UFC 156 fight card: Joseph Benavidez vs Ian McCall fight prediction, preview and breakdown

Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com

Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall will hook 'em up in a pivotal flyweight fight tonight (Feb. 2, 2013) on the UFC 156 main card, with the winner likely moving to the front of the No. 1 contender line. Will "Joe B-Wan Kenobi" punch his title ticket or will "Uncle Creepy" cash-in his instead? Jason Probst for MMAmania.com breaks it all down.

With the winner of the Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall fight tonight (Feb. 2, 2013) at UFC 156 the next in line for a Flyweight title shot, and viewer-friendly action always guaranteed with these two, the only likely disappointment in this one is that it's three and not five rounds.

Benavidez seemed a little flat and not his usually sharp self in losing a decision to Demetrious Johnson for the vacant title, but that may be as a much because of Johnson's incredible spring and quickness, which takes something out of virtually all his opponents. For this one, Benavidez will have a slight speed advantage, equal or better wrestling horsepower, and a live opponent with heavy hands looking to mix it up.

The more of a rough-and-tumble style bout that develops, the better McCall's chances get. He is an outstanding fighter, but Benavidez' ability to explode on sheer athleticism and staying several moves ahead mean a technical bout is definitely in his favor.

McCall has to pull this one down into the gutter and make it a gritty, chin-checking, down-and-dirty fight, or he's going to get outsped and outmaneuvered. It's as simple as that. Given McCall's grit and verve, it's no lock Benavidez can simply get by on finesse, as the fire of "Uncle Creepy" and his ability to force the pace will be a tough assignment for him at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, this evening.

Check out a complete breakdown of the monstrous UFC 156 main card collision between Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall below:

The Breakdown

McCall's massive rehydration after scaling 125 for his second bout with Johnson saw him enter the cage just north of 150 pounds, which is a phenomenal gain in poundage. It left him overhydrated and sluggish, which cost him against the speedy Johnson. When he spoke with us on "The Verbal Submission" podcast recently, he proudly cited his weight at 138-139 and said he'd learned his lesson accordingly. McCall's ability to close the show with a huge final round in the first bout with Johnson showed his willingness to keep pressing until he can implement his will.

Against Benavidez, he'll be facing an opponent looking to rebound from another disappointing loss (to Johnson's as well, ironically enough). Joseph's ability to flit in and out and pick smart angles to strike and transition into takedowns from are top-notch, and how efficiently he can do this without getting his rhythm disrupted by McCall's heavy strikes is a key factor. Benavidez is also one of the best mat-scramblers in the game and is virtually impossible to take and keep down; if McCall can't dominate with top-position grappling, he'll have to adjust to a standing bout and use his kicks and range to defuse Joe's in-and-out attack, which will require exceptional focus and discipline. McCall has shown he can fight with fire, but when getting finessed, as Johnson did in both their bouts, at times he has seemed a beat behind.

The Pick

This is a great bout to kick off a solid card, and both have their work cut out for them. Benavidez' speed advantage will be apparent early, and the success of his wrestling will ride on how well he establishes his stand up. If he can scoot in and out, changing angles, stances and keeping McCall in reactive mode, eventually he'll switch gears and nail a nice takedown or two, where he'll work to control from top position and build the clear impression that he's dominating the rounds -- something he is always cognizant of, especially late in a stanza when he needs a takedown to end with a definitive statement.

McCall's ability to bust off numbing counters and force chest-to-chest tie-ups will be critical. It's incredibly hard to force Benavidez to square up in a tie-up situation, as he constantly squirms, shifts and changes levels to create openings, counters and scrambles. McCall will at times be able to pin Benavidez against the fences and it's key that he extract a price when he has openings on the fast Benavidez.

After two fast-paced rounds where Benavidez has a slight edge in a back-and-forth, fast-paced battle, he'll get busted hard in the third, with McCall delivering a gutty final-round assault, desperate to seize the momentum. Benavidez will explode right back, as the two deliver some breathtaking exchanges, scrambles and wild moments where both are hurt, leaving the crowd cheering as the bout ends. Benavidez takes a close but clear-cut unanimous decision.

Benavidez via decision

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

Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst

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