“A Closer Look” is a special series that only comes around when a major show is about to go down. It’s designed to give both insight into and thoughts on all the fights of an upcoming mega-event, from the top of the card to the very bottom. UFC 133 is just such an event, injury plagued as it may be. I’ve already talked about the “UFC Prelims LIVE” broadcast scheduled for Facebook, it can be found here. Now it’s time to focus on the two special preliminary fights that will be broadcast on Spike TV.
First up, let’s look at the fight between Chad Mendes and Rani Yahya.
Chad Mendes has only been fighting as a professional Mixed Martial Artist for a little over two years, but in that time he’s compiled a great 10-0 record. Mendes is currently thought of as one of the best Featherweights in the world, and for good reason. Mendes fought four times in the WEC, one of the most under-rated MMA promotions of all time, and faced tough challenges like Erik Koch, Cub Swanson, and Javier Vasquez. When the WEC was folded into the UFC, the UFC made the obvious choice and kept Mendes on the newly-merged roster.
Mendes would end up defeating tough Japanese star Michihiro Omigawa in his UFC debut at UFC 126 back in February of this year. Mendes’ original opponent for this event was Jose Aldo, the UFC Featherweight Champion. Unfortunately, Aldo was one of the many major stars that was bitten by the injury bug. Rather than sit on the sidelines and wait for his title shot, Mendes opted to fight a replacement opponent.
That opponent, Rani Yahya, has been fighting for almost a decade and is a veteran of over twenty fights. Yahya also had a deep run in the WEC, competing for the promotion a total of six times. Unlike Mendes, Yahya was unable to keep a perfect record inside the famed blue cage. His overall WEC record would end up being 3-3, with three submissions and one (T)KO loss.
After returning to Featherweight, Yahya recently defeated former WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Brown. All told, Yahya has an astonishing fourteen of his sixteen wins by submission.
This is a great “veteran vs. prospect” fight, and I think it’ll all come down to who wants it more. I think Mendes has more pure talent, but Yahya is a submission magician and has a huge heart. Although there’s a chance that either man could end the fight early and dramatically, my gut tells me it’ll be a three-round war of attrition and that Mendes will probably take home the win.
The other Spike TV fight of the night features Matt Hamill taking on Alexander Gustafsson.
Matt Hamill has been a staple of the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division for years, ever since a memorable run on “The Ultimate Fighter”. Hamill seemed to be content with his role as a gatekeeper in one of the UFC’s most competitive divisions, but then he went on a great five-fight win-streak that included big wins over Mark Munoz, Keith Jardine, and Tito Ortiz. Hamill was given a shot at true top-division status when he fought Quinton Jackson, but “Rampage” would end up winning their bout by Unanimous Decision.
Meanwhile, Alexander Gustafsson is an 11-1 newcomer with a 2-1 UFC record. Ten of Alexander’s wins have been stoppages, and seven of them have been by (T)KO. Currently, Gustafsson is riding high on the heels of back-to-back submission wins.
I think this will be another good “veteran vs. prospect” match, but this time I’m siding with the veteran. I’ve been a fan of Matt Hamill for quite some time, and I definitely consider him under-rated. Hamill may be a gatekeeper, but he’s a very good one, and he should be able to win this fight.