I know what you're thinking, casual UFC fans: why should I bother with UFC 130?
I'm not going to try and convince you that Quinton Jackson vs. Matt Hamill is an epic main event; it's not, we all know that. It is, however, a solid light heavyweight contest that will help clear things up at the top of the division, and one of five very solid fights on the main card. Additionally, with two fights getting the Prelims Live treatment on Spike TV and the remainder of the contests finding their way to Facebook and Heavy.com, you've got another event where every fight is available to you.
I know that doesn't make up for losing Edgar-Maynard 3, but honestly, nothing would. I was really looking forward to that fight too. Have patience, it will happen. As you wait, why not enjoy this preview of the very competitive 10-fight card that remains for UFC 130.
Renan Barao (25-1-0) vs. Cole Escovedo (17-6-0)
If I said the name Jose Aldo to a casual MMA fan two years ago, there was a good chance they were going to look at me with a perplexed look on their face. He was an unknown commodity that showed championship potential, the same combination his teammate Barao exhibits now.
Not only is Barao a Nova Uniao teammate of the UFC featherweight champion and a fighter Aldo ha previously tabbed for greatness, he's also riding a 26-fight unbeaten streak. He lost his debut (by split decision) and hasn't looked back since, save for a No Contest back in December 2007.
He debuted with the WEC in June 2010, submitting Anthony Leone in the third round before making much quicker work of Chris Cariaso at WEC 53 in December. Now Barao makes his UFC debut, and if Aldo, several noted pundits and I are right, you'll be hearing a lot more from him in the future.
After pestering Dana White for a shot at the big time on Twitter, Escovedo gets a chance to prove himself, taking this fight on somewhat short notice after injuries reshuffled the deck. By the way, I loved "The Apache Kid's" approach of getting after White on Twitter; you know the UFC President loves the medium, so make the most of it. Well played, Mr. Escovedo.
The 29-year-old is more than a hopeful who mined an opportunity online; Escovedo is a former WEC featherweight champion who has faced several current UFC talents, including Urijah Faber, Antonio Banuelos and Michihiro Omigawa. His head kick knockout of Yoshiro Maeda at Dream 13 was one of the best of 2010, and his overall skill set makes him a dangerous opponent for Barao and addition to the roster, should the UFC decide to keep him in the fold to fill out the 135-pound ranks.
Michael McDonald (12-1-0) vs. Chris Cariaso (11-2-0)
As outlined in the first installment of the Rated Next series, I think very highly of McDonald, the youngest fighter on the UFC roster. His placement on this card cements those lofty expectations even more.
After battling Edwin Figueroa in a 15-minute masterpiece at Fight Night 24 in Seattle just two months ago, McDonald is right back in the cage, taking the place of Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto opposite Cariaso on little more than a month's notice. When you add his willingness to step up like this to the constantly improving and already solid skill set he brings to the Octagon, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't share my feelings that McDonald is a champion in the making.
Cariaso is in a tough position here. Though he's 2-1 through his first three fights as a Zuffa employee, including winning his UFC debut back in January, a pair of uneventful decisions combined with a first round submission loss isn't really the blueprint for long-term success. Now he's facing the best prospect in the bantamweight division with just four-weeks to prepare.
Gleison Tibau (22-7-0) vs. Bart Palaszewski (35-14-0)
No disrespect to the injured and unable to compete Cody McKenzie, but his lost opportunity is our gain, as a fight between the filling in Tibau and IFL/WEC veteran Palaszewski is a much more compelling matchup.
Tibau returns to the cage a little over two months after earning a split decision win over Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 128, and reprises his role as divisional gatekeeper. A massive specimen for the 155-pound weight class, the Brazilian has very good takedown defence, improving hands, and a strong ground game, the perfect mix to make him a pain in the ass for anyone and everyone hoping to climb the lightweight ladder.
Looking over his resume, Tibau has never been able to take the next step; he's beaten solid middle-tier competition, but comes up short against top end talent, the hallmark of a good gatekeeper. He was impressive against Pellegrino and has all the tools to frustration Palaszewski in this one as well.
After racking up 49 fights across an alphabet soup of organizations over the last eight years and change, Palaszewski will mark his 50th fight with his first trip into the UFC Octagon.
A quick glance at his record doesn't give you an accurate depiction of what "Bartimus" brings to the table. While he's just 6-6 through his last dozen fights, Palaszewski is the quintessential warrior, a guy who will take on anyone at any time. He's faced solid competition throughout his career, having handed Anthony Pettis the lone loss of his career and gotten the better of guys like Kyle Watson, Ivan Menijavr and the previously unbeaten Zack Micklewright.
Palaszewski is 4-1 over his last five fights, dropping a narrow split decision to Kamal Shalorus on the final WEC show in his most recent outing. That relatively successful run coincides with the Jeff Curran trainee's decision to take control of his life outside of the cage, including fighting a personal battle outside the cage, something Palaszewski discussed with me prior to his fight with Sharolus.
The soon to be 28-year-old has a solid all-around attack in the cage and should be able to handle himself wherever the fight takes place. Like Tibau, Palaszewski is a BJJ black belt, and his boxing is constantly improving. UFC 130 takes place two days before Palaszewski's birthday, so don't be surprised if he goes out and gets himself a win as an early present.