The UFC makes its return to the hard nosed streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this Saturday courtesy of UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz. The event has been plagued with injuries beginning with “Mr.Wonderful” Phil Davis (8-0) then “The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko (26-5) and lastly “Legionarius” Alessio Sakara (15-8), leaving three fighters without opponents. Former UFC 205lbs. champ “Sugar” Rashad Evans (15-1) will now have his long awaited rematch with fellow former champion and reinvented fighter “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (16-8). Ortiz steps in to face Evans on three weeks notice coming off his phoenix-style career win over “Darth” Ryan Bader (12-2). Supporting the rematch main event is a battle between top middleweight contenders “Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-4) and perhaps the most lethal striker in the MMA world “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (19-9). “El Conquistador” Jorge Rivera (18-8) will possibly never meet Sakara in their often postponed middleweight showdown and instead he will face Ring of Combat veteran Constantinos Philippou (7-2). “Quicksand” Mike Pyle (21-6) returns to the Octagon against rising Canadian prospect Rory MacDonald (11-1) where a win will likely move the winner up the ladder to higher competition and a chance to reach for UFC gold. Two MMA veterans who have more fights to their credit than anyone in arms reach will go to war in the welterweight division in the main card opening bout as “Superman” Dennis Hallman (45-13) meets fellow veteran Brian Ebersole (40-14) in a fight to see which old dog has learned the most effective new tricks.
At First Glance: When it comes to a record of over 60 fights as Dennis Hallman has, it is best to go to the most recent and most notable wins, those being a demolition of “The Heat” Karo Parisyan (18-7), a war with “Killa B” Ben Saunders (10-3), and many years ago two submission wins over UFC legend and former welterweight titan Matt Hughes (43-8). Hallman is known for his well-rounded skills both on the feet and on the ground, making him perhaps one of the most experienced and well versed welterweights in the world. Brian Ebersole is another man with more than 60 fights to his credit. He finally made his UFC debut against another seasoned fighter in “Lights Out” Chris Lytle (30-18) earlier this year. Against Lytle, Ebersole dominated the fight from bell to bell, even doing the seemingly impossible of actually rocking Lytle on the feet. Ebersole’s last loss was to Bellator Middleweight Champion “Shango” Hector Lombard (27-2) in September 2008 by submission due to strikes. A bout that could possibly end up as “Fight of the Night”, many are hoping for a three-round slugfest and with fighters such as Hallman and Ebersole, it’s hard to imagine they would disappoint.
In Depth: Ask Dennis Hallman what he could do in just 38 seconds and he could simply say, “Submit Matt Hughes twice”. A wrestler by trade and a fighter by hard work, Hallman has a solid 33 wins by submission, making his ground game the big guns of his weaponry. Hallman has fought the who’s who of the lightweight, welterweight, and middleweight divisions and the only thing that is not on his mantle is a UFC title. His lone title fight was against former UFC Lightweight Champion “Lil Evil” Jens Pulver (24-15) with whom he went the distance but lost all three rounds according to the judges. Although Hallman has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune digestive reaction to wheat gluten which hinders the ability to recover from muscle fatigue and injuries, he isn’t showing any signs of hanging up his gloves on such a fruitful career and he plans on extending his win column in the UFC by defeating Brian Ebersole. Cage Fighting Championship (CFC) veteran Ebersole is a character in his own respect, as exhibited by the upward arrow shaved into his chest hair (reportedly to point his opponent in the direction of his chin) that Ebersole boasted in his UFC debut. While the stunt may not have sat well with some pundits, Ebersole proved that he was the real deal by dominating the battle-tested Chris Lytle and is more hungry than ever to add another seasoned veteran to his victory list. In addition to his striking aptitudes the American Kickboxing Academy protege is a stand-out wrestler who is fully aware of how to impose his will on the mat; he started his carer at heavyweight, moving down gradually until arriving and staying in the 170lb. division. Ebersole will enjoy a one-inch reach advantage as well as a nearly three inches in height which, combined with his ability to change levels at the snap of a finger, may provide a substantial advantage in his match-up against “Superman”.
Ebersole needs to use his reach advantage and keep Hallman at punching distance so Hallman can’t get inside and land his sledge hammer like fists. Hallman has to close the distance and get the fight against the cage and work the body then set up his takedowns and work his ground-and-pound. Ebersole doesn’t want to mess with the ground game of Hallman, where if he exposes a limb Hallman is likely to take it home with him, so Ebersole’s key to victory lies in keeping the fight standing. The longer the fight lasts the more Ebersole will loosen up and let his hands go. Hallman is most dangerous when he is fresh but can and will go the distance to gain a victory if need be. The two fighters have similar records and similar styles however a slight edge goes to Hallman since he is the veteran of the Octagon and has more experience facing top level fighters.
Wild Card: No amount of training or cage experience can truly negate the effects of genetics or disease, and Hallman’s is no exception. His illness is one that can literally bind him to lengthy recoveries and consequently may hinder his performance in the cage. If he gets even a slight injury during training or warm-ups and doesn’t have ample time to heal, Ebersole may capitalize on that one chink in “Superman’s” armor. Hallman’s stamina will almost certainly suffer if he steps into the cage at less than 100 percent, especially once having to constantly stave off the aggressive offense of Brian Ebersole. Hallman needs to stay healthy and injury-free up until the second he steps into the Octagon, or the CFC veteran just may put a gassed Hallman on his back and make a short night for the veteran.
The Verdict: Expect to see Hallman stay on the feet and use his heavy strikes to bully and batter Ebersole and slow the pace and, when the time comes, take to his wrestling roots and out-muscle Ebersole on the mat. From there, Hallman has his choice of ground strikes or going for a submission – either way, Hallman is looking to put Ebersole to sleep, and he likely will succeed. Hallman via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1