Today beginning at approximately 7 p.m. ET, the UFC kicks off UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz. The first portion of the fight card - four fights - will air on the UFC's Facebook page. Before watching them, MMA Nation offers a brief preview of what to expect.
Brandon Vera vs. Eliot Marshall
Weightclass: Light heavyweight - 205lbs
Vera: 6'3", 11-5 record, age 34
Marshall: 6'3", 13-3 record, age 31
Despite the setbacks Vera has faced in his career, this is simply a fight he should not lose. He's certainly capable enough in defensive wrestling to give Marshall's pretty limited takedowns problems. Even if he does get taken down, he should be able to either get back up or force a neutral stand up. And on the feet, it shouldn't really even be a content. Vera is far, far superior as a striker.
The problem? Marshall will likely be much more offensive leaving Vera to respond to his attacks. It shouldn't happen for very long, but I can see Marshall stealing a round. Maybe even two.
Vera's never lost to fighters he was supposed to defeat (with perhaps the lone exception of his 2008 loss to Keith Jardine). Vera needs to find himself before it's too late. If he can't do it against Marshall, that time may have already passed.
Prediction: Vera by TKO.
Ramsey Nijem vs. Danny Downes
Weightclass: lightweight - 155lbs
Nijem: 5'11", 4-2 record, age 23
Downes: 5'11", 10-2 record, age 25
A fairly even contest. Downes has better experience both in terms of stages and opposition. He is not the better athlete in this fight, but generally speaking he never is.
Nijem is a fairly meat and potatoes wrestler-boxer and that might be enough, but I'm not so sure. Downes has respectable takedown defense - particularly along the fence. It won't stop elite fighters by any stretch, but it's probably good enough to give Nijem some problems. Neither Nijem nor Downes is a striking dynamo, but Downes has better combinations and a willingness to sit in the pocket. He's also far more durable than Nijem.
This is as much as coin flip as any fight on this card. I'll give Downes the slight edge here. He's probably got enough to stop most of the offense of Nijem. He'll need to take the initiative to win, though.
Prediction: Downes by decision.
Chris Camozzi vs. Francis Carmont
Weightclass: middleweight, 185lbs
Camozzi: 6'3", 19-4 record, age 24
Carmont: 6'3", 16-7 record, age 29
It's hard to understand the functional value of this fight. Camozzi wafts in and out of the UFC depending on his regional circuit performance and the UFC's roster needs. Carmont, though, is no prospect, so the fight against Camozzi is still likely a test of some variety for Carmont who arguably still has more upside to his career.
Still, Carmont is no young prospect. He's nearly 30 fights deep into his career and while he's earned a shot at the big show with strong performances on the regional circuit (including a first-round victory over UFC veteran Jason Day), it's hard to think there's a tremendous amount of upside to his career as he turns 30 next month.
Carmont's the better athlete of the two and has the better camp to lean on for preparation. He's also the better, more diverse striker. He's also more aggressive with scoring from neutral positions and that's probably where the fight will be decided. Carmont isn't the best grappler, but he's improved and should be able to stop Camozzi's attacks before scoring big points and even a stoppage.
Prediction: Carmont by TKO.
Dustin Jacoby vs. Clifford Starks
Weightclass: Middleweight - 185lbs
Jacoby: 6'4", 6-0 record, age 23
Starks: 5'10", 7-0 record, age 30
Not much to this one, I don't believe. Jacoby's got decent athleticism, a good physical build and isn't taking the fight on short notice. I don't think there's much to be said at Jacoby being a Finney's Hit Squad fighter, though. Starks is coming in on short notice, but is a former collegiate wrestler at Arizona State University. I bet that's enough to take it.
Prediction: Starks by decision.