The card that was formerly known as UFC 196 and is currently called UFC Fight Night 82 features a new main event in Johny Hendricks versus Stephen Thompson. This is after Cain Velasquez pulled out of the main event due to an injury a few hours before Fabricio Werdum pulled out due to multiple injuries. It was like Werdum was not going to be out injured by Velasquez in this one.
We cannot worry about the fight that is not happening and instead need to focus on the ones that will take place. There are several fun fights on this card and a couple of others that could produce exciting finishes.
Johny Hendricks vs Stephen Thompson
Fight Wolff: The new main event is a fight that could be very exciting or possibly a five round snooze fest. There was a time in his career when Johny Hendricks was a scary fighter with six TKO/KO wins out of his first eleven UFC wins.
Then came the Carlos Condit fight followed by his 70 percent punches against Georges St-Pierre and two more five decision fights with Robbie Lawler followed by another decision win over Matt Brown. He did all of this with the MMA version of a dad-bod and seemed proud of his horrible diet and weight cutting habits.
After missing weight and not being able to fight at UFC 192 against Tyron Woodley, the UFC was set to make him a middleweight. Hendricks convinced the UFC to give him another shot at welterweight. Based on how he has looked this week he seems like a transformed fighter. He actually has abs and is set to easily make weight.
His opponent Stephen Thompson is an exciting striker who has continued to evolve during his MMA career. His lone loss in MMA was against Matt Brown who used his grappling to grind out a three-round decision over the striking specialist.
Since then Thompson has vastly improved his grappling. In fact, he used it in the fight against Jake Ellenberger. Early in the fight, Ellenberger rocked Thompson with left hook on the inside. Thompson immediately went into grapple mode to buy some time to recover. Later in landed in the spinning kick to Ellenberger’s dome.
I do not think that Thompson grappling is good enough to that against Hendricks. Ellenberger has power but I think Hendricks has more. I feel that the only way Thompson can win the fight is to catch Hendricks with some kind of spinning shit.
Look for Hendricks to hurt Thompson on the inside and grind him down with his grappling.
FW: Hendricks via TKO in the fourth round
Matt LeBlanc: Bit of a disclosure here before I get too far into my prediction but I’m a pretty big Thompson fan while also not being very fond of Hendricks so I’m really hoping ‘Wonderboy’ will pull out the win here. It’s also a tough fight to pick because of how different both fighters’ styles are. Thompson is a deceptively good defensive wrestler who prefers to spend most of the fight striking at range but Hendricks is also the best wrestler he’s ever faced by a decent margin. Thompson will have a height and reach advantage and will be looking at keeping ‘Bigg Rigg’ just out of range for as long as the fight lasts which will likely have to be the entire fight because of Hendricks’ durability.
I would really love to see Thompson be able to keep his distance and wear Hendricks down before ultimately finding a finish but it’s really hard to discount Hendricks’ ability to win rounds with takedowns. Regardless of how good Thompson’s defensive wrestling is I don’t think he’ll be able to prevent it for the entire five-round fight so it will really come down to how he reacts once taken down. I think he’ll be able to get up without taking too much damage and once on the feet win most of the striking exchanges by keeping the former champion at range.
ML: It’s a tough one, but I’m going with Thompson via Decision
Roy Nelson vs Jared Rosholt
Wolff: Two big heavyweights in a fight that we all hope ends quickly. No one really wants to see a boring three round fight between Roy Nelson and Jared Rosholt. While Rosholt has the better UFC record he has not faced anything close to the same level of competition as Nelson.
I do not see Rosholt winning this fight. He cannot stand with Nelson and he cannot out grapple him. Look for Nelson to end this early with a TKO/KO. I a calling/rooting for this first round.
FW: Nelson via first round KO.
LeBlanc: Two top 15 heavyweights meet here in a bout that will likely see one of them make the jump into the top 10. The odds have this fight pegged as a close contest with Nelson coming in as a small favorite but I really don’t see it being that competitive and think that Nelson should be favored by a significantly larger margin. Their recent records would make it seem like Nelson shouldn’t be favored, having lost five of his last six with Rosholt coming in winning six of seven UFC bouts, but the strength of opposition is impossible to ignore. ‘Big Country’ impressed me more with his improvements in his last bout with Barnett than Rosholt has in his entire UFC career. Nelson showed improved movement and cardio going the full five rounds with ‘The Warmaster’ and if he comes into this bout looking anything close to the same form he shouldn’t have too hard of a time getting by Rosholt.
In addition, to his stamina improvements, Nelson showed that he has made wrestling improvements against Barnett which will be key here facing Rosholt who will likely try to almost exclusively wrestle his way to a decision win. I think the former TUF winner will keep the fight standing and do enough damage throughout the fight to eventually find a stoppage.
ML: ‘Big Country’ via 2nd Rd TKO
Ovince St. Preux vs. Rafael Cavalcante
Wolff: This is another one that is an easy call for me. Both fighters have shown some signs of the time they have spent inside of a cage fighting. However, Ovince St. Preux has looked better than Rafael Cavalcante.
Recently Cavalcante has been easy to hit and is starting to look chinny. St. Preux has enough power and quickness to stop Cavalcante at some point in this fight.
FW: St. Preux via TKO in the second round.
LeBlanc: With both fighters coming in primarily as strikers with an affinity for power punching, we’re likely in for a fun stand-up battle for however long this fight takes place. Both fighters have struggled when facing high level wrestlers but that won’t be the case in this bout and both men will likely come in with a game plan that is built around doing damage on the feet.
OSP is the more technical and durable striker in this matchup and I think that will be all he needs to get himself the win. ‘Feijao’ is always dangerous but will likely slow once the fight moves out of the first round. While St. Preux isn’t necessarily known for spectacular cardio, it should still be better than Calvacante’s, and he will likely be able to take over when his opponent starts to slow.
ML: OSP via 2nd Rd. TKO
Joseph Benavidez vs. Zach Makovsky
Wolff: This is another one of those fights where one fighter is a little bit better than the other one. Zach Makovsky is a very good fighter but Joseph Benavidez is better. Another easy fight to call as Benavidez has only lost to two guys, Demetrious Johnson, and Dominick Cruz. Makovsky is not that good but probably good enough to survive for three rounds.
FW: Benavidez via a UD.
LeBlanc: I really wish Benavidez made the switch to training in Colorado earlier so we could see more of an effect going in to this fight but this is still a fight Benavidez should win without too much trouble. Benavidez’ latest wins have been more competitive than they should have been for someone who wants to position themselves as a threat to the title but Makovsky is still a small step below the elite of the division.
Makovsky is a very well-rounded fighter who is a tough out for anyone in the division but I think Benavidez will prove to be too much for ‘Fun Size’ wherever the fight takes place. I think Benazidez’ biggest advantage comes on the feet, and I think he’ll be able to keep the fight there to win a clear cut decision.
ML: Benavidez via Decision
Misha Cirkunov vs. Alex Nicholson
Wolff: This card could be called one of the easiest to call, at least beforehand. Misha Cirkunov is the biggest favorite on the card and should win this one. However, Alex Nicholson has the power to pull off the upset if he can land one clean.
Look for Cirkunov to be the quicker fighter with the better movement. I like him to land the big blow before Nicholson and getting the TKO finish.
FW: Cirkunov via TKO in the first round.
LeBlanc: I’m curious as to why this fight is up on the main card rather than Burkman/Noons and especially Borg/Scoggins but it should be a fun fight nonetheless. Cirkunov debuted in the UFC back in August with an impressive first round stoppage of Daniel Jolly. While Nicholson is a small step up here for Cirkunov, it’s going to be a huge step up for the UFC newcomer to face Cirkunov compared to the regional MMA talent he’s faced so far in his career.
Cirkunov has finished 8 of his 10 wins inside of the first round and I think he should continue to roll here. Nicholson is extremely willing to brawl and I think that will end up being his downfall here in his debut, with Cirkunov being able to close the distance and use his creative collection of trips to ground the UFC newcomer and finish the fight shortly after.
ML: Cirkunov via 1st Rd. TKO
Mike Pyle vs. Sean Spencer
Wolff: The UFC veteran Sean Spencer takes on the super UFC veteran in Mike Pyle. Spencer has six fights in the UFC while Pyle checks in with 15 of them. He has 38 MMA fights overall and is 40-years old. That makes him 12 years older than his opponent with 22 more fights.
Right now I think that Spencer has the quickness edge and the right amount of experience to defeat Pyle. Throughout his career, Pyle was known for his durability but that has started to show some signs of his chin going. He was stopped twice in the first round in last four fights. I think this becomes the third one as Spencer gets a TKO win in the first.
FW: Spencer via TKO in the first round.
LeBlanc: The six-fight main card opens with a bout whose betting odds have me puzzled. Pyle is a small underdog to Spencer and while I don’t see Pyle completely dominating ‘Black Magic’, I do have a hard time seeing how he loses this fight. Pyle’s last two losses have come as a result of Colby Covington’s wrestling abilities and Jordan Mein’s power striking.
I don’t think Pyle is going to completely steamroll Spencer and the fight will likely have competitive moments, but this is a fight that Pyle shouldn’t have too hard of a time winning. He should be able to outpoint Spencer on the feet and holds a sizeable grappling advantage should the fight hit the ground.
ML: Pyle via Decision
Joshua Burkman vs. KJ Noons
Wolff: Yes, another easy fight to call as Joshua “Don’t Call Me Josh” Burkman is better than K.J. Noons. Look for a hopefully mildly entertaining three round fight between two guys who are tough and very hittable.
FW: Burkman via UD.
ML: Burkman via Decision
Derrick Lewis vs. Damian Grabowski
FW: Lewis via TKO in the first round.
ML: Lewis via 3rd Rd. TKO
Ray Borg vs. Justin Scoggins
Wolff: This could easily be the fight of the night. I also think we could see a rematch between these two in three to four years for the flyweight title. These two fighters are both exciting and talented everywhere. They could stay standing and dazzle us with some creative, technical striking and it would be a fun fight. But, what make them both so exciting is their ability to blend everything together at such young ages.
Justin Scoggins is only 23-years old while Ray Borg is actually one year younger at 22-years old. Borg has also shown a better ability to chain everything together from his striking to his grappling. He is constantly attacking his opponents looking for a finish. Scoggins is similar and if Borg makes a mistake Scoggins will take advantage of it.
I like Borg to hurt Scoggins in the stand up and lock up a submission when it goes to the ground.
FW: Borg via submission in the second round.
ML: Borg via Decision
Noad Lahat vs. Diego Rivas
FW: Lahat via UD.
ML: Lahat via Decision
Mickey Gall vs. Mike Jackson
FW: Gall via Submission in the first round.
ML: Gall via 2nd Rd. Submission
Artem Lobov vs. Alex White
FW: Lobov via TKO in the second round.
ML: Lobov via Decision
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