SI.com analysts Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 162, which takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET) and will be live-blogged on SI.com.
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman
HUNT: I have to hand it to Weidman and the UFC. I can’t remember the last time a virtually unknown fighter stirred up this much hype as the usurper to the Silva dynasty. I feel like I’m standing alone on a platform where the train has long left the station. Is Weidman the one? He looked promising against a crippled Munoz, who couldn’t move his shoulder six weeks before the bout. I’m sticking with the aging Spider — I can always catch the later train. Silva by TKO
WAGENHEIM: Are we putting too much weight on Weidman’s most high-profile victory, in light of what we now know about the physical and mental state of Mark Muñoz on the night last summer when Chris pummeled him? On the other hand, shouldn’t Weidman’s plodding performance in his second-biggest fight get a pass, considering that he took on (and beat) the estimable Demian Maia on just 11 days’ notice? My point: The jury is still out on the 9-0 challenger. Not so with the champ, who’d already had 29 pro bouts, including four defenses of the UFC middleweight belt, by the time Weidman began his MMA career four years ago. I want to be sold on the good-natured yet bad-to-the-bone Weidman, but I’m not yet ready to liquidate my Silva stock. Silva by TKO.
WERTHEIM: The skills of Weidman are lost on no one but the upset pick — and it’s a hot one — feels more hopeful and whimsical than legitimate. Silva is MMA’s GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) and it’s because of his versatility and adaptability. If there’s a weakness in his game, it would have been exposed by now. Is Weidman — coming off a year-long layoff, under huge pressure, having faced no opponent nearly as skilled — ready? I say close by not quite. Silva by TKO.
Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira
HUNT: Three tough losses for former champion Edgar has strewn him towards the bottom of the heap. Oliveira is actually more in the middle, a talented featherweight who can clear out the bottom rung, but struggles with the contenders. Edgar by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Edgar enters on an unthinkable three-fight losing streak. But all of the ex-lightweight champ’s defeats were in title fights. Coming out on the wrong end of uber-close decisions against Benson Henderson (twice) and José Aldo can be explained away. A loss to Charles Oliveira could not be. Having fought a higher grade of opponents, Frankie now needs to outclass this guy. Edgar by decision.
WERTHEIM: Both fighters have something to prove. Edgar hasn’t won a fight in almost two years and Oliviera’s star is falling, having not only lost but missed weight in his last fight. This bout feels like an attempt by the UFC to reignite the career of Edgar, a grinding honest fighter. I say he outwrestles and outworks Oliviera. Edgar by decision.
Tim Kennedy vs. Roger Gracie
HUNT: This was a bout that would have eventually played out in Strikeforce, if the promotion was still standing. I expect Kennedy to close the distance to negate Grace’s reach advantage and rack up points on the cage and with an occasional and carefully executed takedown (you don’t want this Gracie on his back too long). If he executes correctly, Kennedy is in the clear. Kennedy by decision.
WAGENHEIM: The majority of Kennedy’s wins have come by submission, but he would be wise to go with Plan B right from the start this time. Tim should know better than to mess with Gracie on the mat. But I’m guessing he’ll play with fire anyway, and get scorched. Gracie by submission.
WERTHEIM: An interesting fight and contrast of styles. Can Kennedy beat Gracie to the punch, as Mo Lawal did? Or can Gracie utilize his size advantage to defend striking and take the fight to the ground? I’ll go with the latter. Gracie by submission.
Mark Muñoz vs. Tim Boetsch
HUNT: Muñoz impressed the MMA sphere this week with his very own Extreme Makeover reveal — the dude lost 62 pound in 5 months! How does this relate to my pick? Munoz gained that weight during a downslide: coming into the Weidman fight with his shoulder surgery still not healed and out of that disaster with a broken foot. If the four-time All American wrestler is back in fighting condition, Boetsch can only hope to throw off some scattered punches here and there before he’s scooped to the mat and eating some Grade A ground-and-pound leather. Muñoz by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Both were on track for a title shot — Muñoz farther along than Boetsch. Both were derailed — Muñoz more shockingly. Afterward, “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” crashed and burned. Now he faces a road test he simply cannot fail if he’s to stay in the race. Muñoz by decision.
WERTHEIM: Muñoz got plenty of attention in MMA World last week when he revealed that his depression following the loss to Weidman caused his weight to drift north of 260 lbs. Good for him for dropping more than 50 lbs. in seven months. But it’s not the ideal pre-fight regimen, physically or mentally. Still, he’s a superior fighter to Boetsch, 32, whose momentum was stopped by Constantinos Philippou at UFC 155. Muñoz by decision.
Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver
HUNT: SoCal survivor Swanson has definitely found his stride: four straight wins in 13 months, with one of them on short notice. When he fights aggressively and uses his speed, things come together for him. Siver, like the oncoming tank that he is, lacks the latter. Swanson by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Swanson is on a roll with four straight wins, three by KO. Siver, in winning six of his last seven, has shown himself to be a survivor. Dennis will be no pushover, but he won’t withstand Cub’s ferocity. Swanson by TKO.
WERTHEIM: An erratic fighter for much of his career, Swanson has matured at the Jackson/Winklejohn Gym. Almost 30, he is on a four-fight win streak and has become one of the more dangerous strikers in the division. Siver is a tough customer with plenty of experience. But Swanson is the stronger fighter. Swanson by TKO.