SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Steven Marrocco, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 135 on Saturday in Denver.
Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson
FOWLKES: Jackson won’t even get within hooking distance of the faster, lankier Jones. If he lasts as long as Rua did before getting rolled up, I’ll be slightly amazed. Jones by TKO.
MARROCCO: Jones has three dimensions to Jackson’s two. Jackson fancies a knockout, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever get close enough to land. Jones by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: “Rampage” trash talks a good game, but when the jawing stops and the jostling starts, “Bones” will have his say … and have his way. Jones by TKO.
WERTHEIM: Feels a bit like Evans-Tito (and Jones-Shogun): a versatile contender versus a thirtysomething name far from his prime. Jones is too young, versatile and athletic. Jones by TKO.
Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck
FOWLKES: I just don’t see what tools Hughes has to threaten Koscheck with at this point. He’ll get out-Hughes’d in what could very well be his final UFC fight. Koscheck by TKO.
MARROCCO: The urgency isn’t there for Hughes, and his speed and power are on the decline. Could be curtains on Saturday. Koscheck by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Five years ago, fighting Hughes would have meant a long night for Kos. But at this point he should make short work of the past champ. Koscheck by TKO.
WERTHEIM: Long layoff for two veterans and wrestling-based fighters. Though coming on short notice, Koscheck is younger and faster. Koscheck by decision.
Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton
FOWLKES: Browne is too big and too powerful for the Brit. He keeps it standing and smashes him from a great distance early on. Browne by TKO.
MARROCCO: A faster, more dynamic Browne should overwhelm Broughton with punches on the mat. Browne by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Here are the undefeated Browne’s last seven results: KO, draw, TKO, TKO, KO, KO, TKO. Why should we expect anything different? Browne by TKO.
WERTHEIM: Fight of the night potential. Two entertaining fighters and nice contrast in styles. Browne’s size and power advantage should surmount questionable fitness and takedown. Browne by TKO.
Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi
FOWLKES: Diaz could probably take Gomi down and submit him without too much trouble, but my guess is he’ll stand and box instead, with only marginally more trouble. Diaz by decision.
MARROCCO: Where’s a gogoplata when you need one? Doubtful that Diaz recreates brother Nick Diaz’s win over Gomi, but he gets it done. Diaz by submission.
WAGENHEIM: ”The Fireball Kid” is not a kid anymore, or even a ball of fire. He’s 1-2 in the UFC, and after Saturday will be 0-2 (OK, 0-1 with 1 NC) versus the 209. Diaz by submission.
WERTHEIM: A Pride rematch. Diaz back in the lightweight division is intriguing and Gomi has been vulnerable to strikes and neutralized by bigger opponents in the UFC. Diaz by decision.
Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt
FOWLKES: If Rothwell is smart, he won’t spend any more time on the feet with Hunt than he has to. Hunt’s got a head like a cinder block and fists to match, but no ground game to speak of. Rothwell by submission.
MARROCCO: Standing, Hunt takes this. On the mat, it’s all Rothwell. After more then a year on the bench, though, Rothwell’s rust sinks him. Hunt by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: It’s fitting, I suppose, that I’ll be down in the kitchen heating up some leftover pizza while these guys are slugging it out and jiggling as they do it. Rothwell by just-get-it-over-with KO.
WERTHEIM: Full disclosure: Rothwell was a friend from “Blood in the Cage” days. Nice to see his career is back after injury/Affliction. I feel duty-bound pick him to an upset over Hunt, an electric fighter with no ground game. Rothwell by submission.