Saturday night's UFC on Fox 7 card is one of the best yet in 2013. The four-fight main card is stacked with talent and relevant fights.
The main event will see UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson defend his crown against Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. The Strikeforce champion will get his chance to show the world his talents as he tries to topple Henderson.
The co-main event is between Frank Mir and Daniel Cormier, two elite heavyweights trying to make a case for a future title shot.
Ten more thrilling fights line the card. It will be an exciting Saturday full of action.
Here is your look at early odds and predictions for each fight for UFC on Fox 7.
Clifford Starks (8-1) makes his third trip to the Octagon and his first in over a year to take on Yoel Romero (4-1). Romero will be making his UFC debut after a 0-1 record in Strikeforce.
Romero's lone trip to one of the big shows of MMA ended with a knockout. He took on Rafael Cavalcante last September. Now moving to the biggest show of all, he will try to prove he belongs.
Starks is 1-1 in the UFC. After Saturday, he will move to 2-1.
Romero is an Olympic silver medalist, and that will give him a big advantage over Starks. This isn't wrestling, however. Starks is a more complete fighter who will score on the feet and take the decision.
Betting Odds: Romero (-165) against Starks (+125) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Starks defeats Romero by unanimous decision
Anthony Njokuani (15-7, 1 NC) has exchanged wins and losses in each of his five UFC bouts. He will meet Strikeforce veteran Roger Bowling (11-3) on the Facebook preliminary card.
Bowling has good power in his hands, but Njokuani is the better striker. Bowling will have to revert to his wrestling to win this fight. That won't happen.
Njokuani has taken on a wide array of talent under the Zuffa banner and has looked very good at times. He has taken on strikers such as Edson Barboza and John Makdessi and grapplers like Shane Roller and Danny Castillo.
Having faced this kind of competition in the WEC and UFC will help him get past Bowling. There is nothing Bowling presents that is any more skilled than what he has already seen. His length and striking will play a big factor in Njokuani's decision win.
Betting Odds: Njokuani (-165) against Bowling (+125) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Njokuani defeats Bowling by unanimous decision
T.J. Dillashaw (7-1) is one of three competitors from UFC 158 making a quick turnaround for this event. He will meet Hugo "Wolverine" Viana (7-0) in a bantamweight showdown.
Dillashaw is quickly moving up the ranks and placing himself among the contenders at 135, and Hugo Wolverine will take this opportunity to try to steal his momentum in the division.
Hugo Wolverine brings in a perfect professional record. In his last outing, he knocked out Reuben Duran in the first round. Dillashaw will test Viana's development as an all-around fighter.
After losing The Ultimate Fighter to John Dodson, Dillashaw has been perfect in the Octagon. That won't change on Saturday. Dillashaw's speed and wrestling will be too much for Viana. The Team Alpha Male product will win by decision and continue his trek up the rankings.
Betting Odds: Dillashaw (-420) against Viana (+300) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Dillashaw defeats Viana by unanimous decision
Tim Means (18-3-1) is unbeaten in his last 11 bouts and holds a perfect 2-0 record in the UFC. Jorge Masvidal (23-7) will make his long awaited organizational debut in this fight.
This is a fantastic matchup that will give fans a stand-up battle. Means has a lot of momentum on his side, but Masvidal is a fighter with much more experience in terms of fighting the upper echelon of the division.
Masvidal's boxing will be the difference in this fight, although I do not think he will be able to finish Means.
Masvidal can separate himself from Means on the feet, and he can even use that to transition to takedowns if need be. It will be a big win for Masvidal, and one that can line him up for bigger fights in the UFC.
Betting Odds: Masvidal (-165) against Means (+125) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Masvidal defeats Means by unanimous decision
Top-ranked Joseph Benavidez (17-3) meets No. 8 Darren Uyenoyama (8-3) on the FX portion of the undercard. This is a first-class flyweight fight with potential title implications.
Benavidez is one of the biggest favorites on the card, but he shouldn't be. Uyenoyama is a serious threat in this fight.
Benavidez has only lost to two fighters in his career: Dominick Cruz (twice) and Demetrious Johnson. Benavidez is at the top of the food chain. Uyenoyama hasn't lost since 2010 and has knocked off two very good fighters in the UFC in Kid Yamamoto and Phil Harris.
Uyenoyama poses some significant threats to Benavidez, but the bottom line is that Benavidez is the better fighter. If need be, he will go back to his roots and place Uyenoyama on his back. If he cannot land the knockout blow, then Benavidez will control this fight for 15 minutes.
Betting Odds: Benavidez (-530) against Uyenoyama (+350) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Benavidez defeats Uyenoyama by unanimous decision
The lightweight battle between Ramsey Nijem (7-2) and Myles Jury (11-0) is one of the more intriguing matchups on the card.
Nijem has gone 3-0 since dropping The Ultimate Fighter to Tony Ferguson, and Jury has remained perfect in his professional career.
Both fighters have impressed in recent outings. Jury defeated Michael Johnson when Johnson's stock was on the rise, and Nijem has taken care of three quality opponents since October of 2011. What will be the difference in this fight?
Jury's grappling will put Nijem on the defensive in this fight. Eventually, Jury's submission skills will be shown once again with a submission over Nijem. It won't be easy, but I believe he gets it done inside the cage.
Betting Odds: Jury (-290) against Nijem (+210) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Jury defeats Nijem via submission in the second round
Middleweight prospects Francis Carmont (20-7) and Lorenz Larkin (13-0, 1 NC) will try to make an impact on Saturday.
Carmont is 4-0 in the Octagon with some impressive wins over other prospects, but his last outing left a lot to be desired. He eventually got the nod in a contentious decision but showed plenty of holes in his game.
Larkin moved down to 185 after a knockout loss (turned to a no-contest) against "King" Mo Lawal. In his lone middleweight bout, he upset Robbie Lawler in July by decision.
I believe this fight goes to the scorecards, and the difference will be Larkin's athleticism and speed. It will allow him to be more effective in the cage over the 15-minute period and pick up a second straight win to keep his pro record clean.
Betting Odds: Carmont (-155) against Larkin (+115) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Larkin defeats Carmont by unanimous decision
No. 1 contender Chad Mendes (13-1) will try to notch his third consecutive win when he faces Darren Elkins (16-2).
Elkins takes this fight on short notice after Clay Guida had to pull out due to injury. Elkins is riding a five-fight win streak since dropping to 145, and a win would vault him up the rankings and legitimize his run in the division.
The problem with that is he's fighting Mendes.
Mendes is the biggest favorite on the card and for good reason. Elkins' game is to grind on his opponents, and he is fighting the best wrestler in the division. That doesn't bode well for the Indiana native.
Mendes has knockouts in each of his last two bouts, but it will be more difficult to finish Elkins. He will likely ride out a decision.
Betting Odds: Mendes (-750) against Elkins (+450) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Mendes defeats Elkins by unanimous decision
Jordan Mein (27-8) makes a quick turnaround to take on Matt Brown (16-11) in the first fight of the main card.
Brown has been nothing short of impressive in his recent Octagon outings. He has won four in a row with three stoppages. If he can defeat the rising star on network television, he will make a case for being a Top-10 welterweight, and that was certainly not in anyone's thoughts last year.
Mein will try to make it four in a row with a win on Saturday—a win he will likely get.
Mein is more dynamic than Brown. The Ohio native is a hard-working fighter, but Mein is an athlete. What he was able to do to Dan Miller will be replicated with another first-round TKO performance.
Betting Odds: Mein (-380) against Brown (+260) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Mein defeats Brown by TKO in the first round
The two lightweight scraps on the main card are exciting, tight-knit matchups. Kudos to Joe Silva and Sean Shelby for setting them up.
Nate Diaz (16-8) will try to erase the memories of his last performance when he goes up against the returning Josh Thomson (19-5, 1 NC). Both fighters dropped title bouts in their last outings to the evening's headliners.
Diaz has shown fantastic striking and slick submissions while making his run up the lightweight division, and he will need it all against Thomson. The former Strikeforce champion will have to mix it up against the tough Stockton native.
Thomson's wrestling will be the difference in this fight. If he starts getting tagged on the feet, he will transition to a takedown and put Diaz down. Diaz will have to fight for a submission that won't come, and "The Punk" will make a big return to the Octagon with a decision win.
Betting Odds: Diaz (-200) against Thomson (+170) at 5Dimes.eu
Predictions: Thomson defeats Diaz by unanimous decision
Heavyweight contenders Frank Mir (16-6) and Daniel Cormier (11-0) will set the world on fire with an exciting heavyweight showcase in the co-main event of the evening.
This is a massive test for Cormier and his title aspirations. Mir is one of the very best in the division, and the recent switch to Jackson's MMA will only make him more dangerous in the cage.
Cormier's wrestling may not come into play in this fight if he wants to stay off the mat with Mir. On the feet, it may come down to Cormier's power versus Mir's diversity. That's a fight I think Cormier wins. Mir will want to try to threaten on the feet to force Cormier to use his wrestling.
Cormier will slip a big right through Mir's defense in the first round and finish the fight.
Betting Odds: Cormier (-420) against Mir (+335) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Cormier defeats Mir by TKO in the first round
For year, fans have wanted to see how Gilbert Melendez (21-2) stacks up in the UFC. We will find out when the Strikeforce lightweight champion takes on the UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson (18-2) on Saturday.
This is a compelling fight that no MMA fan should miss. The true No. 1 and No. 2 in the division will meet to find out who is the baddest 155-pounder in the world today.
Both men are well-rounded competitors with a variety of ways to make life difficult for the other. Henderson's athleticism will be the major difference in the fight.
He will be able to utilize his leg kicks on the feet, and his takedown defense will force Melendez to expend a lot of energy seeking a takedown that is unlikely to come. If Melendez does secure a takedown, it has proved even more difficult to keep Henderson down.
Can he keep that up for five full rounds? No.
Henderson's pace will eventually slow Melendez just enough to allow the champion to win the final two rounds with ease. It will be the first three where Melendez has his best shot. The diversity of Henderson's game will send him to a 49-46 victory.
Betting Odds: Henderson (-290) against Melendez (+245) at 5Dimes.eu
Prediction: Henderson defeats Melendez by unanimous decision