UFC Live 6 main card breakdown
The UFC bantamweight championship is on the line Saturday as dominant champion Dominick Cruz defends his title against hungry top contender Demetrious Johnson at UFC Live 6 on the Versus network, which emanates from the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
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In other action, Pat Barry and Stefan Struve both look to rebound from knockout losses as they clash in a heavyweight special attraction, while Anthony Johnson meets Charlie Brenneman in a critical welterweight tilt.
Here's a closer look:
Dominick Cruz (18-1) vs. Demetrious Johnson (8-1)
After avenging his lone career blemish against Urijah Faber this past July, the UFC bantamweight champion Cruz is hoping to establish a legacy as a pound-for-pound great.
Cruz, 26, has competed in 18 professional fights since his debut in 2005. The Arizona native made his mark competing for the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting organization, where he earned notable wins over the likes of Charlie Valencia and Joseph Benavidez before dethroning Brian Bowles to capture the 135-pound crown.
A pupil of Lloyd Irvin, Cruz is anchored at Alliance MMA in California, sharing the gym mats with Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Alexander Gustafsson, Travis Browne, Joey Beltran, Mike Easton and Ross Pearson. A blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Cruz is most effective when he utilizes his sharp striking and lightning quick movement to pick foes apart, while mixing in quick takedowns.
In his five-round war with Faber at UFC 132, one of the year's most technical and competitive fights, Cruz demonstrated exceptional will and a well-rounded game, though his punching power is questionable. With eight of his last nine fights going the distance, it remains to be seen if the first-ever UFC bantamweight king can stop a determined challenger with equally staggering speed and puzzling takedowns.
Johnson, 25, is riding a four-fight winning streak. After losing his WEC debut against Brad Pickett in April 2010, Johnson bounced back with thrilling victories over Nick Pace, Damacio Page, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and, most recently, Miguel Torres.
The AMC Pankration product shocked many observers in his win over Torres, but the fight came down to judges who favored his takedowns over Torres' grappling game. Johnson can hold his own standing, but takedowns are his saving grace. Wrestling hasn't been the forte of some of Johnson's recent opponents, but Cruz is on another level.
Standing only 5-foot-3, Johnson will suffer from a five-inch height and two-inch reach disadvantage. If Johnson's wrestling is indeed that good, he'll need to maintain constant pressure over five arduous rounds to emerge triumphant.
Conversely, Cruz should employ his typical strategy over 25 minutes. He'll steadily circle around the octagon and meticulously pick Johnson apart, though he should be weary of throwing too many kicks against the deceptively strong wrestler. If he stays off his back, Cruz should cruise to another decision victory.
Verdict: Cruz via decision
Pat Barry (6-3) vs. Stefan Struve (21-5)
In an entertaining heavyweight showdown, Barry returns to action for the first time since his highlight-reel knockout loss at the hands of Cheick Kongo when he battles the Dutchman, "Skyscraper" Struve.
Barry, 32, is among the most dangerous strikers in the heavyweight class. The former K-1 kickboxer has amassed UFC wins over Antoni Hardonk and Joey Beltran, while falling to Kongo, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Tim Hague.
The Duke Roufus-trained leg kick specialist has made adjustments in his camp to focus on his wrestling and submission skills, such as training at DeathClutch Gym with former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
Barry was on the verge of finishing Kongo in their showdown this past June before succumbing to a vicious knockout in the first round.
Struve, 23, is coming off a knockout loss of his own against Travis Browne at UFC 130 in May. The tall Dutchman has key UFC wins over Sean McCorkle, Christian Morecraft, Paul Buentello, Chase Gormley and Denis Stojnic, though he has suffered crushing defeats against Browne, Roy Nelson and current No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, the game plan for Struve is simple. He must take Barry down and utilize his slick submissions to put him away as quickly as possible. Struve's potential is immense, but he cannot afford to keep suffering knockout losses before he turns 25.
Meanwhile, Barry will have a clear edge if he can keep the fight standing. Struve has already finished numerous UFC heavyweights on the mat, but Barry is the type of striker who can make an impact early. If he stuffs Struve's desperate takedown attempts, Barry will likely connect with a fight-ending blow.
Verdict: Barry via KO, Round 1
Anthony Johnson (9-3) vs. Charlie Brenneman (14-2)
In welterweight action, two exciting up-and-coming contenders coming off major wins will cross paths in a pivotal matchup.
Johnson, 27, recently defeated former title challenger Dan Hardy by decision. Inactivity has been Johnson's worst enemy, but the American Kickboxing Academy member has demonstrated exceptional ruthlessness and knockout power in his few UFC appearances against the likes of Yoshiyuki Yoshida, Luigi Fioravanti, Kevin Burns and Tommy Speer.
A former NJCAA national wrestling champion, Johnson will need to rely on his roots against a seasoned wrestler the caliber of Brenneman.
Brenneman, 30, is a former NCAA Division I wrestler with effective takedowns and top control. After defeating fellow standout wrestler Jason High in his UFC debut, "The Spaniard" was subsequently stopped by Johny Hendricks before bouncing back with wins over Amilcar Alves and Rick Story, the latter of which was dubbed a major upset.
Training under Mike Constantino at AMA Fight Club, Brenneman has developed his striking and all-around arsenal. His wrestling is a game changer, but Johnson has more ways to finish the fight.
If Johnson maintains his composure in the clinch and forces Brenneman into some precarious exchanges, he'll land a violent combination to put him out.
Verdict: Johnson via TKO, Round 2
Mac Danzig (20-8-1) vs. Matt Wiman (13-6)
In a lightweight rematch, Danzig and Wiman are eyeing contendership in the increasingly competitive 155-pound division.
Danzig, 31, is coming off a knockout win over Joe Stevenson at UFC 124 last December. Despite only tallying up a 4-4 record in the organization, Danzig is a well-travelled veteran with underrated submissions and sharp boxing.
Wiman, 28, recently suffered a controversial decision loss to Dennis Siver at UFC 132. Prior to the setback, the Denver native impressively beat Danzig, Shane Nelson and Cole Miller.
However, the finish to Wiman's first bout with Danzig was a questionable stoppage as referee Yves Lavigne appeared to break up a guillotine choke prematurely. Danzig is now presented with an opportunity to erase the loss from his memory, but Wiman has been on a tear as of late.
"The Ultimate Fighter 6" winner Danzig could possess slightly superior stand-up prowess, but Wiman's suffocating wrestling will be the difference maker Saturday night.
Verdict: Wiman via decision