A panel of Sportsnet.ca MMA contributors break down and predict the five main fights from a stacked UFC 156 card.
Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar
E. Spencer Kyte: Aldo by TKO, Round 2. Frankie Edgar tends to get hit a lot early in his fights, and Aldo is one of the most explosive finishers in the sport. Where others allowed Edgar to get back into the fight, Aldo puts him away.
Adam Martin: Edgar by decision. I’ve counted Edgar out of too many fights before to make the same mistake again. Although Aldo is one of the best fighters on the planet, Edgar is a beast himself and will do enough on the feet with his boxing and mix in the takedowns to pick up enough points to win.
Dwight Wakabayashi: Edgar by unanimous decision. The layoff will hurt Aldo, and I just don’t think he has what it takes to beat Edgar.
Brad Taschuk: Aldo by TKO, Round 2. The best striker in MMA not named Anderson Silva finally becomes the first man to stop Frankie Edgar.
Shawn W. Smith: Aldo by unanimous decision. We saw Edgar struggle with the leg kicks of Benson Henderson, and Aldo should be strong enough to stop takedown attempts.
James Brydon: Aldo by unanimous decision. Aldo hasn’t faced the quality of opponent that Edgar has, but Edgar hasn’t faced anyone like Aldo. I expect this to be pretty one-sided.
Mike Johnston: Aldo by TKO, Round 2. Edgar will not have a speed advantage like he did at lightweight and Aldo’s killer instinct is perhaps the best in the UFC.
Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
E. Spencer Kyte: Evans by decision. The former champion is athletically superior to Nogueira and should be able to employ his standard wrestle-boxing approach to earn a victory in this one.
Adam Martin: Evans by decision. Evans is a beast and Nogueira doesn’t fare well against wrestlers. If Evans fights smart, he’ll take Nogueira to the ground and beat him up there. I think he will.
Dwight Wakabayashi: Evans by unanimous decision. He will be better that Lil Nog everywhere, but he won’t get the finish.
Brad Taschuk: Evans by decision. Nogueira struggled against Phil Davis and Ryan Bader. Evans is better than both, and will dominate for 15 minutes.
Shawn W. Smith: Evans by unanimous decision. Nogueira has struggled against lower-level wrestlers in the UFC. There’s no reason that string won’t continue against the best fighter he’s faced to date.
James Brydon: Evans by TKO, Round 3. I believe Lil Nog is nearing the end of his career, while Evans still had his sights on big things, and has the better all-around skill to achieve it.
Mike Johnston: Evans by KO, Round 1. Stylistically, this matchup favours Evans in a major way. Rashad told me fans will see a new, better version of him in there against Lil Nog and I believe him. Training with strikers like Tyrone Spong and Anthony Johnson with the Blackzilians will pay dividends.
Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva
E. Spencer Kyte: Overeem by TKO, Round 1. The layoff worries me a little, but ultimately, I think Overeem blasts “Bigfoot” early and puts him away midway through the first.
Adam Martin: Overeem by KO. Overeem is a hard hitter, and Silva’s chin is a huge question mark. Overeem is going to hit Silva very, very hard and he’s going to knock him out very, very quickly.
Dwight Wakabayashi: Overeem by TKO, Round 1. I don’t think Silva will be able to take Overeem down and he will wilt under a body shot before the finish.
Brad Taschuk: Overeem by TKO, Round 1. Bigfoot’s chin is too big and too stationary for Overeem to not land something and put him away early.
Shawn W. Smith: Overeem, by KO, Round 1. “The Demolition Man” will be looking to live up to his nickname Saturday night, and I think he will. Silva can’t take the power of Overeem and doesn’t have skills to compete at this level.
James Brydon: Overeem by TKO, Round 2. Bigfoot will hang in there for a bit, but Overeem will be too quick and powerful, even clean.
Mike Johnston: Silva by TKO, Round 2. People are dismissing Bigfoot far too easily in this bout. Despite all the muscles, Overeem will have difficulty dealing with Silva’s power. The Brazilian can get this fight to the ground and inflict some terrifying ground-and-pound.
Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia
E. Spencer Kyte: Fitch by decision. Maia has looked very good, but he’s yet to face an elite competitor like Fitch. Wrestling, top control, and smarts are the keys as Fitch grinds out a win with takedowns and short, safe bursts of action while keeping Maia pinned to the ground.
Adam Martin: Maia by submission. I know people think that Jon Fitch is unsubmittable, but if anyone is going to tap him out it’s Maia. Although Fitch has that grinding style that’s hard to beat, the fact is he prefers to take his fights to the ground and that’s Maia’s wheelhouse. I think Maia gets Fitch in a bad position and finishes him off with a rear-naked choke.
Dwight Wakabayashi: Fitch by split decision. I think Fitch will be on top of Maia a lot with Maia unable to get the sub. Close fight to call.
Brad Taschuk: Fitch by decision. Finally we’ll see Maia tested at 170. Unfortunately for him I see the grinding style of Fitch wearing him down as we’ve seen countless times.
Shawn W. Smith: Fitch by unanimous decision. Maia is always dangerous thanks to his submission game, but I think Fitch is good enough to avoid any dangerous positions and grind out a decision.
James Brydon: Fitch by unanimous decision. This is pretty close to a toss-up, but the only guy who has been able to beat him over the course of a full fight is GSP, and I can’t see Maia pulling a Hendricks.
Mike Johnston: Maia by decision. This fight should come down to cage control, which both men are terrific at. Since I feel Maia is the better grappler I see him winning this technical matchup.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall
E. Spencer Kyte: Benavidez by decision. Benavidez rebounds from defeat exceptionally well and is the superior all-around talent. Additionally, McCall has been dealing with some things outside of the cage, and I can’t see that helping him heading into a major match-up like this.
Adam Martin: Benavidez by decision. Benavidez is the best flyweight in the world not named Demetrious Johnson. Although McCall is a talented fighter, he’s far too inconsistent, while Benavidez is always competitive in fights. He’ll do enough to win a judges’ decision here and earn another title shot.
Dwight Wakabayashi: Benavidez by unanimous decision. I think Joe is more motivated and focused than McCall and that will be the difference.
Brad Taschuk: McCall by decision. If McCall is in shape he can take a decision from Benavidez with his superior wrestling and top control.
Shawn W. Smith: Benavidez, KO, Round 2. Benavidez will use his wrestling background to keep things standing where he’ll land the more powerful shots.
James Brydon: McCall by unanimous decision. I’m calling an upset here. Just a gut feeling that McCall will rise to the occasion better than Benavidez here.
Mike Johnston: Benavidez by submission, Round 2. What an amazing fight this should be! With McCall’s focus potentially being on things outside of the Octagon and Benavidez supremely motivated to get another crack at the title, the WEC veteran takes this one with a guillotine. Benavidez is the best fighter in the UFC that’s not currently a champion.