The UFC is coming to Milwaukee for the first time in one of the best free cards of the year. Even the preliminary fights are filled with excellent talent, including C.B Dollaway versus Jared Hamman, Joseph Benavidez versus Eddie Wineland, Ed Herman versus Kyle Noke and Cole Miller versus T.J. O'Brien.
Amir Sadollah and Duane Ludwig, two outstanding, technical strikers, will start off the main card with their welterweight bout.
Two of the most exciting lightweights in MMA in Charles Oliveira and Donald Cerrone will both look to move closer to the title picture in the second bout of the evening.
The most intruiging and significant bout of the evening is the lightweight battle between Jim Miller and Ben Henderson. Both have established themselves as amongst the elite in their division, and the winner is likely to get the next shot at the title.
Lastly, Dan Hardy and Chris Lytle both are looking to get back to their winning ways in what is sure to be a memorable welterweight slug-fest.
In his eighth professional fight, all in the UFC, Amir Sadollah is looking to continue his ascent up the welterweight ladder by taking out veteran striker Duane Ludwig.
Sadollah has constantly improved in every one of his performances. In his last fight, Sadollah was able to pick apart DaMarques Johnson with his excellent Muay Thai before finishing the fight in the second round on the ground with elbows.
Returning to the welterweight division in his last bout, Duane Ludwig took out Nick Osipczak in a hard-fought split decision. It was his first fight back since breaking his ankle against Darren Elkins.
"Bang" Ludwig is a high-quality striker, but Sadollah is the more well-rounded fighter and wouldn't be out of his depth on the ground. Ludwig, on the other hand, has been submitted five times in his career. Sadollah has an edge in all aspects of this fight. This fight will likely stay technical, with Sadollah staying patient to batter Ludwig.
Amir Sadollah by decision.
While Charles Oliveira hasn't won in his last two fights, he isn't any less of a dangerous opponent for Donald Cerrone.
Oliveira lost via kneebar to top lightweight Jim Miller at UFC 124. In his following performance, Oliveira overwhelmed Nik Lentz for the the majority of their fight before landing a blatant illegal knee that was missed by the referee, allowing Oliveira to take Lentz's back and finish via rear-naked choke. Originally a win for "Do Bronx," the result was overturned and ruled a No Contest by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission.
At just 21 years old, Oliveira is an extremely impressive prospect with all the elements of a future champion. He's extremely well-rounded and, excluding Jim Miller, has run through everyone he's ever faced. In addition to Oliveira's excellent, unpredictable striking, he possesses one of the most dangerous guards in the division.
Despite an inability to capture the WEC Lightweight Championship, Donald Cerrone is on a four fight win streak since his last loss to Ben Henderson and has looked extremely dominant. Cerrone easily disposed of Jamie Varner and Chris Horodecki in his last two fights in the WEC before making the jump to the UFC and submitting Paul Kelly before taking a lopsided decision over Vagner Rocha.
Much like Oliveira, Cerrone has developed all aspects of his game, showing off a newfound ability to wrestle to compliment his excellent guard and technical striking.
This fight will establish a new contender in the lightweight division and extremely difficult to to predict. Neither fighter has ever really been picked apart on the feet, but Oliveira should have the speed advantage there. Cerrone may be able to use his wrestling to get the fight to the ground if he doesn't like how it's going on the feet, but again, Oliveira has an extremely dangerous guard. Despite Cerrone's recent dominance, I expect Oliveira to utilize his spectacular head movement and speed to take the decision.
Charles Oliveira by decision.
I don't care if this isn't the main event—this is the reason to watch this card. Jim Miller is an unappreciated force in the lightweight division and, despite Ben Henderson's great performance against Mark Bocek, is largely unknown to UFC fans.
Jim Miller has established himself as the No. 1 contender for the title, and a win over Ben Henderson should solidify a title shot. At 20-2, riding a seven fight win streak, Miller has only lost to the two men currently fighting for the title—Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard.
Since joining the UFC, Miller only has the loss to Maynard and has wins over David Baron, Matt Wiman, Mac Danzig, Steve Lopez, Duane Ludwig, Mark Bocek, Gleison Tibau, Charles Oliveira and Kamal Shalorus for a 9-1 record.
Ben Henderson was one of the most dominant fighters in the WEC, including a run as Lightweight Champion before losing to Anthony Pettis in one of the most entertaining back-and-forth battles in the history of the promotion. Henderson rebounded from the loss, however, with a beat-down of Mark Bocek at UFC 129, immediately proving his position amongst the UFC's top lightweights.
Miller and Henderson are similar fighters. Both are 27, extremely well-rounded, utilizing a wrestling base with ever-improving striking and finish a majority of their fights by submission. Still, Henderson isn't quite at Miller's level yet. Miller has edge in experience and has faced the best the lightweight division has to offer.
Ben Henderson is notoriously difficult to finish—especially to choke—and I don't expect Jim Miller to do so, but I expect another dominant performance from the New Jersey native.
Jim Miller by decision.
After a surprising loss to Brian Ebersole, Chris Lytle was derailed from his run in the welterweight division after four consecutive wins over Kevin Burns, Brian Foster, Matt Brown and Matt Serra.
Similarly, Dan Hardy had put together seven straight wins, including great performances against Rory Markham, Marcus Davis and Mike Swick before dropping three straight. The first was no surprise—a loss to Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre. However, Hardy was then knocked out for the first time in his career by former WEC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit and subsequently held down for three rounds by Anthony Johnson.
The UFC is doing Hardy a favor with this one and giving him exactly what he expected from Johnson—a stand-up war. Chris Lytle has a history of these kinds of fights, hence the five Fight of the Night honors. If Lytle is content to stand and trade with Hardy, which seems to be the case, it should be a fun back and forth battle. Lytle does, however, possess and clear advantage on the ground, evidenced by his 21 submission victories and two Submission of the Night honors.
Lytle could probably find a way to get this fight to the ground, where he would severely increase his chances of winning, but he'll probably keep it standing. If that is the case, I expect Hardy to have the edge. Hardy and Team Rough House certainly know how to do one thing properly and that's striking.
Despite the Condit knockout, Hardy does very well in fights where the take down is not a concern. He is a clean, technical striker as opposed to Lytle, who throws bombs with nearly every one of his punches. I expect Hardy to return to his winning ways by taking out Lytle, whose chin was certainly looking vulnerable in his last fight.
Dan Hardy by knockout.