ProMMAnow.com UFC on FOX 7 staff picks

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UFC on FOX 7UFC on FOX 7 takes place this Saturday, April 20, in San Jose, Calif. UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson will put his title on the line in the main event against former Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez in what will be his long-awaited UFC debut.

The ProMMAnow.com staff shares their thoughts and predictions on each of the main card bouts and one bonus preliminary card bout. It’s a UFC vs. Strikeforce heavy fight card as several fighters from the now defunct Strikeforce promotion make their UFC debuts.

Strikeforce heavyweight tournament winner Daniel Cormier makes his UFC debut against former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir. Former Strikeforce lightweight champ Josh Thomson takes on Nate Diaz, Matt Brown takes on Strikeforce vet Jordan Mein at welterweight, and in our prelim bonus pick Anthony Njokuani takes on Strikeforce vet Roger Bowling at lightweight.

Lightweight: Benson Henderson (c) (18-2) vs. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)

DENNY HODGE: Both Henderson and Melendez have needed a full five rounds to defend their respective titles for their past several defenses. This one will go the distance also, with neither fighter being able to mount enough significant offense to finish the other. Melendez will land with his jab, but Henderson’s movement will prevent him from landing in combinations. Henderson will have to deal with the constant threat of the takedown but he’s proven that he can fight moving backward, and is very proficient in the clinch. Look for this one to go back and forth which each fighter winning a couple of rounds. It will be decided by a single round, and it will be Gilbert Melendez that outpoints Henderson to become the new UFC LW champion. Melendez by split decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Benson Henderson

JACK BRATCHER: Benson Henderson is a certified freak of nature. The long layoff for Melendez could be his downfall though. Henderson has fought twice since Melendez last fought. Both guys only have two losses and both guys are nearly impossible to stop. Melendez seems to have the striking advantage while Bendo has the submission advantage. This is such a close match-up. I really like Melendez’s boxing — it’s improved a lot over the years. It would be a great story to see Melendez win, but I think this is Henderson’s world. This is his fourth title defense and he just came off a complete domination of Melendez’s training partner, Nate Diaz. The only way I see Melendez winning is if he stops Bendo by strikes and I just don’t see it happening. Bendo is too big, too strong, too athletic, too good a wrestler and I think he’s going to grind out another decision win.

Heavyweight: Frank Mir (16-6) vs. Daniel Cornier (11-0)

DENNY HODGE: This is the fight I’m looking forward to the most. Cormier may eventually land at LHW, and if he does, it’s just a matter of time before he meets Jon Jones for a title shot. Cormier’s hands have improved insanely in the past year or so, and his wrestling is world class. He will need to be careful taking down the submission artist however, but I don’t believe that Cormier will be afraid to challenge the ground game of Frank Mir. Mir has shown improved boxing as well, but Cormier’s hand speed is significant as a heavyweight. Cormier will pepper Mir up on the feet, then take him down and punish him for the finish. Cormier by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Daniel Cormier

JACK BRATCHER: Frank Mir has about 1.5 ways to win this fight. He could land a lucky punch or he could submit Cormier. Cormier can knock Frank out on the feet or on the ground and he can also use his wrestling to control position and grind out a decision. What kind of game plan or different kind of fighter will we see out of Mir after having trained at Jackson’s. Should be interesting. Will he try to out-box Cormier like he did Big Nog? Cormier takes it via TKO.

Lightweight: Nate Diaz (16-8) vs. Josh Thomson (19-5, 1 NC)

DENNY HODGE: Josh Thomson likes to stand and bang and Diaz will oblige him. There will be a high volume of strikes in this one and it will be interesting to see how long Thomson stays in the pocket before he looks to utilize his takedown game. Diaz is vulnerable to the takedown as is widely known, but he is definitely a threat off of his back once the fight hits the mat. The big key will be if the often injured Thomson comes in healthy. Diaz will land with his usual volume striking attack and will do enough off his back to score points with submission attempts to take home the decision victory. Diaz by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Nate Diaz

JACK BRATCHER: These two have battle before in a grappling match with Nate winning via points. Thomson has never been submitted and I don’t see Nate subbing him. I do see Nate overwhelming him with constant pressure and punches though. Look for Thomson to target Nate’s legs with kicks. Nate won’t check probably a single one and do what he always does, walk forward and throw punches. Thomson will likely want to keep it standing, but it will be to his detriment. Nate Diaz via decision.

Welterweight: Matt Brown (16-11) vs. Jordan Mein (27-8)

DENNY HODGE: Jordan Mein is an exciting fighter, and he proved that octagon jitters did not affect him as he dismantled the very tough Dan Miller with an impressive onslaught of flurries. Matt Brown is good at making fighters look ugly in the cage however. He is as tough as they come, and will land shots of his own, while bullying Mein up in the clinch. Mein is dangerous from his back, and his activity from there will get the fight back to the feet where he will out land Brown for a decision victory. Mein by unanimous decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Matt Brown

JACK BRATCHER: Jordan Mein burst on the UFC with a bang last month when he became the first person to ever stop Dan Miller, scoring a first round TKO over the UFC veteran. Brown is on the biggest win streak of his career, having won four back-to-back fights all in 2012. Can he keep it going? I’m leaning toward Mein but I love this new Matt Brown and am enjoying watching him ride this wave of success. He’s a gritty determined fighter who has never been stopped via strikes. He’s got a mean clinch game, he puts on a lot of pressure and I’m gonna take Brown via decision.

Lightweight: Anthony Njokuani (15-7, 1 NC) vs. Roger Bowling (11-3)

DENNY HODGE: Roger Bowling is a brawler, and Anthony Njokuani is a technician. Couple that with a distinct reach advantage for Njokuani and that spells disaster for Bowling, who possesses power but will have to close distance and try to land without getting picked apart by the varied striking game of Njokuani. I’m calling “Knockout of the Night” on this one. Njokuani by highlight reel KO.

BRIAN FURBY: Roger Bowling

JACK BRATCHER: Both guys have had their share of knockout victories but Njokuani has faced the tougher competition during his UFC career while this will be the Strikeforce veteran’s UFC debut. Njokuani has been up and down and needs this win to ensure he still has a job Monday morning. I think Njokuani’s technical precision will pull him through for the TKO win.