With the original main and co-main events scrapped due to injuries, company president Dana White avoided a UFC 151-like fiasco by pitting Rashad Evans against Dan Henderson in tonight's main event at UFC 161.
Ranked sixth at 205 pounds in the UFC, former light heavyweight champ Evans must fight with urgency to halt the first two-fight losing skid of his career. Henderson, the UFC's oldest fighter and the only man to ever hold belts in both Strikeforce and Pride, will take one last crack at getting back into title contention with another win over a former champ.
The last time a pair of former NCAA Division I wrestlers squared off in a UFC main event was when Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar went at it for the third time at UFC 136.
Even the oddsmakers were confused with this one, as evidenced by Bovada.com's decision to name Evans a 1.4-to-1 favorite (-140) to beat Henderson (+110).
But the Evans vs. Henderson bout won't represent the only captivating matchup at UFC 161.
Here are last-second predictions for every fight on the Evans vs. Henderson fight card.
Yves Jabouin and Dustin Pague are certainly heading in different directions in the UFC's bantamweight division.
Jabouin has looked impressive in winning three of his last four fights in the division, and Pague has put on less than superb performances in dropping three of his last four.
Jabouin's recent success has persuaded the oddsmakers to deem him the second most significant favorite at UFC 161, only behind Alexis Davis. Bovada.com has named Jabouin a 3.35-to-1 favorite (-335) to best Pague (+255).
Jabouin will utilize his smooth and powerful striking skills and his ever improving takedown defense to earn a unanimous decision win over the struggling Pague, who will receive his pink slip shortly after the fight.
John Maguire went from England's biggest prospect to a desperate man in just two fights in the UFC's cutthroat welterweight division.
After losing two straight bouts at 170, Maguire decided he'd had enough and made the drop to 155.
Maguire will make his lightweight debut against Mitch Clarke on the second fight of UFC 161's premlinary card, which will be aired on Facebook.
Clarke, a Canadian submission specialist, dropped his first two fights in the UFC and likely needs a win to maintain his spot on the roster.
With Maguire in a similar position, expect these two Brazilian jiu-jitsu experts to put on an inspiring scrap.
In the end, Maguire's striking advantage will lead to a unanimous decision win for the 30-year-old native of Peterborough, England.
Still unbeaten in the UFC because of a no-contest in his last bout, Winnipeg Academy of Mixed Martial Arts product Roland Delorme will look to improve to 3-0-1 in the promotion with a win over Edwin Figueroa.
Delorme earned back-to-back rear-naked choke wins over Josh Ferguson and Nick Denis at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale and UFC on Fox 3, respectively.
Figueroa may have the heavier hands, but Delorme definitely represents the more proficient grappler.
At some point late in this bout, Delorme will take Figueroa's back and sink in his third rear-naked choke in the UFC.
While things didn't go smoothly for either in the early going in the promotion, Sean Pierson and Kenny Robertson have each tasted some success lately in the UFC.
Pierson dropped two of his first three fights in the UFC, but bested Lance Benoist and Jake Hecht in his last two bouts to regain his footing.
Robertson, meanwhile, lost his first two fights in the promotion before pulling off a slick kneebar submission on Brock Jardine at UFC 157. Robertson took home the "Submission of the Night" bonus for his kneebar from the back mount, which is also called a ham ripper.
Both fighters certainly have evolved and become more well-rounded. Unfortunately for Robertson, Pierson has made the bigger gains, a theory that will be proven when the Canadian coasts to a unanimous decision win tonight.
Becaue he's a late replacement for the injured Isaac Vallie-Flagg, James Krause appears to be making his UFC debut in haste.
But Krause, a former WEC veteran who's won his last seven bouts, has put in the necessary work to earn a shot at a UFC lightweight staple like Sam Stout.
Although he's only experienced checkered success lately, Stout's survived for over seven years in the UFC's deepest division, earning five "Fight of the Night" bonuses and a "Knockout of the Night" bonus in that span.
Expect Krause to threaten Stout with his unorthodox striking and submission games, but when the lights go out in Winnipeg, the Canadian UFC vet will have gutted out his eighth decision victory in the promotion.
Akin to the main event bout between "Suga" and "Hendo," the Jake Shields vs. Tyron Woodley bout features two evenly matched former college wrestlers.
Woodley may represent the stronger wrestler, although the former University of Missouri standout definitely doesn't have the stronger Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess.
One of the division's premier submission artists, Shields has racked up 10 submission wins, including nine via choke.
Woodley has only been forced to defend two submission attempts in his 12-fight career.
Shields is just too crafty and the Californian will get the best of Woodley in the early standup exchanges before finding a way to get under the All-American wrestler's throat to secure his 10th career win by choke.
While Pat Barry's always been a pure kickboxer, Barry's UFC 161 main card opponent, Shawn Jordan, has always been a wrestler with explosive power in his fists.
A two-time state wrestling champ in high school who possesses adequate submission skills, Jordan unquestionably represents the more well-rounded martial artist.
But Barry will bring improved wrestling skills and a revamped defensive submission game to his bout with Jordan.
If Jordan can't perpetually push Barry up against the fence, beat him up and then ground him, then the former Louisiana State University football player will be in "HD's" comfort zone, a place few fighters survive.
Along with some of the most devastating kicks in the sport, Barry throws a venomous over-hand right and a thunderous left hook that's taken out the likes of Antoni Hardonk and Shane del Rosario.
Barry will first soften Jordan up with kicks to his legs and body in the first round. HD will then end it in the second with a beautiful two-punch combination that renders Jordan unconscious.
Rosi Sexton has looked awfully sharp in the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship in Europe in her last three fights.
But Sexton's three-fight winning streak will mean little when she makes her debut in the Octagon in the second bout of the main card.
That's because Sexton will face her stiffest challenge since falling to Gina Carano when she takes on Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu standout Alexis Davis in Canada's first ever female UFC fight.
Ranked sixth on the UFC's women's bantamweight list, Davis has reeled off wins in five of her last six scraps, including victories over seventh-ranked Amanda Nunes and eighth-ranked Julie Kedzie.
The Canadian's lone loss in her last six fights came at the hands of Sarah Kaufman in a majority decision setback at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, expect Davis to snatch a submission late and finish Sexton in a bout that could garner "Fight of the Night" honors.
When two strike-happy fighters meet in the Octagon with their careers at stake, typically fireworks ensue.
The stakes couldn't be higher for knockout artists Ryan Jimmo and Igor Pokrajac, who will tangle before UFC 161's co-main event bout.
Originally slated to fight on the FX prelims, Jimmo and Pokrajac got moved up to the main card when bouts between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland, and "Little Nog" and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, got scrapped due to injuries.
Jimmo holds just one win in the UFC, while Pokrajac hasn't won in the promotion since beating Fabio Maldonaldo at UFC on Fuel TV 3.
Although Pokrajac has 13 KO's to Jimmo's seven, expect the Canadian karate expert to deliver a highlight-reel KO late on the always game Croatian Top Team product.
Stipe Miocic will get the rare privilege of fighting a surging contender following a loss when he faces fifth-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson in the co-main event at UFC 161.
The UFC had to cancel the night's original main event and co-main event, and as a result, Miocic's first opponent, Soa Palelei, was removed from the card.
In order to make the pay-per-view a more appealing buy, the UFC wisely replaced Palelei with the always bearded and always ready "Big Country."
A 2.8-to-1 favorite according to Bovada.com, Nelson (-280) will look to hand Miocic his second straight loss.
In his last outing, Miocic suffered his first setback via TKO at the hands of Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 5.
Nelson will essentially have Miocic trumped in every category except wrestling, reach and strength.
A former NCAA Division I wrestler, Miocic must use his seven-inch reach advantage to stay out of "Big Country's" range and to close the distance.
If the green but gifted Miocic can't fight Nelson at his own tempo and on his own terms, he's quickly going to become another victim of a Nelson knockout.
At 33 years of age, Evans still has plenty to prove in his career.
And contrary to what many believe, the 42-year-old Henderson still has one goal left in mind before he calls it quits—capturing a UFC belt.
Like Machida at UFC 157, Evans will hold a speed advantage over Henderson, a weakness he must exploit in order to keep pace with the lethal "Hendo" on his feet.
Henderson still has explosive power in his hands—particularly his right hand, which is often called the H-bomb, and the former two-time Olympian (Greco-Roman wrestling) will hunt Evans' jawline for three rounds.
Evans must use his footwork and wrestling to control Henderson like he did to his nemesis Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 114. lf he doesn't, "Suga" will fail to find his range and fall into at least a few of Hendo's setups for devastating combinations.
While Evans has proven himself an extremely durable fighter, Henderson has surely watched the tape of Machida folding Suga up and taking his belt at UFC 98.
Evans didn't look himself in his last fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156. If that Suga shows up against Hendo, Evans will end the night on his back.