Ian McCall has lost two in a row. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship will offer up its second consecutive week of sanctioned violence on Saturday, when UFC 163 goes down from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The pay-per-view card will showcase featherweight champion and pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo, as he takes on replacement opponent Chan Sung Jung, who steps in for an injured Anthony Pettis. The bill will also see former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida lock horns with fellow world-ranked talent Phil Davis in the co-main event.
Prior to the pay-to-play festivities, the free undercard will air live on Facebook and FX. Here are five reasons to tune in for the preliminary draw:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 163 Free Fan Pick’Em
Ian McCall has been open about his UFC career, effectively calling his Octagon venture thus far a bust. That type of honesty is refreshing in the sports world, but it can also be dangerous if a competitor allows it to affect his or her confidence.
As the sport’s top-ranked flyweight prior to the UFC’s creation of a 125-pound division, McCall has struggled against his fellow flyweight elite, drawing with current champion Demetrious Johnson last year before falling to “Mighty Mouse” in the immediate rematch. “Uncle Creepy” last competed in February, dropping a unanimous decision to former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez at UFC 156.
Now McCall returns to the cage after reportedly making changes in his personal life -- a shift the fighter claims has put him in a much better place mentally. Will “Uncle Creepy” earn his first UFC victory or will Iliarde Santos knock him down another peg on the flyweight ladder?
Getting it there, of course, is a significantly more challenging task, as evidenced in the native Brazilian’s April 27 clash with Davis. Granted, “Mr. Wonderful” is definitely one of the division’s best, but Magalhaes was nevertheless dominated due to Davis’ superior wrestling and conditioning.
The former no-gi Mundials and Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships champion should not run into a similar problem against Anthony Perosh, who is also known for his world-class jiu-jitsu game. Though Perosh has not achieved the same heights as his opponent on the mat, the Australian should still be able to make this fight technical and competitive if they end up on the floor.
Let us hope that is the case, because I foresee a ground battle between these men proving quite entertaining. However, if neither man can take the other down -- an unlikely but nonetheless realistic possibility -- we could be in for a long 15 minutes.
Tank vs. Lioness
If you are a fan of women’s mixed martial arts, you could hardly ask for a more promising pairing than Sheila Gaff and Amanda Nunes.
Both of these women fight with the same type of ferocity that made Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino a well-known name for even fringe MMA fans. Gaff showed her capabilities in her last bout before joining the UFC, blitzing Jennifer Maia with a violent stream of punches -- at the expense of touching gloves -- that rendered the Brazilian unconscious just 10 seconds into the fight.
Nunes has shown a similar potential in the cage, as exhibited by her 14-second demolition of Julia Budd more than two years ago and a first-round submission of Raquel Pa’aluhi last summer.
Both women are at their best when they establish themselves as dominant forces in the cage from the get-go. When that process is either delayed or suppressed, however, they both seem to struggle. Which striker will assert herself early in this contest?
Hot Start for Rani
Though he may not be the best-known commodity in the UFC, Rani Yahya is still a really solid featherweight.
The jiu-jitsu ace made his UFC debut at 145 pounds after spending most of his World Extreme Cagefighting career at bantamweight, outpointing former featherweight ruler Mike Thomas Brown in January 2011 before dropping a unanimous verdict to Chad Mendes later in the year.
The 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist responded with a pair of wins, however, taking Josh Grispi to school on the ground roughly one year ago and then edging former Deep and Sengoku lightweight king Mizuto Hirota in March. Few can compete with Yahya’s ground game on a purely technical level, but the Brazilian has nevertheless shown a tendency to get sloppy late in fights. Can once-beaten American Josh Clopton avoid getting caught in an early submission and make the fight competitive?
Neil Magny probably is not going to win a world title any time soon, but that does not change the fact that he can be a blast to watch.
A veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter 16,” Magny has used his range and speed effectively in the past, continually utilizing the rarest technique in all of MMA -- the jab. Jokes aside, Magny fights tall, and his great hand speed allows him to throw long, dangerous combinations when he has the inclination. His ground game is also decent, as his slender torso and long legs allow him to create submission openings and worm his way out of bad positions. I think his wrestling and conditioning still leave something to be desired, but when Magny can string together effective offense early, he can be tough to beat.
He will undoubtedly be at a disadvantage on the ground against Sergio Moraes, but if Magny can keep the fight standing, it should be a good night for him. Which welterweight will come up with the win?