UFC 173 aims to answer a few questions: Is TJ Dillashaw really a worthy opponent for UFC bantamweight kingpin Renan Barao? Who deserves the next shot at Jon "Bones" Jones' light heavyweight title?
And, is it time for Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger to move into title contention at welterweight, or should "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler get a rematch with Johny Hendricks sooner rather than later?
We'll get the definitive answers on Saturday night from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but until then, let's talk about the jewels of the main card.
Lawler Will Stop Ellenberger and Send Him to the Back of the Line
Lawler vs. Ellenberger could end quickly or suddenly.
Both men have tremendous punching power. Though each can conduct himself as a wrestler, they seem to be more at home standing and striking.
Lawler gets the edge as it relates to chin strength. He took big shots from Hendricks, who is one of the best punchers in the sport.
The Ruthless One never faded and could have won if not for a late takedown from Hendricks. Lawler should outstrike Ellenberger and finish him by TKO to set himself up for another shot at the champion within the next year.
Ellenberger's loss will be a big blow to his hopes of fighting for the welterweight title. He's had opportunities to move into position before and has failed. If this prediction holds true, he'll begin to look a lot like the 170-pound version of Michael Bisping.
Daniel Cormier Is Too Quick and Technically Skilled for Hendo
Dan Henderson always brings the threat of a major puncher into every fight, but against Daniel Cormier, he doesn't stand much of a chance.
Cormier's hands are faster, and if need be, he can dominate Henderson on the ground.
There's also a question as to whether Henderson at 43 years old can still compete against high-level opponents without the TRT procedure. It was recently banned, and this will be Hendo's first fight without it in some time.
Per Matt Erickson of MMA Junkie, Hendo does not believe he'll be affected. In a recent interview, he said:
I’m feeling pretty good. I maybe lay on the couch a little more than I used to. But I laid on the couch quite a bit before, too. It’s all about just making sure you train hard and train smart. I did that before I was on TRT, I did that during, and now, as well. I’ve won fights and lost fights with it and without it. I really don’t notice too big of a difference, competition-wise. But hopefully I make a statement that it doesn’t matter in this fight.
Even still, a young, vibrant Henderson would have trouble outstriking Cormier. The latter moves well and fights intelligently. He could make this bout very boring for fans by taking Hendo down or make it brutal by picking him apart in the stand-up game.
Dillashaw Is No Match for Barao
There might not be a more complete fighter in the UFC than Barao—Jones included. There's nothing the Brazilian isn't at least good at. There are a few things he's great at.
His striking and submissions are top-notch, and he transitions from one to the other beautifully.
Dillashaw is a good fighter, but he's about to be in the cage with a great one.
The speed and explosiveness that Barao brings to the stand-up game overcame Eddie Wineland and Urijah Faber, and it'll do the same thing to Dillashaw.
Listen to this group of MMA writers from around the world talk about Barao's skill set:
Quite honestly, aside from a fighter like Anthony Pettis or Jose Aldo, no one is remotely close to Barao in his weight region.
He will retain his title with another signature knockout.
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