The UFC returns to Birmingham, England, for UFC 138, and it will be headlined by a middleweight matchup between heavy-handed punchers Chris Leben and Mark Munoz. It goes down Nov. 5, and will be broadcast on Spike TV.
Leben is coming off his quick knockout victory over Wanderlei Silva while Munoz was recently seen defeating Demian Maia.
Also in action, former UFC welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves welcomes Papy Abedi to the Octagon for the first time. Alves will be rebounding from his loss to Rick Story, which made him 1-3 in his four bouts.
Other main card bouts include Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao, John Hathaway vs. Matt Brown and Paul Taylor vs. Anthony Njokuani.
In what should be a very fan-friendly fight, lightweights Paul Taylor (11-6) and Anthony Njokuani (14-5) look to pick up their second victories in a row.
Taylor is 4-5 in the UFC having won three fight of the night bonuses in three of those losses, all of which came in the welterweight division.
Njokuani is 1-1 in the UFC and was also awarded a fight of the night bonus for his bout with Edson Barboza from earlier this year.
This should turn out exactly how fans expect it to, but that doesn't mean it's easy to predict. Both are proficient in the stand up department. Njokuani might be a little more well-rounded on the feet, but Taylor makes up for it with his technical boxing.
This standup war is evenly matched, and expect it to be fought that way throughout till the bell rings.
Paul Taylor wins by Split Decision.
John Hathaway (15-1) is one of the youngest stars rising up from the UK, and his recent setback versus Mike Pyle has put his momentum on hold. He rebounded from that loss to beat Kris McCray in March, but it was a less than solid performance. He won a closely contested split-decision.
Late replacement Matt Brown (12-10) is 5-4 in the UFC with his latest victory coming against John Howard. He replaces an injured Pascal Krauss on short notice.
The odds favor Hathaway in this fight and rightfully so. The 24-year-old has the more impressive victories in the UFC so far, and they include wins over Diego Sanchez, Paul Taylor and Rick Story.
Brown is tough enough to not get knocked out, but eight of his 10 losses have come by submission. Hathaway is a big welterweight that can utilize his size to control Brown if he decides to take it to the ground.
John Hathaway wins by submission in Round 3.
Former UFC welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves (18-8) is 1-3 in his last four bouts with all of those losses coming against solid opposition in Georges St-Pierre, Jon Fitch and Rick Story.
Before he had fought for the title in 2009, his seven-fight win streak was one of the best the UFC WW division had seen in a while. With knockout victories over Matt Hughes and Karo Parisyan and a dominant decision win over Josh Koscheck, Alves appeared to be one of the toughest matchups anyone could draw.
He will welcome Sweden's Papy Abedi (8-0) to the Octagon, and the 33-year-old will bring an undefeated record to the fight where he has nothing to lose against the heavy favorite.
Abedi is a solid judo practicioner, and his best work comes when he gets his fighter to the ground. If he can't do that here against Alves, who has some of the best stand up in the UFC, his night won't last very long.
Thiago Alves wins by TKO in Round 2.
In what could very well be a No. 1 contender matchup in the bantamweight division, Brad Pickett (21-4) takes on Renan Barao (26-1) in the co-main event.
With a combined record of 47-5, these two bring a lot of experience to the cage.
Pickett went 3-1 in the WEC before signing with the UFC. His wins include those over Demetrious Johnson, Ivan Menjivar and Kyle Dietz. His record is evenly distributed with seven wins by knockout, nine by submission and five by decision.
Barao went 2-0 in the UFC before making his debut at UFC 130 where he beat Cole Escovedo. His only career loss came in the very first fight of his career in 2005. The Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt currently trains with Jose Aldo.
Given their well-rounded skill sets, this might come down to something more, and with Pickett having the hometown crowd behind him, expect him to get the benefit of the doubt when the exchanges are close and competitive.
Brad Pickett wins by Unanimous Decision.
Odds: Mark Munoz -215; Chris Leben +175
Chris "The Crippler" Leben (22-7) returns since walking through Wanderlei Silva in 27 seconds to take on former NCAA Division I wrestler Mark Munoz (11-2) in the first five-round non-title fight in the UFC.
Munoz is currently riding a three-fight win streak with wins over Demian Maia, C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson.
Both of these fighters hit really hard and are arguably the top two hardest punchers in the UFC's 185 pound division. Instead of it coming down to who holds more power, it could really be determined by how well they can take a punch. Leben has the better chin, and that's nothing shocking.
Munoz has the wrestling to put Leben on his back, but Leben isn't exactly out of his game there either. He possesses very underrated ground skills that could show up in this fight.
For however long this fight lasts, Leben will always be dangerous with one-punch knockout power. Look for Munoz to put Leben on his back whenever things get rough standing up.
If Munoz can do this for five rounds without getting caught, he should win a hard-fought and competitive unanimous decision.
Mark Munoz wins by Unanimous Decision. (48-47 x3)