Before each event, The Watch List will identify the intriguing prospects on the fight card, and fill you in on some of the fighters flying under the radar you might want to keep an eye on.
Here are the fighters stepping into the cage from outside the spotlight this weekend in Chicago for UFC on FOX 6.
Watch UFC on Sportsnet: Johnson vs. Dodson Saturday on Sportsnet ONE at 5 p.m. ET. One bonus early prelim will air on Sportsnet.ca at 4:30 p.m. ET.
FIGHTERS TO WATCH:
Fighter: Ricardo Lamas
Opponent: Erik Koch
Saturday’s encounter with Koch is a homecoming for Lamas, who last fought in Chicago prior to his six-fight run with the WEC. “The Bully” is a perfect 3-0 since moving down to featherweight, and has posted back-to-back wins over the now surging Cub Swanson, and Hatsu Hioki, the Japanese standout many viewed as the second-best featherweight in the sport prior to their July encounter.
A victory in his hometown this weekend could propel Lamas into a championship bout later this year. With a spot on the FOX main card, he should get the exposure necessary so that he can be positioned opposite the winner of the UFC 156 title showdown between Edgar and Aldo early next month.
Win or lose, a strong showing against Koch on Saturday night while introduce Lamas to a larger audience and confirm his standing as one of the top featherweights in the sport.
Fighter: TJ Grant
Opponent: Matt Wiman
The bearded Cole Harbour, N.S., native has been making a steady climb up the lightweight rankings since debuting in the division with a submission win over Shane Roller in October 2011. He followed that up with a decision win over Carlo Prater, and then announced his presence as a potential contender in a wildly entertaining Fight of the Night pairing with Evan Dunham at UFC 152 in Toronto last September.
With a trio of wins under his belt, Grant steps up to the fringes of contention for this pairing with Wiman, a fellow blue-collar competitor with a few more recognizable names on his resume and a little more UFC experience under his belt.
Grant’s performance in his win over Dunham put him on the map with a lot of fans, and helped land he and Wiman the final spot on this weekend’s preliminary card. A comparable performance here and the 28-year-old Canadian could find himself moving to the main card and facing off with top-10 competition later in the year.
Fighter: Ryan Bader
Opponent: Vladimir Matyushenko
This one may seem odd to some people considering Bader was (theoretically) in the mix for a title shot heading into his last outing. That being said, the former Ultimate Fighter winner has stumbled over his last five, posting a 2-3 record, and losing much of the shine he carried into the cage initially in his career.
That may be the best thing that ever happened to Bader. While Matyushenko is a tough out, a fight outside of the spotlight and off the main card gives the Power MMA representative a chance to simply focus on earning a victory on Saturday night.
Without the media obligations and the pressure of being a main card fighter on his considerable shoulders, this is an opportunity for Bader to notch a strong performance against a durable veteran and begin to re-establish himself in the light heavyweight division.
Fighter: Shawn Jordan
Opponent: Mike Russow
“The Savage” was a former football standout at Louisiana State University, and is used to performing on the big stage. He’s not, however, used to sharing the cage with talented, experienced veterans like Cheick Kongo, and it showed in their dreadful encounter in Calgary last summer.
Jordan is a talent, though. He’s a life-long athlete with great mobility and athleticism for a man his size, and the longer he continues to work with the team of MMA mad scientists at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s in Albuquerque, N.M., the better he’s going to get.
Saturday night, he looks to rebound in a match-up with Mike Russow, a veteran grinder who was stopped by Fabricio Werdum last summer in Brazil. This pairing is much more favourable for Jordan, who boasts wins over Lavar Johnson and Oli Thompson, and could serve as another “building block” appearance in his promising career.
Fighter: Pascal Krauss
Opponent: Mike Stumpf
Krauss is a talented up-and-coming welterweight who can’t stay healthy long enough to build any kind of meaningful momentum. Following his debut win over Mark Scanlon, the 25-year-old German spent 16 months on the sidelines battling various injuries.
He returned to drop a unanimous decision to John Hathaway on the preliminary portion of the UFC on FOX card last May, and looks to rebound here against Stumpf, a member of Team Curran who lost to TJ Waldburger in his one and only UFC appearance to date in September 2011.
Krauss has a solid grappling base, and has been building his striking skills as a member of Duke Roufus’ team in Milwaukee since his arrival in the UFC. He has the talent to open some eyes this weekend, and could become a middle-of-the-pack threat by the end of the year, provided he can stay healthy, of course.