By Nathan Schafer
Another season of the Ultimate Fighter has come and gone. This season has lost some of the luster due to Matt Serra being injured and no longer able to compete at UFC 79. We the fans were rewarded with a more than appropriate replacement in Georges St-Pierre. Unfortunately for the cast members of season 7, they are being overshadowed in their finale by a fight that is simply creating more hype than the season itself. The Guida vs. Huerta bout is almost a sure thing if you are looking to be entertained and the UFC is usually good at getting an exciting fight set up for the finale. While this fight probably isn’t going to earn either fighter a title shot, it will put one man into title contention with a shot happening with another quality win or two. Despite what I read about the light heavyweight or the welterweight division being the deepest talent pool in the UFC, I believe the lightweight division is hands down the most talent filled division in the organization. It’s only shame they shelved it for such a long period of time. In a short period of time stars have risen up, and Roger Huerta and Clay Guida are two of the notables with bright futures. Here is my fight breakdown:
Clay Guida (22-5) (2-2) vs. Roger Huerta (20-1-1) (5-0)
Roger “El Matador” Huerta
Roger Huerta fights out of Minneapolis, Minnesota where he trains with Dave Menne. As some of you may remember, Dave Menne was the first 185lb middleweight champion in the UFC. Huerta has a MMA record of (20-1-1) including a no contest to Melvin Guillard. His only loss came at the hands of Ryan Schultz.
Huerta made his debut at UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn 2 in September 2006 against Jason Dent. The first round of that fight immediately showed us how fast his hands are. He showed an excellent clinch with good knees. He then picked Dent up ala Matt Hughes style, carried his opponent across the cage and threw him into the fence. From there he unleashed some ground and pound. Rounds two and three consisted of more ground and pound where Huerta simply punished Jason Dent for the remainder of the fight.
After only one fight in the UFC Roger Huerta had already achieved PPV main card status. He would fight John Halverson in the swing bout of UFC 67 in February of 2007. It would only take Roger Huerta 19 seconds to dispose of John Halverson. The fight is shrouded in controversy, as it appears that Huerta may have thrown an illegal knee to the head of a downed John Halverson. Huerta quickly jumped on Halverson’s back and began winging punches until the referee stopped the contest. I probably don’t have to tell you that the referee was Yves Lavine, probably the worst referee in all of MMA. Huerta’s post fight speech was in Spanish and he would become a Hispanic poster boy for a new target demographic of the UFC.
UFC 69: Shootout in April of this year might as well have been named UFC 69: Falling Stars. On the card, Georges St-Pierre, Mike Swick, Diego Sanchez, and Heath Herring all lost their fights. Roger Huerta did not follow suit and remained a rising star. He fought a bout with the scrappy Leonard Garcia that was a sloppy war, taking place on both the feet and on the ground. He won the bout via unanimous decision and managed to become the first MMA athlete ever to land a cover shot on Sports Illustrated.
Huerta’s win streak would continue at the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale in June. He would face undefeated Doug Evans from Alaska making his UFC debut. Evans, who has a wrestling background, would give Huerta a good fight and win round one. Huerta came out in round two and began to let his hands and kicks go but Doug Evans would return to his wrestling roots and get back in the fight by scoring two more takedowns. Huerta was able to reverse him, take the mount, then Evan’s back, flatten him out and work his ground strikes. With Evan’s not defending himself, Steve Mazagatti was forced to stop the bout.
Huerta now had four straight victories in four UFC appearances. The UFC was beginning to get a reputation for coddling fighters who represented the target demographic of markets they were looking to break into. It appeared Huerta was taking over the role from Diego Sanchez as the new Hispanic poster boy. He had the looks, spoke Spanish and proudly wore the Mexican flag on his tights. Many wanted to see Huerta face an opponent who was not a newcomer to the UFC but a fighter who had some experience on the big stage.
At UFC 74 in August, Huerta would face yet another newcomer to the Octagon in Alberto Crane. The undefeated Crane put up a good fight and showed magnificent jiu-jitsu continually looking for submissions throughout the fight. The fight looked more like a grappling match for Crane as he threw very few punches. He did manage to get Huerta in multiple submission attempts, however Huerta was able to survive. As the third round opened it was obvious Alberto Crane’s cardio was failing him. Huerta took full advantage and finished the bout via TKO within the first two minutes of the final round.
Clay “So Easy A Caveman Can Do It” Guida
“The Carpenter” Clay Guida made his UFC debut against another experienced fighter from the Midwest. At UFC 64 in October of 2006, Guida fought Iowa’s Justin James. Initially, James gave Guida some trouble early in the first round by utilizing his height and a clinch to punish Guida with some powerful knees. As the round continued the tables quickly turned in favor of Guida, he worked his takedowns and his famous ground and pound attack. With only thirty seconds left in the first James pulled an armbar that appeared to be sunk very deep. Miraculously, Guida survived the armbar attempt. Round two was all Guida who took it to James the entire round. Late in the second round he effectively used his ground striking to set up a rear naked choke to finish the fight.
Guida’s next fight would occur at UFC Fight Night 8 in January of this year. With only one UFC fight in under his tool belt, Guida would be tested against the old school Din Thomas, who was looking to resurrect his career. Thomas had appeared on TUF 4 and had recently beat Rich Clementi in the finale of that series via rear naked choke in the second round. The Guida-Thomas fight would appear on the undercard and was not televised. Guida would lose via unanimous decision and many Guida fans claimed the judges robbed him.
Guida would look to rebound at UFC 72 in Belfast, Ireland in June. In order to do that, he would have to take on another tough wrestler in Tyson Griffon. Many fans predicted this would be fight of the night. Few predicted it would be fight of the year. Both fighters were coming off losses and both were looking to get into title contention. The fight was a back and forth battle of two ground fighters. In round one Guida managed to survive a very tight guillotine attempt. He was also out struck on the feet and Griffin managed to sprawl many of Guida’s takedown attempts. Round two began with more takedown attempts and scrambles for positions. Guida was able to sink a deep knee bar half way through the round but Griffin survived, only to have his back taken and have a rear naked choke applied. With a round apiece going into the third it was still anybody’s fight. Griffin continued to outstrike Guida in the first half of the round, but the second half was all Clay Guida asserting his ground control, dropping elbows and punches, while continuing to look for guard passing. In the end, the fighters faces told the story of the fight. Griffin looked dejected and Guida looked confident as the scores were read. Unfortunately, for Guida he lost a close fight via split decision.
At UFC 74 in August, Clay “I Got Robbed” Guida would again face another tough opponent in Marcus Aurelio on the undercard. He managed to win this fight with a different strategy, instead of using his wrestling and ground and pound. He intelligently kept the majority of the fight on the feet respecting the impressive ground skills of Aurelio. In a fight that was not one his most exciting, he easily coasted to victory, however the cards were read as a questionable split decision.
Both fighters have a wealth of experience with over twenty bouts on their MMA records. Don’t be fooled by Huerta’s (5-0) UFC record vs. Guida’s (2-2) UFC record. Tyson Griffin, Din Thomas, and Marcus Aurelio are in a different class than Huerta’s opponents. Clay Guida holds a significant edge in the experience department with higher caliber fighters appearing on his resume. He’s also fought Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez, Joe Jordan, and Bart Palaszewski among other notable fighters. Being from the Midwest I was able to see him fight Palaszewski at an XFO show in Illinois. While Roger Huerta has good wrestling ability, he showed difficulty defending the takedowns against a good wrestler in Doug Evans, so I give the edge goes to Guida. I believe Roger Huerta holds a significant edge in the striking department. He throws great knees in the clinch and it appeared that Guida had eaten some big knees in the first round against Justin James. Guida also lost a close fight against Tyson Griffin due to the simple fact that he was out struck. In the cardio department I think it’s dead even. Excellent cardio is the reason both of these fighters are exciting and have excelled in this sport; both just simply outwork their opponents. Submission advantage belongs to Clay Guida, as he regularly uses his ground and pound to set up submissions. Roger Huerta’s submissions have been almost non-existent as he looks for the TKO by using his ground and pound skills. Huerta has shown good submission defense against his opponents and I don’t see Guida being able to finish him. This bout will be close and it will be exciting. Prediction: Clay Guida wins via split decision.
Here is the fight card thus far:
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 6
The Pearl at the Palms
Las Vegas, Nevada
Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida
Ben Saunders vs. Dan Barrera
Jared Rollins vs. John Koppenhaver
Troy Mandaloniz vs. Richie Hightower
Roman Mitichyan vs. Dorian Price
Paul Georgieff vs. Jonathan Goulet
This article originally appeared on www.wicombatsports.com on 12-03-07