The UFC returns for its third event in consecutive weeks and it's a big one - the promotion's annual Super Bowl weekend event in Las Vegas.
This year's edition features a "superfight" of sorts as UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will defend his title, welcoming former UFC lightweight king Frankie Edgar to the division. Alistair Overeem will also return to action for the first time after a year-long layoff. He will face fellow Strikeforce import Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva for a shot at Cain Velasquez and the UFC heavyweight belt.
My predictions are after the jump.
I've said before that we can never count out Edgar in a fight, but it's hard to pick against Aldo here. Frankie is fast, but Aldo is likely faster. Frankie may possess more power, but Aldo's mixed bag of strikes might keep Edgar at bay for most of the fight. I'm not sure if Aldo's takedown defense is going to be good enough to stop Edgar from putting him on the mat, but I do believe Aldo's ground game is slick enough he won't be there for long. My biggest concern is how much punishment Edgar is going to take early. He always does, and he has to be careful to protect himself against a finisher like Aldo. I'll take Aldo via unanimous decision.
Make no mistake about it, the MMA world and the UFC itself wants Overeem to win this fight. By all accounts he should. He's the superior striker, the stronger fighter and can hang on the ground if the fight goes there. Bigfoot would have an advantage if the fight goes to the mat, but his past fights have shown that he can easily be goaded into a slugfest. I'm interested in seeing how Silva will perform now that he's so fired up over Overeem's comments. I think Overeem will survive an early scare from Bigfoot but ultimately finish him in the first round.
We won't learn much from this fight except who is able to respond to ring rust better. I'm betting it will be Evans, who experienced a similar layoff in between his fights with Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz while he waited for a title shot that never came. It's hard to completely rule out Nogueira, who is able to finish a fight and beat the best on any given night, but Evans should be the better fighter in all areas. "Suga" should grind out a unanimous decision.
I'm very intrigued about this one for the simple fact that Maia has re-dedicated himself to his grappling. If he chooses not to waste time on the feet and take things straight to the mat, he'll be dealing with the legendary submission defense of the tough and durable Fitch, who has been in some tight predicaments, but has always managed to find his way out of him. This will be the first time that he faces a grappler as dangerous as Maia however. Still, Fitch brings more to the table. He'll be able to control the fight with his wrestling and likely has the advantage on the feet. I believe Fitch will come away with the nod from the judges in a tight one.
The only thing more exciting than McCall's shirt at the weigh-ins should be the pace of this fight. With both fighters having their back against the wall, I expect an all-out war to the finish. I want to question where Benavidez is at mentally after reading some of his comments about not being interested in a title shot right now, but word is that McCall is currently going through a divorce and has had a rough camp because of it. With that said, as much as I would like to see a third match between McCall and Johnson, Benavidez is the better all-around fighter. I'm going to go out on a limb and Benavidez will catch McCall with a guillotine in the third.
Gleison Tibau vs. Evan Dunham
Tyron Woodley vs. Jay Hieron
Jacob Volkmann vs. Bobby Green
Yves Edwards vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
Chico Camus vs. Dustin Kimura
Edwin Figueroa vs. Francisco Rivera