411's MMA Roundtable Preview: UFC 164 - Henderson vs. Pettis 2
Posted by Dan Plunkett on 08.30.2013
Anthony Pettis challenges Ben Henderson for the UFC lightweight title in the main event of UFC 164! Plus, Josh Barnett takes on Frank Mir, Chad Mendes battles Clay Guida and more! Check out the full roundtable for all the details and join 411 for LIVE coverage of the event Saturday night!
Ben Henderson looks to make his fourth lightweight title defense against the man that hit him with the "Showtime Kick," Anthony Pettis! In the co-main event, former heavyweight champs collide as Frank Mir battles the returning Josh Barnett. At featherweight, top contender Chad Mendes faces Clay Guida. Plus, Ben Rothwell squares off with Brandon Vera, Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier, and more!
He's 411's resident interviewer, Jon Butterfield!
From Occupy the Throne, Jeremy Lambert!
From MMA's 3R's, Jeffrey Harris!
From The 411 MMA Top 10, Alex Rella!
From Five Quick Rounds, Evan Zivin!
He's the new guy from Forgotten Fights, Paul Lapointe!
From the Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report, Robert Winfree!
THE PRELIMINARY CARD:
First three prelims to air on YouTube, rest on Fox Sports 1.
Middleweight Bout: Jared Hamman vs. Magnus Cedenblad
Jon Butterfield: Jared Hamman, TKO, Round One Jeremy Lambert: Cedenblad, TKO, Round 2 Jeffrey Harris: Jared Hamman, Decision Alex Rella: Jared Hamman, Decision Evan Zivin: Jared Hamman, TKO, Round 2 Paul Lapointe Magnus, TKO, RD3 Robert Winfree: Jared Hamman, TKO Round 2 The staff picks Jared Hamman, 5-2.
Lightweight Bout: Ryan Couture vs. Al Iaquinta
Jon Butterfield: Ryan Couture, Decision Jeremy Lambert: Couture, Decision Jeffrey Harris: Al Iaquinta, Decision Alex Rella: Ryan Couture, Decision Evan Zivin: Ryan Couture, Submission, Round 2 Paul Lapointe: Al Iaqunita, TKO , RD2 Robert Winfree: Ryan Couture, Submission Round 1 The staff picks Ryan Couture, 5-2.
Heavyweight Bout: Soa Palelei vs. Nikita Krylov
Jon Butterfield: Soa Palelei, KO, Round One Jeremy Lambert: Palelei, TKO, Round 1 Jeffrey Harris: Soa Palelei, TKO, Round 1 Alex Rella: Soa Palelei, TKO, Round 1 Evan Zivin: Soa Palelei, TKO, Round 1 Paul Lapointe: Soa Palelei, KO, RD1 Robert Winfree: Soa Palelei, TKO Round 1 The staff picks Soa Palelei, 7-0.
Bantamweight Bout: Chico Camus vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Jon Butterfield: Kyung Ho Kang, Decision Jeremy Lambert: Camus, Decision Jeffrey Harris: Chico Camus, Decision Alex Rella: Chico Camus, Decision Evan Zivin: Chico Camus, Decision Paul Lapointe: Kyung Ho Kang, Submission, RD3 Robert Winfree: Chico Camus, Decision The staff picks Chico Camus, 5-2.
Welterweight Bout: Pascal Krauss vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
Jon Butterfield: Pascal Krauss, TKO, Round Three Jeremy Lambert: Krauss, Submission, Round 2 Jeffrey Harris: Pascal Krauss, TKO, Round 1 Alex Rella: Pascal Krauss, TKO, Round 1 Evan Zivin: Hyun Gyu Lim, TKO, Round 3 Paul Lapointe: Pascal Krauss, Decision RD3 Robert Winfree: Pascal Krauss, Decision The staff picks Pascal Krauss, 6-1.
Flyweight Bout: Louis Gaudinot vs. Tim Elliot
Jon Butterfield: Tim Elliot, Decision Jeremy Lambert: Gaudinot, Decision Jeffrey Harris: Louis Gaudinot, TKO, Round 2 Alex Rella: Tim Elliot, TKO, Round 2 Evan Zivin: Tim Elliot, Decision Paul Lapointe: Tim Elliot, Decision, RD3 Robert Winfree: Louis Gaudinot The staff picks Tim Elliot, 4-3.
Lightweight Bout: Jamie Varner vs. Gleison Tibau
Jon Butterfield: Gleison Tibau, Decision Jeremy Lambert: Tibau, Decision Jeffrey Harris: Jamie Varner, Decision Alex Rella: Jamie Varner, Decision Evan Zivin: Jamie Varner, Decision Paul Lapointe: Gleison Tibau, Split Decision, RD3 Robert Winfree: Gleison Tibau, Decision The staff picks Gleison Tibau, 4-3.
THE MAIN CARD:
Featherweight Bout: Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier
Jon Butterfield: These guys were scheduled to fight way back at UFC 143, but that didn't happen. Then these two promising featherweight prospects were rumoured to be next in line for title shots, but that didn't happen either. Ricardo Lamas put the brakes on the Koch hype train, while Poirier has been bettered by both Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson since then. Now, they're set to finally square off once and for all, and boy how the landscape has changed. No longer can the winner expect to meet Jose Aldo any time soon, but at least they'll keep their head above the water – while the loser is likely to be dragged deep into the mire of the 145 lb division.
History does not paint a particularly pleasant picture for Poirier, who holds wins over heavily-flawed opponents like Pablo Garza and Max Holloway, with Jonathan Brookins a career-best scalp – but there's no denying this young man's ability to go toe-to-toe with dangerous and diverse strikers – after all, he went three-and-a-half rounds with Jung (admittedly a better grappler than a striker), winning at least one round before being submitted, and then Swanson wasn't able to land a clean bomb across 15 minutes, but managed to make the most of his wrestling-based offence.
Koch also has a career-best win over Jonathan Brookins, though Raphael Assuncao is certainly a very respectable conquest as well. Strong wrestlers appear to have Koch's number, but the Roufusport prodigy can defend takedown attempts from the vast majority of opponents – and I think that includes Poirier. The question is, if Koch keeps this standing, can he out-strike Poirier? Certainly Poirier will throw with more volume, and is likely to land more, but the more telling blows are likely to come from Koch, who I think can win two of three rounds to pick up a very competitive decision.
Winner: Erik Koch, Decision
Jeremy Lambert: I feel like both of these fighters should be better than they are. Don't get me wrong, they're top 10 guys, but it seems like they should be elite but they're just not quite at that level. Poirier has a nice grappling advantage in this fight while Koch is the better striker. If Poirier can get things to the ground, I think he can style on Koch because he has a pretty slick top game. The problem is getting the fight to the ground. Koch has good takedown defense and Poirier's wrestling isn't outstanding or anything. Koch does throw a lot of kicks though, which will make him a bit easier to take down or create the possibility of a slip. As long as Koch keeps the fight standing though, I think he lights up Poirier. Maybe he doesn't get a finish since Poirier is a tough dude, but he wins decisively.
Winner: Koch, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: Interesting fight. Poirier is not afraid to get into a brawl, though sometimes that can be to his detriment since his strength is in his ground game. Koch was previously on track to get a title shot against Jose Aldo, but injuries derailed that fight twice. Then he got knocked out by Ricardo Lamas. Koch is the better striker between though, though his submission defense is a lot better than many of the fighters Poirier has beaten. I think Koch comes out on top here.
Winner: Erik Koch, TKO, Round 3
Alex Rella: This is a great choice to start the show and I'll be shocked if this fight sucks. Both guys are coming off losses and while neither is jeopardy of losing their job (at least hopefully not), a loss would knock someone down the rankings to the point where it would take a couple years to return to title contention. I really like Poirier and am hoping he wins, but I think Koch takes this one. Poirier stands and strikers with guys much more than he should. He gets in a lot of volume, but there really isn't much behind them. Koch is a pretty good striker on the other hand with good KO power. Poirier could pull of a submission, but Koch has great takedown defense and has only really lost to great wrestlers like Lamas and Mendes. So while I wouldn't be shocked if Poirier wins by submission, I just don't think it's likely.
Winner: Koch, Decision
Evan Zivin: This is a good way to start the main card. Koch and Poirier have a lot in common. They are both featherweight prospects who came into the UFC with the potential to challenge for the championship but have hit bumps in the road on the way there. Poirier hit two bumps, getting submitted by Chan Sun Jung in May 2012, and then losing a decision to Cub Swanson in February. Koch was all set to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title last year before injuries got in the way, which was then followed by a TKO loss to Ricardo Lamas. These two were supposed to fight back at UFC 143 but it fell apart due to injuries. Both guys are decent all around but this fight will come down to Koch's striking versus Poirier's grappling. It will be a tough fight but as long as Koch can stuff Poirier's takedowns, which he most likely should, he should be able to do damage on the feet and take the fight from Poirier the way Swanson did. I don't know if the win would get him another title shot but he'll be close.
Winner: Erik Koch, Decision
Paul Lapointe: I really badly want to say Dustin Poirier here, but for the life of me I just cannot bring myself to do it. He is reckless in his striking while Koch is precise, and if a new hardened look in his eyes Koch comes out with not one but two wasted opportunities at a title shot dashed on his mind he better work smart against Diamond, cuz he will cut you. Lanky frame keeps distance. Stick and move all day and press the fence and Koch has this in the bag, do I think he can withstand the wrestling of Poirier, maybe not in the waning third, but its a point match and the points add up to a 29-28 Koch. Plus Dustin maybe distracted with his coach and newly retired felon and TUF alum Tim Credeur going through his hot mess. Damn the table is pretty concise tonight...(tugs at collar in winner)
Winner: Erik Koch, Decision, RD3
Robert Winfree: Two near top level featherweights, both needing a win to remain in the upper echelon of competition, both known for exciting fights. Yeah this should be a solid opener. Koch is a talented striker, but I've always found his combinations lacking, he's a one and done type of striker. Dusting Poirier is a good grappler with an aggressive striking style, but his technique is flawed. I'm kind of torn here because both guys are good, but I think Poirier will bring the pressure and get Koch.
Winner: Dustin Poirier, Submission Round 2
The staff picks Erik Koch, 6-1.
Heavyweight Bout: Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera
Jon Butterfield: Brandon Vera returns to heavyweight, where he's fortunate enough to get a bout with a big, slow opponent with an appalling gas tank. Obviously if Rothwell lands a clean strike, Vera will be seeing stars for a week, but Vera is a relatively mobile fighter (I did say relatively) with good, clean, crisp striking. Vera gets a hard time because he always appeared sub-standard at light heavyweight and doesn't fight in a particularly exciting manner, but the latter point could well play into his hands against Rothwell. Vera's kicks can hurt anyone, and temporarily disabled Randy Couture at UFC 105, as well as ending Mike Patt's night at UFC 96, and while those fights are dim and distant in the memory, I can Vera winning pretty comfortably here if he takes his time and keeps his distance early. One Rothwell has expended his energy swinging at shadows, it will then become a matter of whether or not Vera can finish a tiring giant.
Winner: Brandon Vera, TKO, Round Three
Jeremy Lambert: This is the fight we've all been waiting. Vera vs. Rothwell in a battle between two elite heavyweights. Vera is technically undefeated while Rothwell is a former world champion worth a ton of money. Vera's striking is so technical that when Joe Rogan sees it, he turns into Ric Flair. Rothwell isn't quite as technical, but he hits stupid hard. Rothwell will have a nice size advantage, which means that he might look for some takedowns. The only person that's been able to out-wrestle Rothwell in the UFC is Cain Velasquez, and even he struggled a bit. Vera is very good off his back though. He nearly submitted Jon Jones and Fabricio Werdum so Rothwell has to be careful. I think Vera will throw a lot of kicks, but he has to be smart with them since Rothwell has excellent timing with his counters. Since this fight is only 15-minutes and not in Colorado, I don't think conditioning will be a factor as both guys should be in top notch shape. This fight is really too close to call. Just expect a classic.
Jeffrey Harris: Vera makes his return to heavyweight here. Vera's generally had a career of not living up to the potential he thought he had. Rothwell was never an especially exceptional heavyweight, but when it looked like he had finally turned a corner in his career when he got an impressive knockout win over Brendan Schaub, that quickly went away. He didn't fight Travis Browne and then he got submitted by Gabriel Gonzaga. Rothwell has some decent striking and knockout power, though his wrestling, grappling, and takedown defense are incredibly suspect. I think if Vera is prepared for a move back up he will be OK and will be able to out point Rothwell in order to win the decision.
Winner: Brandon Vera, Decision
Alex Rella: I hope nobody judges me, but I'm kinda looking forward to this fight for some unknown reason. Hopefully we get a run quick heavyweight fight, but I have a feeling this one goes the distance. Rothwell will have the advantage the first couple minutes as he is a good striker, but his stamina is horrendous so Vera should be the better fighter after the middle of the first round. Vera has great kicks that he should use against the larger fighter and I'd even give him the edge in the clinch which almost every heavyweight fight has way too much of. Vera should win unless he's stupid and tries to charge in at the start of the fight.
Winner: Vera, Decision
Evan Zivin: Brandon Vera's delusional dream to be a two division UFC champion is bringing him back to the heavyweight division for the first time since 2008 (that, or he's trying to avoid getting fired). Vera hasn't won a fight in almost two years but he got people talking with his last against Mauricio Rua. He may have come up short against Rua but he showed a lot of heart and managed to hurt him a few times. Rothwell has had a very hot and cold UFC career. The IFL star has victories over Gilbert Yvel and Brendan Schaub but has also been TKO'd by Cain Velasquez, submitted by Gabriel Gonzaga, and lost to Mark Hunt in one of the worst fights ever. The outcome of this fight is dependent on if we see the Brandon Vera who fought Shogun or the Vera who did nothing against Thiago Silva. I can't answer that but if Rothwell can stay the aggressor and land his punches, he can win this fight. Just don't gas out too early.
Winner: Ben Rothwell, TKO, Round 2
Paul Lapointe: The comedy sideshow main card bout, that has recognizable enough faces we should care and not enough interest to intrigue to have us buy the card on the prelims....so...stick it somewhere on the main card and hope for the best. Well I actually like Vera but at 35 he has squandered his potential past anything but a pipe dream. He should guts against a shell of a Rua last time out and was dead in the third anyhow, as for Ben well anybody who is out grappled by Mark Hunt, needs to look in the mirror and reflect...badly. But no worries with the Roy Nelson effect factored in and Vera's ability to wither like a turtle when a big boy is on top in full swing and the TRT enhanced Medicine Machine that is Big Ben it'll be time to be telling Vera' his time is up. Trust me it will not be pretty and Vera will posture and control and hesitate the entire first. Rothwell will breath heavy 3 minutes into the fight and then the Therapy will kick in and the rage will be felt. It will be ugly but it will be glorious.
Winner: Ben Rothwell, TRT enhanced GNP, RD2
Robert Winfree: I hate this fight. I hate anything associated with Brandon Vera. I'm not overly fond of Ben Rothwell either. If Vera gets to dictate the distance and pace he'll kick Rothwell's legs out from under him in the second or third round. I think Rothwell is smart enough to blitz Vera and put him away early.
Winner: Ben Rothwell, TKO Round 1
The staff calls it a draw, 3-3-1.
Featherweight Bout: Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida
Jon Butterfield: Chad Mendes has been creaming guys with his striking lately, blasting through Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza and Darren Elkins like it ain't no thang. The latter win over Elkins is particularly impressive given Elkins' durability, single-minded approach to fights, and his prior five-fight win streak. Clay Guida is even tougher than Elkins, and unlikely to fall victim to a first round KO, but let's not pretend Mendes has ever really relied on his KO power. Yes, Mendes has been making plenty of big statements lately with early stoppages, but those stoppages are backed up by an outstanding wrestling game and a highly effective Plan B that involves outworking and out-muscling opponents. Clay Guida is a grinder through and through, who is unlikely to ever strike against a fighter with a recent record like Mendes' – so expect him to come down and either try to pressure Chad, or try to evade and frustrate him. Based on recent fights, Guida is likely to try and perplex Mendes, but I don't really see anywhere that he has a clear advantage other than being on top of Mendes. Since that seems unlikely, I'm wondering if a motivated Guida will try and outwork Mendes in the clinch, but even then I don't see it working. To be perfectly honest, I just think Mendes is a better fighter at 145, and that Guida is a terrible tactician (except against Anthony Pettis).
Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision
Jeremy Lambert: Guida went from being one of the most exciting fighters in the sport to being universally hated. Mendes went from being extremely boring to knocking guys out. So times be a changing. This is a terrible fight for Guida. His wrestling, which has always been pretty overrated is going to be shut down by Mendes, who is a much superior wrestler. And on the feet, Mendes has shown to have power and has been putting his combinations together nicely as of late. Guida only offers up some senseless head movement and awkward kicks on the feet. Guida usually fights at an extremely high pace that not a lot of guys can keep up with, but Mendes shouldn't have a problem in the cardio department. I think Mendes completely nullifies everything Guida tries to do, even lands a few takedowns of his own, and easily out-strikes him on the feet.
Winner: Mendes, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: This looks like a match-up that is highly favorable to Chad Mendes. I don't think Clay Guida will be able to use his typical wrestling and smothering style against Mendes. Not only that, the way he leaves himself open and just bounces and leaves his head wide open will also end badly for him. Mendes has looked like he's really turned a corner since the loss to Aldo and has been finishing fights and knocking guys out. He quickly finished Darren Elkins who had a five fight winning streak at featherweight. Mendes dominates and wins this fight.
Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision
Alex Rella: Mendes should really win this one and continue his tear back to another title shot. Guida used to be a fun fighter, but now he just sucks the life out of everyone that watches him. Mendes is the better wrestler so Guida wont be able to hold him on the ground, so Guida will have to resort to running away. Mendes wont be able to KO Guida, but he should still be able to get in enough shots and score some takedowns as well.
Winner: Mendes, Decision
Evan Zivin: Looks like Team Alpha Male will be rolling into the Bradley Center on Saturday night. There will be sunglasses and muscle shirts everywhere. What's there to say about Mendes? He's been amazing his entire career. He has strong wrestling and striking that gets better with every fight. His only loss so far has been to champion Jose Aldo and since then, he has won three straight fights to T(KO). Sure, only the Elkins fight made any sense for Mendes to take but still, he's wrecked a lot of guys. This will be Guida's second fight at featherweight after a controversial split decision win over Hatsu Hioki that many felt he lost. Guida is a very aggressive fighter and the question is always whether his opponent will be able to handle his energy and constant pressure. Mendes should be able to handle it fine. Mendes will look to set the pace before Guida gets a chance to and work his punches and shoot for takedowns before Guida can get one shot off. That's the way to beat Guida and Mendes is skilled enough to execute and add another win to the pile.
Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision
Paul Lapointe: Clay Guida's head is made of brick and mortar. It is why he can be hit so much, it also helps that there is no brain inside to be hurt. The man is a cyborb, a bouncy scarecrow from wizard of Oz Cyborg meant to bounce and pivot all the ding long day. And Chad Mendes's job is to crack him again and again and again until his hand gets tired. Plus his wrestling is still top notch and yet forgotten about as before his recent string of now you see me and now you don't KO's since the title loss he was mainly a decision fighter. Can I see Guida bumrush and dry blanket hump Mendes en route to a decision, fudge now. Do I wish Chad could knock him out...sure, but first I have to see it to believe it.
Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision, RD3
Robert Winfree: To continue my brief blurb theme, if Clay Guida can't get a takedown he can't win a fight. I don't think he can take Chad Mendes down, simple as that.
Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision
The staff picks Chad Mendes, 7-0.
Heavyweight Bout: Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett
Jon Butterfield: Frank Mir has a great record against PRIDE legends, finishing Mirko CroCop in an admittedly dull fight, either side of posting both KO and submission wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Josh Barnett is looking far less jaded than either CroCop or Nogueira, however, at this point in his career, and while he has no chance of submitting Mir, his wrestling and positional grappling is good enough that he could win on points whilst avoiding Mir's powerful submission game. Barnett also has better cardio than Mir, and that could prove crucial, but one thing counting against ‘The Warmaster' is that he made Cormier look AMAZING, while by contrast, Daniel looked pretty poor against Mir. That could suggest that Mir is just an all-round better fighter, but more likely it suggests Mir is a more capable striker – which isn't exactly a revelation.
Mir has been able to neutralize guys like Roy Nelson and Mirko CroCop on the feet, which is moderately impressive, but Barnett isn't likely to want to strike for long anyway. Mir was also able to out-grapple and submit an aggressive Nogueira, and if Barnett is too hellbent on finishing Mir, he could easily wind up the same way – but I just think Barnett is too methodical to get caught, and too smart to do anything stupid. Mir may be the better pure Jiu Jitsu fighter as well as a better pure striker, but Barnett is a better wrestler and a better athlete and that should be enough.
Winner: Josh Barnett, Decision
Jeremy Lambert: As relevant as this heavyweight fight may be, and it is pretty relevant, especially if Barnett wins, I can't find myself caring about it. Mir and Barnett are good heavyweights but just so uninspiring. Mir is probably the more well-rounded striker, but he vastly overrates just how good he is and has no chin. Barnett is the better wrestler and a good submission grappler, although messing with Mir on the ground is dangerous. Mir doesn't have a world-class guard or anything, but if he's able to grab hold of a limb, he's going to finish the submission. I think Barnett's submission defense is good enough to where Mir won't catch him, but you never know with Mir. Mir has also improved his takedown defense over the years, so it's no lock that Barnett can even get him down. It's possible that Barnett breaks Mir's already bent chin and it's also possible that Mir pulls off another miraculous submission, but I think we're in for a slow and grinding fight.
Winner: Barnett, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: A good heavyweight match-up between two of the more respected and decorated ground fighters in the history of the division. Both guys have had common opponents in the likes of Cro Cop, Nogueira, and Daniel Cormier. Barnett has more of a controlling top game. Neither guy are especially great strikers. Just in terms of their styles and the way they match-up, I favor Barnett. Barnett's catch wrestling style seems like it will be trouble for Mir. Neither guy has the best striking or stand-up game, but Barnett has the generally better chin between the two. While I'm not sure Barnett will be able to catch Mir with a sub, I do think he gets Mir to the ground and beats him up there.
Winner: Josh Barnett, TKO, Round 3
Alex Rella: I'm excited for Barnett's return to the UFC and this is a good fight between two former heavyweight champions. I expect Barnett to win this one as he is better in almost every aspect. He has better cardio, striking, and I think he's better on the ground. Mir could pull off a submission, but Barnett's catch wrestling will likely negate the chances of that. Barnett should win decisively and move onto the top of the division.
Winner: Barnett, TKO, Round 3
Evan Zivin: This is a fight I'm very curious about. It's a fight that people have been interested in seeing for ten years but has never happened because this is the first time that Barnett has been in the UFC since before Mir debuted with the company. Barnett was last seen here in 2002 when he became UFC Heavyweight Champion before failing a drug test and getting cut. He then plied his trade in places like Pride, Affliction, and Strikeforce before finally agreeing to return to face Mir, a former UFC Heavyweight champion himself. Barnett comes into this with more momentum, winning his last fight against Nandor Guelmino (yes, THE Nandor Guelmino). Mir is coming into this on the first two fight losing streak of his career, losing by decision to former Barnett vanquisher Daniel Cormier last April. I feel that a lot of people are counting Mir out of this fight. Barnett is coming in with a wrestling advantage and decent striking but Mir is always dangerous. His wins over Mirko Cro Cop and Roy Nelson showed a vastly improved striking game and his second win over Minotauro Nogueira showed that any mistake an opponent makes can result in Mir ripping a limb off. I do think this is a fight that either man can win but I'll give a slight edge to Mir because I think he'll be able to use his striking to hurt Barnett and avoid his takedowns and if he gets taken down, he's capable of working off his back and stopping Barnett from doing anything and could possibly even submit him. I doubt either man finishes. Hopefully it's not too boring.
Winner: Frank Mir, Decision
Paul Lapointe: Frank Mir, cannot eat punches, this is a fact. He has very overrated striking, this is a fact. His cardio is awful since adding over 40 lbs of unnecessary muscle to himself when he is a grappler, fact. But he does have a KO of Mirko Cro Cop...the man who has beaten Barnett THREE times. But that was pride Cro Cop, not the guy who will soon be competing in an MMA bout against a sumo wrestler Cro Cop. Josh Barnett is the Chael Sonnen of the heavyweight division, just flabbier, a lot more full of himself (impossible right) and a sad panda that his drugs are gone. But he is talented dag nabbit, even without the candy. He can outstrike Mir...which is what he should do, but he won't as it seems he wants his arm broken but he will learn his lesson after the first and then WWE style Discus punch Mir into wilting and then smother him. Sounds like a comic book, could be fun. But its still no Vera Vs Rothwell
Winner: Josh Barnett, TKO, RD 2/3
Robert Winfree: Yeah, I'm just doing short blurbs for all of these I think. Frank Mir has evolved his striking to include some decent knees, but beyond that he's still stiff on the feet. Josh Barnett is also stiff on the feet but has more power in his hands. Frank Mir has good submissions, but his wrestling is suspect. Josh Barnett has good submissions and his wrestling is pretty good. Neither man has great cardio, but Barnett is better than Mir there too. Unless Barnett makes a substantial mental error in a transition and gets caught he's going to win. Think Mir vs. Lesnar rematch with less violent ground and pound.
Winner: Josh Barnett, TKO Round 2
The staff picks Josh Barnett, 6-1.
UFC Lightweight Championship Bout: Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis
Jon Butterfield: Benson Henderson is somewhat fortunate to be the UFC Lightweight Champion having effectively won coin toss-esque decisions against Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez, but it's hard to argue that he definitively lost any of those bouts either. He did, however, definitively lose to Anthony Pettis at WEC 53 in an all-time classic bout, but he's corrected a ton of his faults since then. Now, Henderson is a better-rounded fighter who remains virtually unsubmittable and has become a more evasive target on the feet, but he's still not as good a striker as Pettis. My concern for Henderson is that he views his grappling and wrestling games as defensive rather than offensive, reactionary rather than primary, and that therefore he'll spend way too much time trying to be the ‘complete' mixed martial artist, thereby spending way too much time on the feet. That automatically plays into Pettis' hands, whereas Clay Guida (a vastly inferior fighter than Henderson as proved when the two met on Fox) showed pretty clearly that a wrestling/grappling-heavy approach can stifle the striking ace.
The more multi-levelled this fight is, the better it serves Henderson – but if Henderson isn't going to press for level changes, which I suspect he won't, or at least won't to the degree that he SHOULD, then Pettis is going to win. Pettis is a monster on the feet, and if he hurts Henderson early, I don't see a way back for Benson. I could easily be wrong, and this is as close to a 50-50 as you could get, but I'm going with a win for the challenger, and not purely because of what happened at WEC 53, but because I just don't trust Henderson to play to his strengths.
Winner: Anthony Pettis, Decision
Jeremy Lambert: If you're not pumped for this fight then you may as well stop watching MMA. Their first fight was an absolute classic and both guys have only improved since then. That said, I don't expect the rematch to live up to the first fight as rematches rarely do, but you're still getting the two best lightweights in the world battling it out. Pettis is the more dynamic striker as his kicks can end your night in a flash. His boxing is still a work in progress, but it's coming along nicely. Henderson isn't a bad striker, but he keeps things simple for the most part and is very patient on the feet. He does a nice job controlling distance with his kicks but he has a tendency to be wild with his boxing. Henderson has really improved his grappling since the first fight. His wrestling has gotten better and his top control is now outstanding. Pettis has improved his wrestling as well but sometimes he feels content to fight off his back, which is never a winning recipe unless he's able to lock in a submission since judges always reward the guy on top, even if the guy on bottom is more active. Henderson isn't above being taken down, but he's very tough to keep down and is great in scrambles. Even though their first fight had plenty of grappling exchanges, I don't expect to see as many in this fight since both guys have improved their grappling and wrestling so much. Maybe we'll see some half-takedowns and scrambles, but I'd be surprised if either man dominated position on the ground. However, if one man is going to dominate position, I expect it to be Henderson. Since I think this will be primarily a striking contest, I have to favor Pettis. He's more technical, has better power, and is also more willing to engage. Henderson's patience can sometimes be a detriment since it doesn't look like he's doing anything while his opponent is landing solid strikes, even if they're not fight enders. Pettis has fight enders though and his kicks will accumulate over the course of 25-minutes. I don't expect this fight to be as wild as their first fight, but I do think it'll be a highly competitive bout between two elite fighters.
Winner: Pettis, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: A big lightweight rematch that is nearly three years in the making. Their first fight was fairly close, and honestly I don't see this one being all that different. Both fighters have grown and changed since their first fight. After the loss to Pettis, a fire was definitely lit under Henderson and he went on an incredible run that led to his capturing the UFC lightweight title. Pettis had to contend with injuries and also overcoming a loss to Clay Guida. Between the two, Henderson has had the tougher gauntlet of opponents and I think that will ultimately work in his favor. I'm predicting Henderson to edge out this rematch and hopefully he will not start as slow as he tends to in previous outings. Henderson's aggression, pace, and the way he just continues to work I think will ultimately win him this bout.
Winner: Ben Henderson, Decision
Alex Rella: Like everybody has already said their first fight was awesome and you really should see it if you haven't already for whatever reason. Since then Pettis missed out on his title shot, lost to Guida, and has finally pushed himself back into a title fight. Henderson has since defeated all the top lightweights in the world. I expect another close title defense for Henderson here. He's improved in all the aspects that made him lose the first fight to Pettis and has become an even better wrestler. I expect it to be incredibly close then.
Winner: Henderson, Decision.
Evan Zivin: Now this will be an interesting fight. They weren't originally scheduled to fight on Saturday but I don't think anyone is upset that it's happening now (well, other than anyone who knows TJ Grant). As everyone knows, this is a rematch of an amazing fight between these two back in December 2010 at the last WEC event. It was a very close fight that turned in Pettis's favor after the infamous Showtime Kick. The career paths the two men have taken since that night have been interesting because, even though Pettis took the WEC Lightweight Championship from Henderson on that night, it's been Henderson who has had the more successful career in the UFC, winning seven straight fights and capturing the UFC Lightweight Championship on the way. Pettis was expected to get a UFC title shot when he entered the company before injuries changed those plans and he ended up losing a decision to Clay Guida. Pettis has been outstanding since then in winning his last three fights, including first round T(KO)'s of Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone. Man, this is a tough fight to call. When Pettis is on, he destroys people. Plus, he has already defeated Henderson and he's confident he can do it again. Henderson, though, has proven that he knows how to win tough fights against guys like Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez. Henderson comes into this fight knowing what to expect out of Pettis and if he can stay aggressive, push the pace, and dump Pettis on his back, Henderson should be able to win this. Henderson will be more motivated to win this fight (and erase the loss) than any of his other UFC fights and, while Pettis may very well win this, I expect Henderson to perform at the top of his game and avoid the mistakes that allowed Pettis to get ahead in their WEC fight. Sorry kids, there ain't gonna be no Showtime Kick this time. Just a dominant champion doing what he does best: not finishing fights. I mean, dominating.
Winner: Ben Henderson, Decision
Paul Lapointe: First off, this card has the main card bouts slated as pickem fights. Almost all bout are 2-1's and that is it. So the fact that the table is perfect across the board is a scary thought. Minus my deviation with Ben. But I digress. Again, watch there last fight, and then watch this fight, rinse and repeat the last bout but subtract the video game kick and you have the UFC's Benson taking a decision. Without that kick it could be argued, Benson won that fight but when you defy logic, gravity and Bruce Lee hit something like that, sure why not take the belt. But when you Benson and are UFC champion you will just gumby' all day long. Pull a Guida, and grind that sucker down into dust for three rounds and then it will get interesting. Will this fight be better then the last fight...um...no. No chance and like alot of people's problems with Benson are anything him winning makes this fight worse already. Pettis is flashy, but Benson is refined...not a finisher but smooth, sorry Milwaukee unless that clucky chicken comes out and hatches, Benson leaves Wisconsin with his best personality in the yearbook fiance and a bunch more cheese in his pocket.
Winner: Benson Henderson, Split Decision, RD5
Robert Winfree: OK, this one wont be a short blurb I think. I love the first fight between these two, it's an absolute classic, but this fight will be different. Both men are different fighters than they were at the final WEC event. Benson Henderson has generally become more aggressive, has more confidence, has improved at fighting at a higher pace, and worked on his wrestling. A failing of his in their first fight was his takedowns were not always set up properly and he couldn't get into the clinch reliably. Both those issues have been fixed in the interim. Pettis has improved his offensive and defensive wrestling, Clay Guida taught him something about that, and remains dynamic with his strikes. Pettis is good at kicking quickly and recovering so he isn't out of position, but I think Henderson will have a better sense of timing in this fight. Henderson will also be more comfortable using positional advantage on the ground instead of trying wild shots or risky submission attempts. This should still be a great fight, but I can't really pick against Henderson here. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Pettis wins though.
Winner: Benson Henderson, Decision
The staff picks Ben Henderson, 5-2.
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