UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson debuts a bantamweight matchup between current champion Dominick Cruz against the No. 1 contender in Demetrious Johnson from the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on October 1.
Other main card action includes a heavyweight matchup between the talented kick-boxer Pat "HD" Barry and Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve.
Welterweight action ensues with the return of Anthony "Rumble" Johnson as he clashes against the man who derailed Rick Story's contender spot for the welterweight championship, Charlie Brenneman.
Rounding out the main card action is a lightweight duel between "Handsome" Matt Wiman and Mac Danzig.
Please follow along as I analyze and predict all the night's action.
Enjoy the fights.
Beginning the action on Facebook will be a bantamweight bout between Walel "The Gazelle" Watson and Joseph Sandoval.
Watson, 8-2 overall with seven submission victories, stands a staggering 5'11" tall, while weighing on 133 pounds.
Making his debut inside the famed Octagon this Saturday, Watson will be looking to finish this matchup with Sandoval by submission.
Opposing Watson's chances is the undefeated Sandoval. 6-0 in his professional career, Sandoval is known for his knockout power with three of his contests ending by punches.
A stylistic clash, Watson will look to take this fight to the ground and finish the hard-hitting Sandoval.
In 10 matchups, Watson has not seen the third round to date. If history repeats itself, "The Gazelle" will finish this bout during regulation time.
Winner: Walel Watson via Round 2 submission
Welterweight action continues between "The Dentist" Josh Neer and Keith "The Polish Connection" Wisniewski.
Both competitors possess tremendous experience. Neer holds notable victories over Mac Danzig, Din Thomas, Joe Stevenson and Melvin Guillard. Whereas Wisniewski has had 41 professional fights dating back to 1998.
Balanced in his skill-set, Neer has accumulated 16 knockout and 11 submission victories during his 31 total wins inside the cage.
A solid striker with an above average ground game, Neer can defeat his opponents anywhere throughout their matchup.
Equally talented, Wisniewski is also a very balanced practitioner. More of a submission specialist than a knockout artist, "The Polish Connection" has earned 15 tapout victories during his 13 year career.
Given the stand-up advantage that Neer possesses over Wisniewski, this matchup will end with a TKO victory for "The Dentist" awarding Neer his third victory inside the Octagon.
Winner: Josh Neer via Round 2 TKO
A tremendous lightweight matchup features the American, Shane Roller versus the Canadian, TJ Grant.
Roller, 10-4 overall, 1-1 in the UFC, will be looking to rebound after a knockout defeat at the hands of Melvin Guillard in July.
Very versatile, Roller has battled exceptionally gifted stand-up strikers including Anthony Pettis in his past.
Securing six tapout victories during his short career, Roller is capable of taking his fights to the ground and securing a variety of submission victories.
This game plan will be challenging against Grant who is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu.
With 16 victories overall, 12 by submission, this BJJ practitioner is very comfortable on his back and utilizing his jiu-jitsu brilliance to dominate matchups.
Considering that both fighters are excellent on the ground, the advantage in this matchup goes to the competitor with the better stand-up skills.
In this case, that is Roller. In the end, Roller will outwork Grant, avoiding any submission attempts while securing a decision victory.
Winner: Shane Roller via unanimous decision victory
Bantamweight action continues with a clash of UFC newcomers as Mike "The Hulk" Easton battle Byron Bloodworth.
Easton, a black belt in BJJ, possesses an impressive 10-1 overall mixed martial arts record.
Solid on the ground, "The Hulk" also has knockout power in his strikes.
Looking for a victory in his inaugural debut inside the famed Octagon, Bloodworth is 6-1 overall with great cardiovascular conditioning and a balanced skill-set inside the cage.
Both competitors are equally talented on their feet and on the ground. A back and forth matchup, the experience of Easton will outweigh that of Bloodworth. In the end, "The Hulk" secures a unanimous decision victory in his UFC debut.
Winner: Mike Easton via unanimous decision victory
Lightweight action ensues with a matchup between Michael "The Menace" Johnson and Paul "Sassangle" Sass.
Johnson rose to fame inside the Octagon with his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter. Since the show, Johnson defeated Edward Faaloloto in impressive fashion at UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry in June.
Moving his training camp to Jackson Submission Fighting, the athletic and determined "Menace" has evolved into a more complete fighter inside the cage.
Opposing Johnson will be the submission specialist and BJJ brown belt from Liverpool, England, Paul Sass.
Sass will be making his second appearance for the UFC. Earning Submission of the Night honors with a triangle choke victory over Mark Holst at UFC 120, Sass would like to take his undefeated streak to 12-0.
Finishing 10 of his 11 matchups by submission, Sass is a gifted submission wizard and will look to secure a tapout victory over Johnson this Saturday.
Wanting to keep this fight standing, Johnson will look to finish Sass on their feet. Conversely, Sass has the advantage on the ground and will be looking for his ninth submission victory via triangle choke.
The change of camps for Johnson along with his athleticism and improved striking will be the difference in this matchup awarding "Menace" the victory and providing Sass with his first professional defeat.
Winner: Michael Johnson via unanimous decision victory
Rounding out the Facebook matchups will be a lightweight bout between the seasoned veteran Yves Edwards and the much less experienced Rafaello "Tractor" Oliveira.
Edwards, 40-17 overall, has competed in the UFC since 2001 where he battled Matt Serra to a majority decision defeat.
Talented in his stand-up game, Edwards possesses crisp striking, working excellent angles and combining effective combinations.
Equally versed on the ground, the "Thugjitsu master" has secured 16 submission victories in his 40 overall wins.
Wanting to bounce back after a hellacious Round 1 knockout at the hands of Sam Stout in June, Edwards should utilize his strengths in the Muay-thai department to maximize his abilities against Oliveira.
"Tractor" is a black belt in jiu-jitsu training with the Miller brothers out of New Jersey's AMA Fight Club.
14-4 overall, Oliveira is continually improving his stand-up skills to complement his exceptional ground game.
Like Edwards, Oliveira was dropped in his previous UFC matchup against Gleison Thibau and will be looking to get back on the winning ways.
Both competitors are equally talented on the ground. Edwards holds the advantage in the stand-up game and with the experience inside the Octagon. If Edwards can prevent himself from fighting Oliveira's game, he will secure a victory over "Tractor."
Winner: Yves Edwards via unanimous decision victory
Lightweight action begins the main card lineup on Versus with a contest between "Handsome" Matt Wiman and Mac Danzig.
Both Wiman and Danzig looked solid in their previous UFC matchups. Suffering a decision defeat to Dennis Siver at UFC 132, Wiman demonstrated excellent stand-up skills, great wrestling take-downs, and an aggressive ground game in his loss.
Unlike Wiman who was defeated, Danzig claimed a stunning Round 1 knockout victory over Joe Stevenson which resulted in Stevenson's walking papers from the UFC.
Battling each other in the past at UFC 115, their initial matchup resulted in controversy when the referee ended the fight prematurely, awarding Wiman with a guillotine choke victory even though Danzig was coherent and did not tap.
Looking to put their past aside, both Wiman and Danzig are equally balanced fighters. Both have developed above average stand-up games, both are well-versed grapplers, and both possess excellent jiu-jitsu skills.
More aggressive than Danzig, Wiman's development of his ground-and-pound and relentless assault in his opponent's guard provides "Handsome" with a slight advantage in this matchup.
A very close fight to predict, Wiman's overall skill-set, including his newly developed attack on the ground, will provide "Handsome" with a narrow decision victory over Danzig.
Winner: Matt Wiman via unanimous decision victory
A tremendous welterweight matchup features the return of Anthony "Rumble" Johnson against Charlie "The Spaniard" Brenneman.
Recovering from an injury which sidelined Johnson from competing in his first main event back in June, "Rumble" has not competed inside the Octagon since March.
Conversely, Brenneman is riding a huge wave of momentum after securing a unanimous decision victory over the highly touted Rick Story at UFC Live in Pittsburgh earlier this summer.
An amazing athlete with blessed size, strength, and power, Johnson is an extremely large 170-pound competitor dropping nearly 55 pounds to make the necessary welterweight cut-off.
Not possessing the size and strength of Johnson, Brenneman is a very gifted wrestler as well and dominated the bigger Story in their matchup back in June.
Improving in his stand-up skills, "The Spaniard" takes a page out of Randy Couture's book and drives his opponents into the cage where he delivers strikes from the inside and changes levels to secure a take-down.
This strategy may not work against the bigger, stronger Johnson. Additionally, considering that both Johnson and Brenneman are high-level grapplers, neither one will have a tremendous advantage over the other in the wrestling department.
"Rumble" will look to keep this fight standing and utilize his length and punching power to keep Brenneman at bay. If Johnson can exact his game plan, he will secure a victory over "The Spaniard."
Winner: Anthony Johnson via unanimous decision victory
Heavyweight action continues with a striking battle between Pat "HD" Barry and Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve.
Barry engaged in a thrilling matchup with Cheick Kongo in June of this year in which "HD" sent the Frenchman to the mat with a clubbing hook. Miraculously, Kongo recovered from the onslaught of strikes by Barry and flipped the script by landing a thunderous punch of his own which sent "HD" to the ground in a knockout defeat.
Struve, on the other hand, suffered a brutal knockout by Travis Browne at UFC 130. Flying through the air, Browne landed a savage superman punch that flattened the "Skyscraper" at the 4:11 mark of Round 1.
Barry is a world-class kick-boxer. Lethal with his leg strikes and damaging with his punches, "HD" is in the top-tier of strikers within the UFC.
Limited in his ground game, surprisingly Barry exhibits excellent take-down defense and has thwarted 92% of the take-down opportunities by his opponents.
Struve, at 6'11" tall, will possess a sizable reach advantage over Barry. Confident in his stand-up skills, may be to a fault, it would behoove Struve to take this matchup to the ground and secure his 15th submission victory.
Considering the tendencies of both competitors, I feel that Barry will lure Struve into a striking contest in the center of the Octagon.
Chopping down "The Skyscraper" will his vicious leg kicks, Barry will unleash a barrage of strikes from all angles and all planes on Struve.
This assault will ensure a TKO victory for "HD" and render Struve with his second consecutive defeat inside the Octagon.
Winner: Pat Barry via Round 2 TKO
The main event of the evening features a bantamweight championship bout between current UFC title holder Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz and the No. 1 contender, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson.
As the No. 9 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and the current UFC bantamweight champion with an overall MMA record of 18-1, Cruz needs no introduction to the UFC fans.
Possessing unlimited cardiovascular conditioning and a non-stop attack inside the cage, Cruz's relentless pace is an asset to the champion.
Balanced in his skill-set, "The Dominator" is an effective striker, yet lacks fearful knockout power. However, what Cruz lacks in punching prowess he makes up for in overall volume of strikes. The champion throws an exhausting number of punches and kicks during his matchups.
Like Cruz, Johnson is a relentless competitor inside the Octagon. Lacking in size and evasiveness when compared to the title holder, "Mighty Mouse" makes up for these deficiencies with his heart and determination.
The one aspect that Johnson holds an advantage over Cruz is in the jiu-jitsu game. Crafty with his submission skills, "Mighty Mouse" has finished five of his opponents by tapout, whereas Cruz has only submission victory.
The matchup between these two energizer competitors will take place on their feet. A feverish pace and non-stop assaults by both competitors will dominate this exciting bantamweight bout.
In the end, Cruz will secure his title with a decision victory.
With 12 victories by decision, experts should now begin to question the current champions ability to finish his opponents as they currently argue Georges St-Pierre's inability to dominate during his title defenses.
Cruz has the talent to retain the title. However, he does lack the knockout power and the submission skills to dominate during his championship bouts.
Without his cardiovascular conditioning and elusiveness in the stand-up exchanges, our conversations regarding Cruz's dominance within the Octagon would be completely different.
I give "The Dominator" credit for earning his championship and defending it thus far. However, ultimately the champ will need to learn to finish his opponents and not allow for the judges to ensure his future.
Winner: Dominick Cruz via unanimous decision victory