Did you ever play the word association game? UFC on Fox 7 is the perfect time to do that.
Here is my list of words that came to mind. Excitement. Smooth. Free. Finally. Stacked.
How did this card come together and can we get a lot more cards like this one where T.J. Dillashaw and Joseph Benavidez are undercards?
This card is so good Lynch and I know you have your picks. We want to hear them, are you #TeamJC or #TeamLynch. Talk to us on twitter.
Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez
James Lynch, TSN.ca (@LynchOnSports): : Headlining a night of Strikeforce versus UFC competitors, Melendez makes his much anticipated promotional debut against the current 155-pound champion. Aside from a rematch with Anthony Pettis, the Cesar Gracie fighter appears to be one of the few candidates that could dethrone Henderson's undefeated streak in the UFC's lightweight division.
The former Strikeforce lightweight champion has a versatile attack, mixing in a solid stand-game along with high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which has led to an impressive 21-2 record. With 11 knockouts to his credit, it's no secret Melendez will look to keep this fight standing in hopes of catching the 29-year old with his right hand.
The hope is “El Nino” has learned from his teammate Nate Diaz, who struggled with Henderson's wrestling in a losing effort back at UFC on FOX 5 in December. The Achilles heel as a whole for the Cesar Gracie team is wrestling. Nick Diaz and Jake Shields struggled with the wresting of Georges St-Pierre in losing efforts, while even in victory Melendez struggled with the wrestling of Josh Thomson in his last fight.
Physically both champions are almost identical in height and reach; however I give the edge to the Taekwondo black belt as I think he will be able to neutralize Melendez's stand-up and grind out a unanimous decision victory.
Henderson via Unanimous Decision
Jordan Cieciwa, TSN Radio 1290 (@Fitcityjordan): Gilbert Melendez has the one thing Nate Diaz doesn't, that's a lot more strength. Diaz couldn't solve Smooth's wrestling, I like the added strength Melendez brings to the table. The striking game goes to Henderson. Not many people look as good as he does when they move forward striking.
Melendez has the one punch power and has shown it with some impressive knockouts in his career. I hate making predictions on fighters first time in the UFC, what I have seen of Melendez I really liked, but it was in Strikeforce.
Melendez had a little problem with Josh Thomson, and that makes me nervous to put my faith in him. With that said, the power punch and strength has me thinking Melendez will control the fight and the Octagon. That should secure a decision win.
Melendez via Decision
Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir
Lynch: In a bout that was supposed to headline a Strikeforce event back in November, Cormier makes his promotional debut against the former UFC heavyweight champion.
The NCAA Division 1 wrestler turned heads when he knocked out current UFC title challenger Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the first round, displaying a much improved striking game in the upset victory. He would follow this performance up with a dominating victory over Josh Barnett, winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012.
His opponent, the 33-year old Mir has had an up and down career since vacating his title back in 2006 due to a serious motorcycle accident. Failing to earn the UFC gold once again in losing efforts against Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos, the 22-fight veteran hopes a win over the AKA standout can provide him that opportunity at the title once again. To ensure this, the Las Vegas native switched his training over to the prestigious Jackson/Winklejohn camp with the likes of Jon Jones and Travis Browne.
Taking a glance at Mir's resume, all of his losses primarily have been to elite strikers and stylistically that bodes well for the undefeated Cormier. If Mir can take this fight to the canvas he has a chance of forcing the tap out, but I see the 34-year old Cormier keeping this fight on the feet and earning the knockout victory.
Cormier via Knockout (Second Round)
JC: Finally. I have wanted to see this fight since it was announced as a main event in Strikeforce. Frank Mir is an excellent challenge for Cormier. If there is any holes in Cormier's game, Mir will find them with his Jujitsu and much improved boxing.
The problem is, I don't think there is any holes in Cormier's game, just some solid wrestling and a ton of punching power. I expect Cormier to use his NCAA wrestling to stand up at will when Mir tries for the take down. That gives him every opportunity to land his big strike. Expect a knockout off of a sprawl on a sloppy take down attempt from Mir.
Cormier via Knockout (Second Round)
Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson
Lynch: These two lightweights face off in a contest that will surely secure their relevance as contenders in the 155-pound division. As was noted on the “Road To the Octagon” special that aired on FOX earlier this week, nobody could be more prepared for Thomson than the Ultimate Fighter 5 winner, as his teammate Gilbert Melendez has fought the AKA standout three times.
Regardless, the former Strikeforce 155-pound champ is a wrestling specialist and actually gave Melendez lots of trouble in his last fight using his takedowns, despite losing a split decision (I actually thought he won the fight). If there is one Achilles heel in the arsenal of the 27-year old Diaz, it's his inability to stop takedowns, as was evident in his losses to Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson.
No doubt the BJJ black belt is a threat anywhere the fight goes, but I think Thompson will play the role of spoiler. Using his wrestling and controlling the Skrap Pack member over three rounds, I see “The Punk's” UFC homecoming a successful one.
Thomson via Unanimous Decision
JC: Nate Diaz is incredibly underrated. The only weakness I see in his game is his strength. The brothers (Nick and Nate) both seem to be street tough kids, long on heart but short on the drive to hit the weight room. As MMA progresses, this type of fighter will become more and more of a dinosaur.
With that said, Diaz will be ready for this fight. His coaching staff has seen Josh Thompson in three fights with Gilbert Melendez. That kind of specific prep will help get a win. Diaz brings a very awkward striking game to the match. That style confuses some fighters, and allows Diaz to set up his ground game.
This fight will be a submission fans dream come true. There will be a lot of set ups and intricate moments on the ground. I expect Diaz to set up a take down, secure it and secure a submission on Thomson.
Diaz via Submission (Second Round)
Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein
Lynch: Taking this fight on short notice, the Lethbridge, Alberta native Mein looks to make it two in a row inside the octagon as he faces off with the Ultimate Fighter 7 competitor.
In his UFC debut, “Young Gun” dispatched veteran Dan Miller in the first round and stopped the New Jersey native for the first time in his career. Despite Brown riding a four-fight win streak, his level of competition is nowhere near the ability of the rising Canadian prospect. Since his loss to Tyron Woodley, the 23-year old has been on a tear and I see that continuing on Saturday night.
I see Mein using his effective striking and outpointing his durable opponent over three rounds.
Mein via Unanimous Decision
JC: Mein stopped Dan Miller. It was his first big test and he looked like a seasoned veteran. Mein's ability to control the Octagon, and pick his shots was beyond impressive for a 23 year old. Matt Brown has a very well rounded game, and is dangerous to take short notice.
That said, Mein is the type of fighter that requires prep work from his opponents. He is that good, and he is that dangerous. I wouldn't be surprised to see a submission win from Mein on this one. The short notice of this fight will play to Mein's favor. There isn't a lot of film on him fighting tip notch athletes. He dispatched Miller quick and TKO'd him, that means Brown has something to think about. If he prepares for his striking and forgets his submission ability, I can see that opening up a control game for Mein.
I don't think lighting will strike twice, meaning, I don't see Mein stopping two top welterweights in the first round. This one will go the distance.
Mein via Decision
Lynch: Mendes, Larkin, Jury, Benavidez, Masvidal, Dillashaw, Njokuani, Starks
JC: Mendes, Carmont, Jury, Benavidez, Bowling, Masvidal, Dillashaw, Starks