Danny “Last Call” Castillo is 4-2 since arriving in the UFC. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Before we jump into our super-cool, not-at-all-nerdy dissection of the UFC on Fuel TV 7 undercard, I think it bears mentioning that we should all be excited about the quality of the main event. Renan “Barao” Pegado defending his interim bantamweight title on free television is quite the treat, especially considering he will be facing a puncher like Michael McDonald, who is unlikely to be intimidated by the Brazilian’s prior dominance against the likes of former World Extreme Cagefighting ruler Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett.
Leading up to the headliner, heavy hitters James Te Huna and Jimi Manuwa will do their best to lay hands on the more technical Ryan Jimmo and Cyrille Diabate, while Cub Swanson will try to earn himself a spot in the featherweight top 10 by taking out prospect Dustin Poirier. Prior to all that business, however, the undercard streams live on Facebook on Saturday from Wembley Arena in London.
Here are five reasons to catch the UFC on Fuel TV 7 prelims:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fuel TV 7 Free Fan Pick’Em
Back on Track
Paul Sass and Danny Castillo are both in need of a feel-good victory, especially considering how they were bested in their most recent in-cage appearances.
Sass appeared to have Matt Wiman just where he wanted him during their UFC on Fuel TV 5 confrontation in September, but he quickly found out that Wiman’s eagerness to engage him on the ground was less foolhardy than originally thought. “Handsome” showed little regard for the Brit’s vaunted submission attack, defending Sass’ offense from both top and bottom before locking up a sweet straight armbar from guard to hand “Sassangle” his first career defeat.
Likewise, Castillo saw what appeared to be a forthcoming victory evaporate in a matter of seconds against Michael Johnson in October. After flooring “The Menace” early in the first round of their UFC on FX 5 clash, Castillo found Johnson difficult to finish, despite mounting “The Ultimate Fighter 12” finalist and locking up what looked to be a tight arm-triangle. All of that offense was for naught, however, when Johnson uncorked a stinging left hand and decimated the Team Alpha Male product with ground-and-pound just 66 seconds into round two.
Castillo has not suffered back-to-back losses since 2010, and the previously unbeaten Sass has obviously never experienced that type of setback. Which man will right his ship?
The Bulgarian’s issues were as obvious as his abilities at light heavyweight. Undersized and ill-equipped in the cardio department to fuel his hard-swinging style, Nedkov nevertheless managed to extend his unbeaten career mark to 12-0 after connecting with Luiz Cane’s chin in August 2011. Following a lengthy stint on the bench due to visa issues, Nedkov finally returned to the Octagon in November, succumbing to a third-round arm-triangle choke courtesy of Thiago Silva. However, that result was changed to a no contest after it was revealed that Silva’s post-fight drug test came back positive for marijuana metabolites.
In Tom Watson, Nedkov now faces a hard-hitting Brit who likely has something to prove after a coming up short in his Octagon debut in September -- a defeat that snapped a three-fight winning streak for the former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion.
Will Watson’s more traditional kickboxing attack put a plug in the Bulgarian’s wild standup style or will a slimmed-down Nedkov walk in with a larger gas tank and overwhelm “Kong” with a volley of power punches?
Flunking ‘The Fluke’
There is a certain level of arrogance that goes along with calling yourself “The Fluke.” Sporting this type of ironic nickname only works if you are winning, which is something that Josh Grispi was doing a lot of up until two years ago.
Booked to face featherweight king Jose Aldo at UFC 125, Grispi instead met Poirier after “Scarface” withdrew from the bout due to injury. At the time, it was thought by some that Grispi’s potent grappling attack might prove problematic for Aldo, but that logic was abandoned shortly after “The Diamond” mercilessly beat Grispi from pillar to post for 15 minutes, with Grispi offering virtually no retaliatory fire in the standup.
George Roop then put another beatdown on the prospect the following June, knocking out Grispi with a vicious right straight to the solar plexus. Grispi’s skid did not end there, however, as he was submitted by a Rani Yahya north-south choke in his lone appearance of 2012.
In the span of about 20 months, Grispi went from a blue-chip prospect on the verge of a title shot to a hard-luck case that could be on the verge of a pink slip. Now in desperate need of a victory to avoid his fourth straight defeat, can Grispi get the job done against “The Ultimate Fighter 14” vet Andy Ogle?
They Call Him ‘Useless’
What did I just say about ironic nicknames, Ulysses Gomez?
The former two-division Tachi Palace Fights champion made his long-awaited Octagon debut in August on the strength of back-to-back wins, including a title-winning submission of Cody Gibson at TPF 11.
All of Gomez’s prior accomplishments meant very little to John Moraga, however, as the onetime Rage in the Cage kingpin pinned “Useless” up against the cage and unloaded on him with both barrels at UFC on Fox 4. Moraga cracked Gomez with a pair of hard, precise elbows and followed up with a devastating volley of punches that buckled the Californian’s knees, sending him to the canvas with head-spinning left hook.
Now paired with well-rounded Brit Phil Harris, can Gomez erase the memory of his inauspicious Ultimate Fighting Championship debut?
It takes a courageous man to sign on the dotted line for another prizefight after sustaining a knockout like the one Terry Etim absorbed 13 months ago.
The Brit had returned to the Octagon in November 2011 after spending 14 months on the shelf due to a slow-healing rib injury. Etim’s reemergence at UFC 138 was one that set a partisan Birmingham, England, crowd on fire, as the Team Kaobon representative earned “Submission of the Night” honors for his 17-second finish on Edward Faaloloto.
Etim also received some post-fight bonus money after his clash with Barboza the following January, though it almost certainly did not come in the capacity in which the Brit was hoping. While the 27-year-old hung tough with the hard-hitting Brazilian for nearly 12 minutes in a “Fight of the Night”-winning affair, Barboza eventually had his way, connecting with a violent wheel kick that instantly turned out Etim’s lights and earned him Sherdog’s 2012 “Knockout of the Year.”
Etim was expected to return to the cage in August before another injury derailed him. After a full year away from competition, can Etim find his rhythm against “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 1 veteran Renee Forte and present fans with a new reason by which to remember him?