I’ve been writing for the site since September covering every major UFC pay-per view or Fox show. This is the best card that I’ve seen and couldn’t be more excited previewing this card. Before the matchups are discussed, I’m usually talking about the overall card beforehand. I’m never shy in voicing my opinion if a card is well put together or poorly built. This has a special feel to it, even though it doesn’t have someone like Anderson Silva or Jon Jones on it.
Some people may say that I said the same thing in December on how great that card was. It was clearly overhyped despite the name value. Not many people expected to see B.J Penn and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua look gassed by the second round. Penn was considered on the decline, but it really surprised me to see Shogun look that sluggish.
When you look at this card, you don’t see anyone declining. Some may consider Frank Mir to be declining, but that’s not the case. If you saw “The Road to the Octagon” on Fox last Sunday, it showed how Mir went to Greg Jackson’s camp and is looking to rejuvenate his career once again. He’s still looking to make another push for a title shot, which wasn’t the case for Penn and Shogun.
The main event is for the lightweight title between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez. It’s been long overdue for Melendez to fight in the UFC. The fact that he’s fighting someone on the level of Henderson has given this title fight even more hype. These are truly the best two lightweights in the world. Also, we get to see Nate Diaz on another Fox card against Josh Thomason in what should have plenty of action.
John Villarreal has been very busy with work and wasn't able to write out his actual thhoughts on the card. His official picks are Matt Brown, Nate Diaz, Daniel Cormier, and Benson Henderson.
Welterweight: Jordan Mein vs. Matt Brown
This is an intriguing matchup in one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC. Both fighters are known for keeping the fight standing up, so this should be an exciting fight rather than the lackluster openers we’ve seen on several major shows in the past six months.
Jordan Mein is getting a huge opportunity replacing Dan Hardy in this matchup. He is still relatively unknown, but he’s shown some promise winning his last three fights in impressive fashion. His striking can be vicious at times, although he’ll have to be aware of Brown’s power. Mein has to be patient and pick his spots because he won’t last in an all-out brawl.
You never know what to expect from Matt Brown. He can be so dangerous with his powerful strikes and his takedowns yet his career has been disappointing. Now he’s been on a nice winning streak, but I’m still concerned if his chin will last especially with how he leaves himself open.
I’m expecting the fight to be a chess match with Brown being the aggressor, although that isn’t much of an advantage against someone as fast as Mein. Mein will use his quickness to frustrate Brown’s range and earn the decision victory. Brown leaves himself open too much and will get caught with several counter strikes that will be the difference maker.
Winner Via Unanimous Decision: Jordan Mein
Lightweight: Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson
This is when the card starts to get really exciting. These are two fighters that are more than capable in challenging for the title. Diaz may have been dominated in his last championship bout, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is still the most dangerous fighter in the lightweight division.
I’ve labeled Diaz as the most dangerous fighter in the division because he’s becoming just like his brother Nick. His boxing is superior to anyone’s in the division, along with being able to lock in a submission from tough angles. You should expect to see Diaz’s judo background due to Thomason making this fight a grappling match, after realizing he can’t strike with Diaz for too long.
Thomson can be very unpredictable based on how his cardio is, along with not being one-dimensional with his strikes. He’s shown that he can bully his opponents with his wrestling and size advantage, but he’s never faced someone that can strike like Diaz. If he’s going to win, then he’ll have to make this fight ugly by grounding him.
Both fighters have such contrasting styles that have left me struggling to make a prediction. The big difference is that Thomson tends to wear down, as the fights go longer especially if you look at his past fights against Gilbert Melendez. Diaz never tires out and doesn’t get finished very often. Thomson’s downfall will be going for a desperate takedown that will finish in Diaz’s capitalizing by locking in a guillotine for the win.
Winner Via Guillotine In The Third Round: Nate Diaz
Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir
I haven’t been this excited for a fight since Jon Jones versus Rashad Evans. Frank Mir is one of my favorite fighters of all time, while Daniel Cormier has become a serious contender. His victories over two top heavweights in Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett opened my eyes to how good he is. With these two fighters battling it out I’m not sure if I’ll be able to sit down during this fight.
Cormier has been considered to be a future champion in someone that can challenge either Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez. He is easily the best wrestler out of anyone in the heavyweight division and has serious knockout power. Cormier is undersized and may not look imposing, but his relentless pace have given his opponents fits. There aren’t many flaws in Cormier’s game; it’ll just come down to how much his punches connect along with being careful on the ground.
There aren’t many fighters that are more loved and hated than Frank Mir. Some people think he’s one of the greatest heavyweights ever, while others look at him as a talented underachiever. It’s tough to properly label him, but nobody can deny that Mir has put together a career of highlight reel finishes. He is very versatile from his plethora of submissions to his improved striking. The major issue with him is that he struggles withstanding punishment and that can be his downfall in this fight.
I’m looking forward to see how Greg Jackson’s influence changes Mir’s style. The common perception of Jackson’s camp is how some of his fighters become conservative. With someone as dangerous as Cormier, you can’t expect Mir to look for the decision win. He will have to pressure him and not let him get comfortable with his boxing. Mir has a better shot than people think, but he won’t be able to withstand Cormier’s punching power. We’ve seen some upsets in the heavyweight division over the past few months, but it won’t happen here.
Winner via TKO in the Third Round: Daniel Cormier
Lightweight Title: Gilbert Melendez vs. Benson Henderson
For the past few years, MMA fans have been clamoring to see Gilbert Melendez fight in the UFC. He has proven to be a top lightweight for years, with his exciting fights and being undefeated for the past four years. Similar to Cormier, he hasn’t fought great competition in Strikeforce. Cormier fought Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett at least, while Melendez hasn’t beaten anyone that special. This is his ultimate test against Benson Henderson, who’s been a great champion at lightweight.
Melendez fights at a fast pace and will have to dictate the pace against Henderson. I’m not sure how he can land many devastating strikes Henderson. He’s not as fast as Frankie Edgar, while he’s never had great range. Similar to Nate Diaz, he is going to have a difficult time trying to standup with Henderson. It will come down to his wrestling, along with making this fight ugly. It’s going to be tough to ground him as well, so it’ll come down to pushing him around and grappling with him.
It amazes me how one fight changes everything for a fighter. After his lackluster win against Frankie Edgar at UFC 150, Henderson was criticized for being picked apart and being lucky. Everything changed for him after he dominated Diaz at UFC on Fox 5, which has everyone looking at him as a true champion. He used some devastating jabs, along with front kicks that had Diaz defending for most of the fight. You could expect more of the same from him, especially utilizing leg kicks to limit Melendez’s takedown attempts.
This fight is starting to be recognized as the two best lightweights in the world finally fighting each other. I’ve always enjoyed Melendez’s fights and recognize his dominance, but that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t match up well with Henderson. Even if he lands a takedown, it’s going to be difficult to keep Henderson on the ground or even finish him off.
Henderson is on his way to becoming a dominant champion and that will continue. The only fighter that I can see him losing to is Anthony Pettis, who has now switched weight classes for the time being. This should be really exciting with both guys almost incapable of being knocked out or submitted. I’ll be shocked if this fight doesn’t go five rounds.
Winner Via Unanimous Decision: Benson Henderson
I’ve always tried not to be repetitive, but it can’t be said enough how good this card is. The fact that is free should have MMA fans even more excited. After the lackluster card from last January, this is going to be much better. The lightweight division is going to go through significant changes after this card. Also, it will be interesting to see what happens with the winner of the Cormier vs.Mir fight.
The smart thing to do is the winner of Cormier vs. Mir and the winner of Junior Dos Santos versus Mark Hunt should fight for a number one contender’s spot. How great is it that Hunt is in a major fight? Dos Santos will probably manhandle him, but it’s going to be fun to see them box for at least a few minutes. Hunt doesn’t go down easily.
I’ll be back to review the show on Monday. It’s going to be hectic next week with NBA playoffs and the hype for UFC 159. I’ve been an MMA fan since 2009 and I’m finally going to my first live show. I’ll be traveling to New Jersey from New York to finally experience a pay-per-view live. I’m really excited for it, despite a one-sided main event. Hopefully, John will be back and we can both cover the entire UFC 159 card for next week, until then enjoy the fights on Saturday in what should be a really exciting night.
You can follow me on twitter at @Allen_Strk and/or e-mail me at AStrk19@gmail.com.