UFC 164 predictions, preview and analysis

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Is Anthony Pettis, who defeated Ben Henderson at WEC 53 back in 2010, the true lightweight champion? We're going to find out in tomorrow night's UFC 164 main event, which also features a co-main event between former heavyweight kings looking to stay afloat in the 265-pound title chase.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is leaving August with a bang, finishing up a busy month for mixed martial arts (MMA) with its UFC 164: "Henderson vs. Pettis 2" pay-per-view (PPV) event, which goes down this Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013) from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Octagon Incorporated!

Leading the charge back to "Brew City" is UFC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson, as he looks to get his revenge on the last man to defeat him, former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) nemesis Anthony Pettis, who would love to finish what he started back in 2010.

Speaking of MMA history...

Two former UFC heavyweight champions have been paired off in the co-main event, featuring the Octagon return of Josh Barnett, fresh off an impressive run on the local and international circuit, who is now tasked with turning away division mule and fellow grappling wizard Frank Mir.

If this fight doesn't hit the floor at least once, it will be an absolute travesty.

One fight that is guaranteed to go south -- perhaps more than we'd like it too -- is the featherweight affair between Clay Guida vs. Chad Mendes. The good news is, we may not be awake to see it after the Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera gamble at 265 pounds.

Kicking things off will be the orange escapades of Erik Koch, as he attempts to get back into the 145-pound title chase at the expense of "Fightville" film star Dustin Poirier, after both fighters were recently tripped up en route to the promised land.

This main event fight card is like one of those big-ass chocolate Easter bunnies. You're happy to have it, even though you know it's hollow in the middle.

Let's get pickin'...

155 lbs.: Ben "Smooth" Henderson (19-2) vs. Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (16-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: The time has come for these two to finally settle their score and man, I would really like to pick Anthony Pettis in this fight. It's not because I'm a "Showtime" fan, or that I harbor any sort of ill will toward Ben Henderson, but every "Smooth" fight lasts 25 minutes and I'm just getting bored.

That's why I want to pick Pettis.

Unfortunately, I can't. He's far and away the better striker, and you could probably say that in just about any match-up for him at 155 pounds. But when I think about gameplans heading into Milwaukee, I just can't rid myself of the memory of Clay Guida.

"The Carpenter" was able to land five takedowns against Pettis and outstruck him 63-42.

That's a depressing statistic, one I won't overlook in spite of dominant victories over Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone, who had a hand in their own demise by standing straight in front of one of the best lightweight strikers on the planet. But even so, his arsenal is not enough to make every fight a foregone conclusion.

Just look at the Jeremy Stephens win at UFC 136, which was one judge away from becoming a loss.

The easy counter to that argument is, "But Pettis already beat Henderson once before." No doubt about it, but most people remember the vaunted "Showtime" kick, and not the fact that the fight was pretty much even heading into the fifth and final frame.

Bendo has competed in seven fights since they last met (Pettis in four), facing much stiffer competition, including Jim Miller, Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. When you line their resumes up -- post WEC -- I don't think it's close.

Injuries and other various mishaps have kept Pettis from keeping pace.

And Henderson learned a valuable lesson about gameplans at WEC 53, as evidenced by his rebound fights against Mark Bocek and Jim Miller. His striking hasn't gotten any better, but then again, neither has the wrestling of Pettis. This one boils down to how well "Showtime" fares when "Smooth" goes for the ground.

He will, quite often, and notch his eighth-straight victory by way of unanimous decision. Pettis is an underrated grappler with slick submissions, but it has been documented just how difficult it is to make the champ tap (and this only helps his ground game).

Look on the bright side, at least Pettis has this to fall back on.

Final prediction: Henderson def. Pettis via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Frank Mir (16-7) vs. Josh "The Warmaster" Barnett (32-6)

Nostradumbass predicts: This has been a dream fight for a lot of MMA fans over the past few years and all I can say is, "Better late than never." While the idea of watching two of the world's best heavyweight submission fighters compete for a spot in the 265-pound pecking order is tantalizing, this bout has "disappointment" written all over it.

I'd be surprised if we saw much of the ground at all.

If Barnett is really as cerebral as he pretends to be, then there's no reason for him to take this fight south. Even if it could be proven that he's the better grappler, why take a chance? He's fighting a guy who will break arms without prejudice (Tim Sylvia, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) and it's a winnable fight on the feet.

Let's just go ahead and say it: Frank Mir hasn't had a good performance in almost four years.

He wins because he's a smart fighter who knows how to capitalize on mistakes. Before he pretzel'd "Big Nog," he was lit up on the feet and nearly finished by the aging Brazilian. Prior to that, he turned In back-to-back snoozers against Roy Nelson and Mirko Filipovic.

He also holds key losses to Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos and Daniel Cormier.

In fairness to Mir, you can't put too much stock in Barnett's resume, either. "The Warmaster" -- in between intermittent can crushings -- has been slapping around the old guard over the past few years. That's not entirely his fault, as fighters have very limited options outside of UFC.

He's back where he belongs.

Mir will not be able to win this fight because Barnett's wrestling is superior. Not only in offense, but in defense, as well. That means any attempts to drag the former "Assassin" to the ground will bear no fruit and on the feet, he's likely to get outstruck.

Barnett is no "Cigano" when it comes to his boxing, but what he does have is great conditioning and a solid chin, along with serviceable footwork. At the end of the day, he doesn't have to outstrike Cain Velasquez, he just has to land more punches than Mir.

The boo-birds are probably already licking their chops.

Final prediction: Barnett def. Mir via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (30-13) vs. Chad "Money" Mendes (14-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I'm still trying to figure out what happened to Clay Guida. He was the winner of four straight, including a bookie-busting upset over Anthony Pettis in June 2011, then he completely went off the rails. I don't begrudge him for losing to Ben Henderson. But what the heck happened against Gray Maynard?

It was like 25 minutes of Kali dancing for Koura.

His mea culpa for that travesty was a split decision win over Hatsu Hioki and somehow he ends up paired off against a 14-1 title contender with three straight first-round knockout finishes. This isn't an anti-Guida campaign, I just have a hard time understanding why he's getting Chad Mendes.

There's a reason they call him "Money."

I know the critics will point to his destruction at the hands of Jose Aldo when they butted heads at UFC 142 in 2012, but seconds before "Junior" landed the knee of destruction, he was stuck to the wall like Brazilian ivy, holding on to the fence for dear life to avoid the takedown.


Anyway, we knew Mendes could wrestle. Before his slip-up against Aldo, he pretty much grounded every other contender in the division, including Erik Koch and Cub Swanson. Guida is a pretty good wrestler in his own right, but he's facing a Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year and NCAA All American.

And with the drop in weight, the former 155-pounder doesn't have the power to seal the deal.

Mendes does, and probably will, while Guida is juking and jiving and trying to upset the tempo. The Team Alpha Male product isn't going to fall for it and sooner or later this thing is going to dissolve into a firefight. To his credit, we've seen "The Carpenter" saw his way through them in the past.

Not this time.

Final prediction: Mendes def. Guida via technical knockout

265 lbs.: "Big" Ben Rothwell (32-9) vs. Brandon "The Truth" Vera (12-6)

Nostradumbass predicts: It's impossible to book a fight like this for a PPV main card, without revealing a certain level of contempt for your audience. Unlike some of you mooching miscreants, I actually pay for my events and when I do, I expect a little bang for my buck.

Ben Rothwell? Brandon Vera?

I understand both fighters are still somewhat recognizable names, but Rothwell does not have winning record inside the Octagon and Vera is 1-3 with one no contest dating back to late 2009. To compound the problem, each fighter is also coming off a dreadful performance.

And Vera's return to heavyweight is puzzling, at best.

"The Truth" was chased from the 265-pound ranks in 2008 by consecutive losses to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum and by his own admission, he doesn't like cutting weight or dieting, particularly now that he's 35 and ballooning up to 240 pounds every time he tweaks his knee.

Welcome to the fight game, Mr. Vera.

His striking is above average, but only has one finish in the nearly seven years. By contrast, Rothwell has a whopping 29 finishes in 32 victories. Too bad "Big" Ben has not been able to win back-to-back contests since 2007, across a span of seven professional fights.

What's the bottom line?

These are two aging heavyweights who are not in the top 10, are not even in the discussion when it comes to title shots and offer no compelling backstory for their upcoming showdown. The best argument I've heard for watching this bout has been, "I will be interesting to see if Vera gasses at heavyweight."

This is what we're paying for.

Final prediction: Rothwell def. Vera via flip of the coin

145 lbs.: Erik "New Breed" Koch (13-2) vs. Dustin "Diamond" Poirier (13-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: This could easily be "Fight of the Night" and the featherweight division is still wide open when it comes to title contenders. Outside of Ricardo Lamas, every other top contender would be a rematch for Jose Aldo, so a huge finish this weekend could elevate one of these two fighters into prime position.

Who wants it more?

Koch was already in line for a title shot before he pulled out with an untimely injury. He suffered another setback when Lamas turned him inside out earlier this year on FOX. He's a well-rounded fighter out of a great camp, and often wins the mental battle by confusing his opponents with his fake tan.

How can you concentrate when you look across the cage and see the Annoying Orange?

Like "New Breed," Poirier was sent to the back of the line when he came up short against Chan Sung Jung, and then again by Cub Swanson. What keeps him in the discussion are his performances, as "The Diamond" shines in every fight. He's also a crafty submission specialist who likes to push forward.

This is anyone's fight.

I think it comes down to how far Poirier has evolved now that he's with American Top Team. He wasn't there long enough for it to make much of an impact against Swanson and I believe this is the real test. My first instinct is to go with Koch, who on paper looks to be more refined, but never discount a kid with a hungry heart.

Final prediction: Poirier def. Koch via split decision

That's a wrap, folks.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 164 card on fight night (Sat., Aug. 31, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.

For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 164 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Henderson vs. Pettis."

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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