The UFC holds its third event in three weeks, the second in a row for free on cable television. Of all of them, Friday's event in Minneapolis might be the most stacked with talent in competitive fights judging from the preliminary card to the main event. In fact, the FX broadcast opens with a fight where the winner earns a flyweight title shot. Some of the extra juice the card received came from the UFC 151 cancellation, but whatever the case, Friday's UFC on FX event may be the best of any in franchise.
What: UFC on FX 5
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: Friday, the two-fight Facebook card starts at 5 p.m. ET, the six-fight FUEL card begins at 6 p.m. ET and the four-fight FX card starts at 9.
Predictions on the four FX fights below.
I'm betting on Browne being the next big thing at heavyweight, no pun intended. He lacks a signature win or achievement, so he's overlooked some by the MMA community. Some of that should change on Friday night if/when he defeats Silva. Browne has a long frame with he uses decently, an ever-crystallizing stand-up game and a rapidly improving takedown-to-submission arsenal. I like that the UFC has brought him along slowly with only moderate increasingly difficult challenges along the way. 'Bigfoot' is far more technical and tough than he's given credit. He's certainly the better pure jiu-jitsu practitioner, but Browne is also an underrated athlete with surprising timing and serviceable strength. If he comes prepared, he'll be more proactive with his offense, setting the tempo early en route to a stoppage.
When Ellenberger and Hieron last fought, it was June of 2006. It would be Ellenberger's first career loss. It's safe to say Ellenberger is in a far different stage of his career. The same can be said, although in a context not as complimentary, for Hieron. That isn't to dismiss Hieron's chances or his accomplishments. But if we're recognizing reality, Hieron is in his late 30's and while capable, far past his peak. Ellenberger, by contrast, is smack in the middle of it and has shored up many of the deficiencies that he displayed when losing to Hieron in their first encounter. Hieron's takedown defense is still remarkably good, but his speed is not what it once was and Ellenberger's explosive ability striking is going to be the ultimate difference maker.
This is a tough fight to call for two reasons. First, Neer is a credible opponent, but years of training and fighting have left his abused body shopworn. Second, Edwards hasn't fought in nearly a year and is bit of an over-eager fighter. He's the better wrestler than Neer, but lacks the experience Neer has against elite fighters. Neer is probably the better guard player, but Edwards' submission defense on top is probably good enough. And yet, despite lining up reasons why the two seemingly cancel out each other, I get the sense the finish here will be decisive. Despite my reservations, I'll go with Neer and his relentless pursuit of the fight as the key determinant factor.
John Dodson vs. Jussier da Silva
The Shooto Brazil, Novia Uniao flyweight king makes his UFC debut, but it won't be a successful one. Dodson's ability to mix up his offense combined with his very unheralded punching power will have Formiga uncomfortably counterfighting. I'm a little hesitant about Dodson only in the sense that he has a tendency to phone in rounds out of nowhere. It doesn't usually end up costing him the fight, but a fighter like Formiga is none to play prevent defense against.