SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 146 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
FOWLKES: For all his skills and success and experience, Mir still has a suspect chin and an underwhelming takedown ability. The latter has improved in recent years, but the former only tends to get worse with age. JDS has faced better wrestlers than Mir and managed to stay on his feet. There’s no reason to think he won’t do it again here, which is bad news for the former champ. Dos Santos by TKO.
HUNT: Mir has made a career out of stepping into big-time fights, and he’s had mixed success. However, Dos Santos, a striker with power and technique, is Mir’s kryptonite. Dos Santos by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: If Mir can take this fight to the ground, watch out. But how is he supposed to get Dos Santos off his feet? A more likely scenario: Mir goes to the mat all by himself, involuntarily. Dos Santos by KO.
WERTHEIM: JDS has been a tornado to everyone else’s trailer park lately. Mir will seek to take the fight to the ground and grab a limb. That’s not his best chance; it’s his only chance. Dos Santos by TKO.
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
FOWLKES: Velasquez has a lot in common with the last man to beat Silva, not the least of which are the coaches at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. AKA teammate Daniel Cormier had little trouble putting his quickness to use against Silva’s size back in September, and I doubt Velasquez will either. Velasquez by decision.
HUNT: Former UFC champ Velasquez has to be the favorite, even though he’s been nursing his knee back since last November’s loss to Dos Santos. Word out of Silva’s camp is he’s down to a svelte (for him) 270 pounds coming out of one of his best camps ever. Will Silva’s physicality be too much for Velasquez? I’m not so sure. Velasquez by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: One punch last November transformed Velasquez from champion to under-the-radar second fiddle. A sure way for him to get noticed … and get a shot at his old belt: End this fight just as swiftly and suddenly. Velasquez by KO.
WERTHEIM: Silva’s size is the X-factor (XXXL factor) that has enabled him to beat Fedor and succeed in Elite XC. Look for Velasquez, quicker to the punch and the better wrestler, to get back to winning. Velasquez by decision.
Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
FOWLKES: It’s hard to tell how prepared Herman is for this bout, mostly since you can’t get a straight answer out of this heavyweight jokester. Nelson likes to kid around too, but you can always count on him to slug away until somebody makes him stop. Herman is game, but can he take it and dish it out as well as “Big Country”? I have my doubts. Nelson by TKO.
HUNT: Nelson crumbled a bit against BJJ master Fabricio Werdum, never noted before for his striking, at UFC 143 four months ago, so it’s hard to tell where his head is. Herman is hit or miss, depending on how much effort he puts into his training camp. A toss-up, indeed. Nelson by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Nelson has lost three of four fights — but to higher-level opponents than Herman. A slip-up here would be truly damaging. Roy needs to use his well-rounded game to avoid damage while staying in control. Nelson by decision.
WERTHEIM: After two whiffs (Bigfoot Silva and Gabriel Gonzaga) Nelson finally gets an opponent in Dave Herman, a capable and entertaining fighter but one who does little to threaten Nelson. Nelson has lost five of his last eight fights, but look for the Chubby Funster to win here. Nelson by TKO.
Shane del Rosario vs. Stipe Miočic
FOWLKES: Del Rosario was a hot prospect before a drunk driver sidelined him with injuries. A former Golden Gloves boxer, Miočic is a tough opponent to make a comeback against, especially if it’s also your UFC debut. Maybe Del Rosario can rise above those well-known risk factors, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Miočic by TKO.
HUNT: There are too many questions about undefeated Strikeforce acquisition Del Rosario, and how a car accident 15 months ago has affected him physically and mentally. Miočić is developing into a polished striker and this bout should only further that. Miočic by decision.
WAGENHEIM: This is an easy one. Two-thirds of my work is done. Judging by what these guys have done in the past, I know the last two words of my prediction must be “by KO.” But which slugger will remain undefeated? Del Rosario by KO.
WERTHEIM: Del Rosario was a promising, undefeated fighter before he was hit by a drunk driver and injured his back. It says here he gets back to winning against Miočic, a Cleveland-based Croat who’s also undefeated. Del Rosario by decision.
Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson
FOWLKES: Johnson has guts to take this late-notice bout, and right on the heels of his TKO win over Pat Barry. Trouble is, guts won’t get you out of a triangle choke. Johnson wants no part of Struve’s ground game, and Struve knows it. The lanky Dutchman is too savvy at this point in his career to get baited into a street fight. I expect him to get the fight to the floor, and finish it shortly thereafter. Struve by submission.
HUNT: If you’d told me a year ago that Johnson would have two impressive back-to-back wins in the UFC presently, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the octagon is bringing out the best in Johnson, who’s lacked focus and speed in the past. If Struve can keep moving and avoid getting trapped on the fence — which his cautious style lends itself to — he will take it. Struve by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Considering that Johnson got taken down and nearly submitted by that legendary mat virtuoso Pat Barry, Struve (15 subs among his 23 wins) seems well equipped to carry out a winning game plan. Struve by decision.
WERTHEIM: Credit John for fighting twice in three weeks. (He beat Pat Barry on the New York Fox card on May 5.) Even if his stamina and health hold up, can he strike Struve before getting caught in a compromising position? Struve by submission.