Although the UFC 161 card doesn't feature the most star-studded group of the year, it should make up for it with plenty of competitive fights. Most of the top bouts on the card could go either way, including the main event, featuring Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson.
The pay-per-view was originally scheduled to include a headline encounter between rising star Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland. The fight was scrapped after Barao suffered an injury, though, which left Evans and Henderson to headline.
Let's take a closer look at the most intriguing fights on tap for MMA fans on Saturday night and make predictions for each.
Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson
Even though this bout isn't a typical UFC main event, with no title on the line, it's an important encounter for two veterans looking to get back on track. Evans has lost consecutive fights to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Jon Jones. Henderson lost to Lyoto Machida the last time out.
Evans is the more versatile fighter. He usually enters with a strong defensive game plan to limit an opponent's attacking space, which is key against Henderson, and can still make an impact with a flurry of counterpunches.
On the other hand, Henderson is a more aggressive fighter. Four of his past five wins have come by knockout, illustrating that desire to attack at all costs. That should play right into Evans' hands. He'll wait for “Hendo” to wear himself down and then take control.
Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic
Everybody knows what to expect when Nelson steps in the Octagon. The fearless heavyweight is going to seek the early knockout at all costs. It's been working for him recently, as he's scored three straight first-round victories, most recently over Cheick Kongo.
Which fight will be the most exciting?
The good news for fans is that Miocic doesn't mind a brawl. Seven of his nine career victories, including two of three in UFC, have come by knockout. So he isn't going to shy away from Nelson's early power punches. He will just try to land more of his own.
Fights that feature two fighters with simple knockout mindsets are tough to predict. It all comes down to who gains the early edge with a couple big strikes. Given Nelson's strong performance lately, he gets the slight edge overall.
Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan
Another heavyweight battle between fighters with no shortage of power. Barry bounced back from a loss to Lavar Johnson to defeat Shane del Rosario by second-round knockout. Jordan has won three of his past four, with a win over Mike Russow in January.
Since both have proven their ability to knockout opponents, this matchup will likely come down to which fighter is able to excel defensively. Jordan has been better in that area. Barry has only gone the distance once. If he doesn't win early, he usually loses before the final bell.
It should be a very entertaining back-and-forth battle, even if it doesn't last long. Jordan should be able to keep Barry from getting off too many big shots in the opening round. From there, he will take over the fight in the second.