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UFC 156 preview

“Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall vs. Joseph Benavidez

The last time Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez stepped into the octagon, each suffered a tough loss to UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. McCall fought Johnson twice last year, going 1-1. With those fights against Johnson being some of the most closely contested fights in 2012, it’s safe to say the winner of this fight will become the new number one contender in the UFC’s lightest weight class.

While both Benavidez and McCall are primarily known for suffocating and explosive groundwork, Benavidez takes the advantage in this matchup based solely on the fact that he has more experience on the big stage. The fighter out of Sacramento is one of the few fighters to have fought for championships in two different UFC divisions, losing his last two fights to Johnson and Bantamweight Champion Dominic Cruz.

I see this fight going the same rout as the Cain Velasquez-Antonio Silva fight back in July. Like Cain, Benavidez was long considered the cream of the crop of his respected division. But after one hiccup in his championship fight, he fell a few slots down in the pecking order. Cain exploded back onto the scene with a dominant performance over Silva and earned himself a championship rematch. This is what I see in the cards for Benavidez. He is much more talented than what he displayed in his last lost to Johnson and he knows it. While McCall did push Johnson to the brink of defeat in both of their bouts last year, I don’t see “Uncle Creepy” getting his hand raised in the end.

Benavidez via Split Decision

Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia

What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? You’re about to find out when two former title contenders meet up in the octagon this Saturday. Former middleweight title contender Demian Mai might have the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game in all of MMA. With nine submission wins in his MMA career and an Abu Dhabi submission championship under his belt, it’s hard to argue against it. But where others may find themselves in trouble against the Brazilian submission kingpin, Jon Fitch excels. Often allowing his opponents to lock in a submission only to turn the tables and come out in the dominant position. It’s a submission defense that Fitch has spent years perfecting. As his opponents spend their last bit of strength trying to choke or submit him, Fitch always finds a way to squirm out of danger and land a barrage of punches. This is a grapping fans dream matchup.

Maia has managed to breathe some life into his career since making the move down to welterweight, going 2-0 since dropping down. His advantage is his technical ground game, which few fighters in the 170 division have seen. But even with this in mind, I see Fitch looking to take this fight to the ground early and often. If not, I believe Maia has improved his striking much more than Fitch has and will have an advantage on his feet. But in the end, I believe Fitch’s world-class cardio and submission defense will be the x-factors in this fight. A win here would undoubtedly push Fitch back into title contention, and with a new baby to worry about, Fitch could use a nice win bonus.

Fitch by Unanimous Decision

Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva

This is the fight I am most excited for on this entire card. Dutch kick boxing sensation Alistair Overeem is finally back from suspension. The last time we saw the imposing figure of Overeem he was kicking Brock Lesnar into retirement on his way to earning a number one contender spot for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. But high elevations of testosterone prolonged “The Demolition Man’s” shot to add to his impressive resume, one that boasts both the Strikeforce and K-1 Heavyweight championships.

While Silva did manage to pick up his first UFC victory over the promising Travis Browne, I don’t see him standing much of a chance in this one. Plus, with more than a year on the sideline Overeem has to be aching for another highlight reel knockout. While Silva is dangerous if he can get on top of a fighter, Alistair should have no problem using his massive size to stay on his feet. I see Overeem having his hand raised and securing the Knockout of the Night against the man who is most famous for being the second man to defeat a washed up Fedor Emelianenko.

If Overeem can manage to perform how everyone expects him to perform against Bigfoot, then a shot at Cain Velasquez and his belt should be next.

Overeem by TKO round 1

“Suga” Rashad Evans vs. “Lil’ Nog” Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Boasting some of the best MMA wrestling in the business to go along with heavy handed striking, Evans should have no problem dominating this fight. While Lil Nog holds some Jiu-Jitsu in the game, Evans is just the more versatile and athletic fighter. But no one can overlook a Nogueira brother, especially one that has medaled in amateur boxing in his home country of Brazil. The only way I see the MMA veteran winning this one is by catching Evans with one of his accurate strikes. But I think Evans just has more weapons in his arsenal. I see him utilizing his explosive wrestling game that held former wrestling All-American Phil Davis at bay along with his dynamic striking that knocked out Chuck Liddell to dictate the entire pace of this fight. Similar to the last fight, I see Rashad Evans easily having his hand raised.

Evans TKO round 2

UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo vs. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar

This is without a doubt the most challenging pick I’ve ever made. In what can be called the UFC’s first real “super fight” since Georges St. Pierre took on B.J. Penn back at UFC 94, you have two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world facing off in their primes. In one corner, you have the former UFC Lightweight Champion finally fighting in a weight class he was made for. But in the other corner you have longtime Featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo, a fighter who is so dominate that Anderson Silva, who many consider the greatest mixed martial artist ever, said he would retire if he fought at middleweight. It’s about as close a matchup as you can get.

Frankie has some of the best cardio in the sport and his speed has been the deciding factor in his fights at 155lbs. But these are new waters for him. No longer will he be the smaller, faster fighter in the cage. I believe Aldo has the second best striking attack in the game, outside of Anderson Silva. His mix of speed and power has garnered 13 career knockouts with nine of them coming in the first round. But if Edgar can manage to take this fight into the later rounds, his world-class conditioning will cause problems for the Brazilian. It’s no secret that the longer the fight goes, the better Edgar looks. (see his miraculous comeback against Grey Maynard back at UFC 125) Eight of his 14 career wins have come by decision.

The deciding factor here will no doubt be how well Edgar can take Aldo’s vicious leg kicks. He turned longtime featherweight champion Urijah Faber’s leg into a purple, swollen mess when they fought back at WEC 48. If Aldo takes the same approach on Saturday, Edgar might not have enough strength to go the full five rounds, which has always been one of his biggest advantages.

But I’ve learned you can never count out the heart of Edgar, which is why I have such a hard time picking against him. If he can manage to do the near impossible and take Aldo to the ground and then keep him there, Edgar’s chances of winning increase dramatically. If not he’ll have to rely on his heavy hands and deadly accurate boxing and attempt to stand with Also, who could knock him out from any position.

In the end, I have to go with Aldo, the man many fans consider to be the greatest featherweight of all time, and not just because I think he’s tougher than Edgar. I don’t think anyone at 145 lbs. can hold a candle to Aldo’s talent in the octagon. But again, we’ve seen Edgar come back from insurmountable odds time and time again, so nothing will surprise me in this super fight.

Aldo by coin flip