The UFC has compiled another scrappy undercard consisting of high paced finishers looking to secure an early knockout or submission. Follow along as we run down our final picks and potential upsets on the night.
Ken Stone vs. Erik Perez
Don’t look now, but Ken Stone has quietly put together a two-fight win streak after getting brutally knocked out in his two previous matches against Eddie Wineland and Scott Jorgensen.
Though primarily viewed as a grappler, Stone managed to display an improved striking arsenal in his latest bout against Dustin Pague. Despite Pague taking the fight on extremely short notice, Stone utilized a cohesive blend of short combinations and sweeping leg kicks to earn a 29-28 decision.
This time he’ll be taking on Team Jackson’s Eric Perez
Perez made a splash in his June 1st UFC debut by surviving a deeply sunk triangle choke and going on to submit John Albert with a controversial armbar. At only 22 years old, the kid appears to have tremendous upside, and training with a top ranked team like Jackson should help accelerate his progression.
One thing I noticed, he throws wide punches and has a tendency to leave himself defensively exposed when he over commits to a hook.
While Perez has shown solid takedown defense against the cage, I worry about Ken Stone hitting his takedowns off of Perez’s slowly retracted leg kicks. This was something in particular that Paul McVeigh was able to expose to a degree in his 2011 encounter with Perez .
Another concern is his tendency to find himself in bad positions on the mat. Aside from surviving Albert’s triangle attempt, he also nearly had his back taken early in the round. Against a more seasoned submission fighter like Ken Stone, Perez simply can’t afford to find himself in those same positions, or will get tapped.
I favor Stone by a slim margin here but I’m hoping to see value on Perez as an underdog. Ken Stone’s chin is a bit too frail for me to consider backing him as favorite; however, I would consider taking either man as a small underdog.
UFC Pick: Erik Perez
Dennis Bermudez vs. Tom Hayden
Season 14 TUF finalist Denis Bermudez has continued to exceed expectations since earning his spot in the Ultimate Fighter house in 2011.
As a +250 underdog to eventual TUF winner Diego Brandao, Bermudez surprised everyone by nearly finishing off the Brazilian with strikes until he was arm-bared in the final 10 seconds of the round. And then, back in May at the UFC on FOX event, Bermudez managed to secure a decisive decision over Pablo Garza despite the heavy steam in his opponent’s favor—Bermudez fell from as high as -200 down to a closing price of -120.
So far, he’s demonstrated that his wrestling is good enough to smother some of the weaker fighters within the division, while his striking, though still raw, is capable of generating some of the heaviest punching power at featherweight.
Tom Hayden, from Cincinnati, Ohio, made his UFC debut in January against Fabricio Camoes.
Up until being choked out by the Brazilian, Hayden was arguably winning the fight with his superior striking and takedown ability. For some reason, however, he appeared inexcusably gassed just 3 minutes into the first round. The only reasonable explanation I can come up with for his poor conditioning is that he possibly fell victim to the first time octagon jitters, which has been a reoccurring theme for young fighters making their debut on the big stage.
Cardio issues aside, he appears more than skilled enough to hang with Bermudez wherever the fight takes place. But until he proves he can go a hard 15 minutes in the UFC, I can’t play him at anything less than +190 in this match-up. I see Dennis grinding out a clear decision where his pace allows him to take over in the final two rounds.
UFC Pick: Dennis Bermudez
Michael Kuiper vs. Jared Hamman
The hype behind Michael Kuiper’s previous 11-0 record before entering the UFC was quickly dismissed after dropping a unanimous decision to Rafael Natal at UFC 143, giving the Dutch mixed martial artist the first official loss on his record.
Prior to entering the UFC, Kuiper’s undefeated record was mostly complied against mediocre regional talent . The level of competition was so bad that his previous two opponents before getting called up to the UFC possessed just a 2-5 record overall.
Despite a touted background in Judo, Kuiper seem to get taken down way too easily, as was the case in the first round against Natal. He has, however, shown decent hip strength off his back which has resulted in him being able to stave off submissions and occasionally sweep his opponents. There were several instances where he was able to grit through and survive the submission attempts from a high level black belt in Natal.
The one shining moment for Michael in that fight came in the third round when he was able to stagger Rafael with a clean right hand in the opening minute. That same right hand is key concern against the somewhat porous striking defense of Jared Hamman, who has been knocked out three times since 2008.
Though Hamman is the more skilled and diverse of the two on the feet, I have little faith in him avoiding a big counter right hand for all three rounds in this match. I’m picking Jared to win here but highly doubt I’ll be risking any money on him if he indeed opens as the favorite.
UFC Pick: Jared Hamman
Chico Camus vs. Dustin Pague
The formerly mentioned Dustin Pague will also be fighting on the undercard as he welcomes Chico Camus to the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Fighting out of Team Roufusport, Chico Camus is a striker by nature who gets in an out nicely with quick footwork while delivering a bevy of combinations from both the southpaw and orthodox stance.
He delivers a strong jab from both stances and has an excellent straight left when fighting as a southpaw. More importantly, though, Pague will need to be predominantly concerned with the power in Chico’s right hand. You can go back and watch his fight with Nate "Teddy Bear" Williams, where all it took was one clean right cross to send Williams crashing to the canvas, to get a better idea of the type of power he can generate as a bantamweight.
This will be Dustin’s third fight within the last two months, and with the possibility of going 1-2 in those matches, he may be looking at a must win situation on 11th.
Knowing this, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him follow a more conservative gameplan where he decides to use his size advantage to wear Chico out with takedowns and clinch work against the fence.
I was a bit disappointed with the way Chico faded in his last fight against Alptekin Ozkilic. In the final minute of the fight, he decided to shoot for a lazy single leg which resulted in having his back taken and him being nearly choked out at the bell.
Pague would be a fool to repeatedly stand in the middle of the cage looking to exchange combinations with Camus. If that ends up being the case, I have no doubt that Chico can either outpoint his way to a decision or even knock Dustin out with a big right hand early on. However, I see Pague’s size eventually wearing Chico out enough to earn a late submission or close 29-28 decision victory.
UFC Pick: Dustin Pague
Nik Lentz vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
All of a sudden after going 4-0 to start his UFC career, Nik Lentz finds himself on the chopping block with consecutive losses in his last two bouts.
Now taking on Eiji Mitsuoka, the 27 year old wrestler from Minnesota appears to be taking a considerable drop in competition from former opponents Evan Dunham and Mark Bocek.
Truth be told, Lentz surprised most MMA bettors by arguably taking the first round against Dunham as a clear underdog. He was able to score a brief takedown while managing to hang on the feet against a clearly superior striker. However, heading into the third round, the amount of blood from a gash opened up by Dunham forced the doctor to stop the bout, earning Evan an official TKO stoppage
On the feet, I expect to see Eiji controlling the majority of the action.
Looking back at his UFC debut against Gomi, Eiji applied solid pressure with his lead hook and jab early in the match. Towards the end of the round he was also able to demonstrate the level of power in his right hand. Just as Gomi was loading up to throw a huge, telegraphed right hook, Eiji beautifully timed and countered the shot with step back right hand of his own, sending Gomi crashing into the canvas.
Ten more seconds into the round and you can almost guarantee Gomi would have tapped to the triangle choke he found himself in at the end of the frame. However, Gomi was the one who turned it up in the second round while Eiji clearly faded. At that point, it was only a matter of time before he was handed his first loss in the UFC.
This brings me to my primary concern for him against Lentz. I think at 37 years old, he’s clearly begun slowing down since his days in Pride, which is why I expect Nik’s superior endurance to be more than enough to steal the last two rounds en route to a decisive decision.
UFC Pick: Nik Lentz