Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just over 24 hours away from thinning the 265-pound herd, as heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos either re-gifts his shiny new belt to Cain Velasquez at UFC 155, or sends the former titleholder to the back of the line.
Perhaps for good.
Also doing work at the MGM Grand Garden Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a pair of scrappy lightweight fighters in the form of Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon. While neither man is threatening to challenge for gold, this is about as fun as it gets, from a matchmaking perspective.
That's not all.
Alan Belcher will return to the Dec. 29, 2012 fight card in an effort to "Thunder" past Yushin Okami while Tim Boetsch looks to hulk-smash the fast-rising Constantinos Philippou. In the opening fight of the night, Chris Leben will make his UFC return against Strikeforce import Derek Brunson.
Should be fun, son.
265 lbs.: Junior dos Santos (15-1) vs. Cain Velasquez (10-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: When Junior dos Santos first fought Cain Velasquez just over a year ago on the FOX network, he destroyed him. Now, whether you are a "Cigano" fan or not, that's the fact of the matter and it is indisputable.
There was a lot of criticism surrounding Cain's performance immediately following the fight. UFC President Dana White was screaming into his headset about takedowns, while other broadcast commentators wondered allowed why Velasquez didn't do a better job of pushing the pace.
Get a grip.
The fight lasted 64 seconds. How do you intelligently analyze a performance that took less time to unfold than it does to unwrap a condom? And during that minute plus, Velasquez shot for one takedown and he failed, which means he averaged one takedown per minute.
Rumors were running rampant that Velasquez tore his ACL two weeks before the fight, which means it happened right around the same time Dos Santos tore his meniscus, so they both entered the Octagon dancing like Peg Leg Bates.
But when you strip away all the excuses and all the "what ifs," what you're left with is a fighter who got knocked out in 64 seconds by a superior striker. That's all it is. The guy who is better on the ground got KTFO by a guy who is better on the feet.
This is mixed martial arts (MMA), it's not exactly a freak occurrence.
Cain supporters insist the fight is over if he can get JDS to the floor, but that sounds to me like an argument from ignorance, because we don't know what kind of ground game the champion has.
You can't say, "I don't know, therefore I do know," as in, "I don't know if Dos Santos has any kind of ground game, therefore I know the fight is over once the challenger takes him down."
Instead, let's look at what we do know.
We know that Dos Santos can knock Velasquez out because he's already done it. We also know he has great takedown defense and historically, does not change his stance to offset the threat of the shoot. For my money, he's also fought the tougher competition.
Then there's that whole nine straight wins in the UFC thingy.
Have we ever seen Junior hurt? I still remember Cain's stanky leg against Cheick Kongo at UFC 99 and the chin is not something you can improve in training camp. It's either there or it ain't. That means to date, the best argument for Velasquez winning this rematch is based on if he can get a takedown and "go from there."
That's a tough sell.
His win over Antonio Silva earlier this year was impressive, but I'm not sure it proved anything we didn't already know. Cain, in all likelihood, is the number two fighter in the UFC's heavyweight division. Unfortunately for him, he's fighting number one.
Final prediction: Dos Santos def. Velasquez via technical knockout
155 lbs.: Joe Lauzon (22-7) vs. Jim Miller (21-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Earlier this year, Dana White tried to convince fans that Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar was a "fun fight," when in reality it was just an excuse to showcase "Spider" superiority by beating the brakes off "The American Roido" in front of his Brazilian fans.
Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller? Now that's a fun fight.
I know Miller's standing among the cool kids has suffered mightily in recent months, thanks to high-profile losses to Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson, but also keep in mind that three weeks ago, they were the number one and number two lightweight fighters in the world.
That's pretty good company.
Like his opponent, Lauzon often gets underrated in a lot of areas. I know it's hard to make a case for his grappling when he got subbed by George Sotiropoulos, just as you can't call him a top striker after watching him get pasted by Anthony Pettis.
But what happens when you sleep on him?
"J-Lau" sends you ass over tin cups, like he did to Jens Pulver, or he tears off your arm, like he did to Jeremy Stephens. Sometimes he does both (see Guillard, Melvin). I think Lauzon is fully capable of winning this fight on Saturday night.
But I'm still picking Miller.
I think that for every area the Bostonian is good in, Mills is just a little bit better. Prior to his aforementioned losses to Henderson and Diaz, he's been the model of consistency. I expect a close, spirited affair, but Dirty Jersey prevails with wrestling and top control being the deciding factor.
Final prediction: Miller def. Lauzon via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Tim Boetsch (16-4) vs. Constantinos Philippou (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: What's funny about the fight game is you can tell someone on the street that you know this guy who fights at middleweight who's won four in a row and beat Hector Lombard after he knocked out Yushin Okami and they'd be like "Holy shit bro, who is it?" and you'd say "Tim Boetsch!"
Insert sarcastic reply here.
Sooner or later, we're going to have to start taking this guy seriously. I know, I know, he was getting worked by "Thunder" before his Zangief-esque comeback combo, just like he was the beneficiary of a "Lightning" space cadet who thought he was walking on the moon, but wins are wins.
And I'm not picking a guy whose last name is pronounced "full of poo."
Timmy is 10-3 inside the Octagon and all three of those losses came at light heavyweight. In addition, he hits like a truck and can take an inordinate amount of punishment from some of the heavier handed hurlers at 185 pounds. Do I think he's championship material?
No, but he's durable enough to gut one out when it counts.
Philippou is probably the more technical striker having studied under Ray Longo but it's not often you go to a decision with Tim Boetsch and win -- and that's exactly what the New Yawker has done in his last six fights, with the exception of his knockout over professional punching bag Jared Hamman.
Constantinos is a tough guy with good hands, but he's not the all-around dynamo that Chris Weidman (from the same camp) and until he starts bagging and tagging some bigger names -- or at least finishing opponents on a regular basis -- I have to go with what I know.
And what I know, is that Boetsch is undefeated at middleweight.
185 lbs.: Alan Belcher (18-6) vs. Yushin Okami (27-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: It seems like Alan Belcher has been around forever, but consider this: When he made his Octagon debut, a decision loss against Yushin Okami at UFC 62, he was just 22 years old. Fast-forward six years later and it's time for a rematch.
"The Talent" has come a long way since they last met.
The beginning of Belcher's UFC career was full of ups and downs, but he's undefeated in his last four fights, securing finishes in each of those wins. You may hate the tattoo, but you have to love the fact that he had the balls to play footsies with Rousimar Palhares, daring the Brazilian to try to go for the heel before cracking his coconut.
He's going to win.
Okami is pretty much the same fighter he's always been. A big, hulking middleweight with the strength of a gorilla. In addition, "Thunder" has never been submitted ... but I wonder if he's not mentally broken after two very high-profile losses to Anderson Silva and Tim Boetsch.
Not that anyone holds a "Spider" bite against you.
But "The Barbarian?" Okami was in control of that fight until the very end when he fell victim to a rock 'em/sock 'em counter that turned out the lights. True, he rebounded against Buddy Roberts with a TKO of his own but sandbagging a UFC sophomore is hardly cause for celebration.
The more things change, the more he stays the same.
Belcher has continued to improve and I think over the last few years, he's looked sharper in every aspect of his game. And to come back from a detached retina and multiple eye surgeries? The kid has heart, too. Okami is good in every department but "The Talent," at least recently, has been great.
After 15 minutes at UFC 155, the judges are sure to agree.
Final prediction: Belcher def. Okami via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Derek Brunson (9-2) vs. Chris Leben (22-8)
Nostradumbass predicts: For you fine folks who have been following the Nostradumbass column throughout the years (all three of you), you'll know I don't make it a habit to pick a fighter who's coming off an extended layoff AND a major loss.
I'm not making any exceptions here.
Chris Leben failed yet another drug test and hasn't seen action for over a year. But here's the thing, he wasn't looking that hot before he left. "The Crippler" is 1-2 over his last trio of fights and I'm not putting much stock in his flash knockout over a decrepit Wanderlei Silva.
Prior to dulling the blade of "The Axe Murderer," he was put down by Brian Stann and Mark Munoz.
I don't think there's much left to Leben these days besides a good punch and a few first-round flurries. His gas tank has failed him in recent appearances and while he's a competent grappler, you can't force anybody to quit if you can't catch your breath.
I still don't like picking a guy who was KTFO by Ronaldo Souza.
All kidding aside, how do you get shook by a grappler who in 18 fights has never knocked anyone out? I'm also not crazy about his loss to Kendall Grove but I think for this fight, if he listens to what they tell him at Jackson's MMA, he'll take this thing to the floor.
And Brunson is a three-time Division II All-American wrestler out of North Carolina.
Leben will have his moments, but I predict they'll be few and far between. Outside of a one-hitter quitter, not out of the realm of possibility, he's going to be taken down and molested across the better part of three rounds. So let it be written, so let it be dumb.
Final prediction: Brunson def. Leben via unanimous decision
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 155 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Dos Santos vs. Velasquez."
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's event.