by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Tonight, at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, Kenny Florian and Din Thomas look to solidify a position amongst the top contenders in the UFC’s lightweight division. They headline UFC Fight Night 11, which also features Chris Leben vs. Terry Martin, Nate Diaz vs. Junior Assuncao, Pete Sell vs. Nate Quarry, and more.
UFC Fight Night 11 is scheduled to air on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The event serves as a lead-in to the newest season of The Ultimate Fighter, which premiers immediately following UFC Fight Night 11.
KENNY FLORIAN VS. DIN THOMAS
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Kenny Florian takes on American Top Team lightweight Din Thomas. Kenny Florian has a 6-3 record in MMA and trains out of Massachusetts. Din Thomas has a 20-6 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Marcus Aurelio. Florian comes off a TKO stoppage victory over Alvin Robinson at UFC 73. Thomas submitted Jeremy Stephens at UFC 71.
This fight has some serious title implications. With the possibility of UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk being suspended and stripped of the title, the winner here can put himself in a possible title fight for the vacant strap. Florian has been getting better and better since losing to Sherk, showing much improved stand-up in his last two fights. Thomas has put together an impressive streak of wins since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter 4, showing his versatility both on the feet and the ground.
Neither fighter has a distinct advantage over the other in this fight, so the fighter with the better cardio and game plan could very well win the fight. Look for both fighters to test each other on feet with Thomas having a slight advantage with his crisp boxing, while Florian has the edge on the ground with a more active ground game. At the end of the day, Thomas has more experience in big fights and should be able to dictate the pace of fight on the feet en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Din Thomas by decision.
CHRIS LEBEN VS. TERRY MARTIN
An original Ultimate Fighter alumnus, Chris Leben takes on rugged Midwest fighter Terry Martin. Chris Leben has a 16-4 record in MMA and trains out of Hawaii. Terry Martin has a 16-2 record in MMA and trains out of Illinois. Leben is coming off a decision loss to fellow Ultimate Fighter alumni Kalib Starnes at UFC 71. Martin scored an impressive TKO stoppage over Ivan Salaverry at UFC 71.
Leben has dramatically changed-up his training in recent months, leaving the comfy confines of Team Quest for the sunny beaches of Hawaii and it seems to have affected him in the Octagon. Martin has looked like an absolute beast since moving down to middleweight earlier this year.
Leben hasn’t really improved much since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, losing to tougher competition, unlike some of his fellow cast mates. Martin has the advantage on the feet and is an excellent wrestler with tons of power. Look for Martin to dictate the fight on the feet with powerful strikes, eventually taking the fight to the ground and finishing off a distracted Leben within the distance.
Prediction: Terry Martin by TKO in the second round.
NATHAN DIAZ VS. JUNIOR ASSUNCAO
Ultimate Fighter 5 Champion Nathan Diaz takes on Georgia-based fighter Junior Assuncao. Nathan Diaz has a 6-2 record in MMA and trains out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with Nick Diaz. Junior Assuncao has a 5-2 record in MMA and trains out of Unit 2 Fitness with Raphael Assuncao. Diaz comes off an injury victory over Manny Gamburyan at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale. Assuncao’s latest victory comes via submission over David Lee at UFC 70.
Both fighters have a very similar style, as they both like to fight on the ground and go for countless submissions. Diaz is a fighter on the rise, as he has shown the same talent as his older brother, who took the UFC by storm a few years back.
Assuncao is a good fighter but his lack of big-fight experience could hurt him in this fight. Diaz is a bright talent and will be brought along slowly by the UFC, as he isn’t ready to face top lightweights just yet. Look for both fighters to fight an entertaining ground battle in the first round, but Diaz will turn up the heat in the second and finish the fight.
Prediction: Nathan Diaz by submission in the second round.
PETE SELL VS. NATE QUARRY
Matt Serra trained fighter Pete Sell takes on Ultimate Fighter alumni Nate Quarry. Pete Sell has a 7-3 record in MMA and trains out of Team Serra-Longo with Luke Cummo. Nate Quarry has an 8-2 record in MMA and is a freelance fighter. Sell comes off a disappointing decision loss to Thales Leites at UFC 69. Quarry suffered a knockout loss to former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin at UFC 56.
This is a rematch of their controversial fight at the first-ever UFC Fight Night, where Quarry won a questionable stoppage over Sell. Since then, both fighters have taken vastly different career paths as Sell continued in the UFC, while Quarry lost in the title bout against Franklin and hasn’t fought in the subsequent two years. Since losing to Franklin, Quarry has had several injuries and a falling out from Team Quest has hampered his MMA career.
Both guys are solid on the feet and while Sell has a slight advantage on the ground, he also has one big advantage over Quarry – he has stayed active. The time off and injuries are going to play heavily into this fight. Look for Sell to work a quick pace and work-over a ring rusted Quarry en route to a decision.
Prediction: Pete Sell by decision.
KUNIYOSHI HIRONAKA VS. THIAGO ALVES
Shooto veteran Kuniyoshi Hironaka takes on American Top Team fighter Thiago Alves. Kuniyoshi Hironaka has an 11-3 record in MMA and trains out of Academia Az in Japan. Thiago Alves also has an 11-3 record and trains out of American Top Team with Din Thomas. Hironaka comes won a decision victory over Forrest Petz at UFC Fight Night 9. Alves comes off a TKO stoppage victory over Tony De Souza at UFC 66.
Hironaka has looked good in both of his UFC appearances, showing his versatility on both the feet and ground. Alves is coming off a suspension for using weight-cutting drugs before his fight with De Souza.
This should be an excellent fight as both fighters are equally matched and have a very quick fighting pace. On the ground, Hironaka has an advantage; while on the feet, the fight is pretty much even. Hironaka will test the fight on the feet before eventually taking it to the ground, where he should outwork a rusty Alves en route to a decision.
Prediction: Kuniyoshi Hironaka by decision.
LEONARD GARCIA VS. COLE MILLER
Exciting lightweight Leonard Garcia faces off with Ultimate Fighter 5 alumni Cole Miller. Leonard Garcia has a 10-2 record in MMA and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Donald Cerrone. Cole Miller has a 12-3 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Micah Miller. Garcia submitted Alan Berubie at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale. Miller comes off a TKO stoppage victory over Andy Wang, also on The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale.
Both of these fighters have a non-stop fighting style, as they both like to push the pace. Garcia fought a memorable fight with Roger Huerta at UFC 69, holding his own with Huerta throughout the entire fight. Miller was tabbed as a favorite to win The Ultimate Fighter 5, but several blows to the back of the head changed that. Both fighters will look to advance their position in the crowded UFC lightweight division with a win here.
Miller has a significant reach advantage over Garcia and he needs to exploit that, while Garcia needs to cut the distance and work from the inside on the feet. Expect an exciting fight from these fighters, but Miller is at a better point in his career and should take a decision over Garcia.
Prediction: Cole Miller by decision.
GRAY MAYNARD VS. JOE VERES
Ultimate Fighter 5 alumni Gray Maynard takes on the UFC-debuting Joe Veres. Gray Maynard has a 2-0 record in MMA and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Mike Pyle. Joe Veres has a 4-1 record in MMA and is a freelance fighter. Maynard comes off a no contest against Rob Emerson at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale. Veres won a TKO stoppage victory over Ray Robinson at Rage in the Cage 91.
Maynard looked super-impressive in his fight with Emerson before the eventual incident that resulted in the no contest ruling. He looked good on the feet and was very active from the top, as he pounded on Emerson. Veres pretty much an unknown fighter, who is being given a chance of a lifetime to debut in the UFC.
This is basically a showcase fight for Maynard to collect some experience in the Octagon and improve at Xtreme Couture before facing some stiffer competition. Look for Maynard to take this fight to the ground right away and overwhelm Veres with strikes early in the fight.
Prediction: Gray Maynard by TKO in the first round.
JONATHAN GOULET VS. DUSTIN HAZELETT
TKO veteran Jonathan Goulet takes on UFC up-and-comer Dustin Hazelett. Jonathan Goulet has a 19-8 record in MMA and trains out of Canada. Dustin Hazelett has a 9-3 record in MMA and trains out of Team Gurgel with Jorge Gurgel. Goulet comes off a TKO stoppage victory over Cory Macdonald at King of the Cage: Supremacy. Hazelett earned a submission victory over Steven Lynch at UFC 72.
Goulet was originally supposed to face Mike Swick, but an injury forced Swick out of the fight and Hazelett stepped in as a late replacement. Hazelett and Swick are two entirely different fighters as Swick is a striker, while Hazelett is a ground fighter. Goulet has had an up and down career as of late, losing a couple of fights that he probably should of won.
Goulet is going to want to keep this fight on the feet, as Hazelett is much better than him on the ground. Expect Hazelett to waste no time and get this fight on the ground, locking on a submission for the win.
Prediction: Dustin Hazelett by submission in the first round.
LUKE CUMMO VS. EDILBERTO DE OLIVEIRA
Ultimate Fighter 2 alumnus Luke Cummo takes on Brazilian fighter Edilberto de Oliveira. Luke Cummo has a 5-4 record in MMA and trains out of Team Serra-Longo with Matt Serra. Edilberto de Oliveira has an 8-1-1 record in MMA and trains out of Brazil. Cummo knocked out Josh Haynes at UFC 69. Oliveira suffered a TKO stoppage loss to Paul Taylor at UFC 70.
Cummo has had an up and down career since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter 2, breaking even at 2-2 in the UFC. Oliveira suffered his first loss in MMA in his UFC debut, losing late in the fight to Paul Taylor in what was a back and forth struggle. Cummo has a strong fan base, but he is an average fighter that hasn’t improved much since emerging in the UFC.
Oliveira wants this fight on the ground, where Cummo has struggled in the past against better grapplers. Cummo needs to keep the fight on the feet and try to end the fight with strikes. Expect Oliveira to take this fight to the ground and outwork Cummo en route to a decision.
Prediction: Edilberto de Oliveira by decision.