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This Saturday's UFC on FOX 8 event features one of the best undercards in recent history, with several high profile veterans and dynamite newcomers featured on the show.
Human highlight reel Yves Edwards gets back in action as he takes on former Ultimate Fighter competitor Daron Cruickshank, while one of the original women of mixed martial arts, Julie Kedzie, makes her long-awaited UFC debut against one of the most dangerous strikers in the division in Germaine de Randamie.
In today's fantasy preview we will break down some of the key elements for the undercard that will help lead to the most points earned, as a few statistics may mean the difference between winning and losing on fight night.
1) Former Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Chiesa will take a decided step up in competition for his fight at UFC on FOX 8 when he faces Strikeforce transfer Jorge Masvidal in the featured bout on the undercard. Chiesa has been a fast rising star since winning his season of the reality show. He's a long, lanky lightweight standing over six feet tall with a quick submission game. He's still relatively inexperienced, however, and that's what may come back to bite him against a crafty veteran like Masvidal. The former Strikeforce title challenger is tough as nails and even though he ends up in some close fights, he's always up for a war. Masvidal also blocks takedowns 84% of the time, which should help him stop Chiesa's ground game. On the feet, Chiesa's range is always going to be dangerous, but Masvidal has faced better and more fearsome strikers in his career. Masvidal also lands at three times the rate on the feet as Chiesa does per minute. Expect Masvidal to load up and pepper Chiesa early, keep him off balance and stuff the takedowns to force a decision.
2) The lightweight bout between Danny Castillo and short notice replacement fighter Tim Means really will come down to wrestling. Castillo is quite proficient with his takedowns, and outside of a fight against Jacob Volkmann, he's been able to virtually control every opponent he's had in the UFC with his wrestling at some point during a fight. Means, on the other hand, struggled in his most recent fight against Jorge Masvidal to stop the takedown, and it ultimately cost him a close decision. But with an extra 50 points on the line because he did take the fight with very little notice, Means might be worth the risk here. He's a dangerous, nasty striker who throws from every angle and trains under the same man who brought up former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit in Tom Vaughn. Means also showed off some great ground defense in his fight with Masvidal, unloading big shots from the bottom despite giving up several takedowns. If there is one fighter on this card who is always ready for a scrap, Means is the guy. With the extra points up for grabs, Means is a solid pick, even as an underdog.
3) Yves Edwards has been on the wrong end of a few decisions lately, but don't let that cloud your judgment about picking this veteran of the Octagon in his fight against Daron Cruickshank. Edwards always delivers in his fights, and even though he's had a couple of close bouts that were deemed losses, more than a few folks thought the master of ThugJitsu should have come away victorious. This time around, Edwards is facing a young powerful striker who will probably stand and trade for the majority of this fight. Cruickshank has been known to uncork a few wild moves of his own (much like Edwards), especially when looking at his head kick knockout over Henry Martinez. The problem he faces in this fight is he's taking on a technical striker who can mix in some very flashy moves of his own. Edwards is consistent and a cool customer in the cage, and he has serious power, as he displayed in his knockouts over Jeremy Stephens and Rafaello Oliveira, and he may just pick up a Knockout of the Night bonus in this one.
4) Don't let John Albert's recent three fight losing streak fool you into thinking he's not a great up and coming talent at 135 pounds. Sure, he's lost three in a row, but he was in the thick of each and every one of those fights and went out on his sword. Albert's last two losses were to Scott Jorgensen (a former title contender and perennial top ten fighter) and Erik Perez (one of the hottest prospects at bantamweight). In other words, this is Albert's chance to shine as he takes on second-time UFC fighter Yaotzin Meza. Now Meza does train with a great team, including UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, but this really is Albert's chance to shine. Albert is aggressive and fierce, especially in the early going. He's a "go big or go home" kind of guy, so if he's head hunting in the opening minutes, Meza's night could be a short one.