UFC 161 predictions, preview and analysis

Scott Cunningham

Rashad Evans has lost two fights in a row and Dan Henderson turns 43 in August. I think it's safe to say that both men have a lot to lose tomorrow night in "The Peg," particularly when it comes to chasing light heavyweight gold.

It's that time again.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has trampled the carcasses of Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland during its stampede across the Canadian border because hey, the show must go on. That means the UFC 161 co-main event between Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson will now take center stage.

No complaints here.

Bringing up the rear (no pun intended) is husky heavyweight hurter Roy Nelson, who needs a big performance on Saturday night (June 15, 2013) at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Not because he has a grudge against opponent Stipe Miocic, but rather to insure the highest possible asking price from UFC (or anyone else) as he hits the open market.

That's not all.

Pat Barry will try to add Shawn Jordan to his highlight reel in the opening fight of the night while Ryan Jimmo tries to convince Igor Pokrajac he's a "Big Deal" at 205 pounds. Alexis Davis, meanwhile, hopes to keep pace with the rest of the female bantamweights at the expense of Rosi Sexton.

Hard not to like this line up.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 161 fight card on fight night (June 15, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.

Blah, blah blah ... let's get on with it.

205 lbs.: "Suga" Rashad Evans (17-3-1) vs. Dan "Hendo" Henderson (29-9)

Nostradumass predicts: I know the MMA fanboy fantasy has Dan Henderson knocking out Rashad Evans and graduating to an eventual title fight against Jon Jones, but I think it's time to recognize that the "Hendo" who enters the Octagon tomorrow night in Canada is a far cry from the killer who was lighting dudes up in PRIDE FC.

Even with TRT.

Despite an array of highlight-reel knockouts over middle-of-the-pack competition, detonating an "H-Bomb" is hardly a foregone conclusion. Henderson is a geezer in a young man's game, aided by the medically-approved fountain of youth that has spawned copycat conditions in Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin and Frank Mir, among others.

But even the magic needle has its limitations.

Let's not forget that for every thunderous right hand that fells hapless victims like Michael Bisping and Rafael Cavalcante, there are equally putrid performances against Jake Shields and Mauricio Rua. True, the record books reflect a win against "Shogun," but there was nothing in that fight -- particularly in the latter two rounds -- to be proud of.

Fans who thought that sloppy brawl was "Fight of the Year" must have missed the barnburner between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler.

Against a striker, "Hendo" probably has three solid rounds in him, which is why he wasn't in much danger against Lyoto Machida. It's hard to get tired when you don't have to to anything but circle left for 15 minutes. But against a wrestler like Evans, who recently promised to score 50 takedowns in their main event melee, I give Henderson one round to seal the deal.

It won't be enough.

Evans has only been finished once in 20 professional fights and he's the first man to take "Bones" to the judges' scorecards since Stephan Bonnar did it way back at UFC 94, a span of 10 fights. And his slap-fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira?

I have to believe that was a serious wake-up call.

There's no question that Henderson has the deadlier punch, but Evans is nearly nine years younger than the former Olympian. He's faster, more agile and you know what they say about speed killing. Do I think the former division kingpin secures a finish?

Not likely.

But Henderson's duck-under-then-over-the-top-right is not hard to prepare for and Evans isn't dumb enough to try to bang it out on the feet. He's going back to the style that got him into the game in the first place and even if it doesn't win him the opening frame, the wrestling exchanges will tire Henderson out and leave him gasping for air.

From there, it's mug and slug.

Final prediction: Evans def. Henderson via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Stipe Miocic (9-1) vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson (19-7)

Nostradumass predicts: Stipe Miocic was the belle of the ball back in 2012, you know, back when he was an undefeated heavyweight prospect and knocking fools out. Then he suffered his first defeat to Stefan Struve earlier this and suddenly he's a worthless piece of shit who no one cares about.

Welcome to MMA, y'all.

Fight fans are a fickle bunch and it's not so much what you've done, it's what have you done for me lately. That's why so many people have staked their claim to any available real estate on Roy Nelson's nuts (squatter's rights, I suppose).

It's easy to be seduced by the "Country" KO.

When you can take a beating like Nelson can, gameplanning is easy. You simply lumber forward and absorb punishment, then fire off a big right hand while your opponent tries to figure out why they can't hurt you. Worked great against Cheick Kongo and Matt Mitrione.

Against Fabricio Werdum? Not so much.

Nelson does a great job of convincing people he's a title contender, but his biggest win inside the Octagon is over Stefan Struve. He also clowned Dave Herman and Mirko Filipovic, but faltered against Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir.

You don't need MMA math to figure out that formula.

He's great when the competition isn't. But bump him up into the top five, or pair him off against former champions, and he can't get the job done. What does that have to do with Miocic? Take a look at their staredown to see why I'm taking the younger, more athletic fighter.

They'll call it an upset since Nelson is hovering around the -250 mark.

Unless Miocic doesn't own a DVR, or just has the dumbest gameplan in the history of combat sports, I can't envision him getting backed into the cage like a sitting duck. Like Henderson before him, the big right hand is not a surprise.

All he does is walk forward and try to kill you with it.

I think Stipe is smart enough to keep circling out of danger while never letting himself get too flat-footed, Exchanges with be done on the inside and his size advantage will keep him from getting dumped to the floor or turned around and pushed into the fence.

The crowd won't like it, but this fight is won by IQ, not KO.

Final prediction: Miocic def. Nelson via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Ryan "Big Deal" Jimmo (17-2) vs. Igor "The Duke" Pokrajac (25-9)

Nostradumass predicts: It's time for Igor Pokrajac to shit or get off the pot. At 34 years old, there isn't a whole lot of time to rebuild and poor showings against Vinny Magalhaes and Joey Beltran didn't leave me wondering where he ranks in the top 10.

Still, "The Duke" is tough enough to beat guys like Stephan Bonnar, Krzysztof Soszynski and Fabio Maldonado. Not that any of them are giving Jon Jones night sweats, but he can hang in the mid-to-upper class when he wants to. The question now is, where does Jimmo belong?

Too soon to tell.

Demolishing a bloated middleweight like Anthony Perosh isn't a "Big Deal" in my book and he was unable to get the job done against James Te Huna. Still, it's difficult to overlook the carnage he's responsible for on the regional circuit, laying waste to most of the MFC roster.

All other things being equal, I'm taking the better striker.

I don't think Pokrajac has the chops to get it done. He's got decent wrestling and serviceable jiu-jitsu, but too many of his fights turn into wild brawls. I think that happens here, as well, and you'll never be able to accuse me of picking the guy with inferior hands when it comes to a slugfest.

Final prediction: Jimmo def. Pokrajac via technical knockout

135 lbs.: Alexis "Ally-Gator" Davis (13-5) vs. Rosi "The Surgeon" Sexton (13-2)

Nostradumass predicts: It's got to be tough for Alexis Davis to know she is a long way from the title picture. Reigning 135-pound champion, Ronda Rousey, is tied up with Miesha Tate on the set of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 until the end of the year, then the winner must face Cat Zingano.

The winner of that is likely to get Sara McMann, if the former Olympian can overcome Sarah Kaufman in Indianapolis.

That means there is nothing left for the "Ally-Gator" to do but win fights, starting with Rosi Sexton in Winnipeg. It's no secret that her hands are a work in progress and that's something I expect "The Surgeon" to try to exploit on fight night.

Ain't happening.

Sexton is a natural flyweight and while that makes her lighter on the feet, it's a death sentence on the ground, which is where Davis is most dangerous. That's something Hitomi Akano found out under the Invicta FC banner, as did Shayna Baszler.

This could be a first rounder.

Sexton will come out aggressive and try to overwhelm her foe, but Davis is not going to falter in front of her hometown fans. It's just a matter of time before the larger fighter gets this one to the ground and when she does, it's a wrap.

Final prediction: Davis def. Sexton via submission

265 lbs.: Pat "HD" Barry (8-5) vs. Shawn "The Savage" Jordan (14-4)

Nostradumass predicts: Somebody is getting KTFO in this fight. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Wow, bold prediction Mr. Out-on-a-ledge." But this is a Pat Barry fight, so it's not like you can build a legitimate case for a three-round chess match, or taut grappling exchanges.

This is all about heavy leather.

Fortunately for "HD," he's got an opponent willing to oblige. Shawn Jordan was in a big hurry to erase the memories of his stinker against Cheick Kongo and he did that by sending Mike Russow back to Chicago, Marvin Nash style (only Russow got to keep his ears).

"The Savage" isn't going to beat Barry in the stand-up, but he doesn't have to. For all the talk about Patty's improved ground game, he's still terribly inept at positioning. If Jordan is interested in winning, he'll wait for one of those thunderous leg kicks and fire off a takedown.

From there, it's academic.

But that sort of conclusion assumes Jordan can get in range without being pasted upon entry. He doesn't have the same size advantage as most of the other heavyweights Barry has faced and therefore will have no jab or spatial superiority.

Too bad.

I want to jump on the Barry bandwagon because he's one of the most exciting finishers in the game. But I can't imagine Greg Jackson, of all people, will allow his pupil to turn this thing into a bar fight. Brains, not brawn, wins this 265-pound melee.

Final prediction: Jordan def. Barry via submission

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 161 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Evans 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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