UFC 164 Main Card Staff Predictions

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2013

UFC 164 Main Card Staff Predictions

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    UFC 164 will be held on Saturday with the most anticipated rematch in a long while. Former WEC champs will reconnect, as current UFC titleholder Benson Henderson meets bitter rival Anthony Pettis.

    The card is stacked from top to bottom. The prelims feature many intriguing prospects who could be main-carders one day, while the pay-per-view has established contenders who are mostly trying to get back into the title picture.

    Bleacher Report has again assembled its crack team of analysts to break it all down. Scott Harris, Sean Smith, Craig Amos, James MacDonald and yours truly, Riley Kontek, are proud to present our staff predictions for the UFC 164 main card.

Dustin Poirier vs. Erik Koch

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    Kontek

    I have been waiting for this fight for a long, long time. Both men are good strikers and have solid grappling ability. That being said, Poirier is probably the better fighter on the ground, so if and when he takes Koch down, he should be able to control him. The Louisiana native takes one in Koch's backyard.

    Poirier, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    This should be a terrific fight between two young guys coming off losses. Both are now hungry and have proven finishing ability. I think Poirier is a little more dynamic than Koch, especially on the feet. Sound the (mild) upset alarms.

    Poirier, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    Poirier has gained recognition as one of the best young featherweights in the game and deservedly so. Koch was once right there alongside him, but a lengthy injury-induced layoff and subsequent defeat have dispelled the momentum. That will change at UFC 164, however, as Koch will show that he is not only equal to Poirier, but just plain better.

    Koch, Submission, Round 2

     

    Smith

    In terms of skill, Koch is a legit Top 10 145-pound fighter, but it's worth noting he holds no victories over current UFC featherweights. He hasn't had his hand raised in almost two years, and that can weigh on a professional athlete. This should be competitive, but I think Koch could have used some tune-up fights following his long injury hiatus that spanned the 2012 calendar. Poirier has had more quality cage time against elite competition, and it will show on Saturday.

    Poirier, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    This is a tough fight to call. Both men have near-boundless potential and are well-rounded. Koch is probably the more dynamic striker, but Poirier would likely fancy his chances if this turns into a grappling contest. This may come down to whether he can impose his will and drag Koch to the ground consistently. I’m not convinced he’ll be able to.

    Koch, Unanimous Decision

Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera

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    Kontek

    A move back to heavyweight for Brandon Vera is interesting. He will be the quicker fighter and have superior cardio. That being said, Ben Rothwell is a powerful striker who has some ability on the ground. I actually think this has the chance to be entertaining, as both men are traditionally kickboxers. I trust Rothwell's power, even though he will be tested down the stretch.

    Rothwell, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    It's interesting to me that one of the consensus best fights of Vera's career was a loss: the fourth-round TKO defeat to Shogun Rua. That says a lot. That said, until Rothwell demonstrates consistently that he has respectable cardio, veterans like Vera will try to take the big knockout artist into deep water. Plus, I have a feeling this return up a weight class will work well for Vera.

    Vera, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    Vera makes the jump back to heavyweight, the division where he was at one time considered a surefire future champion. Reality didn't follow that script, however, and rather than fighting for the title, Vera's match against Rothwell looks a lot more like a loser-leaves-town kind of deal. I expect Vera to keep the distance and outpoint the ultra-durable Rothwell en route to a clear-cut decision victory.

    Vera, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    With one win in his past four bouts not counting the no contest to Thiago Silva, it's understandable that Vera would want to make a change. However, the HW division is a different animal than the last time he competed in it, so moving weight classes may not have been the right adjustment to make. Rothwell is a fairly large heavyweight and should be able to bully Vera in the clinch.

    Rothwell, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    I’m perplexed by Brandon Vera’s decision to go back up in weight class, given the problems he had at 205 pounds. I’m not convinced that the change will do him any favours. That being said, he couldn’t have asked for a more favourable matchup. Ben Rothwell is tough as nails, but he doesn’t necessarily excel in any one area. Vera should be able to pick him apart on the feet without having to worry too much about the takedown.

    Vera, Unanimous Decision

Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida

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    Kontek

    Despite fans turning on Clay Guida, I am still a big fan of what he does. He realizes that he cannot continue to take some of the beatings he has taken in the past. However, he is usually the better wrestler when he enters the cage, but this will not be the case in Milwaukee. Mendes will stay on the feet and outstrike the wild Illinois native but not finish him. Seriously, Guida's chin is highly trustworthy.

    Mendes, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    Has anyone executed a more perfect MMA heel turn than Clay Guida? People used to love this guy. Now, his conservative, even evasive game plans induce cringing. I don't think Mendes will let him get away with it. I'm predicting some ground-and-pound from the featherweight contender.

    Mendes, TKO, Round 2

     

    Amos

    Guida is an excellent fighter who has taken out a handful of accomplished opponents. However, he has consistently struggled throughout his career when faced with good wrestlers who are able to prevent his takedowns and outpoint him on the feet (Gray Maynard, Ben Henderson, Diego Sanchez, for example). In Mendes, he finds a fantastic wrestler whose striking has developed under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig. What this all adds up to is a long night at the office for "The Carpenter."

    Mendes, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    Guida's wrestling and conditioning are his biggest assets against top-notch competition, but Mendes shouldn't have any trouble with either of his opponent's biggest strengths. A two-time All-American wrestler, Mendes should actually have an advantage over Guida when it comes to takedowns, and he hasn't shown a tendency to fade in his past fights. With Duane Ludwig helping to improve his striking, Mendes should batter a tough Guida in all areas for three rounds.

    Mendes, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    Chad Mendes is, in my opinion, the only man at 145 pounds who can trouble Aldo. He seems to get better every time we see him, particularly with Ludwig on board. This isn’t a good matchup for "The Carpenter." Mendes does everything just a little bit better, so it’s tough to see a clear path to victory for Guida.

    Mendes, Unanimous Decision

Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett

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    Kontek

    This may be because of my unwilling allegiance to Frank Mir and his awesomeness, but it's hard to go against him here. While Josh Barnett is the better wrestler and likely to get the takedown before Mir does, Mir does have the better striking, believe it or not. On the ground, it's tricky to work in Mir's guard, even for an experienced guy like Barnett. Tough call, but I will go with my guy.

    Mir, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris 

    You could almost see the will to compete seeping out of Frank Mir in the cage against Junior dos Santos. Hard to blame him, as dos Santos is an absolute titan, but he was lackluster against Daniel Cormier as well. I can't side with Mir until he proves he still has the fire, and Barnett will be motivated in his return to the UFC Octagon.

    Barnett, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    It's tempting to take Mir here because he has consistently faced the kind of competition that Barnett has had little exposure to of late, but I see "The Warmaster" making a successful return to the Octagon in Milwaukee. Barnett's wrestling advantage should allow him to control Mir on the fence and maybe even the mat, from where he will maintain control and eke out a hotly contested though slow-paced decision win.

    Barnett, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    Mir and Barnett are both strongest on the ground, but Barnett has only been submitted via strikes, while Mir has never tapped. This matchup could come down to which fighter spends more time in the top position, and Barnett has the better takedowns. Look for him to become one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division after Saturday.

    Barnett, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    This fight could go a number of different ways. We’re all anticipating a grappling affair, but they may end up just kickboxing for 15 minutes. If it does go to the ground, I think it’ll be Barnett who takes it there. What’s more, I reckon he’s savvy enough to deal with Mir’s guard.

    Barnett, Unanimous Decision

Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis

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    Kontek 

    To me, it comes down to who has improved more since the first encounter. Benson Henderson has looked like a man possessed in his UFC tenure, despite being a so-called "point fighter." Anthony Pettis has looked good too, but his weakness will always be counter-wrestling, which will play into Bendo's hands. It's going to the scorecards, and the UFC will keep its current lightweight champion.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    This is the rare high-stakes fight when I think just about anything could happen. If you're not jumping out of your skin for this one, you might want to see a dermatologist. Bendo will surely be trying his clinch work and his leg kicks, but Pettis will just as surely be fishing for another spot on the sport's all-time highlight reel. The fanboy in me wants Pettis, but the objective analyst likes Henderson to control the action and game-plan his way to another outpointing.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos 

    To me, the outcome of this match comes down to the answers to two questions: Has Pettis improved his takedown defense enough, and will Henderson go to his wrestling? If Pettis can make it a stand-up fight, he'll beat Bendo for a second time. If Henderson goes hard for the takedown and is able to get it, he'll be able to escape with another successful title defense.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith 

    Pettis may have won his first meeting with Henderson, but both fighters have grown and changed a lot in the nearly three years that have passed since. Henderson has won seven in a row and is well on his way to becoming one of the best lightweights in MMA history. It seems the champion has made more overall improvements than Pettis since their first clash, so a very slight edge goes to Henderson since he was nearly even with Pettis back at WEC 53.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    Despite being the lightweight champion for well over a year now, I am less convinced by Henderson than I was prior to his first fight with Frankie Edgar. He is managing to scrape by most of the time, without ever showing any sense of urgency. That may cost him against Pettis, who seems much hungrier than the champ. I expect “Showtime” to make the most of this opportunity by stuffing Henderson’s takedowns and controlling the stand-up exchanges.

    Pettis, Unanimous Decision