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UFC 152 'Prelims' preview and predictions for 'Jones vs Belfort' fights on FX (Pt. 2)

Vinny Magalhaes returns to the Octagon this weekend after a successful run outside the promotion with M-1, among others, to take on Igor Pokrajac in the 205-pound UFC 152 "Prelims" main event on FX. Photo courtesy of M-1.
Vinny Magalhaes returns to the Octagon this weekend after a successful run outside the promotion with M-1, among others, to take on Igor Pokrajac in the 205-pound UFC 152 "Prelims" main event on FX. Photo courtesy of M-1.

Outrage and whatnot.

With UFC 151 having gone the way of most old-timey buildings' thirteenth floors, UFC 152 will be the one to break a month-long Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) dry spell. Going down at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this weekend (Sept. 22, 2012) the main event will feature Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones defending his 205-pound title against Vitor Belfort.

In the co main event, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson go toe-to-toe in the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's inaugural Flyweight title bout.

Before all that, however, we've got a solid set of prelims to whet your appetites.

Yesterday, we previewed the four bouts that comprise the initial Facebook/FX portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- on FX before the pay-per-view (PPV) event starts at 10 p.m. ET.

Let's get cracking:

205 lbs.: Igor Pokrajac vs. Vinny Magalhaes

A training partner of the legendary Mirko Filipovic, the well-rounded Igor Pokrajac (25-8) notched the biggest wins of his career in sequence, knocking out Krzysztof Soszynski in just 35 seconds at UFC 140 and controversially edging Fabio Maldonado in a three-round war during the UFC’s third trip to FUEL TV.

"The Duke" has scored 21 finishes, including 13 knockouts in his 25 wins and has won four of his last five.

The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 finalist and 2011 ADCC 99+ kg champion, Vinny Magalhaes (9-5), has kept himself busy since being released from the UFC, going 7-1 and capturing the M-1 light-heavyweight title. All seven of those victories have been stoppages, including a brilliant gogoplata neck crank of Viktor Nemkov in April of last year. "Pezao" beat Fabricio Werdum to win ADCC gold and may have the best ground game in the entire division, though whether he can actually bring it to bear is the big question.

Honestly, this is probably the hardest fight to call on the card. Magalhaes can obviously make mince meat of "The Duke" if the fight hits the ground and Pokrajac has struggled every time he set foot above the middle of the division, but Magalhaes has struggled in his last two bouts against mediocre opposition, gassing hard in one and getting outstruck in the other before pulling out the win.

What this fight will come down to is wrestling, which has been both of their banes in the past (Pokrajac’s defensively, Magalhaes' offensively). If Magalhaes gets the takedown early, I have no doubt that he can finish Pokrajac in very short order, but he’s going to have to wade through some heavy firepower to do it and I’m not convinced he’s got the gas tank to do it.

I’m not at all confident in this pick, but I like Pokrajac for the upset, with Magalhaes' struggles to take him down and Pokrajac's power combining to drain the Brazilian’s energy before he succumbs to a hard flurry.

Prediction: Pokrajac via second-round technical knockout

155 lbs.: T.J. Grant vs. Evan Dunham

T.J. Grant (18-5) looked to be just another also-ran in the UFC 170-pound division, going 3-3 after being outgrappled by Dong Hyun Kim, Johny Hendricks and Ricardo Almeida. Since dropping to 155, however, he has looked fantastic, soundly outworking Shane Roller and Carlo Prater on the mat.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt has 13 wins by submission, including eight by armbar, and has only ever been finished once.

Evan Dunham (13-2) -- once considered one of the division’s top prospects -- has been trying to put himself back in the increasingly-turbulent mix after getting blasted out of it by late replacement Melvin Guillard at the UFC’s second "Fight for the Troops" event. He’s beaten Shamar Bailey and Nik Lentz since, but the Xtreme Couture product needs an authoritative win to put his name back on people’s lips, and a stoppage of Grant would fit the ticket nicely.

Dunham is 6-2 in the UFC, although most would argue that he got jobbed in his war with Sean Sherk.

In fact, he has been more or less forgotten since the Guillard fiasco, but he’s a legitimate contender in the division. He completely owned Tyson Griffin before his current plunge and, after a crappy first round, completely shut down Sherk’s wrestling and outsruck him badly. His weakness apart from limited power, from what I can see, is that he starts slow; Sherk, Escudero and Guillard all managed to hurt him in the early going, although only Melvin managed to finish him.

Grant is not a threat to hurt him standing or with ground-and-pound, and while he is a good submission artist in his own right, I’d argue that Dunham is the better of the two. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Grant had success with his takedowns early on and maybe even teased a couple submissions in the first round, but the tide is going to turn more and more in Dunham’s favor as the fight progresses. I predict 29-28s across the board for the Xtreme Couture representative in a grapple-heavy affair.

Prediction: Dunham via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Sean Pierson vs. Lance Benoist

Sean Pierson (12-6) entered the UFC on the back of ten first-round stoppages, six of them inside two minutes, but has struggled to replicate that success on the world stage, going 2-2 in the UFC with both wins going to a decision. The former police officer looked on the verge of losing his job after a crushing knockout loss to Jake Ellenberger was followed by his getting outstruck by "Stun Gun" Kim, but "Pimp Daddy" managed to right the ship by outpointing Jake Hecht in a dull affair.

The 24-year-old Lance Benoist (6-1) may be young and one of the least-experienced fighters in the organization, but he has so far shown quite a knack for bringing it, taking home "Fight of the Night" in his win over Matt Riddle and giving Seth Baczynski all he could handle in a fight that probably would have won "Fight of the Night" (if it weren’t for Eddie Wineland and Scott Jorgensen bringing down the house on the main card).

Benoist, who is replacing Dan Miller, had finished all five of his opponents in the first round before entering the UFC, four of them by submission.

I’ll just say it flat-out: Pierson isn’t very good. He’s got decent wrestling and okay striking, but he’s just not that good of a fighter. Despite how gaudy his finishing rate is, said finishes came against bottom-tier opposition.

Benoist, meanwhile, is young, but he’s got very good wrestling and has proven able to power through adversity. He’s relentless enough that I’m certain he’ll get Pierson on his back at some point and talented enough in grappling to keep him there. Benoist has got a solid future ahead of him and he’ll demonstrate it by taking down and roughing up Pierson for 15 unpleasant minutes.

Prediction: Benoist via unanimous decision

It’s been a crazy road to this point; might as well just sit back and enjoy it.

See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 152, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 7 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming Saturday night.

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