All three of SI.com’s UFC experts predict Cain Velasquez (left) to defeat Antonio Silva. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SI.com analysts Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 160, which takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET) and will be live-blogged on SI.com.
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
HUNT: It’s hard to get the brutal image of their first encounter a year ago out of my head. Velasquez fought with a ferocity we hadn’t seen before and violently ripped Silva’s bloodied face open from top position. A loss like that would have broken other fighter’s psyches, though Bigfoot has bounced back surprisingly well. Is the rematch a whole new fight? Possibly, but Velasquez still has the advantage in all areas, including the key wrestling component. Velasquez by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: As much of a mismatch as this fight is, don’t call Silva undeserving. “Bigfoot” earned his title shot with knockouts of previously unbeaten Travis Browne and title-challenger-in-waiting Alistair Overeem. That said, it would be shocking if the bulky Brazilian even makes this fight competitive. (OK, it’ll be more competitive than his first meeting with Velasquez, in which Silva was on his back within five seconds and was assaulted the rest of the way.) Cain is faster, in better shape, is disciplined and has the wrestling chops to dictate where this fight is fought. That means the big fists of “Bigfoot” are unlikely to be a factor, and Velasquez will roll onward, possibly into a rematch with Junior dos Santos. Velasquez by TKO.
WERTHEIM: By sheer “force of force” Bigfoot instills fear. But ultimately this will come down to speed. Velasquez will be quicker to snap off punches and kicks, quicker to avoid and execute takedowns and quicker in transition. Velasquez by decision.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt
HUNT: Has Dos Santos gotten his house in order? He admitted distraction from personal issues walking into his loss to Velasquez last December and it cost him the title. If he’s got his head and training straight, his striking speed and power can break Hunt’s career-resurrecting streak. Should Dos Santos want to take the path of least resistance, six of the granite-chinned Hunt’s seven losses have come by way of submission. But that won’t happen. Dos Santos by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: This is not as much of a mismatch as the main event, but it’s still a mismatch. Hunt has a puncher’s chance, and against Dos Santos, a guy who’s confident in his own standup game and might be willing to trade fisticuffs, that opportunity might dangle in front of the New Zealander for a while. But Junior has been in before with hamhock-fisted sluggers (Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin), and he’s dominated the standup. Plus, something tells me the ex-champ is going to be on a mission to show he’s better than the guy who was battered for 25 one-sided minutes by Velasquez back in their title fight last December. Just as Cain came out like a cannon blast in his first fight after losing the belt to Dos Santos, expect something explosive from redemption-minded Junior. Dos Santos by TKO.
WERTHEIM: The good news: Hunt made it to the fight after his various travel issues. The bad news: it’s hard to see him winning. Credit Hunt for his resurgence (dude turns 40 in March) but — short of landing a bomb — how does he hurt JDS? Much like the main event fight, you have to favor the younger, quicker more versatile fighter. Dos Santos by TKO.
Glover Teixeira vs. James Te Huna
HUNT: This feels like a holdover fight for Texeira as the UFC clears away the debris of Jones-Sonnen atop the light heavyweight division. In short, striker Teixeira has faced much stiffer competition than Te Huna’s lighter docket. Teixeira by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: This is the type of fighter Teixeira has to tear through if he’s to continue his out-of-nowhere rise in the light heavyweight division. That’s not to downgrade Te Huna, but the heavy-handed New Zealander — the other heavy-handed New Zealander, that is — is not what you’d call a well-rounded fighter. So Glover can test the waters by standing and banging, and if the sea gets choppy he can take the fight to the ground … and drown James. Teixeira via submission.
WERTHEIM: An interesting contrast in styles. The head says Teixeira — a complete fighter who hasn’t lost since 2005 — ought to win. The heart says that Te Huna, a Maori with dangerous power, has a chance. Fight of the night potential. We’ll play it safe. Teixeira by decision.
Gray Maynard vs. T.J. Grant
HUNT: Canadian Grant finally seems to be finding his stride in the big O, and Maynard hasn’t fought in 11 months due to a knee injury. I always thought Grant had the goods and this is the one where he needs to step up and deliver. Is he ready? My gut says Maynard by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Twice, Maynard was so close to the lightweight belt he could smell the leather. But ever since his near misses against Frankie Edgar, Gray has been a missing person. He’s stepped into the cage only once in the past 19 months, and didn’t get to show much that night last summer against Clay “Usain” Guida. I mention this because Maynard can’t afford to be rusty against Grant. T.J. is 4-0 since dropping to the 155-pound weight class, and he’s starting to get a whiff of the strap as well. Can Grant take the fight to the ground, where he paints his masterpieces? That’s tough against Gray. Maynard by decision.
WERTHEIM: Were it not for one lapse against granite-chinned Frankie Edgar, Maynard would have authored a completely different career. As it stands, credit him for putting himself back in the lightweight picture. After a bizarre win over Clay Guida in his last fight, he can make a statement by beating the impressive Canadian T.J. Grant. If he can bring his superior wrestling skills to bear, Maynard should survive. Maynard by decision.
Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons
HUNT: Cerrone is the more well-rounded lightweight and although entertaining, boxer Noons is mighty predictable. Barring another fluke fall-apart from Cerrone like the Pettis loss four months ago, this will be a fun one, however long it lasts on its feet. Cerrone by submission.
WAGENHEIM: As a Jackson/Winklejohn guy, Cerrone has the stronger pedigree. He’s more well-rounded, which gives him more ways to win. And while “The Cowboy” hasn’t exactly been riding high of late, Noons has looked lost while dropping four of five. K.J. is better with his hands, but that won’t be enough. Cerrone by decision.
WERTHEIM: You can’t help feel the matchmakers sympathized with Cerrone, an entertaining UFC favorite. After a rough loss to Anthony Pettis, the Cowboy gets back on the horse against Noon, a dangerous fighter, but one who has lost four of his last five fights. Cerrone by TKO.