You know the old saying , "Another pay-per-view, another friendly HOV staff pick 'em". Now that you've read their picks for preliminary portion of tonight's festivities, you've likely been all amped waiting for the main course.
"It's 2013 old man, there's no need for introductory paragraphs," I can hear you guys mumbling through your laptops. "This isn't English class, there are no rules in blogging...cut to the chase...we want Sheehan!" Ok, ok. Here's the picks!
• Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier
Dan Rose: This fight hasn't gotten a ton of press, but it is an absolutely great fight on paper. Both guys need a win, and both have extreme talent, and are hard pressed to quit. I would give the slight edge to Poirier in the standup category. I think he will beat Koch to the punch more often than not. The ground game is pretty much a wash, as both guys are very capable on the ground. In the end, I think Poirier has more tools at his disposal, and I think he’ll catch and hurt Koch, late in the fight. Dustin Poirier by TKO Round 3.
Dave Reno: If the stare down between these two was evidence of anything we are in for a highly competitive contest between two featherweights that have been touted as being a future UFC champion. This fight could've been made a while back but I suspect that it wasn't simply because the promotion didn't want to pit these two budding stars against one another so early in their careers. It was a bout that many thought would be contested for a belt, and one day it still might. Now that each man find themselves coming off a loss the time is right. You're not gonna see many fights better than this one to kick off a pay-per-view. I like Poirier to be the smarter man here, the home cage advantage could play tricks on Koch. He may want to impress and Poirier will capitalize on anything flashy that the Roufus trained fighter tries to pull off. Porier via d'arce.
Evan Shoman: Can’t pick a winner.
Sean Sheehan: I'm looking forward to this one more than any other. The question hanging over Koch is how he will recover from the Lamas beating coming from 18 months on the sidelines. Poirier looked good in a short notice loss to Cub Swanson last time out. I'm taking Poirier via decision but it really is 50-50.
Dwayne Wolff: Two fighters looking to launch themselves back into the title picture. These are two even well rounded fighters and the fight will reflect that as there will a lot of back and forth action. Look for Poirier to get the win in a tough three round SD.
Total: 4-0 for Poirier
• Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera
Rose: Respect the streak. Rothwell has gone … loss, win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. What comes next ladies and gentlemen? That’s right, a win. It’s not me, its science. Brandon Vera’s last fight in the UFC goes poorly for him as he’s outmuscled, controlled and managed for 15 minutes. Unanimous 30-26 across the boards for Rothwell.
Reno: This is gonna get really ugly, really quick - for Vera. Dude has the heart but he just doesn't have the speed or the power that he once had for a good stretch seemingly years ago now. Although he may have a good 20-30 pounds on him come fight night, Rothwell will be the quicker man and once he finds his rhythm it's either curtains or a long night of pain for Vera - take your pick. Rothwell via ultraviolent statement maker.
Shoman: I say it all the time, but this will be the fight we see the true Brandon Vera.
Sheehan: Expect a lot of clinching against the fence and possible boo's from the crowd. Vera needs to win this one to get his career back on track in his new weight division. Vera should outlast Rothwell so I'm taking him via late second round stoppage.
Wolff: Rothwell in his last eight fights has gone 4-4 alternating wins and losses. He lost his last fight which means he will win this one by third round TKO.
Total: 3-2 for Rothwell
• Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida
Rose: Whoever gasses first loses….sometime in Round 9. These guys don’t gas, they don’t pace themselves, but lately, Guida doesn’t engage or give us our money’s worth. Mendes will chase him for eight or nine minutes, and when he finds him, he sends him to the canvas. I don’t think the UFC loves Guida. He earns a pretty penny, and doesn’t exactly show up with evil intent. I think if he gets steamrolled, he could be another high profile cut. It could happen…Mendes will do his part. Mendes by KO Round 2.
Reno: It's kind of strange that Mendes hasn't seen a 2nd round in his last four fights considering that was the very thing people were down on him prior to his title fight with Aldo. 'The Carpenter' is coming into this one as the biggest dog on the card at +350, and he hasn't exactly had the fans in his corner of late due to some bouncingly boring performances. Mendes isn't a good guy for Clay to go spazmatron against. He did it against Bendo and got dropped, when he does it against Chad - he won't get back up. Mendes via 'Money' shot.
Shoman: Taking Clay to end the Bang streak.
Sheehan: This is a big test for Mendes against the always energetic Guida. Clay will try to get in and out when striking and avoid the Mendes takedown while securing his own. I'm not so sure he can do that against the ever improving Mendes. Team alpha-male's unbelievable run under Duane Ludwig will continue here with a Mendes decision victory.
Wolff: This is simple. Guida meets one of his worst nightmare match ups. Mendes is a better, more dynamic striker and when Guida is losing on his feet he takes the fight to the ground. Mendes can stop that, and more. This fight will take place where Mendes wants it. Look for your KOTN as Mendes stops Guida in the first via TKO.
Total: 4-1 for Mendes.
• Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett
Rose: I don’t know. That’s as honest as I can be. Josh Barnett has legit skills, and can be a force in the UFC, but he has faced a ‘Who’s That?’ of MMA in the past few years (when he’s not single handedly sinking promotions). Let’s look at Barnett’s last eight wins…Nandor Geulmino, Sergei Kharitonov, Brett Rogers, Geronimo Dos Santos, Siala-Mou Siliga, Gilbert Yvel, Pedo Rizzo, Jeff Monson, and Yoshida. Which of those guys is supposed to give us an accurate gauge at where he is as a fighter?
On the other hand, Frank Mir has fought the best of the best in the division, and is 4-4 in his last 8 fights. I would give the standing edge to Barnett, the submission edge to Mir (although it’s close). When two wrestlers meet, the result is often a standup clash. I guess if that’s the case, it favors Barnett. Mir is a tough out, and I think he’ll put up a fight all the way down the line.
Really not sure, and going against my brain here, but I’ll take Barnett by Decision. That said … it would not surprise me to see Mir finish Barnett.
Reno: I love Josh Barnett. He's the most metal guy in the game today. Plus, having grown up on pro wrestling nothing does it more for me than a good promo guy. For my money the guy is even better than Chael P.
I'll be pulling for him tomorrow night against Mir. But if you're asking me to go with my head over my heart I have to take Mir. He is a surgeon of the most evil variety on the ground and once it gets there he will likely end it with something disturbing. That is if he gets it there.
Shoman: Josh via being the nastiest SOB I know.
Sheehan: Barnett thinks he can live with Mir on the ground. I don't. Barnett has plenty to prove coming back to the UFC after twelve years away which could play right into Mir's hands. Greg Jackson promised we would see the best Frank Mir in this fight after the Cormier loss and I tend to believe him. Mir via armbar in round one.
Wolff: Here is a matchup between two of the most talented offensive minded grapplers in the heavyweight division and this will be a fun one. Mir has a habit in these situations of pulling off the improbable. Mir submission second round.
Total: 3-2 for Mir
• Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis II
Rose: This one is going to be pretty damn good. I am really, really, REALLY torn here. I like both fighters a ton, and think they both have the skill to win the fight. I think however it is genuinely more difficult to win the belt, than to defend it. There is the unwritten law that to take the belt, you really need to decisively beat the champion.
Here’s what I know for sure. If this fight goes the distance this time, Ben Henderson wins. If it doesn’t, it’s because Pettis stopped Bendo. I would bet on that being the case for sure. The longer the fight goes, the more in benefits the champion. I think Henderson will undoubtedly be forced to live through some scary moments in this fight. It would be foolish to think otherwise, because Pettis is that good. I think however, Henderson has really grown into the championship, and taking it from him won’t be a feat easily accomplished.
I’ve given this a ton of thought, but in the end I think Ben Henderson holds onto his belt, by winning a very close unanimous decision.
Reno: Holy Mackerel. We get a rematch between two of the best at their craft right at the top of the sports most stacked division. And these guys are in their fighting prime.
The champ has been perfect since he debuted against Mark Bocek on the record breaking Rogers Centre card nearly two and half years ago. He's stayed busy, fighting seven times during that span, quickly finding himself in a position to beat the record he now shares with B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar of three consecutive successful title defenses inside of the 155 lb. division. He feels unstoppable right now.
The last man to beat him took his belt in a fight that would close out a highly successful 53 event run for the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion. Pettis would close out the fight by running up the cage, jumping off and landing a direct flying ninja kick to the face of Benson Henderson - and the world of mixed martial arts would never be the same again. The winner, Pettis, was guaranteed a title shot upon entry to the UFC while the other man, Henderson, would have to build his way back up again. Instead, we saw the year of Edgar vs. Maynard due to that draw in Vegas just weeks later. Pettis would go on to lose to Guida, Benson would get his shot first and the rest is history. Will history repeat itself in Pettis' backyard tomorrow night? Or will Benson get that "Pettis stain off his soul," as he so aptly put it in that promo we've heard a million times over now. Prediction time.
I like this one to go a lot like the first fight did. It's one of those WEC throwbacks that should involve a lot of crazy transitions with the early edge going to Henderson due to some takedowns and sub attempts. Pettis will escape though and his world class cardio and speed will give him the opportunity to bless us with another special moment, or two, after the midway point of this clash. Pettis takes another close decision, so close that we end up getting an immediate trilogy the night before Super Bowl XLVIII.
Shoman: Taking Bendo by wrestling.
Sheehan: The rematch we have all been waiting for. Pettis won the first fight largely thanks to the amazing Showtime kick he landed late in round 5. Don't forget, though, that didn't finish Benson and the fight went to a decision. Against one of the best point fighters in the game Pettis will find it difficult to win another decision and will be looking for the knockout. He could get it but for me Henderson will be all out for revenge and won't stop coming forward. My prediction is Henderson to win his 8th consecutive UFC decision.
Wolff: This is one of those fights that will not disappoint and could exceed the hype. These two are at the top of the athletic food chain and are equal in this area. They both have the heart and mental toughness of a champion. Everything else is different about these two which makes for an awesome fight. Pettis will push Henderson unlike anybody has since, well, Pettis. Look for him to go 2-0 against Henderson this time a liver shot TKO 4th round.
Total: 3-2 for Henderson