When the UFC heads to Atlantic City, New Jersey on Wednesday night for UFC Fight Night 45, it brings with it the usual mixture of prospects, veterans, and those simply vying for relevancy, in a sport where you’re only as good as your last fight. The night will also see the debuting of a brand new weight class, the women’s 115lb strawweight division, as Claudia Gadelha (11-0) and Tina Lahdemaki (5-0) prepare to make UFC history.
Headlining the card, is the fan friendly match up between two of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division, as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (23-6) takes on New Jersey native Jim Miller (24-4) in a bout that is sure to produce fireworks, with both fighters known for their finishing prowess, holding multiple fight night bonuses and records between themselves. Ranked #6th and #7th respectively, in a division known for it’s excitement, the winner will move on to contest top 5 status, while a loss for either guy, although not catastrophic, would be an unwanted step backwards.
Cerrone will have a 4-inch height, and a 2-inch reach advantage, and will look to use his superior striking to capitalize on Miller’s deficiencies in the stand up department, where tough and gritty he may be, can sometimes get a little wild and sloppy, and is susceptible to well timed counters which Cerrone has the skillset and technique to take advantage of. Cerrone will be particularly dangerous in the early stages of the fight, and if he hasn’t put Miller away by then things could start to get very interesting, as Miller is known for being a dogged warrior, who relishes in a war the tougher a fight gets.
A submission from either fighter would be feather in the cap, as both are very talented grapplers, holding a combined 28 submission wins out of combined 59 professional fights. There is a good chance this fight could end by way of submission. Jim Miller though in particular holds the more notable submission wins inside of the Octagon. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Miller holds a very impressive submission win over Fabricio Camoes (14-8), who is a 3rd degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the highly esteemed Royler Gracie, in which he caught Camoes in a beautiful armbar, Miller has also submitted the uber-talented grappling ace Charles Oliveira (18-4) with a textbook Kneebar in their clash back in December 2010. Miller’s tag of being an underrated grappler has now surely disappeared, and he will look to take this fight to the ground and lock up a fight ending submission, that won’t be an easy task though, given Cerrone’s impressive takedown defence percentage of 87.5%
The co-main event see’s Edson Barboza (15-2) and Evan Dunham (14-5) looking to bounce back from recent losses to the same opponent, the aforementioned Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (23-6). Barboza is one of the scariest lightweights on the planet, he arguably possesses the most vicious leg kicks in the UFC, as his brutal leg kick TKO win over Rafaello Oliveira last July shows, A Muay Thai specialist, who likes to throw a lot of kicks, and spectacular spinning attacks, as his spectacular spinning wheel kick knockout of the year over Terry Etim attests to. Barboza does however seem to have a questionable chin, Jamie Varner (21-10) was able to finish him with strikes, likewise Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (23-6) was able to hurt him badly on the feet with a stiff jab, which dropped Barboza leading to a submission finish, something which Dunham, who has an aggressive brawling style, will be looking to capitalize on, by backing Barboza up with forward pressure and trying to find Barboza’s chin. Barboza will be hoping a win over the always game and durable Evan Dunham, will get him a fight against a top 10 opponent next, and back on the track towards title contention, and Dunham will be hoping to halt a 2-fight losing streak and make a statement with a win over a very highly rated, and highly dangerous opponent, however, Dunham is a notoriously slow starter, and he will have to be careful of that against Barboza, who is explosive from the get go.
Before the co-main event, we will see Rick Story (16-8) take on Former TUF Brazil contestant, Leonardo Mafra (11-1), Story is one of only two men to hold a victory over the Welterweight Champion Johnny Hendricks (16-2), a tough as nails wrestler, who has shown a great deal of inconsistency so far in his UFC career, but is always a tough opponent for anybody, and brings it every time. Story is particularly good against the cage, where he likes to pin his opponent up against the steel fence, and unload, mixing up strikes to the head and the body very well. Mafra on the other hand has a wild striking style, and possesses power in his hands, he has 8 knockouts so far in his career, but has shown a tendency to slow down the longer a fight progresses. Story has had most of his problems against strong wrestlers/grapplers, of which Mafra isn’t one.
Completing the main card will see #7 ranked flyweight John Linker (23-7) looking to get back into the win column, a lightweight clash between Justin Salas (12-5) and training partner to Joe Lauzon, Joe Proctor (9-2), also a second look at undefeated Alex White (10-0) who had a very impressive UFC debut, stopping Estevan Payan in the first round.
The highlights of the Prelims are a solid headlining clash between veterans Gleison Tibau (37-10) and Pat Healey (31-18), a second look at the talented Ray Longo and Matt Serra trained prospect Aljamain Sterling (9-0), and the debut of Claudia Gadelha (11-0), one of the best women in the world at 115lb’s, the Nova Uniao fighter will be making history alongside Tina Lahdemaki (5-0), as they debut the UFC’s new 115lb strawweight division.
By: John Carlin