UFC 144 predictions, preview and analysis

Nostradumbass

After a rare weekend off, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is comin' back atcha from long distance this Saturday night (Feb. 15, 2012) as it broadcasts its UFC 144: "Edgar vs. Henderson" pay-per-view (PPV) event live from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., Feb. 25), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. The latest quick updates of the preliminary card action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8 p.m. ET.

As the title would suggest, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar will be putting his 155-pound strap on the line against former WEC kingpin Ben Henderson.

Fights like this are why main events go five rounds.

Not to be overshadowed in the "Land of the Rising Sun," former PRIDE FC superstar Quinton Jackson will return to the place that made him famous to try and deliver an old-school ass-whooping to division upstart Ryan Bader.

And not to pander to the hometown crowd or anything, but Yushin Okami, Takanori Gomi and Norifumi Yamamoto will all be competing as well.

The main card will feature a whopping seven fights, so East Coast fans like myself have a long night ahead of them. It also means I have more predictions to mail in after the jump.

Boo this promotion!

155 lbs.: Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson

Nostradumbass predicts: This is going to be a close, close fight. Ben Henderson has looked like a completely different fighter since losing to Anthony Pettis back in Dec. 2010, tearing through the division with bad intentions and showing a new level of tenacity and determination.

The only knock on his "smooth" run is that he hasn't finished anyone since joining the ranks of the UFC, and that's the key here, because if you can't finish Frankie Edgar (and you aren't fighting in Colorado), you aren't going to beat him. He has too much heart and too much big-game experience to give one away this weekend, despite Henderson's significant size advantage.

He proved that against Gray Maynard, just like he proved he has the best hands in the division by out-striking B.J. Penn. Don't tell me "The Prodigy" is one of the all-time greats then yawn when I mention Edgar. He beat the Hawaiian.

Twice.

In the end, Frankie will be too busy and stay off the ground long enough to outlast Bendo. Every area that Henderson is good at, "The Answer" is just a little bit better.

Prediction: Edgar def. Henderson via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader

Nostradumbass predicts: Quinton Jackson is coming into this fight, growling and wearing his trademark chain. He'll probably bust out a few "Awhooooo" howls to gets the fans all giddy. Then he'll go into the cage and get his ass turned inside out.

Seriously folks, he's going down.

I know the "Rampage" nut nuzzlers are already firing off an angry Email as we speak, but you want me to pick a guy that says he doesn't care if he wins? He just wants to put on a good show. And don't tell me that's Rampage being Rampage, either, because he also said he's not a martial artist, he's a street fighter and doesn't have time to watch tape on Bader.

Remember, too, that spiel about not wanting to fight anymore, how he wants to be a boxer or an actor. Wonderful. Well thanks for wasting everyone's time. I'm sure there's a boxing match against Kimbo Slice on some Indian reservation waiting for you or a co-starring role in "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's next direct-to-Netflix feature.

Let's pretend it's all an act and he loves MMA.

See anything in the past five years that excites you? Knocking out Wanderlei Silva, who gets KOed at the touch of gloves at this point in his career, is not doing it for me. And it's never a good sign when you stand and bang with Matt Hamill for three rounds and still need the judges to bail you out.

"Darth" said he has no interest in striking. All he wants to do is hug and slug. Expect to see his superior collegiate wrestling pedigree get kicked into overdrive while Jackson flails away helplessly on the ground. Think round two of the Forrest Griffin fight and you'll know how this one plays out.

Prediction: Bader def. Jackson via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields

Nostradumbass predicts: I'm trying to decide who's looked worse since coming to the UFC, Jake Shields or Yoshihiro Akiyama. The former is 1-2 and you can argue he lost the Kampmann fight. The latter is 1-3 and you can argue he lost the Belcher fight. I guess I'll pick Shields, because "Sexyama" put on a hell of a scrap against Chris Leben.

I still think Jake wins.

He won two rounds against Georges St. Pierre and lost to a power-puncher two weeks after his dad died. I can give him a pass on that one. More importantly, he's got a proven track record. It wasn't that long ago that he was the winner of 15 straight, including wins over Yushin Okami, Robbie Lawler and Dan Henderson.

His striking is nothing to write to Nostradumbass about, but I believe he's put his demons behind him and is hungrier than ever. Akiyama, while making the right move and dropping to welterweight, hasn't show anything as a 170-pounder so it's impossible to predict what we'll get. Maybe he'll be a dynamo.

Or, maybe he'll suck even harder.

Either way, I've got to go with Shields. I think the first-time weight cut saps Akiyama of his (already suspect) cardio and Jake chokes him out in the second round.

Prediction: Shields def. Akiyama via submission

265 lbs.: Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo

Nostradumbass predicts: Like Pat Barry, Mark Hunt is kinda small for the heavyweight division. Also like Pat Barry, Mark Hunt has a long way to go before anyone considers him a credible threat on the ground (Kimura on Fedor notwithstanding). The Samoan super striker has well-documented success as a K-1 fighter, as well as well-documented failure as a mixed martial artist.

The good news is he's been able to turn it around in his last two fights, stiffening Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 and outlasting Ben Rothwell at UFC 135. I think he's the more refined striker of the two, but Kongo isn't going to spend much time on the feet.

If at all.

He's no jiu-jitsu ace either, but has shown in previous fights the ability to drag people to the floor and beat the snot out of them. Hell, he even made Paul Buentello tap by elbowing him in the leg. I think he uses his size and strength to muscle Hunt to the ground, where he wears him down and eventually secures a technical knockout victory.

If he can bully Matt Mitrione, he can bully Mark Hunt

Prediction: Kongo def. Hunt via technical knockout

185 lbs.: Tim Boetsch vs. Yushin Okami

Nostradumbass predicts: No one is paying any attention to Tim Boetsch in this division and that's unfortunate, because outside of a submission loss to light heavyweight wunderkind Phil Davis, "The Barbarian" is 6-1 over his last seven fights.

He's also never looked better now that he's competing at 185-pounds.

Like so many other fighters, he's had trouble getting fans' attention because he hasn't finished anyone under the UFC banner in almost four years. His wins over Kendall Grove at UFC 130 and Nick Ring at UFC 135 were impressive, but not enough to have me picking him over Yushin Okami.

"Thunder" is a middleweight punchline thanks to his undoing at the hands of Anderson Silva at UFC 134 last August. But let's not forget he was good enough to defeat Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt, so it's not like he's some chump they pulled from the stands.

Neither of these guys seem adept at finishing people in recent fights and this time should be no exception. Both are big, strong 185-pounders who like to muscle guys around and beat them up on the feet. I'm picking Okami because he's been doing it longer -- and against better competition

Prediction: Okami def. Boetsch via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski

Nostradumbass predicts: Hatsu Hioki, who entered the UFC ranks after winning 12 of 14 over solid competition overseas, was already being touted as the next man to challenge Jose Aldo for the 145-pound crown. Then he turned in that stinker against George Roop at UFC 137.

Was it the dreaded Octagon curse?

You know the one. Guy dominates in Japan, comes over to the cage, gets lit up like the Times Square Christmas tree. While Roop wasn't a "gimmie" fight, it was one he was expected to win. Since he didn't, I'm jumping off the Hioki haywagon because I'm just as much of a whiny, fair-weather fan as anyone else 'round these parts.

And oh, by the way, Palaszewski has won five of six, even beating your beloved "Showtime" Pettis.

In his last fight, he damn-near retired Tyson Griffin with a thunderous knockout, further proving that he's got the chops to hang with anyone at 145-pounds. You might not believe it now, but you will after he air-mails Hioki right out of the Saitama Super Arena, Rodan style.

Prediction: Palaszewski def. Hioki via knockout

155 lbs.: Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis

Nostradumbass predicts: If Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson isn't "Fight of the Night," then it's because Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis is. Let's face it, two 155-pound scrappers that will never be accused of competing in a "boring" fight going at it for a spot in the slowly shrinking pool of title contenders.

But can "J-Lau" handle the dynamic striking of "Showtime?"

Pettis isn't invincible, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him use of angles and unorthodox offense to fluster the Bostonian. Having said that, Lauzon isn't your typical fighter either, which is why this is such an intriguing fight.

I don't know if Lauzon, who proved he can never be counted out by upsetting Melvin Guillard, can replicate Clay Guida's cover-and-smother offense, nor do I think he wants to. But when picking a winner, I can't shake the memory of that loss to Sam Stout back at UFC 108.

Pettis also had trouble dealing with Jeremy Stephens in his last fight, but I think he's firing on all cylinders on Saturday night and takes home the decision in a very spirited contest.

Prediction: Pettis def. Lauzon via unanimous decision

That's a wrap, folks.

For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 144 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Edgar vs. Henderson."

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

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