Finally, its here ! The weekend of UFC 118 has arrived, and with a solid card top to bottom, its time to break down the fights. Today, we take a look at the undercard, which is highlighted by Massachusetts’ own Joe Lauzon. Listen to The Sports Hub tonight starting at 6pm for our UFC 118 Preview Show, hosted by Rich Keefe and Nick Cattles. But for now, let’s get to the fights.
Mike Pierce (10-3) vs. Amilcar Alves (11-1)
A wrestling standout at Portland State University, Mike Pierce is a polished wrestler with knockout power entering his 4th fight inside the Octagon. Since joining the UFC, this 29 year old has been throw right into the fire, with fights against skilled opponents Brock Larson and Jon Fitch to kickstart his tenure with the company. To this point, Fitch represents his only UFC loss, losing by decision at UFC 107. Pierce’s strategy is simple: take an opponent down, utilize his wrestling to smother him, and if necessary, throw some serious hands to get the KO.
After dominating the competition in his homeland of Brazil, welterweight Amilcar Alves makes his debut outside of his home country at UFC 118. Alves is an experienced judo practitioner who also possesses (surprise !) a background in Brazilian jiu jitsu. However, Alves is no slouch when it comes to striking either, partnering up with All-World Muay Thai specialist Jose Aldo at the Nova Uniao camp. He is a tough matchup regardless of where you want to take the fight, able to finish his opponents with precision striking or deadly submissions.
…the classic American wrestler vs.Brazilian grappler battle between two guys looking to make a name for themselves. Pierce has a knack for doing just enough to win, but Alves presents something he hasn’t really faced in his career to this point. This will be an interesting fight if it remains standing, but if Alves can stick to his gameplan and work Pierce, he can come away with a win.
Nick Osipczak (5-1) vs. Greg Soto (7-1)
“Piddle on Riddle”was the rallying cry…still doesn’t get old. Itwas a promise made by Nick Osipczak before his last victory against TUF alum Matthew Riddle. Since then, however, Osipczak lost a questionable split decision to Rick Story at UFC 112 and is looking to rebound. Despite the loss, Osipczak remains a bright prospect at 170 and at 6’2”, his long reach provides fits for his welterweight competition. Plain and simple he finishes his fights, and, like the rest of the crew at Team Rough House, is never one to shy away from a microphone (see: Dan Hardy, Paul Daley ). Besides, how many other fighters can claim a background in Shaolin Kung Fu?
Greg Soto takes his 7-1 record into his 2nd UFC fight, fresh off a DQ loss due to an illegal upkick against Matthew Riddle. Other than this hiccup, Soto has been perfect, with 2 wins coming via KO and 3 via submission. Despite the fight against Riddle, he is most dangerous on the ground, where under the tutelage of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Kurt Pellgrino he earned a brown belt in BJJ. Coupled with a wrestling background, you can bet Soto will do what he can to make this fight horizontal.
…two guys trying everything to right a wrong. Both men took a step back with their last fights and are looking to get a new foothold in the welterweight division. Osipczak will use his reach to keep Soto at bay and to remain standing, and considering he has stuffed 71% of his takedowns, he will keep Soto out of his element. Look for the TUF alum to get back on track.
Dan Miller (11-4 1NC) vs. John Salter (5-1)
This is it for Dan Miller. Dana White hasn’t said anything, but he has never been one to hold onto midcard fighters who lose 4 fights in a row. But that is the position that Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Dan Miller finds himself in after losing 3 decisions in a row to Michael Bisping, Chael Sonnen, and Demian Maia. All good competition, but a loss is still a loss. As a last minute fill-in for the injured Phil Baroni, Miller has a shot to get a win over a solid competitor in John Salter, and most importantly, obtain a little bit of job security.
John Salter is yet another in the wave of young wrestlers that have joined the UFC in recent years. A NAIA wrestling champion and NAGA grappling champion, Salter’s wrestling ability has propelled him to a 5-1 record. Despite this pedigree, Salter has yet to really get his UFC career launched. His first fight was an ugly 3rd round TKO loss to Gerald Harris, and his second fight ended in the first round after he snapped Jason McDonald’s ankle on a takedown in the 1st round. Nonetheless, Salter is a guy with a very strong skill set. It will be interesting to see how he approaches his 3rd fight inside the Octagon.
…two wrestlers to have a back and forth battle that goes 3 rounds. Both fighters are better than their recent history has indicated, and both should rise to the occasion on Saturday. My head tells me John Salter’s youth and superior wrestling and stand-up will be a bit much for Dan Miller, but my heart says Dan Miller is not a guy who will lose 4 fights in a row.
Andre Winner (12-3-1) vs. Nik Lentz (20-3-2)
Joining fellow Team Rough House fighter Nick Osipczak at UFC 118 is Andre Winner, a British lightweight who was one round away from winning season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter. Winner is a very dangerous striker, combing speed with precision strikes. After losing to fellow Brit Ross Pearson at the TUF 9 Season Finale, he has rattled off back to back victories over Rolando Delgado and Rafaello Oliveira on the strength of his stand-up. A striker’s best friend is a solid chin, and Winner’s has yet to fail him.
Nik Lentz is a smart man. Aside from being a Pre-Med out of the University of Minnesota, Lentz is a wrestler who hones his craft at Minnesota Martial Arts with Brock Lesnar and Sean Sherk. Pretty good company, eh? Aside from his wrestling background, Lentz has some pretty mean knockout power, as he amassed 7 wins via KO early in his career and possesses some stinging kicks. Since joining the UFC, Lentz holds solid decision victories over Rafaello Oliveira and Rob Emerson, yet fought to a draw with Thiago Tavares after Tavares was deducted a point for a low blow.
…Winner to push the pace of this fight to keep Lentz on his toes. Winner needs to stay on his feet and not let this fight play out on the canvas. Lentz’s wrestling is just too good and will suffocate Winner until he makes a mistake if he isn’t careful. As long as things stay vertical, Lentz will be at a disadvantage, but if he can get a takedown, Andre Winner will be in trouble.
Joe Lauzon (17-5) vs. Gabe Ruediger (17-5)
Joe Lauzon is one of the best fighters in the world to come out of Massachusetts, so it is only fitting that the East Bridgewater product fights at the UFC”s debut in The Hub. Lauzon is a surgeon in the cage, possessing a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and able to pull a submission out of several different positions. “J-Lau” is coming off of a decision loss to Sam Stout back in January which was preceded by a severe knee injury that sidelined him for about a year. But with the ring rust shaken off and a hometown crowd behind him, Lauzon will look to bounce back and add to his 5-2 UFC record.
Across the cage waits fellow The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 cast member Gabe Ruediger. Most remember Ruediger as the emotional wreck that was kicked out of the season 5 house for not making weight (enemas, ice cream cakes, and all), but many forget that prior to TUF, he was a dangerous fighter that rode a 9 fight win streak to the WEC lightweight title. “Godzilla” is as dangerous as it gets on the mat, holding a black belt in BJJ, a yellow belt in judo, and winning via submission in 12 of his 17 victories. Ruediger will look to improve upon his only appearance inside the Octagon, a loss via body punch to Melvin Guillard four years ago.
…a chess match between two BJJ experts that can each pull a submission out of nowhere. Standing up, both men can score a knockout too. But Lauzon is coming off a tough loss to Stout and is doing something he’s dreamed of doing since he started in MMA: fighting for the UFC in front of his home crowd. Lauzon is an emotional guy, and he will use the emotions of fighting in Boston to propel himself past Ruediger and score the victory.