasn't faced the same level of competition as Alers (though his opponents haven't been cans) and isn't as strong either. I've also seen many reports that he has poor takedown defense, though I haven't seen it. Then again, fighting in the European scene, he wouldn't have faced many great wrestlers and I will expect him to struggle with Alers takedowns as Alers does have a wrestling background.
Based on what has been said you can already guess that Omer will want to keep the fight standing. He has shown fast hands which are able to catch his opponents despite them throwing first and he has some good pop too, but doesn't degenerate into a headhunter. He has good head movement that allows him to dodge what his opponents throw at him and he is very capable of countering. His chin has shown the ability to hold up too. Look for him to keep his distance and try to wade in and out of Alers range.
Alers will definitely want to close the gap. Aside from making it easier to get the takedown (duh!), he has been effective at using the clinch and scoring knees and uppercuts on his opponents. His striking is improving, but it still isn't where he would like it. His power has become more apparent in his strikes as of late, but I see an advantage in the speed of Omer's hands that Alers doesn't want to toy with any longer than is necessary.
I like both of these guys and expect them to be solid additions to the featherweight ranks. I also expect them to survive in the others worlds and send the fight to the judges as neither are one-dimensional. But I expect Alers will be able to utilize his strengths more, especially since I don't think Omer's long layoff helped him at all. Alers by Decision
Record for last Card: 2-8-1
Record for Year: 64-44-1
I promise I'm not an idiot... despite what my record on the last card might indicate.