* Brian Bowles over Urijah Faber, decision
The winner gets the next crack at bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, and both men hold losses to Cruz already. Faber, of course, has lost twice to Cruz, once by sub in the WEC four years ago and then by decision last July in Cruz's first UFC bout. You might wonder why Faber is once again in line for a title bout and the short answer is, he's Urijah Faber. He's the most well-known and marketable name in the bantamweight division so of course the UFC will go out of their way to line him up for one final crack at Cruz. It wouldn't surprise to see Faber and Cruz as the coaches on the next TUF season in order to build up the third fight of their trilogy and to get over the bantamweights.
So, with all this in mind, I'm picking Bowles because I think he's just the better fighter right now. Bowles' only loss was to Cruz and that was via a doctor stoppage when Bowles broke his hand in the second round. It's possible BB has what it takes to figure Cruz out, we just haven't seen it yet. Frankly, I think it might be better for the bantamweight division in the long run if more personalities and names besides just Faber and Cruz are promoted. I have no idea what Bowles' personality is like, but why not have him coach a TUF season? A Bowles win and the oncoming train that is Renan Barao could make things very interesting over the next year for the bantams.
* Kyle Kingsbury over Stephan Bonnar, decision
With four wins in a row, you'd think Kingsbury would have drawn someone higher up the food chain than Stephan Bonnar, which is why I'm picking Kingsbury to win. For all the guff Bonnar takes about being a C-level fighter who's kept around as a thank you by the UFC for his part in the original Ultimate Fighter finale, Bonnar is awfully hard to stop. In fact, he's never been stopped --- of his seven losses, five were by decision and the other two were TKO cut stoppages. Now, let's not kid ourselves and say that Bonnar is underrated but at least he deserves some credit for being a tough guy and avoiding getting finished by the likes of Jon Jones, Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin (twice). He can take solace in yet another decision loss here.
* Cung Le over Wanderlei Silva, KO, R1
This fight reminds me of that Simpsons scene when Homer is in hell's ironic punishment division. "So, you like knockouts, huh? Well, how about all the knockouts in the WORLD!" There is a 100 percent chance this fight ends with someone's unconscious head bouncing off the octagon floor. You have Cung Le, the mixed martial artist/former kickboxer/current action movie star who hasn't fought since June 2010 and has recorded all seven of his wins via knockout. Then you have Wanderlei Silva, the MMA legend who has 24 out of 33 wins via knockout and (perhaps more importantly) has an ever-glassening chin due to years of combat fighting. Yes, I realize 'glassening' isn't a word, bear with me. If it wasn't for the fact that Le hasn't fought in so long, I would pick him in an instant --- Silva just can't stand up to anyone who has any semblance of a striking game anymore. I'm still going with Le as my pick but the bottom line is, someone is getting KTFO.
* Rick Story over Martin Kampmann, decision
A real battle of hard-luck fighters here. Kampmann has lost his previous two bouts, both coming via questionable decisions; the bright side for Kampmann is if he loses here, the controversial nature of his losing streak will probably earn him one more shot in the UFC. Story stepped up on short notice to face Nate Marquardt in the main event of a Fight Night card in June. Unfortunately for Story, Marquardt dropped out due to his infamous lack of medical clearance the day before the show, and Story then was unprepared for substitute opponent Charlie Brenneman and lost a decision. Story had a six-fight win streak going before that loss, and I think he has somewhat turned a corner in his career where he can thought of as a legit lower-level guy in the upper-tier. (What a backhanded compliment!) Kampmann will be outwrestled to another decision loss, though maybe at least this one will be more straight-forward.
* Shogun Rua over Dan Henderson, submission, R3
Since losing to Anderson Silva in March 2008, Henderson is 6-1, with the only loss coming when he had a jacked-up back and lost a five-round decision to Jake Shields. Coming off his whipping of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko last July, Hendo is on top his game and back in the UFC. If he beats Shogun, another title shot is his for the taking.
So, why am I picking Shogun? In a word, I think Shogun is healthy. To go back to Shogun's past history of major knee surgeries, his first fight post-surgery is a loss or a near-loss (Forrest Griffin in 2007, the gas-fest against Mark Coleman in 2009, Jon Jones in March), his second fight is a knockout win (Chuck Liddell in 2009 and Griffin in August) and then by the third fight, he's back to being 'the old Shogun.' We saw the old Shogun beat Lyoto Machida and then robbed by the judges when they met on my birthday in 2009, and if that guy shows up on Saturday, that guy can beat Dan Henderson. Shogun in top form is arguably the top light-heavyweight EVER, and I would love to see a totally fit Rua get another shot at Jon Jones.
I see this going like Henderson's bout with Anderson Silva. Hendo will try to outwrestle Rua and take him down, but sooner or later, Shogun will catch him with a strike and then get a sub for the victory. I sound pretty confident in this result but (believe it or not!) I'm wrong about these things sometimes, so Henderson certainly has the tools to win or get a knockout himself. This is a fantastic, near-legendary matchup that I can't believe is only happening for the first time now and not years ago in PRIDE. I guess it'd be kind of funny if this one (like a certain heavyweight title bout) also ended in an 80-second knockout but at least if it happens here, we'll have enjoyed a full night of action beforehand. Well, wait, those of us in Canada did, since our version of the UFC's FOX broadcast featured the awesome Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida bout. Man, it's great to be a canuck.
* Michael McDonald over Alex Soto, decision
* Chris Weidman over Tom Lawlor, TKO, R2
* Miguel Torres over Nick Pace, decision
* Danny Castillo over Shamar Bailey, decision
* Rafael dos Anjos over Gleison Tibau, submission, R2
* Seth Baczynski over Matt Brown, submission, R2
* Ryan Bader over Jason Brilz, decision
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