On Saturday, March 26 the Ultimate Fighting Championship lights up the night at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington with UFC Fight Night 24: Nogueira vs. Davis. On the card are a host of interesting bouts such as the main event which pits MMA veteran “Lil’ Nog” Antônio Rogério Nogueira (18-4) against the undefeated up-and-comer “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis (7-0). Muay Thai artist “Rumble” Anthony Johnson (8-3) returns from a long lay-off to take on former welterweight contender “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy (23-8) in what is sure to be an outstanding striking battle, and in a repeat of 2010’s “Fight of the Year”, “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (10-3) volunteers with short preparation time to replace Nam Phan (18-9) in an attempt to mow down “Bad Boy” Leonard Garcia (15-6-1) in a featherweight rematch. Garcia walked away with the Split Decision victory in the first bout, leaving a question mark as to weather or not the “Zombie” can gain some life and defeat Garcia. In the welterweight division, The Ultimate Fighter alum Amir Sadollah (4-2) has a nightmare in store for him when stands across from “Darkness” Damarques Johnson (15-8), provided Johnson remains healthy. The bout has had an albatross hovering over it since the beginning when Amir’s original opponent, “Bang” Duane Ludwig (20-11), was replaced by “Lightning” James Wilks (6-4) who then also fell victim to a training injury. If the bad luck of Duane and James passes over Johnson, the bout promises to be entertaining.
At First Glance: With the number of injuries and setbacks Amir Sadollah has suffered in his young career, whether or not the TUF alum is 100 percent for a fight may always be brought into question. Dropping out of a number of UFC fights has taken its toll on Amir’s progress as a mixed martial artist both in terms of lost funding and gaps in his experience. With a fighter like Johnson across the way, Sadollah had better be in excellent health. Johnson has all around skills in the cage and can be a handful for any opponent that he faces – especially one who exists in a state of perpetual ring rust. The careers of both fighters stand to benefit from this fight as a victory for either would set their career paths back on the straight and narrow. With Sadollah and Johnson both coming off of a victory, getting a winning streak in order is imperative for both competitors if they wish to continue their employment with the UFC. The motivation is there, but with Sadollah it’s never a question of desire or drive, just one of whether or not he has the access to all of his physical abilities.
In Depth: While both fighters in this bout have a similar fighting style, Johnson is the more efficient of the two. With most of his victories coming prior to the fight reaching the score cards, “Darkness” is also the finisher of the two men. Sadollah has improved his kickboxing game but, it will be hard to tell if it’ll stand up to the KO power that Johnson possesses until the welterweight competitors actually meet in the middle of the Octagon. All signs point to Johnson to take this fight with his aggressiveness, power, skill, and speed. The only hope Amir has is to to squeak out another decision victory by forcing the clinch often and by wearing Johnson down quickly. Amir is more than capable of this, but only if his game is on point and his body is unhindered by the injuries that have been the hallmark of Sadollah’s career.
Wild Card: Sadollah’s health ultimately plays as a perpetual wild card in his match-ups. Will he be 100% or fighting off some sort of ailment? When Amir has been able to get through an entire training camp without incident, his skills are truly world class. He could cause an upset by locking in a submission or even catching an opportunistic KO should Johnson leave his chin up as he has had a habit of doing in the past. Sadollah hasn’t finished a fight since he submitted “The Doberman” CB Dollaway (11-3) with an Armbar in June 2008 and that will have to change with Johnson, as this will be a bout that most likely will not end up in the judges’ hands.
The Verdict: UFC Fight Night 24 is quickly approaching, and thus far, there hasn’t been any news of injury or cancellation on Sadollah’s part (knock on wood) but, with the possibility of Sadollah fighting in less than exceptional condition, it affords that much greater an opportunity for “Darkness” to walk away with this fight and climb another rung of the 170lbs. division ladder. Johnson is a slick ground fighter, has knockout power in his hands, and always seems in pristine condition when he enters the cage. Sadollah might last until Round 2 but, in the end, expect it to be Johnson’s hand that gets raised in victory. Johnson via TKO, Round 1.