The UFC has put together a card for Chicago that features 6 fighters who have headlined at least one card for the UFC, 2 fighters of the undefeated variety, a title rematch for the ages and an eliminator bout featuring two of the most storied fighters in the history of WMMA. If that hasn’t already sold you on this card how about I just finish off with this – Joe Lauzon is fighting Takanori Gomi!
Before all of that goes down though, let’s spend some time looking over the four highly intriguing fights that’ll take place on UFC Fight Pass beginning at 4:15 in the east this coming Saturday inside of “The House that Jordan Built,” or the “Madhouse on Madison,” depending on who you ask.
• Welterweight Bout: Zak Cummings (17-4) vs. Dominique Steele (13-5)
Steele goes from headlining a show on AXS TV, where he bested TUF 13 Alum and CES vet Chuck O’ Neil for the promotions welterweight title in a five round war, to kicking off a card for the UFC on Fight Pass where most of the world will not be watching.
The UFC jitters won’t come into play for Steele in his debut on the big stage. The amount of fans that’ll be in attendance for his fight with Zak Cummings at 3:15 in the afternoon Chicago time will likely be far less than the folks that were not tardy when he fought for promotions like Bellator and Strikeforce.
For Cummings, it’s time to make a statement in his 4th fight for the promotion. He’s gone from fighting on the Facebook prelims (remember those?), to FOX Sports 2, all the way to being a whipping boy for Gunnar Nelson in the co-main event of the greatest UFC on Fight Pass card of all-time in Ireland. There is no excuse for Cummings in this contest, especially with Steele coming in on less than months notice to replace the injured BJJ black belt Antonio Braga Neto. If Cummings doesn’t open up things with a bang in Chicago then he may find himself on the chopping block regardless of the outcome. Unfortunately for Steele, that’s not something he’ll have to worry about.
Prediction: Cummings makes a statement with a finish that’ll set the pace for one of the best cards of the year thus far.
• Women’s Bantamweight Bout: Jessamyn Duke (3-2) vs. Elizabeth Phillips (4-3)
Two fighters will enter the octagon on the weakness of two losses in an effort to prolong their resume with the UFC. With Invicta only gaining in terms of talent at 135 lbs, make no mistake about it, the loser of this fight will not fight for the UFC in their next contest.
Would a fighter like Duke, who began her career with Inivcta, have a tough time finding work again for the Kansas City based promotion after another loss – of course not.
It’s no secret that Duke is 1/4 of the WMMA stable known as “The Four Horsewomen”. Led by undefeated women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (11-0), the other 3 horsewomen (Duke, Shayna Baszler & Marina Shafir) have gone a combined 2-7 since January of 2013. Duke, who is rumored to be interested in signing up to take part in the upcoming WWE Diva Search contest, has the reach advantage over just about any competitor inside of the women’s bantamweight division, including Phillips at right around 7 inches.
If Duke wants this fight – she’s got it. I just don’t believe she wants it as bad as Phillips though. There just seems to have been something missing from the Kentuckian in her last couple of fights. On the other side of the cage, Spokane, Washington’s Phillips was just as much in it as her opponents during her last two contests, dropping via hard-fought controversial split decisions.
Prediction: Whomever wants this one more takes it. “The Gun” already holds an amateur win over Phillips back in 2012 during their amateur days. As a longtime unapologetic fan of Duke since the beginning, I’ve got to go head over heart here (maybe it’s just tough love). I’m taking Phillips via UD.
• Lightweight Bout: Ramsey Nijem (9-5) vs. Andrew Holbrook (10-0)
In Ramsey Nijem we have a certified beast at lightweight that just hasn’t been able to get any momentum going. The TUF 13 finalist, who lost in the season finale to Tony Ferguson, has gone a disappointing 5-4 thus far during his tenure with the UFC. His opponent, undefeated Indiana lightweight sensation Andrew Holbrook, will enter the octagon for the very first time to take on Nijem as a replacement for the injured Erik Koch.
Prediction: Don’t let their records fool you. I like Nijem to rebound rather easily here with a quick TKO finish.
• Lightweight Bout: Daron Cruickshank (16-6) vs. James Krause (21-7)
What we’re looking at here is a fight that wouldn’t look out-of-place opening up any given PPV card. However, Daron “The Detroit Superstar” Cruickshank and “The” James Krause have been relegated to fighting on UFC Fight Pass right before 16 other “more deserving” fighters mix it up on Big FOX. If these two men have a pulse, which I know they do, this has to piss them off. After fighting through some serious highs and lows during their respective UFC careers, both men should come out as angry and they are calculated.
Prediction: I fully expect this fight to be in contention for FOTN honors until being surpassed later on in the card by a few more crazy match ups – stay tuned. In the end, I like Cruickshank to deliver a well-timed KO finish of the head kick variety, forcing the oversized lightweight submission ace out of Blue Springs, Missouri to move back up to the 170 lbs. division where he could make a solid run moving forward.
cover image credit – David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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