The last time Erik "New Breed" Koch was in the Octagon, he was on the wrong side of an exciting but brutal finish. At UFC 164, Koch is my pick to win in a fight that I'm predicting will win Fight of the Night. Koch was viciously stopped with downward elbows by Ricardo Llamas at UFC on Fox 6 in January.
He makes his return against another top-notch featherweight in Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier in Milwaukee, Wis. on Saturday night.
Who will win Koch-Poirier?
Fights that feature contrasting styles can be snoozers or thrilling and gutsy chess matches. This one should be the latter. Koch is a well-rounded fighter with a strong Taekwondo background, while Poirier is an accomplished Brazlilian Jiu Jitsu artist. Though Poirier's base discipline makes him comfortable on the ground, Koch has shown consistent advancement in that area.
Despite the fact that Llamas' elbows found their mark while Koch was on his back, New Breed has seven submission wins to his credit.
This doesn't mean Koch is going to out-grapple Poirier, but it should mean he's solid enough on the ground to keep himself out of trouble there. If this bout takes place in standup, Koch's speed and dynamic striking ability give him the edge.
Expect this one to go into the third round and for Koch to score a late KO in the night's best fight.
Now, who's going to score an even more impressive KO win?
Ben Rothwell over Brandon Vera: KO of the Night
I'm not on the Brandon Vera hype train. Quite honestly, I never have been. Vera's career has been more about promise than production. He's only 12-6 and even though he's faced stars like Jon Jones, Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum and Randy Couture, he's only defeated Mir, and that was in 2006.
Adding to that, Vera is taking on Rothwell as a heavyweight. This will be his first heavyweight bout since 2008. At 35, it seems time is winding up on his career.
Rothwell is bigger, stronger and an underrated grappler. He has a KO of the Night to his credit against Brendan Schaub at UFC 145. I predict he'll pick up his second by stopping Vera.
Nikita Krylov over Soa Palelei: Submission of the Night
Palelei is a devastating puncher, but he'll be vulnerable if the fight extends beyond the first round. Expect Palelei to come out like gangbusters—which is appropriate considering Krylov's nickname is Al Capone—but the 21-year-old Russian is skilled and tough. Krylov has already earned 10 submission wins in his career.
He'll curtail this initial attempt and take the big Australian to deep waters and drain his strength. Fatigue will play a role, and ultimately Palelei will be made to submit.
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