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Headlined by an exciting welterweight showdown between two former Strikeforce standouts, the UFC 161 prelims will feature 6 exciting match-ups. First starting on Facebook, then moving to FX, the prelims should kickstart the anticipated UFC 161 main card that has held things together as it was riddled with the injury bug earlier this month. Let’s get to it!

Yves Jabouin vs. Dustin Pague

If you caught my “Smart Bets” piece (click here), I featured this fight as being a particularly keen match up to place some money on. This is going to be your typical “striker vs. grappler” match-up, between a very technical and pin-point accurate striker in Yves Jabouin, and a crafty submission specialist in Dustin Pague. This fight will come down to whether or not Pague can push the pace, get in Jabouin’s face, and take him down. If he can’t, and he lets Jabouin out-move him and get off first on his strikes, than Pague will be a sitting duck.

Seeing as how this is Pague’s last chance in the UFC to score a win, I’m expecting the absolute best from him. I think Pague will push forward, hang tough on the feet, close the distance and ground the less-skilled grappler down. Jabouin isn’t really someone who is known for ending the fight with one-shot, so even if he does catch Pague being overly aggressive and desperate on the feet, it won’t stop him from closing the distance and scoring those takedowns.

Pague via Unanimous Decision

Mitch Clarke vs. John Maguire

This lightweight tilt will feature two ground specialists who will be fighting for their jobs in the UFC. Mitch Clarke, who is 0-2 in the UFC, is definitely slated for the chopping block if he doesn’t get this much needed victory. However it’ll be easier said than does as his opponent, John Maguire, was at once thought to be a contender when he had a promising 2-0 start in the UFC. But after he dropped two straight, both by decision, Maguire too finds himself in desperate need of a win.

When you compare these guys, they both have very similar styles. They both favor the ground where they have both won the majority of their bouts. So when you get two guys who are primarily grapplers, MMA logic tells you that it will come down to has the better striking. After seeing these two guys fight, you start to understand why Maguire is the favorite to win, even though they’re both on two fight losing streaks. I’m predicting Maguire to out-strike Clarke, which will open up opportunities for takedowns, which will put Maguire ahead on the scorecards.

John Maguire via Unanimous Decision

Edwin Figueroa vs. Roland Delorme

This bantamweight match-up is very interesting because both fighters are coming off of a fight with the same opponent, Francisco Rivera, both losing by knockout. And once again, we have what seems to be another “striker vs. grappler” match-up however Figueroa, a renowned kickboxer, showed off his durability in his 3-round war with Alex Caceres, who had him in all sorts of trouble on the ground. While Figueroa may not be the most technically sound fighter out there, he’s got mad heart and never stops fighting. This type of durability and resilience could pose as a big problem for Roland Delorme, who was overwhelmed by Rivera’s striking and was ultimately KO’d. Figueroa possesses one-punch KO power, as noted by 2/3 of his victories coming by way of knockout.

While Delorme offers a lot of danger on the ground, especially off of his back, he isn’t going to give Figueroa anything he hasn’t seen already in his fight with Caceres. I’m Edwin to take this fight by a late-fight TKO, as he riddles Delorme down with strikes, avoids danger on the mat, and eventually breaks Roland down for a TKO.

Edwin Figueroa via 3rd Rd TKO

Sean Pierson vs. Kenny Robertson

As if we can’t get enough, yet another match-up between a labeled “striker”, Sean Pierson, and Kenny Robertson, who is known for his strong grappling skills as seen in his last fight which he won Submission of the Night for his kneebar finish of Brock Jardine. This fight is going to come down to Pierson’s stand up. Pierson has a sharp stand-up game when he’s patient, takes his time, and times his opponent. When he rushes things, he gets clobbered by counter strikes, see Jake Ellenberger, or he gets takendown, see Dong Hyun-Kim. Robertson on the other hand is a very strong grappler who does the best when he’s ontop raining down punches and looking for openings for submissions.

With both of these guys riding some momentum coming into this bout, look for this fight to be extremely competitive. Pierson knows what works for him now, as he is riding a two fight win streak, and will know that he has to avoid the grappling of Robertson and fight on the outside. With Kenny, he’s coming off of that sick modified kneebar, and now has some eyes on him. However, Pierson has hung in there with tough submission aces before, and his defense has been proven. Expect Pierson to defend well against Robertson’s ground attack, and keep his fists in his face as he survives for 3 rounds and edges yet another decision.

Sean Pierson via Unanimous Decision

Sam Stout vs. James Krause

The exciting, durable lightweight known as “Hands of Stone” makes a return after besting Strikeforce standout, Caros Fedor, to take on the anticipated debut of James Krause. For those who don’t know, Krause has fought mostly in the Midwest circuit, and has racked up a 19-4 record while facing sturdy competition such as; Toby Imada, Michael Johnson, Clay French, Donald Cerrone, and Ricardo Lamas. Krause is known to be a devastating finisher, as he has finished 17 of his 19 victories, most of them by a variety of submissions. Ontop of his submission game is his ultra-effective head kick which he has been able to land and finish his opponent 3 times through-out his career.

While he may have quite the resume, he’s taking on one of the most weathered and experienced veterans out there in Sam Stout. Stout has been in the UFC since 2006, and has never failed to disappoint when it comes to action. He’s known for his crisp boxing and his sturdy chin that has held him up and hasn’t let him down yet in his career. While Stout may be exciting, don’t bank on him pulling off a finish. Stout has only scored one finish in his entire UFC career. Stout is mostly known for out-pointing his opponents on the feet and his solid takedown defense.

For James Krause, he’s going to need to try and show Stout something he hasn’t seen. Krause’s talented kicking game could definitely be used to set up his takedowns, but even that will be easier said than done. Look for Stout to avoid Krause’s takedowns, and force him to stand and trade with him for 3 rounds. Don’t bank on Stout striking gold and scoring a finish, but expect him to make it a good fight as the Canadian scores another decision victory at home.

Sam Stout via Unanimous Decision

Tyron Woodley vs. Jake Shields

And here to cap off the prelims is the featured bout between the two former Strikeforce standouts; Tyron Woodley and Jake Shields. Woodley was, and still is, thought of as a bright up and comer in the welterweight division. Known for his unmatched athleticism, explosive wrestling, and dominating grappling skills, Tyron Woodley is a tough guy to beat with his only loss coming to Nate Marquardt, an over-sized welterweight who knocked Woodley out with an elbow in a back-and-forth fight. Against Jake Shields, he could very well be in for a fight where his wrestling and physical strength won’t be enough to score him the victory.

Jake Shields, since coming to the UFC, hasn’t quite made the impression many fans thought he would. His lackluster decision victories have left a lot to be impressed about, and his flawed striking game showed heavily in his loss to Georges St. Pierre, and Jake Ellenberger. While Shields has only been finished twice in his lengthy career, Woodley possesses the explosiveness and power to do it. The big question will be whether Shields wrestling and size will be too much for Woodley.

I think Woodley’s explosiveness and athleticism will be what wins him this fight. In pure technique and skill, Shields is most likely the better grappler, but Woodley has the pop and explosion to his style that makes him so dangerous. Expect Woodley to end Shields’ night with a sudden burst of explosion, much like Ellenberger did, and send Shields crashing to the canvas when he meets a guy who is just too fast for him.

Tyron Woodley via 1st Rd KO