UFC Fight Night 22 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC Fight Night 22: "Marquardt vs. Palhares" is set to go down tonight (Sept. 15) from the Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, Texas, live via Spike TV.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air on the cable television network at 8 p.m. ET.

One of the big stories coming into this event is of course the headlining fight between Nate Marquardt and Rousimar Palhares. Does a "Great" win over the bulky Brazilian put the former middleweight contender back in the title hunt?

Or will this bout with "Toquinho" cost him an arm and a leg? (Literally)

There are also a lot of unanswered questions regarding the future of Ross Pearson. Is the Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 winner still being overlooked? And if he proves he's "The Real Deal" against Cole Miller, where does that rank him in the 155-pound division?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Thursday morning.

I’ve also included the current betting lines for each fight so that you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities … let’s get cracking:

185 lbs.: Nate "The Great" Marquardt (29-9-2) vs. Rousimar "Toquinho"Palhares (11-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: It's never a good sign when your best chance of winning is carefully riding out a decision -- but after seeing the kind of pain Rousimar Palhares inflicts on his victims, there's no shame in swallowing your pride and hitching your wagon to the Starnes express. Is Nate Marquardt a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Yes, but let's not pretend he's on the same level as "Toquinho."

That's not a knock on Nate's jits as much as it is a compliment to Rousy's. I know there's been a lot of pre-fight posturing about "being comfortable" on the ground but if Marquardt doesn't make a concerted effort to keep this thing standing then he's crazier than a shit-house rat.

To be perfectly honest with you I don't even get the feeling he's all that concerned with his fight in Austin by the way he keeps talking about getting his revenge on Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva. Lately he seems obsessed with proving that he still belongs with those names at the top of the division. He starts every sentence with "I'm not overlooking Palhares but..." which is analogous to a white guy saying "I'm not racist but..."

These kind of forward-looking statements are all the rage in finance, but they have no place in the fight game. Remember all that jazz Frank Mir talked about Brock Lesnar as he was heading into his Shane Carwin fight at UFC 111? "The Engineer" proved, much like Palhares will, that the future is now.

On paper Nate looks "Great," but here is a little stat to chew on: In his entire UFC career, he owns just one win over a currently employed UFC middleweight (Demian Maia). Everyone else has either been cut from the promotion for not being good enough or in Martin Kampmann's case, dropped down to a more natural weight class.

I'm picking Palhares in this fight. While he hasn't exactly fought a who's-who of MMA stars, he proved in his fight with Dan Henderson that he can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. And his powerful subs are just downright frightening. That means Nate needs to land early and often and stay off the ground. Can he replicate Hendo's performance and cruise to a decision? Sure, but I don't know if he's had the time to think about it in between all those fantasies of rematching Silva and Sonnen.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 15):

Marquardt: -240 ((Bet Now))

Paul Harris: +190 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Palhares via submission

155 lbs.: Efrain "Hecho en Mexico" Escudero vs. Charles "do Bronx" Oliveira

Nostradumbass predicts: Poor Efrain. What a roller coaster of emotions. Your fighting John Gunderson on the undercard (Boo!) until Joe Silva calls and says you're being promoted to the co-main event against Matt Wiman (Yay!) until whoops, "Handsome" got a tummy ache and was forced to withdraw (Boo!) so we've given you Charles Oliveira instead (Double-Boo!).

The TUF 8 champ promised to "demolish" anyone in his way and for awhile there he looked to be right on course. Unfortunately Evan Dunham proved that "Hecho en Mexico" isn't the only bright-eyed and bushy-tailed prospect climbing the lightweight ladder. I thought he would rebound against Dan Lauzon and while he got the win, he looked pretty flat in the process.

Was it a tough year for the gifted wrestler? Or an indication that maybe "good" just isn't "good enough" in this crowded division? Well, if it's the latter, he's in a world of hurt against Oliveira. Escudero's biggest strength is of course his wrestling. No secret there. But is the ground a place you really want to be with a guy as talented as "do Bronx?"

Oliveira also has six (T)KO stoppages on his perfect 13-0 record and that tells me Escudero has no place to go. Sure, he can endear himself to the crowd by trying to wrestle the Brazilian into a decision but I just don't see him escaping one of the most highly-touted ground games in the 155-pound division. This guy has 12 of 13 finishes for a reason and it's likely to play out exactly like the main event (sans stretcher).

Oliveira all day.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 15):

Escudero: -200 ((Bet Now))

Oliveira: +160 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Oliveira via submission

155 lbs.: Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson (11-3) vs. Cole "Magrinho" Miller (16-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: The Ultimate Fighter Season Nine winner, Ross Pearson, returns to the Octagon for what is probably his biggest test on the ground thus far in his short (but brilliant) UFC career.

Cole Miller got his start on the Spike TV reality show as well and currently stands at 5-2 since making his promotion debut in June 2007, holding victories over Leonard Garcia, Jorge Gurgel and Junie Browning. You''ll notice none of those three fighters are still with the promotion and like my knock on Marquardt earlier in the column, it's difficult to get excited about wins over Zuffa castaways.

The good news is "Magrinho" beats who he's supposed to beat. But he has also yet to prove he can win the big fight. Jeremy Stephens stopped him cold in 2008 and Efrain Escudero just plowed right over him in 2009. That's why I can't pick him in this fight -- no matter how untested the Brit is in submission defense.

To his credit, Pearson has really stepped up his ground game while preparing for this bout, rolling with Frankie Edgar and some of the grappling wizards at Ricardo Almeida's jiu-jitsu academy. Will it be enough? Well, he's so powerful at his size I believe he'll be able to dictate where this fight goes and it would not surprise me to see him picking Miller apart on the feet for most of the first round.

Cole is wily enough to stay alive through the opening frame but I don't expect much resistance in Act II, and Pearson will once again prove he's "The Real Deal." And if I'm right, it's time to get this guy a top five opponent to see what he can do.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 15):

Pearson: -260 ((Bet Now))

Miller: +200 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Pearson via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Jim Miller (17-2) vs. Gleison Tibau (21-6)

Nostradumbass predicts: Jim Miller is 6-1 in his UFC career and 17-2 overall. And he's not even on the radar when it comes to title contention. Is the New Jersey native getting overlooked? Or is the division that deep? Maybe a little bit of both. His only UFC loss is to the still-unbeaten Gray Maynard and I think a big win here has to get him into the discussion.

Of course it won't be easy. Tibau is a monster at lightweight and has been around the block a few times. In this case, I have to take Miller because this is MMA and size does matter -- in reverse. The Brazilian starts off hotter than a stolen tamale but by round two looks emphysemic. Miller on the other hand can do the Shake-Weight dance for three, five, maybe even seven rounds.

The key here is for Miller to emulate the recent performances of fellow Ring of Combat (ROC) veteran Frankie Edgar and use speed and footwork to frustrate and tire his foe. Tibau will be looking for the homerun in round one but if the Sparta native can hang tough by darting in and out with selective punches, he can spend the next two rounds doing pretty much whatever he wants.

Even if Tibau gets it to the ground, Miller was a NCAA Division 1 wrestler, so I don't expect him to stay there very long -- if he even gets there at all. Tibau needs to land but I don't know if he's got the speed or the cardio to do it. Maybe it won't be the barn-burner some fans are hoping for, but it should be a fairly easy win for Miller if he can commit to the gameplan.

Betting lines (as of Sept. 15):

Miller: -115 ((Bet Now))

Tibau: +140 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Miller via unanimous decision

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC Fight Night 22: "Marquardt vs. Palhares."

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tonight’s event.

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