Let's face it, there is a lot of MMA to choose from these days. The five cards that the UFC is putting out alone this month could be enough to overwhelm even the most obsessive of fans, and that's not even taking into account all the events being held by Bellator, ONE, World Series of Fighting, Rizin, KSW, Pancrase, Deep, and the even more obscure foreign promotions like FSFW and QTRFLX (not actually promotions to my knowledge, but then again they might be).
Point is, the overabundance of fight-related content out there makes it more necessary than ever to cut out the riffraff and focus on the matches that will maximize the entertainment value of the average card. So here's the Undercard Fights to Actually Care About, UFC on FOX 22: #PaigeVanZant vs. #MichelleWaterson edition.
Eddie Wineland vs. Takeya Mizugaki -- UFC Fight Pass
Not every fight has to have a heightened sense of stakes in order to be entertaining, necessarily -- look no further than #KimboSlice (R.I.P), who turned a series of street fights against guys named "Afro Puff" and "Big Mac" into a multi-million dollar empire, or that guy who went Karate Kid on a cholo gangster and wound up on Tosh.0. When the history books are written, we will have WorldStarHipHop to thank for truly making America the land of opportunity it always claimed to be.
Anyways, when it comes to the lighter weight divisions, you can't really find two journeyman-level fighters (and I use that term with the utmost respect) with more recognized and exciting careers than #EddieWineland and #TakeyaMizugaki. These are guys that you'd likely hear described as "a fighter's fighter"-- meaning that they're more willing to go out on their shield while swinging for the fences than suffer a boring decision loss, the health implications be damned -- and who have been fighting for (and occasionally winning) titles dating back to the earliest days of the #WEC.
While neither Winleand nor Mizugaki may find themselves in the title picture anytime soon -- especially the latter, who was flatlined in 48 seconds by current title challenger #CodyGarbrandt in his last outing -- they are consistent enough fighters to bank on turning in a thrilling performance each and every time they step in the cage. Which to me, is worth more than gold (not really).
Leslie Smith vs. Irene Alda -- Fox Sports 1
Speaking of entertaining, never-say-die fighters, has #LeslieSmith ever been in a fight that wasn't totally awesome for one reason or another? She beat the absolute tar out of Jessamyn Duke, completely no-sold having her ear literally exploded by Jessica Eye, and all but begged the ref to let Cris freaking Cyborg keep pummeling her until she had turned in a *real* day's work at the office. She's like that one mom whose kids we had to be super polite to in grade school because we knew that she would beat up our dad with his own shoe in front of us if we weren't.
Against Mexican phenom Irene Alda, it appears as if Smith is once again being fed to the wolves. Having scored all seven of her victories by way of stoppage -- including a goddamn spinning wheel kick KO in just her third pro bout -- Aldana is riding back-to-back TKOs over Jessamyn Duke (small world!) and Faith Van Duin under the #Invicta banner and is currently being listed as high as a 3-to-1 favorite to take out Smith in likely horrific fashion.
Does "The Peacemaker" have it in her to pull off a massive upset just in time for Christmas? I'm not sure, but I do know that, win or lose, this fight will be bestowing us with the greatest gift of all: the gift of VIOLENCE.
Luis Henrique da Silva vs. Paul Craig
Luis Henrique da Silva might be the most dangerous thing Brazil has going for it right now.
A professional since 2013, da Silva kickstarted his career with 10 straight KO/TKO finishes before making the leap to the UFC back in June. His first performance in the Octagon fell right in line with his terrifying past -- a second round TKO of Jonathan Wilson at #UFC199 -- and, seemingly growing discontented with sending opponent after opponent into the dark realms, "Frankenstein" decided to switch things up in October by submitting Joachim Christensen with an armbar (after dropping him repeatedly on the feet).
This weekend, however, da Silva will likely be facing his toughest test to date in Paul Craig, an unbeaten light heavyweight prospect fighting out of Scotland. Dubbed "Bearjew," Craig has scored submission wins in 7 out of his 8 performances, with only one of his opponents managing to make it out of the first round intact. Simply put, there's a reason this fight is being given the highly-coveted "featured prelim" spot on FS1, and it has to do with a division in dire need of viable contenders. This fight has everything: clear stakes, two unbeaten up-and-comers, and a 100% probability of ending inside the distance.
UFC on FOX 22 Sacramento Fight Card:
Main Card (on FOX – 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT)
- Paige VanZant (7-2) vs. Michelle Waterson (13-4)
- Sage Northcutt (8-1) vs. Mickey Gall (3-0)
- Urijah Faber (33-10) vs. Brad Pickett (25-12)
- Alan Jouban (14-4) vs. Mike Perry (9-0)
Prelims (on FS1 – 5 pm ET / 2 pm PT)
- Luis Henrique da Silva (12-0) vs. Paul Craig (8-0)
- Cole Miller (21-10) vs. Mizuto Hirota (17-7-2)
- Bryan Barberena (12-3) vs. Colby Covington (10-1)
- James Moontasri (9-4) vs. Alex Morono (12-3)
- Josh Emmett (10-0) vs. Scott Holtzman (9-1)
- Leslie Smith (8-7-1) vs. Irene Aldana (7-2)
Early Prelims (on UFC Fight Pass – 3:30 pm ET / 12:30 pm PT)
- Eddie Wineland (22-11-1) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (21-10-2)
- Hector Sandoval (12-3) vs. Fredy Serrano (3-1)
- Bojan Velickovic (14-3-1) vs. Sultan Aliev (13-2)