SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 150 on Saturday in Denver.
Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar
DOYLE: Can Edgar avoid the fight-changing strikes of the sort he took from Henderson in their first fight? As simplistic as it sounds, it comes down to that. These guys are close to stylistic mirror images in their standup games, but Henderson is bigger and more powerful. This match is winnable for Edgar if he fights a mistake-free battle, but in the end, I see Henderson maneuvering his way to the win. Henderson by decision.
HUNT: We have probably the biggest lightweight in the division taking on the smallest one here. Henderson has already proven he can keep up with Edgar’s frenetic pace and he’ll use his physicality again to stifle him. Henderson by decision.
WAGENHEIM: After the first of Edgar’s two impossible comebacks against Gray Maynard, I swore to myself that I’d never, ever pick against the guy. Henderson is bigger, stronger and more dangerous, but a pledge is a pledge. I’d hate to later have to tell myself “I told you so.” Edgar by decision.
WERTHEIM: I’m going with Edgar in the rematch. True, he’s less athletic and lost the first time. But says here, he’s motivated and has a new fightplan. The conventional wisdom is that he needs to be on his feet to win, but the guy was a college wrestler — is it fatal if he gets grounded? Edgar by decision.
Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard
DOYLE: This lightweight contenders’ showdown has the potential for fireworks, as both guys know how to stand and bang. But there’s the thousand-mile-wide hole in Guillard’s game: Nine of his 10 losses are by submission. Cerrone has submitted 13 opponents. This one should be spectacular before Guillard commits a fatal error and Cerrone finishes him. Cerrone by submission.
HUNT: Cerrone was on a nice little roll until he lost to Nate Diaz in January and we saw dramatic improvement in his transitions and overall skillset along the way. Though he’s the superior athlete, Guillard is hit or miss when harnessing that natural ability into MMA skills. I like Cerrone’s steady climb to Guillard’s hills and valleys. Cerrone by submission.
WAGENHEIM: Some people can’t understand how close friends can stand to punch each other in the face. But to give yourself a sporting chance, you do whatever the competitor inside demands that you to do. One thing you don’t do is go easy. Cerrone by KO.
WERTHEIM: These know each other well, a current and former member of the Jackson camp. Guillard hasn’t been the same since he left and needs the win. But Cerrone is a more clever and resourceful fighter. As long as he doesn’t get caught with a haymaker … Cerrone by decision.
Jake Shields vs. Ed Herman
DOYLE: You never seem to know what you’re going to get from Jake Shields. He could be the guy who showed up and smoked Dan Henderson, or he could be the guy who got a gift decision in his UFC debut against Martin Kampmann after a lackluster bout. He’s taking on an underrated fighter in Herman, who has three straight wins via finish since returning from a knee injury. Shields is his biggest test to date and I’ve got a gut feeling a motivated Herman is going to take the upset. Herman by submission.
HUNT: Herman is most confident on the mat, but Shields’ submission game is stronger. Ground enthusiasts should look forward to this one. Shields by submission.
WAGENHEIM: Herman is known as “Short Fuse,” and Shields might as well be nicknamed “At the End of his Rope.” A UFC resume consisting of a disputed victory, then two losses, then a not-so-exciting win needs a spark. Shields by decision.
WERTHEIM: Not dissimilar fighters but Shields is better is too many aspects. Shields hasn’t set the world on fire since coming over from Strikeforce, but he should pull it out. Shields by decision.
Yushin Okami vs. Buddy Roberts
DOYLE: The bout’s likely to come down to whether the referee will be able to fend off outside interference from Roberts’ Freebird teammates, Michael Hayes and Terry Gody. OK, corny 1980s pro wrestling references aside, Okami must feel like he has something to prove coming off an embarrassing loss to Tim Boetsch in Japan, and in Roberts he faces a replacement fighter who is taking a huge step up in competition. Okami grinds it out on points. Okami by decision.
HUNT: With only one lukewarm UFC appearance under his belt, Roberts is taking a big step up in competition and he’s doing it on three weeks’ notice. Okami has back-to-back (T)KO losses to Anderson Silva (a fight he wasn’t winning) and Tim Boestch (a fight he was), but don’t be fooled. Okami’s physical strength and solid wrestling is still a threat to everyone not named Silva. Okami by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in his last fight, Okami is going to be hungry to get it right this time. He could finish or just dominate. Okami by decision.
WERTHEIM: Okami is getting on in years, a methodical if sometimes uninspiring fighter. Hard to see him losing to Roberts, a stand-in for injured Rousimar Palhares. Okami by decision.
Justin Lawrence vs. Max Holloway
DOYLE: So, yeah. We’ve got two guys with a combined 10 career fights on the pay-per-view portion of the broadcast. On paper, sounds like proof that the UFC is stretching its event schedule too thin. But these kids (Lawrence is 22, Holloway 20) are legit young guns and the fight promises to be all action. Lawrence’s kickboxing skills are beyond his years and they’ll likely serve him well here. Lawrence by TKO.
HUNT: Lawrence is the more recognizable of the two, having just come off a well-received run on The Ultimate Fighter 15. He’ll get the opportunity to utilize his creative standup against Holloway, who probably wants to skip the ground as much as Lawrence does. If Lawrence can strike at his own pace, he’ll have the edge. Lawrence by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: With two UFC fights already under his belt at age 20, Holloway doesn’t seem willing to wait for the bright future that’s ahead of him. Or here already. Holloway by decision.
WERTHEIM: Lawrence is only 22 but he’s 4-0 and still a hot prospect. Big opportunity against another quality fighter who’s even younger. Lawrence by KO.