Allen: It’s a fresh new year in the UFC and I’m sure everyone is happy about that. After all the injuries, disappointments, and incidents it was clear that a new year came at the perfect time. So far it has been a good year with several major fights scheduled and a few major highlights already.

We will finally see Anthony Pettis get his much deserved title shot for the lightweight title at some point in 2013, while Vitor Belfort’s knockout of Michael Bisping via head kick will be one to remember for years to come. It’s nice to start off the year with some positivity and now we get to the first major show of the year.

UFC 156 is considered a stacked card, despite some possible one-sided fights. We get some major returns in Alistair Overeem, Rashad Evans, and featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Those are three main event caliber fighters to go along with Frankie Edgar and Antonio Silva. This card is special on paper, even though I think it’ll end up being a bit too one sided in reality. I’m here with my partner in crime John “Thunderdimples” Villarreal.

John:  I’ve heard former UFC standout, Sam Hoger say tonight on Facebook that this is the card of the century? That's stretching it so far, but it isn't Saturday at midnight yet. Wherever it ranks on paper, I couldn't be more excited! Not to be forgotten, this undercard which we typically don't have picks for is super stacked. I want to give a shout out to Triumph United sponsored fighter Evan Dunham. He fights Gleison Tibua, who always brings the wood that should be a great main event on FX before the big show. We also get to see fighters like Jay Hieron, Tyron Woodley, Jacob Volkmann, Yves Edwards and Chico Camus fighting as well. Don’t forget to tune in to the pre-fight; you know these fights are free. Speaking of Triumph United, thanks for the gear, guys! It made people hurt last night.


Flyweight: Joseph Benavidez vs Ian McCall

Allen: This is a good spot to put the flyweights fight. It has been a constant battle with fans about the flyweight division being accepted or if it should be tarnished. I’m not crazy about the division, it doesn’t get me very excited but as long as it’s not the main event on a PPV, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

This is also a major fight for the division with the winner facing Demetrious Johnson next for the title. Benavidez is very versatile with his striking and unpredictability. I’m expecting him to improve on his take-down defense after Demetrious Johnson took him down on numerous occasions.

McCall has a great story coming back from near death to win three fights in a row in 2011. Then he had two battles with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, before losing eventually. McCall is relentless and will try to take the fight to the ground, where he has the advantage over Benavidez

I’m stumped on this one but I’m going to pick Benavidez. He was on a long winning streak and was just caught off guard by Johnson’s superior wrestling ability. Benavidez has a great work ethic and I’m expecting an explosive performance to smother McCall’s chances at taking it to the ground with better take-down defense.

Final Prediction: Benavidez by unanimous decision.

John: The easy pick is the Team Alpha male product, because of his pedigree and where he trains. Not sure what to think of Ian McCall since he made his way back from the brink of death. He had some amazing rounds with the current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, but in those two fights, neither were a win. You can always count on one thing, Benavidez is going to be solid and is going to do what he does. I'm pulling for Uncle Creepy, not because I have to but I really do love the guy's story with his Butcher Cutting and Daniel Plainview combination (Daniel Day-Lewis, anyone?) style, what's not to like? I'll go out on a limb, a flyweight will actually knock someone out, well maybe at least a ref stoppage. 

Final Prediction: McCall by Third Round TKO


Welterweight: Jon Fitch vs Demian Maia

Allen: Well if you are looking for knockouts, this fight certainly won’t fit your expectations. That being said, this will be a great technical battle with two fighters that seem very rejuvenated. They both are considered to be past their prime, but this fight is probably the most even fight on the card.

Maia went down to the welterweight division and has won his last two fights in the first round. He has looked more aggressive and he seems to be much more comfortable at welterweight. He’s always been excellent on the ground, but his stand up has looked better recently. Maia rarely knocks people out, but it’s clear that he’s been working on his stand up to be more unpredictable.

Fitch has really fallen off from his days of the main event fight against George St. Pierre in 2008 and his five fight-winning streak. The critics have always criticized him heavily because of his tendency to just lay on top of his opponents and not really put together any exciting finishes. After facing the possibility of having to leave the UFC, Fitch fought with purpose and put together his best performance in quite some time beating Erick Silva and receiving fight of the night honors at UFC 153.

Both fighters are riding momentum after struggling for the past couple of years. This is another close fight that will deal with mostly wrestling and ground control. I’m going with Fitch here, which may be a surprise because I’m one of the many people that have been critical about Fitch over the years. He seems to be more motivated than ever to prove people wrong and I’m expecting him to do more damage on the ground compared to Maia.

Final Prediction: Fitch by Split Decision.

John: Now this may come off as a surprise, but I am not a Fitch guy (shocker). I look at his record and I see a bunch of decisions and one Fight of the Night award. Excitement is not part of what he does, and I understand that, but the last time he finished a fight, while I was still awake was when he choked out Roan Carneiro. That was at UFC Fight Night 10, when it was on Spike TV and I went to bars three days a week. That was a lifetime ago and I wasn’t even married, what the hell happened? Anyway, Demian Maia could lose a sparring session to a heavy bag. Don't put him near the teardrop; he might get knocked out cold. I want to see Fitch finish a fight standing, but these are two of the best grapplers in the world at 170 lbs. I think Fitch will pound him out on the ground. I'm going with Fitch while in Maia's guard, finishing the fight with punches. His first finish since 2007, it will be unbelievable.

Final Prediction: Fitch by Third Round TKO


Heavyweight: Antonio Silva vs Alistair Overeem

Allen: He may not be a fan favorite anymore, but if you aren’t excited for Overeem’s return then you are lying to yourself. Overeem is not only one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, but he’s also one of the most exciting. With the heavyweight division not really being used lately, the return of fighters like Overeem and Frank Mir will help the division be on PPV’s more often.

Even though he may be 32, Overeem is in fantastic shape and seems in prime position to earn a title shot. Some people were skeptical of him coming to the UFC, but he easily shut them up by retiring Brock Lesnar. He is the complete package when it comes to being a heavyweight with his kickboxing, Muay Thai, and submission ability. I’m not sure who is going to stop him, but Antonio Silva is going to try to give Overeem his first loss since 2007.

This is going to be a very tough matchup for Silva, since he’s always had a questionable chin and tends to struggle with bigger heavyweights. The best hope for Silva is to use his judo background because trying to stand up with Overeem is likely going to end in a loss. Silva may be an excellent kick boxer, but this is a fight where if he doesn’t get off to a good start it’s going to be end quickly.

I’m shocked that these two never fought in Strikeforce, since they were two of the bigger stars in that company. This fight has been long overdue, but this seems very one sided. Overeem has become one of the most dominating fighters, while Silva is starting to decline. He may prove people wrong, but it’s seem like Overeem will control the cage then continue to pound Silva in a corner similar to Overeem’s fight against Silva.

Final Prediction: Overeem by First Round TKO

John: This steak is perfectly cooked with a nice pink finish; grill marks line the face, marinated to the utmost quality, and bursting in flavor. I give you Scott’s Steiner’s idol Alistair Overeem.
What is there to say about The Reem? He is just bigger, better, and badder than everyone else on the planet. You make sure you hold that belt tight Mr. Incumbent Heavyweight Champion, because there's going to be some lonely nights ahead.  Overeem is coming for the title but first thing has to happen, he's got to crush the Bigfoot. Strategy goes out the window here. It's all about living green and recycling. Once Overeem finishes Bigfoot, he's going to crumble him up, and drop him off at local recycling facility. Because that's where tomato cans belong, and to the big green box shall they go! 

Final Prediction: Overeem by Second Round TKO


Light Heavyweight: Rashad Evans vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Allen: It seems odd that Rashad Evans is in a fight where he's not in a title fight or near title contention. Evans is one of the best light heavyweights of all time and it seems like every fight he’s involved has title implications. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a big fight, but it just seems odd. It’s also a very odd matchup against someone like Nogueira.

Nogueira hasn’t fought in over a year and that was against Tito Ortiz, which doesn’t have much value anymore even if it was a dominant victory. He’s been a disappointment so far in the UFC with a record of 3-2, while not facing any major stars in their prime. Nogueira was great in Pride, but he’s on the list with Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson as light heavyweights that I don’t think can fight at a high level anymore.

Many rumors have linked Evans with a possible fight against Anderson Silva at some point in 2013, which is one of the fights that I wrote about in my column last week. He’s still fighting at a high level and arguably gave Jon Jones his toughest fight of his title reign last April. His wrestling is still among the best in the world and is still dangerous in stand up, even though he hasn’t had many knockouts in the past few years.

This fight will be won on the ground where both fighters have had their most success. They both can stand up and strike too, which could make for an entertaining fight. I’m just not a believer in Nogueira being the same fighter that he was from a few years ago, while Evans has a major chip on his shoulder. I’m expecting Evans to be very aggressive and to use his speed to dominate Nogueira especially when he goes for takedowns. This will be another great performance from him, which could possibly set up a super fight for Evans to face Silva.

Final Prediction: Evans by Second Round TKO

John: I think Allen and I are going to maybe disagree on this one. I get a text from Allen a few days ago that reads, "It’s going be nice to watch the great Evans destroy Lil Nog". As a Pride mark, I quickly balked at this statement! "Destroy when Rashad destroy people”? Well, that went on for a little bit, needless to say, this is what makes writing these articles so great because we tend to disagree. Despite our opposite rooting interests, I'm going to take his pick here. It's the smart play knowing what I know about Blackzilians and Brazilians. 

Final Prediction:  Evans by Split Decision


Featherweight Title: Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar

Allen: The super fight is finally here, which is a label that has been heavily debated against. Dana White has labeled it as a super fight, but some would disagree. When you have two fighters in their prime along with both of them having long title reigns, I’d consider that a “super fight”. It’s clear that Aldo needs better competition and how much better can it get than Frankie Edgar.

I’m not sure why people think Edgar is starting to fall off just because he’s lost his last two fights. How he didn’t win his last fight against Benson Henderson is beyond me because I thought he did more damage. It was a shame, but Edgar has been positive and knows he’s got a great opportunity here. With his non-stop motor and wrestling ability, he is more than capable of winning this fight.

It has been over a year since Aldo has fought, but he is back after a few injury issues. It has been a tough stretch for him because he was on such a dominant run for the past two years. Aldo has been successful by frustrating his opponents with leg kicks and then uses stiff jabs to cause more problems for his opponents. He is an athletic freak that constantly keeps moving, which is why he’s been so successful.

This fight is going to be very exciting with both guys having similar styles. It will be a constant battle for Aldo dealing with Edgar’s wrestling ability. Aldo’s take-down defense is usually top notch, but this is the biggest challenge of his career. Edgar will have to watch out for all different varieties of kicks, along with knees. It will be a chess match throughout the fight with Aldo winning the battle. He’ll get enough damage on Edgar, including coming close to knocking him out on a few occasions.

Final Prediction: Aldo retains by unanimous decision

John: I know where this fight is going. The judges will hand the cards over to the referee and they will announce the winner in one of the most exhausting, grueling, fast-paced five rounds that you will ever see. I think this is going to be a candidate for Fight of The Year. I also wonder why Frankie Edgar gets another title shot? Frankie Edgar can make you hate the sport. He is like that eighteenth inning game that won't finish. Despite how awesome this fight is going to be, it will repeat history.

Final Prediction: Aldo retains by unanimous decision


Wrap Up

John: Is this going to be the card of the century? I'm just happy that we get to actually think it might be. I cannot wait for Saturday and I’ll will be in attendance at someone's house or someone's wing place, with bated breath. UFC 156, my compliments to the Chef, who is Joe Silva!

Allen: For the first time in a long time, I don’t see one fight that is going to be a dud. The casual fan may not like the first two fights, but I’m expecting high paced action and great technical battles. This whole card could be very exciting, even though I’m expecting some pretty convincing victories.

Also I want to make a small mention of this since it’s special, but I’m going to my first UFC event in April. I live in New York, where MMA is banned because the state is idiotic and hates good business. Thankfully UFC is coming to New Jersey and it’s a huge event. Obviously the main event is huge, but the card is being built up and it looks like a really good card.

Other than that, this should be a fantastic PPV where two super fights could possibly happen. If the results go as I predicted, we should see Cain Velasquez versus Alistair Overeem and Rashad Evans versus Anderson Silva at some point in 2013. Those matchups would be phenomenal. I’ll have a full analysis breakdown of the show on Monday, thanks for reading.


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