Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler:
Mike Drahota: This obviously has the potential to be the most heavy-hitting main event of the year (although that isn’t saying much). Both have thunderous knockout power, but I have to give the clear grappling advantage to Hendricks. That may not matter much, however, as Hendricks seems to think he already has the belt wrapped around his waist. In his pre-fight interviews, he’s touched on Georges St. Pierre returning and a move up to middleweight, but hasn’t spoken hardly one word about Lawler, who looks to be in by far the best shape of his storied career. I think that will come back to haunt “Bigg Rigg,” ultimately spelling his doom to the tune of a first round TKO for Lawler.
Rory Kernaghan: The stakes are very high for Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks on Saturday, and I expect it to be an absolute war when they meet in the cage. A lot of people are predicting a knockout early on, but I’d say this fight has every chance of going five rounds. I’m a huge fan of Lawler’s, but I feel that Hendricks may have his number here. Not wanting to stand and bang with ‘Ruthless’, I expect ‘Bigg Rigg’ to drag this fight to the mat and grind out a decision win.
Brian Cox: The only way I see Hendricks winning this fight is by T/KO or continually taking Lawler down and controlling him, and in the same ‘no damage’ way that he did Condit. I don’t see him submitting or mounting Lawler. I just don’t think Hendricks has the chops. Regarding Lawler, I think he has more ways to win this fight, certainly on the feet. Lawler is prepared to fight on the ground, but he’s going to want to keep this fight standing, that’s a given. I believe Hendricks will be unsuccessful on the feet and will spend most of the fight opting for takedowns. As I see it, he’ll eventually tire and slow. Because of that, I believe Lawler will end his night. Winner by TKO in the fourth round and new welterweight champion, Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler.
Buster Evans: When this fight was first announced, I immediately thought Johny Hendricks would be the next welterweight champion. Now, I’m not so sure. Robbie Lawler had defied all odds to get to where he is now and you can bet he will be going all out to get the win this weekend. Hendricks has to hurt his opponent early to limit the chances of “Ruthless” catching him later on. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Lawler pull off another win, but I can’t pick against Hendricks. So I’m going with Hendricks via fourth round TKO to become the new welterweight champion.
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley:
Mike Drahota: This is a fight I love. On paper, it’s one of the best co-main events in recent memory. Condit is eager to get his next title shot, but he has quite the roadblock standing in his way. “The Chosen One” should be able to take Condit down, but can he keep him there? Hendricks couldn’t, instead eating a ton of shots from inside Condit’s guard. While Woodley has the power to end any fighter’s night, Condit has never been knocked out, and won’t be lured into a slugfest. I foresee “The Natural Born Killer” picking the less experienced Woodley apart on the feet, using his superior reach to seal the deal. Condit wins a unanimous decision.
Rory Kernaghan: Carlos Condit faces a heavy-handed underdog in the form of KO artist Tyron Woodley, but I think ‘The Natural Born Killer’ is a lock in this fight. His consistent finishing rate and high level of opponents makes Condit one of, if not the most dangerous fighters in the welterweight division today. Look for Condit to use his range to maximum benefit and score a nasty, elbow-filled TKO in round two.
Brian Cox: Carlos Condit is a great technical striker. He also possesses a high-level ground game and won’t gas. Woodley looks to be another strong wrestler with knockout power. However, he only has three KO victories to his record (25%), with those stoppages coming against fighters that weren’t really renowned for their stand-up skills. He has five submissions to his credit, but hasn’t submitted an opponent since 2009. I think Woodley lacks the overall skills to stop Condit, so he’ll have to use his wrestling to take him down and control him on the ground. However, I think Condit will keep Woodley at range and eat him up over three. I’m picking Carlos Condit by way of unanimous decision.
Buster Evans: Tyron Woodley has the potential to be a real force in the welterweight division, but I think he is going to get outclassed by Carlos Condit on Saturday. The former WEC champion is one of the best strikers at 170 pounds and has some high level jiu-jitsu. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Woodley steal a decision by going for takedowns and holding Condit down, but I don’t think that will happen. Expect Condit to pick Woodley apart on the feet and get the finish. Condit via TKO in round two.
Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard:
Mike Drahota: Another great bout in the welterweight division. This one is obviously going to come down to whether or not divisional newcomer Lombard can prevent the smothering Shields from neutralizing him for five rounds. Despite winning in what some would call ‘boring’ fashion, it’s tough to argue with Shields’ effectiveness. However, I feel like Lombard has some insane knockout power for the division, and his black belts in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu should provide him enough know-how to stay out of Shield’s spider web just long enough to finish this fight. Lombard makes a statement with a second round TKO.
Rory Kernaghan: Hector Lombard and Jake Shields at 170 pounds is a squash match. I’ve been saying it for a while now, and I’ll say it again when ‘Lightning’ puts the screws to the grappling wizard. Shields is extremely tough, that I don’t doubt, but he may be outdone against Lombard. Physically bigger, more explosive and 10 times better on the feet; I expect a very early and very brutal KO for Lombard.
Brian Cox: Shields lacks the stand-up skills to hang with Lombard, but it’s not his intention to stand with him. Shields has to come out and put this fight up against the cage, secure the clinch, and get the takedown. To do any less is to invite a potential knockout loss. On the other hand, Lombard is going to look to keep the fight on the feet. I think he’ll look to frustrate Shields’ clinch and takedown attempts by keeping out of range, hoping to catch Shields in counter on the way in. I think this is Lombard’s fight to lose. He has the power to stop Shields on and probably enough tools to fend his takedowns and submission attempts. That said, Shields is a tough guy and he’s only been knocked out twice in his career. Despite Shields’ higher ranking, I’ll root for the underdog; I’m picking Jake Shields by way of unanimous decision.
Buster Evans: I really think this is going to be a one-sided affair. Jake Shields can out-grapple most on the ground but I honestly can’t see him taking the Olympic level judoka down. Hector Lombard is a nightmare for the former Strikeforce champion on the feet, as he can strike from distance, as well as deliver fight-ending punches from inside the clinch; which isn’t going to work out well Shields, who will need to get in close for his takedowns. Look for “Lightning” to catch Shields coming in and take a first round knockout.
Diego Sanchez vs. Myles Jury:
Mike Drahota: In a fourth potential barnburner on this card (when’s the last time you could say that?), perennial “Fight of the Night” mainstay Sanchez will throw down with 25-year-old undefeated prospect Jury, who already has his own system of jiu-jitsu. It’s going to be tough to take Sanchez down and submit him, because he looks beyond motivated and in shape. Jury has a solid all-around game and experience beyond his years, but he can’t match the wars that the “Dream” has been through. It would be surprising to me to see Sanchez lose this fight, but Jury is dangerous. Still, I’m taking Sanchez by unanimous decision.
Rory Kernaghan: Diego Sanchez and Myles Jury at lightweight is an interesting fight, mainly because I have no clue which Sanchez will show up to the Octagon in Dallas. The brawler may not fare too well against the undefeated Jury, but ‘The Dream’ has said that his stand-and-bang days are behind him. A more technical Sanchez might prevail, but I don’t feel he will halt the surging ‘Fury’. Jury takes a hard fought decision here.
Brian Cox: Myles Jury is a solid fighter and one with a bright future. He can deliver a fight wherever it goes. He’s never been defeated and carries an impressive 84% finishing rate that is evenly balanced between knockouts and submissions. However, in his 13-fight career he’s never fought a guy like Diego Sanchez. Sanchez is one of the toughest fighters in the UFC. He actually might be the toughest. “Dream” sets a hard pace and comes forward like a tank. He is fearless in the Octagon. I think Jury is over his head. I think Sanchez is looking to make a statement in this fight and Jury is the pen that he’s going to use to write it. Sanchez will prove too much for Jury and simply overwhelm him. As such, I’m picking Diego Sanchez by TKO in the second round.
Buster Evans: I like Myles Jury’s chances here, so I’m going to predict him to pull of the upset. Diego Sanchez is a warrior who always comes to fight, but he has been very shaky in his last few fights, and it’s looking like all his wars have taken their toll. Jury has been flawless so far in his career and I think that will continue this weekend. The former TUF contestant should be able to outpoint Sanchez on the feet while mixing it up with his takedowns. Jury via split-decision.
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