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UFC Fight Nights 48 and 49: A Complete Guide to the Cards

Scott HarrisFeatured Columnist IVOctober 9, 2016

UFC Fight Nights 48 and 49: A Complete Guide to the Cards

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    Benson Henderson
    Benson HendersonGregory Payan/Associated Press

    This Saturday, the UFC double-dips again with two cards in the same 24 hours. 

    The marathon begins on the other side of the world from Zuffa HQ, when UFC Fight Night 48 goes down in Macau, China. It airs entirely on UFC Fight Pass, the company's subscription streaming service.

    Earlier this summer, UFC prez Dana White indicated that the company's international Fight Pass cards are not "for" American fans. This is one of those cards, replete with a 9 a.m. ET start time and a large helping of anonymous Chinese fighters.

    So take note, Yanks. This card is not for you. Do with that as you will.

    The day culminates that evening with an appearance from the greatest unintentional heel in the UFC today, at least this side of Jon Jones. That's right, it's Benson Henderson, who is tangling with Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Fight Night 49. The winner could be in prime position to challenge for the lightweight belt.

    Assuming you get eight hours of sleep per night and are either non-American or prepared to flout White's Fight Pass edict, this shakes out to 1.3 fights per hour. Hope you cleared your calendar!

    Here's a breakdown of both cards, with a quick overview of the undercards and then the usual information capsules, predictions and viewing coordinates for every main card bout. Please enjoy.

UFC Fight Night 48 Undercard Info

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    Wang Sai
    Wang SaiXaume Olleros/Getty Images

    Airing on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)
    Start time: 9 a.m. ET

    Welterweight: Wang Sai vs. Danny Mitchell

    Welterweight: Alberto Mina vs. Shinsho Anzai

    Bantamweight: Roland Delorme vs. Yuta Sasaki

    Welterweight: Wang Anying vs. Colby Covington

    Women's bantamweight: Elizabeth Phillips vs. Milana Dudieva

    Bantamweight: Yao Zhikui vs. Royston Wee

Ning Guangyou vs. Yang Jianping

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    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Ning Guangyou (3-2-1), Jianping Yang (6-3-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    This is the final featherweight bout of The Ultimate Fighter: China; it's just happening about six months late.

    The original go-around derailed when one of the fighters (they never said who) withdrew because of injury.

    Yang, 28, is simultaneously younger and more experienced than the 32-year-old Ning. Yang has also reportedly trained at the well-known Phuket Top Team, so he should have some muay thai chops to complement the submission skills that have netted him four wins by tap. Good enough for me.

    Prediction: Yang, TKO, Rd. 2

Zhang Lipeng vs. Brendan O'Reilly

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    Zhang Lipeng
    Zhang LipengXaume Olleros/Getty Images

    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Zhang Lipeng (7-7-1), Brendan O'Reilly (5-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    I'll admit it: I'm not exactly a guru of China's MMA scene. But Zhang may be the best commodity going right now. Even though that's a little like saying he's the fittest guy at McDonald's.

    He is fresh off winning the welterweight side of TUF: China and now drops down to 155 pounds for his debut in the larger UFC pool. But that finale didn't contain a ton of action and wasn't exactly an emphatic win for a methodical grappler in Zhang.

    Here, he'll face another TUF alumnus, Australian Brendan O'Reilly, who lost to Kajan Johnson on TUF: Nations but now returns for another shot. Also moving down to lightweight after competing at 170 pounds on the show, O'Reilly relies on power takedowns and ground-and-pound to win fights. His cardio appears to be his chief weakness.

    Assuming the weight cut does not affect him too much, O'Reilly should be the stronger man. The longer this goes, the more it probably favors Zhang. Good thing for O'Reilly, then, that it won't go too long.

    Prediction: O'Reilly, TKO, Rd. 1

Dong Hyun Kim vs. Tyron Woodley

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    Dong Hyun Kim
    Dong Hyun KimVictor Fraile/Getty Images

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Tyron Woodley (13-3), Dong Hyun Kim (19-2-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    This one is hard to call on every level. It could be a great fight; it could be one-sided. It could be wildly exciting; it could be wildly boring.  

    Kim has recently acquired, quite intentionally, a well-documented penchant for the big knockout. Woodley can hurt with his fists as well. But both men can fall back on strong grappling bases—Woodley with wrestling and Kim with judo.

    I think this will come down to gas tanks. Woodley has yet to prove he can be as consistently formidable in Round 3 as in Round 1. Kim is a reformed grinder and no stranger to deep waters. Here's guessing both men come out firing, but that this eventually settles into a battle of attrition, with the more proven man emerging.

    Prediction: Kim, unanimous decision

Michael Bisping vs. Cung Le

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    Michael Bisping
    Michael BispingAndre Penner/Associated Press

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Michael Bisping (24-6), Cung Le (9-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Everyone got really excited about Le when he knocked out Rich Franklin, who retired from the sport soon after without taking another fight. To me, it wasn't very inspiring, and neither is this fight, to be honest.

    It's just the latest incarnation of the UFC's novelty circuit, and it's a shame that Bisping finds himself here now. At 35, he's still a viable fighter but maybe not one quite good enough to get over the contention hump. But his kickboxing, athleticism and fight acumen are still plenty sufficient to handle the 42-year-old Le. 

    Prediction: Bisping, unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night 49 Undercard Info

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    Alex Garcia
    Alex GarciaChris Hyde/Getty Images

    Airing on: First bout: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required); All other bouts: Fox Sports 2
    Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET

    Welterweight: Neil Magny vs. Alex Garcia

    Lightweight: Beneil Dariush vs. Tony Martin

    Bantamweight: Aaron Phillips vs. Matt Hobar

    Welterweight: Ben Saunders vs. Chris Heatherly

    Flyweight: Wilson Reis vs. Joby Sanchez

Chas Skelly vs. Tom Niinimaki

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    Chas Skelly (right)
    Chas Skelly (right)USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Chas Skelly (11-1), Tom Niinimaki (21-6-1) 
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Whenever someone belongs to Team Takedown, you stand up and take notice. That's Johny Hendricks and Jared Rosholt territory. And it's Skelly's home base too, so you know his wrestling is solid. He's a rangy fighter, which allows him to get good leverage on takedowns, in the clinch, on the mat or just in striking exchanges. 

    In April, he dropped his UFC debut to fellow prospect Mirsad Bektic but looked good in the effort. A similar sentiment goes for Niinimaki, who lost his second Octagon bout to Niklas Backstrom in May, running his record to 1-1.

    Like Skelly, Niinimaki likes to fight in close, so this could be an extended clinch battle, or it could be a chess match on the ground, where these two have 14 submission wins between them. I'll give the slight edge to the longer, more athletic Skelly.

    Prediction: Skelly, unanimous decision

James Vick vs. Valmir Lazaro

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    James Vick
    James VickUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Lightweight
    Records: James Vick (5-0), Valmir Lazaro (12-2)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    You have to give credence to Lazaro's resume. Though this is his first UFC contest, the Brazilian made his bones in the Jungle Fight and Shooto Brazil promotions and trains alongside some pretty heavy hitters at Nova Uniao. He's a heavy hitter himself—a knockout artist, pure and simple.

    Vick is more well-rounded and has a UFC win under his belt (over Ramsey Nijem, no less). Both men can and will scrap, but here's guessing Lazaro brings the brighter fireworks and pulls off the mild upset.

    Prediction: Lazaro, TKO, Rd. 1

Max Holloway vs. Clay Collard

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    Max Holloway
    Max HollowayUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Max Holloway (9-3), Clay Collard (13-4)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    At first, this was an intriguing matchup between two young up-and-comers at 145 pounds. Holloway is known for his kickboxing but has a nice clinch and submission game too, as evidenced by his submission of Andre Fili in April. 

    His original opponent, Mirsad Bektic, would have been a formidable foil. But Bektic pulled out with an injury Monday and was replaced by Collard, a sort of desperation replacement who has never even fought in a major minor league. He appears to be a game fighter with a propensity for stand-up, but he probably won't have enough to hang with Holloway.

    Prediction: Holloway, submission, Rd. 2

Francis Carmont vs. Thales Leites

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    Thales Leites
    Thales LeitesUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Francis Carmont (22-9), Thales Leites (23-4)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Bring out the meat grinder for this one. Carmont and Leites are both known for their occasionally, ah, judicious approach to fighting. Leities and his top-level jiu-jitsu are probably more aggressive than the wall-and-stall French-Canadian Carmont.

    Still, Carmont wins with that style because he's the bigger, stronger man. He'll be bigger and stronger than Leites and won't give him a chance to work his submission game. Expect a classic Carmont clinchfest that won't win him many fans but will get him back in the win column after dropping two straight.

    Prediction: Carmont, unanimous decision

Mike Pyle vs. Jordan Mein

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    Mike Pyle (top)
    Mike Pyle (top)USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Mike Pyle (26-9-1), Jordan Mein (28-9)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Mein has 37 pro fights under his belt but is still just 24 years old. He also has some of the best MMA boxing in the welterweight division—perhaps beyond.

    Pyle is a jack of all trades. He's a skilled veteran who is tough and polished in every phase (particularly submissions).

    Neither man has been able to get over the proverbial hump, though Pyle is arguably on the bigger roll. (Interestingly, both men suffered their last loss at the hands of one Matt Brown.)

    Who will be able to take the next step? My guess is Mein. He should be able to stuff Pyle's takedowns, score points on the feet and get over against the UFC stalwart.

    Prediction: Mein, unanimous decision

Benson Henderson vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

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    Benson Henderson
    Benson HendersonUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Lightweight 
    Records: Benson Henderson (21-3), Rafael dos Anjos (21-7)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    It became clear a while ago that Henderson, his cement-mixer game and his holier-than-thou attitude were not exactly a magic combination for popularity. And now it seems that Henderson is slowly accepting the role that puts him in, becoming increasingly curt and haughty with the media and unrepentant for wins that are as uninspiring as they are impressive.

    He's the master of the paper-thin decision win, of binding up opponents over and over again. But no one can beat him, at least not anyone not named Anthony Pettis.

    Because Dos Anjos' name is not Anthony Pettis, methinks he'll be another victim. Dos Anjos is an excellent fighter, with that muay thai/jiu-jitsu hybrid game that has proved so successful in his native Brazil and far beyond.

    But there's nothing in his approach that suggests he can best Bendo, a gargantuan Energizer bunny of a lightweight who will clinch up Dos Anjos and smother him for 25 minutes.

    Get ready for Bendo's post-fight kiss-off of all those who don't believe in him, and so on. The real intrigue here is what happens to Henderson next, given that Pettis has beaten him twice and is injured and committed to another fight anyway. Unfortunately for Bendo, a win would appear to ensconce him further into no-man's land. It's a land his opponents and detractors know well.

    Prediction: Henderson, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris covers the serious and silly sides of MMA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter if you feel so inclined.

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