Mike Pierce has quietly compiled a 7-3 mark inside the Octagon. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Following two consecutive weekends filled with pacifist nonsense, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to your television screens on Saturday to showcase arguably the finest creator of violence the sport of mixed martial arts has ever known.
Anderson Silva will put his middleweight title on the line for a record 11th time in the main event of UFC 162, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Standing opposite the venerable “Spider” will be undefeated challenger Chris Weidman, the man many regard as the champion’s toughest Octagon test to date.
Prior to the pay-per-view broadcast, the show’s preliminary draw airs live on FX and Facebook. Here are five reasons to watch the undercard:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 162 Free Fan Pick’Em
Mike Pierce is one of the best welterweights in the world. If you disagree or have no idea to whom I am referring, you can go kick rocks.
The hard-nosed 170-pounder has suffered just a single definitive loss in his UFC career, falling to Jon Fitch back in 2009. Since that setback, Pierce has won seven of his last nine bouts, with only split decision losses to former title challenger Josh Koscheck and current No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks marring his record in that span.
Many times in this sport, split decisions come about due to poor judging, but Pierce’s losses do not belong in that category. Both contests were hard-fought affairs, and Pierce could have easily received the nod in both cases had the figurative ball simply bounced his way.
As it stands, Pierce still rides a three-fight winning streak into his clash with David Mitchell, who looks to capitalize on his unanimous decision victory over Simeon Thoresen after beginning his UFC career 0-2. Keep an eye on Pierce in this one. If he can score an impressive win and extend his winning streak to four bouts, we should see him once again paired with top 10 talent for his next Octagon outing.
Last Hurrah or New Beginning
I will always have a spot in my heart for fighters like Chris Leben.
I was initially drawn to Leben for the same reason I rooted for Oleg Taktarov years ago -- the same reason I used sit wide-eyed in front of my grandmother’s TV to watch guys like Rocky Marciano, Carmen Basilio and Jerry Quarry on ESPN Classic.
Spectators love a guy who just will not quit, and I fully admit my guilt in romanticizing such an approach in my younger years. The process of winning by sheer force of will has always fascinated me, perhaps even more so than a flawless victory. The problem is that time has shown such a strategy to eventually betray its practitioner, often foreshadowing serious health consequences.
In Leben, I still see that hard-swatting southpaw with the cinder-block skull, but 31 professional bouts have taken their toll, as have three losses in his last four fights. His in-cage woes have been accompanied by recurring issues outside the cage, as he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Hawaii before testing positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone in 2011. Most recently, “The Crippler” put forth a less-than-impressive showing against Derek Brunson in December, dropping a unanimous decision in a UFC 155 bout that saw both men run out of gas.
Can Leben get back on track against Andrew Craig or will the former Legacy Fighting Championship titlist prove that “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 vet’s best days are behind him?
Barboza Back in Business
The hard-hitting lightweight now appears poised to make another run at the lightweight top 10 -- a quest that was initially derailed by former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Jamie Varner. Though Varner is once more regarded as a formidable 155-pound talent, at the time he was viewed as little more than fodder to pad the Brazilian wrecking ball’s unbeaten record. Stepping in as an injury replacement for Evan Dunham, the ex-WEC champ took the fight to his favored opponent, cracking Barboza with bombs against the cage that earned Varner a first-round technical knockout and Sherdog’s 2012 “Upset of the Year.”
Following eight months away from the cage, Barboza returned to form on Jan. 19, punching out Lucas Martins at UFC on FX 7 to score the ninth stoppage win of his career. Can Barboza maintain that momentum and keep himself in the winner’s circle against Rafaello Oliveira?
Dave Herman is a man in need of a win and a clean drug test.
The heavyweight has lost three straight fights, suffering knockouts to Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson before submitting to former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in October. Additionally, Herman has failed two drug tests in as many years, testing positive for marijuana on both occasions.
In spite of his recent issues, Herman remains anything but boring in the cage, as exemplified by his single decision victory in 26 pro fights. In Gabriel Gonzaga, Herman faces an injury replacement looking to erase the memory of his one-sided defeat at the hands of Travis Browne. Like Herman, “Napao” has gone the distance just once in 21 outings. Both of these men were once regarded as legitimate heavyweight contenders. Will one of them make a statement?
Not Yet ‘Pistola’ Whipped
Seth Baczynski was really on a roll.
After washing out in the UFC as a middleweight contestant on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Baczynski made the cut to 170 pounds and rejoined the organization in 2011, rattling off victories over Clay Harvison, Matt Brown, Lance Benoist and Thoresen.
Then “The Polish Pistola” ran into Pierce, who took a unanimous verdict from Baczynski in December at UFC on FX 6. Though no shame lies in losing to a competitor the caliber of Pierce, the result nevertheless netted Baczynski his first loss as a UFC welterweight and halted his six-fight winning streak.
On the bright side, Baczynski managed to keep his fight with Pierce competitive in the third round after continually finding himself underneath his stocky foe for the bout’s first 10 minutes, landing some solid hooks in a final frame that spoke to Baczynski’s character as a fighter. Can he learn from that defeat and right his ship against Strikeforce import Brian Melancon?