Hey fight fans, we’ve got a bit of a switcheroo with what was once known as UFC 196. I like to think in a weird display of homage, UFC paid tribute to the 30-year anniversary of the ’85 Chicago Bears by having their own Super Bowl Shuffle on the former UFC 196 card, which takes place a day before The Big Game.
What we have now is UFC Fight Night 82, and it starts at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on Fight Pass. Regular prelims are on Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET and the main card is on the same channel at 10 p.m. ET. Before anything else scuttles this card any further, let’s take a look at the predictions. Joining Burnsy and myself this week are Uproxx’s Ryan Harkness and Jason Nawara. Returning is our good friend and host of The MMA Hour Eric Jackman. We are also joined by a few new pals, like Enrique Ortiz, Jamie Tysseling, Justin Golightly, Marty G, Cage Potato’s own Jared Jones, Parker Holland, who assigned fighters classes from Dungeons & Dragons, and Suzanne Davis‘ special pal, “Dr. Vet”, who used the criteria of “which fighter is likelier to run into a burning building to rescue a dog” to make his predictions.
2016 Important Results:
Featherweight – Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov vs. Alex “Spartan” White
Jessica: It’s weird, Lobov and his full diaper gait was touted as a terrifying knockout machine on TUF, and I guess he kinda was, but he was also fighting some absolute dregs. His regular record doesn’t feature a ton of stoppage wins, so maybe that’s why he’s dropping to featherweight here. I like Alex White, he’s got a good story. Hopefully he completely embraces the “drank gas as a kid” aspect and starts getting billed from the Fury Road or the Bullet Farm. I’m taking White to deliver a high octane ass whooping to Artem and snag a second round KO.
Burnsy: Poor, sweet, gas-drinking Alex White. He captured our hearts with a win in his UFC debut, and he has sucked ever since. This could be a pink slipper for the opening act star, and I’m just not confident. I’ll take Lobov to win.
Enrique: Defense-less punch fest, huzzah! White has the more technical boxing ability; he’s probably more well rounded, and a better fighter in general. Lobov enjoys doing absolutely nothing that isn’t counter punching, but he’s a competent counter puncher and has solid takedown and submission defense. Even though White is more diverse and has solid pop in his hands, his complete lack of defense makes me think he’s going to get his proverbial block knocked off due to a huge Russian Hammer in a decent fight. So, I guess, Lobov by TKO, Round 2.
Eric Jackman: I’m going with Artem Lobov because like me, he doesn’t suffer fools on Twitter. If you talk sh*t to Artem Lobov, expect to get it right back. I love this almost as much as his stance on weight-cut selfies:
I may have a crush on Artem Lobov. The Russian Hammer handles Alex White like a Twitter troll.
Dr. Vet: Lobov (Treat)
Marty: The Spartan is staring at being kicked off the pink slip cliff. I can’t imagine he’ll cling to Lobov like a leech the way Ryan Hall did at the Ultimate Fighter finale, but I’m expecting White to use that time off to his advantage here. W: Alex White
Jared: From the worst TUF Finale fight of all time to the Fight Pass curtain-jerker – woe is truly you, Artem. This is going to be one of those fights where both guys just swang them bungalows until one of them falls over, and despite his .500 record, I see Lobov landing the fight-ending shot first.
Welterweight – Mickey Gall vs. Mike “The Truth” Jackson
Jessica: If Gall loses, I assume Dana White will just grab a janitor and have that guy be CM Punk’s first opponent. That dog won’t hunt, so let’s go with Gall to submit Jackson in the second.
Burnsy: What the hell is even happening here? Mike Jackson is 0-1 in his amateur career and has no pro fights, so he gets to come to the UFC and fight Mickey-f*cking-Gall in a weird play-in contest for CM Punk’s debut. The whole thing is just stupid at this point. Punk’s transition should have been a reality series, first and foremost, instead of Punk just showing up at UFC press events and answering dumb questions. If we have to wait for-freaking-ever to see this dude’s (and I’m predicting here) lousy, sloppy debut, we should have been able to watch him train and learn the fun way that MMA is really hard. But what cracks me up here is that Gall has to win in his debut to face Punk. Gall has fought before! Sure, it’s something called Dead Serious MMA, but he’s 1-0. Punk is 0-0 and we have no clue if he even knows what a rear-naked choke is. Ultimately, Gall gets more experience and Punk keeps training. Here’s my prediction: Gall beats Jackson in a dumb fight and then he beats Punk in a dumber fight.
Enrique: Lol. Gall by CM Punk callout, Round 1.
Eric Jackman: This is where everybody else will do a Michael Jackson joke. I will not take the bait –being a superior being – and instead simply pick Mickey Gall to win the CM Punk sweepstakes. Mike Jackson is actually a really interesting character, serving as both media member and (now) UFC fighter, but Mickey has a date with destiny.
Dr. Vet: Sorry, Mr. Jackson. Gall is for real.
Pick: Mickey Gall (via Gall Stones)
Marty: This is our awesome Fight Pass feature. I kid. I could go on and on about these two, but then I’d be in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe, so…I’ll just pick the guy making his pro debut, since nothing would be funnier than having Dana’s plan for CM Punk go up in a bald man’s rage-inducing smoke. W: Mike Jackson
Parker: The Bard Mickey Gall is going from singing for his supper at the local level to performing for kings while The Paladin Mike Jackson (“The Truth” if you’re nasty) is just being strung along. Both are straight out of the tavern but Gall will only need his cantrips for this one. He uses his Prestidigitation to make it appear Jackson has crapped his pants from being on a stage this big, followed by True Strike resulting in a rear-naked choke in the first round.
Jared: Jesus, what a mess this fight is. In one corner, you’ve got a 1-0 prospect, I guess you’d call him, who earned his way into the UFC via the uncommon “Dana White’s online reality show” route, and in the other, you’ve got a 0-0 kickboxer/photographer who’s 0-1 as an amateur dating back to 2009. I could not give less of a f*ck about this fight, or CM Punk for that matter. Gall.
Featherweight – Noad “Neo” Lahat vs. Diego “Pitbull” Rivas
Jessica: The only thing that sticks in my mind about Noad is that huge flying knee KO he took from Godofredo Pepey a few years back. I was honestly surprised to see that’s the only fight he’s lost so far, because I’ve gotten to the point that I can’t remember dudes and their records and what they’ve done recently any more (When is Caol Uno gonna fight again, by the way?). Rivas is apparently a TUF Latin America guy, which I wouldn’t know, since I only watch regular America TUF. I’m protracting this because I don’t think either guy is all that good and I can’t hone in on any one thing about either that will make me love or hate them. Ehhh, I’ll go with Noad to win by decision because his last name is Spanish for “The Hat.”
Burnsy: I’ll take Lahat’s experience here. All I want from him is to change his nickname to “Avoid the” Noad Lahat.
Enrique: Lahat is a solid low-level featherweight, with competent if not meat-and-potatoes striking and a smothering top game. Rivas is the archetypal “Latin America isn’t quite there in MMA yet” fighter, with decent combination striking but not much else. Size and strength should get Neo the clean decision here, with a strong possibility for a finish on the ground. Lahat by Unanimous Decision.
Eric Jackman: Nothing cheeky to say here. Noad Lahat should grind out a decision.
Dr. Vet: There are two guys here with the name “Pitbull”.
Pick: “The Big” Grabowski and Diego Rivas (via Pack Mentality)
Marty: Frankly, I have a soft spot for fighters that serve in the military, no matter their nation, and Lahat fits that description. Plus, he’s won both fights since debuting with a meal of an awesome Godofredo Pepey flying knee. On the other side, how much development/cage rust will Rivas show in his first fight since debuting in the UFC over a year ago? W: Noad Lahat
Jared: Diego Rivas is nicknamed “Pitbull.” PITBULL. You know, like Andrei Alovski, Patricio Freire, Bethe Correia, and approximately 197 other fighters. It is said that creativity is the mark of a true champion, and choosing a nickname as unoriginal as “Pitbull” tells me that Rivas is anything but an outside of the box thinker. Lahat all day.
Flyweight – Ray “The Tazmexican Devil” Borg vs. Justin “Tank” Scoggins
Jessica: This fight is a big ol’ jerk, because I’m a fan of both dudes and don’t want to see anyone lose. I’m pulling for Scoggins here for two reasons. One, he’s got a super cute doggie, and two, he’s in more danger of getting cut with a loss. This fight should be scrappy and scrambley and rad and I’m taking Scoggins by decision.
Burnsy: I was happy that Scoggins got back on the winning side in his last fight, but Borg is on a hot tear. BORG! BORG! BORG! BORG!
Enrique: I hate this fight. Sean Shelby matched up the two hottest up-and-comers at 125 against each other in a high risk-low reward matchup. That said, I love this fight, and it’s one of the best fights on the card. Borg is a machine on the ground and may be one of the strongest dudes at flyweight, with a specialty in reactive takedowns and an aggressive, non-stop-submission-hunting top game. Scoggins is a well-rounded dude with a preference to have the fight on the feet, where he likes to dictate the pace and employs his karate-like striking style with a strong transition-based MMA game. I see two possible outcomes here: either Borg hangs with Scoggins on the feet and manages to work chain wrestling and outwork him on the ground, or Scoggins defends the takedowns well, picks Borg apart on the feet, and takes the upset victory. I’m siding with the latter, but I’m not terribly convinced. Scoggins by Split Decision.
Eric Jackman: Considering his over 25-year career as a hall-of-fame hockey player, it’s surprising that Ray Borg has had such incredible success in his second career as an MMA fighter. You can’t teach that kind of toughness, so expect Borg to grab Scoggins by his Reebok kit and rattle a few teeth.
Dr. Vet: Scoggins (Treat)
Jared: Borg via some nasty submission.
Heavyweight – Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis vs. Damian “The Polish Pitbull” Grabowski
Jessica: Wait, this dude is a heavyweight and he *DIDN’T* go with Damian “The Big” Grabowski? Boo this man! He is very grappley, which isn’t good for Lewis’ chances, but nuts to that. Black Beast’s kids continue to be very hungry, so he punches the holy heckums out of Grabowski’s grill, getting a first round KO.
Burnsy: How can the UFC add some talent to the heavyweight division? I’m really not sure, but bringing in a 35-year-old who hasn’t fought in over a year isn’t a good sign. I love Lewis and I wish he could find his stride and threaten this weak as hell division, but this doomed PPV has broken my spirit, so I have no faith in the heavyweights. Grabowski will win and then lose to Travis Browne, who will assume the interim title in a joint ceremony with his neanderthal nuptials with Ronda Rousey.
Enrique: Grabowski finally makes his UFC debut after years on the European circuit against THE BLACK BEAST. While THE BLACK BEAST isn’t particularly great anywhere, his nickname implies his game. He’s a BEAST, and he will eat your consciousness as a snack if you leave your chin up for too long. I still think Grabowski’s grappling will be too much for him, however, as Lewis’ has shown to be quite sub-par. Grabowski by Sub, Round 2.
Eric Jackman: Derrick Lewis has stupid power. If The Black Beast doesn’t get wrestlef*cked, we’re likely to see Grabowski on the wrong end of some hammers. Always bet on [the] Black [Beast].
Dr. Vet: There are two guys here with the name “Pitbull”.
Pick: “The Big” Grabowski and Diego Rivas (via Pack Mentality)
Marty: Big Boy Fight! The new Pole’s got some ground game to his credit, and it is a heavyweight fight so anything could happen, but I’m picking the Black Beast to unleash some destruction on another skull, one that couldn’t make it stick in Bellator. W: Derrick Lewis
Parker: This one is not going to take long. The Barbarian Black Beast likes to start his fights in a rage and usually tires quickly. Unfortunately for him the Monk Grabowski is going to have his Ki focused and after the beast tires out the Pitbull will submit his foe in the third.
Jared: Derrick Lewis is one of those heavyweights who has just never impressed me. He’s got 1 punch knockout power, sure, but what 265 pound man doesn’t? And other than that, Lewis is spectacular only in his mediocrity. He’s going to lose this fight, then probably go back to KOing out of shape dads in local events held in VFW parking lots.
Lightweight – Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkina vs. KJ “King Karl” Noons
Jessica: Much like Clarence Byron Dolloway, I also want to see bad things happen to Karl James Noons (STOP DUCKING KRAZY HORSE). I’m really surprised that at his point in his career Burkman is dropping a weight class, and fully expect him to be a very interesting shade of purple during his walkout. Noons has a technical boxing advantage, but I think that Josh should have more power in his strikes, and sometimes that’s what counts for way more. Burkman hurts KJ on the feet and finishes him off on the ground. I was going to say he snags a sub like the Fitch fight, but nah, it’ll be a TKO win for the American Who Hit U fighter. Burkman takes it in the first.
Burnsy: Who did we piss off to get this turd sandwich of a fight? The loser better get pink-slipped. The UFC just cut a ton of guys and these two are somehow still employed? Whatever. Noons will lose and leave.
Enrique: I hate referring to both of these guys as has-beens, but they kinda are. This is also the most “loser leaves town” fight I’ve seen in a while (and is also Burkman’s first fight at 155). Burkman likes doing…all the things. He’s a good striker who works out of both stances comfortably and has very solid power, while he has competent everything-else. Noons is basically a one-dimensional pocket boxer who relies on head movement and counter combinations to either knock you out or take comfortable decisions. Burkman should win here, but there are issues. He relies a lot on natural athleticism to get victories and, while still 35, he’s been competing for 13 years now and that athleticism seems to be fading. On top of that, we don’t know how he’ll look shedding 15 extra pounds, post-IV ban and everything. Still, I’m hoping his much more diverse game can overcome those question marks and take a clean decision from Noons by picking him apart from long range with weird side kicks and mixing in the occasional double leg. Burkman by Unanimous Decision.
Eric Jackman: Burkman, the People’s Warrior, the most electrifying man in… Utah…… is going whip KJ Noons’s monkey ass all over the people’s cage. If yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa smeeeeeeeeeeeeellllalalalalalallallllaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwww what the Josh.
But really, Burkman has the tools to beat a game Noons if he stays aggressive. He’s had some dubious gameplans in the past, but I like Burkman in a potentially ugly affair.
Dr. Vet: Burkman (Treat)
Jason: K.J. Noons (!!!)
Jared: This is perhaps the most glaring “loser leaves town” matchup of the year, and really comes down to who you think has lost more pep in their step over the years. For me, it’s Noons, so I like Burkman to finally score a win. The fact that he’s dropping to 155 for the first time in his career at 35 years old makes me nervous, though.
Welterweight – Mike “Quicksand” Pyle vs. Sean “Black Magik” Spencer
Jessica: Mike friggin Pyle and Mike friggin Pyle’s friggin mullet are two of my favorite things about this card. Other than getting robbed against Cathal Pendred, I don’t really remember anything about Spencer. Let’s go with Mike Pyle, Mike Pyle’s mullet and Mike Pyle’s mullet’s fishing company here. Pyle wins by second round TKO.
Burnsy: Okay, another pink slipper in Pyle taking on one of the most average fighters in the business. Spencer is win one/lose on over his last four, and he’s technically due to win this one. So I’ll say Spencer wins this or whatever. Seriously, this card is unbelievably bad.
Ryan Harkness: Mike Pyle is one of those fighters who is way better than his recent record indicates. While he’s gone 1-3 over his past four fights, I still have complete faith that this 40 year old dog still has enough tricks in him to take out Sean Spencer. If he can’t, it might be time for him to consider hanging up the gloves. Still hoping for a Pyle R1 KO.
Enrique: I don’t know what it is about this fight, but I hate it. Even when it was booked for UFC 187 in May last year, I just went “bleh.” Pyle is the definition of “crafty veteran,” being decent in every phase of the game. Spencer is a high pace volume striker with a pretty strong jab, counter left hook, and straight right hand, but not much else that defines his game. Either you think Pyle is still decent at 40 years old and can outwork Spencer in the clinch, get him down, and grind/choke him out, or Spencer can keep him away and make this a pure striking battle to take a clean decision. I’ll say the younger Spencer has made enough tangible improvements to dictate where the fight takes place. Spencer by Unanimous Decision.
Jamie: Please, Violence Jesus, let Spencer punch the stupid f*cking mullet off Mike Pyle’s stupid f*cking head. Spencer, KO, round 1.
Justin: Both of these guys have not been that impressive. Mike Pyle is a veteran and has over double the wins that Sean Spencer has. As far as statistics go, Pyle is better in every aspect of the game compared to Spencer. If everything goes the way reality and deductive logic dictates, I’m going with Pyle via KO in the second round.
Eric Jackman: I have no idea what to make of 40-year-old Mike Pyle, who hasn’t looked great lately. He still has a few moments in every fight that make you remember his incredible talent, but he’s never been able to put it all together for a run at the top. And it might be too late. Spencer is not elite, but he’s tough and he can crack. Pyle will finish him if he’s not careful, but I can’t shake the feeling that Spencer is meeting Pyle on the way down and has the advantage.
Dr. Vet: He has a dog named “Bruno” and suggests that you stand still and let him finish.
Pick: Mike Pyle (via Leg Hump)
Jason: Mike Pyle is the most dangerous man with a mullet since Billy Ray Cyrus. But he’s also 40-years-old. Luckily for him, Sean Spencer isn’t a world beater. Why is this on the main card? Mike Pyle
Marty: Mike Pyle’s been around a looong time; his pro debut was against an also-debuting Rampage Jackson in 1999. (Party!) That said, maybe he’s coming to the end, losing three of his last four. Spencer’s 3-2 in his last five that should really be 4-1, but despite that, he’s still on the upswing, and I think that continues here with another decision. W: Sean Spencer
Parker: The Veteran Ranger Pyle’s best days are behind him. His days are spent guarding the UFC kingdom from younger adventurers and he can still spring a trap from time to time. The Warlock Spencer has seen his powers guarantee victory as well as seal defeat. While continually engaging his opponents with an assortment of spells, sometimes they have not been enough to convince on lookers of his victory. When the dust settles both will have come close to victory at different points, but Spencer will move on with a majority decision win.
Jared: How do you bet on a Mike Pyle fight? The guy is two completely different animals in the octagon depending on what day you see him, and has been steadily slipping over the years, He has the kind of skillset that should be able to make mincemeat out of Spencer, but I just can’t put enough confidence in the guy to pick him here. Spencer.
Light Heavyweight – Misha Cirkunov vs. Alex “The Spartan” Nicholson
Jessica: Nicholson went 3-6 on the amateur circuit before turning pro, and he somehow has done okay since then. I’m going to take Cirkunov by decision for not having a terrible run on the ammies.
Burnsy: Why didn’t the UFC make this the night of Spartans? Have every fighter with the nickname Spartan battle guys making their debut. All the while, CM Punk sits on a throne and throws chicken bones and slop into the octagon. Meanwhile, Nicholson is the newest Spartan. I can think of five Spartans in the UFC off the top of my head. My idea is good, people. Anyway, Cirkunov wins.
Ryan Harkness: Cirkunov is coming into this fight with some crazy hype behind him and is expected to steamroll UFC newcomer Alex Nicholson. But Alex may put up a better fight than most people expect – he’s coming into the big leagues off some fast and brutal wins over fighters who were undefeated until meeting ‘The Spartan.’ If you’re into betting fast and loose on crazy underdogs, you can get Nicholson at up to +750, which means a $100 bet would win you $750. Me, I’m expecting Cirkunov to take it, back and forth gunslinging R1 KO styles.
Enrique: There’s two things I know about this fight: 1. Cirkunov is an actual prospect at 205, which is more astounding to hear than “Cirkunov is an actual unicorn.” 2. I have no idea who Alex Nicholson is, I have no idea what his game is based on, and I’m not going to pretend that I do. Cirkunov is a strong, well-rounded guy with a very good judo-based clinch game. When he gets you down, he’ll drop bombs methodically while attempting to get to a dominant position and hunt for a submission, or keep dropping bombs until you go night-night. Nicholson is a person. Cirkunov by Submission, Round 1.
Jamie: Whothef*ck? Why in the name of Odin’s electric pubes is this a main card fight? Cirkunov by f*ck it I don’t even know.
Justin: I’m not even going to pretend, I don’t know much about these guys. What I do know however, is that any time I’ve bet against a Russian guy or anyone with the a name ending in -nov, I’ve lost money. I’ve got Cirkunov by decision.
Eric Jackman: Google “Misha Cirkunov,” look at his lats, get your lazy ass off the computer and into the gym. Cirkunov via superior genetics.
Dr. Vet: Nicholson (Treat)
Jared: It’s great that Nicholson made the most out of the weigh-ins for this event, because his octagon debut is going to be both incredibly brief and unmemorable, in that the only thing he will remember from it will be the ride to the hospital.
Flyweight – Joseph “Joe B-Wan Kenobi” Benavidez vs. Zach “Fun Size” Makovsky
Jessica: Hooo doggie, this should be a neato fight. Or maybe it’ll be garbage juice. Makovsky hasn’t exactly thrilled me since taking the leap from Bellator. Benavidez has all of the skills to smash Fun Size into whatever smaller unit of candy measurement there is. Bite Size, probably. I’m thinking the grappling will be negated, unless Joe B catches Makovsky with a surprise Joa Constrictor guillotine. And that’s kind of how I see things going. Benavidez lands some big time power, gets Fun Size all wobbly, and then Joe jumps onto a fight ending choke. Benavidez wins by submission in the second.
Burnsy: You’re our only hope, Joe B. Okay, not our only hope, but this card is going to be desperate for excitement by the time this fight starts, in between a sh*tload of commercials. Joe B. should win this one easily.
Ryan Harkness: If there’s one bit of criticism I can level at the flyweight division, it’s that the rankings seem pretty locked in place. Demetrious Johnson sits on his throne atop the division and isn’t going anywhere soon. Likewise, I don’t see anyone knocking Benavidez out of his spot as perennial No. 1 contender. Makovsky is going down. Benavidez by submission, R2.
Enrique: With Junior dos Santos having lost to someone other than the champion in his last fight, Joseph Benavidez is officially the most JDSzoned fighter in the UFC (Chad Mendes being a close second). Joe-B is really good everywhere. He’s crafty and diverse in the stand up, comfortable in both stances with a preference for cutting angles using aggressive punch-kick-knee combinations. He’s also a really talented wrestler, offensively and defensively, and has the ability to mix up this wrestling with the rest of his game beautifully and effortlessly. The strongest part of his game lies in scrambles and transitions, with an affinity for the front headlock as well as finding the back. Makovsky is, essentially, just a wrestler. His striking is purely a means to get him in the clinch or disguise strong single-leg attempts. Once in top control, he likes to stay there and control. Not exactly a lay n’ prayer, but almost. If you get back to the feet, he’ll go back to taking you down. This is a really tough fight for Makovsky. While he’s a very solid fighter, and likely a top 10 flyweight, I don’t see how he wins this unless Benavidez has suddenly and shockingly declined in skill and athleticism. And he hasn’t. I don’t want to underestimate Makovsky but, stylistically, this is a very difficult fight for him. Benavidez takes a very, very clean decision with a strong possibility of a guillotine in the final frame. Benavidez by Unanimous Decision.
Jamie: Goddamnit. I’m such a huge mark for Joe-B-Wan Kenobi. But with the drama surrounding TAM, his splitting time between TAM, Jackson’s, and Peanut Butter Punchers or whatever Duane’s team is called, this is the kind of fight that he’s gonna lose badly. Makovsky, Round 1 sub.
Justin: I can’t help but feel for Joseph Benavidez. He’s the undisputed No. 2 guy in the division. His only losses are to Dominick Cruz and the champion Demetrious Johnson. Zach Makovsky’s resume? Not that impressive. It’s pretty easy to figure out that this is a set-up for DJ v.s. Benavidez III. After all, there are not many options for DJ besides Cejudo, rematches or Cruz II at a catchweight. I’ve got Benavidez here by submission in Round 2.
Eric Jackman: Decision tree for predicting a Joseph Benavidez fight:
Is he fighting Demetrious Johnson?
· If yes, do not pick him.
· If no, proceed to the next question.
Is he fighting Dominick Cruz?
· If yes, do not pick him.
· If no, pick him.
Dr. Vet: Recused. (Pre-knowledge of Joe Benavidez’s love of dogs.)
Pick: Joe Benavidez (via Joe Shih Tzu)
Jason: I’ve been a fan of both of these guys for what seems like forever. It’s the case of Benavidez doing what he does, and beating everyone but the champ, and Makovsky finally turning into the beautiful butterfly of destruction that he always should’ve been. Which will win out? I don’t know. I really don’t. Joe B
Marty: I’ve been back and forth about this fight for a few days. Makovsky showed impressive striking speed and adaptation against John Dodson, maybe the fastest flyweight not currently holding the title; his wrestling is his greatest strength, but couldn’t get/keep Dodson down. He also hasn’t been able to beat a top-level opponent yet in the UFC. I think Benavidez has superior (sneaky) striking, and pairing that with his ground game will keep him undefeated against people not named Johnson or Cruz. W: Joseph Benavidez
Parker: The Halfling Druid Benavidez can’t seem to beat the dungeons final boss no matter how much he levels up beforehand. Meanwhile, the Fun Size Fighter Makoysky looks to step up in competition but might not be leveled up high enough to handle his foe. Benavidez will outwit Fun Size on his way to a one sided decision victory.
Jared: Benavidez may never be a champion, but the guy is about as consistent a fighter as you will ever see. He just has more ways to win this than Makovsky, and now that he’s joined team snake in the grass out in Colorado, I see him outstriking and counter-wrestling Makovsky en route to a decision win.
Light Heavyweight – Ovince “OSP” St. Preux vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante
Jessica: I know it was super early into Yoel’s career, but it still astounds me that Romero lost to the lump of butt that Cavalcante has become. OSP tends to lose to guys that are just super good at out-grappling him, and I don’t know, I just don’t see that out of Ralphie Beans. As aways, I’m down with OSP, yeah you know me. St. Preux wins by second round TKO.
Burnsy: Whenever OSP seems to be hitting his stride, he chokes and lets us down. He’s not quite there yet, even though he thinks he is. This is as gimme as a gimme fight can get. OSP should win easily, and that sucks because we’re in for so many commercials, you guys.
Ryan Harkness: This is another one of those battles between former Strikeforce fighters, and if it had gone down a few years ago under that banner I’d have chosen Cavalcante. But over the past three years Cavalcante has struggled with consistency. He still shows flashes of brilliance, but keeps losing fights he should win. Meanwhile, Ovince Saint Preux has been winning big and looking good even in losses. I pick OSP via TKO R2.
Enrique: This could be really depressing, or really fun. Feijão is a good striker with a lot of power in his right hand and above average low kicks. He has a good sprawl and defends takedowns well against the fence, generally. St. Preux is a violent, quick, explosive man. He’s got vicious round kicks and a good fading left hook as his counter of choice. He sets the distance with front kicks and counters well with punches when the opponent tries to charge in through that distance. He’s got explosive shot takedowns and has a very solid sprawl for the first three minutes of the fight, which brings up OSP’s top flaw: cardio. When guys can get him out of the first frame, it’s a whole different ball game. Still, Feijão doesn’t have great cardio himself and has seemed like something of a “what if” in recent fights against strong wrestlers in Cummins and Bader. Of course, OSP does not fight like either Cummins or Bader, but I’m thinking he mixes in his very explosive double leg in with his strikes and manages to pound out Cavalcante in the first. If this were to go past the first, it could turn into a very sloppy kickboxing match. St. Preux by TKO, Round 1.
Jamie: Feijao has yet to do anything to impress me. OSP never looks like anything special, but he’s decisively beat much better fighters. OSP, knockout, Round 2-ish
Justin: This couldn’t be a more even fight. Ovince Saint Preux has wins over Patrick Cummins and Shogun but lost to Ryan Bader, while Rafael Calvalcante’s latest losses are Cummins and Bader. I don’t really know how to go on this one and I don’t feel it will be very exciting. I’m going with O.S.P. via unanimous decision.
Eric Jackman: OSP is better everywhere.
Dr. Vet: Saint Preux played football for the University of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee has a real-live dog mascot named “Smokey”. The current Smokey is Smokey the IXth. From a long line of volunteer Smokeys. There were VIII before him, and there shall be VIII+ after. But there can only be one…at a time.
Lock of the Night.
Pick: Ohhh, Vince St. Preux (via Preuxvian Necktie)
Jason: Throw out Ovince Saint Preux vs Rafael Cavalcante, this is OSP vs Feijao (Bean). This should be a great, hard hitting fight that will actually bring some clarity to the back-half of the LHW top ten. I think OSP will get the decision with his mix of takedowns and improved striking, but Feijao has one-punch power of greatness. Remember – he’s the only man to defeat Yoel Romero. Feijao
Marty: This one’s easier for me to choose. The reach (assuming he uses it properly,) the steady improvement, and looking to get back on track after losing to Glover Teixeira by beating down a guy that’s probably getting cut either way. W: Ovince Saint Preux
Parker: The Rogue Bean Cavalcante has been rolling low on his back stab attempts lately while the Fighter OSP looks to shake off his most recent submission defense failure. Both strike hard and prefer to win or lose their encounters at the end of a fist, not leaving the outcome to chance. OSP walks away with the exp bonus after an action surge in the second round gives him the TKO win.
Jared: Am I insane to think that you’d have to be insane to pick Feijao here? The guy just doesn’t have it anymore, and worse, he doesn’t even look like he wants to be in there. OSP wins this easy.
Heavyweight – Roy “Big Country” Nelson vs. Jared “The Big Show” Rosholt
Jessica: BEEF BOYZ, but not the good kind, like you want. If Nelson can’t get a first round KO, there’s no way it’ll be a good fight. Rosholt is content to hug and smother and do tepid wrestling, while Nelson tends to just absorb punishment and wheeze. I’m hoping and praying that everyone is spared an awful 15 minutes, and say that Nelson scores a first round knockout.
Burnsy: How are we at a point in the UFC’s heavyweight existence where the best healthy fighters are Ben Rothwell and Jared Rosholt? Nelson, meanwhile, has been atrocious, losing five of his last six. It’s depressing because we love Nelson, obviously, but come on. We’re beyond the point where Nelson could make a comeback and compete for the title. I just want him to win this fight and announce that he’ll focus on training young heavyweights to save this sh*t division. But Rosholt is gonna win.
Ryan Harkness: I am not a Jared Rosholt fan. His last two fights were absolute pure stank stinkfests, and the five UFC fights before that weren’t much better. Roy Nelson is on a pretty rough 1-5 skid right now, but those losses are to the top names in the division. Rosholt is the soft rebound he needs to get back into the W column. Whether he can overcome Jared’s propensity to make every fight he’s in suck is the only queston. Nelson via R2 KO, please.
Enrique: BIG HOMIE BIG COUNTRY IN THE HOUSE BABY. Roy Nelson is a right hand, Rosholt is a grinder. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Rosholt’s knockout loss to that Russian dude that beat Cro Cop and hasn’t fought in a year and a half. So, Nelson by the biggest of countries, Round 2.
Jamie: Sweet merciful f*ck, this is somehow going to suck even more dicks. And the worst Goddamn thing is that it’s an easy fight to get excited about. Think about it. Boring, terribad fat heavyweight against dude with enough punch power to kill a sasquatch? That sounds like a recipe for OVERHAND RIGHT, UNCONSCIOUS LESSER ROSHOLT, BELLY RUB, right? HAHAHAHAHA NO YOU’RE AN IDIOT. These are heavyweights. These are old, fat, unathletic heavyweights. These two men have more breast tissue than my last four girlfriends combined. This will be less an exchange of fisticuffs, and more a minute or two of sloppy punches that inevitably devolves into a strange mating ritual where a walrus and a hippopotamus attempt to drown each other in a torrent of moob sweat. The fight gods hate us, and if you’re excited about this fight, f*ck you. You’re why the fight gods hate us. Nelson, round 3 submission (asphyxiation on sweat)
Justin: I love watching Roy Nelson. The guy doesn’t even look like he belongs in the UFC but he has KO power if he even touches you with either of his ham bones and he has a black belt in BJJ under Renzo Gracie. However, after losing to Hunt, Overeem and Barnett, Nelson really needs to pull out a win over Jared Rosholt to stay a live dog. With the Heavyweight division kind of up in the air, I think this is the time for Nelson to really make a resurgence. With decision victories over Soa Palelei and Stefan Struve, Rosholt still hasn’t impressed me too much and it just feels like Nelson has the better skills to win this fight wherever it takes place. I’m calling either a boring decision for Nelson or a KO/Sub victory in the second round.
Eric Jackman: It’s been a while since Big Country put somebody down with the fastball. That drought ends on Saturday as Rosholt shoots in for a sloppy takedown and gets blasted.
Dr. Vet: Are we sure that this picture wasn’t taken immediately after a fire? I’m positive that that’s a cat on his face. Maybe a marmot.
Pick: Roy Nelson (via Mastiff Over-hand Bite)
Jason: Oh, this is happening? Cool. I expect this to be an early KO for Roy Nelson, or a 3-round decision win for Rosholt. There’s no other way this matchup can end. Nelson
Marty: This one’s going to make me sad. Big Country’s always been a fun fighter to watch, fun to root for, but he’s looked rather overmatched in his last three fights, all losses, all against current top 10 guys. Rosholt manages to press on his opponents for wins. Literally, he leans on them and/or lies on top of them. He’s like a Muk with a US flag tattoo. W: Jared Rosholt
Parker: It’s a battle of Barbarians! Nelson has traditionally walked the path of the berserker, absorbing all damage thrown his way while countering with clubbing blows. His campaign has been long, and loses at the hands of other adventurers have begun to pile up.
Rosholt prefers to use his bear totem to slowly smother his prey. Not making any sudden movements, he takes them to the ground, taking little damage, and after what feels like an agonizingly long battle, he is eventually declared the victor.
Rosholt would do well to take Nelson down early in their grapple. Nelson will swing with wild abandon early and often, but Rosholt will hold him down and smother him to emerge victorious when the time limit expires.
Jared: This is one of those fights where I could see the octagon giving way following a particularly vicious Rosholt takedown – you know, like when Mark Henry suplexed the Big Show off the turnbuckle. Nelson is about due for a win that reminds us of his patented punching power and Roshol-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Welterweight – Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
Jessica: A karate man versus a wrestler usually means an unpleasant trip to hug town, but I don’t know with this one. Hendricks does love showing off that HE HITS HORD, SO GALLDURN HORD, Y’ALL. Thompson’s only beat one decent wrestler, and that was against Jake Ellenberger after the Juggernaut got ruined by Edmond Tarvedyan. Johny should be smart enough to wrestle Stephen into a paste, or at least coarse-ground grits, but then again, you’d think he’d be smart enough to not think that owning a steak house would mean he’d never worry about missing weight. Screw it, Johny’s dumb, and not even the charmingly endearing kind of thick you get with labradors, so I’m going with Thompson here. Wonderboy uses karate and scores himself a third round knockout.
Burnsy: Let’s take a look at the new and improved Bigg Rigg, ladies and gentlemen…
That’s a welcome sight. It’s been frustrating as hell to be this guy’s biggest fan and watch him struggle with weight when he should be preparing for his epic rematch with Robbie Lawler. The UFC needs another amazing fight out of them, so Hendricks is back, baby, and he wins this one fast and furious, and he’s back in the title picture.
Ryan Harkness: I love Stephen Thompson. That being said, this is a terrible stylistic matchup for him. Hendricks is gonna wrassle Wonderboy to the ground and pin him there where his flashy karate kicks won’t be worth spit. The real question surrounding this is whether he’s content to ride out a decision or if he manages to recapture some of that heavy handed knockout mojo that took him to the top of the welterweight division. Hendricks via decision.
Enrique: I’m actually pretty nervous for this fight, as these are two of my favorite fighters at 170. Yes, I’m a Hendricks fan. And no, I don’t care that the cool kids don’t like Hendricks anymore. Hendricks, once just a very good wrestler with a mean left hand, has turned into a really good striker over the years. He employs a dutch-style, high volume striking game, with a preference for the 1-2 followed by a vicious low kick. His jab is stinging, and while he hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2012, his left hand is still just as powerful (plus, look at who he’s faced since knocking out Kampmann: Carlos Condit, GSP, Robbie Lawler x2, and Matt Brown. You get me a more iron-chinned list of welterweights and I’ll kiss you on the damn mouth). He cuts angles well and, once he smells blood, will go in for the kill. He has some of the best offensive wrestling at 170, with a preference for traditional double and single legs, and the occasional high crotch lift. Wonderboy, on the other hand, is a scary striker. He’s not scary in the way someone like Rumble Johnson is scary, though. He’s scary like a ninja is scary. A former kickboxer and a long time Karate black belt, Thompson really is an exceptionally gifted striker. His game relies on great technical boxing from both stances, with a preference for slick counters and blitzing combinations. Additionally, he has great round, side, and spinning kicks to round out his diverse striking arsenal (having knocked out Jake Ellenberger in his last fight with two, count ’em, TWO spinning heel kicks to the dome). His command of distance may be the best part of his game, as he confuses his opponents by playing with range and dropping the appropriate strike(s) as they’re still thinking where he’s gonna be next. The likeliest outcome for this fight revolves around Hendricks using his powerful low kicks to wear down the more mobile Thompson, to then set up strong double leg takedowns against the fence and control from the top. There’s a strong possibility, however, that Thompson cracks Hendricks and leaves him staring up at doctors and bright lights, but I think Hendricks’ iron-clad chin holds up as it always has so far. While I’m not particularly confident, Hendricks by Unanimous Decision, 48-47 (x3).
Jamie: This sh*t is going to suck an entire village of dicks. Thompson got mercilessly wrestlef*cked by Matt Brown, whose idea of wrestling includes piledrivers and chest chops. Against a stellar collegiate wrestler whose game has translated flawlessly into real fighting? OH MY GOD JOHNY IS JUST GOING TO SIT ON WONDERBOY’S CHEST AND GIVE HIM WET WILLIES FOR HALF AN HOUR. The only entertainment value in this fight will be in the schadenfreude of a flashy, exciting fighter being pinned down and sh*t on for five rounds. Hendricks, 70 percent of a unanimous decision.
Justin: This is do or die for Johny Hendricks right now. With all the weight cut issues and losing a controversial decision to Lawler, he really can’t afford to give up a victory to fresh blood Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. However, 2015 was the year of the upset and I think it could continue right on into 2016. As much as Hendricks’ wrestling could play a factor in this fight, he’s not one to really stick to his bread and butter. The UFC have built an absolute mythology around Big Rig’s heavy hands and I predict he’ll rely on them when he should probably just hold this kid down to a decision. I’m going to take the long shot here and say Thompson wins by spinning sh*t in the third round. With the UFC booking only exciting fights for Robbie Lawler with no real concern for ranking, a Thompson fight would fit right along in the narrative and is something I’d really like to see. But is it all too soon, too fast for the Wonderboy? I guess we’ll find out Saturday night, Hendricks could very well KO Thompson early as well because his power is intimidating.
Eric Jackman: Is he still a Wonderboy at 32 years old? In any case, Thompson is a very exciting fighter who has made vast improvements to his overall game. But people are criminally underrating Johny Hendricks these days. There’s a case to be made that he beat both Robbie Lawler and Georges St-Pierre and should still be welterweight champion. He fights smart, packs a ton of early power, and can wrestle his ass off. Thompson will give an admirable effort, but ultimately succumb to the wrestle-boxing style of Big Rigg.
Dr. Vet: While both of these guys look like they’d run back into a burning house to save the family dog, one of them looks like he’d eat it immediately afterwards and that defeats the purpose.
Pick: Stephen Thompson (via Bulldog Choke)
Jason: While this will likely be a 25 minutes of Bigg Rigg spamming the takedown button, I think he may want to prove that his standup has evolved and that he is still the knockout monster he was pre-GSP fight. Because of this, Thompson will knock him out because Hendricks gets hit a lot, and Thompson likes to hit a lot. Thompson
Marty: This can really go one of two ways. Either the former welterweight champ keeps pressuring Thompson until he finds the opening to put cinderblock to skull for the (T)KO, or “Wonderboy” uses the varied striking and quick-twitch defense that made him a champion kickboxer to pick apart his opponent for 5 rounds, because if Robbie Lawler can’t knock out Hendricks, ain’t no way Thompson does. Or, I could be made a fool of if Hendricks uses his newly-found stamina thanks to better weight control to take Thompson off his feet with his D-1 champion wrestling skills. In the end, lanky strikers haven’t deterred Bigg Rigg before, and they won’t start now. W: Johny Hendricks
Parker: After leaving his longtime guild of Team Takedown the Ranger Hendricks also had to part with his beloved steakhouse. Forced to forage for nourishment and train in the wild he had emerged lean and mean.
Meanwhile, the Wonderboy Cleric hasn’t lost a battle in almost 4 years. His last encounter ended with a devastating kick.
Changing Guilds is always dangerous and there is no telling what kind of bonuses you will lose or gain by doing so. But, usually people come out the better for it. Ranger Hendricks will win with a well-placed Lighting Arrow punch in the 3rd.
Jared: If I was a true believer in astrology , I would say that the stars all seem to be lining up for a Wonderboy win here. Hendricks hasn’t scored a KO win in years, recently became a victim of the ever-competitive restaurant business, and showed up to the weigh-ins looking like an admittedly buff boxcar hobo. That said, I don’t see Thompson being able to stop his takedowns, and if he allows himself to get clipped by Hendricks like he did against Jake Ellenberger, he might not be able to recover. “Steakhouse” Hendricks takes it.
Performance of the Night
Jessica: Pyle, Burkman
Burnsy: Hendricks, OSP
Enrique Ortiz: Cirkunov, Lobov
Marty: Saint Preux, Benavidez
Fight of the Night
Jessica: Borg vs. Scoggins
Burnsy: Benavides vs. Makovsky
Enrique Ortiz: Hendricks vs. Thompson