UFC 173 predictions, preview and analysis

Thearon W. Henderson

Excitement is in the air! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on pay-per-view (PPV), which means it's time to cough up $60 bucks for the promotion's STACKED Memorial Day Weekend line up, which includes names like James Krause, Francisco Rivera, and of course, a main event featuring TJ Dillashaw. Take my money!!!

Ah, the sights and sounds of Memorial Day Weekend: Hamburgers on the grill, cannonballs in the pool, and a 9-2 Ultimate Fighter headlining the latest and greatest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) event against a guy who can't speak English.

Because screw your patriotism, we have to consider the rest of the world, too.

UFC 173 kicks off tomorrow night (May 24, 2014) and aside from TJ Dillashaw trying to upset the 135-pound apple cart against Renan Barao in the headlining affair, Dan Henderson will try to bomb his way back into title contention by sleeping former heavyweight Daniel Cormier.

Elsewhere on the card, Jake Ellenberger will try to justify his charitable No. 5 ranking by throwing hands opposite former welterweight number one contender Robbie Lawler, who may be one knockout away from getting back into the cage against Johny Hendricks.

Rounding out the UFC 173 main card is a lightweight scrap pitting hot-and-cold Jamie Varner against "The" venerable James Krause, while former WEC standout Takeya Mizugaki tries to spank feisty 135-pound up-and-comer Francisco Rivera.

That's the potatoes. Let's get to the meat.

135 lbs.: Renan "Barao" Pegado (32-1) vs T.J. "The Viper" Dillashaw (9-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Poor TJ Dillashaw has been getting creamed by UFC fans for his position atop this fight card. In reality, the promotion had very few options, because the bantamweight division is thin enough to floss with. There are three people ranked higher than "The Viper."

Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald, who were both destroyed by Renan Barao, and Raphael Assuncao, who was injured and taken out of the equation. Giving Dillashaw a title shot is not the travesty it sounds like and is indicative of how badly UFC needs fresh faces at 135 pounds.

That will become even more apparent when the Brazilian turns this kid inside out.

Dillashaw is a talented young up-and-comer with great wrestling and steadily-improving stand up. But he's got just 11 professional fights to his name and his biggest win to date was against Mike Easton. That's just not going to cut it against the champion, who outside of Dominick Cruz, has fought a who's-who at bantamweight.

Barao also owns 22 finishes.

McDonald's power punches meant nothing against the Brazilian. Neither did Faber's speed, or Eddie Wineland's experience. There is nothing Dillashaw can offer that Barao hasn't already seen and disposed of, and whatever offense does slip through, will be given back tenfold.

This one's a squash.

Final prediction: Barao def. Dillashaw via technical knockout

205 lbs.: Dan "Hendo" Henderson (30-11) vs. Daniel "DC" Cormier (14-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: So it looks like we've reached the point in Dan Henderson's mixed martial arts (MMA) career where the best argument for his victory sounds something like, "Bro, if he lands that H-Bomb..." If anybody has anything better, by all mean, go nuts in the comments section.

I know Henderson is an accomplished wrestler in his own right, but this idea that he'll be able to repel Daniel Cormier is laughable. Jake Shields molested "Hendo" on the ground for 20 minutes back in 2010. And If you think that had to do with the 185-pound weight cut, consider that "Shogun" Rua took him down five times when they competed at light heavyweight in 2011.

The wrestling is not there. It's time to let it go.

I guess now is as good a time as any to also mention that Henderson turns 44 in three months. That was easier to digest when he was drugging father time with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), but that little countermeasure has since been outlawed.

That leaves us with an old dog who hasn't learned any new tricks. He can easily go yard if he gets a hold of one, but he doesn't set up his punches, runs out of gas after one round, and lumbers around the cage like the Tin Man when he needed oil.

This isn't going to be pretty.

Cormier is no Muhammad Ali, but people are so busy talking about his wresting that they often overlook his fight I.Q., which has a lot to do with his defense. Being able to avoid power shots from goliaths like Antonio Silva and Roy Nelson requires speed, no question, but it also requires timing and spacial awareness.

"DC" knows when to clinch, when to strike and when to shoot, which is usually when his opponent expects him to do the complete opposite. Despite his meaty frame, Cormier can do 25 minutes in his sleep (see Barnett, Josh) and still has the strength of a heavyweight.

Oh, and "Hendo" was walking around at 196 pounds four days before the fight.

Good luck.

Final prediction: Cormier def. Henderson via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (22-10) vs. Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger (29-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: I had my reservations about Robbie Lawler heading into UFC 171, despite the fact that he looked completely reborn at 170 pounds. Josh Koscheck is over the hill and Bobby Voelker is unranked, so all I had to go on was a split decision win over Rory MacDonald.

Then he was one takedown away from winning the title in Dallas.

What was telling about that five-round performance was how Lawler was never in any kind of real danger. Hendricks has hammers for hands and great wrestling, but the challenger looked, well, "Ruthless" for most of the fight, shucking off takedowns and dropping bombs.

If that's the Lawler we get tomorrow night in Vegas, Jake Ellenberger is in all kinds of trouble.

"The Juggernaut" also fought MacDonald, but lost, and was knocked out by Martin Kampmann. In fact, I don't even know how the hell this guy is ranked at No. 5. His last win was against Nate Marquardt, who has dropped three in a row. Prior to that, he beat Jay Hieron, 1-3 over his last four.

Before that? Diego Sanchez, a bloated lightweight, also 1-3 across his last four.

The numbers just don't make sense here, fight fans, because the biggest win of Ellenberger's career was a 2011 knockout over Jake Shields, who was just a handful of days removed from the sudden death of his father. A win is a win, of course, but I'm not compiling stats, I'm trying to find the argument for a "Juggernaut" victory in "Sin City."

Comparing their transparencies on the overhead projector, I'm just not seeing one.

Final prediction: Lawler def. Ellenberger via technical knockout

135 lbs.: Francisco "Cisco" Rivera (10-2) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (19-7-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Francisco Rivera and Takeya Mizugaki are probably not a couple of names that scream "PPV!" when you're talking about Memorial Day Weekend in Las Vegas, but combined, remain unbeaten across their last 10 fights.

They've earned their spot.

But trying to figure out who takes home the dubya is a daunting task. There isn't a whole lot of mixed in their martial arts -- together they have just one submission win in 40 professional fights -- so we can expect them to stand and bang for the duration of their 15 minute affair.

I'm leaning toward Rivera.

Mizugaki's record is a bit deceiving. He only has one finish in the last six years and four of his wins came by way of split decision, which means he was one judge away from defeat in each contest. That could be the difference maker against an opponent who has finished five of his last six wins.

This could come down to cardio.

If Rivera doesn't empty his tank early on, I believe he has a good chance of hurting Mizugaki and taking control for the second half of the fight. The Japanese veteran may be too tough to finish, but I'm not sure he's going to be able to go blow-for-blow.

Final prediction: Rivera def. Mizugaki via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: "The" James Krause (20-5) vs. Jamie "C-4" Varner (21-9)

Nostradumbass predicts: It's frustrating to watch a guy as talented as Jamie Varner, largely in part because of his inconsistency. When his head is right, he can hang with anyone in the world at his weight. But unfortunately for "C-4," this game is just as much mental, as it is physical.

That said, I think he's got this one in the bag.

Krause is a talented lightweight with a strong body of work on the regional circuit. His win over Sam Stout at UFC 161 legitimized him as a force to be reckoned with and not a regional can crusher. Ordinarily, I would favor his size in the this pairing due to the jab and kicks, but Varner is an accomplished wrestler.

And a mat rat loves nothing more than a tall, upright frame.

Krause also has to beware of "The Worm's" crushing right hand. While you live by the sword and die by the sword when you get into a firefight (see Trujillo, Abel), I'm not sure the RFA import has the knockout power to land a one-hitter quitter.

Experience is key.

Both guys have been around the block, but Varner has fought the very best in the world -- consistently -- for the past five years, including Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon, just to name a few. I think a smart gameplan that mixes his wrestling with his boxing will see a clear-cut sweep on the judges' scorecards.

Final prediction: Varner def. Krause via unanimous decision

That's a wrap.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 173 fight card on fight night (Sat., May 24, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, 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 173 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Barao vs. Dillashaw."

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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