UFC 154 Prelims: 5 Reasons to Watch

By: Mike Whitman
Nov 15, 2012
Patrick Cote (center) has not won a fight in the UFC since July 2008. | Brian Townsend

Just one week after Cung Le nearly knocked Rich Franklin’s head clean off his shoulders in Macau, China, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to North America to further facilitate the collapse of the human race, live on pay-per-view.

UFC 154 “St. Pierre vs. Condit” takes place on Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal and is headlined a by welterweight title unification bout between interim champion Carlos Condit and actual champion Georges St. Pierre, who returns to the Octagon for the first time since tearing a knee ligament in December. Johny Hendricks will also square off with Martin Kampmann in a bout that should determine the next guy in line for a crack at the welterweight belt. Truly, these are a pair of Thanksgiving season showdowns for which we can all be grateful.

Before all that pay-to-play business goes down at the adult’s table, however, you are all welcome to sling your cranberry sauce with me and the rest of the kids in the living room during the prelims. Fair warning: I get all of your black olives. This is non-negotiable.

Here are five reasons to catch the UFC 154 undercard, which airs live on Facebook and FX immediately prior to the pay-per-view broadcast:

Wounded Predator

I have a feeling this is Patrick Cote’s last chance to make a run as a UFC middleweight. Let us hope the Canadian makes the most of it.

Dedicated followers of the UFC will recall that “The Predator” was previously released by the promotion in 2010 following three consecutive losses, the first of which came against middleweight champion Anderson Silva in a fight that ended after Cote’s right knee appeared to spontaneously combust.

After going under the knife, Cote returned to the Octagon 18 months later, suffering losses at the hands of Alan Belcher and Tom Lawlor before receiving his UFC pink slip. Undeterred, the Quebecer rattled off four straight wins outside the Zuffa umbrella before answering the call to face Le on July 7 at UFC 148. Stepping up on short notice to replace Rich Franklin -- who was pulled from his initial booking with Le in order to rematch Wanderlei Silva at UFC 147 -- Cote found himself caught on the outside against the 40-year-old, as the former Strikeforce champion used his vaunted kicking game to take a unanimous decision from Cote and spoil his Octagon return.

While he me may no longer be a spring chicken, Cote still possesses his punching power and his cast-iron jaw -- usually the last two things to leave a fighter. I think most expect him to use both of those assets to roll through Alessio Sakara. If he fails to do so, the smart money says he is once again out of a job.

Great Move or Grave Mistake?

Chad Griggs is my kind of guy.

Anybody who walks into a cage sporting gigantic mutton chops with the sole purpose of spoiling the night for someone more famous can crash on my couch any day of the week.

As an undersized heavyweight, Griggs performed that exact routine three straight times, finishing Bobby Lashley, Gian Villante and Valentijn Overeem. Granted, by the time Griggs fought Overeem, it was generally assumed that he would probably be too much for the veteran, but Griggs was definitely not supposed to win those first two fights. The fact that he did anyway -- with a giant I-told-you-so smile on his face, no less -- earns him at least a half dozen bonus points in my extremely scientific book of personal preference that in no way equates to one’s actual fighting ability.

Unfortunately for Griggs, he found out the hard way that the UFC heavyweight division is a whole different ballgame. “The Gravedigger” was simply outsized and outclassed by Travis Browne at UFC 145, and there is no other way to put it.

Now making his light heavyweight debut against French striking specialist Cyrille Diabate, I am legitimately curious to see how Griggs will look and feel after cutting those extra pounds, as well as how he intends to deal with that dangerous, croissant-eating Daddy Long Legs we call “The Snake.”

Photo: Sherdog.com

Bocek is 7-4 in the UFC.

Bocek’s Block

I think just about any fair-minded fight fan would agree that Mark Bocek is a good fighter. Can he be great?

Since joining the UFC in 2007, Bocek has posted seven wins against four losses, stumbling against Frankie Edgar, Mac Danzig, Jim Miller and Benson Henderson. I probably do not need to tell you the average caliber of the fighters on that list, but just in case I do, it is very high.

Following his decision defeat to Henderson last year, Bocek put forth two solid performances, taking unanimous verdicts over Nik Lentz and John Alessio. Up next, Bocek will test himself against another underrated talent in Rafael dos Anjos.

Both men possess excellent ground games, and both have been through the ups and downs that just about every veteran experiences in the cage. Most importantly, however, both men have yet to climb over the hump in the UFC’s dense lightweight division and make a case for themselves as consistent members of the Top 10. Which one will take another step toward the spotlight?

The Bullied Bull

What a difference a year has made for John Makdessi.

Heading into his UFC 140 clash with Dennis Hallman in December 2011, “The Bull” looked like he might be a unique commodity. As we have learned from watching this sport for years, the number of men who have successfully utilized karate- or tae kwon do-style striking in the Octagon have been few and far between. With dominant performances over Pat Audinwood and Kyle Watson, Makdessi looked like a budding star.

Then came Hallman. The veteran, who, in all fairness, weighed in at 158.5 pounds prior to the fight, grabbed ahold of Makdessi and held him down like the Canadian was his little brother. “Superman” bloodied “The Bull” with a controlled stream of punches and elbows, breaking him down before finishing him with a rear-naked choke in less than three minutes.

Things went slightly better in Makedessi’s next bout against Anthony Njokuani, although I imagine it is difficult to take positives from a fight in which one is bested at his own game.

Coming off back-to-back defeats, can Makdessi regroup and use his diverse and exciting striking game to get back on track against another heavy hitter in Sam Stout, or will “The Bull” need to contemplate a drop to featherweight after feeling Stout’s “Hands of Stone?”

Damm Dangerous

Much like Stella, I feel like Rodrigo Damm has gotten his groove back.

Once a promising talent at lightweight, Damm saw his career stall when paired with good competition at 155 pounds. The tail end of his lightweight stretch was not a pretty one, as the Brazilian was finished in four of his last five appearances before joining the featherweight cast of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”

At the live season finale, Damm proved how seriously he is taking his run at 145 pounds, as he decimated castmate Anistavio Medeiros de Figueiredo, submitting “Gasparzinho” with a rear-naked choke in just 2:12.

Can Damm maintain his momentum against fellow veteran Antonio Carvalho, or will the Canadian build upon the confidence gained from his 71-second stoppage of Daniel Pineda and earn a win in front of his countrymen?

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