Either Ronaldo Souza or Gegard Mousasi could earn a title shot with a win in the main event of Friday’s UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1 from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
Alistair Overeem is one of the top heavyweights in the world. Joe Lauzon, Michael Chiesa, Charles Oliveira and Nik Lentz are all contenders in their respective divisions.
What we’re trying to say is this card has serious implications for almost all the fighters involved. Weight classes will be shaped in the future by the events that occur in Ledyard, Conn.
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Want to know who’ll win and who’ll just come up short? We’ll look into our crystal ball and tell you below.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Gegard Mousasi
Will it be Gegard Mousasi raising his hand after a win over Ronaldo Souza on Friday night?
No one has come out and made it official yet, but this very well could be a title eliminator. Souza, especially, can make a case for a middleweight title shot if he beats Mousasi on Saturday night. Coming in, he has won six straight between the UFC and Strikeforce and he’s ranked No. 4 among 185-pound contenders. Mousasi is No. 7 and has won five of six. He’s still just 29 years old and has looked great since moving down from light heavyweight.
Mousasi is an excellent grappler, but no one would argue that Jacare would have the advantage if things go to the ground here. Souza, the favorite, is a multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and one of the best grapplers in all of MMA. Mousasi is going to need to keep things standing to give himself the best chance at winning. Souza has shown improved power in recent years, but Mousasi is a much more technical kickboxer.
The biggest question could be how will Souza get Mousasi to the mat? Mousasi has had some trouble with high-level wrestlers, but Jacare is not one of those. Mousasi knocked Souza out the first time the two fought in 2008 for DREAM. A lot has happened since then. Both men are better and in their primes. Souza is stronger and more athletic than Mousasi, but Mousasi has the advantage standing up, where he should be able to keep things. I’m going with the underdog here in a close fight.
Prediction: Mousasi by unanimous decision
Alistair Overeem vs. Ben Rothwell
Alistair Overeem is going to be very difficult for Ben Rothwell to handle.
Overeem is the biggest favorite on the card and he should be. If not for two bizarre meltdowns against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Travis Browne, we could be talking about "The Demolition Man" as one of the biggest, baddest stars in the sport and the No. 1 contender to Cain Velasquez’s heavyweight title. Overeem was winning both of those fights — dominating them, even — before gassing out and eventually being knocked out. Crazy stuff.
This could be a whole new Overeem against Rothwell, though. He is now training at Jackson-Winkeljohn in Albuquerque and has reportedly lost a ton of weight. The Reem is looking slim and trim, and that could be terrible news for the bigger, cardio-troubled Rothwell. Overeem has always been a powerful, technical striker when fresh. Rothwell can’t really match his speed, athleticism nor precision and probably won’t pull Overeem into deep waters either. It could be a quick night.
Prediction: Overeem by TKO in the first round
Derrick Lewis vs. Matt Mitrione
Matt Mitrione’s experience gives him an edge against Derrick Lewis.
Lewis is a very large, very frightening man who has won his first two fights in the UFC via devastating knockout. Carlos Augusto Filho was the latest victim back in July. Lewis almost took his head off with some brutal ground and pound. At 29, Lewis is one of the best — and only — heavyweight prospects the UFC has. There is some potential here for someone as big, powerful and athletic as "The Black Beast."
Mitrione, though, is far more experienced and much more technical despite being a small underdog. We know Lewis can damn near punch a hole in someone, but Mitrione trains with one of the best camps in MMA, the Blackzilians, and gets to work with the likes of Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson and Eddie Alvarez on a daily basis. Lewis isn’t going to show him anything he hasn’t already seen. And as long as Mitrione doesn’t get caught (no sure thing), he should walk away with a victory here.
Prediction: Mitrione by TKO in the second round
Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Chiesa
Michael Chiesa could end up bullying Joe Lauzon with his wrestling.
Now isn’t this a clever bit of matchmaking from Joe Silva? Lauzon and Chiesa are not only two of the best grapplers in the UFC’s lightweight division, they are active on the ground and finishers. For all you jiu-jitsu nerds out there, grab some popcorn for this one. You’re going to enjoy it quite a bit. Lauzon might be more of a pure BJJ guy, but Chiesa has eight submissions in 11 career wins. He gets it done on the canvas.
The odds are close here with Chiesa a slight favorite. Here’s why: the Washington state native is a better wrestler. There’s a stronger chance of him finding his way to dominant position and working from there. Not that Lauzon isn’t extremely capable from his back, but you know how the judges in MMA work. Chiesa is also a little more physical. He’s more of a bully than Lauzon, and that will work to his advantage. It’ll be close, but Chiesa is the pick to raise his stock in the lightweight rankings.
Prediction: Chiesa by split decision
Charles Oliveira vs. Nik Lentz
Nik Lentz is one of the most underrated fighters in the featherweight division.
Look at this bout as your grappling appetizer to the Joe Lauzon-Michael Chiesa jiu-jitsu main course. Oliveira is so slick and rangy on the ground. It seems like he can pull a submission from any position. Lentz is more of a bully than a finesse fighter, but he is a very talented wrestler and can grapple with the best at featherweight. Both men are currently ranked in the 145-pound contender top 15 and a win here would be huge for either.
Lentz is the slight underdog, but there’s a lot to like about him. He’s the better wrestler and he’s physically stronger. "The Carny" has won fights in the UFC based on those things alone. But he’s also quite technical. He might not have the creative submission skills or the long limbs that Oliveira possesses, but Lentz is a bull. Oliveira is going to have a hard time dealing with his constant pressure. He’ll probably spend most of the fight on his back. It might not be pretty, but Lentz is the pick.
Prediction: Lentz by unanimous decision
Justin Scoggins vs. John Moraga
John Moraga has fought the best the flyweight division has to offer.
There are no easy fights out there for Moraga, eh? His last four opponents have been top flyweight contender John Dodson, Dustin Ortiz, champion Demetrious Johnson and No. 1 contender Chris Cariaso. Somehow he has walked away with a very respectable 2-2 record against the best the 125-pound division has to offer. Scoggins is no step down in competition. He lost a grappling war with Ortiz in July, but the 22-year-old is one of the top prospects in MMA.
Scoggins has an advantage in athleticism and explosiveness. Some people thought he beat Ortiz at the TUF 19 Finale the same way people thought Ortiz beat Moraga back in January. There’s a very strong chance this one will go to decision, which is why I like Moraga here. He’s more experienced, crafty and understands what it takes to win a UFC fight. Scoggins hasn’t been in the Octagon with the likes of "Mighty Mouse" and Dodson yet. Moraga has and he’ll use the things he learned to walk away with a win.
Prediction: Moraga by unanimous decision
Strong Island returns
The pupils of Matt Serra and Ray Longo have had an incredible amount of success in the UFC lately, led by middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Aljamain Sterling is also one of the top prospects in the bantamweight division. Iaquinta is another young, talented Long Islander and he meets Rodrigo Damm on Saturday night. Damm is a very skilled Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, but Iaquinta is more athletic and a better wrestler. The Serra-Longo product should roll after being stunned by Mitch Clarke in his last fight.
Better late than never
Chris Beal made his UFC debut by knocking Patrick Williams out in highlight-reel fashion with a flying knee in April. That still stands as one of the best KOs of the year thus far. He was initially supposed to fight Dustin Kimura in a battle of bantamweight prospects, but Kimura is hurt and Boston’s Tateki Matsuda will step in. Matsuda lost a tryout fight on Ultimate Fighter 14, but is 4-2 since. He will have a tough time with someone as talented and athletic as Beal, though.