by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
The UFC 74 undercard is littered with top fighters including a former UFC champion and two former title contenders in different divisions. UFC 74 is scheduled to take place Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
In this first of a two-part preview of the UFC 74 fight card, Ricardo Mendoza takes a look at the preliminary bouts not scheduled to air on the pay-per-view, unless time permits.
THALES LEITES VS. RYAN JENSEN
Middleweight Thales Leites takes on UFC newcomer Ryan Jensen. Thales Leites has an 11-1 record in MMA and trains out of Nova Uniao with Vitor “Shaolin” Ribiero. Ryan Jensen has an 11-1 record in MMA and trains out of MidAmerica Martial Arts with Jake Ellenberger. Leites comes off a fairly easy submission victory over Floyd Sword at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 5. Jensen recently submitted UFC veteran Curtis Stout at Victory Fighting Championships 19: Inferno.
Jensen will be making his UFC debut. He was originally scheduled to face off with Travis Lutter, but an injury put a halt to that. Jensen now faces a tougher fighter in Leites, who has now tasted victory twice in the UFC after losing his debut. Jensen’s only loss was against WEC welterweight Brock Larson, but he will indeed face a bigger man in Leites.
Leites has an amazing ground game and he should put it on display against the newcomer. This is Jensen’s biggest fight to date and the first time jitters will get to him. Look for Leites to get the fight to the ground early and submit the UFC newcomer in the first round.
Prediction: Thales Leites by submission in the first round.
FRANK MIR VS. ANTONI HARDONK
Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir returns to the Octagon, after a nine-month hiatus, to take on striking specialist Antoni Hardonk. Frank Mir has a 9-3 record in MMA and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Randy Couture. Antoni Hardonk has a 5-3 record in MMA and trains out Vos Gym with Ernesto Hoost. Mir is coming off a devastating knockout loss to Brandon Vera at UFC 65. Hardonk lost a lopsided decision to Justin McCully at UFC Fight Night 9.
Mir has had the biggest fall from grace in MMA, losing two out of three since his comeback from a severe motorcycle injury and not looking very good in his one win. He has taken a leave of absence from fighting in order to get back in the right mindset to compete at a high level and to recover from injuries. Hardonk looked good in his UFC debut but was exposed in his last fight for lacking a ground game, as he couldn’t muster much offense from his back.
This is really Mir’s last chance at the big stage. If he can’t win here, then there isn’t much hope for him in the newly stacked heavyweight division. The blueprint has been laid out for Mir, so look for him to follow it and win a decision over Hardonk.
Prediction: Frank Mir by decision.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
RENATO “BABALU” SOBRAL VS. DAVID HEATH
IFC Light Heavyweight Champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral looks to get back on track against Midwest fighter David Heath. Renato Sobral has a 27-7 record in MMA and trains out of Gorrdo Fight Team with Mauricio “Pe De Pano” Cruz. David Heath has a 7-1 record in MMA and trains out of Oklahoma. Sobral comes off a knockout loss to Jason Lambert at UFC 68, while Heath dropped a boring, lopsided decision to Lyoto Machida at UFC 70.
Both fighters need a win here to put themselves back into the mix in the light heavyweight division. Sobral hasn’t looked himself in his past two fights, as he has been knocked out in back-to-back efforts. Heath just looked really bad in his last fight against Machida. He never seemed to want to engage and paid for it has Machida counterpunched his way to a lackluster decision.
Both fighters should be motivated to get back on the winning track; the only question mark that remains is which can impose their game plan on the other. Heath will want to keep the fight on the feet as Sobral should be gun shy after two straight knockout losses. Sobral on the other hand will look to take it to the ground and lock on a submission. At the end of the day, look for Sobral to use his experience and take a decision over Heath.
Prediction: Renato “Babalu” Sobral by decision.
MARCUS AURELIO VS. CLAY GUIDA
Pride lightweight Marcus Aurelio makes his UFC debut against former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Clay Guida. Marcus Aurelio has a 14-4 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Din Thomas. Clay Guida has a 21-8 record in MMA and trains out of Hellhouse with his brother, Jason Guida. Aurelio comes off a close decision loss to Pride Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi at Pride Bushido 13. Guida also lost a close and controversial decision to Tyson Griffin at UFC 72.
This fight could end up being the most exciting of the night and it’s a shame that it’s on the undercard; both fighters deserve to be showcased. Aurelio hasn’t fought for nine months, so he could come in with quite a bit of ring rust. Guida has fought two close wars in the meantime and needs a win to stay alive in the lightweight division.
This fight simply comes down to who can end up on top once the fight hits the ground. Guida could use the same game plan that Mitsuhiro Ishida did to defeat Aurelio and just rain down punishment from above while staying out of trouble. If Aurelio is able to get on top, he will no doubt lock on a submission and finish Guida within the distance. In the end, it’s Guida who has the better takedowns of the two fighters and that will ultimately make the difference in this fight. He will strike first and end up on top, garnering him the win.
Prediction: Clay Guida by TKO in the second round.