by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com

Former UFC welterweight title challenger Jon Fitch faces off with undefeated Brazilian welterweight Paulo Thiago. Both fighters are poised for a possible title shot in the near future, if they can get through their opponents in impressive fashion. Fitch will also be looking to avenge his teammate Josh Koscheck’s loss at the hands to Thiago earlier in the year.

This is an intriguing fight as Thiago has shown that he is more than capable to finish a fight at any instant with his power strikes. Fitch’s bread and butter is still his strong wrestling ability and he’ll look to use that to affect with Thiago, putting pressure on him and not letting him work his jiu-jitsu skills from his back. Thiago will look to keep the fight on the feet or possibly get it on the ground as long as he is on top.

Fitch will look to close the distance and work from the clinch with dirty boxing and knees, where he can also easily take the fight to the ground. Thiago will want to get into exchanges with Fitch on the feet and hopefully catch him like he did with Koscheck. Look for Fitch to put constant pressure on Thiago and not give him an inch to work as he grinds out a tough decision.


Former Hero’s tournament champion Yoshihiro Akiyama takes on outspoken Duke Roufus trained Alan Belcher. Akiyama will be making his much anticipated UFC debut, while Belcher will look to upset yet another Dream veteran in consecutive fights. Expect some exciting fireworks from these two as they will be going for the kill.

The interesting aspect of this fight is that both fighters are fairly even on the feet when it comes to skill and technique. They each have shown that they can bang on the feet and get results from it. If the fight hits the ground, Akiyama should have the advantage, but Belcher has been rapidly improving on the ground with submissions as evidenced in his last couple of fights.

This isn’t a predictable fight as both fighters have a reasonable chance to win. Akiyama is the favorite, but hasn’t looked good in his past couple of fights, while Belcher has shown that he is more than capable to upset anyone. Akiyama will need to keep focused; he should work his technique and it will pay off. Belcher’s key to victory will be to pounce on any mistake made by Akiyama.


Ultimate Fighter 1 runner-up Stephan Bonnar faces off with former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman. Both fighters are coming off a loss and need a victory to stay alive in the ever changing light heavyweight division. At this point in their careers, Bonnar is the quicker and more skilled fighter of the two, but the one area that he lacks is wrestling and that is what Coleman does best. Coleman’s main concern will be his conditioning, if he gasses out like he did in his last fight, expect Bonnar to take over late in the fight with strikes. If not, Coleman will try to use his wrestling and patented ground and pound to grind out a win.


East coast submission fighter Jim Miller takes on Ultimate Fighter 6 winner Mac Danzig. Miller has been impressive in his UFC run, but was halted by Gray Maynard. Danzig has dropped two in a row and is in dire need of a win. Both fighters have very similar styles, but Miller seems to be the more well rounded of the two. The difference in the fight will be the fighter that has better wrestling, whoever can dictate where the fight takes place will no doubt gives himself that slight edge to win.


Highly touted light heavyweight prospect Jon Jones takes on former NCAA wrestler Jake O’Brien. Jones is the brightest prospect in the light heavyweight division and looks to gain more experience while moving up the ladder. O’Brien made the move to light heavyweight, but didn’t look great in winning a close decision over Christian Wellisch. Jones is simply the better fighter of the two and should be able to win the fight by keeping it one the feet and picking apart O’Brien with his vast, and unpredictable, array of strikes. O’Brien’s only chance will be to take Jones down and keep him on his back, if not then O’Brien will be in for a long night.


Undefeated Korean welterweight prospect Dong Hyun Kim faces off with Canadian welterweight TJ Grant. Grant replaces countryman Jonathan Goulet, who pulled out due to injury a month ago. Kim lost a split decision to Karo Parisyan, but that fight was ruled a no contest after Parisyan tested positive for various painkillers. These two are rather evenly matched. Kim’s biggest concern will be his gas tank. He has gassed out in his last two fights. If Grant can put constant pressure on Kim then he should be able to squeak out a close decision, but if Kim is in shape it could go the other way.


Ultimate Fighter 7 runner-up CB Dollaway faces off with Ultimate Fighter 8 participant Tom Lawlor. Lawlor will be making his middleweight debut. Dollaway is the better fighter both on the feet and on the ground. Lawlor’s strength is his wrestling, but Dollaway is still the better wrestler of the two, which hampers Lawlor’s chances. His best opportunity will be to catch Dollaway with a punch or a submission when he makes a mistake, but expect Dollaway to end the fight in the opening round.


Oklahoman wrestler Matt Grice faces off with the Dean Lister trained lightweight Shannon Gugerty. This is an interesting contrast of styles as one is a solid wrestler, while the other is a talented submission fighter. Grice has always been competitive in all his fights and has shown some impressive ground and pound. He should be able to take Gugerty down with his wrestling prowess and pound on him. Gugerty will be looking to lock on a submission and finish the fight. The key will be whether or not Grice will be able to stay out of a submission. If he does, expect him to win an impressive decision.