by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com

Joe Lauzon vs. Jeremy Stephens


In the main event of UFC
Fight Night 17 in Tampa, Fla., Ultimate Fighter 5 participant Joe Lauzon faces
off with Midwest knockout artist Jeremy Stephens. Stephens took the fight on
only a couple weeks notice after Lauzon’s original opponent Hermes Franca
pulled out due to a knee injury. There has been a war of words between Lauzon
and Franca, and Stephens trains with Franca on occasion, giving the fight an
interesting storyline.


Lauzon should have the
advantage on the ground, but that hasn’t been a problem for Stephens in his
past fights. He has worked diligently on submission defense and it’s paid off.
In Stephens’ last two wins he has faced tough submission fighters, but has been
able to defend and stop his opponents with strikes. Lauzon’s one weakness could
be his striking, which isn’t as refined as Stephens’ striking.


The fight will come down to
whether or not Lauzon can control the fight long enough to avoid getting tagged
with any of Stephen’s heavy bombs. Lauzon will need to take the fight to the
ground and control Stephens, neutralizing him and taking away his striking game.
Stephens on the other hand will look to stay on the feet, where he can land a
big shot that will put Lauzon out.


This is a big opportunity
for both fighters as they are in the main event of a nationally televised event
on Spike TV, providing maximum exposure to the winner. 



Cain Velasquez vs. Denis Stojnic


Rising heavyweight prospect
Cain Velasquez makes his return as he welcomes Golden Glory fighter Denis
Stojnic to the Octagon. Velasquez is one of the more talented prospects in all
of mixed martial arts and has quickly gained a following due to his impressive
performances in the UFC. Stojnic makes his UFC debut after knocking out the
competition in Europe.


Velasquez has the distinct
advantage on the ground, being a decorated NCAA wrestler. He should be able to
get the fight to the ground if he so chooses, which is a big if. Stojnic should
have the advantage on the feet because he is a kickboxer, but Velasquez has
shown immense ability on the feet in his few UFC appearances, more with his
boxing than his kicking.


The fight will come down to
which fighter will be able to get off first and hurt his opponent before they
are able recognize what is happening. Velasquez has been able to do that
throughout his short mixed martial arts, TKOing all four of his opponents in
the opening round, so it will be interesting to see if can do that again
against a better striker. The only thing to expect from this fight is that it
won’t make it out of the first round.



Mac Danzig vs. Josh Neer


Ultimate Fighter 6 winner
Mac Danzig faces off with Miletich trained fighter Josh Neer. Both are coming
off decision losses at UFC Fight Night 15, so neither fighter can afford a
second straight loss in this day and age in the UFC. An interesting storyline
going into the fight is that Neer was just arrested for a DUI, so it will be
interesting to see how that has affected his training and focus for the fight.


These two fighters have
different styles on the ground. Danzig is a submission fighter, while Neer
likes to take people down and pound on them. Both are solid strikers, but a
slight edge would have to go Neer, just because he has more power behind his
strikes. They are evenly matched when it comes to conditioning; so don’t be
surprised if these two go all out for 15 minutes.


This should be an exciting
fight from start to end, but this is a bad match-up for Danzig. He hasn’t been
able to deal well with solid wrestlers that put him on his back and can keep
him there. Neer should be able to put Danzig on his back and pound away for
much of the fight. Danzig will need to either lock on an early submission
before they get all sweaty or catch Neer off guard on the feet. It will be
interesting to see what happens to the losing fighter, whether or not they are
given another chance in the UFC. 



Anthony Johnson vs. Luigi Fioravanti


Striking wunderkind Anthony
Johnson takes on former U.S. marine Luigi Fioravanti. This is one of the more
anticipated fights of the night as both fighters provide fireworks on their
feet. Each is coming off an impressive victory, the winner gaining some major
momentum to start 2009.


Both fighters like to bang
on their feet because of their heavy hands, but a slight advantage would have
to go to Johnson because his striking is more refined then Fioravanti’s. If the
fight hits the ground, then Johnson would have another advantage because of his
wrestling ability. Neither fighter is flashy on the ground with submissions, so
if it does goes there then expect them to pound on each other.


Fioravanti’s best chance to
win the fight will be to catch Johnson off guard or exploit some kind of hole
in Johnson’s striking game. Johnson has many different ways to win the fight
whether it be on the ground or on the feet. He seems
to be more inclined to finish fights on the feet, however, looking for the
exciting knockout blow. However the fight plays out, it’s more than likely that
the winner could score the knockout of the night. 



Kurt Pellegrino vs. Rob Emerson


Ground savvy Kurt Pellegrino
faces off with Team Oyama fighter Rob Emerson. Both are coming into the fight
with tons of momentum, but one of them will have it halted come Saturday night.
Pellegrino seems to be relaxed now that he has returned home and started
training with Kenny Florian. Emerson comes off a quick knockout against
Ultimate Fighter 5 runner-up Manny Gamburyan. Pellegrino has the edge on the
ground with submissions and wrestling, while Emerson has the advantage on the
feet with technique and reach. The strategy is simple for both fighters.
Pellegrino needs to take it to the ground, while Emerson needs to keep the
fight on the feet. 



Dan Miller vs. Jake Rosholt


Two bright middleweight
prospects will go to battle as former IFL middleweight champion Dan Miller
takes on NCAA wrestling champion Jake Rosholt. Miller has quietly gone 2-0 in
the UFC, while garnering a small following of fans. Rosholt is one the most
highly touted prospects in mixed martial arts, but looked atrocious in his last
fight. Miller is the better submission fighter and has more experience then
Rosholt, whose advantage will be his wrestling ability. On the feet, Miller is
far ahead in the stand-up department, as Rosholt looked like a fish out of
water with his striking in his last fight. Rosholt’s best chance will be to
grind out a decision, while Miller has his choice to finish the fight either on
the feet or the ground.



Rich Clementi vs. Gleison Tibau


In a battle of UFC veterans,
Ultimate Fighter 4 participant Rich Clementi faces off with American Top Team
lightweight Gleison Tibau. Both fighters are coming off losses and need a win to
continue on in the UFC. Clementi is the better striker of the two, but Tibau
has the edge on the ground with submissions and wrestling. Clementi doesn’t
deal well with big strong fighters that can wrestle him down and keep him
grounded, which is something that Tibau will probably do. Clementi’s best
chance will be to catch Tibau on the feet and hope that will be enough to
finish the fight.



Matt Grice vs. Matt Veach


Wresting standout Matt Grice
makes his return to mixed martial arts after taking off all of 2008 to become a
police officer, as he takes on late replacement Matt Veach. Veach trains with
former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes at the H.I.T. Squad, so expect him
to be well prepared for this fight. They are evenly matched, but there are two
factors that will decide the fight. Veach hasn’t faced the same competition
that Grice has and he doesn’t have UFC experience, which is a big difference
from fighting in smaller shows. The other factor in the fight will be how the
time off will affect Grice and whether or not it takes him a bit get into a
groove in the fight, providing an early opening for Veach.  



Steve Bruno vs. Matt Riddle


Two of the UFC’s brightest
welterweight prospects will go to battle as American Top Team trained Steve
Bruno faces off with Ultimate Fighter 7 participant Matt Riddle. This will be
Riddle’s welterweight debut. His only pro fight was at middleweight several
months ago. Bruno should have the advantage when it comes to submissions, while
Riddle has the advantage when it comes to wrestling. The factor in the fight
will be who can control the pace of the fight on the feet and impose his will
on the other fighter. Both are young and talented, so a loss for either won’t
hurt them much, but the winner will move up the welterweight ladder.



Nick Catone vs. Derek Downey


This will be a battle of UFC
newcomers as Catone was originally scheduled to fight Ultimate Fighter 7 winner
Amir Sadollah, but for a second straight time, Sadollah had to pull out due to
injury. Downey takes the fight on only a couple weeks notice, but it’s a huge
opportunity for him. Finally making his first UFC start, Catone is a former
NCAA wrestler and has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Downey trains under
UFC veteran Jeremy Horn in Utah. The x-factor in the fight will be which
fighter is better equipped to handle the stand-up game and can fight better off
their back. Either way, it’s more then likely that the winner has a future
engagement with Amir Sadollah.