Karo Parisyan (20-8) vs. John Gunderson (33-13-2)
In the night’s main event, former UFC welterweight contender Karo “The Heat” Parisyan meets well-traveled veteran John “Quick Guns” Gunderson. Parisyan has struggled to capture form as of late, going 1-2 since his second release from the UFC nearly two years ago. Once one of the division’s most feared competitors, the Judo black belt finally seems he’s ready to turn the page and get back to the shape that saw him beat fighters like Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle and Matt Serra.
Gunderson, meanwhile, a 12-year veteran of the sport, moves up to 170 pounds for the first time in his career. At 33 years of age, time may be winding down for the 48-fight veteran, but a win over a big name like Parisyan could be enough to send him back to the big show.
Prediction: Gunderson’s key to victory has to be to get the fight to the ground quickly and against a proven Judoka like Parisyan, it may prove to be a difficult task. The fact that he’s moving up to welterweight and taking this fight on short notice for an injured Shamar Bailey could prove to be a big problem for the former Shawn Tompkins pupil. Even though it’s a five-round title fight, I still see this one going to decision.
Pick: Karo “The Heat” Parisyan via Unanimous Decision
Kendall Grove (14-10) vs. Derek Brunson (9-0)
Originally scheduled to meet hard-hitting power puncher Terry Martin, Hawaii’s Kendal “Da Spyder” Grove now meets undefeated Strikeforce prospect Derek Brunson. Winner of the Ultimate Fighter season 3, Grove looks to get back in the win column after having his two-fight win streak snapped by Jay Silva last February. On paper, Grove’s 14-10 record looks soft but with losses to some of the division’s marquee names such as Mark Munoz, Patrick Cote and Demian Maia, Grove is no laughable opponent.
Undefeated at 9-0, Derek Brunson takes this fight on just four days’ notice after Terry Martin was forced off the card earlier this week. After turning pro in 2010, Brunson quickly ran through the regional circuit before making his Strikeforce debut one year ago. Of his 9 wins, he’s shown an ability to finish, taking out 7 of his opponents by way of submission or knockout.
Prediction: It’s strange to think that Grove is only 29 since he’s been a staple in the middleweight division for so long. Once a fan favorite in the UFC, Grove has to get by this test if he has any hopes of returning to the world’s top organization. Against Brunson, though, he will have his hands full. A three-time Division II All-American wrestler, Brunson can dictate where this fight goes and if he’s able to get by the lengthy reach of the Hawaiian, he should be able to finish the fight.
Pick: Derek Brunson via TKO
Drew Fickett (42-17) vs. Jonatas Novaes (9-4)
Once one of the most feared fighters in the business, Drew Fickett looks to gain back some of his momentum Saturday night when he meets submission ace Jonatas Novaes. With 59 pro fights already under his belt, there isn’t a whole lot that Fickett hasn’t seen in the fight game. After turning pro back in 1999, Fickett quickly emerged as a threat in the division, defeating fighters such as Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian and Josh Neer. Unfortunately, Fickett let his inner demons get the best of him as highlighted by a five-fight losing streak in 2009 and a four-fight losing streak that ended earlier this year. Now finally in a good place mentally, Fickett looks to run his win streak to two fights and show the fans that the “Night Rider” is back.
Novaes, a native of Brazil, enters this contest coming off a loss Eric Reynolds in his last outing. In nine pro fights, the FLO MMA fighter has finished seven of his opponents by submission in the very first round, including credible wins over WEC vet Sherron Leggett and two-time UFC competitor Ryan Thomas.
Prediction: The key to beating Drew Fickett is to hit him hard. Of his 17 losses, he’s been knocked out nine times and has submitted to punches twice. Unfortunately for Novaes, he has never knocked out any of his career opponents and is not likely to start now. His seven submission wins are impressive, but not compared to the 31 tapout victories Fickett has to his name. It’s hard to put enough confidence in Fickett these days to pick him cleanly, but he does appear to be in a good place in his personal life and if he can capture at least some of the form he’s displayed in the past, he should be able to handle his Brazilian counterpart over the course of three rounds.
Pick: Drew Fickett via Unanimous Decision
Marcus Aurelio (21-9) vs. Lyle Beerbohm (17-2)
In a matchup of two extremely competent grapplers, Lyle “Fancy Pants” Beerbohm meets UFC and PRIDE veteran Marcus Aurelio. Beerbohm, once thought to be one of the division’s top prospects, currently rides a two-fight winning streak after dropping back-to-back fights under the Strikeforce banner to Pat Healy and Shinya Aoki, respectively. The 33-year-old Washington native is also known around the MMA community as a finisher, having submitted or knocked out 15 of his 17 career opponents.
Aurelio, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under legendary trainer Andre Pederneiras, burst onto the scene in 2006 when he submitted PRIDE FC standout Takanori Gomi. Since then, the 38-year-old has gone 7-7 while competing in countries such as Japan, Finland, Canada, the U.S. and even Peru.
Prediction: The fact is Aurelio hasn’t had a meaningful win since the Gomi fight six years ago. At 38, he’s not likely to get any better and he’s not going to be able to rely on his Jiu-Jitsu against a competitive grappler in Lyle Beerbohm.
Pick: Lyle Beerbohm via Unanimous Decision.
Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett (26-25-2) vs. Chris McDaniel (15-15)
In what promises to be one of the night’s more entertaining fights, Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett meets local favorite Chris McDaniel. Bennett, one of the sport’s more notorious characters, has always possessed the kind of raw athleticism to be a serious contender, but has never been able to put it together mentally. With career victories over K.J. Noons, Yoshiro Maeda and former Muay Thai champion William Sriyapai, it’s a wonder why he hasn’t been able to win back-to-back fights since 2007.
McDaniel, a native of Missouri, started off his career 3-10 but has since been able to put together a respectable 12-5 mark. In 30 pro fights, the Branson Fight Club representative has never gone to the judges’ scorecards. In fact, 25 of his 30 fights have ended in the first round.
Prediction: Krazy Horse has always had a problem with fighting larger opponents.. At 5-foot-5, he should be fighting at a lower weight class rather than fighting bigger guys. In his illustrious 13-year-career, the Florida native has dropped fights to Urijah Faber, Jeff Curran, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Takanori Gomi, Duane Ludwig, Rich Clementi and two of the others guys on this card in Drew Fickett and John Gunderson. All in all, he’s dropped 11 of his last 15 and Sherdog.com doesn’t even recognize his last win over John Mahlow four weeks ago. Give it to the hometown guy in this one; he’s won his last three.
Pick: Chris McDaniel via Submission