I know I’ve said this before, but this Saturday, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, fight fans will be treated to the one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history, but more on that later.
Also featured on the card are a pair of bouts that could shake the 145-pound division to it’s core, as four top-10 featherweights will meet inside the cage with every one of them looking to solidify themselves in what has become one of the deepest divisions in the UFC. But the one fight outside of the main event that has fight fans giddy with excitement is a meeting of two former UFC heavyweight champions and mixed martial arts legends. With bad blood boiling between them for almost 10 years, this bout has never been more relevant.
So without further ado, here’s a look at the match on UFC 164’s main card:
#10 Erik “New Breed” Koch (13-2) vs. #6 Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (13-3)
It’s a battle of two featherweights looking to right the ship after both saw their four-fight winning streaks snapped within the last year. Erik Koch was once named the number-one contender and was all lined up for a shot at Jose Aldo’s belt on more than one occasion before injuries to both men and Frankie Edgar dropping down to 145-pounds meant the “New Breed” had to miss more than a year of fighting. After a long time away from the cage, Koch returned in early 2013 only to be handed his first loss in three years by way of a bloody TKO at the hands of Ricardo Lamas. While a win here wouldn’t throw him back into title contention just yet, it will keep his name inside the top 10 and out of the “what if” talks. But standing across from him in the octagon is Dustin Poirier, a man who was within arm’s reach of a title shot before ‘The Korean Zombie’ stopped him in their 2012 Fight of the Year candidate. But following a win over Jonathan Brooking to close out 2012, “The Diamond” dropped another bout to a top-five opponent in Cub Swanson and the once heralded Poirier is in danger becoming the 145-pound gatekeeper. But in the end I see Koch’s long layoff playing the key factor as Poirier drags out the decision
> Poirier via Unanimous Decision
Brandon “The Truth” Vera (12-6) vs. Ben Rothwell (32-9)
A long time ago Brandon Vera was in the title hunt in both the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. He even earned himself a shot at Tim Sylvia’s heavyweight belt after knocking out future champion Frank Mir. But following a contract dispute, a long layoff and a first-round knockout loss to Fabricio Werdum, the man known as “The Truth” saw his title shots and heavyweight career go down the tube and decided to make the move down to 205-pounds. But now following a very up-and-down career at light heavyweight, the former title contender is back at heavyweight for the first time since November 2006. Welcoming him back to the division is former IFL heavyweight Ben Rothwell. With a massive size advantage, Rothwell should look to push Vera into the cage and batter his smaller opponent with heavy shots and a smothering grappling attack. If he can keep Vera from utilizing his speed advantage he should come out on top in a very lackluster decision. Vera may be the better fighter but his lack of recent experience against heavyweights should be his undoing.
> Rothwell via Unanimous Decision
#1 Chad “Money” Mendes (14-1) vs. #9 Clay “The Carpenter” Guida (30-13)
Originally scheduled to face each other back at UFC on Fox 7 before injuries forced the bout to be rescheduled, Chad Mendes and Clay Guida are set to finally meet in what could be the fight of the night, but that all depends on which Guida shows up in this bout. Long considered to be one of the most exciting fighters in the entire UFC, “The Carpenter” has come under fire for diverting from the aggressive and wild fighting style that made him famous to a conservative point fighter. Making the drop from 155 to 145-pounds in January, Guida looked rather lackluster in his split decision win over Hatsu Hioki, utilizing a smothering style to grind out his opponent. He will have a very difficult time pulling off the same approach, as Mendes may be the most athletic fighter in the division, meaning Guida won’t be able to outpace the Alpha Male product or securing takedowns on the two-time All-American wrester. The man known as “Money” is of course coming off three consecutive first-round knockout in a combined three minutes and 34 seconds. But it will be next to impossible to extend that streak to four knockouts and Guida has always been one of the most durable fighters in the entire organization. It’s difficult to say how this bout will play out but in end I see Mendes coming out on top and get to within one win away from his second shot at the title.
> Mendes via Unanimous Decision
#10 Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett (32-6) vs. #6 Frank Mir (16-7)
This one is easily one of the most anticipated heavyweight bouts in recent memory, not because it’s a rematch or because they are two top 10 heavyweights, but because these are two of the original heavyweight champions from the early days of the UFC meeting for the first time. It’s a battle of two incredibly well-rounded and outspoken heavyweights. Frank Mir is one the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the entire organization but his opponent, Josh Barnett, is almost unstoppable if he can take you down and deliver blows to set up his unique submission attack. “Warmaster” is clearly the better wrestler, but I’d give Mir the edge in striking and game off his back, one of the best in all of MMA. Both are coming off losses to heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier that saw the former Olympian dominate every aspect of each fight. It’s as close of a fight as one can make and it could come down to which fighter has the better cardio heading into the later rounds. But in the end I see Barnett coming out on top and earning either a rematch with Cormier or a matchup with ‘Bigfoot’ Silva.
> Barnett via Unanimous Decision