The world’s premier MMA organization will return to its home away from home on cable TV as UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier hits the airwaves from the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia this Tuesday. The injury-plagued card has had no less than six changes due to injury, resulting in a main card filled with newcomers and fresh undercard stock. Headlining the event is “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (12-3) vs. “The Diamond” Dustin Poirier (12-1). Playing second horn is TUF winner Amir Sadollah (20-7) as he faces Tachi Palace Fight stand-out “Lil’ Monster” Jorge Lopez (11-2), who makes his sophomore effort in the big show. Lightweight top contender “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (17-4) looks to rebound from one of his worst performances ever against “Little Heathen” Jeremy Stephens (20-7). “Tiger” Yves Jabouin (17-7) will look for three in a row in the UFC against “Hellbound” Jeff Hougland (10-4). “The Duke” Igor Pokrajac (24-8) will go to war with Fabio Maldonado (18-4) as each man looks to get back above .500 in the UFC, and “The Athlete” Jason MacDonald (25-15) will open the card against “The Filthy Mauler” Tom Lawlor (7-4).
Jason MacDonald vs. Tom Lawlor: There is almost always a “fight for your job” kind of bout on any given UFC card. It is, after all, an organization known for its overall intolerance of failure. The fight between Lawlor and MacDonald, however, runs a bit deeper. Combined, the two have a UFC record of 9-11, and in their past four UFC bouts, the pair are each just 1-3. A five-fight record of 1-4 is an almost guaranteed pink slip from the Zuffa brass, especially for MacDonald who has been shown the door once already. Luckily for him, this bout favors “The Athlete”. MacDonald and Lawlor both specialize on the ground, but the vastly more experienced Canadian is a more accomplished submission fighter from a more respected grappling team. Lawlor’s wrestling may get him top position, but it is doubtful it will get him a win. MacDonald via Submission (Anaconda Choke), Round 2
Igor Pokrajac vs. Fabio Maldonado: At 3-3 and 1-1, respectively, both Pokrajac and Maldonado are looking to break even in the UFC – Pokrajac for the first time. The advantage in this light heavyweight tilt rests squarely behind the Brazilian. Both men prefer to fight on the feet, but Maldonado is an undefeated professional boxer with 22 wins including 21 KOs, a fact that was on full display when he took the victory in his UFC debut by TKO. While both men have shown a weakness on the mat, Maldonado’s Team Nogueira-developed BJJ brown belt puts him a cut above the Croatian. If Pokrajac looks to take Maldonado down, it will at best only stave off the inevitable. Maldonado via TKO (Strikes), Round 2
Yves Jabouin vs. Jeff Hougland: Jabouin and Hougland are fighters of the cut that made Zuffa-run UFC what it is. They aren’t TUF alums or big names from other sports or even other organizations – they are salt of the earth, blue collar fighters that scratched and clawed their way into the UFC, hungry and driven. The result of that hunger showed in each man’s previous UFC efforts. Jabouin came in and dropped his first bout with a 1-2 WEC record behind him, but he saddled up and fought twice more in 2011, winning both times in gritty three-round fights. Hougland had all his woes earlier in his career when he went 1-4. He took a two-year break and has been undefeated ever since, racking up nine straight including a UFC debut win and six submissions. It will be a classic striker versus grappler pairing as Jabouin’s heavy hands have earned him 11 KO/TKOs and Hougland’s black belt level BJJ has scored him nine wins on the ground, seven via submission. Here the bout turns ugly for Jabouin, however. Hougland has been stopped by strikes only once and that was nine years ago. Expect a dirty, gritty war, but expect it to end on the ground with Hougland on top with a second straight UFC win. Hougland via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3
Donald Cerrone vs. Jeremy Stephens: After a rather embarrassing loss to Nate Diaz (16-7), Muay Thai champion Donald Cerrone is getting a second chance to prove he belongs on the top of the lightweight striking heap as he faces heavy-handed brawler Jeremy Stephens. This match is a terrible pairing for Stephens on all fronts. “Little Heathen” has never been stopped with strikes, but he has been submitted three times and has suffered nearly all of his losses due to ground dominance. He has power by the truck load, but he lacks the reach and technical precision of “Cowboy” and once on the mat, he finds himself face to face with a “Submission of the Night” winner holding 13 wins via the three-tap symphony. Stephens is tough and he could land big and knock Cerrone out for the first time in his career, but it is far more likely that “Cowboy” will ride into the sunset with a clear decision win, leaving a battered Stephens in his wake. Cerrone via Unanimous Decision
Amir Sadollah vs. Jorge Lopez: Sadollah is the embodiment of what the UFC has always wanted The Ultimate Fighter to be. He is an extremely well-rounded fighter, born and bred as a professional in the UFC, he is respected by the community, and is well liked by the majority of the fan base. Against him is the polar opposite. Jorge Lopez is the virtual unknown who fought tooth and nail in the regional promotions of Las Vegas to get a chance in the organization in which Sadollah has spent his entire career. Never finished in 13 professional fights, Lopez is one of the toughest fighters Sadollah has faced and is arguably on the same level as the majority of the opponents Sadollah has already met in the cage. That being said, this isn’t Russia and Lopez isn’t Rocky. The product of the UFC and the Xtreme Couture training facilities is, on paper, a technically superior and far more accomplished fighter than his blue collar opponent. Lopez has heavy hands and may be able to stop the TUF winner a second time, but it is far more likely that Sadollah will pick him apart from the outside and beat his legs into mush over a grueling and ugly three-round striking clinic. Sadollah via Unanimous Decision
Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier: The night’s main event features a well-built blue chip prospect in Dustin Poirier against a battle hardened journeyman in “The Korean Zombie”. From a technical standpoint, the match is done and dusted for Poirier who has shown a solid, well-rounded skill set backed by an athleticism that Jung can’t match at this point in his career. “KZ”, however, is an exceedingly dangerous finisher and is known for his almost inhuman ability to absorb punishment with little or no effect on his own effectiveness. Though undefeated as a featherweight, Poirier has also faced much weaker competition than Jung, mainly because of the many late replacements he has faced due to his original opponents pulling out of fights. This could seriously hamper his efforts against “The Korean Zombie” as Jung has seen and learned many of the tricks more advanced fighters use and can employ those against Poirier who may not have encountered them. “KZ” is also a very dangerous fighter at all times. He may hold a lower rank in the submission arts than Poirier, but he has shown an ability to effectively submit opponents with sheer tenacity and opportunism. If the young Louisiana native can deal with the craftiness of his Korean foe, he should be able to come out ahead on the judges’ cards, but he can’t get caught looking or Jung will put him to sleep. Poirier via Unanimous Decision