The UFC’s 20th anniversary is being celebrated in conjunction with UFC 167, and because of this fine occasion, we are being delivered some especially deep prelims. This is a hell of a card. Let’s take a look at the FOX Sports 1 prelims. In the main event, Donald Cerrone (20-6) will seemingly be making his final appearance at 155 pounds before dropping to featherweight, against perennial tough guy Evan Dunham (14-4). Cerrone was on fire to start his UFC run, but has since gone 3-3 in his last 6 fights while showing a disturbing trend – a lack of killer instinct for the “Cowboy.” Cerrone has struggled in the fights that have other fighters getting right up in his face and punching it, and in the case of the KJ Noons fight, Cerrone wouldn’t even test his kickboxing against Noons, taking it to the ground nearly the whole time. Stylistically, this bodes well for Evan Dunham, an Xtreme Couture guy who is known for his heart as well as his close fights. Dunham hasn’t looked very good in the last three or so years, after making big splashes in his first year in the UFC. Dunham has gone 3-4 since this time in 2010, with losses to Melvin Guillard TJ Grant and Rafael dos Anjos to name a few. Dunham basically has the style to defeat Cerrone, by plodding forward, eating a punch then getting the takedown with his underrated wrestling and good ground and pound. That’s not to say Cerrone doesn’t have the ability to end the fight on the feet if Dunham decides to stand with him, because he definitely holds the advantage there. An interesting middleweight match-up is next, with Ed Herman (21-9) taking on former middleweight contender and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Thales Leites (21-4). Leites made his way back to UFC after a multi-year absence with a win over Tom Watson in Brazil. Herman bounced back from a crushing loss to Jacare Souza in Strikeforce to win a fun slugfest against Trevor Smith this past summer. Herman has underrated BJJ, but it’s nowhere near Leites’ ground game. Yes, both men are BJJ black belts, and they both have 13 submissions in MMA, but their submission skills are just not the same. Leites showed off some decent striking while dominating Watson at every phase of the game, but the question is if he’ll be able to do that to the hard-headed Ed Herman. Between the two of these men, there are only 3 knockouts, 2 belonging to Leites actually, but the odds of this turning into a BJJ match are likely slim, with both men testing each other’s stand up and clinch work against the cage. The next fight is a hell of a welterweight match-up, with Brian Ebersole (50-15-1-1) returning after a year absence to fight Rick Story (15-7). Both men are coming off split-decision losses, Ebersole to James Head and Story to Mike Pyle. Ebersole says he’s injury free after being banged up pretty good during his initial UFC run, while Story has been up and down, (mostly down) in the last 2.5 years after starting his UFC career on fire. He’s gone 2-4 in the last few years, with losses to Kampmann, Brenneman and Demian Maia. Ebersole is a diverse fighter who has seen it all and done it all. Through 67 fights, he’s never been knocked out, and while Story has multifaceted skills, he’s mostly a wrestler with decently heavy hands. You could say the same about Ebersole, but he’s also a crafty striker and has excellent submission defense. Story is Ebersole’s superior in the strength and wrestling department, but Ebersole has a far more deadly killer instinct. He rains elbows from the top with vicious ferocity, and his fight IQ is extremely high. Story may not get baited into any glaring mistakes, but this is a close match-up that may come down to a battle of wills. Bantamweights open the FOX Sports prelims, with Erik Perez (13-5) looking to get back in the “W” column after falling to Takeya Mizugaki at UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2. His opponent is Edwin Figueroa (9-3), who has lost two in a row. Figueroa came into the UFC much-hyped, but his stay has been less than stellar, with the 29-year-old kickboxer going 2-3 with his only wins coming via a two point deduction against Alex Caceras and the unimpressive Jason Reinhardt. Perez is the stronger overall fighter, finishing all of his fights in the UFC by KO or submission, with notable wins over Byron Bloodworth, John Albert and Ken Stone. Strong names, all. Both men have good power, but Perez is the better overall fighter, especially in the grappling department.
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