UFC 156 predictions, preview and analysis

That's his serious face. - Photo by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

Not only will UFC 156 decide who gets to rule the featherweight roost, we may also determine number one contenders at welterweight, heavyweight and possibly flyweight, depending on the winners. Who might those fine folks be? I'm glad you asked...

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is kicking off its very first pay-per-view (PPV) of the year with UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar," which emanates LIVE from the Mandalay Bay Events Center tomorrow night (Feb. 2, 2013) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

And it's a doozy.

We could potentially crown a new featherweight champion this weekend -- or send one former lightweight titleholder to his third straight loss (yikes). In addition, we're about to find out if a certain 265-pounder can hold up his end of the bargain in "Sin City" and secure a crack at the heavyweight crown.

The rest of the main card has three recent -- albeit unsuccessful -- division number one contenders (four if you count a former middleweight) looking to get back into the fold.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 156 main card PPV action below, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.

Now, enough with the formalities ... let's get cracking.

145 lbs.: Jose "Junior" Aldo (21-1) vs. Frankie "The Answer" Edgar (15-3-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Let me just start by saying that if Jose Aldo pulls that crap he did against Mark Hominick at UFC 129 in April 2011, he's not leaving Las Vegas with his featherweight title. The "Junior" camp will tell you he was sick and struggled with his weight cut and blah, blah, blah, but I think we all know that Aldo has a big frame for 145 pounds and he's not getting any younger.

An easy, or at least manageable cut, and he's still the king.

I'm not writing Frankie Edgar off because I think he has a very good shot at winning this fight. My concern is that while he was able to hang with the best the lightweight division has to offer, he was also lit up on his feet by Gray Maynard and only has two finishes in the last five years.

That could be a problem here.

Ordinarily, I'd say wrestling is "The Answer" to emerging victorious, but then I think back to what Aldo did to Chad Mendead and I shudder. Urijah Faber, also a great wrestler with blinding speed, now walks with a limp. Edgar was fast and furious at 155 pounds.

At featherweight, he's just one of the guys.

I also don't make it a habit to pick fighters who are making their debut in a lighter division. Yes, I've read all the press clippings about how Edgar had an easy weight cut and his frame is suited for 145 and yadda, yadda, yadda, but the proof is in the pudding.

I have to see it to believe it and when it comes to Aldo, I've already seen it. In spades.

Final prediction: Aldo def. Edgar via technical knockout

205 lbs.: "Suga'" Rashad Evans (17-2-1) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: Wow, Joe Silva really mailed it in on this one, because this is a disastrous pairing for the Brazilian. Am I supposed to believe a fighter who was mugged and slugged by Phil Davis and Ryan Bader is going to get past Rashad Evans?

And let's not forget about that gift-wrapped win over Jason Brilz who (OMG!) was also a powerful wrestler.

Hate all you want, but Evans is consistently hovering around the top three mark in his division. He came up short against Jon Jones in his bid to recapture the crown, but he was able to do a five round dance with "Bones," something Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida couldn't.

It was also just the second loss of his career.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira turns 37 in June and is almost four years older than his opponent. He looked great against Tito Ortiz, but remember the "People's Champion" finished his career on a 1-7-1 "run." You want to argue that Little Nog is the more technical boxer?

No argument here.

I'm not sure what good that does him when you factor in Rashad's speed. And if "Suga" is getting knocked around on the feet, you can expect him to dump Nogueira on his head and work it like a Brazilian membranophone -- without fear of getting tapped.

And why not? Nog has just one submission victory in the last seven years.

Maybe if this bout was taking place in PRIDE back in 2005 I'd be a little more optimistic, but it's not. Evans has youth, speed, power and wrestling. Nogueira has nothing but a last name that used to mean something back when the sport was still finding its identity.

Final prediction: Evans def. Nogueira via whatever he wants

265 lbs.: Alistair "Demolition Man" Overeem (36-11) vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (17-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: In lieu of a Christmas bonus, Alistair Overeem probably got a holiday card from Lorenzo Fertitta with a picture of Antonio Silva on the cover. Seriously, how badly do they want to book "Demolition Man" in a main event against Cain Velasquez?

It sure as hell beats a "Bigfoot" rematch.

The good news is, that isn't happening. Silva's getting flushed like a Brazilian floater. I've been hearing a lot of jibber-jabber about the Dutchman's conditioning after being off the stuff out of action for the past year and may I remind you that even if he gasses out, he'd still be operating at the same speed as the slow and lumbering "Pezao."

Speaking of cards, Silva should send a "Thank You" note to Fedor Emelianenko for giving him a spot in the top 10.

If we take a step back and really analyze what the former EliteXC heavyweight champion has done over the past few years, it isn't much. He was crushed by Velasquez and knocked stiff by Daniel Cormier. Beating up Mike Kyle, a natural light Hheavyweight, is about as impressive as winning a slap fight against Andrei Arlovski.

Travis Browne? C'mon people.

Overeem is a kickboxing world champion and hasn't lost a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight in over five years. Yeah, Silva is big, strong and a beast on the ground -- but so is Brock Lesnar -- and you saw how that turned out. In order to beat "The Reem," you have to be able to hang on the feet long enough to get the fight to the floor.

Silva's not that guy.

I don't get off on making fun of physical deformities, but let's just call a spade, a spade. His head is gigantic -- in an Easter Island sort of way -- and it makes a perfect target for an accurate striker with knockout power. It's the reason why "DC" was able to bury him where he stood and I don't expect Silva's fight against Overeem to unfold much differently.

This is a first-rounder.

Final prediction: Overeem def. Silva via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Jon Fitch (24-4-1) vs. Demian Maia (17-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: If Demian Maia manages to triangle choke Jon Fitch tomorrow night in Las Vegas, Georges St. Pierre might literally shit himself. Powerful wrestling with a smothering top game would be rendered combat ineffective in the welterweight division and the Brazilian has already shown he's a competent striker.

But that's easier said than done.

I'm sure by now we're all familiar with just how good Maia's grappling credentials are, winning a championship at Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) and beating guys like Ronaldo Souza and Braulio Estima. If you're looking for better jiu-jitsu at 170 pounds, don't bother, this is as good as it gets.

Irresistible force, meet immovable object.

Like his opponent, Fitch could do well as a middleweight because he's so damn large. In addition, no one has been able to figure out a way to stop his relentless ground attack. When the former collegiate wrestler out of Purdue gets beat, it's on the feet. Otherwise, it's his world.

So does the best wrestling cancel out the best jiu-jitsu? Inside the cage, I'm afraid it does.

The only time anyone was able to tap Fitch was in his pro debut over 10 years ago. Since then, you're best chance is to knock him out before he can mug you. I don't see that happening tomorrow night -- Maia doesn't have that kind of power -- and Fitch is just too strong and too experienced to silver-platter a submission.

As much as I'd love to see a new contender, I think it's going to be just another day at the office.

Final prediction: Fitch def. Maia via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez (16-3) vs. Ian "Uncle Creepy" McCall (11-3-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: This is a fight to see who gets a do-over against Demetrious Johnson, since the 125-pound division is still in its infancy and struggling to gain traction. I'm not sure I could name 10 flyweights without looking at this cheat sheet.

Without any real depth, expect to see some of the same names hovering around the top for awhile.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. I don't remember one fight that involved Joseph Benavidez or Ian McCall that wasn't able to hold my attention and every 125-pound fight going forward carries possible title implications -- especially with a finish.

I think that's the big story here.

If "Uncle Creepy" wants to do the dance one more time, he has to find a way to finish off "Joe B. Wan Kenobi." That's a pretty tall order as it is and now that I know that McCall is going through serious personal problems, including a potential divorce, it makes me like his chances even less.

And Benavidez has been able to hang with the best in multiple weight classes.

This would have been a close contest under normal circumstances, but I don't believe McCall's mind is right heading into this fight. On top of that, as good as he is in every area, Benavidez is just a little bit better -- and busier -- which is what really counts when the action moves at such a rapid pace.

Final prediction: Benavidez def. McCall 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 156 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Aldo vs. Edgar."

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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