Jordy McElroy: After enjoying hors d'oeuvres, the meat and potatoes of the main card offers up a surefire slugfest between welterweight heavy hitters Thiago Alves and Martin Kampmann.
The decline Alves has endured in a little over three years time is astonishing. Before facing Georges St-Pierre for the UFC title in July 2009, Alves was on a path of destruction in the welterweight division.
He was on a seven-fight win streak, which included dominant wins over Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Chris Lytle.
Now, Alves is 2-3 in his last five bouts, and he hopes to renew his relevance in the title picture at 170 pounds. Along with Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit, Alves is one of the premier strikers in the welterweight division, but when it comes to pure knockout power, "The Pitbull" is unrivaled.
Against Kampmann, he meets another world-class striker with knockout power and a high technical IQ. After losing controversial decisions to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, Kampmann rebounded at UFC 139 with a win over Rick Story.
While Alves boasts an advantage in power, Kampmann is lighter and quicker on his feet. He should be able to find success in the standup exchanges if he can dance in and out of the pocket with short combinations. His strategy should revolve around patience and avoiding wild exchanges.
Alves' leg kicks are among the most lethal in the sport. Kampmann is an underrated grappler, but the likelihood of him catching a kick and securing a takedown is rather slim. Alves should utilize his leg kicks to minimize Kampmann's movement.
What Thiago Alves are we going to see?
If the 2007-2008 Alves shows up, he should win this fight, and the welterweight division will welcome him back as a serious title contender. It's going to take more than wins over John Howard and Papy Abedi to convince fans that Alves has truly returned to form.
Alves will start out strong, but the fight will start to lean in Kampmann's favor midway into the second round. The MMA world will have another controversial decision to debate when Kampmann walks away with the split decision.
(Martin Kampmann By Split Decision)
John Heinis: After losing two close decisions that could've easily went in his favor, Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann had to be sweating bullets when he knew his UFC 139 fight with RIck Story was going to end in a split decision.
However, Kampmann would not be shafted a third time in a row, finally winning over the judges after a couple tough breaks against Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez.
Kampmann's biggest claim to fame is clearly defeating now UFC Interim Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit in his promotional debut back on April Fool's Day in 2009.
While he is primarily touted as a kickboxer, the Xtreme Couture fighter has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boasting a solid top game and great takedown defense.
Kampmann will have his hands full with "The Pitbull" Thiago Alves if this fight stays standing, though.
Alves won seven in a row before UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre put on a takedown/ground and pound clinic in their UFC 100 title bout.
Since then, the Muay Thai specialist has gone just 2-3, though he is coming off of his first stoppage in two-and-a-half years when he rear-naked-choked Papy Abedi at UFC 138.
If the fight stays standing, Kampmann is much more of a live dog than people are giving him credit for. However, his path to victory involves working his submission game, which is not going to be very plausible given his lack of wrestling pedigree.
Alves' best days very well could be behind him, but I am going to bet they are not in this one.
Thiago Alves via unanimous decision (30-27)
Dan Hiergesell: I've lost sleep thinking about who will win this fight. I absolutely love Kampmann's kickboxing and the fact that he's virtually underrated in everything else, despite his solid submission game and good grappling skills.
But he is facing Alves after all. The guy who many have considered one of the most talented fighters in the world. And even though his cardio is worse at 170 pounds than Roy Nelson's at 260 pounds, Alves' well-rounded skills make him a good pick on any given night.
With that said, Kampmann is coming into this fight with too much momentum. He arguably beat Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, having lost strictly on bad judging. He recently knocked off Rick Story and seems on top of his game.
Both fighters are well versed, but it seems that Kampmann's reach and overall unique striking skills will be too much for Alves' raw power. It's simply Kampmann's time to make a run for the belt.
Martin Kampmann by Decision
Dale De Souza: The hardest part about predicting this one was not deciding who was going to win, but rather, deciding how it's going to end, but after some time to think it over, it seems pretty clear how this one ends.
Both are strikers, with Thiago Alves only giving up a couple of inches of reach to Martin Kampmann in terms of reach, but Kampmann is the more likely to get the fight to the ground and grapple with Alves, whose takedowns and overall wrestling game have been budding, yet have not yet evolved to "elite" status.
It gets interesting if the fight stays on the feet, though, because while Kampmann's knocked a fighter or two out, the Danish striker hits them with the left, then hits them with the right, then hits them with the uppercut, but doesn't always turn out the lights.
It's a fight every time with Kampmann, though, and it will be a fight with Alves facing Kampmann, and as long as I'm recalling things that came from the presser for this card, I might as well rattle off Alves' prediction of a flying triangle and Kampmann's prediction of a gogoplata.
Much as I'd like to see a gogoplata in the UFC—and I still do, damnit!—Alves won't play that game; instead, he'll opt to use his rather cringe-worthy leg kicks to hurt Kampmann and break the Dane until he crumples, at which point Alves will pour the punishment on en route to one of the more excruciating finishes of the evening.
Winner: Thiago Alves by TKO (Leg Kicks and Punches) in Round 2.
Nedu Obi: Following a 1-3 record, Thiago Alves was finally able to register a victory against UFC newcomer Papy Abedi, and in doing so showed an improvement in his all-around game.
In Martin Kampmann, the "Pitbull" will be up against someone in the same boat as him with regards to winning his most recent outing against Rick story, that and fact he's more adept in certain aspects of their mutual disciplines (Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu and wrestling).
However, where brute power is concerned, Alves has the edge and can use that to his advantage either on the ground or striking.
Though the "Hitman" is officially a top 10 ranked welterweight and pushing for a second win in his column, expect Alves to use his new found confidence to knock Kampmann off the rankings.
Prediction: Thiago Alves via Second-Round TKO