This Saturday, UFC Fight Pass and FS1 viewers get a great card featuring top contenders in multiple divisions. In the main event of UFC Fight Night, former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks takes on the surging human highlight reel Stephen Thompson.
Below that, Jared Rosholt will seek to prove that he’s ready for the heavyweight division’s elite when he faces Roy Nelson. Also, Former title challenger Joseph Benavidez takes on rising contender Zach Makovsky in a flyweight contender’s bout.
Read our analysis and picks for the night’s biggest fights, below, and stay with us all weekend for complete UFC Fight Night coverage!
Johny Hendricks (17-3) vs. Stephen Thompson (11-1)
There are too many unknown x-factors in this matchup to make anything resembling a certain pick. Johny Hendricks is a former champion and so deserves to be considered the favorite.
Additionally, he is such a great wrestler that the style matchup would seem to favor him as well, against the kickboxer Stephen Thompson. So, if someone has a gun to your head and is demanding a pick, go with the "Bigg Rigg."
But first, tell the person with the gun to chill the heck out. It’s only a fight, sheesh!
Hendricks has the big fight experience and wrestling skills advantage, but we won’t know for sure just how much improved Thompson is in the grappling department until the fight happens. My gut tells me that he won’t be able to keep a determined Hendricks off of him for long, however, Thompson has trained for years with some of the best wrestlers in MMA — guys like Chris Weidman, Georges St-Pierre and Rashad Evans — and he is getting awful good at starting his takedown defense with footwork.
For example, he kept Jake Ellenberger from being able to get a bead on his legs in their bout, and then made him pay with strikes. That’s the danger of fighting Thompson.
He’s unpredictable, with his stance-changes, and he can end a fight with quick strikes from either fist, elbow, foot, shin, or knee. Hendricks will do his best to make this a linear fight, and Thompson will try to use all of the cage before lunging in with big strikes.
Whichever man is better at executing his strategy will likely have the best chance at winning. I am also curious to see how Hendricks’ body responds to his new, lighter body under the coaching of Lou Giordano.
Hendricks claims to be lighter than he’s ever been in his MMA career. That should mean increased energy and stamina on fight night, but only time will tell how much power he’ll still have.
I’m betting he’ll have plenty. The man with better timing and conditioning will probably get the win.
If he’s smart, Hendricks will try to make it an ugly fight, in the clinch, and then time in fake shots with his quick overhands. I bet Thompson will be better than ever, and give Hendricks a good run for his money.
Prediction: Hendricks by decision or Thompson by KO
Roy Nelson (21-12) vs. Jared Rosholt (14-2)
When he keeps his hands up, Roy Nelson is capable of landing a nice jab. He should do that, here, to make it clear to the Jared Rosholt that he’s the smoother stand-up striker.
Rosholt will need to have great conditioning to wear down Nelson against the cage with takedown attempts. Nelson may not look like it, but he can go all night, and is durable as all get out.
If Rosholt stays comfortable and doesn’t reach on the feet, he should eventually be able to work his way onto the inside against Nelson. Nelson has good hands but not great footwork, so he may not be able to keep Rosholt off of him.
On the ground, Rosholt needs to keep his posture high, smash down quick strikes and pop right back up. Otherwise, he’ll be at risk for Kimura shoulder-locks or other submissions from the Brazilian black belt.
Nelson is the more accomplished fighter, but Rosholt is a bit fresher, and has quietly put together a great run, so he shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s got the wrestling skills, if he stays patient, to frustrate Nelson.
Roy needs to put his jab in Rosholt’s face, early, and then use uppercuts more often than his favorite overhand to hurt the big man and avoid take downs. I think he can do it, but it may be close.
Prediction: Rosholt by decision
Ovince Saint Preux (18-7) vs. Rafael Calvacante (12-6-1)
These guys are both explosive, but the former football player OSP may have the quickness advantage. Calvacante is a bit more plodding but has better submission skills.
If this stays on the feet, OSP has a good chance of winning. If Calvacante can make this a grappling match, and has the conditioning to go three rounds, he could eventually force OSP to make a fight-ending mistake.
I think OSP will be able to defend the takedown and will have the conditioning advantage, however.
Prediction: Saint Preux by decision
Joseph Benavidez (23-4) vs. Zach Makovsky (19-6)
This fight is Makovsky’s big chance to prove that he’s ready for a title fight. Benavides is a three-time, two-division title challenger, and is as good as anyone not named Demetrious Johnson in the flyweight division. Makovsky has the ability to cut distance, fast, with his feet, and has nasty punching power.
So, he will be a threat all fight long. However, it’s tough to pick against Benavides, as he has proven himself against top-level competition for years.