After a series of lackluster cards, we get one of the most expected PPV of year, with a pretty nice card top to bottom. Let's look at the fights.
Preliminary Card (Facebook)
Charlie Brenneman vs. Kyle Noke - Brenneman took quite a tumble, going from a Main Card on FX to a Facebook (blargh) prelim. Despite that, I still think the Spaniard can make a nice home for himself at WW, a division that still provides employment to 1-4 in his last 5 fights, Dan Hardy. The matchmaking here sure supports that idea. Noke is not a bad fighter per se, but he's been an average journeyman his whole career. He clearly isn't being brought into this fight to win. Brenneman's losses were to humoungous Anthony Johnson and Erick Silva, who's a top tier WW in his own right. He has a strong wrestling base and knows how to create a gameplan that plays to his strenghts. If he can get past the mental issues and put on a performance like when he derrailed Rick Story's title train, he'll be back on the televised card in no time.
Shane Roller vs. Jacob Volkmann - Both of these guys are probably fighting for their jobs. Volkmann is a grindy, boring LW that put together a 5-0 and was never going to leave the prelims. He comes into this fight on a loss to Paul Sass, a finish no less. He very open about his political views to the point that is very detrimental to his career. The UFC would love to send him packing and 0-2 should do the trick. Roller seems like he never adapted to the WEC - UFC switchover and has been losing a couple of fights. He bounced back against John Alessio, but that's not enough. His path to victory is simple: keep the fight standing. If Volkmann takes him down, it's 15 minutes of grinding and 30-27.
Preliminary Card (FX)
Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez - Cruickshank fizzled out on TUF, losing in the first fight by brutal KO despite controlling most of it. He gets a chance to prove himself against Martinez, another "fresh" hire that is also nothing special. Undercard fodder at it's best. I don't even know why this is being televised and Brenneman vs. Noke is on Facebook.
Tim Means vs. Abel Trujillo - After seeing last Means' last fight, I'm curious to see this one. He was full on beast mode against Justin Salas. He welcomes Trujillo, who hails from the Blackzillians camp, into the UFC.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Jeff Hougland - Hougland was at one time scheduled to fight current BW champion, Renan Barão, in what would probably be the missmatch of the year. He instead faced Yves Jabouin and lost. Mizugaki is 4-4 in his last 8, never winning 2 in a row. He's not a bad fighter, just not very consistent. This is a winnable fight for him but his employment is pretty secure until the UFC Macau card.
Main Card (PPV)
Danny Castillo vs. Michael Johnson - Johnson has shown a LOT of improvement in his last 2 fights, especially on his unexpected win over Tony Ferguson, where he didn't even have to use his wrestling, displaying crisp striking and good range. Castillo is pretty much opposite, using his wrestling to beat his opponents, as one would expect from a TAM fighter. This should be an interesting fight to start the PPV.
John Lineker vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani - Lineker's UFC debut was a very nice fight against Louis Gaudinot. He lost, but he showed heart and strenght to duke it out. Urushitani, on the other hand, was clearly outclassed and TKO into oblivion by Joseph Benavidez, the future FLW champion. This should be a fun fight with a couple of implications in the FLW division. Will Urushitani display the skill that made him the Shooto BW champion or will he just be yet ANOTHER japanese dud? Flyweight fights always deliver so...
Dennis Hallman vs. Thiago Tavares - Tavares is a physical freak but I feel like this fight will be a repeat of Hallman's last outing. Unless Tavares can keep the fight standing and unload on Hallman (who has a pretty strong chin), he will get crumpled up on the mat and probably submitted.
Dennis Siver vs. Eddie Yagin - Siver continues his FW adventure and now faces Yagin, mostly known for beating Hominick. His strategy is pretty much stand and wing bombs until his cardio runs out. If Siver fights smart and uses his kickboxing at range, he shouldn't have much trouble beating him.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron - Hieron is 0-2 in the UFC (last fighting in 2005), but he picked up some wins at other organizations. He was on a nice streak until he ran into Ben Askren, who held him down against his will for 5 rounds. He gets called in on short notice to face Ellenberger, fresh of a brutal loss to Martin Kampmann, a fight where he was very close to finishing. Barring some psychological problem, Ellenberger is still The Juggernaut and will probably try to make a statement out of Hieron. This should be a fun and brutal fight.
Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson - Do they need introductions? Bones, an incredibly talented MMA fighter, undefeated, finished 3 out of his last 4 opponents in brutal fashion. Facing him is Dan Henderson, one of best MMA fighters ever, with victories over a who's who of Top Tier MMA fighters, adjusted for time. His KO over Bisping is still one of the best highlights in the UFC. Can he use his big right hand to take the title away from Bones? Not likely but he has a puncher's chance and there is no doubt that he can KO with one punch. Bones has had a lot of time to train and has always shown improvement in the cage. This is going to be an amazing fight.