“UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans” takes place Saturday, April 21, at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga. In the main event UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones will face former training partner and former friend “Suga” Rashad Evans in what will be Jones’ third straight title defense.
The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff shares their thoughts, opinions and predictions for each fight, including the preliminary card bouts which will air live on Facebook and FX.
MAIN CARD (Pay-Per-View)
Light Heavyweight Title bout
Champ Jon Jones (15-1) vs. Rashad Evans (17-1-1)
ODDS: Jones -500 vs. Evans +375
JACK BRATCHER: What can be said that hasn’t already been said about these two? So much talk, but only one thing matters and that is who can implement their gameplan in the cage. Could Rashad Evans get inside and land a big shot? Absolutely. Could he get inside, get the takedown and work the ground and pound? Indeed. It’s possible he could land the KO blow on Jones, but the odds of that happening aren’t as strong as Jones doing what he does best which is pick people apart, dump them on their head and submit or pound them out. It’s been a long time since Evans has turned anyone’s lights out… but he does have that ability… he has that one shot KO power where Jones has not shown us that yet. I think Jones has the mental edge in this fight as Rashad seems too caught up in all the emotions and talk. In the end Jones should get the win via decision.
DENNY HODGE: There are plenty of arguments as to which of these guys have the mental edge in this fight. When you are familiar with someone’s skills, whether in MMA, or any other sport, you know when you are superior and I think that’s what gives the advantage to Jones. He’s even better now, and will show it this weekend. Look for Rashad to struggle with the length of Jones, which will lead to frustration, and eventually a mistake. When it happens, Jones will capitalize and put him away. Jones by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Jon Jones by TKO in round 2.
JOHN BUHL: It would be easy to over-analyze the main event and think about how Rashad knows Jones’s skills better than any of his previous opponents from their time training together at Jackson’s MMA. And, unlike anyone Jones has faced, Rashad can actually match him in the speed department. But in the end, Jones will once again control things with his reach. When Evans does get inside, he’ll be at a disadvantage against Jones’s imposing clinch game. From a distance, he won’t be able to use his lightning quick double-leg takedown to put the champion on his back. Jones keeps his title by decision.
JAY CEE: It will be interesting to see what game plan these guys decide to use especially with them being former training partners. Both men are great all-rounders each with fight records to prove it. I honestly feel that the time is right for Jon Jones and currently he is unstoppable, he has the technique, the build and the confidence to beat anyone in the light-heavyweight division right now so I am interested to see what Evans has up his sleeve. Rashad has a very different style of movement that is sometimes hard for fighters to get to grips with but I am sure Jones has trained for this. We will get a few rounds out of this fight but I reckon Jones will score a TKO victory in the third round. Pick: Jon Jones via TKO.
ORON CRAWFORD: This is a chaos of the heart vs. order of the mind struggle when picking for this one. I’m in the line of thinking that Rashad got a raw deal in how this whole situation between the two fighters and Team Jackson played out. Yes, Rashad has improved, his striking is better and he’ll always have his wrestling base to fall back on, but every time we see Jones he has improved by leaps and bounds.This isn’t the same Jones that Rashad might have gotten the better of in practice. Sure, Rashad trained with Jones and knows some of his game, but the Light Heavyweight champion’s current coaches trained Rashad for the majority of his UFC career. They know his every nuance and tell. With all that said, I guess there is no other option but to pick Jon Jones. Most likely by Submission in round 3. But screw it, I’m picking with my heart. Winner: Rashad Evans by Decision (Split).
JOSH CROSS: We’re finally going to get to see the fight between these two former friends and training partners. I think Evans is going to have to finish this fight at some point if he wants to upset Jones because I don’t see him winning a decision. Ultimately, I don’t think this fight will make it all five rounds, and while I think Evans could pull off the upset, I think Jones retains his title in the end. Pick: Jones via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: As I wrote in the breakdown. IF Evans is in tip top shape AND if he can prevent Jones from taking him down he can win this fight. However, with the size difference I think Jones will gradually wear him down and eventually take him down late in the fight. I think Evans will give him a run, but Jones should win via TKO late in the fight.
RICHARD MANN: I have a hard time picturing Evans winning this fight. He relies of his wrestling, and Jones is a better wrestler. He struggled with Forrest Griffin’s reach. Jones is longer and more deadly from range. However, Evans has always found ways to shock fans and pundits. His victory over Chuck Liddell seemed to come from nowhere, and his performance over Phil Davis was shockingly masterful. With that being said, this is Jones’ fight to lose. Jones by decision
Rory MacDonald (12-1) vs. Che Mills (14-4)
ODDS: MacDonald -550 vs. Mills +425
JACK BRATCHER: Che Mills has been building a name for himself in England for years but this is only his second fight in the UFC Octagon. He had an impressive 40-second TKO win over Chris Cope in his UFC debut back in November. The only loss on Rory MacDonald’s record is a third round fight of the night loss to Carlos Condit. He’s beaten Nate Diaz via decision, submitted Joker Guymon and knocked out Mike Pyle. This fight is almost a step back. He will run through Che Mills like a streaker at the super bowl. Rory Mac via TKO.
DENNY HODGE: Mills is dangerous on the feet, but will be fighting an extremely well-rounded guy in MacDonald. I see Rory testing the waters in the stand up game with Mills, but probably not for long. He mixes up his stand up and takedowns almost seamlessly, and that will benefit him greatly in this bout. Look for Rory’s stock to continue to rise as he takes this one by submission.
BRIAN FURBY: Rory MacDonald by submission in round 1.
JOHN BUHL: Mills has some solid wins on his resume, but MacDonald looks like a future welterweight champion. Good striking, great athleticism, strong wrestling and grappling skills…he has the total package. MacDonald should take this by second round TKO.
JAY CEE: Both of these men are excellent strikers with power in their hands, this is what makes it so hard to call. This will be MacDonald’s fifth UFC fight meaning he will be very comfortable with the octagon and focused on getting the job done, he has been fighting high level guys and winning which makes him a very dangerous opponent. Mills did get through his first UFC fight with an impressive TKO victory but this was on home soil in front of a home crowd. It will be interesting to see how Che Mills finds it fighting over in the states as part of the co-main event against an opponent that will undoubtedly test his abilities to the max, if he can rise to the occasion and implement his game plan then he definitely has a good chance. Both guys have the ability to end the fight but I think MacDonald will beat Mills by sub or TKO. Pick: MacDonald via Submission or TKO.
ORON CRAWFORD: I’m not saying it’s impossible that Che Mills could find MacDonald’s chin or could land a knee when MacDonald shoots in for a takedown, but, I don’t think it will happen. I think this fight was made as a ‘coming out party’ for MacDonald and will go as planned. Winner: Rory MacDonald by submission in round 2.
JOSH CROSS: I think it’s pretty obvious that MacDonald is going to be looking to ultimately take this fight to the ground. Mills’ best chance to win I think is if he can get MacDonald in the clinch and throw some of his vicious knees. I just don’t see that happening though. Pick: MacDonald via Submission.
KELVIN HUNT: MacDonald is versed everywhere, but he has a clear edge on the ground in this fight. 75% of Mills losses have come via submission. I see the same thing happening here. MacDonald via submission.
RICHARD MANN: Mills has been bullied by less physical wrestlers. MacDonald should have very little trouble slamming Mills all over the change and stopping the fight late. MacDonald by TKO
Brendan Schaub (8-2) vs. Ben Rothwell (31-8)
ODDS: Schaub -270 vs. Rothwell +220
JACK BRATCHER: Ben Rothwell’s career has been so up and down the last four years his nickname should be changed to “Dribble”. Brendan Schaub is coming off a tough KO loss to Big Nog in Brazil but Rothwell is no Big Nog. The heavy hands of Schaub should send Big Ben home early enough to catch Saturday Night Live.
DENNY HODGE: Rothwell will likely try to make this a closed-quarters war of attrition, getting inside and grinding on Schaub, which would allow him to negate some of Schaub’s raw athleticism. Schaub will win in the exchanges, wearing down Rothwell over three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.
BRIAN FURBY: Brendan Schaub by TKO in round 1.
JOHN BUHL: Although Schaub passed a pretty big test back in 2010 with his win over Gabriel Gonzaga, he actually struggled a bit against a faded Mirko Cro Cop — prior to the third round KO — and suffered a knockout loss of his own against Big Nog last time out. Between that and his KO loss to Roy Nelson, you wonder if Schaub might be a little wary of mixing it up in the pocket. However, Rothwell is a serviceable but not extremely dangerous striker, nor does he have the quickness to shoot in and test Schaub’s wrestling defense. I’ll take Schaub by third round TKO, but a lot of it will come down to his confidence and how well he’s been working on his technique.
JAY CEE: This one is quite simple for me, I can see knockout specialist Schaub winning this one with a first round TKO. I cannot see this fight lasting very long at all to be honest, Rothwell has had three fights within the last three years for the UFC and has only been victorious in one of them against Gilbert Yvel at UFC 115 back in June 2010. I feel Brendan will be hungry aggressive and anxious to bounce back from his loss against Nogueira. Pick: Schaub via TKO.
ORON CRAWFORD: The question for me in this one is; will Schaub be able to knock out Rothwell or just pound on him for three rounds and get the decision? Rothwell is tough as nails and always shows heart, but I think Schaub is going to put him away. Winner: Brendan Schaub by KO round 1.
JOSH CROSS: I think that Rothwell’s best chance to win this fight is if he can knock Schaub out early before he gets exhausted. I don’t think Rothwell will be able to though and I think Schaub will be able to capitalize. Rothwell’s toughness should be able to carry him to the decision, but I don’t think he’ll pick up the win. Pick: Schaub via Decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Schaub should be able to take Rothwell. Schaub is the quicker of the two fighters and will be able to dictate where the fight takes place. Schaub wears him down and finishes a gassed Rothwell in round 3.
RICHARD MANN: Even if Rothwell has the fight of his life, he will probably gas and then look terrible. Look for Schaub to control this fight from the start and take a commanding decision on the feet. Schaub by decision.
Miguel Torres (40-4) vs. Michael McDonald (14-1)
ODDS: Torres -120 vs. McDonald -110
JACK BRATCHER: Miguel Torres is 31. Michael McDonald is 21. Torres has a lot more big show experience and will have the ground advantage. This is an intriguing fight for several reasons. McDonald is so young and it will be his fifth fight under the Zuffa banner; his fourth in the UFC. By far it will be his biggest name fight to date. I have to go with the veteran Torres on this one, but I like McDonald’s confidence and believe he has a very bright future. McDonald’s biggest downfall is that he unfortunately shares the same name as the singer from the Doobie brothers. Torres by decision.
DENNY HODGE: Torres will use his reach and pace to dictate this fight, but McDonald will find his way inside and score in some of the exchanges. McDonald isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe, and will use his punches to setup his takedowns. Torres is dangerous off his back, but I believe that McDonald will grind out a close decision victory in an upset.
BRIAN FURBY: Michael McDonald by unanimous decision.
JOHN BUHL: Maybe I’m jumping on the bandwagon too quickly, but I have a feeling McDonald is going to take care of business here and put himself in the “next big thing” running. McDonald’s speed and strength will give Torres fits on the feet and I don’t think the former WEC champ will get the fight to the ground as often as he would need to get the win. In my own miniature pro fighter survey on this bout, Torres’s training partner Yves Jabouin thinks Miguel will win via his jab/reach and ground game. Former UFC fighter Cole Escovedo, who went 1-1 in two fights against McDonald, thinks McDonald will take it. I’m going with McDonald by decision in what should be fight of the night.
JAY CEE: This is a very tough fight to call, McDonald is very aggressive and can end fights in the blink of an eye with his striking. Torres is also a good striker but I feel he will have the advantage if the fight goes to the ground. This bout will be high paced and has the potential to earn “Fight Of The Night” honors, I can see this one going the distance with Torres picking up the decision victory. Pick: Torres via Decision.
ORON CRAWFORD: This one will be a contender for fight of the night and I think it will deliver. It’s the veteran vs. the up and comer and while I think I should probably go with experience, giving Torres the edge, I think MacDonald’s star will continue to rise. I’m picking McDonald to win this one. Torres has had a stressful run of months lately and although he’ll probably come into this bout extra motivated, I think ring rust will be a factor in his performance. Winner: Michael MacDonald by decision.
JOSH CROSS: This fight is going to be close, and I could easily see either man coming away with the win. That being said, I think Torres will be able to use his reach advantage and ground game to control the majority of the fight and pick up the decision win. Pick: Torres via Decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Should be a good scrap right here. I’m curious to see how McDonald handles the long reach of Torres. Otherwise, McDonald can take Torres down at will if he wants. He should be able to avoid being submitted, so I’m going with McDonald via close decision.
RICHARD MANN: McDonald should be able to get some takedowns in this fight. If it stays on the feet, Torres will probably win, but that seems less likely. Look for McDonald to turn this into a physical fight and take a decision.
Mark Hominick (20-10) vs. Eddie Yagin (15-5-1)
ODDS: Hominick -600 vs. Yagin +450
JACK BRATCHER: Although Hominick is coming off two losses in a row, and Yagin one, the Canadian is a huge favorite in this bout. At 33, the bout will only be Yagin’s second UFC/Zuffa appearance, while at 29, Hominick has been competing for the UFC and WEC for many years now. Hominick lost his longtime friend and coach Shawn Tompkins last August and he has only fought once since then, losing via KO to The Korean Zombie. I don’t think Hominick will run through Yagin and feel it’s closer than the odds show, but I still see Hominick getting the win, probably by decision.
DENNY HODGE: Hominick looks to erase the memory of his last fight against the gritty Eddie Yagin. Yagin will engage on the feet, but Hominick’s technical striking will give him a big lead as the fight wears on. Hominick by unanimous decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Mark Hominick by submission in round 1.
JOHN BUHL: Hominick needs a win to halt a two-fight losing streak and he will likely get it. Yagin earned a UFC spot with a nice win over former Bellator champion Joe Soto and acquitted himself well in a decision loss to Junior Assuncao. The problem is that neither of those guys are on Hominick’s level. Hominick should use his superior striking and head movement to pick Yagin apart and get a first-round stoppage.
JAY CEE: There is no room for error in this fight, former title challenger Mark Hominick is currently on a two fight losing streak which he needs to snap and Yagin lost in his debut. Both men would really like the win but Mark has priceless fight experience against some of the best in the world, the well rounded Yagin also has experience but not against the same level of competition and this is where I think Mark will shine through. Hominick takes this one by TKO. Pick: Hominick via TKO.
ORON CRAWFORD: I see Mark Hominick getting back on track after his knockout loss to The Korean Zombie at UFC 140. Hominick has the ground tools to stay away from anything dangerous from Yagin in way of submissions and will be able to pepper his opponent in the striking eventually leading to a TKO late in the fight. Winner: Hominick by TKO round 3.
JOSH CROSS: I think that going into this fight Hominick’s skills are much more refined than Yagin’s. As long as Hominick doesn’t get careless like he did at the start of his last fight with Chan Sung Jung, I think he’ll pick up the victory and end his two-fight losing streak. Pick: Hominick via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Hominick can’t afford to lose three fights in a row. I think he fights the ‘safe’ fight and outpoints Yagin for a unanimous decision win.
Mark Bocek (10-4) vs. John Alessio (34-14)
ODDS: Bocek -400 vs. Alessio +300
JACK BRATCHER: This is a fun match-up. Bocek is a 30-year-old BJJ and Kemp black belt who does fairly well against the lower and mid-tier competition in the UFC, while his losses have been to the Benson Hendersons, the Frankie Edgars, and the Jim Millers (with a Mac Danzig thrown in for good measure). Alessio hasn’t fought for Zuffa since 2008, and for the UFC since 2206. His last loss was against the heavy-handed Siyar Bahadurzada at United Glory last year via first round TKO. Bocek has been fighting the tougher competition. As far as I know Alessio is still at Xtreme Couture and they have had their own issues there with coaches and fighters leaving — it’s not the same gym as it once was. I have to go with Bocek via decision.
DENNY HODGE: John Alessio is fired up to get back into the Octagon after a 6-year absense, and will have his hands full against Mark Bocek. Alessio will have the advantage on the feet and will likely try to keep it there. Bocek will try to put Alessio on his back and work his top game on the ground. Both guys will be successfull but in the end, Alessio will edge Bocek out on the cards. Alessio by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Mark Bocek by unanimous decision.
JOHN BUHL: Alessio is a crafty and well-rounded veteran. He’s seen it all, and under more optimal circumstances, he might be able to counter Bocek’s nasty ground game. But with Alessio taking the fight on short notice, I think Bocek can make due with his improved striking, work rate, and grappling skills. Bocek by unanimous decision.
JAY CEE: John Alessio is the more rounded fighter out of these two men but that does not necessarily mean he will win, he can handle himself on the ground or in striking exchanges whereas Bocek would much prefer to control the fight on the mat. If Mark is able to get this to the floor I can see him scoring a submission victory. Pick: Bocek via Submission.
ORON CRAWFORD: The veteran Alessio is finally back with the UFC but he isn’t getting a tune up fight to get him back on a roll under the UFC banner. I see Bocek grinding a decision out, constantly taking Alessio down and pinning him against the cage. Winner: Bocek by decision.
JOSH CROSS: I think the outcome of this fight will hinge on whether or not Bocek can take the fight to the ground. Allessio’s biggest weakness I think is on the mat, and if he can keep the fight standing I think he has the best chance to beat Bocek. Ultimately, I think Bocek will get the takedown and control enough of the fight to earn the decision win. Pick: Bocek via Decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Bocek should be able to take Alessio down in this fight. All of Bocek’s losses have come against Grade A competition, except for the Danzing loss a while back. Bocek via submission or decision.
RICHARD MANN: Bocek should be able to bully Alessio into the cage. Alessio only wins when he can pump a jab or flex some submission game. Bocek is too physical to get stuck on the feet, and he is the better grappler. Bocek by decision
PRELIMINARY CARD (FX)
Travis Browne (12-0-1) vs. Chad Griggs (11-1)
ODDS: Browne -270 vs. Griggs +220
JACK BRATCHER: This fight has about .5% chance of going the distance. Both guys have big knockout power with each fighter ending their fights by KO over 75% of the time. Travis Browne remains undefeated and has won three bouts since signing on with the UFC in 2010. He had a draw with Cheick Kongo after Kongo was deducted a point for holding Browne’s shorts. The bout was even going into the third with each having won one round. Scoring a knockout over Stefan Struve is no easy feat either, and he’s coming off a decision win over Rob Broughton. Griggs has such a great story, the way his career has unfolded. He was brought in to lose against Bobby Lashley and surprised everyone with a second round TKO. He then knocked out Gianpiero Villante and submitted Valentijn Overeem with punches in Strikeforce. But… he’s just entered the big leagues here. Ariel Helwani said Griggs was the “feel good story of the year” for 2011 but I think the good feelings are about to come to an end here. Browne should win this one, probably by knockout — but if Griggs wins he is going to truly shock the world one more time.
DENNY HODGE: Travis Browne will be welcoming Chad Griggs to the UFC in this battle of the bigs. Browne told me he’s refocused on his career, which is crazy since he’s yet to lose in 13 fights. Closing out his second camp with Greg Jackson, Browne will be making Griggs pay for his time away from his boys. Griggs is a tough guy and has shown a lot of heart, but Browne will simply be too much in this one. Browne by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Travis Browne by TKO in round 1.
JOHN BUHL: Browne at times has been able to rely on his athleticism. I don’t think that will work against Griggs’s in-your-face, aggressive, and heavy-handed striking style. Griggs by second-round TKO.
JAY CEE: Both of these men have knockout power and both of these men win fights, but I personally think that Browne has faced and defeated fighters of a higher calibre then Griggs which could be a huge benefit to him on the night. Griggs is not that used to fights lasting longer then the first round but I think this one will, Browne edges this one by decision. Pick: Browne via Decision.
ORON CRAWFORD: This will be a fun fight. The winner will be the viewers, this fight being on the FX portion of the card is smart, because I think we’re going to see a exciting fight full of heavy hands swinging and heads ringing… that lasts for one round. I like Chad Griggs in this one, continuing his rise from relative obscurity and picking up the win in his first fight with the UFC. Winner: Chad Griggs by KO round 1.
JOSH CROSS: I think this is going to be a brawl and I doubt this fight will go to a decision. It could go either way when you get two guys throwing bombs like I expect these two will, but at the end of the day, I think Browne has the best chance of coming away with the win. Pick: Browne via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: This one probably isn’t going the distance. Browne has fought better competition. I expect Browne to win via TKO.
RICHARD MANN: Griggs has been able to pull some nice upsets, but Browne is the better fighter. Griggs’ only chance is if Browne burns out, which could totally happen. Look for Browne to get the ball rolling with some crazy jumping attack and finish the fight early. Brown by TKO
Matt Brown (13-11) vs. Stephen Thompson (6-0)
ODDS: Brown +230 vs. Thompson -300
JACK BRATCHER: I’ve always liked Matt Brown. I like his story and he always comes to bang but he does not want to stand and bang with Stephen Thompson. Let me repeat… if you are reading this Matt Brown — DO NOT STAND AND BANG WITH STEPHEN “WONDERBOY” THOMPSON — he will knock you out. And you might not even want to go to the ground with him… but dear god, do not stand and bang with this man. In his UFC debut Thompson pulled a “Billy Jack” foot up to the side of yo’ face knockout of Dan Stittgen that the dude never saw coming. Wonderboy not only has a black belt in Kenpo Karate, he also has a black belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and his brother-in-law is Carlos Machado — the man who gave Chuck Norris his BJJ black belt. Now watch this… Wonderboy went undefeated in the World Combat League — that was Chuck Norris’ kickboxing promotion. Look, the kid is tight with Chuck Norris bro! You don’t mess with that, he has favor with the martial arts gods bro. He’s like a real life Power Ranger.. okay. He’s already a ninja with his stand-up (Thompson’s pro/am combined kickboxing record is 63-0) and his ground game from what we hear is also advancing rapidly. He technically has a blue belt in BJJ under Machado (don’t forget that black belt in Japanese jiu jitsu), but really all you need to know is he’s tight with Chuck Norris… enough said. Thompson via knockout!
DENNY HODGE: Thompson will look to stay outside and utilize his kicks and striking while Brown will want to get inside and rough Thompson up. If Brown gets the fight to the ground he will do damage, but will he be able to resist standing and trading with Thompson? Probably not, and he’ll pay. Thompson by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Matt Brown by TKO in round 2.
JOHN BUHL: I still think Brown got robbed against Dong Hyun Kim. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he got punished by Seth Baczynski a couple of fights ago. Brown always brings it, but he has too much wear and tear on the body. Thompson by third round TKO.
JAY CEE: I think many of us are excited to see how Thompson performs in this fight following his impressive head-kick knock-out victory over Dan Stittgen at UFC 143. Matt Brown has a lot of experience and will exploit any mistakes that Thomson makes, he has the ability to finish fights via KO or sub and will be a dangerous test for Thompson, however I currently believe the hype and will go with Wonderboy on this one. Pick: Thompson via TKO.
ORON CRAWFORD: I’ve been looking forward to seeing Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson back in action. I think he could be a big deal in the welterweight division in the future. He has the stamp of approval from GSP and the stamp of approval in winning this fight from me. Wonderboy has 69 wins between mixed martial arts and kick boxing, 30 by way of knock out and Thompson makes it 31 against Brown. Winner: Stephen Thompson by KO round 2.
JOSH CROSS: I think Thompson has the advantage wherever this fight goes. Nine of Browne’s 11 losses have come via submission, and I expect Thompson will be looking to capitalize on that. In the end I think Thompson should be able to take Brown down and submit him. Pick: Thompson via Submission.
KELVIN HUNT: This should be a good test for Thompson. I think everybody looks at his kickboxing resume, but he has legit training in BJJ. Almost all of Brown’s losses have come via submission. I called it on Twitter when the fight was announced, and I’m sticking with it. Thompson via submission.
RICHARD MANN: Brown is well rounded, but not exceptional in any one area. Look for Thompson to keep this fight on the feet and pick apart the veteran over the course of three rounds. Thompson by decision
John Makdessi (9-1) vs. Anthony Njokuani (14-6)
ODDS: Makdessi +170 vs. Njokuani -210
JACK BRATCHER: Twenty-six-year-old Canadian John Makdessi is coming off the first loss of his career, a first round submission defeat to Dennis Hallman. You can’t fault him for that — Hallman is one of the most dangerous submission guys out there. Seven of Makdessi’s nine wins have come via knockout, most recently using a spinning backfist to send Kyle Watson to the astral plane. His other two wins have come via decision. This will mark his fourth UFC fight for the Shotokan black belt. Anthony Njokuani’s UFC career is on shaky ground, after losing two of his three bouts inside the Octagon since transferring from the WEC last year, another loss could send the 32-year-old Nigerian packing. Like Makdessi, most of Njokuani’s wins have come via knockout; eight total. I was leaning toward Njokuani but I think they’re striking is going to be pretty comparable. It’s the rest of the game where I feel Makdessi can make a difference and training with the guys at TriStar should give him the tools he needs to get ‘er done. Makdessi via decision.
DENNY HODGE: Makdessi and Njokuani will stand and trade in this one. Njokuani by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Anthony Njokuani by TKO in round 2.
JOHN BUHL: Just by looking at him, Makdessi looks like he’d be a better fit at featherweight if he can make the cut. I like his diverse striking skills, but Njokuani is going to look huge compared to Makdessi and Edson Barbosa is the only guy to really win a fight against the Nigerian on the feet. Njokuani by second round KO.
JAY CEE: This fight should be a nice stand-up battle, I can see these guys going back and forth with Makdessi taking control in the latter stages of the fight to secure the decision victory. Njokuani can be very dangerous with his striking but his recent form leads me to favor John who will be hungry to bounce back from his first career loss. Pick: Makdessi via Decision.
ORON CRAWFORD: This is another fight that is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Njokuani has to be still a little salty about his decision loss against Danny Castillo; I think that motivates him enough to not leave the fight in the judge’s hands. Makdessi will be a tough opponent but Njokuani is able to TKO him in round 2. Winner: Njokuani by TKO round 2.
JOSH CROSS: I think Njokuani will be the better striker in this fight and he’ll use his height advantage to pick up the win. Pick: Njokuani via Decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Njokuani is a very good striker, so is Makdessi. However, I think Njokuani is better and has proven that against better competition. Njokuani via decision.
RICHARD MANN: I never like to pick Njokuani. Fans seems to love him, but if you watch the fights… he loses a lot. Makdessi by TKO
Mac Danzig (20-9-1) vs. Efrain Escudero (18-4)
ODDS: Danzig -200 vs. Escudero +160
JACK BRATCHER: This is an interesting fight with two very different storylines. Danzig has been hanging onto his UFC career by a thread ever since he won season six of The Ultimate Fighter and a decision loss to Matt Wiman last October puts him back in a position where he has to win this fight or become yet another TUF winner to be released from the UFC. Escudero was the winner of season eight of The Ultimate Fighter and he has already gone through getting cut from the UFC and now he’s back again trying to hold on. After being released from the UFC in 2010 he went 5-1 on the regional circuit. In his first fight back with the UFC this past December he lost a unanimous decision to Jacob Volkmann. Both, Escudero and Danzig are very good on the ground and Danzig probably has the advantage on the feet and has heavier hands. Should be a fun fight and a lot of this is going to depend on what kind of camps they had and how they trained for this fight. On paper, Danzig should have the slight advantage but it’s pretty close. I’m going to go with Danzig via TKO.
DENNY HODGE: Danzig will win this fight in the transitions, as he controls Escudero over three rounds of action. Danzig by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Mac Danzig by submission in round 2.
JOHN BUHL: The striking is about even — with maybe a slight edge to Danzig — and Danzig is a more talented grappler. Danzig by third round submission.
JAY CEE: I do not think Escudero will allow the same thing that happened in the Volkmann fight to happen this time around, if Efrain can start the fight confidently and enforce his ground game I can see him picking up the submission victory in this one. Danzig is a well rounded fighter who can win fights with a knock-out or submission so Escudero will need to be very careful, this one will be interesting. Pick: Escudero via Submission.
ORON CRAWFORD: After getting cut by the UFC Escudero put in a lot of work to get back to the big leagues, six fights in 11 months worth of work. Although he wasn’t victorious in his return to the UFC at 141 I think he picks up a win in this one, but Danzig will make it tough. Winner: Efrain Escudero by Decision (split).
JOSH CROSS: If Escudero is going to win this fight he is going to have to take Danzig down to the mat and keep him there. That being said, I think Danzig’s striking will be what gets him the win in this fight. Pick: Danzig via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Danzig via submission.
RICHARD MANN: Escudero is going to get his head back on straight in this fight. He is a better wrestler and striker than Danzig. He should be able to keep the fight on the feet and pick apart his fellow TUF champion. Escudero by decision
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Keith Wisniewski (26-13-1) vs. Chris Clements (10-4)
ODDS: Wisniewski +160 vs. Clements -200
JACK BRATCHER: Chris Clements is a Canadian, part of Team Tompkins, and is making his UFC debut here. All 10 of his wins have been by knockout. Three of his four losses have been via submission and one by TKO. Thirty-year-old Wisniewski has been fighting professionally since 1998. He has 16 wins via submission, six by (T)KO and seven via decision. He’s coming off a TKO loss to Josh Neer last October. If I was Wisniewski’s coach I’d probably tell him to get the fight to the ground as that seems to be his weakest area. However, Wisniewski has several wins by (T)KO as well, so I have a feeling he may want to try and test out the waters on the feet. That could be a mistake. Clements via knockout.
DENNY HODGE: Chris Clements by unanimous decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Chris Clements by TKO in round 1.
JOHN BUHL: Very even fight. Clements has lost most of the time he stepped up in competition during his career. His more notable wins include a TKO over Rich Clementi (a natural lightweight) and a knockout of Jonathan Goulet. As Richard Mann will happily tell you, lots of people knockout Goulet. I’m taking Wisniewski simply on his ability to go two full rounds against Josh Neer. Wisniewski by split decision.
JAY CEE: So far Wisniewski has struggled to perform when it counts on the big stage and I have a feeling the same thing will happen against Clements. Although Keith has won a lot of fights and has vast experience in MMA I can see him struggling with Chris’ striking ability in this fight. I can see Clements picking up his fifth straight MMA win in his UFC debut with a first round knockout. Pick: Clements via TKO.
ORON CRAWFORD: Wisniewski has got be coming into this fight motivated as he is probably fighting for his job with the UFC in this one (0-2 in UFC bouts), but I think Clements win and continues his streak of winning each of his fights by KO. Winner: Chris Clements by KO round 3.
JOSH CROSS: I have questions about both fighters, but in the end I think Clements’ striking is what earns him the win in this bout. Pick: Clements via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Clements via TKO.
RICHARD MANN: Wisniewki likes to fashion himself as a striker, but Clements in the better striker. Clements by decision.
Marcus Brimage (4-1) vs. Maximo Blanco (8-3-1)
ODDS: Brimage +220 vs. Blanco -270
JACK BRATCHER: Marcus Brimage is a funny dude and Rampage Jackson is his hero. He made it to the TUF 14 quarterfinals where he lost a decision to Bryan Caraway. He won his UFC debut against Stephen Bass via decision. Brimage is 27 and trains with ATT. Blanco has quite a bit more experience than Brimage and is a year older. His first fight outside of Japan was last September when he fought in Strikeforce, losing via second round submission to Pat Healy. I have to go with Blanco’s experience here. Seven of his eight wins have been via knockout; one via decision. Brimage has two wins via KO, two via submission. Blanco should take this one, probably by decision.
DENNY HODGE: Maximo Blanco by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Maximo Blanco by TKO in round 1.
JOHN BUHL: Another tough call here. Blanco got pushed around by Pat Healy in Strikeforce, but it was clear that he needed to cut below 155. Even at 145 Blanco might be a bit small. Luckily for him, Brimage is even shorter. Marcus needs to get this fight to the mat and stay on top to win. Blanco has a good enough wrestling background to stay on the feet if he wants to, or maybe even put Brimage on his back and work some of his ground-and-pound. Blanco by decision.
JAY CEE: I have to go with fight experience in this bout, Blanco has had 13 pro MMA fights in comparison to Brimage’s five. I know many will say that you need to consider quality over quantity but Blanco has competed much more regularly in a shorter space of time picking up multiple knock-out victories in the process. I can see Blanco bouncing back from his loss at the Strikeforce event in September last year to defeat Brimage with an impressive knock-out this time out. Pick: Blanco via TKO in the second.
ORON CRAWFORD: This will be a back and forth striking war that I hope will be able to be replayed on the main card. I think Brimage will be doing his post fight flip off the cage as he celebrates a victory over Blanco. Winner: Marcus Brimage by Decision.
JOSH CROSS: I think Blanco is the more well rounded fighter of the two, which will give him more opportunities to defeat Brimage. Pick: Blanco via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Blanco via decision.
RICHARD MANN: Blanco should be able to take this one. He is an explosive fellow with a lot of finishing power. Of course, there is always a chance that he throws out some illegal moves and gets disqualified. Blanco by TKO