Any time you get an opportunity to see two of the best fighters in the world clash, it is a major event. On Saturday, April 20, MMA fans will be treated to such an event.
UFC Lightweight champion Benson "Smooth" Henderson (18-2) will defend his title against Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez (21-2). The challenger will be making his UFC debut in the title fight.
That is something of a rarity, but it speaks to the enormous respect UFC President Dana White has for Melendez's ability. This is a much-anticipated bout, and it highlights a very strong card set for free TV.
Here's a look at the rest of the card and the coverage particulars.
When: Saturday, April 20 at 4 p.m. ET for Prelims and 8 p.m. ET for main card
Where: HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA
TV: Fox and FX
Live Stream: Facebook Preliminaries
Here are my predictions for each bout. An asterisk indicates a more in-depth analysis is featured below.
|Matchup||Weight Class||Coverage||My Pick|
|Matt Brown (16-11) vs. Jordan Mein (27-8)||Welterweight||Fox||Mein by KO|
|T.J. Dillashaw (7-1) vs. Hugo Viana (7-0)||Bantamweight||FX||Dillashaw by KO|
|Anthony Njokuani (15-7) vs. Roger Bowling (11-3)||Lightweight||Njokuani by dec.|
|Tim Means (18-3-1) vs. Jorge Masvidal (23-7)||Lightweight||FX||Masvidal by dec.|
|Joseph Benavidez (17-3) vs. Darren Uyenoyama (8-3)||Flyweight||FX||Benavidez by dec.|
|Myles Jury (11-0) vs. Ramsey Nijem (7-2)||Lightweight||FX||Jury by KO|
|Francis Carmont (20-7) vs. Lorenz Larkin (13-0)||Middleweight||FX||Carmont by* submission|
|Clifford Starks (8-1) vs. Yoel Romero (4-1)||Middleweight||Starks by KO|
|Chad Mendes (13-1) vs. Darren Elkins (16-2)||Featherweight||Fox||Mendes by dec.*|
|Nate Diaz (16-8) vs. Josh Thomson (19-5)||Lightweight||Fox||Diaz by dec.*|
|Daniel Cormier (11-0) vs. Frank Mir (16-6)||Heavyweight||Fox||Cormier by KO*|
|(c) Benson Henderson (18-2) vs. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)||Lightweight Championship||Fox||Henderson by dec.*|
Carmont's Length and Versatility Will Be Too Much For Larkin
Larkin is making his UFC debut. He defeated Robbie Lawler in his last bout, which took place in the Strikeforce promotion.
In the bout prior to his win over Lawler, Larkin was KO'd by Muhammad Lawal, but the bout was ruled a no-contest after Lawal tested positive for a banned substance.
Because of that decision, Larkin is still technically undefeated. I totally understand the process of eliminating wins when fighters test positive for no-no drugs, but it is hard to forget this happened (stoppage occurs at the 12:15 mark):
Larkin loves to bang and if he isn't taken to the ground, his strength and boxing ability give him a shot to beat most middleweights.
However, Carmont's length and diverse game will have Larkin on his back in no time. He'll control the majority of this fight and win an easy decision.
Chad Mendes' Explosiveness Will Be the Difference Against Elkins
This bout is shaping up as one that has the potential to be among the best on the card. Both Mendes and Elkins are what I would describe as elite featherweights.
The difference in this match will be Mendes' explosive striking. I don't see him stopping Elkins, but I think he'll lead the way in significant strikes.
They will battle to a stalemate on the ground. This will be a chess match between two very skilled fighters, but I'm not sure any featherweight in the world can beat Mendes—besides Jose Aldo.
Nate Diaz Will Rebound From Loss to Henderson to Beat Thomson
It is rare that you see Diaz fight someone nearly as good as he is on the ground. Thomson is that guy.
He is perhaps the only fighter Gilbert Melendez has yet to completely solve. He owns a victory over him, though it has been avenged twice (albeit via two reasonably disputable decisions).
Although he is an accomplished wrestler and grappler, he will probably be better off standing. Diaz's ground game is so advanced not even Benson Henderson wanted to tangle with him on the mat.
Unfortunately, Diaz's reach, boxing and chin give him an advantage in striking as well. It could be close, but I see Diaz winning a unanimous decision.
Daniel Cormier Will Expose Frank Mir as an Overrated, Washed-Up Heavyweight
Frank Mir has had his moments in the UFC. He submitted Brock Lesnar back when that meant something.
He submitted Cheick Kongo, which is not that difficult for most heavyweights in the sport, and stopped Mirko Cro Cop when he should have already called it a career.
Mir has also scored KO and submission victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. For as legendary as Minotauro is, he's more of a gatekeeper than anything.
With all due respect, most of Mir's biggest wins seemed bigger when they happened than they do now.
At 33 years old, he has been competing in the UFC for 12 years. He was never extremely fast, but now he's even slower. His chin isn't as impressive as his will, which is dangerous. At this point, he's just a name.
Cormier's athleticism and boxing skill will lead to an impressive KO win. He is actually a year older than Mir, but he hasn't been through the Octagon wars Mir has seen. His body is fresher, and that will be the major difference.
Benson Henderson Will Again Prove He Is King of the Lightweights
Which fight are you most excited to see?
His bout on Saturday with Gilbert Melendez is probably not going to be action-packed. Both men are very dangerous, and both respect the other's skill.
Henderson fights a very defensive style, and that countering attack has worked well for him. He'll take some chances with kicks from those tree-trunk legs and even some combination punching.
But ultimately, this will be a tactical battle.
Beyond great technique in most every area, Henderson's lower-body strength makes him so difficult to take down. Anthony Pettis gave Henderson a problem because of his quickness when they met in 2010.
But Melendez is not as quick as Showtime and I don't see him out-striking Henderson. I think this bout will be a showcase of Henderson's amalgamation of skills and more proof he's the best 155-pound fighter in the world.
Follow me, because Royce Gracie started me on this MMA path, and now I'm out of control.