I haven’t done a prediction column in the longest time, but I figured now that I am part of the best MMA website this is as good a time as ever to give it another shot. Tomorrow night the UFC makes a return trip to Denver just ten and a half months after they held UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage at the same arena. That card had a few exciting fights anchored by Jon Jones toying with Rampage Jackson before choking him out in the fourth round.
This card has a main event featuring two of the more exciting fighters in all of mixed martial arts as Benson Henderson will attempt to defend his UFC Lightweight Championship for the first time from the man he won it from back in February at UFC 144, Frankie Edgar. The co-main event has Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone taking on his good friend and former training partner, Melvin Guillard. Jake Shields makes the move to the middleweight division for the first time in his brief UFC career to face the always tough Ed Herman. Rounding out the main card is a middleweight tilt between Yushin Okami and Buddy Roberts and Max Holloway vs. Justin Lawrence in a battle of featherweights. Let’s take a look at each fight.
Justin Lawrence vs. Max Holloway: Lawrence is coming off a successful debut in the Octagon as he defeated John Cofer at The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale. He took home the Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night bonus with his headkick KO in the third round. Holloway rebounded from a loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 143 with a win over Pat Schilling on the TUF 15 finale. Here we have two of the youngest fighters in the UFC with Holloway turning 20 last December and Lawrence turning 22 this past May.
I don’t know much about either fighter, but I was impressed with Lawrence’s striking against Cofer. He is a two-time Golden Gloves champion and a six-time national kickboxing champion. I see a competitive back and forth affair that should excite the fans in attendance and at home. I truly feel that Lawrence is the better fighter and being that he trains at Blackhouse his skills get tested on a daily basis. Holloway will have his moments before Lawrence knocks him out late in the second round.
Yushin Okami vs. Buddy Roberts: It’s been a rough 12 months for Okami as he has lost two in a row and been TKO’ed in each fight. First he was beaten in Brazil by Anderson Silva at UFC 134 and then this past February at UFC 144 he was firmly in control of the first two rounds before Tim Boetsch launched an incredible comeback and won the fight in the third round. Roberts made his UFC debut a successful one as he defeated Caio Magalhaes at UFC on FX: Johnson vs. McCall. He is an injury replacement for Rousimar Palhares and trains in New Mexico with Greg Jackson.
Okami obviously has the edge in experience and has faced a much tougher group of opponents. It’s a matter of what his mental state is. Has he recovered from his last two losses? If so, I think he takes this fight, but if he shows any trepidation Roberts could jump all over him. With a 12-2 record and 9 finishes the 29-year-old Roberts no longer has the first time Octagon jitters. If Jackson notices anything wrong with Okami he will smell it like a bloodhound. In my heart I have to believe Okami shows up ready to make a statement and wins by second round knockout.
Jake Shields vs. Ed Herman: These two have the ability to put a show on the ground. Shields has some of the best pure BJJ in all of MMA and Herman is just a tough, balls to the walls grappler who can hold his own in the Jiu-Jitsu department. Shields made the move to middleweight after defeating Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 because he said he felt weak from the weight cut. It’s hard to argue with his success at 185 being he was the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion with wins over Dan Henderson, Jason Miller and Robbie Lawler.
Herman is riding a three fight winning streak after being on the shelf for nearly two years with a knee injury he sustained against Aaron Simpson at UFC 102 in June of 2011. He has looked better than ever having defeated Tim Credeur, Kyle Noke and Clifford Starks, finishing all three fights. This is a tough one to call, but if Shields is on he will win, but again this is another fight I see being hotly contested. Herman is no pushover and while I see Shields winning it will be by decision.
Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard: Here we have two extremely exciting, crowd pleasing fighters. Cerrone possesses a much better ground game and is no slouch on his feet while Guillard has some of the most explosive power in the lightweight division. These two guys are close and will hold nothing back once that cage door closes. Guillard has definitely improved his takedown defense, but his Achilles heel will always be his submission defense.
Cerrone has never been knocked out and only finished once in 23 career fights. He has 18 career wins and has finished 14 of them with an amazing 13 by submission. If he can get Guillard down it will only be a matter of time before he slaps on a submission, but Guillard showed in his last fight against Fabricio Camoes that he has spent a lot of time working on his Jiu-Jitsu. I think these two will want to put on a Fight of the Year performance and please the fans. This fight could be contested for 15 straight minutes on the feet. I have to go with Cerrone here winning by unanimous decision.
Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson (C) for the UFC Lightweight Championship: After watching the first fight live I originally thought that Edgar won three rounds to two, but after watching it since I changed my mind and gave Henderson the nod. It was a classic fight that had a little bit of everything. Like many others I believe the momentum swung in Henderson’s direction when landed that vicious up kick in the second round. Edgar definitely slowed down and seemed like he never fully recovered. Henderson was the busier fighter who inflicted more damage overall.
Edgar is fighting in his third straight rematch and if he comes out in this one like he did in his second fights with BJ Penn and Gray Maynard he has an excellent shot at reclaiming the title. Henderson has fought one man twice and that was the aforementioned Cerrone. After defeating him at WEC 43 in October of 2009 by unanimous decision in what was one of the best fights in WEC history he was able to make short work of Cerrone choking him out early in the second round at WEC 48 in April of 2010.
This is a fight where the winner will be the man who has made the most adjustments since the first fight. I have gone back and forth on this one so many times. One thing I do know is we will see another fantastic fight that will have a great chance at winning the Fight of the Night. Henderson is the larger man with the height and reach advantage, but Edgar has a tremendous amount of heart. The prevailing thought is that Edgar is better suited for the featherweight division and I see him giving that a go after losing another close fight tomorrow night. Henderson defends his title for the first time by unanimous decision.Tags: benson henderson, Buddy Robert, Donald Cerrone, ed herman, Frankie Edgar, Jake Shields, jon jones, justin lawrence, max holloway, Melvin Guillard, rampage jackson, UFC 135, ufc 144, UFC 150, yushin okami