RYAN FREDERICK PREVIEWS UFC 145: JONES VS EVANS

By Ryan Frederick

The UFC returns to pay-per-view this weekend for one of the most anticipated bouts of the year as UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans takes place this Saturday night from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, with the night's main card airing on pay-per-view beginning at 10 PM eastern time, with four preliminary bouts airing on FX starting at 8 PM eastern time, and two additional preliminary bouts airing on the UFC's Facebook page beginning at approximately 7 PM eastern time.

The event is headlined by the highly anticipated UFC Light Heavyweight Championship as the long wait is over, and the champion, Jon Jones, will finally meet the former champion and long-time top contender, Rashad Evans, in a fight fans are eager to see. Also scheduled to happen on the special six-fight main card is a welterweight battle between Rory MacDonald and Che Mills, a heavyweight slugfest between Brendan Schaub and Ben Rothwell, a bantamweight clash pitting Miguel Torres against Michael McDonald, a featherweight contest between Mark Hominick and Eddie Yagin, and lightweights Mark Bocek and John Alessio open the night's action on pay-per-view.

Preliminary bouts return to FX as well with some interesting matchups, including Travis Browne taking on Chad Griggs in heavyweight action, welterweights Matt Brown and Stephen Thompson square off, and lightweight battles between John Makdessi and Anthony Njokuani, and former Ultimate Fighter winners Mac Danzig and Efrain Escudero. A pair of fights take place on Facebook, featuring Keith Wisniewski taking on Chris Clements in welterweight action, and a featherweight tilt between Marcus Brimage and Maximo Blanco.

Let's taking a closer look at the night's action with our analysis and predictions.

Light Heavyweights
Jon Jones (15-1, 9-1 UFC) vs. Rashad Evans (17-1-1, 12-1-1 UFC)

Jones Last 5: 5-0 (Win-SUB-over Lyoto Machida, Win-SUB-over Quinton Jackson, Win-TKO-over Mauricio Rua, Win-SUB-over Ryan Bader, Win-TKO-over Wladimir Matyushenko)

Evans Last 5: 4-1 (Win-DEC-over Phil Davis, Win-TKO-over Tito Ortiz, Win-DEC-over Quinton Jackson, Win-DEC-over Thiago Silva, Loss-KO-to Lyoto Machida)

Key to victory for Jones: Keep the fight on the feet

Key to victory for Evans: Get inside of Jones' reach

Breakdown: The highly anticipated UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Jones and Evans finally takes place in the main event of UFC 145, and the year-long build-up to the fight makes this journey more important to both men. Jones defends the title for the third time, and this is his fourth straight fight against a former champion, as he has defeated Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson and Mauricio Rua in his last three, and he has won six straight overall, and his lone blemish is a DQ loss, so most consider Jones as undefeated. Evans challenges looking for his fifth straight win, and he has only been defeated once in 19 career fights. Evans won the UFC Light Heavyweight Title at UFC 92 in December 2008, and is looking to get the belt back in his first shot at regaining it. Evans has beaten some of the best 205-pound fighters in the world in his quest to be the best, holding wins over Forrest Griffin, Quinton Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Michael Bisping and Phil Davis, among others.

The back story between the two heightens the intense rivalry the two have built. Evans was a long-time standout of the Greg Jackson camp in Albuquerque, and Jones joined the team in 2009 as the new pupil. Evans and Jones trained together and became close, which coincided with Jones' ascent to title contention. Evans was scheduled to fight for the title in March 2011, but an injury threw him out of the fight, and Jones stepped in to face Rua. After the two had said they would never fight, Jones seemed more open to it if he won the championship. Jones, in fact, won the title, and Evans, after the fight, said he was done with the Jackson camp and moved down to Florida. After being taunted with having the fight twice previously, which were postponed due to slight setbacks to both Jones and Evans, which resulted in Jones and Evans actually fighting twice against other opponents, the time for talking and the anticipation is going to come to a head in the octagon this Saturday night.

Jones is perhaps the greatest talent currently in the UFC. He is young, fast, athletic, and perhaps most importantly, improving every time he steps in the cage. He has a ridiculous reach that gives him an edge over everyone he faces, and he knows how to exploit it. He is unique with his strikes, coming with long punches and short elbows and unique kicks and knees, excellent with his takedowns, brutal with elbows on the ground, and has slick submissions. Evans has looked very confident since the start of his new training camp in Florida, and he has his strong wrestling background as a solid base to go along with his speed, knockout power and an underrated jiu-jitsu game, and he uses his movement and balance to throw opponents for a loop. Evans has shown he has the conditioning to go for a full five-round fight, while Jones has yet to be truly tested in a long battle of attrition, the longest fight he's had has been with Jackson, a fight he controlled the entire time before the fourth-round finish.

Jones has made things look easy in the octagon, as he has dominated almost every minute he has been inside the cage. His last fight with Machida was perhaps his biggest test, and Machida made him look almost human before being choked out cold in the second round. Machida's style may have thrown Jones for a loop, and it may be somewhat of a blueprint for beating Jones. Evans will need to use his movement on the feet and his speed to negate the long reach that Jones utilizes. Jones likes to throw one arm out in front and use it to keep his opponents away, and he is excellent at delivering kicks from long range. Jones is quick, and Evans may be the only man that will be able to match that. Evans' outstanding wrestling will come into play as he looks to use it to keep the fight on the feet. Jones has unique takedowns and throws, but Evans may be too quick for Jones to grab ahold of. Evans will use his agility to keep on the outside of Jones, and use his speed and movement to get inside the reach and look to connect.

We have yet to see Jones' chin truly tested. Machida got a few nice shots in on Jones in the first round, and Jones seemed to show that he felt them. Evans has more one-shot knockout power in his hands than Machida does, and if he connects, Jones will have to show an excellent ability to recover. Jones needs to keep Evans on the outside, but Evans' footwork and movement will be his biggest chance to find the win as he looks to get inside of Jones' reach. Evans has worked on his strength and conditioning, and he may look to overpower Jones in a wrestling game. This will be the biggest test to date for Jones, and much of the same could be said for Evans. Evans steamrolled through Davis in his last fight, and he will come in with a lot of confidence. Both men want to finish the other, but both are going to be extremely tough to finish. That being said, conditioning will play a factor as this looks to go the distance. It will be a close fight that could feature lots of exciting exchanges, but the reach and athletic ability that Jones has is going to be very tough to beat for anyone. He will enter the cage the champion and exit it the same way in a grueling decision.

Prediction: Jon Jones by decision

Follow on Twitter: Jones- @Jonnybones, Evans- @SugaRashadEvans

Welterweights
Rory MacDonald (12-1, 3-1 UFC) vs. Che Mills (14-4-0-1, 1-0 UFC)

MacDonald Last 5: 4-1 (Win-TKO-over Mike Pyle, Win-DEC-over Nathan Diaz, Loss-TKO-to Carlos Condit, Win-SUB-over Mike Guymon, Win-KO-over Nick Hinchliffe)

Mills Last 5: 5-0 (Win-TKO-over Chris Cope, Win-KO-over Marcio Cesar, Win-DEC-over Magomed Shikhshabekov, Win-DEC-over Jake Hecht, Win-KO-over Manuel Garcia)

Key to victory for MacDonald: Utilize takedown game

Key to victory for Mills: Win the battle on the feet

Breakdown: MacDonald and Mills get a huge opportunity as they take the slot before the main event and the winner will put himself one step higher as both look to continue to climb the welterweight rankings. MacDonald fights for the fifth time in the octagon and is looking to make it three in a row as he is coming off wins over Mike Pyle and Nate Diaz. MacDonald has only lost once in his career, a late third-round TKO loss to current Interim UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit, and has won 11 of his 12 fights by either knockout or submission. Mills fights for the second time in the octagon, fresh off a 40-second TKO victory over Chris Cope at UFC 138 in November. Overall, Mills has won his last five in a row, and has scored 11 of his 14 wins by way of stoppage.

MacDonald is one of the fastest rising prospects in the sport of MMA, and is only 22 years old. Despite his age, MacDonald is also a very smart fighter, and he transitions well from clinches to takedowns, and he is solid on the feet. He comes into the fight having had to pull out of his last fight, when he was scheduled to take on Brian Ebersole in December, but the last time he had a layoff this long, he came back and thoroughly dominated Diaz, sending him back to the lightweight division. MacDonald has excellent takedowns, and his striking is improving with every fight. Mills is quick on his feet and possesses some dangerous striking, and he will pounce on you if he finds you in trouble. He mixes his punches, kicks and knees well, and he has eleven first-round finishes. Mills does have trouble when fighting good takedown artists, as his takedown defense is in need of work, but if he is planted on his back, he has an active guard and is good at fighting off his back.

MacDonald will be looking to throw Mills around and dominate the fight from the top. Mills can be submitted and MacDonald has a solid submission game, but MacDonald will likely be looking to end the fight with strikes. MacDonald may lose the battle standing up, as Mills' quickness and arsenal may get the better of MacDonald, but MacDonald has shown vast improvement in every fight, and this will likely be no different story. MacDonald may look to overpower Mills, and he is very strong, and will use that to force Mills against the cage and look to land fight-ending blows. MacDonald will look to dictate the range, and this is where Mills will need to hit MacDonald like he has not been hit before. MacDonald may try to turn this into a wrestling battle, and Mills will likely get taken down, but his activeness on the bottom is very good, and he will hit MacDonald with elbows from the bottom. This is a much more interesting fight than it looks on paper, but MacDonald has a bright future ahead of him, and he will show why once again as he stops Mills in this fight.

Prediction: Rory MacDonald by knockout in round 2

Follow on Twitter: MacDonald- @rory_macdonald, Mills- @CheMillsMMA

Heavyweights
Brendan Schaub (8-2, 4-2 UFC) vs. Ben Rothwell (31-8, 1-2 UFC)

Schaub Last 5: 4-1 (Loss-KO-to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Win-KO-over Mirko Cro Cop, Win-DEC-over Gabriel Gonzaga, Win-TKO-over Chris Tuchscherer, Win-TKO-over Chase Gormley)

Rothwell Last 5: 2-3 (Loss-DEC-to Mark Hunt, Win-DEC-over Gilbert Yvel, Loss-TKO-to Cain Velasquez, Win-TKO-over Chris Guillen, Loss-KO-to Andrei Arlovski)

Key to victory for Schaub: Keep moving on the feet

Key to victory for Rothwell: Score the takedowns

Breakdown: Schaub and Rothwell meet in a heavyweight fight that is pivotal for both men at this stage of their careers, as the loser would find himself in the danger zone of being on the outside of the UFC, and the winner would be right back in the mix in the division. Schaub looks to rebound from a disappointing knockout loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134 in August. That ended Schaub's rise up the heavyweight rankings as he had won his previous four fights since suffering a loss to Roy Nelson, and he has scored seven of his eight wins by knockout. Rothwell comes into this fight with mixed results in his last five, as he has gone 2-3 in that period following a 13-fight win streak. Rothwell made his return in September at UFC 135 following a 15-month layoff due to injuries, losing a decision to Mark Hunt, and after suffering losses to Hunt and Cain Velasquez in the UFC, another loss would push his UFC mark to 1-3, and that is a tough record to have and remain in the organization.

Schaub has been showing improvement in all of his fights, but outside distractions may have hindered his performace in the fight with Nogueira, as training camp issues arose. All that aside, Schaub has excellent athleticism and big-time power, and he has shown that he is trying to put it all together as a fighter, as he is becoming better in the clinch and at transitions, and he is eager to show off his ground game, which has yet to be truly displayed as he has been ending fights with his hands. Rothwell is a very experienced fighter, as he will be participating in his 40th career fight, and he has good hands for a guy his size, and has a penchant for getting into brawls. Rothwell has shown that he can be quick on his feet for a fighter of his size, and he has a lot of strength, and solid takedowns. Rothwell is looking to show his performance against Hunt was due to ring rust, but he must show better conditioning, as Schaub has excellent cardio.

Schaub may look to stand-and-bang with Rothwell, but as a lot of fighters tend to be after getting knocked out, he may be a little gunshy, and Rothwell can hurt him if he finds an opening. Rothwell has a big chin and is tough to finish, and Rothwell is a finisher, having scored 28 of his 31 wins by a finish. Schaub needs to keep it moving on his feet and pick his spots to attack, as Rothwell has spotty standup defense, but Rothwell may want to test himself against Schaub's power. Rothwell will have the size advantage, and he will need to use that to establish a clinch and takedown game, and he may look to smother Schaub from the top on the ground. Schaub claims to have a solid jiu-jitsu game, but it has yet to be truly shown, and he has excellent takedown defense. This fight will likely be a battle of attrition on the feet that will test a man's conditioning, and that will favor Schaub. Rothwell will have his moments, but Schaub will control the fight as he rides out another decision victory.

Prediction: Brendan Schaub by decision

Follow on Twitter: Schaub- @BrendanSchaub, Rothwell- @RothwellFighter

Bantamweights
Miguel Torres (40-4, 2-1 UFC) vs. Michael McDonald (14-1, 3-0 UFC)

Torres Last 5: 3-2 (Win-DEC-over Nick Pace, Loss-DEC-to Demetrious Johnson, Win-DEC-over Antonio Banuelos, Win-SUB-over Charlie Valencia, Loss-SUB-to Joseph Benavidez)

McDonald Last 5: 5-0 (Win-KO-over Alex Soto, Win-DEC-over Chris Cariaso, Win-DEC-over Edwin Figueroa, Win-SUB-over Clint Godfrey, Win-KO-over Cole Escovedo)

Key to victory for Torres: Establish range with long reach advantage

Key to victory for McDonald: Take fight to the ground

Breakdown: If you are a fan of bantamweight action, then this is the fight for you as Torres and McDonald are two of the best in the division, with Torres being the established veteran who has tasted the title but wants it again, and McDonald is the 21-year-old kid with title aspirations on his mind and endless possibilities. Torres has been thru a whirlwind last few months, but he looks to make it two in a row as he comes into the fight off a decision win over Nick Pace at UFC 139 in November. The former WEC Champion has won three of his last four, and has 40 career wins, and likely a lot more than what has been reported. McDonald enters the fight having won seven in a row, including the last three in the UFC, and he has avenged the lone loss of his career. McDonald has scored 12 of his 14 wins by a finish, and he gets the biggest test of his career in this fight. Coincidentially, Torres and McDonald both fought their last two fights at the same event, so they have seemed on a collision course to fight for close to a year.

Torres has a steady striking game that mixes punches, kicks and knees. He has a long reach that he uses to establish the jab and keep his opponents at a distance, and while he prefers to keep a fight on the feet and does not look for many takedowns, he has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is excellent on the ground, especially if he is on his back, as he remains active on the ground. McDonald has explosive hands and is capable of finishing any opponent on the feet, and he got to show that in his win over Alex Soto at UFC 139 in November, which he finished in less than a minute. McDonald is a bright prospect with an excellent future ahead of him, and he is showing improvement in every fight, and he is a great counterfighter and has solid grappling ability. McDonald also has a good guard and he has shown he can adapt to any kind of fight. Torres represents the toughest test of his career, but this is a fight that McDonald is eager to compete in.

Torres will need to establish his range on the feet and use his jab to keep McDonald at a distance. Torres will hold a six-inch reach advantage over McDonald, and he is going to have to expolit that, as if McDonald gets on the inside of the pocket, he can land a shot that could end the fight. Torres has been known for his solid chin, but it has been tested over the past few years. Torres also fights very smart, and his experience over McDonald will show in this fight. McDonald may look to get the fight to the ground, and Torres does not have the best takedown defense, but playing around with Torres on the ground is dangerous, as he is aggressive and will attack with submissions and strikes from his guard. Torres is eager to get back into the title fight, and a win is more important to him at this stage of his career, and a loss is something that McDonald could bounce back from. The depth of the bantamweight division is such that the loser could be right back in the title hunt in less than a year, but neither man wants to lose. This is a battle between experience and youth, and is very tough to call, though youth will find a way to win in this battle.

Prediction: Michael McDonald by decision

Follow on Twitter: Torres- @MiguelTorresMMA, McDonald- @MaydayMcDonald

Featherweights
Mark Hominick (20-10, 3-2 UFC) vs. Eddie Yagin (15-5-1, 0-1 UFC)

Hominick Last 5: 3-2 (Loss-KO-to Chan Sung Jung, Loss-DEC-to Jose Aldo, Win-TKO-over George Roop, Win-DEC-over Leonard Garcia, Win-TKO-over Yves Jabouin)

Yagin Last 5: 3-2 (Loss-DEC-to Junior Assuncao, Win-SUB-over Joe Soto, Win-TKO-over Joe Neri, Loss-TKO-to Diego Saraiva, Win-SUB-over Casey Olson)

Key to victory for Hominick: Mix strikes well

Key to victory for Yagin: Look for the submission

Breakdown: Hominick and Yagin meet in a featherweight tilt that features two men trying to get back on the winning track. Hominick is looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses, the first being a unanimous decision loss to Jose Aldo in a UFC Featherweight Championship bout, and the second being a knockout at the hands of Chan Sung Jung, which has been recorded as one of the fastest knockouts in UFC history. Those two losses followed a five-fight win streak that Hominick had put together, and he is looking to use Yagin to start a new one. Yagin comes into his second appearance in the octagon looking to score his first win after coming up short against Junior Assuncao at UFC 135 in September. Yagin has won seven of his last nine fights, and is the former TPF Featherweight Champion, defeating highly-regarded fighter Joe Soto to win the title.

Hominick is an excellent striker with solid hands, and is very crisp and precise with his punches. He mixes in kicks well when he finds the openings, and he makes perfect use of both hands and both feet to keep his opponents guessing. He lands a high amount of strikes while utilizing quick work on his feet, and prefers to keep a fight standing, though he is certainly capable of fighting on the ground. Yagin is a well-rounded fighter who is also quick on his feet, and he throws a dangerous overhand right that can end fights, but is also good at throwing elbows and finding submissions on the ground. Yagin is also a good takedown artist and he has a tight guillotine choke that he can find if an opponent leaves their neck out for the taking. Both men have styles to make for an exciting clash, and Hominick is a brilliant technical striker.

Hominick needs to keep the fight on the feet for his best chance at scoring the win, as he a class ahead of Yagin in the striking department. Taking the fight down to the ground and looking for the submission represents the best chance for Yagin to win, as Hominick has been submitted five times in his career. Hominick, though, is a solid ground fighter, and he has good submissions as well, having scored seven of his 20 wins by submission, but his kickboxing skills make him like to keep the fight standing, as he does sport a 21-0 professional kickboxing record. Yagin will need to be the aggressor on the feet and land solid combinations, and Hominick will come out well-prepared as he looks to avoid what happened in his fight with Jung, getting finished on the first flurry of strikes. Yagin needs to close the distance, because if Hominick is able to find his range and use a multitude of strikes and not have to worry about being taken down, he will begin to tee off. Yagin will be a test for Hominick, but Hominick will come in motivated to erase the disappointment of his last two outings, and he will score the win as he starts to reclimb the featherweight ladder.

Prediction: Mark Hominick by knockout in round 3

Follow on Twitter: Hominick- @MarkHominick, Yagin- @EddieYaginMMA

Lightweights
Mark Bocek (10-4, 6-4 UFC) vs. John Alessio (34-14, 0-3 UFC)

Bocek Last 5: 3-2 (Win-DEC-over Nik Lentz, Loss-DEC-to Benson Henderson, Win-SUB-over Dustin Hazelett, Loss-DEC-to Jim Miller, Win-SUB-over Joe Brammer)

Alessio Last 5: 4-1 (Win-DEC-over Ryan Healy, Win-DEC-over Luiz Firmino, Win-SUB-over Shawn Fitzsimmons, Loss-TKO-to Siyar Bahadurzada, Win-TKO-over Phil Collins)

Key to victory for Bocek: Score the takedowns

Key to victory for Alessio: Have good conditioning

Breakdown: Lightweight action opens the main card on pay-per-view as Bocek welcomes Alessio back to the UFC for the first time since 2006. Alessio is a late-notice replacement for Matt Wiman, Bocek's original opponent who pulled out after sustaining a knee injury in prepartion for the fight. Bocek enters the fight looking to get a little bit of consitency as he has rotated wins and losses in his last five fights. Bocek's only losses in his career have come at the hands of Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Mac Danzig and Jim Miller, so he has faced stiff competition in his UFC career. He has scored seven of his ten career wins by submission. Alessio takes this fight on a little more than two weeks' notice and he is looking to score his first UFC win after compiling an 0-3 record in previous stints with the organization, suffering losses to Pat Miletich, Diego Sanchez and Thiago Alves. Alessio has won ten of his last eleven fights, with his lone loss coming at the hands of Siyar Bahadurzada, and he is 2-0 since making the move to lightweight.

Bocek often turns in performances that would be considered workmanlike, as he is very dangerous on the ground but does not do anything overly impressive, and he often flies under the radar. He beats good competition but often comes up short when he tries to move up the ladder, but this is his chance to put together his first win streak since 2009. He has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a strong submission game, and he has a solid guard and good takedowns. Alessio is a long-time veteran of the sport, having made his professional debut way back in 1998, and he is a solid striker with a good jiu-jitsu game. Alessio has crisp hands and has scored 25 of his 34 wins by a stoppage, and he has shown a good adjustment to dropping to lightweight in his last two bouts. He has been very active in the sport, having fought nine times since the start of 2010, and he has been motivated to get back in the UFC ever since suffering his last octagon loss to Alves.

Bocek will come into the fight fresh, having gone through a full training camp, while Alessio comes into the fight having fought just a month ago, and it was a grueling decision win over Ryan Healy, so Alessio may not be coming into the fight at 100 percent, but he will be completely motivated to have a solid performance. Bocek will be looking to get the fight to the ground and hunt for the submission, so Alessio will need to show some solid takedown defense. Alessio is good on the ground, but Bocek is elite, and Alessio has been submitted seven times in his career. Alessio will need to attack on the feet and avoid any tie-ups, as Bocek will look to pull guard if it means getting the fight to the ground. Bocek has solid conditioning, so going the distance will not be an issue for him, but the activity of Alessio could give him issues. Alessio will do everything he can to score the win, but Bocek coming in well-prepared will give him the edge. Bocek gets the fight to the ground and finds the submission.

Prediction: Mark Bocek by submission in round 1

Follow on Twitter: Bocek- @MarkBocek, Alessio- @johnalessio79

Heavyweights
Travis Browne (12-0-1, 3-0-1 UFC) vs. Chad Griggs (11-1, 0-0 UFC)

Browne Last 5: 4-0-1 (Win-DEC-over Rob Broughton, Win-KO-over Stefan Struve, Draw with Cheick Kongo, Win-TKO-over James McSweeney, Win-TKO-over Aaron Brink)

Griggs Last 5: 5-0 (Win-SUB-over Valentijn Overeem, Win-TKO-over Gian Villante, Win-TKO-over Bobby Lashley, Win-KO-over Jon Alexander, Win-TKO-over Eric Garcia)

Key to victory for Browne: Exploit height advantage

Key to victory for Griggs: Be aggressive on the feet

Breakdown: Browne welcomes Griggs to the UFC's heavyweight division to cap off the slate of preliminary fights, and this one gets top billing on FX. Browne enters the fight on a two-fight win streak, and he is unbeaten in 13 career fights, the lone blemish being a draw he had with Cheick Kongo at UFC 120 in October 2010. Browne has scored wins in the UFC over Stefan Struve, Rob Broughton and James McSweeney, and he has scored nine of his twelve wins by knockout. Griggs makes the transition over from the Strikeforce Heavyweight division, and he comes in having won six fights in a row, including Strikeforce wins over Valentijn Overeem, Bobby Lashley and Gian Villante. Griggs has finished his opponents in all eleven of his wins, with only two of those fights going past the first round.

Browne is a tall heavyweight, standing at six-foot-seven, and he has heavy hands and a solid striking arsenal. He will enter the octagon for the first time in close to seven months, and he is looking to erase a disappointing performance he had in his last fight with Broughton. He won the fight, but it was not pretty, as the Denver altitude took the better of his conditioning. He will need to have improved cardio if this fight turns into a slugfest, which is something that Griggs would not mind. Griggs likes to stand-and-bang, and has a willingness to trade with anyone, and he has gotten the better of it for the majority of his career. Griggs is agile and quick for a heavyweight, and he has heavy hands to go along with that. He also shows that he does not care who he is facing, he just wants to scrap and is afraid of no one. That type of fighter is dangerous for anyone, and Browne must be well-prepared for it because Griggs will force him into a fight.

Browne will need to exploit his size advantage, as he will have six inches in height, five inches in reach, and about 15 to 20 pounds on Griggs, and those can make a huge difference if this fight turns into a brawl. Browne has more power and a more varied striking attack, but Griggs is a finisher if he finds his opponents in trouble. Browne also has a solid ground game, and he may be better of taking the fight to the ground and smothering from a top position, as Griggs needs some work on his takedown defense. This fight will likely turn into a battle on the feet, and a slugfest will take place. It'll be important for Browne to keep the fight in his range, as Griggs can land short punches that can end fights, so Browne will need to utilize leg kicks to keep Griggs on the outside. Conditioning will likely not be a factor as these two will bang and it should end early, but if it goes past seven minutes, both men will likely be exhausted. Browne's size and experience in the UFC gives him the advantage, and he will tag Griggs with shots. Griggs is very tough, but this is Browne's fight to lose.

Prediction: Travis Browne by knockout in round 1

Follow on Twitter: Browne- @travisbrowneMMA, Griggs- @ChadGriggsUFC

Welterweights
Matt Brown (13-11, 6-5 UFC) vs. Stephen Thompson (6-0, 1-0 UFC)

Brown Last 5: 2-3 (Win-TKO-over Chris Cope, Loss-SUB-to Seth Baczynski, Win-DEC-over John Howard, Loss-SUB-to Brian Foster, Loss-SUB-to Chris Lytle)

Thompson Last 5: 5-0 (Win-KO-over Dan Stittgen, Win-DEC-over Patrick Mandio, Win-DEC-over William Kuhn, Win-SUB-over Marques Worrell, Win-TKO-over Daniel Finz)

Key to victory for Brown: Stay calm and pick appropriate shots

Key to victory for Thompson: Test Brown's chin

Breakdown: Brown and Thompson both make quick turnarounds after competing at UFC 143 in February to take a spot on the night's FX portion of the card. Brown scored a TKO win over Chris Cope in February, which was his second win in three fights after he broke his three-fight losing skid after defeating John Howard in June. Brown has had his ups-and-downs in the UFC, losing two of his last six fights after winning four of his first five fights in the octagon, but five of those six UFC wins have come by a stoppage. Thompson will compete in his seventh professional MMA bout, and between MMA and kickboxing, this will be the 70th fight of Thompson's career. What is most impressive about that feat is that he has won every single one of his 69 fights thus far in his fighting career. Thompson made his successful UFC debut in February, knocking Dan Stittgen out cold with a head kick to earn Knockout Of The Night honors.

Brown has good punching power and a solid chin, but he tends to leave his chin exposed, and that will catch him some trouble in this fight if he leaves his chin out to be hit. Brown is comfortable taking the fight to the ground and using some ground-and-pound, and he is unafraid to make a fight boring if it means getting him a win. Brown's biggest weakness is his submission defense, as nine of his eleven losses have come by submission, including his last four in the octagon. Thompson has outstanding kickboxing skills, but that is also backed up by a solid ground game, with Thompson holding a black belt in jujutsu and an improving game in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Thompson has trained alongside Georges St. Pierre, and St. Pierre has said that Thompson is one of his favorite fighters, so he has earned a lot of praise.

Brown has been throwing Thompson under the bus in the lead-up to the fight, as Brown has claimed that his muay Thai is better than Thompson's karate style, and questioning the level of competition that Thompson has faced. Brown is definitely the toughest opponent Thompson has faced in his MMA career, but remember, Thompson has yet to taste defeat, so he is confident in his skills and his ability to win. Brown has an excellent chin and is very tough, but Thompson will be able to mix it up well on the feet, and Brown is going to have to be weary of kicks coming from Thompson. Brown will likely look to take the fight down to the ground, but Thompson has excellent takedown defense. If the fight goes to the ground, Thompson will be active hunting for submissions, and Brown's submission defense has not been good. Ultimately, the fight will be determined on the feet, and Thompson's style will be too much for Brown. Brown has never been knocked out, but that looks to change in this fight. Thompson will notch his 70th career win between MMA and kickboxing.

Prediction: Stephen Thompson by knockout in round 1

Follow on Twitter: Brown- @IamTheImmortal, Thompson- @WonderboyMMA

Lightweights
John Makdessi (9-1, 2-1 UFC) vs. Anthony Njokuani (14-6-0-1, 1-2 UFC)

Makdessi Last 5: 4-1 (Loss-SUB-to Dennis Hallman, Win-KO-over Kyle Watson, Win-DEC-over Pat Audinwood, Win-DEC-over Bendy Casimir, Win-TKO-over Lindsey Hawkes)

Njokuani Last 5: 2-3 (Loss-DEC-to Danny Castillo, Win-DEC-over Andre Winner, Loss-DEC-to Edson Barboza, Win-TKO-over Eddie Faaloloto, Loss-TKO-to Maciej Jewtuszko)

Key to victory for Makdessi: Win the battle on the feet

Key to victory for Njokuani: Utilize the reach advantage

Breakdown: Makdessi and Njokuani enter a potential fight of the night contest looking to erase disappointing results from their last bouts. Makdessi suffered the first loss of his career in December, losing at UFC 140 by submission to Dennis Hallman, who actually came into that fight with a big size advantage after missing weight. That ended the nine-fight win streak that Makdessi had put together to start his career, a streak that was capped off with a spectacular spinning back fist knockout of Kyle Watson at UFC 129 last April. Njokuani enters his fourth appearance in the UFC in search of his second win. Njokuani came up short in his last fight, a decision loss to Danny Castillo at UFC 141 in December. Njokuani has rotated between wins and losses in his last five fights, and is looking to avoid going to the dreaded 1-3 mark in the UFC that often puts fighters in the danger zone of being cut from the promotion.

Both men are strikers, and this fight looks to be one that will be exclusively fought on the feet. Makdessi has a lot of power in his hands, as evidenced by his knockout of Watson along with five prior TKO wins due to punches, and he is dynamic, talented and versatile on the feet. Makdessi has blown through inferior competition in his career, and when he finally took on his toughest test to date, Hallman, it was one he failed, and he is looking to erase that. Njokuani is just as, if not more, talented on his feet, and he is lanky and diverse on the feet, punishing opponents with punches and kicks. Eight of his 14 wins have come by knockout, and Njokuani delivered a memorable head kick followed by punches knockout of Chris Horodecki in the WEC. Njokuani is explosive on the feet and when he finds his opponents in trouble, he works for the finish, which makes him dangerous opposition for anyone.

This should be an exciting brawl on the feet, and Njokuani will hold the edge due to his size advantage. Njokuani will hold a four-inch height advantage and a seven-and-a-half-inch reach advantage over Makdessi, and he will use that to dictate his range and keep Makdessi on the outside. Makdessi is very powerful and quick on the feet, but Njokuani is quicker. Njokuani may also look to take the fight down to the ground, as Makdessi has shown he is a novice at work on the ground, giving up the submission to Hallman fairly easily. Njokuani may look to work in some ground-and-pound and positional improvements on the ground, and Makdessi will need to be aggressive on the feet to get the fight upright. Njokuani may look to bully Makdessi against the cage and deliver kicks and knees against the cage as well. Both men have solid conditioning and will be able to go the distance, and this fight will likely be won on points. Njokuani is more diverse on the feet, and his excellent timing and counters will give him the extra edge needed to score the decision. 

Prediction: Anthony Njokuani by decision

Follow on Twitter: Makdessi- @JohnMakdessiMMA, Njokuani- @anthonynjoku

Lightweights
Mac Danzig (20-9-1, 4-5 UFC) vs. Efrain Escudero (18-4, 3-3 UFC)

Danzig Last 5: 2-3 (Loss-DEC-to Matt Wiman, Win-KO-over Joe Stevenson, Loss-SUB-to Matt Wiman, Win-DEC-over Justin Buchholz, Loss-DEC-to Jim Miller)

Escudero Last 5: 3-2 (Loss-DEC-to Jacob Volkmann, Win-SUB-over Cesar Avila, Win-DEC-over Mike Rio, Loss-DEC-to Fabricio Camoes, Win-DEC-over Ashe Bowman)

Key to victory for Danzig: Outwork Escudero on the ground

Key to victory for Escudero: Win the battle on the feet

Breakdown: Two former winners of The Ultimate Fighter find themselves in unique positions, as Danzig and Escudero open the televised portion of the preliminary card on FX, and both find themselves needing to score a win or they could find themselves on the outside of the UFC. Danzig has had mixed results in his last four fights, with wins over Joe Stevenson and Justin Buchholz, but two losses to Matt Wiman to go along with those. Danzig has struggled since winning The Ultimate Fighter, and after scoring wins over Tommy Speer and Mark Bocek to start his UFC career, he suffered consecutive defeats to Clay Guida, Josh Neer and Jim Miller to find himself with his back against the wall in each successive fight. Escudero has also had mixed success since winning The Ultimate Fighter, as wins over Phillipe Nover, Cole Miller and Dan Lauzon were erased by losses to Evan Dunham and Charles Oliveira, and the loss to Oliveira, along with making weight issues, sent him out of the UFC. He returned in December, losing to Jacob Volkmann at UFC 141, and he is looking to avoid dropping two in a row for the first time in his career.

Danzig is a veteran of the sport who fights to the level of his opponents. He gets outgrappled by better grapplers and outstruck by better strikers, but he is capable of fighting wherever the fight goes, and has the ability to string together a nice winning streak. Danzig likes fighting on the ground, where he looks to unleash some ground-and-pound, and he uses a good jiu-jitsu game to try to outsmart his opponents. Escudero comes from a wrestling background, but he has shown solid improvement in his striking, and he tends to get comfortable on his feet, albeit sometimes too comfortable, and he tends to get away from the good wrestling ability that he has. He also has good submission awareness on the ground, and he has scored twelve submission wins in his career, and he likes to find chokes. However, Escudero tends to be reckless in the cage, and against a crafty veteran like Danzig, any mistakes he makes will be exploited.

Danzig will look to force the action against the cage and turn this into a wrestling battle. For all of his wrestling skill, Escudero can be taken down, as he tends to get too comfortable on the feet, leaving his wrestling abandoned. All of Escudero's losses have come from being outwrestled and taken down, and Danzig will look to find openings for takedowns. Danzig likes to unleash ground-and-pound, but he also has a good submission game, and will find a submission if Escudero gives him an opportunity to. If Danzig has trouble taking Escudero down, he will look to make it a clinch war against the cage, and Escudero will need to avoid damaging elbows that Danzig will look to land. Escudero does have power and speed in his hands, but Danzig has a solid chin and is tough to finish. This one likely goes the distance, so conditioning will be key, and Escudero has had issues making weight in the UFC before, while Danzig has great cardio. This goes the distance, with Escudero doing enough damage with his striking while avoiding fighting against the cage to score the win.

Prediction: Efrain Escudero by decision

Follow on Twitter: Danzig- @macdanzigmma, Escudero- @effyescudero

Welterweights
Keith Wisniewski (28-13-1, 0-2 UFC) vs. Chris Clements (10-4, 0-0 UFC)

Wisniewski Last 5: 4-1 (Loss-TKO-to Josh Neer, Win-DEC-over Chris Wilson, Win-KO-over Randy Crawford, Win-SUB-over Ted Worthington, Win-SUB-over Pete Spratt)

Clements Last 5: 4-1 (Win-TKO-over Rich Clementi, Win-TKO-over Travis Briere, Win-KO-over Jonathan Goulet, Win-TKO-over Caleb Grummet, Loss-SUB-to John Alessio)

Key to victory for Wisniewski: Make it a clinch battle

Key to victory for Clements: Set a quick pace

Breakdown: Wisniewski makes his third career appearance in the octagon as he welcomes UFC newcomer Clements in a fight that will air on the UFC's Facebook page. Wisniewski is a veteran of 42 fights, and he made his return to the UFC in October after nearly six years away, falling victim to the elbows of Josh Neer during the preliminary portion of UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson. That ended the six-fight win streak that Wisniewski had built up, and he is looking to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since 2007, when he endured a string of five straight losses. Clements enters the UFC on a four-fight win streak, with his last win coming over UFC veteran Rich Clementi in December. Clements has scored all ten of his wins by either knockout or TKO, and he is looking to make a splash in his octagon debut.

Wisniewski has a lot of experience in the sport, but Clements is a solid Canadian prospect. Wisniewski is very tough, but Clements is solid on the feet and likes to set a fast pace. He is a student of the late Shawn Tompkins, and the motivation to contiune Tompkins' legacy will always be there, and helps him fuel himself thru every fight. Clements has heavy hands and will look to test Wisniewski's chin. Wisniewski cuts open easily, as shown in his loss to Neer, so Clements may look to attack and look for a doctors' stoppage. Wisniewski has a lot of durability, and has made a solid comeback in his career after enduring some tough times, but his second run in the UFC may meet its' end in this one. Clements can be submitted, as three of his four losses have been from a submission, but he should be able to keep the fight on the feet. Clements will land some solid shots on Wisniewski, ultimately finishing him either by a cut or with punches to score a successful UFC debut.

Prediction: Chris Clements by knockout in round 2

Follow on Twitter: Clements- @menaceclements

Featherweights
Marcus Brimage (4-1, 1-0 UFC) vs. Maximo Blanco (8-3-1-1, 0-0 UFC)

Brimage Last 5:
 4-1 (Win-DEC-over Stephan Bass, Win-TKO-over Kyle Bradley, Loss-SUB-to Joey Camacho, Win-TKO-over Bryan Goldsby, Win-DEC-over Jason Kwast)

Blanco Last 5: 4-1 (Loss-SUB-to Pat Healy, Win-DEC-over Won Sik Park, Win-KO-over Kiuma Kunioku, Win-TKO-over Rodrigo Damm, Win-KO-over Chang Hyun Kim)

Key to victory for Brimage: Test Blanco on the feet

Key to victory for Blanco: Overpower Brimage with takedowns

Breakdown: Brimage, a graduate of the class of season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, makes his first post-TUF appearance in the night's opening bout, and he gets a tough task as he takes on the former Lightweight King Of Pancrase, Blanco, who makes the transition from Strikeforce's lightweight division to the UFC featherweight division. Brimage had a successful first octagon appearance, defeating Stephen Bass at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale by decision, and he has rattled off four wins in his five career fights. Blanco came up short in his debut under the Strikeforce banner, losing to Pat Healy by submission to snap his six-fight win streak. After being taken down and dominated by the bigger guy in Healy, Blanco decided to make the drop to a better weight class for his size, and with the move down to 145 pounds came a move over to the UFC.

Brimage has heavy hands and knockout power, but he will be giving up some size to Blanco, who will have four inches on him. Brimage is solidly built for 145 pounds, and he mixes in kicks with his solid punches coming out of a southpaw stance, and he has good physical ability. Blanco is an aggressive fighter, sometimes becoming borderline reckless, but he is powerful on his feet, and has strong takedowns. Brimage struggled with a submission artist in Bryan Caraway during the reality show, but showed solid improvement, including score takedowns of his own against Bass, and he will be well-prepared coming out of the American Top Team camp in Florida. Blanco and Brimage will match power on the feet, but the explosive double-leg takedowns that Blanco has will be the key, and he is powerful with his ground-and-pound. Brimage drew a very tough assignment for his first fight out of the TUF house, and Blanco comes in looking to make himself an immediate threat in the featherweight division. The fight of the night award could very well be taken in the opening bout, and both men will put on an aggressive showing, but Blanco's experience will prove to be a factor as he scores the decision win.

Prediction: Maximo Blanco by decision

Follow on Twitter:
 Brimage- @Brim205, Blanco- @maxi_blanco

Follow or contact Ryan Frederick on Twitter at twitter.com/ryanjfrederick
 
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