By Adam Martin
Last week three more matchups involving Canucks were added to the next Canadian stop, UFC 158 on March 16 in Montreal.
Here are thoughts on the most recently announced matchups as we survey the MMA landscape.
Antonio Carvalho vs. Darren Elkins, UFC 158
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.’s Antonio Carvalho fights for the fourth time under the UFC banner when he takes on fellow featherweight Darren Elkins at UFC 158 this March in Montreal. Carvalho has scored two straight wins in the UFC and was last seen defeating Rodrigo Damm at UFC 154, while Elkins has won four straight bouts at 145 pounds and in his last fight decisioned Steven Siler at UFC 154.
This should be an intriguing style clash. If Carvalho can keep this fight standing, he has a good chance to TKO Elkins, but the thing about the American is he’s such a good grinder and it’s almost impossible to keep him off of you. Carvalho does have solid takedown defence, though, and he’s a BJJ black belt so he’ll be ready if this fight does hit the mat. But Elkins is very difficult to submit and the Canadian’s best chance to win this is to keep it on the feet. This is an important fight in the division and you can expect the winner of this bout to fight a top-10 opponent in his next outing.
What do you think of the Carvalho-Elkins matchup?
Mitch Gagnon vs. Issei Tamura, UFC 158UFC 158
Sudbury, Ont.’s Mitch Gagnon looks to make it two straight in the UFC when he faces off against Issei Tamura in a preliminary bout at UFC 158. Gagnon is coming off an amazing upset win over Walel Watson back at UFC 152, while Tamura is coming off a loss to top contender Raphael Assuncao, so each bantamweight will definitely be looking for a big win here to get some momentum going.
Gagnon has fought many times in Montreal for the Ringside MMA promotion, among others, so this fight at Bell Centre will be a homecoming of sorts for him. Although Tamura is coming off a loss, he made an impressive debut back at UFC 144 when he KO’ed Tiequan Zhang, so he definitely has potential.
The UFC 158 card is stacked to the brim but don’t be surprised if this fight is a dark horse “Fight of the Night” candidate between two high-energy, exciting 135 pounders.
What do you think of the Gagnon-Tamura matchup?
Mike Ricci vs. Colin Fletcher, UFC 158
TUF 16 runner-up and Montreal native Mike Ricci fights for the second time in the UFC and the first time at 155 pounds when he takes on TUF Smashes runner-up Colin Fletcher in a fight that is likely do or die for both fighters. Neither man had a particularly good performance at their respective TUF finales, so each needs to really display their talent in their matchup and get the win in order to guarantee they still have a job with the UFC.
Keep in mind that Ricci fought up a weight class when he lost to Colton Smith, a bigger welterweight, at the TUF 16 Finale. Now that he’s back at his natural weight, he shouldn’t be controlled as much by Fletcher, even though the lanky Brit is much taller. Ricci should have the striking advantage in this fight and since it’s taking place in Montreal, look for Ricci to be extremely motivated to put on a good show for the fans by aiming for a highlight-reel KO.
What do you think of the Ricci-Fletcher matchup?
Jorge Santiago vs. Gunnar Nelson, UFC on FUEL TV 7
An injury to Justin Edwards has provided veteran Jorge Santiago the chance to return to the Octagon as he makes his UFC welterweight debut against surging prospect Gunnar Nelson at UFC London. Santiago had signed with Strikeforce last fall but never got a chance to fight for them before the promotion folded, so it’s nice to see Zuffa honour his contract and give him a fight at 170 pounds in the UFC.
Although Santiago has a poor 1-4 record in the UFC, everyone knows his chin has always been his weakness and it’s unknown if Nelson is going to be the guy that tests it. Sure, Nelson is a superior grappler, but if Santiago can keep this fight on the feet he should have the advantage.
Matchups are everything and although Nelson had the much brighter future in the UFC than Santiago, it’s possible that the vet can do enough to squeeze this one out.
What do you think of the Santiago-Nelson matchup?
Adam Martin has blogged for theScore.com and is a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s MMA section. Follow him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.