Tim Boetsch vs. Constantinos Philippou
Tim Boetsch has won his last four against some of the middleweight division’s most feared fighters in Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. His come-from-behind victory against Yushin Okami was not only unforgettable but proved that Boetsch can take a few hits before delivering some fight-ending ones. Constantinos Philippou is definitely on the rise and the Serra-Longo Fight Team product’s striking is only getting better, as he proved against Jared Hamman and Court McGee. Philippou could have the slightest of advantages with his takedown defense, as he showed against Riki Fukuda back at148 when he stuffed all of the fighter’s takedowns.
It would be very interesting if Philippou mixes a few takedowns of his own with his striking to throw Boetsch off-guard. Leading up to this fight, Boetsch could have an itch that tells him Philippou is anticipating for the NCAA Division I wrestler to take him down at will and is working hard on his already-stellar defense. Boetsch also anticipates a great fight for the fans, as he said in the UFC 155 Countdown.
This could mean that a potential slugfest may be upon us on Saturday night – and what better way to determine who the next top middleweight challenger could be.
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
The heavyweight title fight is not the only rematch on this card that deserves recognition. Back at UFC 62 in 2006, Yushin Okami took down Alan Belcher at will en route to an important decision victory which made him a force that won nine out of his next eleven before losing to the current champion.
Okami has not changed as a mixed martial artist; he’s just gotten freakishly stronger. The same cannot be said for Alan Belcher, who looks like a man reborn. He’s won six out of his past seven, beating the likes of Wilson Gouveia, Patrick Côté and looking absolutely phenomenal against another submission expert, Rousimar Palhares (in which he almost got caught by his opponent’s devastated heel hook, only to stop him by strikes).
The first fight between these two middleweights should be written off if it is to be viewed as a means of comparison to the one they are about to have in the next few hours. Okami could use that fight as a blueprint to defeat Belcher but “The Talent” is a much different fighter these days (not to mention a better one as well). Okami has that extra confidence by defeating Buddy Roberts by strikes at UFC 150 and looked pretty damn good doing it.
The always-surprising Alan Belcher will need to stay away from the Team Quest’s beastly takedowns and hammering combos that could do some serious damage but Belcher has stopped all of his last four opponents by strikes and submissions and should be oozing with not only confidence, but certainty in the biggest fight of his career.
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
Many fighters, fans and media pundits alike were thrilled when Derek Brunson got the chance to step up on short notice and fight Chris “The Crippler” Leben. Brunson was forced to leave The Ultimate Fighter 17 cast a day in because of complications with his Showtime contract (he is aveteran).
Brunson went an impressive 9-0 before tasting defeat against Kendall Grove this past summer and then being knocked out in 41 seconds against the dangerous Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza two months later. Leben has never been one to shy away from controversy and now that he is coming off of a suspension and has found a life of sobriety, he will be looking for that spark he had when he defeated Wanderlei Silva by strikes and locking on a fight ending submission against Yoshihiro Akiyama back at UFC 116 (which could have been the fight of the year for many observers).
Leben’s last fight was a defeat to Mark Munoz by corner stoppage but also fell to Brian Stann before his victory against “The Axe Murderer”. To say Leben will be rusty after not fighting for so long is a bit of an understatement, but Brunson has not faced many fighters like Leben, or guys who are not that diverse.
Brunson knows that even though Leben has a good chin he can be hurt and finished by strikes. It may depend on which Chris Leben comes out to fight Saturday night – but also what Derek Brunson has learned from his past two setbacks.