UFC Fight Night 45 predictions, preview and analysis

Jared C. Tilton

Break out that EZ Pass, as we're taking a ride down The Garden State Parkway to find violence in a city that is slowly but surely fading into obscurity. Next stop? Revel Resorts in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Who's up for some blackjack?

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is taking over your Wednesday night (July 16, 2014) on FOX Sports 1 with UFC Fight Night 45, which features a lightweight main event between a pair of top 10 fighters making one last charge for the division crown.

Streaking 155-pound "Cowboy," Donald Cerrone, is sitting pretty at No. 6 in the official rankings (see them here). But hot on his tail is No. 7-ranked Jim Miller, who is not only looking to win one for the Jersey boys, but to also get his name into the mix.

Speaking of lightweights...

Edson Barboza is hoping to erase the memories of his last performance against the gritty Evan Dunham in the co-main event, two prospects who have yet to live up to expectations. That said, a big finish on fight night would go a long way toward getting into the top 10.

All that, and so much more.

Let's get to it.

155 lbs.: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (23-6) vs. Jim Miller (24-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: Ladies and gentlemen, we have two of the best 155-pound fighters in the world about to throw down and to give you some perspective, Donald Cerrone has won nine "Fight Night" bonuses and Jim Miller is tied with Gleison Tibau with 13 wins -- a record -- in the lightweight division.

They are a combined 47-10 with a staggering 35 finishes.

Naturally, the first question upon hearing that, is why has neither man fought for the division title? And the answer would be "Nate Diaz," to give you an idea of how tragic it is that he can't mend fences with UFC and get his talented ass back inside the cage.

But that's a topic for a different post.

Trying to figure out who wins tomorrow night in Atlantic City has been a daunting task. "Cowboy" -- by his own admission -- has been known to freeze in the big spot (Pettis, Diaz). And there is something about competing in his own backyard that has been extremely unkind to Miller (Diaz, Healy).

This might come down to Miller's gameplan.

Cerrone has 15 submission wins but prefers to stand-and-bang. When he's "on," he's capable of beating anyone in the world. So too, is Miller, but he's at a disadvantage in a straight kickboxing match and would likely get knocked around if he tries to make this a bangfest.

I would expect him to get the Jackson-Winkeljohn product tangled up against the cage, or perhaps down to the floor.

Make it ugly, then rinse and repeat.

Under normal circumstances, that would be a tough pace to maintain in a five-round fight. But if there's one thing you're not going to do, it's outwork Jim Miller. Careful, calculated aggression nets him the judges' decision, but I just have a hard time believing he can do a 25-minute dance with "Cowboy" and not get caught.

Final prediction: Cerrone def. Miller via submission

155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (13-2) vs. Evan Dunham (14-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: There are a couple of different ways to look at the fall of Evan Dunham, once considered the future of the division. You can say he was "exposed" or fizzled out when the going got tough, or you can insist he's had a run of bad luck against the best in the world.

If you want to examine the last two years, the Oregonian is just 1-3, but was only finished once during that span (submission) and all three losses came to fighters ranked in or near the top five of the division. He hasn't been fighting tomato cans.

But a loss is a loss.

What's interesting about his match up against Edson Barboza is how they're pretty much in the same boat. The Brazilian only has two losses, mind you, but it's how he lost as opposed to the defeats themselves. He became Jamie Varner's comeback story in 2012, then threw away a fight he was dominating against Donald Cerrone when "Cowboy" stunned him with the epic jab of doom.

Not a good look.

Whether or not he wins this fight largely depends on how successful he is at keeping Dunham at a distance. We know from the Melvin Guillard fight he's not fast enough to hang with Barboza on the feet, but he can certainly win this thing if he can make it ugly, utilizing the cage and taking it to the floor.

This is the kind of fight that could go either way, but I favor the fleet-footed gameplan Barboza will have from Frankie Edgar and Co., which will lead him to a convincing three-round decision.

A finish, however, is not out of the question.

Final prediction: Barboza def. Dunham via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Leonardo "Macarrao" Mafra (11-1) vs. Rick "Horror" Story (16-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: Hey, you know that guy Johny Hendricks, the UFC welterweight champion? Rick Story beat him. Former division number one contender Thiago Alves? Yep, Story beat him too. He also knocked around Jake Ellenberger for a few rounds before winning that fight, as well.

So what the heck happened?

Well, nothing. And that's the problem with "Horror." The same rough-and-tumble Story we saw kicking ass in 2010 is the same version we saw at UFC 171 last March, in a split decision loss to Kelvin Gastelum. The sport -- and most of the division -- has continued to evolve.

Story? Not so much.

The good news is (at least for him), is that he's still an exciting fighter and one of the toughest outs at 170 pounds. I know Leonardo Mafra is the toast of the town after running roughshod on the Brazilian circuit, but I'm not going to start prancing through flower patches over wins against peanut brittle like Geverson Bergamo (3-7), or Marcus Cacador (0-2).

And don't even get me started on that guy who comes to the cage dressed like a pirate.

There's just no way I can pick a fighter making his UFC debut -- even if he is a power-punching "phenom" -- against a competitor with Story's experience, who has competed against (and beaten) a who's who of deadly welterweights.

Final prediction: Story def. Mafra via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Joe Proctor (9-2) vs. Justin "J-Bomb" Salas (12-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: Justin Salas only has four knockouts in 12 wins (33%0, so I assume his nickname "J-Bomb" is in reference to how cool he is, like "That kid is da bomb, yo." If that's the case, it can only refer to his exploits outside the cage.

Inside it?

That's another story altogether. It's feast or famine for the 32-year-old lightweight, who has yet to win -- or lose -- consecutive UFC fights since his 2012 debut. In addition, he has but one finish in five Octagon fights, and that came against Ben "The Manimal" Wall, who has two appearances for UFC and got KTFO both times.

Not exactly the stuff of legend.

Not that Joe Proctor is all out of bubble gum or anything. His only finish since joining the promotion was a technical knockout victory over Jeremy Larsen, who wears the dubious golden sombrero. Or as we like to say on the gridiron, three-and-out.

In addition, that was the only knockout of his pro career.

I'm having trouble finding an area where Proctor wins this fight. He has a solid submission game under Team Lauzon and is notoriously difficult to take down, but Salas was an exceptional wrestler in both high school and college and if he wants it on the floor, he'll get it there.

Without knockout power, Proctor's best chance is a triangle choke or some other tap from the bottom, even though I think a majority of this fight will play out on the feet.

Final prediction: Salas def. Proctor via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: John "Hands of Stone" Lineker (23-7) vs. Alptekin "The Turkish Delight" Ozkilic (9-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: In just a few hours, we'll find out if this is John Lineker's last fight with the promotion, because I can't imagine he'll be sticking around if he misses weight for the fourth time in just seven fights, even with the flyweight division being grotesquely shorthanded.

For the purposes of this column, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Brazilian is referred to as "Hands of Stone" and for good reason: Outside of John Dodson, I'm not sure there is anyone at 125 pounds who can pack a punch the way Lineker can. He can be outworked, like he was against Ali Bagautinov, just as he can be submitted, a la Louis Gaudinot.

But that's not happening here.

Alptekin Ozkilic will have a height and reach advantage, but his two performances on the big stage have been underwhelming, at best. I'm not going to harp on his decision loss to Louis Smolka, but having just three finishes in nine wins -- and a nickname that sounds like it came from a fortune cookie -- doesn't do much to convince me he can survive three rounds with Lineker.

Final prediction: Lineker def. Ozkilic via technical knockout

145 lbs.: Lucas "Mineiro" Martins (14-1) vs. Alex "The Spartan" White (10-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: This is a helluva fight between two outstanding featherweight prospects. Martins came into the promotion with a perfect 12-0 record and was expected to light the 155-pound division on fire. Instead, he was snuffed out by Edson Barboza, indicating that A) he wasn't quite ready to run with the big dogs and B) he was probably better off at a lighter weight.

The results speak for themselves.

Since getting knocked around by his fellow Brazilian, Martins dipped as far down as bantamweight and has now settled right in the middle at 145 pounds. "Mineiro" also has 13 finishes in 14 total victories, making him dangerous wherever the fight goes.

However...

In addition to the Barboza loss, he was getting hit way too much against Larsen. That has to be a concern heading into his bout against Alex White, who is also a prolific finisher, polishing off nine of 10. "The Spartan" is still a blue belt in jiu jitsu, but that hasn't stopped him from racking up five submission wins.

But I think this one remains upright.

Martins will be content to stand-and-bang, but White, who was the 2009 Ringside World Boxing Champion and has a nasty lead uppercut, will probably find the sweet spot before his Brazilian counterpart. A "Fight of the Night" performance would not surprise me.

Final prediction: White def. Martins via technical knockout

That's a wrap.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 45 fight card tomorrow night (July 16, 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 under card action at 7 p.m. ET and the FOX Sports 1 main card at 9 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 Fight Night 45 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Cerrone vs. Miller."

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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