Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Benson Henderson
Benson Henderson’s thing in MMA is being a jack of all trades but a master of none. He can strike, he can wrestle, he can grapple… but he’s not amazing at any of those things. Henderson is also stuck in lightweight limbo as a fighter who has lost to Anthony Pettis twice – so he’s serving as basically the highest-level gatekeeper in the sport.
Henderson’s opponent this time is Rafael Dos Anjos, a fighter who could certainly threaten to upset Henderson with his submission arsenal. While Henderson is known for getting caught in a submission hold and then escaping, Dos Anjos is known for having very good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to go along with solid striking and takedowns.
In this matchup, I think it’s quite possible that Dos Anjos could land takedowns on Henderson and win the fight by submission. However, I think it’s equally likely that Henderson could take Dos Anjos down, and I believe Henderson is the better striker on top of it. It’s a tricky and tough fight but Henderson should have what it takes to win another decision.
Pick: Benson Henderson by decision
Jordan Mein vs. Mike Pyle
Jordan Mein is favored to beat Mike Pyle in the co-main event, and it’s not difficult to figure out why. Along with being the much younger fighter, Mein enters as the much better striker on paper, with 15 of 28 career wins coming by knockout. Pyle has had a nice run of TKO wins in recent history, but against a series of middling or worse strikers. Mein should definitely have the advantage standing with a decent chance of knocking Pyle out.
Where Pyle could potentially upset Mein is on the ground. Mein is a career 7-4 in fights ending by submission, and was very nearly tapped out by Dan Miller in his UFC debut. Pyle is far from the most dominant wrestler/grappler in the welterweight division, but has some tricks up his sleeve and could surprise Mein with a submission when he least expects it. It’s not enough to pick Pyle outright, but it is enough to make this fight compelling.
Pick: Jordan Mein by KO
Francis Carmont vs. Thales Leites
Carmont has been referred to as a “French-born striker” but if anything, Carmont has avoided striking exchanges at all costs. His tendency has been to smother his opponent in the clinch and on the ground. What makes this a tricky matchup is that Carmont will not want to take Leites to the ground, as Leites is definitely the better ground technician.
Carmont is definitely the better distance striker and should win if he can keep Leites from taking him down. However, despite his massive frame for the division, Carmont’s takedown defense is just 72%. That should be just enough to stop Leites’s sub-par takedown game, but it’s clear that Carmont has almost no margin for error here.
Pick: Francis Carmont by decision
Clay Collard vs. Max Holloway
With the hyped Mirsad Bektic being injured, Clay Collard has stepped up to face Max Holloway on very short notice. Collard is a brawler who steps forward and wings a series of haymakers at his opponent – often leaving his chin exposed in the process. Holloway is a much more precise striker and will likely use his length and straight punches to frustrate Collard and win by decision – but you never know when a guy like Collard will land that one shot to win by KO.
Pick: Max Holloway by decision
Valmir Lazaro vs. James Vick
Lazaro is a fighter who likes to stand and strike and throws crisp, accurate punches with good hand speed and knockout power. However, he doesn’t move his head much and tends to absorb strikes at a fairly high rate. James Vick is a very tall, very lanky lightweight who knows how to use his length to threaten submissions on his opponent. Lazaro is a threat to win by KO but Vick’s length should give him problems both standing and on the ground.
Pick: James Vick by submission
Tom Niinimaki vs. Chas Skelly
Niinimaki’s brief UFC career has been a strange one so far – he’s faced two straight submission aces in Rani Yahya and Niklas Backstrom. Niinimaki was able to grind out a decision win against Yahya but was tapped out by Backstrom. Fortunately for Niinimaki, Chas Skelly is not so much a submission ace – his nickname is “The Scrapper” and that nickname is pretty apt. Skelly can strike a little bit and he knows some submissions, but Niinimaki is probably the better wrestler and overall fighter.
Pick: Tom Niinimaki by decision