Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is hosting its latest mixed martial arts (MMA) event on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14, 2015), which means the promotion, or perhaps the FOX Sports 1 network, is convinced that a majority of combat sports fans are losers who can't get a date, or were lucky enough to land a significant other who also enjoys cage fighting.
Yeah ... I'm leaning toward the former.
Though you could also argue the lack of depth on this card supports the latter, and to be fair, Ben Henderson -- a bona fide headliner -- was only brought in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Stephen Thompson. That means a jump up in weight and a risky showdown against the dangerous Brandon Thatch.
They've got five rounds to make war inside the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado.
In the co-main event, Cole Miller and his awful nickname will try to put a curse on the "Blessed" Max Hollaway in a battle of old school vs. new. Elsewhere on the card, a handful of up-and-coming talents like Neil Magny, Michel Prazeres, and Ray Borg, among others, look to establish themselves as major players in 2015.
Let's find out if they can do it.
170 lbs.: Ben "Smooth" Henderson (21-5) vs. Brandon "Rukus" Thatch (11-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm ashamed of you. Yeah you, the fair-weather fan. So quick you are to write Ben Henderson's eulogy after a couple of tough losses. All I've been hearing all week is how Brandon Thatch is a welterweight killing machine.
Sorry ... remind me again who he's beaten?
Paulo Thiago is 2-7 dating back to 2010 and hasn't finished a fight in five years, so let's just go ahead and not use that as our measuring stick. Justin Edwards? The same guy who got smoked on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), then went on a torrid 2-4 run inside the Octagon?
Folks, going 2-0 under the UFC banner is not cause for celebration. Neither is recycling a bunch of cans on the regional circuit. Remember when Jake O'Brien was tearing through the UFC heavyweight division, jumping out to a 10-0 record with seven knockouts?
Then came real competition.
Right now, the best thing Thatch has going for him is his size. He's undoubtedly a talented striker and dangerous in the clinch, but that could factor against him on fight night. Keep in mind "Rukus" hasn't competed in nearly 15 months due to injury and is faced with a five-round fight against a former champion who knows how to perform on the big stage.
The only time Thatch left the first round, he lost.
I'm sure that little statistic is not lost on the Bendo camp. Despite all the talk about Henderson's powerful wrestling and black belt in jiu-jitsu, this is a combatant who understands how to win. It's called big-game experience, which along with momentum, is something Thatch doesn't have.
Do you expect "Smooth" to run out there and test himself in the clinch?
C'mon, son. This is straight up tortoise vs. hare. Henderson is going to play defense for the first two rounds and let Thatch burn himself out looking for the highlight-reel finish. Once that happens, the ex-champ is going to take over with his wrestling and ground-and-pound en route to a fourth-round stoppage.
Final prediction: Henderson def. Thatch by submission
145 lbs.: "Blessed" Max Holloway (11-3) vs. Cole "Magrinho" Miller (21-8)
Nostradumbass predicts: Cole Miller will always have a special place in my heart for ridding UFC of Junie Browning, who was destined to drive us all crazy with his "Lunatik" fringe. That said, I just can't take "Magrinho" seriously as a featherweight contender, because he's never been able to put together any kind of extended run.
In fact, he's never won more than two straight in nearly eight years inside the Octagon.
Miller already claimed back-to-back fights over Andy Ogle and Sam Sicilia, so statistically, he's set to lose tomorrow night's fight against Max Holloway. It's a neat little way to call this contest, mathematically speaking, but in reality Miller will fall because "Blessed" is the better fighter.
On the ground, Miller is as good -- or better -- than anybody in the division. But the only fighter he's ever knocked out in his UFC career was Andy Wang (hold for laugh track). It's not an insult to suggest he's one dimensional, but it does limit his ability to set up the submission.
It's takedowns, or nothing.
Holloway was a little more susceptible to the punch-kick-clinch style of offense earlier in his career, but he's matured as a fighter and done a fine job of tightening up his defense. He's also very difficult to take to the floor, which gives him more confidence on his feet.
That's where he wins this fight.
Miller has been out of action for over a year and during that span, Holloway won four consecutive fights -- all of them finishes. "Blessed" competes every three months, so this bout falls right into his wheelhouse. Simply put, he has the momentum, as well as the skill, to topple his opponent convincingly.
A first-round finish would not surprise me.
Final prediction: Holloway def. Miller via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Kiichi "Strasser" Kunimoto (18-5-2, 1 NC) vs. Neil Magny (13-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: I've seen a lot of scratched heads over this pairing, based largely in part to Neil Magny's phone booth transformation from tomato can to man of steel. Five straight wins in one calendar year will definitely get the higher-ups talking, but we also have to recognize he was knocking around international journeymen and dirty birds.
And to be fair, Kiichi Kunimoto is the winner of seven straight with four finishes.
This feels like the right pairing on paper, but will soon look like the wrong match up once the cage door closes. Magny is huge for a welterweight and has the whole Dhalsim-thing going on with his limbs, which is death to a limited striker like "Strasser."
The Japanese import thrives in grappling situations -- evidenced by nine submission wins against just two knockouts -- but doesn't have the wrestling or physical tools to drag Magny to the mat. That makes this less of an MMA fight and more of a live-action Duck Hunt.
But don't expect a giggling Joe Silva to pop up from behind the cage like that mangy cur.
That's because Magny is going to have his way with Kunimoto and while I think the Pancrase veteran is too tough to be finished, he's not going to be able to overcome the offensive problems presented by his younger, much rangier foe.
Final prediction: Magny def. Kunimoto via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Daniel Kelly (8-0) vs. Patrick "The Beast of the East" Walsh (5-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Daniel Kelly has one of those seductive backgrounds that makes him easy to pick in fight breakdowns. He's a world-class judoka who was good enough to compete on the Olympic stage, has a perfect MMA record, and seven finishes in eight wins.
Then you dig a little deeper and see that first-round submission loss during his (cough) "exhibition" fight on TUF: "Nations." To his credit, he rebounded nicely with a tap of his own against Luke Zachrich last November, but his striking is grotesque and at age 37, it's a little late to re-invent the wheel.
Fortunately for Kelly, he's not exactly fighting the next Floyd Mayweather.
Patrick Walsh also came up short during his time on the combat sports reality show and let's face it, his hands are garbage. But what the Bostonian lacks in finesse he more than makes up for in brute force. While he's only been a pro for about three years, "The Beast of the East" is still just 26 and making dramatic improvements to his game.
Enough for the win?
While ground fighters usually betray their core competence and sloppily kickbox for 15 minutes, I think the bull-in-a-china-shop routine is what sinks Walsh. He may find initial success by bullying Kelly into the fence, but the more experienced clinch fighter is going to use that momentum to take things south.
Final prediction: Kelly def. Walsh via submission
155 lbs.: Michel "Trator" Prazeres (18-1) vs. Kevin "The Motown Phenom" Lee (9-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Here's a little-known fact: Michel Prazeres once choked out Anderson Silva in Brazil. No, not Anderson "The Roider" Silva, Anderson "Banana" Silva, which is a clear indication of how seriously we should be taking his 18-1 record.
And just one knockout in 18 wins probably doesn't have anyone shaking in their boots.
That includes Kevin Lee, who already won the battle of nicknames. "Trator" sounds too much like "traitor" and I can't get down with that. "The Motown Phenom," however, reminds me of the now-defunct Motown Cafe. Got-dayum they had some badass curly fries.
Sorry ... where were we?
Both Prazeres and Lee are coming off back-to-back decision wins and do their best work when they control the tempo. Lee is a decorated wrestler who is slowly-but-surely improving his hands, while the Brazilian is a runaway bulldozer who likes to smother people into decision losses.
You might want to hold off on the popcorn until later in the night. Try coffee instead.
I have a feeling both fighters will be looking to head south and might actually cancel each other out in the process. If that's the case, I have a lot more faith in what Lee can do in the stand up and while it may not be the prettiest of victories, I do think he's the better man after three rounds.
Final prediction: Lee def. Prazeres via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Ray "The Tazmexican Devil" Borg (7-1) vs. Chris "The Greek Assassin" Kelades (8-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I've been thinking a lot about this fight as we head into Saturday night and I can't decide if all the hullabaloo regarding the future of Ray Borg is warranted, or we're just so desperate for flyweight contenders that we're willing to anoint every promising prospect as the next big thing.
His performance against Chris Kelades should help clear things up.
Borg had an extremely-tough out for his Octagon debut and still nearly pulled out the win against the venerable Dustin Ortiz. He's proficient in every skill set and has the means to win the fight wherever it goes. He's not as polished as some of the top contenders, but we shouldn't expect him to be at just 21 years old.
Something Kelades is hoping to exploit.
The 33-year-old "Greek Assassin" is a talented ground fighter, but a bit of a late bloomer in the MMA world. It also troubles me when a combatant who racks up a ton of finishes suddenly settles into a streak of decisions -- in both directions -- as he could easily be overwhelmed by his younger, more explosive opponent.
This could be a clinic.
Kelades is likely to have an answer for everything Borg presents. The problem is, he's not going to be fast enough to capitalize on it. Everyone at flyweight is speedy, but the "Tazmexican Devil" is one of the speediest, and will shut his bewildered foe down from bell-to-bell.
Final prediction: Borg def. Kelades via unanimous decision
That's a wrap.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 60 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised prelims and main card, slated to begin at 8 and 10:00 p.m. ET, respectively.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 60 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Henderson vs. Thatch."
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.