UFC 146 Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IMay 25, 2012

UFC 146 Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions

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    UFC 146 marks a heavyweight title bout where bad blood has been running strong between the two competitors for weeks now. 

    In the main event, reigning 265-pound champion Junior dos Santos takes on a former champion in Frank Mir.

    Will Mir definitively put himself in the Hall of Fame conversation, or will JDS prove he is going to stay on top of the heavyweight division for quite some time?

    Kicking off the main card will be two very entertaining heavyweights in the form of Stefan "The Skyscraper" Struve and "Big" Lavar Johnson. Don't leave your seat during this one, because these two fighters know how to finish a fight.

    Next up, two undefeated prospects clash in the form of "No Limits" Shane del Rosario and Stipe Miocic in a bout with some serious bragging rights on the line.

    In a tough match-up to predict, the third fight on the main card pits fan favorite Roy "Big Country" Nelson against Dave "Pee-Wee" Herman in a bout where the loser could very likely be given his walking papers from the UFC.

    In the co-main event, another former champion in the form of Cain Velasquez takes on Strikeforce import Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva in his Octagon debut.

    Predicting Saturday's action are Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists Dan Hiergesell, Dwight Wakabayashi, Matt Juul, and myself, John Heinis.

    Check out who will be walking away victorious on Saturday night.

Lavar Johnson vs. Stefan Struve

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    John Heinis: Despite losing his final two fights in Strikeforce, Lavar Johnson has basically made fans forget those bouts even existed by knocking out Joey Beltran and Pat Barry in the Octagon this year.

    Johnson is a tremendous fan favorite since he either finishes or gets finished: in 22 fights (with a record of 17-5), not one match has gone the distance. 

    While Johnson packs a serious punch that lets him strike with the best of 'em, his lack of a ground game will be dangerous against his latest Octagon adversary: Stefan "The Skyscraper" Struve. 

    Struve, at just 24 years old, already has 28 fights under his belt and has compiled a record of 23-5. 

    The towering (6'11") Dutchman has great striking and excellent submission skills given his experience and long limbs. 

    The BJJ purple belt is no lock in this one, though, as four of his five losses have been via knockout. 

    Nevertheless, given that Johnson has nothing that vaguely resembles a ground game (and taking the fight on less than a month's notice), Struve gets my vote of confidence in this one. 

    Stefan Struve via Round 2 submission (triangle choke)

    Dan Hiergesell: Lavar Johnson is coming into this fight on semi-short notice considering his most recent KO victory over Pat Barry back on May 5, but the former Strikeforce heavyweight contender should be completely fresh come Saturday.

    The fact of the matter is that Johnson has been on a tear over his two first fights in the UFC, knocking out two of the toughest fighters in the division (Barry and Beltran).

    When he meets Stefan Struve at UFC 146, more lights will be going off.

    Struve is definitely one of the best submission guys in the division, but he usually doesn't look to tap somebody until he tests the waters on his feet.

    It will be too late for "The Skyscraper" as Johnson will punish him early and often, similar to what Dave Herman did to Struve back in February.

    Lavar Johnson via Round 1 TKO

    Dwight Wakabayashi: "The Skyscraper" Stefan Struve is coming off impressive wins over Pat Barry and Dave Herman.

    The 24-year old is 4-1 in his last five fights and he needs that elusive third win in a row to really gain some footing in the heavyweight division.

    Johnson comes in on short notice as he just knocked out Barry a couple weeks ago. His power is formidable, although he is a bit one-dimensional to hang with the game that Struve has.

    I see Struve using technical striking and reach to try and keep Johnson at a nice range in this fight before he gets him down to the mat and submits him.

    Struve will not stand in front of Johnson and bang for long periods of time, therefore, he will avoid the big shot and take home the submission win

    Stefan Struve via Round 2 submission 

    Matt Juul: Taking this fight on a very short notice, Lavar Johnson will look to add a third straight Knockout of the Night to his collection as he takes on the towering Stefan Struve.

    Struve will have an edge on the ground, but Johnson's powerful hands will likely get the better of Struve's chin once again.

    Expect Johnson to decimate the Skyscrapper in what could be a Fight of the Night candidate as well.

    Lavar Johnson via round 3 KO

Shane Del Rosario vs. Stipe Miocic

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    John Heinis: Two undefeated heavyweight prospects will clash when Shane del Rosario takes on Stipe Miocic. 

    Just over a year ago, "No Limits" had his car struck by a drunk driver and many feared the talented big man would never fight again. 

    With a little luck and plenty of will power, del Rosario had a successful rehabilitation process and is ready to scrap again Saturday night. 

    All of del Rosario's 11 wins are by finish, are just one went outside the first round.

    While the biggest "name" win he had was his submission victory over Lavar Johnson in February 2011, his most impressive was his November 2009 when he put Brandon Cash away with the rarely seen omoplata. 

    Meanwhile, Miocic will be a formidable opponent with his slick boxing and explosive wrestling. He is fresh off of a win over  then-also-undefeated heavyweight Phil de Fries in February and in eight wins has only seen the judge's scorecards once. 

    Miocic will put up a fight, but No Limits will live up to his nickname at the end of the day. 

    Shane Del Rosario via Round 3 KO

    Dan Hiergesell: I honestly believe that Stipe Miocic is the best prospect in the heavyweight division.

    With a similar style to Mirko Cro Cop, Miocic is a punishing striker with awesome speed, not to mention his background as a Golden Gloves champion.

    The 29-year-old recently secured a KO victory over Phil De Fries in his last bout, claiming his sixth KO win out of his undefeated 8-0 career record.

    On the other hand, considering Shane Del Rosario making his UFC debut this Saturday, I would like to think he wants to put a show on for his new fans, but who knows for sure.

    Del Rosario submitted Lavar Johnson in his most recent Strikeforce bout, so it's easy to determine that his fight with Miocic at UFC 146 is going to be a classic striker vs. Jiu Jitsu showdown.

    I'm taking Miocic in the second round because I feel like he's the more athletically complete fighter with heavy hands. As long as Miocic can stay off his back, Del Rosario's debut isn't going to end well.  

    Stipe Miocic via Round 2 TKO

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Miocic is an undefeated 8-0 in his career and 2-0 in the UFC. Six of his wins have come via knockout, and he is ready for a nice step up after beating Phil De Fries in February.

    Is UFC newcomer Shane del Rosario the step up that Miocic wanted? I am not so sure, he is but both men have a lot on the line on Saturday night.

    Del Rosario has knockout power as well, but he also submitted Lavar Johnson in his last bout and does have a bit of a ground game.

    These two men have fallen ass-backwards into this main card opportunity and will look to put on a great fight to get themselves closer to the names that come after them on the card.

    They will stand up and trade.

    I see these fighters being so evenly matched, that this one will come down to UFC debut jitters. I believe del Rosario will have them and Miocic will jump on that and ride it to victory. 

    Stipe Miocic via unanimous decision

    Matt Juul: Two unbeaten heavyweight prospects will look to stake a claim in the division as the Croatian Stipe Miocic takes on former Strikeforce fighter Shane del Rosario.

    Del Rosario has great submission skills and will be a threat on the ground. Miocic is a powerful striker as well as an NCAA Division I wrestler.

    As long as Miocic can avoid del Rosario's ground game, expect him to come out on top. 

    Stipe Miocic via round 2 TKO 

Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman

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    John Heinis: Roy "Big Country" Nelson is just 1-3 in his past four fights, so a loss here could very spell the end of his tenure in the Octagon. 

    Nelson took a bad beating at the hands of current heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos, title-challenger Frank Mir and rising contender Fabricio Werdum; also refusing to be finished by any of the three.

    His sole win since August 2010 was over the aging Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic at UFC 137 in October. 

    Nelson is a BJJ black belt with heavy hands and a great chin, making him a perfect match-up for his opponent, Dave "Pee-Wee" Herman. 

    Herman is 21-3 with an amazing 20 finishes, though his recent loss against Stefan Struve in February showed that he needs to take his training a little more seriously to beat legitimate opposition.

    The Team Quest product has good wrestling and great power in his hands, but his lack of conditioning and submission know-how could be a problem here.

    While I think this will be an entertaining fight that can go either way, I think Nelson lives to fight another day under the UFC banner.

    Roy Nelson via Round 2 TKO

    Dan Hiergesell: This was pretty easy.

    Roy Nelson is one of the most complete boxers in the heavyweight division. With a unique combination of heavy hands and an iron chin, Nelson has made a name for himself by standing and banging with the best fighters around.

    When he meets Dave Herman this Saturday, another heavyweight who likes to get his gloves dirty, it should be much of the same.

    Herman is surely an exciting fighter, but his chin has been tested in the past and it hasn't looked all that good. He got touched up by Stefan Struve, for Christ's sake.

    But I love the fact that Herman has already climbed the divisional ladder so quickly, even though he'll be knocked down a rung or two when he faces off against Nelson this weekend.

    Bottom line: Nelson's chin is too relevant in his fight to give Herman the nod. The only way he can pull the upset is if it goes the distance. But who truly believes that's going to happen?

    I see this fight being an all-out brawl for roughly 12 minutes.

    Roy Nelson via Round 3 TKO

    Dwight Wakabayashi: In the shake-up and shuffle surrounding this card, Dave Herman has landed a dance with Roy Nelson, and I think it will be a bit more than he can handle.

    "Big Country" is an experienced and well-rounded veteran who has faced many of the top dogs in this division.

    Herman is a beast of a puncher and tough as nails, but he just fell to Stefan Struve in his last fight in February.  

    Nelson is definitely better than Struve and he will be able to win this fight by taking it to his world on the ground.

    Herman may have a chance to catch Roy if Nelson decides to stand with him, though.

    However, I don't think Nelson will want to prove anything but the win in this one so he will take it down to the mat and dominate Herman quickly.

    Roy Nelson via Round 2 TKO

    Matt Juul: Two of the heavyweight division's biggest personalities, loudmouths Roy Nelson and Dave Herman will look to bounce back from recent tough losses as they take each other on Saturday night.

    Nelson has surprisingly heavy hands and a granite chin that makes him nearly impossible to finish. "Big Country" is also a huge threat on the ground.

    Herman, a fast-rising prospect, is taking the fight on short notice and just doesn't stack up well against the grizzled veteran. My pick is for Big Country to bounce back in an even bigger way.

    Roy Nelson via round 3 TKO

Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva

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    John Heinis: Cain Velasquez improved to 9-0 as a professional fighter when he defeated Brock Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 121.

    However, a rotator cuff injury left him on the shelf for over a year before losing the title to Junior dos Santos at the UFC's inaugural event on FOX this past November. 

    The former Arizona State Sun Devil will look to get back into the mix against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.

    Silva actually enters the bout coming off a loss to Velasquez's American Kickboxing Academy teammate Daniel Cormier, who just won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in impressive fashion (he defeated Josh Barnett in the tournament finals). 

    Bigfoot is 3-2 in his past five fights and outside of his signature win against Fedor Emelianenko in February of last year, the Brazilian lacks wins against top-tier competition (please no one mention the 2010 version of Andrei Arlovski). 

    The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt also possess heavy hands, but his questionable chin and lack of wrestling or active guard game will lead to his demise here. 

    Cain Velasquez via Round 2 TKO

    Dan Hiergesell: Cain Velasquez is out for blood. After losing the heavyweight title to Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1, Velasquez is looking to rebound in the right way.

    And nothing would cement him as the next top contender than a victory over UFC newcomer Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.

    Silva is one of the more complete heavyweight fighters in the world, but he doesn't exactly possess an iron chin. But hey, neither does Velasquez, evident by the dos Santos KO.

    Regardless, there's really only one way this fight is going to go.

    Velasquez's wrestling is too strong to let Silva take him down and end the fight on the canvas, so consider this three-round No. 1 contender bout strictly a standup battle.

    As long as Velasquez stays out of Silva's clinch, he should be able to land significant strikes from the outside and put the Brazilian away.

    Cain Velasquez via unanimous decision

    Dwight Wakabayashi: This is a very intriguing fight between a former champion looking to get his mojo back, and a very dangerous UFC newcomer with some respectable wins on his resume.

    Cain Velasquez is still considered a No. 1 contender for the heavyweight title, despite his quick loss to JDS in November.

    He must secure a strong win in this risky fight to keep his place in the pecking order. Silva is making his debut in the UFC coming off a loss to Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier.

    Velasquez made out like a bandit in the 146 shuffle, and gets a huge opportunity to knock off Silva and put himself right in the mix with the best.

    Silva seized a similar opportunity before, when he ousted Fedor Emelianenko to catapult his career to this point.

    This one is going to be a war between two big and hungry men, and Velasquez will pull out all his tools to keep up and defeat the bigger foe.

    I see technical striking and kicks winning the fight for Velasquez, but it won't be easy for either man.

    Cain Velasquez via split decision 

    Matt Juul: Brutally losing the title in November, former champ Cain Velasquez will look to bounce back from his first career loss as he takes on Antonio Silva.

    A monstrous sized opponent, Silva has heavy hands and a submission game that could prove to be threats if he somehow rocks the former title holder.

    However, with Velasquez's top level striking and insane wrestling skills, I just don't see "Bigfoot" putting up much of a fight.

    Cain Velasquez via round 1 TKO

Frank Mir vs. Junior Dos Santos

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    John Heinis: Former title-holder Frank Mir takes on surging champion Junior dos Santos in a classic grappler vs. striker affair. 

    The UFC, and more so Mir, have this fight by highlighting Mir's stunning arm-breaking victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140. "Big Nog" is of course the mentor/Black House coach of JDS.

    While Mir, a highly regarded BJJ black belt, has the undeniable advantage on the ground (although JDS is a brown belt himself), the Brazilian has some of the best boxing in MMA right now. 

    Junior is a perfect 8-0 in the Octagon and has finished five of those opponents via (T)KO. On that list of victims are Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez. 

    Since losing to Carwin at UFC 111 (in an interim title bout), Mir rattled off wins against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Roy Nelson and Nogueira. That list just pales in comparison. 

    Granted, Mir is a late fill-in for Alistair Overeem after he had a ridiculous 14-to-1 testosterone to epitestosterone ratio in a random drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. 

    However, he will look every bit the part of a replacement on Saturday night.

    Junior dos Santos via Round 2 TKO

    Dan Hiergesell: Trust me when I tell you I'm going out on a limb here.

    I'm taking Frank Mir based on one aspect: his ability to sink a submission on anyone and everything.

    But when it comes down to it, there's no reason to think that Junior dos Santos can't run the heavyweight division for the next few years based on his boxing alone.

    "Cigano" has made a name for himself as the best pound-for-pound boxer in all of MMA, so it's difficult to bet against that label.

    However, Mir has proven before that he can not only dictate the pace and environment of a fight when facing a striking specialist, but that he can also stand and bang with him.

    With that said, assuming Mir doesn't get his clock cleaned like he did against Shane Carwin (which is scary considering dos Santos picked apart Carwin), I truly believe he'll be able to end the fight via submission somewhere in the fourth round.

    Frank Mir via Round 4 submission

    Dwight Wakabayashi: For the first time in his mixed martial arts career, Junior Dos Santos will be taken to the ground and submitted on Saturday night.

    This match up is tailor made for Frank Mir in both timing and in style. Mir is riding an incredible run right now and at the peak of his confidence coming off UFC140.

    He has the type of personality and style to go with his Big Nog win to get into JDS' head. It's now or never for him, and that makes for a dangerous fighter.

    JDS can knock out anyone, but I don't believe he will knock out Mir before this one goes to the mat.

    If JDS survives the mat and gets it back up, than Mir is finished and the fight is lost, but I see Frank controlling him and beating him on the ground.

    Frank Mir via Round 2 submission

    Matt Juul: While not the heavyweight title match-up fans were hoping for, Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir should still be an exciting headlining bout.

    Everybody knows that the champ will look to keep things standing while Mir will look to add another limb to his submission collection.

    The only way this fight does not end as a KO win for Dos Santos is if Mir can close the distance quickly and work his exceptional ground game.

    However, the champ has some of the best boxing in MMA and has better hand speed than Mir's previous opponent, Dos Santos' mentor "Minotauro" Nogueira.

    Expect Dos Santos to fair much better against the former champ than Nogueira and come out victorious.

    Junior dos Santos via round 2 KO

Fight Bonuses

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    John Heinis: Fight of the Night - Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman

    Submission of the Night - Stefan Struve 

    Knockout of the Night - Junior dos Santos 

    Dan Hiergesell: Fight of the Night - Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman

    Submission of the Night - Frank Mir

    Knockout of the Night - Lavar Johnson

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Fight of the Night - Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva

    Submission of the Night - Frank Mir

    Knockout of the Night - Edson Barboza 

    Matt Juul: Fight of the Night - Lavar Johnson vs. Stefan Struve

    Submission of the Night - Diego Brandao

    Knockout of the Night - Lavar Johnson