The ( staff returns with their thoughts and predictions on “UFC on Fuel TV: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger” which taks place Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Neb. The event is headlined with the original Ultimate Fighter middleweight winner Diego Sanchez (he has since dropped to welterweight) taking on top five ranked welterweight Jake Ellenberger in the main event. We’ve also got a pair of heavyweight bouts and several up-and-comers trying to make their mark inside the Octagon.

Ivan Menjivar (23-8) vs. John Albert (7-1)

ODDS: Menjivar -210, Albert +170

DENNY HODGE: John Albert got his wish, seeing his fight with Ivan Menjivar get elevated to the main card. The TUF 14 cast member is coming off an impressive UFC debut taking out Dustin Pague in just over a minute, while Menjivar is a seasoned veteran that will try to keep his return to the UFC record perfect. Albert has proven he can finish a fight quickly, but Menjivar won’t go away easy. The ground comparison on these two should prove to be pretty equal, so I‘m going with Albert to land the cleaner strikes, taking the victory by unanimous decision.

BRIAN FURBY: John Albert by TKO in round 2.

JOSH CROSS: I think Menjivar is just a more well rounded fighter than Albert. I think the more experienced Menjivar will be able to use his skills to adapt and keep Albert on the defensive for the majority of the fight. Pick: Menjiva via Decision.

JACK BRATCHER: John Albert may be the second coming of Dominique Cruz but we will never know that until he defeats someone we’ve heard of. He’s barely been in the cage with anyone we’ve heard of. While Dustin Pague is a good start, it just barely fits the bill. Ivan Menjivar has been here for years rocking his peers in promotion after promotion making opponents shed tears. With wins over Lauzons, Currans, Tokoros and Paces, the Pride of El Salvador is not upper echelon, but should be plenty experienced and well-rounded enough to handle the up-and-comer. Menjivar by decision.

T.J. Dillashaw (5-1) vs. Walel Watson (9-3)

ODDS: Dillashaw -315, Watson +255

DENNY HODGE: It seems that Dillashaw is completely dismissing Watson in this fight. That could prove to be a big mistake. Watson will have a decided reach advantage and will need to use good footwork to keep the distance and get off on the feet, all while avoiding the takedown attempts that are sure to come in rapid succession from Dillashaw. There is no secret that Dillashaw wants this fight on the ground, but even when it goes there, Watson is a threat off his back. I’m going with the upset in this one. Watson by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: T.J. Dillashaw by unanimous decision.

JOSH CROSS: Dillashaw will be looking to take the fight to the ground while Watson will be looking to keep the fight standing. I think Dillashaw will be able to get Watson down, control the fight, and pick up the win. Pick: Dillashaw via Decision.

JACK BRATCHER: This is an interesting match-up due the size and body type differences in these two. Watson is part of Team Hurricane Awesome in San Diego, and although he has the height and reach advantage, T.J. Dillashaw is coming in with that patented Team Alpha Male style and wrestling background and is surrounded by so many great fighters on a daily basis. It’s hard to pick against that. Look for Dillashaw to control the action for a decision victory.

Stipe Miocic (7-0) vs. Philip De Fries (8-0, 1 NC)

ODDS: Miocic -455, De Fries +355

DENNY HODGE: In a battle of unbeatens, Miocic and De Fries will both look to improve on their efforts in their UFC debuts. Miocic should dominate the stand up battle against De Fries, and with his wrestling, should be able to keep the fight standing should he choose to do so. Miocic will likely be cautious with his leg kicks not wanting to give up an easy takedown, but will pick De Fries apart from the outside with his strikes. Miocic by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Stipe Miocic by TKO in round 1.

JOSH CROSS: I think Miocic has the greatest chance to win this fight by keeping it standing and not going to the mat with De Fries. While both fighters could go to the ground at some point, I think the fight will end there. Someone is going to remain undefeated at the end of the night and I think it will be Miocic. Pick Miocic via TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: It’s a submission fighter vs. a striker when Philip De Fries and Stipe Miocic clash in this heavyweight romp. Miocic has submissions too, they’re called leg kicks. Just ask Bobby Brents when Miocic won the NAAFS Heavyweigh Title last June. With seven wins, six stoppages by strikes and a unanimous decision over Joey Beltran, Mr. Stipe Miocic has my confidence in this one. Miocic via TKO.

Aaron Simpson (10-2) vs. Ronny Markes (12-1)

ODDS: Simpson even, Markes -130

DENNY HODGE: Ronny Markes will be dropping to middleweight for this bout, and that cut may prove to be detrimental against Aaron Simpson. Markes will likely try to keep this fight standing and test his power against Simpson. Simpson has proven that he will stand and bang, but will likely try to put Markes on his back and try to finish it there. Look for Markes to have a good showing on his feet while the fight is there, but expect for Simpson to control the fight on the ground on his way to a decision victory. Simpson by unanimous decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Ronny Markes by submission in round 1.

JOSH CROSS: The odds for this fight were really close the last time I checked. It could go either way, but I think Simpson will be able to take Markes down and use his wrestling to grind out the decision. Pick: Simpson via Decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Interesting odds on this one. This is only Markes’ second fight in the UFC. He generated some hype following a decision win over former WEC middleweight champ Paulo Filho in Brazil last year. He then won a unanimous decision over Karlos Vemola in his UFC debut in August. Simpson has racked up a handful of decision victories during his nearly three years in the UFC now, with his only losses coming to Chris Leben and Mark Munoz. Simpson should be able to grind out another win here. Simpson via decision.

Stefan Struve (26-5) vs. Dave Herman (21-2)

ODDS: Struve +125, Herman -155

DENNY HODGE: This has the potential to be “Fight of the Night”. Struve will stand and bang with just about anybody, and Dave Herman…. well let’s just say that he’s a unique character. The guy isn’t afraid of anything, and often looks like he’s carrying a lackadaisical attitude with him in the cage. That’s probably because he is. But don’t let that fool you. Herman is a freak athlete and can finish a fight at anytime, anywhere. I expect that Herman will walk forward and get caught with some big shots early against the length and reach of Struve, but will continue to come forward and put Struve away during a big exchange. Herman by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Dave Herman by TKO in round 1.

JOSH CROSS: It’s always intriguing to see how Struve’s opponents handle his height difference. I think Herman should look to keep this fight standing knowing how good Struve can be on the ground using his long limbs. I think Herman will be able to compensate for Struve’s size advantage, and I think Herman will come away with the win. Pick: Herman via TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: They say that once you get knocked out it becomes easier and easier for it to happen again. If that is true, it’s not a good thing for Mr. Struve going into a fight with the likes of Dave Herman. A couple things about Dave. Rumor has it he made that pink scarf he’s wearing. Secondly, I’ve been watching this guy fight for years now, interviewed him several times, even ate dinner next to him once, and I never knew he had body hair, much less black body hair all over his back! I was shocked when he walked out at weigh ins. And the beard… my god, that beard is gorgeous. And trust me, I know a good beard. Let’s just put it this way. Struve is in for a world of hurt. Herman was dangerous when he didn’t train… now he’s been with Team Quest for quite some time and has even started playing cage ball for his cardio!  Look out Struve… Herman by knockout.

Diego Sanchez (25-4) vs. Jake Ellenberger (26-5)

ODDS: Sanchez +310, Ellenberger -410

DENNY HODGE: Jake Ellenberger is primed to capture top contender status with an impressive victory over Diego Sanchez, but that is never an easy task against the tough and gritty Sanchez. Sanchez is looking to keep his momentum going, but Ellenberger poses many threats that will be difficult to overcome for him. Ellenberger will be dangerous in the pocket when these two take the center of the cage and exchange, and he possesses the power to put Sanchez away. Sanchez has proven that he is a resilient fighter that can come back from being hurt, but I believe that the war will be won in the trenches when these two lock up in the clinch. Look for Ellenberger to win the exchanges and do damage with knees in the clinch. Sanchez will push the pace, especially in the later rounds but won’t be able to overcome the effective striking and control of Ellenberger. Ellenberger by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Jake Ellenberger by unanimous decision.

JOSH CROSS: Ellenberger continues to improve and has shown just how dangerous he can be on his feet. It will be interesting to see how Sanchez looks after nearly a year since his last fight, but in the end I think Ellenberger comes away with the win. Pick: Ellenberger via TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Diego Sanchez is an enigma. If you think you have him figured out, you don’t. He can probably bend spoons with his mind, that’s how intense this dude is. His last two fights have been fights of the night. He has been in there with the best. Think about it, this kid is the other original Ultimate Fighter. Everyone talks about Forrest Griffin as the original, but so was Diego. He’s fought everyone and he’s fought for the title. Sanchez is never going to be UFC champion, he got right up to the line, right up to the door but could not enter. Now it’s Ellenberger’s turn and if he can get through Sanchez, he will be right up there close to the door as well. My heart wants to pick Diego, my mind Ellenberger. The facts and odds are for Ellenberger, but Sanchez has hat intangible unseen force, he’s the young man who meditates in the rain and summons the power of the thunder and lightning… he is the enigma. Sanchez by submission.

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