UFC 189 fight card primer: Bermudez vs. Stephens, Thatch vs. Nelson, Pickett vs. AlmeidaGet the Full StoryBloody Elbow presents its fight primers for UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor, which takes place in Las Vegas, NV on Saturday, July 11th. Here, we look at the opening three bouts on the pay-per-view main card.
UFC 189 is set to be the biggest event of 2015 despite the loss of Jose Aldo in the main event vs. Conor McGregor. Instead, the new main event is Chad Mendes against McGregor for the interim featherweight belt, while Robbie Lawler makes his first welterweight title defense vs. Rory MacDonald in the co-main event.
But below those championship bouts are a trio of highly intriguing bookings in the lower weight classes, and this is your brief rundown of each of those fights. The UFC 189 main card airs live on PPV on Saturday, July 11th from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas at 10 PM ET 7 PM PT. Two hours worth of televised prelims air on Fox Sports 1 at 8 PM ET 5 PM PT.
Watch UFC 189 and McGregor vs. Mendes this Saturday night, and join us here at Bloody Elbow for live fight night coverage.
Dennis Bermudez 14-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC vs. Jeremy Stephens 23-11 MMA, 10-10 UFC - Featherweights
Bermudez lost in the featherweight final of TUF 14 against Diego Brandao in one of the best finales in the show's history, then didn't taste defeat even once in his ensuing seven fights. Following an impressive stoppage win over Clay Guida, the Long Island native got a big step up in competition vs. Ricardo Lamas at UFC 180 in Mexico City. Unfortunately, Bermudez was stunned and dropped by a punch and then submitted with a rear-naked choke. It's back to the drawing board for "The Menace" as he tries to return to winning form.
"Lil' Heathen", believe it or not, is the same age as Bermudez 29 but he's been in the sport for an incredibly long time. This is set to be his 21st fight inside the Octagon and his 10th year in MMA. He's currently on a two-fight losing streak, albeit against contenders Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. Stephens is at a disadvantage in the wrestling and submissions department, but he still packs a wallop of a punch that could pose Bermudez problems in this very intriguing matchup. Missing weight by 3.5 lbs doesn't bode well for Jeremy, though.
Gunnar Nelson 13-1-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC vs. Brandon Thatch 11-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC Welterweights
Nelson is a jiu-jitsu wizard on the mat, but we never saw this in his fight with Rick Story, who kept it standing and outstruck him en route to a split decision win that probably should've been unanimous. The Icelandic prospect had previously submitted the likes of Omari Akhmedov, DaMarques Johnson, and Zak Cummings en route to his step-up in competition, which he ended up not being quite ready for. His fight with Thatch is no doubt one with high stylistic intrigue, as you have the BJJ talent going up against a powerful and deadly striker.
Thatch had developed a reputation for starching his opponents inside the first 4 minutes, usually by knockout. He ripped Justin Edwards and Paulo Thiago to shreds, but the Colorado native got an unexpected change of opponent when he was paired with Ben Henderson filling in for the injured Stephen Thompson in a UFC Fight Night main event in February. While Thatch was up on the scorecards after 3 rounds, his cardio and takedown defense failed him, and Henderson's grappling was too good and Thatch had to submit to a rear-naked choke. Thatch is playing the role of replacement opponent, as he's filling in for the injured John Hathaway.
Thomas Almeida 19-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC vs. Brad Pickett 24-10 MMA, 4-5 UFC - Bantamweights
Almeida is a sensational Muay Thai striker with wicked combinations and terrific killer instinct. He's finished all but 1 of his opponents in his undefeated career, and the 24-year-old has a chance to make history and become the first man since Chris Freeborn in 2005 to finish "One Punch" with strikes. If he does that, then it's a huge feather in the Brazilian's cap. I suggest you don't look away when watching this fight because it will bring the violence.
Pickett is one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport regardless of where the fight takes place, but it looks like the wear and tear is finally catching up to him. A drop to flyweight netted him just 1 win in 3 fights, including a split decision setback vs. Chico Camus. The 36-year-old is making his return to bantamweight tonight in hopes of one last contender push. He'll be in tough against one of the most promising prospects in all of MMA.