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UFC Fight Night 116 predictions: ‘Rockhold vs Branch’ Fight Pass 'Prelims' undercard preview

UFC 179: Aldo v Mendes 2 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The king (?) is back.

Former UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold enters the cage for the first time in 15 months this Saturday evening (Sept. 16, 2017) when he takes on former WSOF champ David Branch in the main event of UFC Fight Night 116, live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

See the complete fight card and line up here:

The co-feature pits Mike Perry’s destructive power against Thiago Alves’ veteran savvy, while Hector Lombard looks to halt a three-fight skid against towering finisher Anthony Smith.

It’s a 1-4 split between Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this time around, so those of you without a subscription aren’t missing much in terms of quantity. In quality? Read on to find out!

155 lbs.: Jason Saggo (12-3) vs. Gilbert Burns (11-2)

Canada’s Saggo got off to a roaring UFC start with a dominant stoppage of Josh Shockley, only to lose a close decision to Paul Felder soon after. He righted the ship with a split decision over Leandro Silva, but came up short like so many other wrestlers against suplex master Rustam Khabilov last December. He has submitted eight opponents and knocked out another three.

“Durinho” brought a world-class BJJ pedigree into his UFC debut and rode it to three consecutive wins before running afoul of Rashid Magomedov in Brazil. He went on to submit Lukasz Sajewski, but came up short against an overweight Michel Prazeres two months later. His professional stoppages are split 7-3 between submissions and knockouts.

Burns has done well for himself in the UFC, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed in his progress. While Magomedov and Prazeres are beasts in their own rights and losing to them is no shame, this is a guy with one of the UFC’s strongest grappling résumés and a terrific striking instructor in Henri Hooft. He should have been on the fringes of the top ten by now.

He has to beat Saggo here if he wants to maintain his blue-chip status. The Canadian is a willing wrestler in his own right and will force Burns to demonstrate that he’s sufficiently rounded his game to challenge the lightweight elite. With everything Burns has going for him and the experience he gained in the loss to Prazeres, I’m leaning towards him wrapping up a rear naked choke midway through.

Prediction: Burns by second-round submission

Four to go, including Krzysztof Jotko vs. Uriah Hall and a pair of promising young lightweights. See you tomorrow, fight fans.

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