UFC

UFC Fight Nights 48 and 49: Main Card Staff Predictions

Scott HarrisFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2014

UFC Fight Nights 48 and 49: Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Benson Henderson can't believe these predictions.
    Benson Henderson can't believe these predictions.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Here's hoping fight fans eat their Wheaties Saturday morning. With an average of 1.3 UFC fights per hour happening throughout the waking day, it's going to be quite the marathon for anyone hoping to take in all of the action.

    UFC Fight Night 48 initiates the smorgasbord from Macau, China at around 9 a.m. ET. After a largely anonymous card, the event culminates with a novelty fight between Michael "The Count" Bisping and Cung "It's Just the Lighting" Le.

    That evening, the promotion transports to the American Heartland—Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be exact. That card, known as UFC Fight Night 49, is headlined by Benson Henderson and Rafael dos Anjos in a lightweight bout with important implications for the divisions. Plus, did you know Henderson has never had a sip of alcohol? Simply amazing.

    Between the two main cards, there are 10 bouts happening on Saturday. Who can keep track of such things?

    We can, that is who. Riley "Kobra" Kontek. Craig "Live Blog" Amos. James "The Athlete" MacDonald. Sean "Salmon" Smith. And me, Scott Harris. We're here to give you predictions for each main card bout and some knowledge as well. Let's get it on.

2014 Standings

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    Cung Le has a present for Kontek.
    Cung Le has a present for Kontek.Xaume Olleros/Getty Images

    You know, I'm proud of a lot of things I've done in life. This is not one of those things. I'm going in the wrong direction here in the 2014 prediction standings. But hey, at least I'm going fast. 

    Meanwhile, Riley Kontek is still lucky. He just keeps getting lucky over and over again. Amos, too. You guys are going to rue the day that I finally get my stuff together. Rue it.

    Riley Kontek 92-48-1

    Craig Amos 91-49-1

    James MacDonald 88-52-1

    Scott Harris 84-56-1

    Sean Smith 84-56-1

UFC Fight Night 48 Quick Picks

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    Michael Bisping (left) and Cung Le square off in the UFC Fight Night 48 main event.
    Michael Bisping (left) and Cung Le square off in the UFC Fight Night 48 main event.Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

    All right, let's knock this out. Knock it out like a, uh, Yang Jianping flying knee.

    Also, I'm not sure I know how to make a table. Here goes nothing, I guess.

     

     Michael Bisping vs. Cung LeDong Hyun Kim vs. Tyron WoodleyZhang Lipeng vs. Brendan O'ReillyNing Guangyou vs. Yang Jianping
    Craig AmosBispingWoodleyO'ReillyYang
    Scott HarrisBispingKimO'ReillyYang
    Riley KontekBispingWoodleyO'ReillyYang
    James MacDonaldBispingWoodleyO'ReillyYang
    Sean SmithBispingWoodleyO'ReillyYang

Chas Skelly vs. Tom Niinimaki

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

    Riley Kontek

    Tom Niinimaki is an enigma. He outgrappled a world-class jiu-jitsu fighter in Rani Yahya but got choked out by Niklas Backstrom in his follow-up bout. Now, he has a great wrestler in Chas Skelly to worry about. Skelly had a close bout with Mirsad Bektic in his debut, although it's overshadowed since he rocked him with an illegal knee after getting dominated early. Something tells me to take Niinimaki, and then something tells me not to. I flipped a coin and took Niinimaki with half-and-half confidence. 

    Niinimaki, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Niinimaki surprised a lot of people when he beat Rani Yahya by outgrappling him and then surprised again when he was submitted in the first round by Nicklas Backstrom. I think he likes to be on the top more than the bottom, judging by the way those two fights panned out. It'll be key for him to get Skelly down and smother him. I'm not sure he'll be able to do that, though.

    Skelly, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    After he beat Rani Yahya on the ground, I was sure Niinimaki would take care of business against Nicklas Backstrom. Now, I have no clue who the real Niinimaki is. If the one who showed up against Yahya shows up on Saturday, Skelly is in trouble, though.

    Niinimaki, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    If Niinimaki can drag this fight to the ground and impose his top game on Skelly, he has a very real shot of winning. Naturally, Skelly’s chances of winning this fight hinge on shutting down Niinimaki’s grappling. I’m not convinced he’ll be able to do it, though.

    Niinimaki, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    I like Niinimaki as much as the next guy, but Skelly feels due for a breakout. He's a rangy wrestler who should be able to impose his will wherever the fight goes in the mold of teammate Johny Hendricks.

    Skelly, Unanimous Decision

James Vick vs. Valmir Lozaro

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    James Vick
    James VickUSA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    Vick is seemingly the "fight once per year" man in the UFC. That is a shame given the promise he has. Remember, on The Ultimate Fighter 15, he was a semifinalist after beating UFC vets Daron Cruickshank and Joe Proctor. He has also choked out Ramsey Nijem in less than a minute in his UFC debut. Lazaro is a Nova Uniao rep who could be a dark-horse signing by the company. However, Vick's size and length are going to be huge in this match, considering the striking game is going to be close.

    Vick, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    Lazaro seems to have some potential, but I'll play it safe and go with Vick. The TUF alumnus has shown some nice flashes of ability and will move to a perfect 6-0 with a victory. Though Vick is comfortable on the feet, his best chance for the finish may come on the mat, so I'll call it a submission for him in Round 2.

    Vick, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Smith

    Although Vick has been out of action for 12 months now, he still has a competitive advantage over Lazaro in that he’s previously competed inside the Octagon. With a submission win over Ramsey Nijem, Vick is a tough matchup for a UFC newcomer like Lazaro. Based on his level of past competition, it’s tough to get a good read on Lazaro, so I’m going with the more proven Vick in this matchup.

    Vick, Submission, Rd. 1

     

    MacDonald

    I was very impressed with Vick when he appeared on TUF, particularly with his boxing and defensive wrestling. Lazaro is more of an unknown quantity, so I’m going to have to plump for Vick here.

    Vick, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    Looks like I'm the only one willing to go out on a limb. So be it. No guts, no glory, is what I say. Vick has some nice wins, but so does Lazaro, having come up in some of Brazil's best promotions. The Nova Uniao product is a full-on headhunter, and here's guessing he finds Vick's head before Vick has a chance to work his ground game.

    Lazaro, TKO, Rd. 1

Max Holloway vs. Clay Collard

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    Max Holloway
    Max HollowayUSA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    Let's look at it this way: Six days' notice, especially in the UFC, is incredibly tough. Clay Collard, though talented, cannot be in a favorable situation here. Max Holloway is a gifted striker, and Collard does his best work on the feet. Holloway will work the body and legs, especially knowing Collard will be cutting a lot of weight on short notice. That means his cardio may suffer here. Holloway will wear him out and finish him.

    Holloway, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    If Collard can pull this one out, bravo. He probably won't though, as very short notice, his UFC debut and a talented opponent don't make an equation for likely success.

    Holloway, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    Having less than a week to prepare for a UFC debut against a fellow promotional newcomer is rough. Having less than a week to make one’s UFC debut against highly touted featherweight prospect Max Holloway is even rougher. This matchup is a foot in the door for Collard. Nothing more than that.

    Holloway, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    MacDonald

    This is a tough fight for Collard, particularly on short notice. Holloway rarely gets credit for just how good he is. Look for the Hawaiian to win this one fairly comfortably.

    Holloway, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    Mirsad Bektic's withdrawal took all the starch out of this matchup. Collard seems like a game fighter, but let's not mince words: The Utah fighter mainly got the call because he was logistically convenient, not because he had what it took to stand up to one of the division's fastest risers in Holloway.

    Holloway, Submission, Rd. 2

Francis Carmont vs. Thales Leites

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    Francis Carmont
    Francis CarmontUSA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    If you've been paying attention lately, Thales Leites is on fire. Since re-entering the UFC, he has dominated Tom Watson, Ed Herman and Trevor Smith, the latter of whom he put down via brutal knockout. Carmont is a grappler who is playing with fire if he thinks a ground fight with Leites is a picnic. Carmont is likely the favorite here, but the Brazilian is more well-rounded. 

    Leites, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    After kicking off his UFC tenure with six straight wins, Carmont finds himself on a slide, having dropped back-to-back contests. His latest loss to C.B. Dollaway was especially disappointing. Leites is on his second UFC life but looks to be back en route to the top of the middleweight division. This is an intriguing time for an intriguing matchup. I'll side with Carmont.

    Carmont, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    With three straight wins since returning to the UFC roster, Leites has resurrected his career and will have a chance to return to title contention this weekend. Carmont, on the other hand, has been exposed in back-to-back matchups with solid grapplers. Leites isn’t Ronaldo Souza, but he can definitely match C.B. Dollaway’s effort against Carmont, which ended in a decision loss for the Frenchman.

    Leites, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    After getting away with a few decisions earlier in his UFC career, we’re starting to see where Carmont really belongs in the middleweight division. If he’s going to win, it’ll likely be via another tight decision. Leites looked surprisingly impressive last time out, though, so I’m on the fence on this one. You know what? I’m going with the Brazilian. His superior grappling and improved striking may just be enough to eke out the win.

    Leites, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    Yes, Leites has been looking great, but Carmont is a different type of fighter. Carmont will return to his wall-and-stall roots to smother Leites and earn a dull, but important, decision win.

    Carmont, Unanimous Decision

Mike Pyle vs. Jordan Mein

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    Jordan Mein
    Jordan MeinUSA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    Mein was supposed to fight Thiago Alves and Brandon Thatch. Pyle was supposed to fight Demian Maia. Now, they have each other through the magic of injuries. Pyle is the guy you hear stories about beating up people in the gym. Luckily for him, he also does that when it's game time. Mein will want to bang on the feet with Pyle, and Pyle will comply, but he is also smart enough to know his wrestling and ground game are vastly superior. The veteran outworks the young bull.

    Pyle, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    Mein has a good chance to accelerate the progression of his UFC career here, but doing so won't be a cakewalk. Pyle, a journeyman who has really put it all together over the past few years, presents a stiff challenge, especially on the mat. Mein should have an advantage on the feet, though, and should even be fine if he stays on top when the fight goes to the floor. I'll say he survives the test and moves up the welterweight ladder.

    Mein, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    At 38 years old, Pyle is bound to hit a wall sometime soon. With the potential he’s shown at only 24 years old, Mein is just waiting to break out and become a contender in the welterweight division. These two match up well on paper, but I think it’ll be Mein’s time to shine on Saturday.

    Mein, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    MacDonald

    Mein has been a little inconsistent in his UFC career, but every time I see him he looks the part. Pyle, on the other hand, has generally been very consistent. However, I think the veteran has already hit the ceiling on his potential, and I’m not sure that’s the case with Mein. I’m taking the youngling by late TKO.

    Mein, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Harris

    Despite being only 24 years old, Mein has a wealth of experience; this will be his 38th pro fight. He also has some of the best technical stand-up in his division. He should be able to stifle Pyle's takedowns and outwork the 38-year-old for the decision.

    Mein, Unanimous Decision

Benson Henderson vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

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    Benson Henderson (left)
    Benson Henderson (left)USA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    Benson Henderson is hellbent on a third match with Anthony Pettis, despite the fact he is 0-2 against the current UFC lightweight champion. Since losing the belt, he is 2-0 against Josh Thomson and Rustam Khabilov, finishing the latter of the two. As for Rafael dos Anjos, he is in a great position to get into the title scene as well. On the feet, Dos Anjos is likely better. Henderson, though, is known to make fights ugly with takedowns and clinch work. He will win another decision to continue his march toward Pettis.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Amos

    This actually has some upset potential, in my opinion. Dos Anjos is an underrated fighter, and Henderson has a habit of flirting with defeat in many of his fights. Ultimately, though, I just can't pick against Henderson here, since he has looked every bit as good as Dos Anjos and has done so against vastly superior competition. Could be a split decision, though. Obviously.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Smith

    This matchup is part of the process of building Henderson back up into a title challenger. There are very few lightweight fighters not named Anthony Pettis who can beat him, and Dos Anjos isn’t one of them. If Rustam Khabilov couldn’t shut Henderson down on the ground, Dos Anjos isn’t likely to either, and the Brazilian certainly isn’t going to win by standing.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    MacDonald

    I can see this being a competitive fight. Dos Anjos isn’t a man to be taken lightly, and I think Henderson will be alert to the possibility that he could be upset here. This has all the makings of another tight decision for the former 155-pound king. He won’t run away with it, but Henderson’s superior kicking and grappling should earn him the win.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

     

    Harris

    Looks like a clean sweep. And that's not surprising. Dos Anjos is a fine and skilled fighter, but there's nothing suggesting the bigger, indefatigable Bendo is any more vulnerable here than in his previous, non-Pettis fights. You know the drill: leg kicks, clinch game, better athleticism.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

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