UFC 164: Info and Predictions for Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis 2

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2013

UFC 164: Info and Predictions for Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis 2

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    For the first time in a long while, we have a truly stacked pay-per-view card. Almost every fight on this card is relevant near the top of its respective division, and any one of these fights could end with a finish.

    There are five bouts on this card between Top 10 fighters, and all that is capped with the downright sexy rematch between Anthony "Showtime" Pettis and Benson "Smooth" Henderson.

    If that doesn't get you excited, I know what will...more information on all of the fights!

    Get ready for what will likely be an epic event, folks.

Jared Hamman vs. Magnus Cedenblad

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    Division: Middleweight
    See it on: Facebook


    Kicking off the card are two middleweights you haven't heard of who likely have their jobs on the line.


    Jared Hamman, the protege of former light heavyweight contender Vladimir Matyushenko, has had an ugly run in the UFC. He is most notable at this point for giving light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson and middleweight hopeful Costa Philippou their first UFC knockouts. That is a dubious distinction, and it doesn't help that he is 1-3 in his last four fights.


    Magnus Cedenblad, despite his bad-ass name, has not made much of a splash to this point. In his only UFC fight to this point, he gave rising middleweight Francis Carmont his first stoppage victory in the form of a second-round submission. That was way back in April 2012, and he has been out since due to lingering injury troubles. Long layoffs rarely help young fighters right their losing ways.


    Picking this fight is tough due to the relatively small sample size of Cedenblad. Still, the records favor the Swede. Four of Hamman's five losses have come via knockout (three of those came in the first round), while Cedenblad got into the UFC by cold-cocking amateurs on the European circuit.




    Magnus Cedenblad defeats Jared Hamman by TKO via punches.

Ryan Couture vs. Al Iaquinta

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    Division: Lightweight
    See it on: Facebook


    There was a time when Ryan Couture seemed like he was going to end up being the next big thing at lightweight. A tossup of a split decision over Joe Duarte, followed by a controversial victory at the expense of KJ Noons, followed by a knockout loss at the hands of Ross Pearson has the son of Hall of Famer Randy Couture potentially fighting for his job now.


    He was originally set to face fellow Strikeforce import Quinn Mulhern but is now set to meet The Ultimate Fighter 15 runner-up Al Iaquinta. A product of the Serra-Longo Fight Team (which is also home to current middleweight champ Chris Weidman), Iaquinta has demonstrated some solid all-around skills in his relatively short MMA career. He always brought it on TUF.


    It's a tough fight to call, but the smart money would be on Couture.


    Both Iaquinta's professional losses—to TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa and UFC washout Pat Audinwood—were to fighters with wrestling backgrounds. Couture, totally unsurprisingly, has been wrestling his entire life. It also doesn't hurt that Iaquinta is dealing with a 14-month layoff since his last fight.




    Ryan Couture defeats Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision.

Soa Palelei vs. Nikita Krylov

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    Division: Heavyweight
    See it on: Facebook


    Ignore the fact that this fight is airing on Facebook. This is possibly the most intriguing bout on the preliminary card. Soa Palelei and Nikita Krylov were two of the best heavyweights outside Zuffa before joining the UFC and are now squaring off in the Octagon.


    You may vaguely remember Palelei from one-and-done appearances at Pride 28 (the infamous “shoulder injury” card) and his fight against Eddie Sanchez at UFC 79. He is a hulk of a man who—like Joe Warren, Muhammed “King Mo" Lawal and Daniel Cormierconverted to MMA from an Olympic wrestling background. Riding a solid eight-fight win streak on the Australian local circuit, he could end up being a noteworthy piece in the UFC's push into Oz.


    Krylov, meanwhile, is the young gun over in Europe with quite possibly the worst nickname in MMA: “The Al Capone." Despite being just 21 years old, he has fought 17 times and owns a 15-2 record. He scrapped a remarkable 13 times in 2012, going 12-1 during that stretch.


    The two of them combine for 19 knockouts, 14 submissions and zero decisions.


    In terms of a prediction, it's tough to pick against Palelei and his experience. When “The Hulk” made his MMA debut in a win over eventual UFC washout Brad Morris, Krylov was just nine years old. While Krylov has a solid grappling resume, which should keep him more or less safe from Palelei's wrestling, expect the Australian to press the youngster into some mistakes en route to a finish.




    Soa Palelei defeats Nikita Krylov via submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 2.

Chico Camus vs. Kyung Ho Kang

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    Division: Bantamweight
    See it on: Fox Sports 1


    Chico Camus vs. Kyung Ho Kang is another fight that is important for the two fighters involved but not so much for fans or current contenders.


    Chico Camus is one of the many Roufusport fighters popping up on this card. He earned a spot in the UFC by dominating the amateur circuit in the Chicagoland area. While he took a decision victory over Dustin Pague in his UFC debut, he followed that up with a third-round submission loss to Dustin Kimura. He is looking to get back on the winning track against South Korean star Kyung Ho Kang.


    Kang found success in South Korea's rising Road FC promotion, amassing a 5-2 record with all those victories coming via stoppage. Despite that success, he lost a tight split decision to Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres in March and needs to bounce back in a big way to ensure his future in the promotion.


    On paper, this is a straightforward grappler vs. striker fight. Looking at either fighter's camp makes this an easier call. Camus trains with Olympic wrestler Ben Askren. Kang won't be able to consistently ply his grappling skills on Camus and can outland him standing.




    Chico Camus defeats Kyung-Ho Kang by TKO via punches in Round 3.

Pascal Krauss vs. Hyun Gyu Lim

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    Division: Welterweight
    See it on: Fox Sports 1


    This is yet another fight between a Roufusport product and a Korean looking to make a splash and another prototypical grappler vs. striker matchup.


    Pascal Krauss is a strong grappler who racked up a boatload of submissions on the European circuit. He has had solid success so far. He owns a 2-1 record in the UFC, but the loss comes with a small asterisk as it came after an 18-month layoff.


    Hyun Gyu Lim rose to prominence by racking up knockouts across the Pacific Rim. Eight of his 11 victories came via knockout, and his UFC debut was among those, which was a deceptively big victory over Marcelo Guimaraes.


    As with the last fight, this comes down to whether or not the grappler can get things to the ground. In this case, though, you have to favor the Korean, who will probably be able to keep things standing long enough to either score points or possibly knock out his opponent.




    Hyun Gyu Lim defeats Pacal Krauss via unanimous decision.

Louis Gaudinot vs. Tim Elliott

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    Division: Flyweight
    See it on: Fox Sports 1


    In the wide-open flyweight division, every fight counts, and any winning streak can lead to a title shot. Louis Gaudinot and Tim Elliott both have a chance to chance to leap into the hunt in earnest in this fight.


    Gaudinot is one of the most identifiable flyweights in the UFC, largely due to his neon green hair. It also doesn't hurt that he owns a submission victory over John Lineker, the only flyweight who currently boasts a three-fight winning streak. Another stoppage could get him a crack at Demetrious Johnson, although he would face steep odds against “Mighty Mouse."


    Elliott doesn't stick out quite as much, but he is one of the division's true finishers. Seven of his nine victories kept the judges out of the picture. While he lost his UFC debut to TUF winner and eventual contender John Dodson, a win over Gaudinot would convince matchmaker Sean Shelby to forget about that.


    While the favorite will likely be Gaudinot, I'm leaning toward Elliott on this one. He had a decent enough showing against Dodson, and his extensive wrestling experience will negate Gaudinot's submission game.




    Tim Elliott defeats Louis Gaudinot via unanimous decision.

Jamie Varner vs. Gleison Tibau

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    Division: Lightweight
    See it on: Fox Sports 1


    This fight has two of the most experienced, enduring figures in the lightweight division's history.


    Both of these guys have been there and done that.


    Tibau has been fighting in the UFC since 2006. He has faced every sort of fighter imaginable: from still-relevant veterans like Melvin Guillard and Nick Diaz, to the division's old guard like Caol Uno and Tyson Griffin, to modern stars like Rafael dos Anjos and Khabib Nurmagomedov. In that time, he has built up a respectable 12-7 record.


    Varner, a boxer turned wrestler, is best known for his time in the WEC, which featured an impressive title run followed by an ugly 0-3-1 stretch that sent him back to the Midwestern amateur circuit. He worked his way back into the UFC in 2012, making the most of his return by knocking out hotshot prospect Edson Barboza. He proved he belonged among the division's best shortly thereafter with a Fight of the Year candidate opposite Joe Lauzon, followed by an impressive win over Melvin Guillard.


    We know where Tibau is at this point. He is, for better or worse, well-cemented into the middle of the lightweight pack and has a tight hold on the “gatekeeping grappler” position at 155 lbs. That makes this a compelling fight, though, in terms of evaluating where Varner is in his climb toward the title picture.


    Tibau is an absolute tank of a human being who owns formidable grappling skills. If Varner is capable of bullying him and outworking him in the clinch, it might show that the MMA Lab product is a legitimate threat at 155 lbs. While it's tough to reasonably expect Varner to do that, he should be regarded as a strong favorite here.




    Jamie Varner defeats Gleison Tibau via unanimous decision.

Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier

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    Division: Featherweight
    See it on: Pay-per-view


    Everything is on the line for Erik Koch and Dustin Poirier at UFC 164. While they were near the top of the featherweight title picture just 18 months ago, electrifying stoppages at the hands of top contenders have sent them plummeting down the rankings amidst the flood of rising prospects and weight-cutting former lightweight contenders.


    For Koch, a title fight with Jose Aldo at UFC 149 was derailed by Aldo's infamous motorcycle accident. Koch then ended up injured and withdrew from UFC 153. As a result, UFC president Dana White opened the door for a superfight between Aldo and former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, slamming it shut in Koch's face in the process. Ricardo Lamas imitated that with his elbow, knocking the Milwaukee native far, far away from the title shot he previously earned, albeit through less-than-ideal circumstances.


    Poirier is in a similar boat. Between the WEC and UFC, he owned an impressive five-fight winning streak before being choked out in his first headliner by “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. While he would bounce back by beating Jonathan Brookins, he later dropped a decision to the resurgent Cub Swanson.


    Long story short, these guys are going to go for broke. Poirier, though, seems like the one who should come out on top in this situation. Koch may have the edge in striking, but Poirier has the chops to work things to the ground and take a decision.





    Dustin Poirier defeats Erik Koch via unanimous decision.

Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera

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    Division: Heavyweight
    See it on: Pay-per-view


    Brandon Vera has fallen on hard times of late. Ever since getting robbed by the judges of a victory over Hall of Famer Randy Couture, the “next big thing” turned “biggest bust” has been on a harsh skid.


    Granted, he has fought some fearsome competition. That said, there is no great way to slice a 1-4 skid with the one victory coming from the now-retired Eliot Marshall. With Vera now back at heavyweight, we'll get a chance to see if he can start stringing together wins with a bigger gas tank and a probable speed edge over some of the middle-of-the-pack heavies.


    Rothwell fits that bill nicely. Alternating wins and losses since 2008, the former IFL star could be fighting for his job here. He has an opponent who, more or less, plays directly into his hand.


    Both fighters' greatest strength lies in their striking. Neither is technically marvelous, but Rothwell has a clear size and power advantage. Vera, meanwhile, is prone to turtling and hasn't shown the sort of flash-knockout power that he demonstrated early in his career.


    That, ultimately, will be the difference. It's hard to see Vera being able to avoid a knockout for a full 15 minutes.




    Ben Rothwell defeats Brandon Vera by TKO via punches in Round 2.

Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida

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    Division: Featherweight
    See it on: Pay-per-view


    This is a very dangerous fight for both guys here. With longtime champ Jose Aldo possibly leaving the featherweight division, there are two sure-fire contenders about to fight in Chad Mendes and Clay Guida.

    Mendes is one of the best featherweights in the world and is widely ranked behind only Aldo at 145 lbs. He has heavy hands and a strong wrestling pedigree, making him a well-rounded threat anywhere in the cage. This shows in his record, as he owns wins over fellow Top 10 fighters Erik Koch and Cub Swanson.

    Guida, meanwhile, is in a position where every fight is a must-win if he ever wants to earn a shot at UFC gold. “The Carpenter” has gone from a must-see brawler to a guy who will struggle to find a spot on a main card due to the honest-to-goodness lay-and-pray style he has adopted since joining the Greg Jackson camp.

    That said, he is still far more recognizable than most featherweights courtesy of his lengthy list of accomplishments at lightweight, and a win over Mendes would insert him into the title picture, whether fans like it or not.

    Should Aldo move up in weight, this fight will likely earn the winner a spot in the fight for the vacant title.

    Picking the winner is a tough call. Both fighters' greatest strength is their wrestling, but the major differences between the two are size and experience.

    Guida has the edge in both departments, fighting as a large featherweight. Guida also owns some lofty highs that include wins over four of the UFC's current Top 10 lightweights in Anthony Pettis, Josh Thomson, Rafael dos Anjos and Nate Diaz. That leads to this upset pick...



    Clay Guida defeats Chad Mendes via unanimous decision.

Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett

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    Division: Heavyweight
    See it on: Pay-per-view


    At this point, we all know about Josh Barnett's MMA career, which has been defined by equal parts PED use and wins over guys like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Dan Severn and Randy Couture. We also know that with 16 years of professional fighting experience and very few legitimate knockout losses, he is still relevant at the top of the heavyweight division and could be for years to come.


    Frank Mir is also very experienced and skilled. The thing is, even though his Brazilian jiu-jitsu ranks among the best in the division, he has consistently struggled to use it on fighters with strong takedown defense throughout his career. That has led to numerous losses at the hands of wrestlers.


    Josh Barnett, by the way, is a wrestler.


    Because of that, it's hard to see this fight going any way other than “The Warmaster” being able to outclinch and outpoint Mir the same way Daniel Cormier did. Granted, he won't be able to do it as efficiently, but he has all the tools at his disposal to take the win and the savvy to pull it off.




    Josh Barnett defeats Frank Mir via unanimous decision.

Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis

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    Division: Lightweight
    See it on: Pay-per-view


    Be excited, folks! The rematch for one of MMA's all-time greatest fights is upon us.


    The question here is how these two have evolved since their first run-in.


    We know how good Benson Henderson has been lately. He is on a 7-0 run that, with the exception of his second win over Frankie Edgar, has been defined by utter dominance. His taekwondo black belt, strong grappling and huge-for-a-lightweight frame make him seemingly insurmountable for any current lightweight.


    That, of course, comes with an asterisk. Anthony Pettis climbed that mountain and came down from the top with a shiny new belt. Unfortunately, he lost any claim he had to being a reigning champ when he was outgrappled by now-featherweight Clay Guida. While he beat Henderson in the WEC with his dynamic striking, this fight is all about the grappling.


    Henderson grappled with Guida, while he chose to brawl with Pettis. Obviously, working in terms of “MMA math," the champ should be able to take a decision by bullying Pettis around the cage. It will come down to whether or not the champ can be baited into a stand-up brawl again.


    I, personally, don't think that's the case.




    Benson Henderson defeats Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision.