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UFC Fight Night 42: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

James MacDonaldSenior Analyst IIOctober 7, 2016

UFC Fight Night 42: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    After enjoying a hectic, fight-filled weekend that included two UFC events in one day, we’re back to relative normalcy with just a single offering from the sport’s premier organisation, in the form of UFC Fight Night 42: Henderson vs. Khabilov.

    Saturday night’s card comes bearing many gifts. In the main event, we have Benson Henderson vs. Rustam Khabilov, which is sure to have title implications. In a fight that is bound to please, Diego Sanchez and Ross Pearson will square off in the co-main event.

    Further down the card, John Dodson takes on John Moraga, with the former looking to restake his claim to a shot at the 125-pound title. We can also look forward to Rafael dos Anjos vs. Jason High, Yves Edwards vs. Piotr Hallmann and Erik Perez vs. Bryan Caraway.

    As ever, Bleacher Report is here to guide you through the main card. Our usual group of pre-cogs are on hand to offer their take on Saturday night's action: Scott Harris, Craig Amos, Riley Kontek, Sean Smith and me, James MacDonald.

Staff Leaderboard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After enjoying an outstanding weekend of picks, Riley Kontek and Craig Amos have widened the gap at the top to five points.

    James MacDonald and plucky underdog Scott Harris, who continues to claw his way back into the competition, are trying to just keep the leaders in their sights. Sean Smith is bringing up the rear, just two points behind MacDonald and Harris.

    Here are the records for the year:

    Riley Kontek: 58-32-1

    Craig Amos: 58-32-1

    James MacDonald: 53-37-1

    Scott Harris: 53-37-1

    Sean Smith: 51-39-1

Erik Perez vs. Bryan Caraway

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Caraway is a danger to anyone when the fight hits the mat. Perez knows that and will probably try to avoid that phase. Even if he can't, though, I think he has the submission defense and "recoverability" to survive. And when it's on the feet, this should be all Perez.

    Perez, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    I think Erik Perez has a good future, but taking on a power wrestler with a grinding style like Bryan Caraway is a tough draw for him. Caraway pushes the pace and suffocates guys until they tire out. Chalk one up for Miesha Tate's boyfriend.

    Caraway, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    I still think Perez will be a serious bantamweight contender for years, but his grappling isn't quite where it needs to be right now. Against Caraway, that's a serious problem.

    Caraway, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Craig Amos

    This will be an interesting fight. Perez, a naturally talented kid with tons of upside, takes on a tough opponent in Caraway, who will look to keep him off-balance and shut down his offense. I think the Mexican passes the test, though, on the strength of his natural ability and the support he gets from one of the best camps in the sport.

    Perez, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    There is no doubt in my mind that Perez is the more talented of the two men, but Caraway so often just finds a way to win when you think he’s outmatched. That’s why I’m going to go with Miesha Tate’s other half in this one. He is crafty and experienced enough to find a way to best Perez, particularly if the fight hits the deck.

    Caraway, Unanimous decision

Yves Edwards vs. Piotr Hallmann

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Scott Harris

    Put another skip on the broken record of people who love Yves Edwards, respect the hell out of his career and give him a shot to win any fight but believe he might finally be too shopworn to make an impact on the division's higher levels. Hallmann is a bright up-and-comer who has shown trouble finishing but not winning.

    Hallmann, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    Yves Edwards is always a treat in the cage. However, he has a lot of miles on him and cannot really take the punishment he used to be able to. Piotr Hallmann is no Chuck Liddell with knockout power, but he certainly is well-rounded enough to stay competitive with Edwards. In fact, I think the Pole pulls this one out.

    Hallmann, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    At 37 years old and with 63 fights under his belt, Edwards might be nearing the end. The UFC is giving him every chance to rebound with this matchup, but I think Hallman's grappling will be strong enough to bounce Edwards from the UFC for good.

    Hallmann, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    This will prove to be a young man's fight, with the youthful Hallmann outworking the veteran Edwards. If this scenario plays out, I can't help but wonder whether that'll be all she wrote for Edwards.

    Hallmann, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Edwards isn’t long for this sport, or at least one would think so after he has spent 17 years in the game. A few years ago, I would have picked Edwards without hesitation. Now? I’m leaning toward the younger, fresher Hallmann.

    Hallmann, Unanimous decision

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Jason High

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    Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    Just because he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov, that doesn't make him bad. Dos Anjos and his top-notch jiu-jitsu will show that against High. High will be big in there, but Dos Anjos is big too. I'm thinking grindfest and Dos Anjos stays just a sliver ahead of a very solid fighter in High.

    Dos Anjos, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    Rafael dos Anjos is certainly one of the best around at lightweight and only fell recently because it was against the buzzsaw that is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Jason High is making his drop to 155 after some time at welterweight. He has great wrestling and underrated submissions to go with his solid striking. I like the upset here.

    High, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Wrestlers have always given Dos Anjos problems. High might be one of the better unranked wrestlers in the lightweight division. It would be considered an upset, but I won't be at all surprised when High gets his hand raised on Saturday.

    High, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    High has managed a two-fight win streak, but Dos Anjos poses a stiff test for him. The Brazilian had reeled off five straight before succumbing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in April, and that's not a loss that raises any red flags. The pick here is Dos Anjos.

    Dos Anjos, Submission, Rd. 1

     

    James MacDonald

    High is riding, well, high right now, but I’m not sure he has the tools to deal with Dos Anjos. The Brazilian is a step up in competition from the likes of James Head and Anthony Lapsley. I’m looking for Dos Anjos to rebound impressively from his recent loss to Nurmagomedov, stopping High late.

    Dos Anjos, Submission, Rd. 3

John Dodson vs. John Moraga

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Moraga is a very nice puzzle piece in the shallow flyweight division. I'm not sure he'll be able to deal with the foot and hand speed of Dodson, though. Before it's all said and done, Dodson will show off a little of that underrated power as well.

    Dodson, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Riley Kontek

    If you didn't know, this is a rematch from the infamous "Nemesis" event that saw a bunch of fighters not receive pay. John Dodson won that fight. Since that fight, he has improved more, meaning this fight should be less competitive. Moraga will put up a spirited attack but experience a second loss to Dodson.

    Dodson, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    Dodson met Moraga in his final fight before joining the UFC roster and won via decision. If either man has shown more improvement since then, it's been Dodson. Expect a repeat in the rematch.
     
    Dodson, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Dodson is one of the best flyweights in the world. I would have said the same about Moraga not too long ago, but a suspect split-decision win over Dustin Ortiz makes me wonder if he isn't just a small notch below that top tier. 

    Dodson, Knockout, Rd. 3

     

    James MacDonald

    For my money, Dodson is the second best flyweight in the world. Assuming Johnson comes out of UFC 174 with the belt, I can see a rematch being booked between the pair. Moraga is a fantastic fighter, but I have my doubts that he can compete evenly with the very best at 125 pounds. Expect Dodson to connect at some point and put this one to bed.

    Dodson, Knockout, Rd. 2

Diego Sanchez vs. Ross Pearson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Until further notice, Sanchez appears more interested in the show than the win. Pearson will use footwork, this thing called a jab and a slightly less-crazy brain to frustrate Sanchez.

    Pearson, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    This is the type of matchup that favors Diego Sanchez's hectic, don't-give-a-crap type of style. He is likely the less technical striker, but he takes a better punch and is more aggressive. He also has the ground game to stifle Pearson. If he doesn't finish him, it will be an entertaining decision.

    Sanchez, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Based on overall technique, Pearson is the better fighter in this matchup. Luckily for Sanchez, heart and toughness play huge roles in MMA. It also helps that Pearson is the kind of opponent who can be drawn into a brawl.

    Sanchez, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    I am inclined to side with Sanchez here, but I can't shake the memories of Myles Jury having his way with him. Pearson, another technically strong striker, could pose similar problems for the original The Ultimate Fighter winner, especially if the Brit keeps his cool and fights a smart, tactically sound fight.

    Pearson, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    I honestly don’t know how much longer Sanchez can compete at this level. At times, it seems as though he is getting by on pure grit. Pearson is the more technical striker and has the takedown defence to keep the fight where he wants it, so I’m giving the nod to the Brit.

    Pearson, Unanimous decision

Benson Henderson vs. Rustam Khabilov

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Bendo's sprawl will be tested along with his movement. He'll pass the test. He'll land a few more clinch knees and jabs than the Dagestani. He'll win another close decision.

    Henderson, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    This may be a closer matchup than you think, given Rustam Khabilov's wrestling ability. That being said, it's hard not to choose a recent UFC champion who is still at the top of his game. Henderson will stick and move, staying away from Khabilov's shot and striking distance. When needed he'll close the distance and score points for a decision win.

    Henderson, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    As most Henderson fights go, this will be tightly contested. However, Khabilov has no experience in five-round fights, which will hurt him. Henderson's conditioning will pay dividends late and lead him to a decision win.

    Henderson, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    I don't think Henderson will want to tie Khabilov up as much as he did Josh Thomson, but the former champ has other tools he can implement. His striking and experience should be enough to carry the day, though it won't be a cakewalk.

    Henderson, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This is a tough fight to pick. Henderson so often flatters to deceive that I’m tempted to go with Khabilov. Indeed, the more I think about it, the more I lean toward the man from Dagestan. Striking-wise, it’s a close contest. While the former champion’s kicks are a formidable tool, his boxing still leaves a lot to be desired. This fight may come down to who can get the upper hand in the clinch, and I think that will be Khabilov.

    Khabilov, Unanimous decision

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