There have been plenty of cards where fights on the preliminary card were almost forgotten or designated for up-and-coming fighters, but the prelims for UFC on FOX 7 were not of that variety. With the likes of Anthony Njokuani, TJ Dillashaw, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and Jorge Masvidal among others, there promised to be plenty of fireworks before the main card.
The first three prelim fights surely delivered on that promise. Yoel Romero, Njokuani and Dillashaw all won their matches via technical knockout.
Team Alpha Male's Dillashaw delivered his third consecutive TKO victory and his fourth straight victory overall. It was a right hand that started a flurry of punches that TJ unleashed on Viana. It would begin a theme of excitement and dominance that would continue all prelim long.
A lightweight bout between Jorge Masvidal and Tim Means quickly became the favorite for fight of the night. Both fighters gave it their all for all three rounds and left the cage bloodied, but with thousands of new fans. Half way thru the second round it looked as if Masvidal was in complete control of the bout, but then Means began to pick up the pace. It took until the fourth fight for a fight to go to decision as Masvidal defeated Tim Means 29-28 on all three scorecards.
There could have been an argument made that Means won that fight, but this was a fight that could have gone either way and, even though he lost, Means comes out looking like a winner. The lone flyweight bout of the night was up next as Darren Uyenoyama took on Joseph Benavidez.
The two Northern California flyweights had the crowd split and rightfully so. With a possible shot at the flyweight title on the line both men came out with purpose and fought with something more than just a W on the line.
Benavidez started off strong and showed how aggressive he is as he continued to attack and go after Ueynoyama. It was a one-sided opening round with Benavidez showing his aggression and striking ability. It was more of the same in the second round as Benavidez continued to overpower Uyenoyama. A body kick in the round hurt Uyenoyama and it was at the 4:50 mark of the round that Benavidez capitalized.
He landed a vicious liver shot that crumbled Uyenoyama and pounced on his fallen opponent. After more punches and elbows, referee Herb Dean jumped in and called the bout. Benavidez erupted, as did the crowd, as he is now on a two-fight win streak. It was another TKO victory for Team Alpha Male and continued their win streak.
Up next was a bout between TUF alumni as Myles Jury faced off against Concord-native Ramsey Nijem in a lightweight bout. What started off as a grappling exhibition in the first round with both fighters showing their wrestling and jiujitsu skill set quickly turned into a stand up fight in the second. After an incidental eye poke to Nijem, Jury settled in and as the two exchanged shots he landed an overhand right that landed square on Nijem. That shot sent Nijem to the mat and it was quickly ended.
Next up was a middleweight bout between Francis Carmont and the UFC debut of Lorenz Larkin. In a pretty evenly matched bout, the two fighters exchanged blows for all 15 minutes. Larkin used an array of leg kicks and strikes to keep Carmont at a distance. But, that did not stop the Canadian from shooting for takedowns every opportunity he got. It would be a bout that could go either way and the judge's scorecards showed just that. All three scored the bout 29-28 for Francis Carmont and boos rained down from the HP Pavilion crowd over what will likely be considered a controversial decision call.
On such a night, the UFC did a great job of putting together an incredible prelim card and to top it off Sacramento's Chad Mendes took on Darren Elkins in a featherweight bout to lead into the main card. Mendes came in riding a two-fight win streak as Elkins was riding a five-fight streak. Both are top featherweights and a win either way would mean a title shot in the near future.
Mendes did not let this one get away from him as it took little time for him to finish this featherweight bout. It was a straight right hand that landed right on the jaw of Elkins, dropping the Indiana native and finishing the fight for another Team Alpha Male win.
And, with that the UFC preliminary card was over. With much of the crowd excited over what they had seen, the UFC and its fighters did a great job of entertaining the fans and keeping them amp'd for the whole night.
Nitesh Dutt is a Production Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.