Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
WAGENHEIM: Can Junior make quick work of Cain, as he did last time? He certainly can. He has the power, the speed and, most important, the confidence. But I’m envisioning something different from Velasquez this time. I think he’ll fight smarter while the tussle is standing, and he’ll use his explosiveness to test Dos Santos’ takedown defense. The bout will go to the ground at some point, as I see it, and Junior’s jiu-jitsu will wither in the face of Cain’s ground-and-pound ferocity. Velasquez by TKO.
HUNT: A rematch I’m really looking forward to, seeing as both were hurt in their first meeting. I think Velasquez will take the champ down, but won’t be able to keep him there long enough to get the job done. Dos Santos by TKO.
DOYLE: Can Velasquez take dos Santos down and keep him there? Sounds simple, but sometimes there’s no need to take it any deeper. This fight will go longer than the first, but will have a similar finish. Dos Santos by TKO.
Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller
WAGENHEIM: This is an easy one: My prediction is that one or both men will go home with pockets stuffed with extra cash. I’m talking bonuses. Lauzon wins Fight of the Night or Submission of the Night practically every time he steps into the cage, and Miller is all action, no nonsense. This is an excellent matchup that will be decided, I believe, by the rougher road Miller has taken to get here. This is just another in a long line of tests for him, and I think he’ll work his way to a passing grade… with honors. Miller by decision.
HUNT: The wrestler in Miller won’t be able to help himself taking this one to the ground, where Lauzon will get his chance to shine. Lauzon by submission.
DOYLE: A lot riding on this fight for both lightweights. The veteran Miller is looking to shake off a bad loss to Nate Diaz. For Lauzon, this is make-or-break for his championship aspirations. I’ll go with “make.” Lauzon by submission.
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
WAGENHEIM: Stepping in for his injured training partner, Chris Weidman, might be the right opportunity for Philippou. Or maybe he’s biting off more than he can chew. Boetsch has been lurking in the shadows of the top contenders in the middleweight division for a while, and he’s out to put on a performance that gets him noticed. Boetsch by decision.
HUNT: Philippou seems just a little less experienced with top-shelf opposition to handle Boetsch’s trickier stand-up. Boetsch by TKO.
DOYLE: Both guys are capable of exciting fights, both are capable of snoozefests. Which version of either fighter will show up? Bottom line, this is a huge step in competition for Phillipou. Boetsch by decision.
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
WAGENHEIM: For this rematch of both men’s UFC debuts (won by Okami), Belcher has something bigger than vengeance in his sights. He wants what Okami already has had: a shot at the 185-pound belt. Although Belcher is not at the head of the line at this point, beating Okami would push him forward. Belcher by submission.
HUNT: It pains me to say it, but I’m starting to think Okami’s ship has sailed. He’s been a solid addition to the UFC roster; he is one of the few Japanese fighters to make an impact here, which should be noted. However, Belcher has youth, speed, and, dare I say, power on his side for this one. Belcher by decision.
DOYLE: Conventional wisdom says Belcher should keep this standing and avoid Okami’s wrestling. Conventional wisdom said something similar about Belcher’s May fight with submission artist Rousimar Palhares, and Belcher won that won on the ground. Belcher by decision.
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
WAGENHEIM: There are two predictions to be made here. For one, which man will win this fight, but also which Chris Leben will show up to fight it. The ups and downs of “The Crippler” are well documented, and he’s still part of the UFC picture because he seems to always rise up when we’re ready to write him off. Leben by TKO.
HUNT: Brunson, a last-minute import from the disassembling Strikeforce promotion, is coming off two losses (one of them to the very talented Jacare Souza), but I think he has enough control not to get into a messy shootout with Leben, who’s choppy striking is pretty predictable. Brunson by decision.
DOYLE: Leben’s best bet is for the knockout; Brunson’s is to take Leben down and smother him. Leben’s a well-liked, returning veteran, but sentiment doesn’t get you far in this sport. Brunson by decision.