This upcoming Saturday, the UFC returns to center stage after taking a pay-per-view off with UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The event features two championship bouts, including the flyweight tournament final which will determine the company’s inaugural UFC flyweight champion (Joseph Benavidez vs Demetrious Johnson).
The card as a whole features zero heavyweight fights, with three at light heavy, one at middle (Michael Bisping vs Brian Stann), three at welter, one at light, two at feather, one at bantam, and, the title fight at flyweight.
The first three fights of the night will be broadcasted on Facebook, with the following four fights on FX. Five fights will be featured on the pay-per-view broadcast.
In preparation for the first UFC event since August 11, the Rant Sports MMA writers got together and predicted each event of the night. The projections went as followed:
Welterweight: Kyle Noke vs Charlie Brenneman
Dave Hilts: I believe that Brenneman’s inability to finish an opponent will haunt him – especially against a larger opponent. Noke has proven he can end a fight, and should have no problem displaying his ability against a natural welterweight. Noke is the largest fighter Brenneman will have faced since Anthony Johnson – and that fight only lasted three minutes. I do not believe Brenneman will be able to take Noke down – which will allow Noke to pick away on two feet; Kyle Noke over Charlie Brenneman via second round TKO.
Al Stover: Brenneman by submission in round two.
Jeremy Green: Charlie possesses the superior wrestling advantage in this bout, and he will use it to smother Noke for the majority of the fight; Charlie Brenneman wins via unanimous decision.
Caleb McAllister: Brenneman possesses a fairly good wrestling game, but will struggle to take down the larger and more experienced Noke. Noke will punish him on the feet for his takedown attempts, eventually securing a TKO victory.
Bantamweight: Mitch Gagnon vs Walel Watson
Hilts: With both fighters coming off of losses, the fight should be intense and up-tempo. Neither appear too confident on their feet, and Gagnon appears to have the advantage taking it to the ground. I believe Gagnon’s wrestling will be enough to take it; but, he will have to deal with earning his first non-finish victory; Mitch Gagnon over Walel Watson via unanimous decision.
Stover: Watson by unanimous decision.
Green: Gagnon will look to use his speed and strength early in this fight, and also has knockout power in his hands. He wants to redeem himself after a submission loss to Bryan Caraway earlier in the year and this will motivate him to pull off the victory; Mitch Gagnon wins via unanimous decision.
McAllister: Gagnon and Watson are fairly well-matched in their submission game, and neither is a particularly accomplished striker. Gagnon will likely have the advantage in takedowns, which will be enough to earn him the decision.
Welterweight: Seth Baczynski vs Simeon Thoresen
Hilts: Both active fighters who rarely see a decision, this bout will certainly entertain. It will boil down to who is able to gain an advantage on the ground. Thoresen’s ability to avoid submissions as well as create his own should be the key in his victory; Simeon Thoresen over Seth Baczynski via second round submission.
Stover: Thoreson by submission in round one.
Green: Seth has the power advantage standing up, and he will look to land something big early on to send Simeon to the canvas; Seth Baczynski wins via KO in the second round.
McAllister: This matchup of two accomplished grapplers could lead to a less than exciting affair as the two cancel each other out on the ground. Baczynski’s edge in experience and aggression will help him do just enough to pull of the decision victory.
Featherweight: Jimy Hettes vs Marcus Brimage
Hilts (SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT): Despite being the smaller fighter, Hettes ability to maintain ground control should be the key to this fight. Brimage will come out swinging; however, he may not remain on two feet for long. Hettes maintains his undefeated record, defeating Brimage by a second round submission.
Stover: Hettes by submission in round two.
Green (SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT): Jimmy Hettes is currently undefeated and he is coming off an impressive decision victory over Nam Phan. Hettes will use this momentum and look to take this fight to the ground. He has dynamic submissions on the ground, and has over nine submission wins to his name; Jimmy Hettes wins via submission in the first round.
McAllister: Hettes has yet to lose in MMA, and his fight with Brimage will not be the first. Brimage has a puncher’s chance to win by KO, but will most likely find himself taken down and submitted fairly early in the fight.
Welterweight: Sean Pierson vs Lance Benoist
Hilts: A young aspiring fighter with a solid ground game, Benoist will look to take it to the mat and earn his fifth submission victory. I believe he will be able to control the fight; however, Pierson is an experienced fighter who as only been submitted once in eighteen fights. I believe Benoist takes it by way of a unanimous decision.
Stover: Pierson by decision.
Green: Pierson has the experience advantage, and this will allow him to use his experienced striking to keep Benoist at bay for the majority of the fight; Sean Peires wins via unanimous decision.
McAllister: Pierson is a well-rounded fighter who has not yet been able to quite put all of the pieces of the puzzle together in his fight game. Benoist is a hungry and talented young fighter with a strong wrestling base. He will use it to plant Pierson on his back and control him to a decision win.
Lightweight: TJ Grant vs Evan Dunham
Hilts: Dunham’s wrestling should help fight off Grant’s submission attempts – hopefully forcing the fighters to remain standing. Neither have a true advantage on their feet; however, Dunham’s ability to control the fight’s pace should play to his advantage; Dunham over Grant by way of a unanimous decision.
Stover (SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT): Dunham by submission in round two.
Green: Both of these fighters have well rounded games, which should make for a back and forth affair. Evan Dunham possesses a dynamic attack standing and on the ground, which should him in the later rounds. Evan Duhnam will use his striking to set up a takedown. From there, Duhnam will use his grappling to lock up a submission; Evan Dunham wins via submission in round 2.
McAllister: Two very experienced young fighters with a ton of potential meet in this fight. Dunham has made uncharacteristic mistakes in the past, such as in his loss to Melvin Guillard, but will not do so here. He will score repeatedly on his feet and will be able to defend Grant’s submission attempts on his way to a decisive decision victory.
Light Heavy: Igor Pokrajac vs Vinny Magalhaes
Hilts: The more experienced of the two, Pokrajac has shown the ability to end a fight by any means necessary – thirteen knockouts and eight submissions. Magalhaes has not fought in the UFC since 2009. I expect him to be bullied by Pokrajac the whole fight, resulting in a first round TKO.
Stover: Pokrajac by KO in round one.
Green: This is an interesting stylistic match up because it essentially is the striker vs. the grappler. Vinny Magalhaes will find the openings and take this fight to the ground. He has a world class jiu jitsu game and he will use this to his advantage; Vinny Magalhaes wins via submission in the first round.
McAllister (SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT): Jiu Jitsu phenom Vinny Magalhaes will likely be in for a short fight if – as so many other jiu-jitsu experts have done before him – he attempts to stand and bang with a superior striker. Assuming he uses common sense and plays to his strengths, however, fans should be treated to a grappling clinic that ends with Pokrajac twisted into a pretzel.
Featherweight: Cub Swanson vs Charles Oliveira
Hilts: I’m still in awe of Swanson’s victory over Ross Pearson. If that Cub Swanson enters the cage Saturday night, look out. Oliveira has impressed on the ground since being destroyed by Donlad Cerrone; however, I expect this fight to go down the same path – Swanson over Oliveira by way of third round TKO.
Stover: Swanson is coming off of a huge win and with this fight being his pay-per-view debut, look for him to get another KO sometime in the third round.
Green: This fight should be an exciting featherweight bout, and the winner is one step closer at a potential title shot. Cub Swanson will look to land something big early on, and he just may get it. He has knockout power in his hands, and Charles Oliveira has shown in his recent fights, namely against Donald Cerrone, that he is prone to getting hit; Cub Swanson wins via TKO in the first round (EXTENDED PREVIEW).
McAllister (KO OF THE NIGHT): The Cub Swanson – Charles Oliveira matchup promises a fan-friendly fight between two devastating strikers. Swanson likely possesses a slight edge in skill on the feet, with a slight advantage in speed going to Oliveira. However, either possesses the ability to knock the other out at a moment’s notice. Both men are also solid submission grapplers, with the edge in this area going to Oliveira. However, Swanson’s experience against top-flight competition will likely stand him in good stead in this matchup as he wins by TKO after a very exciting, back-and-forth fight.
Light Heavy: Matt Hamill vs Roger Hollett
Hilts: Hamill has not fought in over a year, while Hollett is making his UFC debut. Ring rust may have an impact on Hamill; however, his wrestling should still be on-par, and enough to control the fight. Hollett folds in his debut; Hamill wins by way of a unanimous decision.
Stover: Although Hamill is coming out of retirement, he has more experience and has fought better opponents. Hollett is also coming into the octagon for the first time which could lead to the case of “octagon shock.” I expect “The Hammer” to get a second-round K.O.
Green: Matt Hamill was previously retired before taking this fight, but he must have been hungry to get back in the cage, which will only be to his detriment. It’s hard to judge Hamill’s mentality for coming back to the UFC, which is why I have to lean with Hollet. Hollet will win the exchanges standing, and he will get back up to his feet when Hamill takes him down, which will earn him the decision nod; Roger Hollet wins via unanimous decision.
McAllister: This is Matt Hamill’s first fight after his short-lived retirement. It is Hollett’s first fight in the Octagon; he competed for Bellator previously. This is also a competitive matchup, with Hollett taking the edge in the standup game. Striking with Hollett for long, then, would be a mistake for Hamill. Hamill’s tremendous wrestling base gives him the ability to put the fight on the mat and control his opponent there. Although Hollett possesses a solid submission game, he will likely be unable to catch Hamill – a fighter who has never before been submitted – and will wind up on the losing end of a close decision.
Middleweight: Michael Bisping vs Brian Stann
Hilts (FIGHT OF THE NIGHT): Both recently coming off of losses to Chael Sonnen, this fight features two fighting to remain within the top middleweight tier. Bisping has constantly proven his ability to push the pace and make his opponent uncomfortable in the cage. With surprisingly solid takedown defense, Bisping should be able to keep the fight standing until Stann falls; Bisping over Stann via third round TKO.
Stover (KO OF THE NIGHT): Bisping is a big talker, but he is a great fighter and will get it done. Stann is also coming off an injury, which could affect him in the fight. He wasn’t able to last with Chael Sonnen for two rounds while Bisping went the distance with the former middleweight title contender. I’m going with Bisping to get a first round KO.
Green: Both of these fighters have amazing skills standing up, which should make for an exciting bout from start to finish. Michael Bisping is the better striker technically, and Stann has the better power. Technical striking will overcome power striking in this bout, and Bisping will keep his distance and pick apart Stann while staying away from Stann’s power; Michael Bisping wins via unanimous decision (EXTENDED PREVIEW).
McAllister: Bisping vs. Stann may well be the fight with the most enthusiastic fan opinions. Bisping’s trash-talking British heel persona, when matched with Stann, the retired U.S. Marine of few words, ensures that fans will care passionately about who wins. Many, of course, hope to see Stann shut the cocky Brit’s mouth. He certainly possesses the punching power to do so. Unfortunately, Bisping’s superior movement and angles will make landing a knockout shot difficult for Stann. Stann will likely lose a decision as he gets picked apart while hunting the knockout. A tiny mistake by Bisping, however, could turn the whole fight around (EXTENDED PREVIEW).
Flyweight: Joseph Benavidez vs Demetrious Johnson
Hilts: Both fighters share similar fight resumes, making this a very promising co-main event. Both will look for the finish, and the fight has the potential to take place on any level at a very fast pace. It is difficult to pick against Benavidez after his TKO victory over Yasuhiro Urushitani; however, I believe Johnson will fight with less to lose. Look for him to take more chances, and eventually finish the fight via TKO sometime in the fourth – marking the first time either fighter is finished in their professional career.
Stover (FIGHT OF THE NIGHT): I see this fight being very close. However Mighty Mouse’s speed will help him deflect and avoid anything Benavidez throws at him. Speed combined with his ability and Johnson will become the first UFC Flyweight champ. There’s also been a drought when it comes to Team Alpha Male and UFC title matches; Johnson over Benavidez via unanimous decision.
Green (FIGHT OF THE NIGHT): This fight features two of the fastest fighters in the UFC, which has the makings to be fight of the night. Coming into this fight, Benavidez has the advantage in power and that will work in his favor. Benavidez will win the stand-up battle and may even lock up his patented guillotine; Joseph Benavidez wins via submission in round two.
McAllister (FIGHT OF THE NIGHT): Joseph Benavidez and Demetrius Johnson were the two finalists in the miniature tournament to choose the first flyweight champion in the UFC. Benavidez won his fight by TKO. Johnson, however, fought to a majority draw; in the rematch, he was much more effective, winning by a decisive decision. Johnson’s off performance in the initial fight was a fluke, as he did not perform at his normal level. The two fighters are a very even match in virtually all areas of the game; Benavidez, however, possesses an edge in the power on his strikes. The fight will be a very competitive, back-and-forth affair, but Benavidez will likely win the decision based on his power and the damage he will be able to inflict (EXTENDED PREVIEW).
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones vs Vitor Belfort
Hilts (KO OF THE NIGHT): Simply put, I do not believe there is a fighter at 205 that can beat Jon Jones; however, I am still very excited to see the victory played out – Jones over Belfort via second round TKO.
Stover: With the entire UFC 151 backlash that has happened in the last month, Jones going to have a lot to prove and Belfort is going to be unfortunate recipient of that. Belfort was fast back in his prime, but Jones is elusive and he will catch Belfort. As much as I want Belfort to win the belt (no ill will towards Jones) my brain is telling me to go with the champion. Belfort will get in a couple of good shots and they will hurt, but Jones will once again conquer in the end and Dana White will be singing his praises; Jones via third round KO (ALTERNATE TAKE).
Green (KO OF THE NIGHT): Both of these fighters have very fast striking abilities, and also are competent on the ground. Jon Jones comes into this fight with more tools, however, compared to Belfort and he is also younger. This will work in Jon Jones’ favor, and he will put on a display of dynamic attacks and will use his unorthodox wrestling to get this fight to the ground. From there, he will would his vicious ground and pound and utilize his dangerous elbows; Jon Jones wins via TKO in round one.
McAllister: Lyoto Machida’s ability to tag Jon Jones on multiple occasions during their fight bodes well for Vitor Belfort’s fans. Belfort’s hand speed and punching power mean give him a very real chance to win by knockout. Of course, this depends on him being able to land these punches as successfully as Machida – without being submitted as Machida was. However, Jones’ tremendous reach and formidable Greco-Roman clinch make him a threat both inside and outside. Watch for him to look for an early takedown, control the top position and secure a TKO victory via elbow strikes (EXTENDED PREVIEW).