SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt and Jeff Wagenheim provide their predictions for UFC 157 on Saturday.
Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche
DOYLE: An Iraq War vet with three tours of duty, Carmouche won’t be intimidated by Rousey like so many other opponents. She’ll probably even be the first to really tag Rousey, putting a scare into Dana White in the process. But when push comes to shove, the armbar wins out. Rousey by submission, round two.
HUNT: I was surprised that the UFC selected Carmouche as a first opponent for its superstar women’s champion. Carmouche is unpredictable, capable in multiple disciplines (decent striking, better ground game), and able to adapt mid-fight. That said, Carmouche will have to get close to Rousey to beat her, where the Olympic judo bronze medalist is at her strongest. Rousey by submission.
WAGENHEIM: How do I say this without mischaracterizing Carmouche as some mannequin being stood in the octagon just to create the appearance of Rousey not being in there alone? Liz is very much a live opponent, tough and aggressive. She’s a real fighter. But Ronda is unreal. She’s showed herself to be at a whole different level than every past opponent, and she’ll make that evident again on Saturday. Rousey by submission.
Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida
DOYLE: One of these days, age is finally going to catch up to Henderson, who hasn’t fought in a year and a half. He’s gotten into precarious situations in his last two fights (against Fedor Emelianenko and Mauricio Rua) and rallied to win. This time, he won’t be so lucky. Machida by TKO, round three.
HUNT: Machida has been flying a bit under the radar, but he’s training diligently and improving proportionately. At age 42, Henderson’s career is winding down, and stamina has never been his strong suit. Let us not forget that he hasn’t fought in 15 months and is coming back from a recurring knee injury (He’s had ACL surgery in the past, too). He’s still got fight-finishing power in both hands, but I’d wager Machida will stay far out of range for them. Machida by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Machida is elusive and tricky and dangerous, but Hendo has been solving puzzles of all shapes and sizes for a long time. Old man Dan actually gets an assist here from Rousey and Carmouche, because with the women being in the main event, this clash of ex-champs is just a three-rounder. That way, the 42-year-old won’t lose steam. Henderson by decision.
Urijah Faber vs. Ivan Menjivar
DOYLE: Faber’s career pattern in recent years has been to lose competitive matches to champions and dominate the rest of the competition. Until proven otherwise, I’ll stick with that assumption. Faber by third-round submission.
HUNT: Menjivar doesn’t depend on fighting to put food on his family’s table and his calm, methodical style reflects that. Faber will likely push the pace, which will take Menjivar out of his comfort zone a bit, but if the Salvadorian-Canadian can keep it together, he might find his opening. Menjivar by submission.
WAGENHEIM: Faber is just 3-3 in his last six fights, but look at the losses: to José Aldo, Dominick Cruz and Renan Barão. Urijah loses to the best… and bests everyone else. Faber by decision.
Court McGee vs. Josh Neer
DOYLE: With the UFC handing out pink slips left and right, the loser of this might be out of a job. In the end, McGee’s size in his drop to welterweight should be too much for the former lightweight Neer. McGee by decision.
HUNT: Both are coming off back-to-back losses, but McGee is younger in this game, with more yet to accomplish. He’ll have to deal with a durable veteran who’s equally comfortable going toe-to-toe and tangling on the ground, but the gritty McGee’s hunger should pull him through. McGee by decision.
WAGENHEIM: This is a fight for survival, as both men are on two-fight losing streaks and understand the perils of continuing that downward trend. McGee by decision.
Josh Koscheck vs. Robbie Lawler
DOYLE: The veteran Lawler still drops big bombs, but he’s dangerously close to being in the “puncher’s chance” stage of his career. Koscheck by decision.
HUNT: What a fight to kick off this historic pay-per-view — two fighters who truly enjoy the dance that is MMA striking. Since Lawler’s current training situation is a mystery and Koscheck has likely assimilated to his new surroundings following his dramatic departure from AKA, the latter has the clear advantage. In addition, Koscheck, an accomplished collegiate wrestler, can shoot in on Lawler at any time should things go array on its feet. Koscheck by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Koscheck seems to have slipped a bit in the welterweight pecking order, but he hasn’t slipped far enough to let this one get away. Koscheck by KO.