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UFC 138 predictions, preview and analysis


UFC 138: "Leben vs. Munoz" is all set to go down tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, November 5, 2011) live from the LG Arena at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England.

Remember: will provide results and live updates, as well as blow-by-blow commentary of the main card fights as they happen. So if you're holding out for the Spike TV telecast at 8 p.m. ET, it's probably a good idea to keep your distance as the site is likely to be rich in spoilers.

Speaking of Spike TV, this is the promotion's final broadcast through the longtime cable partner before transitioning to the FOX network later this month. Tomorrow's go-home show will be headlined by Chris Leben and Mark Munoz, who've been given five rounds to settle their differences across the pond.

But that's not all.

Let's take a look at the UFC 138 main card match-ups, as well as some quick picks for all the Facebook preliminary fights that will air via Internet live stream.

185 lbs.: Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz

This should be a very winnable fight for Munoz. He's got the wrestling and the ground-and-pound to put Leben away early, but I'm wondering how much time he'll want to fool around on his feet. Munoz has been rocked before by guys that don't hit as hard as Leben (Kendall Grove, Demian Maia) and if he's looking to "test the waters" against the hands of "The Crippler," he's likely to drown.

I know Leben has been on an upswing since UFC 132, but I'm not sold on his resurgence. I'm sorry, but knocking out Wanderlei Silva is like banging the homecoming queen. The first guy to do it was a legend. The eighth or ninth guy?

Not so much.

Let's also remember that before the "Axe Murderer" fight he was squashed by Brian Stann. I guess the best argument you can make for Leben is that he stopped Aaron Simpson, who is a similar make and model to the "Philippine Wrecking Machine," but at the end of the day, Munoz has too many ways to win.

Leben will be hesitant to throw his kicks because of the takedown, so what does that leave? One big punch? He may stop a few shots early on, but once fatigue sets in, which it won't for Munoz, expect to see him put on his back and pounded out.

Mark Munoz def. Chris Leben via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Terry Etim vs. Edward Faaloloto

After a year on the sidelines courtesy of a broken rib, Terry Etim is back in the lightweight division. That's good news for fans, bad news for 155-pounders. Despite only two technical knockout finishes on his 14-3 record, Etim actually has pretty good hands -- and he's fast.

Where he really shines are his submissions. He's notched 11 since a 2005 debut and while I normally frown upon confidently picking any fighter coming off a layoff, I don't expect that to be an issue here.

He is, after all, fighting Edward Faaloloto.

It's very difficult to be critical of a fighter without sounding disrespectful but "Falo" had two chances inside the Octagon in his very young career and he got smoked both times out. Anthony Njokuani elbowed him into oblivion before Michael Johnson of "Ultimate Fighter" fame finished him via first round strikes.

I'm not closing the door on the 26-year-old Hawaiian, but he's clearly got some more work to do before making any kind of noise in the UFC.

Terry Etim def. Edward Faaloloto via whatever he wants

205 lbs.: Cyrille Diabate vs. Anthony Perosh

Who is Anthony Perosh? He's the light heavyweight who didn't need to cut weight for a heavyweight fight against "Cro Cop" in Australia after Ben Rothwell got a tummy ache and couldn't compete.

He's also a pretty decent ground fighter out of New South Wales, where he rubs elbows with none other than the "King of Rock 'n Rumble" himself, Elvis Sinosic.

Does he beat "The Snake?"

Probably not. Diabate has been susceptible to submissions in the past and they're both pushing 40, but if I had to choose between Cyrille losing by submission or Perosh getting his clock cleaned, I'm leaning towards the latter. Diabate is too good on his feet and while he's lacked the killer instinct in recent fights, I think this one ends early enough where conditioning won't matter.

"The Hippo" will make it a fight, but I just don't see him getting in close enough to get it to the ground. If he does, that 81.5 reach will be waiting.

Cyrille Diabate def. Anthony Perosh via technical knockout

135 lbs.: Renan Barao vs. Brad Pickett

Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado, who I will mercifully refer to as Renan "Barao," is supposed to be the next big thing at bantamweight. Winning 25 straight fights has a way of doing that for a fighter. Unfortunately he's recycled so many cans in Brazil he's already earned his free Thanksgiving turkey from Shoprite.

I'm not getting on the bandwagon just yet. I already made that mistake with Charles Oliveira (This kid's for real bro! Ugh ...)

Especially when he's paired up against Brad Pickett, who at 20-5 has enjoyed a few win streaks of his own. The difference here is you could actually identify some of his opponents in a police line-up, like Demetrious Johnson and Scott Jorgensen, who were both at one time good enough to challenge for the 135-pound crown.

If Barao is going to win this, he's going to do it from his back, as Pickett is likely to take him down at some point and try to beat him up. A first round submission via armbar or triangle wouldn't surprise me, but if it stays upright he's going to get beaten by "One Punch," literally.

If Pickett survives my foreshadowed submission scare, I expect him to cruise to a unanimous decision victory.

Brad Pickett def. Renan Barao via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Thiago Alves vs. Papy Abedi

Losing to Georges St. Pierre is like winning the Academy Award for "best supporting actor." You made it to the big show, got your recognition, then went on to make some really bad choices in your next few roles.

That pretty much sums up Thiago Alves for me, who continues to battle weight issues and a dreadful string of uninspired performances. What happened to the guy who had knocked out seven out of his 10 opponents prior to challenging "Rush?" His last five fights have all gone to the scorecards, a place he usually loses.

That ends here.

If I had to pick this fight based on looks, Papy Abedi wins hands down. He's got a terrifying physique and unparalleled athleticism. Unfortunately I've never seen the guy fight. True, he's undefeated, but I can't even pronounce half of his previous opponents and he's walking in cold against one of the top welterweights in the world.

Until I see him inside the Octagon, which can be an unforgiving place for first-timers, I have to side with Alves. Remember, Paulo Thiago is the exception, not the rule.

It also doesn't help that one of Abedi's video blogs talked about how nervous he was.

Alves is a machine on the feet and taking him down is something few people outside of GSP can do. I expect him to control this fight from beginning to end, which should come somewhere in the second round.

Thiago Alves def. Papy Abedi via technical knockout.

Preliminary card quick picks:

145 lbs.: Michihiro Omigawa vs. Jason Young -- Omigawa is the more well-rounded fighter. He's also Japanese and fighting in the UFC. Whatever, I'm still picking him by UD.
135 lbs.: Chris Cariaso vs. Vaughan Lee -- Lee by TKO. He got off to a slow start but he's been electric in his last three.
265 lbs.: Rob Broughton vs. Philip De Fries -- De Fries by submission. He's 7-0 (all subs) and Broughton is too slow and plodding.
170 lbs.: Chris Cope vs. Che Mills -- I like Chris via Cope-a-dope. People still don't take this guy seriously but he finds a way to win. UD.
170 lbs.: Justin Edwards vs. John Maguire -- Edwards by UD because he looks like Randy Couture and I'm a "Natural" fan.

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 138: "Leben vs. Munoz."

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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