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411's MMA Roundtable Preview - UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Thomson
Posted by Dan Plunkett on 01.24.2014





WELCOME:
Lightweight contenders Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson battle it out in the main event of UFC on Fox Saturday night! In the co-main event, heavyweights clash as Gabriel Gonzaga faces Stipe Miocic. At lightweight, Donald Cerrone fights Adriano Martins. Plus, Darren Elkins vs. Jeremy Stephens, and more!

THE STAFF:

  • From What's Next, Robert Practor!

  • From MMA's 3R's, Jeffrey Harris!

  • From Five Quick Rounds, Evan Zivin!

  • From The Greatest MMA Column, Dan Plunkett!

  • From the Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report, Robert Winfree!

  • From Forgotten Fights, Paul Lapointe!



    THE PRELIMINARY CARD:

    First prelim on UFC Fight Pass, rest air on Fox Sports 1.

    Heavyweight Bout: Walt Harris vs. Nikita Krylov


    Robert Practor: Walt Harris, TKO, Round 2
    Jeffrey Harris: Walt Harris, TKO, Round 2
    Evan Zivin: Walt Harris, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Harris, TKO, Round 2
    Robert Winfree: Walt Harris, TKO Round 1
    Paul Lapointe: Harris, TKO, RD 2
    The staff picks Walt Harris, 6-0.

    Welterweight Bout: George Sullivan vs. Mike Rhodes


    Robert Practor: Mike Rhodes, Decision
    Jeffrey Harris: Mike Rhodes, Decision
    Evan Zivin: George Sullivan, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Sullivan, Decision.
    Robert Winfree: Mike Rhodes, Decision
    Paul Lapointe: Rhodes, Submission, RD1
    The staff picks Mike Rhodes, 4-2.

    Lightweight Bout: Daron Cruickshank vs. Mike Rio


    Robert Practor: Daron Cruickshank, TKO, Round 1
    Jeffrey Harris: Daron Cruickshank, TKO, Round 1
    Evan Zivin: Daron Cruickshank, TKO, Round 1
    Dan Plunkett: Cruickshank, Decision.
    Robert Winfree: Mike Rio, Decision
    Paul Lapointe: Cruickshank, Decision, RD3
    The staff picks Daron Cruickshank, 5-1.

    Bantamweight Bout: Junior Hernandez vs. Hugo Viana


    Robert Practor: Hugo Viana, Decision
    Jeffrey Harris: Hugo Viana, Submission, Round 1
    Evan Zivin: Hugo Viana, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Wolverine, Decision.
    Robert Winfree: Hugo Viana, Decision
    Paul Lapointe: Viana, Decision, RD3
    The staff picks Hugo Viana, 6-0.

    Bantamweight Bout: Chico Camus vs. Yaotzin Meza


    Robert Practor: Chico Camus, Decision
    Jeffrey Harris: Chico Camus, Submission, Round 2
    Evan Zivin: Chico Camus, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Meza, Decision.
    Robert Winfree: Chico Camus, Decision
    Paul Lapointe: Meza, Submission, RD3
    The staff picks Chico Camus, 4-2.

    Bantamweight Bout: Eddie Wineland vs. Yves Jabouin


    Robert Practor: Eddie Wineland, TKO, Round 2
    Jeffrey Harris: Eddie Wineland, Decision
    Evan Zivin: Eddie Wineland, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Wineland, Decision.
    Robert Winfree: Eddie Wineland, TKO Round 2
    Paul Lapointe: Wineland, KO, RD2
    The staff picks Eddie Wineland, 6-0.

    Bantamweight Bout: Alex Caceres vs. Sergio Pettis


    Robert Practor: Sergio Pettis, Decision
    Jeffrey Harris: Sergio Pettis, Decision
    Evan Zivin: Sergio Pettis, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Pettis, Decision.
    Robert Winfree: Sergio Pettis, Decision
    Paul Lapointe: Sergio, Decision, RD3
    The staff picks Sergio Pettis, 6-0.



    MAIN CARD:

    Featherweight Bout: Darren Elkins vs. Jeremy Stephens


    Robert Practor: This is a likely contender for Fight of the Night. Both of these men are hoping to continue to move up the ranks at Featherweight and both have had recent success. I see Elkins using his grappling to push this fight to the distance, where he picks up a close decision.

    Winner: Darren Elkins, Decision

    Jeffrey Harris: Interesting matchup and a great test to see how far Jeremy Stephens can get as a featherweight. Stephens has looked strong and dominant so far, but he hasn't had to fight a tough gritty wrestler like Darren Elkins at featherweight yet. Elkins failed to break into the top five with a loss to Chad Mendes, but Mendes has proven he's an elite featherweight fighter at this point. Elkins rebounded from the loss well with a dominant win over Hatsu Hioki. I think Elkins experience and wrestling skills will give him the edge here. Elkins grinds out a decision here.

    Winner: Darren Elkins, Decision

    Evan Zivin: This is a surprisingly intriguing match-up to open the Fox broadcast. This fight is Stephens's third since dropping down to featherweight. He won his first two fights at 145, including a 40 second head kick knockout of Rony Jason. This is his first real test at the weight, as Elkins has been quite successful in his UFC career, going 6-1 since dropping to featherweight in 2011. Elkins has decent striking but he is also a good grappler and has no issues using it to control a dangerous opponent. I see a lot of clinching and top control in this fight as Elkins looks to negate the powerful brawling style that Stephens has been quite successful with in his career and, while it may not be the most exciting fight, it will get Elkins another victory, which is all that matters to him.

    Winner: Darren Elkins, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: Stephens packs real power in his strikes and should have the striking edge. Elkins is the superior wrestler. I'm leaning towards Elkins in the fight. I think his wrestling will make the difference.

    Winner: Elkins, Decision.

    Robert Winfree: Hopefully this winds up being a fun scrap to kick things off. Darren Elkins has had a decent run, only losing to Chad Mendes, and rebounded from that loss by beating Hatsu Hioki. Jeremy Stephens hasn't lost at featherweight yet, but he hasn't faced a strong wrestler either, so we're going to see if he's got the grappling skills to fend off the takedowns and clinch work of Elkins. There's a couple of reasons I'm leaning towards Stephens here, his size and his punching power. I'm not sure Elkins will be able to deal with getting hit, and I'm pretty confident Stephens will connect at some point.

    Winner: Jeremy Stephens, TKO Round 1

    Paul Lapointe: I must say I am wholly surprised that my fellow writers have all predicated Elkins in this bout. I was sure most were going to throw there hats into the Stephens bandwagon. Colour me impressed. The thing with this match is that Stephens is hella dangerous standing but on the ground he is severely outclassed. Given those assessments Elkins has shown that he cannot withstand a heavy onslaught standing after getting dingered so he should tread lightly. And lastly Stephens has a history of come from behind KO's late in fights so Elkins needs to play the control game. So in the end this is a teeter totter and its either going to be fun or a snoozer.

    Winner: Elkins, Decision, RD3

    The staff picks Darren Elkins, 5-1.



    Lightweight Bout: Donald Cerrone vs. Adriano Martins


    Robert Practor: Donald Cerrone's recent comments about not being well off financially and not being smart with his money were alarming, as fighters only have a small window in which to earn money. 'Cowboy' is 2-2 in his last four and doesn't seem likely to make it any higher in the ranks than he already has been. He doesn't seem to be all there as of late and I see his opponent Adriano Martins being much more hungry and focused coming into this fight and surprise Cerrone by submitting him.

    Winner: Adriano Martins, Submission, Round 2

    Jeffrey Harris: Donald Cerrone made some weird comments and is talking about needing fights because he is broke, but this is really just par for the course for The Cowboy. Cowboy has been saying weird, goofy, and bizarre crap before a lot of his fights. He's talked about going to featherweight before in order to get revenge against Nam Phan for beating up his buddy Leonard Garcia, who he says talked crap about his friend which didn't really happen. Cerrone is a headcase, but he's still one of the more talented lightweight fighters out there. If he takes this fight too lightly, Martins could score quite an upset here, but I don't think that will happen. Cerrone will use his strong striking and grappling skills to get this to the ground before earning the submission.

    Winner: Donald Cerrone, Submission, Round 2

    Evan Zivin: The question that is on most fight fans' minds when looking at this match-up is "Who is Adriano Martins?" We're going to find that out on Saturday. He has 14 finishes in 25 fights (11 by knockout) and won his UFC debut by submitting Daron Cruickshank. Can he beat Cerrone? The Cowboy has been a little inconsistent as of late, dropping a decision to Rafael dos Anjos but rebounding with a submission over Evan Dunham. Cerrone has said that he's had motivation issues that have brought him to the brink of retirement but that he is apparently past that now. Is that true? If Cerrone is on top of his game he should have no issue out-striking and controlling the dangerous Brazilian. I think Cerrone can still get it done but it will be a close fight.

    Winner: Donald Cerrone, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: Cerrone, though talented, is notoriously inconsistent. His opponent, Adriano Martins, is a grappler with strong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu credentials. Martins scored a couple of knockdowns in his November UFC debut against Daron Cruickshank before finding a kimura in the second round. Still, Cerrone should be the better striker, at least as long as he doesn't use the same game plan as he did against Nate Diaz. Cerrone is the more proven fighter and for that I have to have him as the favorite.

    Winner: Cerrone, Decision.

    Robert Winfree: This should be a fun fight. While I have my issues with Donald Cerrone he's rarely in a boring fight and he has the kind of fighting style the UFC loves, so every now and then he'll get a gimme fight. Adriano Martins falls into that role here, he had an impressive win over Daron Cruickshank, but Donald Cerrone is world better than Cruickshank or those on that level. If Martins can get this fight to the ground things will get interesting, but I'm not convinced he can get through the leg kicks, knees, and punches Cerrone will be throwing at him. Cerrone will never be a contender, but he's always good for a watchable fight and that's his job here.

    Winner: Donald Cerrone, TKO Round 2

    Paul Lapointe: I love that Donald Cerrone loves to fight often and early but I still do not like Cerrone himself, he just rubs me the wrong way. Also if you were to have read any of his recent interviews he says he fights because he is mega broke, really? Some also seem to think this matchup makes no sense but I believe Martins is being severely underrated due to lack of exposure. And lastly he gets flustered midway if his gameplan is ineffective to which I say, Adriano drag this to the mat, also early and often.

    Winner: Martins, Submission, RD3

    The staff picks Donald Cerrone, 4-2.



    Heavyweight Bout: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Stipe Miocic


    Robert Practor: Gonzaga is going to need to get this fight to the ground in order to have any success here. If Miocic can keep the fight standing, he should be the quicker, more technical fighter and pick up the decision win.

    Winner: Stipe Miocic, Decision

    Jeffrey Harris: Gabriel Gonzaga tends to be a good test for fighters who eventually become contenders or champions at heavyweight. Case in point, his only UFC losses are to Travis Browne, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, Shane Carwin, and Brendan Schaub. Other than Schaub, all those fighters were or are top level heavyweights in the UFC. Miocic is a well-rounded fighter who I think will give Gonzaga fits. Gonzaga tends to wilt when he's pushed hard in the stand-up. Miocic being a good heavyweight boxer as well as an NCAA Division I caliber wrestler has the skill set to put a stop to Gonzaga.

    Winner: Stipe Miocic, TKO, Round 2

    Evan Zivin: I'm a little conflicted over who I should pick for this fight. The safe bet for everyone seems to be Stipe. The self-professed fan of Mirko Cro Cop has only lost once in 11 fights and is riding high off an impressive, albeit boring, decision win over Roy Nelson. The man definitely has a lot of skill but he hasn't really proven that he's able to hang with the top of the weight class yet. Gonzaga has been somewhat similar in his career in that he has looked brilliant against many of the lesser heavyweights in the UFC but has faltered against top competition and rising stars (like when Junios dos Santos knocked him out). I imagine most people think Stipe will run away with this but I think it will be closer than it seems. I want to see Gonzaga win so I'm going to say that Stipe beats on him for two round before coming out for round three extremely gassed, allowing Gonzaga to open up his strikes, catch Stipe against the fence, and pound on him to take a huge come-from-behind win. Will that happen? Probably not but wouldn't it be so sweet?

    Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga, TKO, Round 3

    Dan Plunkett: Gonzaga always looks great against a certain level of competition but usually falters against the toughest competition. For that reason, this is a good test for Miocic, who picked apart Roy Nelson last June. Gabriel has power in his punches and groin shots and strong grappling. Miocic is the stronger wrestler and has better hands. I think Miocic increases his stock with a win here.

    Winner: Stipe Miocic, Decision.

    Robert Winfree: Gabriel Gonzaga looks like a killer against guys he's supposed to beat, the downside is that against anyone who's got some talent he looks pretty bad against. Stipe Miocic has legitimate skills, his wrestling and boxing background is solid and he rebounded from his only loss in impressive fashion. Gonzaga has power, but if he's going to win here he'll need to get Miocic to the ground and work his submission game. I'm not sure he'll be able to do that without eating a hard punch and mentally crumbling. Miocic has power in his hands and knows how to mix up his striking and wrestling when he needs to, and I think he'll catch Gonzaga with something, Gonzaga will mentally shut down and Miocic will win.

    Winner: Stipe Miocic, TKO Round 1

    Paul Lapointe: The big men commeth! And one could expect a slugfest to which I hope is incorrect. GG's grappling is 2nd to none for a heavyweight and Stipe has proven relatively untested in that departed but his hand power is not. Gonzaga was hit and miss with the big boys in the division for simply trying to stand and bang rather then use his ground game. Though they both can wing at fences all day I see a submission going down here.

    Winner: Gonzaga, Submission, RD3

    The staff picks Stipe Miocic, 4-2.



    Lightweight Bout: Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson


    Robert Practor: Benson Henderson may be in a similar spot to Junior dos Santos in the Heavyweight division, in which they both are likely the top fighter in the division besides the current champion, of which they have been defeated by twice. Josh Thomson was lucky to be given a title shot against Anthony Pettis but that luck went away when Pettis went down with another injury and he is now stuck having to get through Benson Henderson in hopes of getting back to that title fight. I see this one being a close, fun fight, in which Henderson takes the decision.

    Winner: Benson Henderson, Decision

    Jeffrey Harris: A great lightweight fight. For Thomson, he will need a good win here to still be considered a contender to Anthony Pettis. Henderson himself is trying to rebound from losing the title to Pettis. Henderson is coming off a tough loss, but it seems following his losses is when he's poised to go on incredible runs. After he lost the WEC title to Pettis, he went an incredible run where he captured the UFC lightweight title. Thomson is a tough challenge for Henderson, but Henderson with his skills and his style I think favors him in a five round fight. Henderson's aggression and pace will mess up Thomson's rhythm. I think Bendo wins a decision.

    Winner: Benson Henderson, Decision

    Evan Zivin: This is another fight that is going to be closer than most people will give it credit for. Henderson is, of course, the former champion and is looking to get back in the saddle and work his way back towards another shot at trying to defeat the one man who has had his number on two occasions. Thomson is a former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion who was supposed to get a shot at UFC gold in December before Anthony Pettis pulled out over a lingering knee injury. Thomson was in a bit of a funk in 2010 but has looked great since then, winning a thrilling fight against Nate Diaz in his UFC debut last April. The safe bet here is Henderson and while I do agree Henderson has a strong chance at winning this fight with his dominant wrestling, I do also think Thomson has what it takes to beat Henderson. Thomson is similar to Pettis in that he has a good striking game, albeit not as good as Pettis, and a strong ground game and if he can employ the same kind of technical yet aggressive gameplan that Pettis used he can win this fight. I also think Thomson will be coming into this fight a lot more motivated to win than Henderson (trying to earn back the title shot that was taken away from him vs. fighting to earn a shot against a man that has beaten him twice) and I think Thomson is going to shock the world again and get the win. It's going to be a busy weekend for Punks.

    Winner: Josh Thomson, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: Despite Thomson freely admitting he had a poor camp leading into this bout, I'm expecting a very good-to-great fight. Thomson, 35, has looked better than ever in his past two outings – a neck-and-neck decision loss to Gilbert Melendez and a rare stoppage of Nate Diaz. Henderson, along with Melendez, is easily one of the top two most skilled fighters Thomson has faced. Both are strong all-around fighters that won't have any problem fighting for 25 minutes. I think most of the match will be contested standing with some good scrambles thrown in. Ultimately, I'm going with Henderson with the deciding factor being his stronger clinch work, though Thomson will keep things close.

    Winner: Henderson, Decision

    Robert Winfree: I'm actually very excited about this fight, I've never seen a bad Benson Henderson fight and if Josh Thomson's last fight is any indicator he's ready to make a final run towards the top of the division. Henderson will be looking to rebound from his first round submission loss to new champion Anthony Pettis while Thomson will be trying to keep his title shot. Henderson excels at fighting a high paced fight, excels in the clinch, and has proven an incredibly tough fighter to beat, well unless you're Anthony Pettis. Josh Thomson has a good wrestling game, but his kicking offense has been the key to his success lately. Thomson will likely be looking to keep this fight at distance where he can snipe with kicks and avoid being muscled around by Henderson. For Henderson, the clinch is his friend, if he can get Thomson against the fence he can work him over and use his conditioning to wear him down. I have a gut feeling that Thomson's movement will prove problematic, but Henderson is pretty good at making adjustments during a fight. This will likely be the Fight of the Night because both these guys always show up to fight, but I feel like Henderson will be able to out work Thomson.

    Winner: Benson Henderson, Decision

    Paul Lapointe: I expect a hardcore five round war. Thomson can easily go five rounds and Henderson made a living at it as champ so a see saw is in order. Benson can and will be elusive and I cannot for the life of me see The Punk dress down Benson like Pettis did so he will rely on his kickboxing and if that is the case Bendo can survive on points. Thomson wants his title shot and Bendo wants his belt back so a war of attrition is coming and it could get ugly.

    Winner: Henderson, Decision, RD5

    The staff picks Benson Henderson, 5-1.



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