The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight and has a very nice card in store for fight fans. UFC 104 has the making of one of those cards that sneaks up on people and ends up being one of the better cards in awhile.
The main event is for the light heavyweight title and should be a very good entertaining fight. Undefeated champion Lyoto Machida steps in with fellow Brazilian Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Both fighters are extremely well rounded and love to trade shots.
Machida comes in to this fight never losing a round since he's been in the UFC. He has dominated everyone including former champion Rashad Evans. His karate based style is very akward and hard to penetrate. Defense isn't talked about too much in mma but Machida is at the top of the list when it comes to defensive fighters. We don't know about his ground game because nobody can take him down. If that happens again tonight, he will keep his belt. That's a very talk task considering the all around skill level of Shogun.
Tonight will be Machida's toughest test. Rua, 2-1 since joining the UFC, has the standup game to offset Machida's striking ability. Rua also has the better ground game and should be the stronger man. If Shogun can get the fight to the ground, I think he wins in dominating fashion. I also think he will have the upper hand on the feet. I expect to have a new champion at 205 this evening. The all around game of Shogun Rua gets it done.
The co-feture of the night will be a showcase for one of the fastest rising stars in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Cain Velasquez, a heavyweight, will be in line for a title shot if he can defeat Ben Rothwell in their showdown. There is a ton of hype surrounding Velasquez and rightfully so. He has a great overall game with a very solid wrestling background. His striking has improved every time he has stepped into the cage. Velasquez will take on a stiff test in the experienced Rothwell.
Ben Rothwell makes his first appearance in the UFC tonight, and he's in for a rude welcoming. While I think Rothwell is a good fighter, I just don't see him on the level of Velasquez. The only advantage that Rothwell will have will be size. Cain makes up for that with his speed and power and also just flat out overall skill. More people will be talking about Cain Velasquez when this fight is over and done with.
My sleeper pick for fight of the night is one of the fights highlighted on the prelims. SpikeTV is airing two fights before the pay per view again which is a great move by the UFC.
Ryan Bader is taking on Eric Schafer in a contest at 205 pounds. Bader is a former winner of The Ultimate Fighter and has great overall skills. He has the makings of a future champion. Schafer is a guy that will never be considered a top pound for pound fighter but he is one scrappy guy. "Red" has been in with some solid guys and doesn't want to be considered a stepping stones for young fighters like Bader. I still like Bader to win, I just think it'll be a lot tougher than people think.
Full fight card:
Champ Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (for light-heavyweight title)
Ben Rothwell vs. Cain Velasquez
Josh Neer vs. Gleison Tibau
Spencer Fisher vs. Joe Stevenson
Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Ryan Bader vs. Eric Schafer
Patrick Barry vs. Antoni Hardonk
Yushin Okami vs. Chael Sonnen
Rob Kimmons vs. Jorge Rivera
Razak Al-Hassan vs. Kyle Kingsbury
Stefan Struve vs. Chase Gormley
Top to bottom UFC 104 is a very good looking fight card. It'll be capped off by a great fight for the light heavyweight strap. This is a lineup that has been under the radar but I have a good feeling that a lot of these fights will be the buzz of the mma world for awhile.