UFC 150 takes place this Saturday and is headlined by a lightweight title rematch between Ben Henderson and former champion Frankie Edgar, who lost the belt to Henderson by decision at UFC 144 in Japan earlier this month.
Also on the card is what will surely be a war between Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard, training partners under Greg Jackson. Light-heavyweight Yushin Okami also has a Greg Jackson opponent in the form of Buddy Roberts, having his second UFC fight plus Jake Shields faces Ed Herman.
Benson Henderson vs Frankie Edgar
Aundre Jacobs - At UFC 144, UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar fought in one of the most breathtaking fights so far this year (it's still my fight of the year). Although some feel that it was a controversial decision, I personally thought it was a clear cut win for Henderson, who matched Edgar wherever the fight took place and left the former champion exhausted by round five.
You can never count Edgar out though, as he's maximised his skillset and his physical qualities so that he can battle the bigger men of the division. Edgar never has the size advantage over his opponents, but he does have the cardio and speed to put any other lightweight in trouble. That won't be the case against Henderson.
As we saw at UFC 144, Henderson can deal with Edgar in pretty much every area, plus the fact that he's one of the biggest lightweights in the division and doesn't get tired. It'll be a tough, back-and-forth match between the two and whenever Edgar is in a fight, he always has a chance to win. That being said, Henderson still has all the tools to defeat Edgar and I fully expect him to do so on the night.
JJ Oâ€™Regan - I am a really big Frankie Edgar fan and I was gutted when he lost the decision to Henderson at 144. Personally I think Henderson won that fight with the upkick, I donâ€™t see where his supposed dominance was. There was a sizeable minority of fans that had it a draw or even a win for Edgar and I am among them.
This time around, I think Edgar has a much tougher task. Henderson has a big size advantage and he has the benefit of the first match now, knowing what Edgar likes to do to close distance. Edgar has had some months since then but thatâ€™s not long enough to reinvent - he will still have go-to moves and tactics and I expect Henderson to be prepared for these.
I also expect Henderson to keep his distance and play it safe. Edgar likes to get in the pocket and trade, Henderson doesnâ€™t need to let him do that. (It would be very nice if he did, but he wont.) Heart says Edgar, head says Henderson.
Donald Cerrone vs Melvin Guillard
Aundre Jacobs - It's always tough when two former teammates go at it. It's probably difficult to punch your friend in the face, but on a professional and competitive level, it's going to be hard to prepare for the fight knowing that your opponent has probably fought you hundreds of times already during sparring.
That being said, I don't see how Guillard can win this fight. He packs power, he's quick, explosive and has a killer instinct, but Cerrone has the technique and most importantly, the ground skills to finish this fight. One hard shot from Cerrone could get this to the ground and once it's there, the submission is nearly a given. I've got Cerrone winning this bout.
JJ Oâ€™Regan - Guillard has been telling all and sundry that he is going to knock Cerrone out, which will have gone down well with the tall fella. They are team mates but not close friends in the sense that Cerrone and Leonard Garcia are so they wonâ€™t have any problems going all-out.
Iâ€™m not really giving Guillard a chance in this one. Cerrone is a better, smarter fighter who will surely have his number and will get the win fairly comfortably. Guillard is prone to brain-farts but might actually be more relaxed for this one, as he knows Cerrone well. Nonetheless I donâ€™t see him putting it on Cerrone in any meaningful way unless he catches him right out of the gate.
Jake Shields vs Ed Herman
Aundre Jacobs - Love his style or hate it, Jake Shields wins fights, and at middleweight he does it convincingly. He hasn't been beaten at 185 pounds since 2000 and holds wins over Dan Henderson, Paul Daley and Yushin Okami. Ed Herman is no walkover though and he'll give Shields a good run for his money. We saw a huge improvement in his striking against Clifford Starks where he lit up his opponent before sinking in the rear naked choke.
Even though Herman has done incredibly well to not only come back from a devastating injury, but to go on a three fight win streak, I can't help but think that Shields just has too many tools to not win this fight. I don't think he'll finish the fight, but I certainly see Shields winning a unanimous decision.
JJ Oâ€™Regan - Shields is going to take this one by submission I think, or a safe-style takedown and top-game decision. Herman is solid and looked good in his last outing but Shieldsâ€™ grappling skills are a cut above and I donâ€™t see Herman lasting on the floor with him.
Shieldsâ€™ striking is absolutely awful still but weâ€™re just going to have to live with that and so is he. He has a solid chin on him - Jake Ellenberger loss aside - but will it stand up to a solid Herman hand? It probably will, at least long enough to close the distance and get the fight down where he wants it.
Yushin Okami vs Buddy Roberts
Aundre Jacobs - How much do we actually know about Buddy Roberts? Well, he's a 12-2, Greg Jackson product whose on a six fight winning streak, including one victory in the Octagon. That being said if you look at his record, you have to ask, who has this man defeated that's going to prepare him for Yushin Okami?
Yes, Yushin Okami is coming off a vicious knockout loss against Tim Boetsch, but before those awkward looking uppercuts landed on his jaw, the Japanese middleweight was schooling his opponent with some brilliantly crisp striking.
He's more experienced, fought the best in the world and by all means a much more dangerous fighter who is clearly constantly evolving still. Okami should defeat his opponent without a doubt. There might even be a finish on the horizon...
JJ Oâ€™Regan - Buddy Robertsâ€™ UFC debut was one of the most boring fights I have ever watched and left me with absolutely no interest in ever watching him fight again. Obviously he is being set up as the sacrificial lamb here against Okami and to be honest if Okami doesnâ€™t put him away then he is going to be going on my blacklist as well.
Now that Iâ€™ve said that, Roberts is going to win by spinning heel-kick in the late second round after a back forth standing elbow war in which neither man took a backwards step and both were spraying blood everywhere.
No not really. Okami by decision.
Max Holloway vs Justin Lawrence
Aundre Jacobs - This is some fantastic matchmaking by Joe Silva, as he's pitted two exciting, young, explosive strikers against each other. Both fighters have very different striking styles though, with Holloway taking more of a boxing approach, whilst Lawrence uses his kicks a lot more.
I think the most dangerous thing about Holloway are his vicious body shots. He practically left Pat Schilling gasping for air during certain times in their fight. However, both of these guys have a lot to learn when it comes to the ground game, so expect this to stay standing for the majority of the fight.
I think that Lawrence's experience with Team Blackhouse will help him though. He's clearly got some fantastic coaches who will have helped him day and night to work out the kinks in his armour. He's still got a lot to learn, but I think he's talented enough to get the victory in this bout.
JJ Oâ€™Regan - I agree with Aundre, top piece of matchmaking this.
I really liked Lawrence when he was on The Ultimate Fighter, he has a very aggressive approach and he is not getting in there to play the points game. However that might change now that he has a full-fledged UFC contract and an eye on his bank balance.
Its too early in either manâ€™s career for them to be so cynical (hopefully) so we should get a good war out of this one and I think it will be competing with the main event for Fight of the Night.