The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first free offering of the year brings a crop of exciting young talent to Spike TV live from The Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Reality show veterans and promising upstarts support a highly competitive event headlined by two The Ultimate Fighter standouts. Here are our Fight Night 20 picks with odds courtesy of bodog.
(Gray Maynard shows off his improved boxing against Roger Huerta.)
Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard have had two opposite routes to the higher end of the division. Diaz’s college education has been in fighting, winning him The Ultimate Fighter season five and starting his UFC stint on fire until wrestler’s Octagon control cramped his momentum in back-to-back contests against Clay Guida and Joe Stevenson. Meanwhile, Maynard lost the tournament to Diaz in the semi-finals and has been steamrolling opponents in the Octagon for six consecutive bouts.
If Maynard can wipe away the lone loss of his career (it was an exhibition, thus unofficial), his number one contender status will be undeniable. He is a vastly improved version of the fighter who tapped to Diaz’s guillotine choke but Maynard is going to encounter the same problems as he did in their last meeting. Diaz’s length standing and on the mat troubles most in the division, but Maynard’s “Bully” status negates most of the Stockton native’s advantages.
Diaz’s proclivity for fighting off his back doesn’t do him an favors versus the Michigan State Wrestler, however, the Cesar Gracie brown belt’s fluidity of submissions means his strength is the wrestler’s Achilles heel.
FIGHT! Pick: Diaz
A battle of two up-and-coming lightweights, Efrain Escudero tests himself against Shawn Tompkins bred striker Evan Dunham. The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner was setback by injuries for the majority of 2009 until a first round stoppage of Cole Miller at UFC 103 in September showcased a much-improved undefeated boxer-wrestler.
Dunham’s last accolade in the Octagon found him pulling away from Marcus Aurelio in a deep waters bout. His accurate, smart striking is great kryptonite for the Arizonan’s powerful hands.
The Pima Community College All-American likely keeps Dunham off-rhythm with his wrestling though. His killer instinct separates him from the promising 155-pound fighter.
FIGHT! Pick: Escudero
Eight-point striking is a particularly nasty way to control a fight. Amir Sadollah’s grit and gas tank will guide him through any rough spots Brad Blackburn may present. As long as the sambo black belt can avoid a firefight, he has the skill set and smarts to emerge victorious.
FIGHT! Pick: Sadollah
Tom Lawlor’s wacky entrance at UFC 100 gave no indication he was about to submit highly-touted C.B. Dolloway. But laughs will be in short supply as Dolloway’s teammate Simpson isn’t as unforgiving in the Octagon. The former Arizona State University wrestler has enough technique to complement his raw power and find his seventh consecutive finish in seven contests.
FIGHT! Pick: Simpson
FIGHT! Pick: Diaz Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Efrain Escudero (-295) vs. Evan Dunham (+235)
FIGHT! Pick: Escudero Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Amir Sadollah (-160) vs. Brad Blackburn (+130)
FIGHT! Pick: Sadollah Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Tom Lawlor (+200) vs. Aaron Simpson (-260)
FIGHT! Pick: Simpson
Resulting Outcome: CORRECT