UFC 196: Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez 2 Fight Card Preview and Predictions

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2016

UFC 196: Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez 2 Fight Card Preview and Predictions

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    UFC 195 featured what could easily be the 2016 Fight of the Year, but don't get too cozy just yet! UFC 196 is just around the corner on Feb. 6 and might end up featuring a deep card stacked with talent.

    Unfortunately, the UFC has been slow in announcing fights of late, but here are the bouts announced for the event:

    • Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez 
    • Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson
    • Roy Nelson vs. Jared Rosholt
    • Derrick Lewis vs. Damian Grabowski
    • Josh Burkman vs. KJ Noons
    • Mike Pyle vs. Sean Spencer
    • Ovince Saint Preux vs. Rafael Cavalcante

    Those seven fights each include recognizable talents.

    In all likelihood, the UFC will announce four to six more fights for this event, but it's worth looking over the ones that have been publicized. So read on, ladies and gentlemen, and start preparing for February's biggest MMA card!

Confirmed Fights

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    Ovince Saint Preux vs. Rafael Cavalcante: OSP was one of Scott Coker's big pet projects in Strikeforce, and the experiment yielded some solid results. Unfortunately, Saint Preux's loss to Glover Teixeira slammed the door shut on any title aspirations for the immediate future. He gets a tuneup fight (more or less) for his return, though, against the struggling Rafael Cavalcante.

    Mike Pyle vs. Sean Spencer: Mike Pyle's career resurgence is over, and now he's in a most unenviable spot. 1-3 in his last four and at 40 years old, he's most likely fighting for his job. If he can't beat the ho-hum Sean Spencer (3-3 in his UFC career), he will probably be sent packing.

    Josh Burkman vs. KJ Noons: Veterans Josh Burkman and KJ Noons remain interesting talents but have fallen on hard times of late. Both men need a win here to remain relevant, but Burkman in particular needs a victory to stay in the UFC.

    Derrick Lewis vs. Damian Grabowski: Derrick Lewis has picked up some steam in the UFC's heavyweight division, but this fight is all about former M-1 champion Damian Grabowski. The Polish finisher has long been regarded as one of the best heavyweights in the business and is finally making his way to the UFC. This is easily the most interesting fight outside the two headliners, and it's worth paying close attention to his performance against a good-but-not-great Lewis.

Roy Nelson vs. Jared Rosholt

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Records: Roy Nelson (20-12), Jared Rosholt (14-2)

    The UFC is officially done with Roy Nelson. While Big Country never jelled with UFC brass, particularly UFC President Dana White, who actively insults him at almost every opportunity (Warning, NSFW Language), he became a fan favorite with his Hagrid-like appearance and atom bomb-like right hand. Unfortunately, he is more than two years removed from his last win (which came over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira back in 2013) and has gone 1-5 over his last six fights.

    While none of Nelson's losses have come from bad fighters (literally every single loss in his UFC career has been handed down from a current Top 10 name), his usefulness to the UFC has almost come to an end. The last thing he can do for the company is put one of its up-and-coming heavyweights over...and the UFC is setting him up to do just that with this fight against Jared Rosholt.

    Rosholt isn't among the heavyweight elite, but with a 6-1 UFC record, he has shown that he is no flash in the pan. He is coming off a win over Stefan Struve and, if he can add Nelson's head to his wall, will likely be in line for a crack at a top-10 opponent like Frank Mir or Josh Barnett.

    Nelson, obviously, will do his best to prevent that from happening, but the odds are stacked against him. While Big Country most likely still has plenty of pop in his mitts, Rosholt should be able to tie him up and hold him down for long enough to get a fairly clear-cut decision win. 

    Prediction: Jared Rosholt defeats Roy Nelson by unanimous decision.

Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson

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    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Johny Hendricks (17-3), Stephen Thompson (11-1)

    On its own, this fight is mouthwatering. Johny Hendricks is the former welterweight champ with absurd power in his left hand and top-notch wrestling. Stephen Thompson is an amazing kickboxer who has the tools to concuss anyone at any range, from any angle. 

    What makes this one of the most compelling matches in recent months, however, are the storylines outside the cage. Hendricks' historically difficult cut down to 170 pounds is officially an issue with the UFC. Thompson could be legitimate championship material but is still looking to shed the stigma of losing to Matt Brown in 2012, and he has never faced a wrestler close to Hendricks' caliber.

    There is so much intrigue here and so much at stake for both men. Unfortunately, it's an easy fight to predict.

    Hendricks, at 100 percent, is almost impossible to stop without a comparably excellent wrestling game. Thompson almost certainly doesn't fit that bill, and that will likely result in Hendricks working him to the ground and scoring points with the judges en route to a handy decision win.

    Prediction: Johny Hendricks defeats Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Records: Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1), Cain Velasquez (13-2)

    There's an elephant in the room when it comes to looking at Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez 2. That elephant is the simple fact that this fight shouldn't be taking place.

    Velasquez held the UFC heavyweight title for 896 days but defended it just twice against opponents he had already beaten in Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Junior dos Santos. When he finally dropped the UFC title to Werdum after 18 months of nursing injuries, he did so in ugly fashion, gassing out early and absorbing 96 significant strikes, per FightMetric, before being submitted in the third.

    While it isn't uncommon to see the UFC grant deposed champions an immediate rematch for the title, there was little cause for the company to turn to Velasquez, and little interest among the majority of fans. 

    Velasquez's title reign was not long enough or impressive enough to necessarily deserve an immediate rematch. The finish was not fluke-like or unusual in such a way that it felt like Velasquez was definitively the better fighter. The division, remarkably, is actually rife with potential contenders to the point where an actual rematch isn't actually that compelling from a fan perspective.

    And, of course, Velasquez is a liability for the UFC. The promotion needs an active heavyweight champion and Velasquez, plain and simple, can't fit that bill. Since first taking the UFC heavyweight title off Brock Lesnar in 2010, just plain hasn't been able to stay healthy, and it's perplexing why the UFC would set themselves up to once again have to work around a champion's absence.

    Werdum vs. Velasquez 2, in a vacuum, is still a compelling fight. Velasquez still has an amazingly high ceiling, and it's worth watching how he recovers from these struggles. Werdum's development has been intriguing to watch, and it's easy to expect something bold and new from him in the rematch.

    Unfortunately, this fight is not in a vacuum. This will likely prove to be too much, too soon for a less-than-100-percent Velasquez.

    Prediction: Fabricio Werdum defeats Cain Velasquez by submission in Round 4.