UFC on FOX 7 goes down on Saturday night and there are several undercard bouts that could steal the show with a bevy of former title contenders all looking to jump back into the championship picture.
Top ranked featherweight Chad Mendes draws his third replacement opponent in a row when he takes on Darren Elkins in the featured bout on the FX prelims, while former flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez looks to lock down another title shot when he faces grappling expert Darren Uyenoyama.
With so much action going down before the main card even starts, today we'll take a look at the preliminary fights and what UFC Pick ‘Em Fantasy Game players should be aware of this weekend.
1) Chad Mendes has developed some great striking, but never forget his wrestling roots. In his last two fights, Mendes has shown off his hands more than ever before, landing two quick knockouts in a row. He may get to use them again this time around because his opponent Darren Elkins is also an experienced wrestler, but don't think that means Mendes won't look for the shot. In his career, Mendes has a 57-percent success rate with his takedowns and he's relentless when he's looking to go to the mat. While Elkins comes back with a 39-percent takedown accuracy, he puts that up against the fact that any time an opponent has tried to take Mendes down, they've failed. Yep, Mendes has 100-percent accuracy stopping opponents’ takedowns, so it's likely if this fight hits the mat it's because Mendes wanted it there. Elkins also takes this fight just a month after his last fight (although that was a quick KO victory), but Mendes has been preparing for months after his originally scheduled fight at UFC 157 had to be cancelled when his opponent was injured. Mendes is ready and chomping at the bit to get in there and fight and the numbers are in his corner to come away with a victory in this one.
2) It's another matchup of wrestlers when two former Ultimate Fighter cast members - Ramsey Nijem and Myles Jury - square off. Both fighters are known for their grappling, but since dropping to 155 pounds, Nijem has looked like a force to be reckoned with. His power didn't diminish one ounce since moving from welterweight to lightweight, and he recently left his former job working as a bouncer in a bar to start training full-time. Nijem's takedowns land at 52-percent accuracy, which is just slightly higher than Jury's rate, but he's got power to back up his wrestling, which could be the difference in this one. Look for Nijem to block the takedowns from Jury and put him on his back instead. These two have also combined for three decisions out of their last four fights combined, so it's likely this one could see the judges' scorecards.
3) Once upon a time, UFC flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez said he eats Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts for breakfast. He wasn't lying about that fact either. Throughout his career, Benavidez has faced some of the best grapplers in the UFC/WEC and he's gone through them all. He's submitted black belts like Miguel Torres and Wagnney Fabiano, and also holds wins over Jeff Curran and Rani Yahya. That fact doesn't help Uyenoyama, who is a noted grappling expert. Now there's a first time for anything, but Benavidez has a tendency of beating guys just like Uyenoyama, and it's likely he'll do the same thing at UFC on FOX 7. Benavidez's movement on the feet is slick and fast, and when he attacks, he lands with power. He's also not afraid of a submission artist's best weapons and Benavidez will typically come back with some of his own should the fight hit the ground. Benavidez is a decided favorite, so the key might be whether or not he finishes. On that note, Benavidez has put away three of the four grappling aces he's faced over the last four years and he could very well add Uyenoyama to that list on Saturday.
4) Tim Means and Jorge Masvidal are going to bang and it's probably going to get crazy. These two lightweights are both fans of standing and trading and this could be an early candidate for Fight of the Night. Means is ultra tall for lightweight, standing 6'2" tall and in many ways he fights in a similar nature to that of former interim UFC champion Carlos Condit. It stands to reason because Means trains under the same man (Tom Vaughn) that brought up Condit all the way to his time as WEC welterweight champion. Means is a rangy, long fighter who currently boasts perfect takedown defense in his UFC career, and he can land from anywhere in the cage. Masvidal is no joke however, and he has a 77-percent defense rate on his feet, so he doesn't get hit often. Means is the pick here because he's a hot prospect on the rise, and if he can keep Masvidal at distance he's as nasty as they come at 155 pounds. Don't expect Masvidal to fade away or just let Means get a knockout bonus however, so this one could literally be a three round war.