Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on Fight Pass this Friday night (Nov. 7, 2014) with UFC Fight Night 55, featuring a middleweight showdown between two guys who got buried in Brazil by Vitor Testfort.
I'm referring, of course, to Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping, who will go five rounds for a spot in the crowded 185-pound title chase. Elsewhere on the card, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 champ Ross Pearson looks to inch his way closer to the 155-pound summit by turning away the rough-and-tumble Al Iaquinta.
Rounding out the four-fight main card, which takes place inside Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia, is a middleweight bang-o-rama pitting Clint Hester against Robert Whittaker, while Walt Harris tries to punch his "Big Ticket" back into the big show by smashing Soa "The Hulk" Palelei.
If you're looking for previews and predictions for the seven-fight preliminary card, the fun-loving Patty Stumberg came correct -- as usual -- with his UFC Fight Night 55 breakdown and "Prelims" analysis right here.
But that's enough of the potatoes, let's get to the meat.
185 lbs.: Luke Rockhold (12-2) vs. Michael "The Count" Bisping (25-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'd like you all to take a moment of silence to commemorate the career of Michael Bisping. I know all the cool kids like to post those cutesy memes of "The Count" going to sleep against Dan Henderson, but mark my words:
You're going to miss him when he's gone.
Has there ever been a more reliable villain? And he doesn't need performance-enhancing drugs to be the bad guy, especially when it's so much easier to just spit on your opponents or flat-out poke them in the eyes. Sniff, I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.
So why the trip down memory lane?
Bisping is going to lose to Luke Rockhold and his protracted quest for middleweight gold will be over. That's a tough pill to swallow for "Count" fans like myself, but we have to face facts. Bizzy turns 36 in a few short months and hasn't won consecutive fights in nearly three years, compiling a 3-3 record since beating the brakes of "Mayhem" Miller in late 2011.
Not gonna cut it.
That doesn't make him an easy out by any stretch of the imagination, but not much has changed since he captured our hearts on TUF 3, except for the fact that he's now down to only one good eye. Bisping is still tough to take down for all but the strongest of wrestlers, and can usually outbox one-dimensional ground fighters or much smaller opponents.
Luke Rockhold is neither.
It also helps that the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained fighter can operate without fear of the one-punch knockout, and he has the cardio to cruise through the 25-minute affair without pause. Like his British rival, Rockhold has only been finished twice in his career and can usually take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.
And if the guy who creamed Costas Philippou and Tim Boetsch shows up in Sydney, all bets are off.
In the end, it really boils down to a case where one fighter is on his way up, while the other is on his way down. Rockhold is younger, faster, and steadily improving with each performance while Bisping is ... well, Bisping. That used to be enough in 2010.
You know, back when Strikeforce was still a thing.
Final prediction: Rockhold def. Bisping via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson (16-7) vs. "Raging" Al Iaquinta (9-3-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: If you're fan of the ground game, this fight probably isn't for you. While Ross Pearson did a pretty good job of racking up the taps on the European circuit, his ground game has been all but extinct in 13 fights under the ZUFFA banner.
Same goes for Al Iaquinta, whose one and only tap came in his 2009 debut.
That's because both lightweights are pretty good on their feet, and match up fairly well as far as technical ability. Pearson is better defensively, but when you have Ray Longo in your corner like "Raging Al" does, it has to be considered an equalizer.
Iaquinta has been able to look good on his feet because he's never really had to face anyone of comparable merit. When you weigh the considerable experience of "Real Deal" against paltry strikers like Rodrigo Damm and Kevin Lee, it's hard not to wonder if the part-time TV star is in over his head.
Either way, I'm pretty sure we're going to the cards.
Final prediction: Pearson def. Iaquinta via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Clint "Headbussa" Hester (11-3) vs. Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker (12-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Even if they don't win "Fight of the Night," Clint Hester and Robert Whittaker should at least walk away with "Nicknames of the Night." With handles like "Headbussa" and "The Reaper," don't be surprised to see this bout officiated by officer Bob Hodges.
Hester was unimpressive in his lone appearance on TUF 17, but has since lit up the division with four straight wins. While a quick look at his UFC record may indicate regression -- two knockouts to start and two close decisions to finish -- it's important to note that his last two opponents were known for their jiu-jitsu prowess.
Hester is not.
That he managed to stave off submission attempts en route to the "W" has me feeling pretty good about his chances in Sydney. Whittaker is a competent MMA fighter with a nice balance of striking and submissions, but I don't believe he's on the same level of Hester in terms of boxing.
Probably a good time to mention Whittaker -- moving up from welterweight -- gives up three inches in height and four inches in reach.
Hester hasn't lost in four years across a span of seven fights and only continues to improve. While "The Reaper" will have the crowd on his side, they won't be inside the cage helping him fight. Expect the TUF: "Smashes" champ to get lit up, fail on the takedowns, and get lit up some more.
Final prediction: Hester def. Whittaker via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Soa "The Hulk" Palelei (21-4) vs. Walt "The Big Ticket" Harris (7-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's impossible to say this without sounding like a dickhead, but we have to acknowledge that Walt Harris was released for a reason. Under normal circumstances, pounding out DJ Linderman is not the kind of turnaround that earns you a second shot at UFC superstardom.
But Joe Silva needed a warm body and Harris happened to be in the right place at the right time.
"The Big Ticket" is both fast and fluid for a heavyweight and fighting out of American Top Team (ATT) is definitely an advantage, but I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where he continually shucks off the Australian's takedown attempts.
Palelei is an accomplished freestyle wrestler with devastating ground and pound and when he's not busy knocking out South African dentists, he's padding his record with the likes of Bob Sapp and Sean McCorkle. Sure, his hands are trash, but he does one thing and he does it extremely well.
There isn't much to analyze here. Harris is coming in on short notice and won't have the gas tank to outlast "The Hulk," who will likely smash his way to another first-round finish.
Final prediction: Palelei def. Harris 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 55 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the Fight Pass main card at 10:00 p.m. ET.
And that's merely the beginning...
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.