UFC on FOX 10 predictions, preview and analysis

Esther Lin for Strikeforce

Two former lightweight champions. One spot in the 155-pound pecking order. Who gets one step closer to gold on Saturday night?

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to the FOX airwaves tomorrow night (Jan. 25, 2014) with UFC on FOX 10: "Henderson vs. Thomson," a mixed martial arts (MMA) event headlined by a battle of two top lightweight contenders looking to stay alive in the 155-pound title chase.

A win for Josh Thomson almost certainly earns him a shot at reigning division champion Anthony Pettis.

As for Ben Henderson? Maybe not, since "Smooth" is already in an 0-2 hole against "Showtime" and may need a few more wins to get another crack at the crown, even with an impressive victory this weekend inside the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

That's not all.

Stipe Miocic looks to build off his dominant unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson last June against the suddenly-relevant Gabriel Gonzaga, who like his "Windy City" rival, was able to shake off a recent knockout loss and get back into the thick of things.

Elsewhere on the main card, Donald Cerrone and Jeremy Stephens try to stay afloat against lightweight grappler Adriano Martins and featherweight phenom Darren Elkins, respectively.

Who gets it done on fight night? I'm glad you asked...

155 lbs.: Ben "Smooth" Henderson (19-3) vs. Josh "The Punk" Thomson (20-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: Every time I start to convince myself that Josh Thomson has a chance to win this fight, I keep thinking about that damn Tatsuya Kawajiri bout, where "The Punk" got pushed around for three rounds and rendered combat ineffective.

And when a 35 year-old fighter prone to injuries flat-out admits that he had the worst camp of his life, it's kind of a tough horse to back.

Not that Henderson can walk right through him.

At the end of the day, a win is a win, but let's not pretend "Smooth" has had it easy. A couple of those contests -- like his Gilbert Melendez fight and his rematch against Frankie Edgar -- were pretty much up in the air until the scorecards were revealed.

The loss to Anthony Pettis?

I'm convinced that submission was more mental than physical, and how he performs against Thomson will likely be the deciding factor in the outcome. Both men are conditioned for five rounds, so there will be no cardio edge, but I believe Henderson has to go back to his wrestling -- and will -- to out-muscle "The Punk" and claim all three cards.

Final prediction: Henderson def. Thomson via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga (16-7) vs. Stipe Miocic (10-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: It's easy to look at Gabriel Gonzaga's last couple of fights and think, "NAPAO IS BACK!!!" -- but I think most of us know better. The big galoot packs a wallop, no question, as he broke Shane Carwin's nose and recently stiffened Dave Herman, as well as Shawn Jordan.

But that's because "Pee Wee" and "The Savage" failed to expose the Brazilian's fatal flaw.

Cardio.

Gonzaga needed less than two minutes (combined) to finish his last two fights, but that won't erase the memory of his wind-sucking win over Ben Rothwell or his dreadful display against Brendan Schaub. That's not lost on Stipe Miocic, either, who learned in his knockout loss to Stefan Struve that winning is a lot more fun than getting KTFO.

Which is why you saw a smart, effective gameplan in his rebound win against Roy Nelson.

I would expect a similar performance here. There's no reason to get into a brawl against the heavy-handed Brazilian and going to the ground is a fool's errand. Instead, Miocic will do what he did at UFC 161 and that's be the better athlete. The crowd won't like it, but cheers don't pay for beers.

Final prediction: Miocic def. Gonzaga via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (21-6) vs. Adriano Martins (25-6)

Nostradumbass predicts: Donald Cerrone came out and admitted he was broke and out of control, then came back a few days later and said he wasn't, probably because he didn't expect to become everybody's next big headline.

So you wanna be a rock superstar? And live large, a big house, five cars...

"Cowboy" could probably be a champion if he was able to master himself, but in a growing trend among this generation of athletes, the anxiety of becoming a winner has interfered with the physical tools it takes to win. It's like those baseball players who can hit three home runs in a game when their team is losing by nine runs, but then bounce one back to the mound when the game is on the line.

That's why Cerrone was seeing a shrink.

Unfortunately, I don't believe his ham-handed retraction and I think the former WEC star is still out of sorts. By his own admission, he's not watching any tape on his opponent, a gameplan that worked out well for Josh Koscheck when he fought Paulo Thiago.

Martins is for real.

He may not have the same hands as Cerrone and he certainly doesn't have the same level of opposition, but "Cowboy" is going to do all the work for him, lumbering in with contempt for his foe and trying to end the fight with that tried-and-true punch, punch, kick combination.

Not going to work, because unlike his opponent, Martins has been studying tape.

Final prediction: Martins def. Cerrone via submission

145 lbs.: Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens (22-9) vs. Darren "The Damage" Elkins (17-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Like a lot of athletes, Jeremy Stephens can be a frustrating fighter to root for due to inconsistency. Here's a guy who has recorded a staggering 17 fights inside the Octagon at just 27 years old, but never managed to win more than two in a row.

Then came three straight losses to end his run at 155 pounds.

How well he fares as a featherweight all depends on how much stock you put in his wins over Estevan Payan and Rony Mariano Bezerra. "El Terrible" has yet to win a fight inside the Octagon and "Jason" doesn't hold a victory over anyone worth talking about.

I'm still leaning toward "Lil' Heathen."

Elkins is a rugged, durable fighter with a ton of heart, but outside of Chad Mendes, he hasn't faced the same level of opposition. Stephens has gone to war with "Showtime" Pettis, "Cowboy" Cerrone, Melvin Guillard and Rafael dos Anjos, just to name a few.

And he held his own at a bigger weight.

That's the key in this fight, as Elkins finds it difficult to get Stephens into his wheelhouse. I'm not sure the Iowan will be able to score enough "Damage" to secure the knockout, but he's going to control the tempo of this fight and easily take two out of three.

Final prediction: Stephens def. Elkins via unanimous decision

That's a wrap.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 10 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" online, which is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card FOX action, which is slated to begin at 8 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 on FOX 10 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Henderson vs. Thomson."

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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