This Saturday night the LG Arena in Birmingham, England will welcome the UFC back to the UK for the first time since UFC 120 in October of last year. After several planned events failed to materialize, UFC 138 came through for the British fans with not only the city’s second helping of action from the always exciting “The Crippler” Chris Leben (22-8), but the UFC’s first ever five-round non-title bout, a practice that is to become the norm for all main events. Squaring off with Leben is powerhouse middleweight ground-and-pounder “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Mark Munoz (9-2) who is riding high on three straight wins. Kicking things off is a match between “The Snake” Cyrille Diabate (17-7-1) and “The Hippo” Anthony Perosh (11-6) and other bouts include “Pitbull” Thiago Alves (17-8) vs. Papy Abedi (5-0), Terry Etim (14-3) vs. “Falo” Edward Faaloloto (5-2) and “One Punch” Brad Pickett (19-5) vs. Renan Barao (8-1). The card has gone through many renovations as multiple injuries have cost the UFC at least three main card fights, however, the card should still shine through as an excellent night of MMA action.
Cyrille Diabate vs. Anthony Perosh: Originally slated as a preliminary bout, a car accident involving “Relentless” Paul Taylor (11-7-1) resulted in Diabate and Perosh getting the opportunity to shine on the big screen. On the feet, the clear advantage belongs to Diabate whose multiple TKO/KO victories and 32-8-2 kickboxing record stand as evidence to his ability to wreak havoc while standing. While he has displayed a competent ground game, “The Snake” will face problems on the mat against Perosh who, though much shorter, is the larger man and a second degree Machado BJJ black belt. If Diabate can stay up, he will make short work of “Hippo” and that isn’t too hard to imagine as Perosh’s takedown abilities are questionable and his multiple recent injuries are sure to have affected his training. Diabate via TKO (Cut), Round 1
Terry Etim vs. Edward Faaloloto: In a last-minute replacement bout, Terry Etim and Eddie Faaloloto have been paired to bring their fast-paced lightweight striking games to the table on the main card. Both men are in need of a win following less than impressive performances in their last bouts. For Faaloloto, it would appear he is in over his head. Both men are skilled strikers, but Etim has showcased a solid submission game as of late and has pulled together a 5-3 UFC record. “Falo” by contrast lost both his lone WEC bout and his UFC debut suggesting that he may not be ready for Zuffa talent yet. To make matters worse, he lost both fights on the feet, where he specializes. Look for a fun but sloppy row on the feet as the two face off without the benefit of full training camps, but also expect Etim to hand Faaloloto his walking papers. Etim via TKO (Elbows), Round 2
Thiago Alves vs. Papy Abedi: The undefeated European Judo specialist Papy Abedi will jump straight away into the deep waters of the UFC welterweight division as he pits his impressive ground-and-pound skill set against the ultra violent Muay Thai wrecking machine that is Thiago Alves. Much like several of his fellow top welterweights, it seems a loss to the soul sapping dominance of the champ “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2) has heralded a run of poor showings for Alves who is 1-2 after the title bout with a missed weight cut included. A lot of this bout hinges on the unknown. Abedi has utterly dominated the top European talent, but has yet to face top talent that eats, sleeps, and breathes training and he also has never been under the big lights of a UFC event, let alone on a worldwide live broadcast. A failed, or even a tough, weight cut could completely wreck Alves’ ability to fend off the Judo takedowns or escape the brutal top control of Abedi. Smart money will go with Alves, who has fewer potentially damning variables, but it is “what ifs” like the ones here that makes MMA a bookie’s nightmare. Alves via TKO (Strikes), Round 1
Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao: WEC bantamweight stand-outs will clash in the final bout prior to the main event at UFC 138 as top ten 135 pounder Brad Pickett pits his hard hitting boxing skills against the black belt level Jiu-Jitsu of Renan Barao. Both men found success in the WEC with the Brit going 3-1 and the Brazilian submitting both of his foes. Should Barao get the fight to the mat, it should be a cut and dry submission finish, as all of Pickett’s loses have come at the hands of skilled submission fighters and wrestlers. The only question in the bout is Barao’s wrestling. Up until this point he has faced other BJJ fighters who gladly go to the mat with him and one-dimensional strikers without the ability to stop even basic takedowns. Pickett is neither. He has a competent ground game, but will likely have no desire to test it against a submission machine like Barao and given that he was able to at least survive and escape to his feet against a three-time PAC-10 wrestling champion in “Young Guns” Scott Jorgensen (12-3), it is unlikely Barao will keep his six-year winning streak in tact. Pickett via KO (Punch), Round 3
Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz: The very first five-round, non-title main event in UFC history features two tough as nails and very exciting middleweight warriors. Chris Leben never stops fighting. Even after being beaten to the point that he doesn’t even appear to know where he is or what he is doing, his body goes into a bizarre form of zombie auto pilot mode that throws vicious winging punches. Munoz is no less resilient, with an endless gas tank that can fuel his BIG-12 Championship level wrestling from bell to bell as he slams his foes and levels them with an endless supply of sledgehammer blows from top position. Both fighters have devastating power and unreal ability to recover. The difference is that Leben has more tools to finish. Munoz has an undeniable advantage in the wrestling department where his Oklahoma State University, All-American wrestling base clearly trumps Leben’s Greco-Roman training at Team Quest, but that is really all Munoz offers. Leben has submissions, power on the feet, and solid ground-and-pound. He also has a stouter beard backed by heavier hands. If Leben draws Munoz into a war of attrition, Leben will win either by a decision that sees neither fighter able to attend a post fight presser or a vicious KO as Munoz’s granite chin finally gives way to the iron fists of Leben. Leben via KO (Punch), Round 3