Brad Pickett is 13-3 over his last 16 bouts. | Photo: Ryan O'Leary/Sherdog.com
UFC Fight Night 26 no doubt offers up one of the year’s stoutest lineups, even if the show’s main event has lost a little steam thanks to Chael Sonnen’s announcement that he would return to 185 pounds following his light heavyweight showdown with Mauricio Rua on Saturday at the TD Garden in Boston.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut on Fox Sports 1 will also feature Alistair Overeem’s return to action against Travis Browne, as well as a bantamweight confrontation starring two of the planet’s finest 135-pounders: Urijah Faber and Iuri Alcantara. Taking nothing away from the undeniable quality of the main draw, one could argue that the prelims stand on equal footing.
Here are five reasons to catch the UFC Fight Night 26 undercard:
‘One Punch’ vs. ‘Mayday’
Brad Pickett and Michael McDonald are about to fight each other on free TV. This is your cue to get hyped, fight fans.
I should not have to outline the qualities in both these men, since anybody with a pair of eyeballs and a cable box knows they are both top 5 talents. McDonald’s hand speed is sublime, as are the fluent combinations he throws with such ease.
In Pickett, he faces another heavy hitter and a seasoned veteran. As his nickname would suggest, “One Punch” is capable of hurting any bantamweight alive if he catches them right with one of his hooks.
Neither of these men are simply strikers, however, as both have worked hard to develop well-rounded skill sets. Though I would think fans are no doubt hoping for a standup battle, I would be surprised if anybody complained should this fight hit the floor. I have no idea who is going to win. I only know that you should watch.
Can I make an official petition right now that Conor McGregor absolutely must make Thin Lizzy’s version of “Whiskey in the Jar” his walkout song by year’s end?
Keep in mind, I do not actually possess the leverage to make this happen, so if any criminal types are reading this, maybe we can figure out a way to temporarily incapacitate the guy who operates the MacBook Pro just long enough to fire up those sweet sounds from Phil Lynott and the rest of the boys.
I guess I am being selfish here. This kid could probably walk out to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and it would not make a bit of difference. Put plainly, the Dubliner was simply made to smash faces with his fists, and it is truly a thing of beauty when he finds his rhythm. Astute observers will recall his two-division title reign in the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship promotion before he turned heads in his UFC debut with a gorgeous, 67-second knockout of “The Ultimate Fighter 14” alumnus Marcus Brimage. Never forget those uppercuts, fight fans.
The UFC’s resident Irishman was initially slated to square off with English talent Andy Ogle, but “The Little Axe” pulled out with an injury. Nevertheless, I think replacement opponent Max Holloway could serve as a “blessing” in disguise for those who love the standup game. If McGregor and Holloway do not make you holler at your TV at least once, I will do something embarrassing in a public place specifically for your amusement.
The 26-year-old has looked solid thus far in his UFC career, winning four of his first five fights following his time on “The Ultimate Fighter 14.” With that said, Brown should be regarded as one of the stiffest tests of Siler’s career. The onetime World Extreme Cagefighting ruler might not be the same fighter he was four years ago, but the 37-year-old has nevertheless managed to right his ship with back-to-back victories after losing three of four from April 2010 to January 2011.
Judging by Brown’s solid, consistent performances against Nam Phan and Daniel Pineda, I would think the veteran still has plenty left in his tank for Siler, who has really impressed me with his technique and poise during his Octagon stint. Can Siler overcome one of the division’s former greats or will a rejuvenated Brown continue his climb back to the division’s apex?
When Diego Brandao sets his mind on beating up someone, it usually happens.
Few men in the featherweight division possess Brandao’s type of raw power and ferocity. That alone is enough to make him a formidable test for most of the 145-pound talent in the UFC, but the fact that he can also submit opponents could make him really special in the years ahead.
The 26-year-old has been paired with Pineda, a former two-division Legacy Fighting Championship titlist who has also impressed during his 18 months in the UFC. Both guys are known for coming hard out of the gate, but they have also shown the tendency to fade a bit down the stretch. If I had to bet, I would say we are headed for a finish in this bout, one way or another.
Manny, ‘Magrinho’ Renew Acquaintances
Much like Manny Gamburyan’s “The Ultimate Fighter 5” final against Nate Diaz, “The Anvil’s” clash with Cole Miller should amount to quite a spectacle -- physically, at least.
You really could not find two more opposite body types to fight at 145 pounds. Miller, an almost unbelievably wiry featherweight, stands 6-foot-1, meaning the 5-foot-6 Armenian should be staring at “Magrinho’s” breastbone when they square off at the weigh-ins. It is difficult to explain, but something about these polar opposites gets me fired up. As I see it, the difference in body types and the myriad possible fighting styles are two of the main aspects of MMA that make it so exciting.
Also notable is Gamburyan’s absence from the cage this past year, as he was twice forced to withdraw from planned bookings due to injury. Will the bullish Gamburyan bore his way inside of Miller’s reach to land a power shot in his Octagon return or can “Magrinho” keep him on the outside with straight shots and frustrate the muscular judoka from range? Likewise, if the fight hits the floor, who will hold the advantage in this battle of judo and jiu-jitsu black belts?