A look at four matchups announced last week, including one set for this Friday’s UFC event in Australia, one for an interim title and one which could have big implications in the heavyweight division.
Chad Mendes vs. Yaotzin Meza, UFC on FX 6
With an injury to top Brazilian prospect Hacran Dias just a week before his scheduled UFC on FX 6 bout against world-class featherweight Chad Mendes, in steps one of UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson’s sparring partners, Yaotzin Meza, on very short notice in what should be an epic mismatch.
Watch Friday’s UFC on Sportsnet: Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson, starting with the preliminary card at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT, followed by the four-fight main card at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT, both on Sportsnet ONE.
Meza might be a decent fighter, but he’s coming off a TKO loss and he’s making his UFC debut in Australia, a country far away from home, against Mendes, who is one of the best 145 pounders out there. This is obviously Mendes’ fight to lose and it would be very surprising if Meza could pull off the upset. You might even see a ‘Knockout of the Night’ candidate in this fight for Mendes, because this fight might be even more of a mismatch than Mendes’ last fight against Cody McKenzie. It really is puzzling to figure out what the UFC is doing with this guy anymore.
What do you think of the Mendes-Meza matchup?
Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald, UFC on FUEL TV 7
After another knee surgery meant UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz would be on the shelf longer than expected, UFC interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao defends his title for the first time against top contender Michael McDoland in what should be a barnburner.
Both Barao and McDonald are young 135 pounders who pack a lot of power in their punches, and both guys are riding gigantic waves of momentum coming into this one. But is this too big a step up in competition for the 21-year-old McDonald who, if he wins, would become the youngest champ in UFC history? Time will tell but there’s no doubt in my mind Barao is by far the best fighter he’s ever fought, and it will take McDonald everything he has in order to win this fight.
What do you think of the Barao-McDonald matchup?
Cyrille Diabate vs. Jimi Manuwa, UFC on FUEL TV 7
Give a thumbs up to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva for going ahead and booking a battle between two elite, European heavyweight strikers as Cyrille Diabate and Jimi Manuwa clash in London in what is sure to sure to be an explosive encounter. Both Diabate and Manuwa are coming off huge wins over Chad Griggs and Kyle Kingsbury, respectively, and both guys could use another big victory to get a step-up in competition in their next outing.
This fight is all about fun and that’s why it was booked. This fight is going to stay on the feet and one guy is getting knocked out, no questions asked. It’s the perfect fight to put on a card for the UFC’s loyal British fans who love watching good-old fashion brawls (who doesn’t?) and I would be very surprised if this fight disappointed. Keep an eye out for this one on the early 2013 fight calendar.
What do you think of the Diabate-Manuwa matchup?
Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt, UFC on FUEL TV 8
A throwback to the freakshow fights of the PRIDE FC days, the tallest fighter in the UFC’s heavyweight division, 7-foot Stefan Struve, takes on its shortest, all 5-foot-10 of Mark Hunt. The fight pits one of the up-and-comers in the division in Struve with a resurgent veteran in Hunt, and has the potential to provide fireworks.
Struve is incredibly tough but he has been knocked out before and there’s no doubting that Hunt is one of the hardest hitters in the UFC today, and he also has a great chin himself. But Struve’s ground game is leap years better than Hunt’s and if he fights smart and gets this fight to the floor, it should be his fight to lose.
My problem with this fight is that these two were supposed to fight at UFC 146 until an injury to Hunt nixed it, and since then Struve has defeated both Lavar Johnson and Stipe Miocic, so it seems as though he’s not moving up the ladder in this fight with Hunt despite UFC president Dana White saying he’s a top-10 heavyweight. However the heavyweight division only has so many fighters in it, so it seems as though the 24-year-old Struve is just trying to keep busy and take on another tough veteran as he moves his way closer to title contention, which could be sooner than you think.
What do you think of the Struve-Hunt matchup?
Adam Martin has blogged for theScore.com and is a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s MMA section. Follow him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.