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Elite XC predictions and preview for 'Unfinished Business' on CBS

elitexc predictions
This Saturday (July 26) Stockton, Calif., will host its first major mixed martial arts (MMA) event -- Elite XC: "Unfinished Business" -- live at the Stockton Arena.

This card not only has major significance as the second ever MMA event to be aired live on network television (CBS), but also for the people of Stockton -- fans there get a chance to finally see in person the reason their city has long been known as a hotbed for MMA talent.

The Stockton area has produced some tops stars in today's fight game, two of which will be in action Saturday (Jake Shields and Nick Diaz). Shields, in fact, will vie for the vacant Elite XC welterweight championship against Nick "The Goat" Thompson.

Diaz, on the other hand, is fighting what many people believe to be nothing more than a filler fight before an inevitable rematch with division champion, KJ Noons.

The main event of the night is a rematch between middleweight kingpin "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler and Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith from the first "Saturday Night Fights" event that aired on CBS on May 31. Their first encounter was memorable for good and bad reasons.

Good, because it was an all out war -- a back-and-forth slugfest of epic proportions. Bad, because it ended prematurely on and inadvertent eye poke. The final result was a disappointing no contest.

The rematch will hopefully keep the good stuff and leave the bad in Newark.

Another interesting item about this event is that it will be a co-telecast between the premium cable channel, Showtime, and the network powerhouse, CBS. Showtime will kick off the event at 8 p.m. ET with three fights and that will lead right into the main card on CBS at 9 p.m.

This looks to be a fun night of MMA with three world titles on the line. To get you ready for the action, we've detailed each of the seven main card fights and have provided some predictions as well.

And away we go:

Elite XC middleweight champion "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler vs. Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith

Scott Smith is a slow starter, he always has been. In his fight against Kyle Noke, he was even getting booed by the crowd for lack of action, before coming out in the second round and scoring a highlight reel knockout right away. Even in the first fight with Lawler he came out sluggish. In fact, he almost got stopped in that first round. Had there been another 30 seconds, I'm convinced we wouldn't even be seeing this rematch.

The point is, he needs to correct this problem if he wants to have a chance against Lawler this time around, or he's going to get put down early. Lawler is a super quiet, laid back kind of guy until he gets in the cage. In the cage, he busts heads, and knocks guys out.

Scott Smith has power too, big power, but is it just me, or does Lawler seem like the meaner guy? Take that for what it's worth, but if anybody is coming into this fight intimdated, it's not Robbie Lawler.

In all the interviews leading up to the fight, all Smith has talked about is trying not to get hit as many times in this fight. He's been talking about having better head movement and defense. Lawler just keeps saying he's not worried about what happened in the first fight, and he's coming to do what he does.

I actually think both guys might be a little over confident. Lawler, because he knows he almost had Scott finished at the end of that first round. Smith even said after the fight, had it continued, he probably would have got knocked out. Still, I think Smith knows he took everything Lawler had in that first round and was still able to weather the storm and mount a comeback, even winning the second round on two of the judges scorecards.

To me, confidence favors talent, and I say Robbie Lawler is the more talented fighter. I don't see this fight making it out of the second round. I think Lawler's coming to destroy Smith, while Smith's coming to try and survive. I got Robbie Lawler in this one.

Final prediction: Lawler via second round technical knockout

Jake Shields vs. Nick "The Goat" Thompson for Elite XC welterweight title

This fight is going to be the show stealer, much like Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith was in Newark on May 31. Both guys are on ridiculous winning streaks. Shields has won nine in a row and Thompson has notched off twelve consecutive.

Something has to give.

Jake has been banged up over the last few months, but finally is back to 100 percent and has had a great training camp, training with other world class welterweights like Jon Fitch. He has world class jiu jitsu under the tutelage of Cesar Gracie and has shown significant improvements in his all around game during his win streak.

Nick Thompson's training is of a top notch caliber as well. He trains at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy with guys like Brock Lesnar and Sean Sherk. Those guys up there are known for great cardio, and with this being a five round title fight, cardio could be a huge factor in the outcome.

This fight is so difficult to predict because they both fight at such a high level and both seem close to unbeatable right now.

This fight is in Jake's backyard, which could be a good or bad thing; however, having a screaming crowd on your side is perhaps much better than having them against you. I'm not sure if that will make much of a difference, but in a close fight like this, the little things are going to become important.

"The Goat" has also been studying to take the Bar exam to become a lawyer. He's scheduled to take the test two days after this fight. From what I've heard, the Bar is not exactly a walk in the park. Is it possible he's been neglecting some time in the gym for his school work? I'm just saying, this is a big fight. I know Jake Shields has dedicated himself to it 100 percent. The same obviously can't be said for Thompson.

I can see this one going deep into the fourth or even the fifth round. We might possibly even see a decision, but this is Jake Shield's belt. He's always been the uncrowned champ in Elite XC, and I don't see him losing his first chance to make that official. I'm going with Jake.

Final prediction: Jake Shields via unanimous decision

Nick Diaz vs. Thomas "Wildman" Denny

Nick Diaz is pissed.

He loves to fight in Japan where he feels the art of mixed martial arts is better appreciated. And he had a welterweight title fight against "Mach" Sakurai in DREAM taken away from him by Elite XC so he could compete on this card. He was alright with that since it's taking place in his home town, plus he had a score to settle with KJ Noons anyway. With the card being titled "Unfinished Business," it seemed like a foregone conclusion that would be the fight, but to Diaz and most fan's disliking, that was not the case.

For one reason or another, KJ Noons didn't take the fight and Diaz got stuck with option number three: Thomas "Wildman" Denny -- not exactly Sakurai or Noons ... and not a title fight either.

Is it just me or does anyone else fear for Thomas Denny's safety?

"Wildman" will tell you he loves the fact that he's the underdog and blah blah blah. I'm not buying it. I see a mismatch between a pissed off Nick Diaz in his hometown against a less than stellar journeyman type.

My money's on the kid from Stockton.

Final prediction: Nick Diaz via second round technical knockout

Shayna Baszler vs. Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos

Santos seems like she's the more aggressive, meaner fighter, but I almost always go with a technician over a brawler. It's no secret "Cyborg" is looking for a knockout and Baszler is looking for a submission.

Baszler will have a great gameplan for the Chute Box trained wife of Evangelista Santos. As long as she's able to avoid the power stuff from "Cyborg" on the feet and she can get the fight to the mat where she wants it, I see her notching her tenth win by submission.

Baszler is just more experienced and better prepared for a high profile fight like this. She's been in the cage with the best in the world. She won't be intimidated by Santos and should be able to execute and do what she has to do.

Final prediction: Baszler via first round submission

Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva vs. Justin Eilers for Elite XC heavyweight title

Elite XC Live Events President Gary Shaw has referred to Silva as the best heavyweight fighter in the world. Silva has even said himself that Fedor Emelianenko turned down a fight against him.

Take all of that for what it's worth.

Now, I don't think Silva's that good. He's not the best in the world, but is he the best in Elite XC? Yes, he is. And this title -- like with Jake Shields -- has basically always been his anyway. I don't see Justin Eilers -- a guy who has always been somewhat of a letdown on the big stage -- getting in his way.

He's not called "Bigfoot" and "Giant" for nothing. The guy is huge and has ridiculous agility and speed for a man his size. He has top notch jiu jitsu, so he can finish you standing or on the ground. He's basically almost impossible to gameplan for.

Therefore, it doesn't appear that Eilers has too many outs in this one.

Final Prediction: Silva via first round technical knockout

Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante vs. Travis Galbraith

We all know about Feijao's training partners -- UFC champions Anderson Silva and Antonio Nogueira. We know he's destroyed the competition so far in his two Elite XC fights. And we know he speaks of a quality jiu jitsu game he has not yet been able to display in his fights.

What we don't know is how good is Galbraith? He has a (15-5) record and likes to finish his opponents (10 submissions, four technical knockouts). He's faced some decent competition, but some of those at lower weight classes. And he's lost to most of the top guys he's faced.

While he'll be somewhat small for 205, Feijao has been talking about how he still has to cut weight for this fight as recently as yesterday. He is after all an ex-heavyweight. He's going to be huge coming into this fight. And if he's as good on the ground as he claims to be, he'll be able to control this fight regardless of where it goes because of that size.

The whole team Feijao trains with is competing at such a high level these days. The way these guys keep winning builds collective confidence and swagger, but keeps them hungry to try to keep up with each other and keep getting better.

Put simply, the light heavyweight division in Elite XC is Rafael Feijao's. I can't see him losing this fight.

Final prediction: Feijao via first round knockout

Wilson Reis vs. Bryan Caraway

Both fighters are coming off relatively easy first round submission victories. I had the chance to see Reis compete live at the first "Saturday Night Fights" event and came away more than impressed. I also had the chance to cover Caraway's last fight in Strikeforce and felt close to as impressed with him.

At first look, I was convinced Reis was going to dominate this fight, but I can't let myself count out Caraway that easily. He's way too good for that.

Caraway will definitely be the taller fighter, but I don't think he'll be bigger or stronger. Reis is a little wrecking ball. He's as monster-like as a 140 pounder can be. Plus he's lightning fast (which is weird since Caraway's nickname is "Kid Lightning") and he has excellent, excellent jiu jitsu.

But Caraway has a very good submission game himself. He has twice as many submission victories (9) as Reis has wins (4). I still have to stick with my gut feeling after seeing Reis in person in Newark. He was just way too relentless for me to pick against him.

Final Prediction: Reis via second round submission

That’s a wrap, folks.

For the complete Elite XC: "Unfinished Business" fight card click here. Remember to come check us out this weekend for the latest results, recaps and thoughts on Saturday’s fights with our LIVE coverage!

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for Elite XC: "Unfinished Business."

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