Breaking down the Battle on the Bayou
Any Saturday night where you get to watch 12 free UFC fights is a good Saturday night.
I know some of the names are completely foreign to people; there are even a handful of guys that I haven't seen before, and that's rare. Of course, two years ago when Jon Jones made his UFC debut there weren't a ton of people who knew who he was either.
While there isn't a future light heavyweight champion in this group—in part because there are no fights above middleweight on the card—there are some new names to watch and a few fights that should be exciting.
Besides, they're free, and free is awesome.
Justin Edwards (6-1) vs. Jorge Lopez (11-1)
If you were one of the handful of people who loyally watched The Ultimate Fighter last season, you'll remember Edwards as the miniature Randy Couture who replaced Myles Jury in the very first episode.
Lopez is a Wanderlei Silva protege who has rattle off ten consecutive wins. The one knock against him is that he doesn't have the killer instinct of his mentor, though few can match Wand in that regard.
This is a good test for both. Edwards will test Lopez's takedown defense, and need to show that he can withstand the Muay Thai assault Lopez will surely unleash, particularly on his legs.
Mike Lullo (8-3) vs. Robert Peralta (14-3)
This is Lullo's "Thanks for Helping Us Out" fight; a second cup of coffee in the bigs for a guy who took a fight late last time out and lost. Not only did Lullo lose his bout, he got his legs chopped out from under him by Edson Barboza.
He was supposed to meet Mackens Semerzier here, but "Mack da Menace" got hurt. Peralta makes his UFC debut in his place, six months removed from earning a split decision victory over Dream featherweight champ Hiroyuki Takaya at the Diaz vs. Daley event.
Lullo benefits by being back down at his natural weight class and putting in a full camp, but Peralta is a tough kid with a good pedigree and better wins on his resume.
TJ Waldburger (13-6) vs. Mike Stumpf (11-2)
Even before the last minute change in opponents, this was a must win fight for Waldburger. He scored a tepid decision win over the unimpressive David Mitchell in his debut, then got starched by Johny Hendricks in Seattle. Now that he's facing Stumpf on five days notice, the "you've gotta show us something" factor has gone way up.
Conversely, Stumpf has got nothing to lose here, except the fight itself. He's stepping up late, which should buy him another opportunity down the line, and isn't in so far over his head that a win is completely out of the question.
Waldburger has some good wins on his record that I can't really fathom after having watched him live in Seattle; the thought of him beating Pat Healy and Brian Foster doesn't compute for me right now. Regardless, he needs re-live those efforts here or else he'll be back on the Texas regional circuit for his next fight.
Clay Harvison (9-3) vs. Seth Baczynski (13-6)
With 13 seasons in the books, there are plenty of TUF alumni kicking around to fill-in when half of an all-TUF battle goes down with an injury.
Harvison, a member of last season's cast who topped the previously discussed Justin Edwards in the finale, was supposed to fight Season 9 finalist DaMarques Johsnon. With "Darkness" forced out, Season 11 cast member Baczynski steps up in his place.
Now training out of Power MMA with Ryan Bader and company, Baczynski was won back-to-back fights since losing to Brad Tavares on the Seaosn 11 finale, including handing TriStar product Alex Garcia the first loss of his career.
These two should put together a good scrap here. Harvison showed heart and moxie fighting through a mangled finger last season, and Baczynski has been impressive since regrouping after being on the show.
Ken Stone (9-3) vs. Donny Walker (15-7)
Welcome to the only "Loser Leaves Town" match on tomorrow night's card.
Walker debuted a couple events back, losing to Jeff Hougland at UFC 132. Though he had his moments, Walker's conditioning failed him and he didn't really mount any prolonged attacks in dropping a unanimous decision at the start of July.
Things have been even worse for Stone, who signed with the WEC sporting a 9-1 record and has yet to see the second round while losing twice.
Eddie Wineland knocked him out with a powerslam on the last WEC show back in December, then he was tabbed to welcome Scott Jorgensen back to the cage for the first time since he his title fight against Dominick Cruz; "Young Guns" dropped him with 59 seconds left in the first.
Both guys should know the stakes are high in this one. Here's hoping that sense of urgency creates a quality encounter.
Matt Riddle (5-2) vs. Lance Benoist (5-0)
I have to admit—I'm pretty intrigued by this match-up.
Despite his bad hair and the feeling in my gut that tells me he pops his collar, Riddle has looked solid since emerging off of TUF 7 three years ago. He and Sean Pierson combined for what should have been Fight of the Night at UFC 124, and he's a pretty stiff test for the unbeaten UFC newcomer Benoist.
It's so hard to know what to expect from a guy like Benoist in this one. Has he won all of his fights inside the the first round because he's that good or because he's been fighting scrubs? Of the five men he's beaten, none are overly distinguished, so we'll all find out tomorrow night whether he's legit or just a good regional talent.