If you like watching fights between top contenders for free, then FOX and FS1 has a great card for you coming this Saturday from Newark. In the main event, light heavyweight title contenders Anthony Johnson and Ryan vie for the next crack at gold.
Below that, heavyweights Josh Barnett and Ben Rothwell battle to prove who deserves a championship bout next. Read on for our predictions of the night’s biggest fights on FOX and FS1, and then let us know who you’re picking, and why!
Anthony Johnson (20-5) vs. Ryan Bader (21-4)
This fight will likely decide who gets the next light heavyweight title shot after Jon Jones, so there’s plenty at stake. Bader has quietly put together one of the best win streaks in the UFC, but he needs a signature win over a top contender like Johnson to get what he feels he already deserves — a chance to nab gold.
Johnson recently had his shot at a title and lost to Daniel Cormier. Since that loss, Johnson has gotten back on the winning track with a nasty stoppage over Jimi Manuwa.
Both men are former wrestlers with one-punch KO power and quick feet. Johnson still may hold an edge in punching power and Bader will not want to stand and exchange strikes with the Blackzilian without mixing in takedown attempts.
That will be a big challenge as Bader has struggled in the past with transitioning from striking to takedown attempts. Johnson is known for his strikes but is hard to take down.
If he can keep it standing, Johnson will have the advantage. On the ground, however, Bader has the ability to finish with strikes or submissions.
I’m willing to bet that Bader can eventually take Johnson down, and if he does so repeatedly, he’ll eventually wear down "Rumble" and get the finish, late.
Prediction: Bader by fourth-round submission
Josh Barnett (34-7) vs. Ben Rothwell (35-9)
Rothwell has become a lot more well-rounded by adding submission skills to his arsenal, in recent years. Few can keep up with the former champion Barnett on the ground, however.
Rothwell will want to keep things on the feet, here. He has the striking to give Barnett problems. Barnett is no slouch with his striking but should look to close the distance and spend most of the fight on the mat.
If he can do that, he’ll likely eventually find opportunities to finish. This is a real test for both men and the winner should be considered a real threat for the heavyweight title.
Prediction: Rothwell by TKO
Yuri Alcantara (32-6-1) vs. Jimmie Rivera (18-1)
These are two strong grapplers with contrasting strengths. Alcantara has won four out of his last five and is a submission ace, finishing 38 percent of his 32 professional wins by submission.
Rivera, who hasn’t lost since 2008, is good at edging out opponents to earn decision wins and has pop in his hands and good wrestling. If he can stay off of his back, he could do well, here.
Alcantara should try to mix in strikes with well-timed level changes and takedown attempts to try and get top position. From there, he could dominate.
Rivera has faced strong competition, however, and managed to come out on top. I think he can keep it standing and earn the win.
Prediction: Rivera by decision
Sage Northcutt (7-0) vs. Bryan Barberena (10-2)
Both fighters have good power for lightweights, but will be fighting at welterweight for this scrap. Barberena is the more experienced fighter but Northcutt has some solid athleticism on his side.
Northcutt is quite at risk for the takedown, here, and he doesn’t have a lot of answers off his back, yet. If Barberena can push Northcutt backwards from the start, and have the conditioning to pressure him all fight long, he could get the win.
Prediction: Barberena by decision
Tarec Saffiedine (15-4) vs. Jake Ellenberger (30-10)
These elite welterweights are both at critical points in their careers. Saffiedine was on a five-fight win streak heading into his bout against Rory MacDonald in October of 2014, but then was stopped by the Canadian.
Saffiedine has not fought since then. Hopefully he is healed up from his injuries and has had time to knock off rust and sharpen his skills. Ellenberger has always been one of those guys that is good enough to beat anyone in the world on any given night.
Of late, however, the wrestler with KO power is in the midst of a rough patch. He has lost four out of his last five fights and taken a bit of damage in the process.
The 30-year-old will know quite soon if he should continue in the hurting game much longer. Both fighters are great tests for one another, here, and the stakes are high.
Ellenberger likely has the wrestling advantage here, but he’ll need to see and take his opportunities for takedowns to capitalize. Saffiedine has solid striking and is good in the clinch, but he should try to keep it on the feet and stay away from Ellenberger’s big uppercuts and hooks.