Benson "Smooth" Henderson and Rafael dos Anjos will face off in a crucial lightweight battle in Tulsa, Oklahoma at UFC Fight Night 49 on Saturday. Henderson is pining for another shot at current champion Anthony "Showtime" Pettis, while dos Anjos is making his initial climb up the ladder.
Since losing his title by submission to Pettis, Henderson has been impressive. He's defeated Josh Thomson and Rustam Khabilov. Now Henderson is ranked No. 1, and he must handle the dangerous dos Anjos to continue his path toward a shot at Pettis.
Mike Pyle will also take on Jordan Mein and Francis "Limitless" Carmont battles Thales Leites in a matchup of top-15 middleweights.
Here's a look at the entire card with predictions for each match. Just beneath the table is a closer look at the three biggest bouts on the card.
|UFC Fight Pass at 7:30 p.m|
|Wilson Reis vs. Joby Sanchez||Bantamweight||Sanchez by TKO|
|Fox Sports 2 Prelims at 8 p.m. ET|
|Ben Saunders vs. Chris Heatherly||Welterweight||Heatherly by submission|
|Aaron Phillips vs. Matt Hobar||Bantamweight||Phillips by TKO|
|Beneil Dariush vs. Tony Martin||Lightweight||Martin by decision|
|Neil Magny vs. Alex Garcia||Welterweight||Garcia by KO|
|Fox Sports 1 Main Card at 10 p.m. ET|
|Chas Skelly vs. Tom Niinimaki||Featherweight||Niinimaki by submission|
|James Vick vs. Valmir Lazaro||Featherweight||Vick by decision|
|Max Holloway vs. Clay Collard||Featherweight||Collard by TKO|
|Francis Carmont vs. Thales Leites||Middleweight||Leites by submission|
|Mike Pyle vs. Jordan Mein||Welterweight||Mein by decision|
|Benson Henderson vs. Rafael dos Anjos||Featherweight||Henderson by decision|
Fight card per UFC.com, predictions by Brian Mazique
Henderson Will Outlast dos Anjos
It's almost impossible to outpoint Henderson. Smooth has mastered the art of winning rounds in the UFC. As a matter of fact, eight of Henderson's UFC bouts have gone the distance. In those bouts, 21 of the 24 judges have scored those fights in favor of Henderson.
When an opponent thinks that being over aggressive is the way to bring the fight to the former champion, Henderson reminds them that he's still an above-average striker.
Even with those offensive gifts, defense is what makes Henderson so tough to defeat. Per Fight Metric, he thwarts 66 percent of the strikes aimed his way. When a fighter as well-rounded as Henderson is also tough to hit, he's a handful for any opponent.
Dos Anjos is talented, and in many ways, he's similar to Henderson. He's very technical, but he isn't as adept in the stand-up game. Against Henderson, he'll try to lean on his jiu-jitsu. However, Henderson's powerful base, dexterity and technique will make that a difficult task.
Henderson will win on the strength of a more competent and effective striking game. My prediction is a unanimous decision, but others think Smooth will win by submission.
Benson Henderson is gonna tap dos anjos. It's always a triple slap in the face when an American wrestler taps a BJJ guy #UFCFightNight 8/23— Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) August 17, 2014
Either way, the bottom line should be the same.
Mein Will Take Decision over Pyle
In a battle of two former Matt Brown KO victims, Jordan Mein will score the victory. Pyle was knocked out by Brown in August of 2013 and Mein was thwarted just four months earlier.
Since the defeats at the hands of Brown, both Mein and Pyle have performed well. Pyle dominated TJ Waldburger in February and stopped him in the third round and Mein won a split decision over Hernani Perpetuo in April.
While both of these guys are good grapplers, Mein's quickness should keep Pyle off balance on Saturday. The challenge for Mein will be to keep the fight standing. Once Pyle sees he's no match for Mein in the striking game, he'll look to take Mein down.
A submission is Pyle's best shot at winning, but it won't be easy.
Mein hasn't lost a fight by submission in six years. He'll fight off Pyle's attempts to gain an edge on the ground, and win a decision based on his performance in the stand-up.
Leites Will Submit Carmont
Thales Leites and Francis Carmont are headed in opposite directions. Carmont has lost his last two bouts while Leites has won three in a row.
No excuses. Amazing training camp, 24 days before my fight, training hard, 210 lbs . Je ne veux pas avoir... http://t.co/gFALBCawJA— Francis Carmont (@franciscarmont) July 30, 2014
Both men have outstanding ground games, but Carmont's is mostly about power and dominating top position. Leites is more slippery and is at his best working toward the submission.
Because of the two men's skill sets, it's very likely this one winds up on the ground. When it does, Leites will set a trap for an over-aggressive Carmont and finish him with a submission to keep the Frenchman on a losing streak.
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