-700 #15 Mirsad Bektic (10-0) vs. +525 Russell Doane (14-6)
Mirsad Bektic: Injuries have slowed the ascent of 25 year old ATT star Mirsad Bektic, but the Bosnian born prospect is finally healthy and ready to resume his campaign towards the featherweight title. Bektic was last in action May of last year, when he dismantled Brazilian Lucas Martins in Brazil.
Bektic is the future of the sport, he can out wrestle collegiate wrestlers, out strike muay thai champions and everything in between. If he can stay healthy it would not surprise me if he was fighting for a title this time next year.
Russell Doane: Scrappy Hawaiian Russell Doane is coming off of a very disappointing loss to Pedro Munhoz where he got caught in a guillotine choke in a fight he was dominating with superior wrestling. Doane took this fight on a week’s notice after Arnold Allen was forced to pull off the card for undisclosed reasons.
Doane has lost his last three bouts in the octagon, which makes this short notice fight on the other side of the world, against a super tough opponent a very risky offer to accept. If he is able to pull it off his stock skyrockets, but if he isn’t, it could be the end of his employment with the UFC. Not many fighters have survived a four fight losing streak in the octagon.
The Fight: This will be a much closer fight than Vegas thinks, Doane is as tough as they come and will be able to eat a ton of punishment and continue to push forward. Bektic game planned for a totally different fight against Arnold and will have to adjust on the fly. But at the end of the day Bektic will control the fight in every aspect and walk away with a one sided victory. Bektic Unanimous Decision
-180 #12 Stefan Struve (31-8) vs. +155 #14 Daniel Omielanczuk (19-5-1)
Stefan Struve: “Skyscraper” Struve is coming off of the fastest finish of his career a 0:16 knockout of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The win was Struve’s 11th in the octagon a number very few heavyweights ever reach and even fewer before their 30th birthday.
Struve is one of two men who have beaten the current heavyweight champ and he is the only guy ranked in the UFC’s top 15 in their 20’s. With almost a decade of UFC experience at such a young age, Struve is in position to be entering his combat prime in the next few years, as the current generation of heavyweights begin to exit their most competitive years.
Daniel Omielanczuk: Polish brute squad member Daniel Omielanczuk is riding a three fight win streak and appears to have righted his course after losing two of his first three fights in the octagon. His last victory over 70 fight veteran and submission specialist Oliksey Oliynik was the biggest of his career and earned him a spot in the UFC’s top 15 for the first time.
Omielanczuk will have had about a month long camp for this fight, he stepped in for Ruslan Magomedov, who was forced to pull out of the fight in early September due to a staph infection. A win against Struve would cap off a perfect 2016 for Omielanczuk and give him a strong case for a spot in the division’s top 10.
The Fight: Struve should get the better of the early exchanges prompting a take down from Omielaczuk, where Struve will get display his underrated jiu jitsu. It is nearly impossible to find a high level BJJ seven footer to emulate Struve in training. Once it goes to the mat Struve will secure a triangle/armbar and get the tap. Struve Triangle 1st
-155 #5 Ovince Saint Preux (19-8) vs.+135 #8 Jimi Manuwa (15-2)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Ovince Saint Preux: In his last outing OSP went five rounds with P4P champ Jon Jones and came away generally unscathed. Even though he lost every round of their interim title fight, you have to imagine being able to hang with Jones on short notice gave OSP an incredible confidence boost.
7-3 overall in his UFC fights, Saint Preux has proven that he belongs at the top of the division by decisively beating everyone he has fought outside of the top 5. If he can tamp down the surging Manuwa, a five round headliner against Alexander Gustfsson would create a legitimate number one contender for the winner of Cormier vs. Rumble 2.
Jimi Manuwa: It’s been over a year since “Posterboy” Jimi Manuwa suffered a knockout loss to Rumble Johnson. Manuwa’s two UFC losses to Rumble and Gustfsson were unfamiliar territory for the Brit banger who completely cleared out the European circuit in three years.
Manuwa did not start training mma until he was 28, there are some advantages to starting so late in the sport. Physically his body has not gone through the punishment that most 36 year old fighters have, especially considering he was barely touched the first three years of fighting. This will be a true test of Manuwa’s resilience and give us a clear picture at this enigmas potential.
The Fight: OSP has had trouble almost exclusively with elite grapplers. Manuwa, like most British fighters isn’t a fantastic wrestler. In the standup OSP’s unorthodox angles and left body kicks should be enough to keep Manuwa off balance and prevent him from landing big. Saint Preux Unanimous Decision
+265 #5 Vitor Belfort (25-12) vs. -315 #9 Gegard Mousasi (39-6-2)
Vitor Belfort: Since 2014 much of the talk surrounding the “Phenom” has been how is Vitor going to perform without TRT (testosterone replacement therapy)? In his most recent loss to Jacare Souza Vitor did not appear to be the same explosive fighter that planted a spinning heel kick in Luke Rockhold’s grill, however Vitor is not the first fighter to look abysmal against Jacare.
It will be almost 20 years to the date that Vitor made his professional debut, in that two decades he has done and seen it all in the mma world and now many question whether the 39 year old Belfort has anything left in the tank. Vitor needs this one to prove he is still relevant at the top of the division or he might be reduced to a gate keeper role for young talent to make their name on.
Gegard Mousasi: Former Strikeforce and Dream champion Mousasi was perfect at UFC 200, he picked apart Thiago Santos with precision and power, stopping Marreto in the first round of their July bout. The win was his second in a row and was further evidence that his spinning heel kick knockout loss to Uriah Hall was not the beginning of the end.
Gegard is one of the few men to hold titles in separate major organizations, but for whatever reason has not been able to string together more than two wins at a time in the UFC. A win over Vitor would put Gegard in position to fight one of the four men involved in the mini middleweight tourney for number one contender status.
The Fight: Gegard is the smarter fighter, he has more ways to win this fight and overall he is the better fighter at this point in their careers. But it feels like a magical Vitor moment is in the making. Mousasi has confidence in his hands, so much so that he briefly contemplated trying out for the Olympics as a boxer in 2012. Knocking out Vitor on the feet would be a huge feather in his cap, which is why he will trade with Vitor early and regret it immediately. Vitor will score the first round upset knockout and we will here the old familiar cry’s of “Vitor is back!” again. Belfort Knockout 1st
-240 C Michael Bisping (30-7) vs. +205 #13 Dan Henderson (32-14)
Middleweight Title Fight (185)
Michael Bisping: Middleweight champion Michael Bisping (still can’t believe I just wrote those words together) pulled off the biggest upset in UFC history when he knocked out Luke Rockhold on 17 days notice. Bisping had been thoroughly defeated by Rockhold just 18 months earlier, which made the fight even more awe inspiring.
Now, as if straight out of a movie, Bisping will get the chance to avenge a loss that almost defined his career. If he can replace the iconic image of Dan Henderson flying through the air and hulk-smashing his unconscious body, with an image of him knocking out Dan Henderson, I would have to imagine that everything else from that point on would be icing on the cake for the “The Count”.
Dan Henderson: If you would have told me that Dan Henderson would be fighting for the Middleweight belt in 2016, I would have politely asked you to leave. Unranked at the start of the year and 4-6 in his last ten fights it appeared as though Father-time had finally caught Hendo. But one insanely improbable night and here we are.
This will be it for Henderson to win or lose, if he can pull it off in Manchester he will be the first man to win a PRIDE, Strikeforce and UFC belt, firmly cementing his legacy as the greatest of all time.
The Fight: Even though this fight completely destroys the legitimacy of the UFC’s “official” rankings, it is a fight that had to be made. Bisping has become a more complete fighter since there first meeting and Dan Henderson has remained the same. Bisping’s already elite striking has been taken to a whole new level under the guidance of striking coach extraordinaire Jason Parillo. The smart money is on Michael Bisping. However, I’m throwing all of my stupid money on Henderson. All it will take is one H-bomb and Dan “Hollywood” Henderson will walk off into the sunset in a made for Hollywood ending. Finally making that damn nickname make sense! Henderson Knockout 3rd