courtesy of mmaweekly.com

UFC on FOX, this Saturday, will feature a stacked 8-fight prelim card that will serve us fans well! These prelims have a lot of entertaining match ups, so let’s jump into them right away! Click more to see my own analysis of UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Melendez’s prelims!

Clifford Starks vs. Yoel Romero

To start the night off, we have a middleweight bout between the athletic, 8-1 fighter, Clifford Starks, and the debuting opponent Yoel Romero. A lot of people don’t know who either of these guys are, so let me give a brief introduction. Clifford Starks as a promising prospect when he debuted in the UFC back in October of 2011, winning a unanimous decision over Dustin Jacoby. Now, after losing to Ed Herman in the beginning of 2012, Clifford is looking to make his long-awaited return to the Octagon. In his way, will be debuting opponent, the Cuban, Yoel Romero. Romero can be easily described as a fantastic freestyle wrestler, with a lot of power in his hands. You can see from the way he is built that he hits hard and if you look at his record, you will see that he has only won by knockout. Despite losing his biggest fight of his career (his most recent outing against Rafael “Feijao”), Romero is a very dangerous opponent at any given time.

I believe that this fight will take place mostly on the feet. When you watch Romero, you will notice that he doesn’t set up his takedowns very well, and he doesn’t manage his range well either. He likes to swarm his opponents with wild hook, and then from there get the takedown. Clifford Starks on the other hand is a more technical fighter on the feet, and I think it will come down to technique in this fight. I expect these two to go 3 rounds, as neither of them will be able to best eachother in the clinch, or in takedowns. Starks has a very solid wrestling game of his own, but against a freight train in Romero (who has Olympic level experience), takedowns will not come easily. Expect a 15 minute striking battle as Starks wins based on superior striking, range control, and volume.

Clifford Starks via Unanimous Decision

Anthony Njokuani vs. Roger Bowling

This is an exciting lightweight match up between former lightweight contender, Anthony Njokuani, and Strikeforce competitor Roger Bowling. Coming into this fight, Njokuani is the favored fighter. However, I think this is based just on name power. He’s had quite a bit of experience, is a fan-favorite fighter, and will be more comfortable fighting on the big stage. Njokuani’s main weapons of attack is on his feet, where he has displayed a full arsenal of striking techniques to destroy his opponents. Njokuani is one of the most technical muay thai styled fighters, but against an aggressive wrestler like Roger Bowling, he may stylistically doomed. Bowling has a high finish rate, is well-rounded, and coming in against a fairly well-known opponent, I wouldn’t say he has much to lose.

I see this fight going down in a typical “technical striker vs. freestyle brawler” way. The technical striker, Anthony Njokuani, displays the cleaner technique, the quicker striking, and the extensive arsenal, but it’s the freestyle fighter who is more effective. If Bowling is able to pressure Njokuani, and not let him get his striking game set up, he should be able to smother him with pressure, get takedowns, and make this is a brutal fight for the Nigerian. However, if Bowling comes in and is patient, gun-shy, and tentative, then expect Njokuani to pick him apart. But because Bowling has been in some fairly high-profile fights himself, I don’t expect that to happen. I’m pulling for Bowling, the underdog, to pressure Njokuani on the feet and not allow him to get his striking game off. By doing this, he’ll be able to get takedowns, work ground and pound, positioning, and eventually find himself onto Anthony’s back mid-way through the fight and finish with strikes.

Roger Bowling via 2nd Rd TKO

TJ Dillashaw vs. Hugo Viana

TJ will be fighting for his second time this year against TUF: Brazil competitor, Hugo Viana. Dillashaw has been on a tear since losing in the finals of TUF season 14 to John Dodson, going 3-0 since then. Those three wins; a decision, submission, and knockout, make Dillashaw and rising challenger in competitive bantamweight division. Dillashaw has worked extensively on his striking, foot work, and grappling skills, and is becoming a complete fighter. In this match up, he’ll be facing striking specialist Hugo Viana. Viana holds a blackbelt in Taekwondo, and is undefeated in MMA. Viana won his UFC debut by knockout, and has proven to be a dangerous fighter on the feet.

This fight comes down to one thing; takedowns. Dillashaw is a very talented wrestler, and if Viana isn’t on the move a hundred-percent of the time, he’s going to hit the mat. I expect Dillashaw to stay very composed in this fight, as Viana is very unorthodox in his striking attack, and hit takedowns using his excellent timing. From there, I expect Dillashaw to work ground and pound, and try to showcase another exciting finish. Because Viana doesn’t have much grappling experience, I’m going to predict that Dillashaw can finish on the ground if he gets it there. He’ll more than likely will, and so for that reason I’m predicting Dillashaw to win by submission.

TJ Dillashaw via 1st Rd Submission

Tim Means vs. Jorge Masvidal

Up next in the prelims is the Strikeforce and Internet stand-out, Jorge Masvidal, against Tim “Dirty Bird” Means, who is undefeated in the UFC. Tim Means is a long, rangy striker who has known for his aggression. Means has had a great start in the UFC, despite losing his last outing to the hotel sauna (lol), which forced him out of a bout late last year. His opponent, Jorge Masvidal, is also a talented striker who is known for his tenacious boxing game, as well as his underrated grappling. Masvidal has been on a decision-streak lately, so look for Masvidal to try and have his UFC debut be a finish.

Tim Means offers a lot of problems for Masvidal; first of all, he is deceptively powerful on his feet. Means may be a tall, lanky fighter, but his punches pack some serious power and so do his legs. Second of all; his range. Masvidal hasn’t really faced a long-distance fighter before, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts his own striking game. My guess however, is that Masvidal will want to take this fight to the ground. Masvidal is extremely experienced, so I don’t expect any debut-jitters for him. If anything, I think Masvidal will come out more aggressive as he has a lot of distance to close against Means.

For this fight, I believe it’ll come down Tim Means’s clinch game. Masvidal should have no problem pushing the pace, and keeping Means on the retreat, but he’s not going to win the fight that way. I think Means’s counter-striking game is on-par, so look for Tim to try and take advantage of his aggressiveness. With Masvidal moving forward trying to close distance, and Tim Means moving backward trying to counter-strike, it’ll open up the option of clinching. Now, Masvidal is a strong guy, but so is Tim Means. Means has demonstrated his knees in the clinch in the past, so Masvidal could be in trouble. However, I believe Masvidal’s wrestling will come into play huge as he should be able to take Means down. On the ground, it’s all Masvidal. With all this going on, I believe it’ll be a decision fight. Unfortunately, judges don’t like counter-strikers, so I think Masvidal will get the slight nod as he gets takedowns and pushes the pace on the feet.

Jorge Masvidal via Split Decision

Joseph Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama

In this bout, a flyweight match up, we have the top ranked contender Joseph Benavidez against up n’ coming grappling specialist Darren Uyenoyama. Benavidez is a huge favorite in this fight, and for a given reason; Benavidez is/was one of the very best fighters at any weight class under 145 lbs. He came very close to dethroning the flyweight champ, Demetrious Johnson, and even took out top contender Ian McCall. Uyenoyama on the other hand started his UFC career off when he upset Japanese star “Killer Bee”, and choked out Phil Harris in his second UFC bout. A win over Benavidez could very well put Uyenoyama up next for a title shot, but this is a huge task.

When comparing these two fighters, you have a guy, Benavidez, who is very good in all aspects. He has power in his hands, extremely solid wrestling, and a very good grappling game to go along with it. With Uyenoyama, he’s primarily a grapple who is more than likely to finish you on the mat. When analyzing this match up, it’s a fairly easy fight to predict. I see Benavidez stopping any attempts from Uyenoyama to get the fight to the ground, and battering the American-Japanese fighter on the feet. I’m not sure if Joseph can finish him on the feet, but I bet he’s going to try. Uyenoyama hasn’t really fought as solid of a puncher like Benavidez, and hasn’t been finished, but if anybody is going to give Darren his first KO loss it’ll be Benavidez this Saturday. I’d love to pull for Uyenoyama, who is a heavy underdog, but Benavidez is just too good. I’ll take Benavidez by stoppage.

Joseph Benavidez via 1st Rd TKO

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Ramsey Nijem vs. Myles Jury

This lightweight bout will feature two fighters who are on current streaks in the UFC. Ramsey Nijem, a TUF finalist, is on a 3-fight win streak in the UFC since losing in the TUF finale via KO. Nijem is known for his wrestling skils as well as his submission ability and ground and pound. Myles Jury on the other hand is 11-0 in MMA, including 2 UFC victories. One of them being an upset decision victory over Michael Johnson. Jury is also known for his wrestling, but has only gone the distance once.

This two fighters are very similar, and it’s really going to come down to who is better. I like Jury’s finishing ability, and he has a bit more momentum coming into this bout as he is coming off of a huge upset while Nijem has only fought fairly inexperienced fighters. I think this fight will come down to who sets a faster pace, and who is able to do more damage. I favor Jury in this bout as he is good at scoring takedowns quickly, and finishing in the first round. I expect these two guys to go at it on the feet, as they’re fairly even, but it’ll be Jury who presses for takedowns and sets a quicker pace. This will allow Jury to pressure Nijem, overwhelm him, and eventually find a position on the mat where I’ll expect Jury to finish. I think Jury has potential to be a top ranked contender, and this fight will show just that he is too good for the prelims.

Myles Jury via 1st Rd Submission

Francis Carmont vs. Lorenz Larkin

Next up is an exciting middleweight bout between two up n’ coming middleweights. Francis Carmont, a Frenchman out of Tri-Star, has scored himself 4 straight victories in the UFC; two of those via submission and the other two via decision. Carmont is extremely athletic, with a long reach and a killer grappling game. Set to take him on is Strikeforce stand-out middleweight Lorenz Larkin who is technically undefeated in MMA. Larkin burst onto the MMA scene with 3-0 streak in Strikeforce’s Challenger Series at 205 lbs. He was then matched up with top ranked light-heavyweight King Mo, in a fight that Larkin lost via KO. However, the decision was overturned after a failed drugtest, and Larkin rebounded with a decision over Robbie Lawler in his middleweight debut. Larkin presents a tough test to anybody due to his unorthodox striking which he uses to effectively as 8 of his 13 victories are by (T)KO.

An interesting note is that Carmont will have a 6″ reach advantage coming into the fight, which will make Larkin’s job a whole lot harder. Carmont will definitely want to bring this fight close quarters, and to the mat. While both fighters are extremely strong and athletic, Carmont is the one with the killer wrestling and grappling abilities. He reminds me of a smaller Phil Davis. For Larkin, it’s going to be about trying to finish on the feet. Larkin will have to close distance to land strikes, but stay far enough away to avoid takedowns. That scenario right there is why I’m picking Carmont to win. I think he’ll do enough on the feet not to get caught, and he’ll be able to pick Larkin off and take him down at will. From the top position, Carmont will dominate using superior grappling skills, and smother Larkin for 3 straight rounds.

Francis Carmont via Unanimous Decision

Chad Mendes vs. Darren Elkins

Scheduled to headline the prelims is an interesting featherweight bout between former title challenger Chad Mendes, who is on his path back to the title, against up n’ comer Darren Elkins who presents an impressive 5-0 record in the featherweight division.

Chad Mendes was on an 11-0 streak in MMA before he lost his first fight in a bout against Jose Aldo for the title. Mendes is regarded by some as the number 2 featherweight in the world, and backed his case up when he continued a 2-0 streak after his loss, both wins via KO. Mendes has impressed many fight fans with his improved boxing game as he used to be known as “just a wrestler”. Mendes is a dangerous fighter and is on a path to get back to the top where he no doubt belongs. However, Darren Elkins has a different outcome planned. Elkins has virtually dominated his way through every featherweight that has stepped in front him since making his debut. Elkins is a big, strong, and powerful wrestler who is known for putting his opponents away with his dangerous ground and pound. The big challenge in this fight will be getting top position however, as Chad Mendes is faster, quicker in scrambles, and a very talented wrestler of his own.

As much as I want to pick Elkins to win, I just think Chad Mendes is too good. Mendes deserves to be at the top of the division fighting top ranked guys, not first-timers or fighters with even UFC records, because he’ll knock them out in the first round. I think this will be an insanely competitive fight between two of the divisions best grapplers. I think Elkins has the size and strength advantage, but Mendes is faster and will take advantage of scrambles. I expect this to be an all out war, but in the end look for Mendes to get the decision. On the feet, I think Mendes will be able to explode with his hands and score. Elkins hasn’t really shown us an incredible stand up game, but it’s solid. However, Mendes’s boxing is looking fantastic and will definitely help him in scoring in the eyes of the judges. Look for Mendes to out box Elkins, lose a few grappling exchanges, but ultimately scramble his way to advantageous positions and score a decision victory in a very close, fast-paced fight.

Chad Mendes via Split Decision

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That’s all for the prelims! Stay tuned for the main card! Cheers!
-Hodgi