The Sleep Train Arena plays host to UFC on FOX 9 on Saturday night which features a main event title fight and some key match ups in the bantamweight division. As always Jordan Cieciwa (@FitCityJordan) and I (@LynchOnSports) go head to head with our preview and picks. Last week at UFC Fight Night 33, my #TeamLynch (6 correct picks) slightly edged out #TeamJC (5 correct picks). Let us know which side you're on! Use the hashtag #TeamLynch or #TeamJC on Twitter. Also feel free to leave you opinions in the comment section below.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez (Flyweight Championship)
James Lynch TSN.ca (@LynchOnSports)
In a rematch from their tightly contested encounter back at UFC 152 in Toronto, flyweight champ Johnson looks to make his third defense of his title when he battles Team Alpha male fighter Benavidez.
Since winning the inaugural title at that same event back in September of 2012, "Mighty Mouse" has dispatched TUF 14 winner John Dodson and John Moraga to push his winning streak to four-straight.
The 29-year old Benavidez has had an equally impressive run, racking up three-straight wins, including two spectacular knockouts. Clearly since the addition of striking coach Duane Ludwig to the Team Alpha Male camp, Benavidez's striking has looked impressive.
Johnson earned his first submission victory in three years during his last fight and also trains with a prestigious camp at AMC Pankration.
Traditionally, rematches tend to play out much differently than the first fight, but in this case it's tough to say which 125lb fighter has improved more. Both are decorated wrestlers and while you could give the edge on the mat to Johnson, Benavidez has the better striking game.
It's a coin flip and with that I'm going to take California favorite Benavidez for the victory via split decision.
Benavidez via split decision
Jordan Cieciwa TSN 1290 (@FitCityJordan)
UFC 152 had us treated to a great fight at flyweight when Demetrious Johnson squared off against Joseph Benavidez. Johnson won the fight, but fans have been looking forward to this rematch since Johnson successfully defended his title twice. Johnson won a unanimous decision against
John Dodson, and arm barred John Moraga with less than two minutes in the 5th round.
If he goes to sleep on Benavidez or tries to take this one to the "deep water" of the championship rounds, he's not keeping his title.
Benavidez is going to be looking to finish this fight. This is a great fight for the 125lb category. I see this going to Benavidez way. His improvements in striking will allow him to set the pace in this fight.
Benavidez via unanimous decision
Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald
Much like the main event, an equally competitive matchup takes place in the 135lb division as former WEC featherweight champ Faber battles fellow California native, McDonald.
Since losing his inaugural bantamweight title fight to Renan Barao back at UFC 149, "The California Kid" has won three straight over Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen and most recently Yuri Alcantara. At 34-years of age, this may very well be his last run at UFC gold and we very well could see a passing of the guard on Saturday night.
McDonald meanwhile made history earlier this year becoming the youngest fighter to compete for a UFC title in his loss to Renan Barao back at UFC on FUEL 7. Despite the loss, the 22-year old responded well in his next fight, handing Brad Pickett his first stoppage loss in the UFC.
No doubt Faber has fought tougher competition during his 35-fight career, but McDonald has just two blemishes (one being to Barao) in his 18-fight career. The Oakdale MMA pupil has more power, but the Team Alpha male captain has more in his arsenal to win this fight with his wrestling and ground game.
It's doubtful either fighter will earn a stoppage and if that's the case, I'm giving the nod to the experienced Faber.
Faber via unanimous decision
Urijah Faber always brings the fight and not too many people have been able to beat him. In fact, he seems to only lose to champions.
Michael McDonald does the same thing. He hasn't lost to anyone other than Renan Barao for about five years. So it brings up the question. Does the veteran show the new comer the ropes? Or does the young up start show the MMA world that he learned a thing or two since losing to the champ, then coming back to choke out a top contender in Brad Pickett.
I'm going with the young blood in this one.
Michael McDonald has looked fantastic in all his outings. He will need to bring the best fight of his career, but I think it is in him. If McDonald uses his two-inch height advantage he'll be able to keep Faber far enough back that he should be able to defend the take down.
We'll know in the first two minutes if I'm right. If McDonald gets his first sprawl, he'll be able to compete and win.
McDonald via unanimous decision
Nik Lentz vs. Chad Mendes
Yet another Team Alpha male pupil competes on the main card as 15-1 Mendes battles fellow NCAA Division I wrestler Lentz.
Since losing to current champ Jose Aldo last January, the 28-year old Mendes has amassed four consecutive knockout victories, including a third round TKO over Clay Guida in his last bout. It was the first time through Guida's 44-fight career that he had been stopped due to strikes.
Meanwhile for Lentz, since his drop to featherweight he has remained undefeated, racking up wins over Eiji Mitsuoka, Diego Nunes and Hacran Dias.
Much of Lentz' success has been due to his work with top health/fitness guru Mike Dolce. Initially slated to fight Dennis Bermudez back at UFC Fight Night 31, the 29-year old will take a huge step up in competition when he squares off with Mendes.
Everything Lentz can do, "Money" can do better and while this should be a competitive bout, it's Mendes' fight to lose. Expect the first round to be a wrestling clinic for both fighters, but come the second round, the 28-year old will find his range and knockout "The Carney" to earn a featherweight title shot.
Mendes via second round knockout
UFC on Fox 9 could be called UFC Alpha Male. This is the first of the fights for team Alpha Male that I see being a clear cut pick.
Chad Mendes is so dominant at 145lbs that I can see him knocking out a veteran like Nik Lentz. Lentz is a big featherweight, and he made the cut thanks to one of the best in the business Mike Dolce.
That size doesn't usually change Mendes fight plan. Watch for him to push the pace and use all his strength to control the fight.
The pace will be set to a level that will have Lentz make a mistake, Mendes will capitalize with a heavy right hand. Once on the ground, Mendes should end this with a flurry.
Mendes via second round TKO
Mac Danzig vs. Joe Lauzon
A pair of lightweights on two-fight losing streaks open up the main card Saturday night, as TUF 6 winner Danzig battles jiu-jitsu ace Lauzon.
With the UFC looking to do additional roster cuts into the New Year, the loser of this bout could very well find themselves on the unemployment line.
The PRIDE veteran Danzig is coming off a second round knockout loss to Melvin Guillard, and hasn't earned a victory inside the octagon since April of 2012.
Lauzon looked impressive in his "Fight of the Year" victory over Jamie Varner in August 2012, but since then has looked flat in back to back decision losses to Jim Miller and Michael Johnson.
For Danzig, his last notable win was back in 2008 against Mark Bocek and since then, has only beat fighters who are no longer on the UFC roster.
Lauzon is younger and has shown flashes of greatness in his wins over Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard. No doubt it will be a close fight, but I expect the former IT Professional to emerge victorious on Saturday.
Lauzon via third round submission.
How did this get on a free card?
This has the potential to be one of those great scraps. Mac Danzig is one of those fun to watch tough fighters with a lot of skill in both striking and as soon as the fight hits the mat.
Joe Lauzon has shown us over the years how to utilize Jujitsu in the UFC. He's ground game is second to none. With that said, both this fighters have been resting on their laurels. They have looked impressive at times, but not consistently. We all know the potential is there for them to be great.
My hope is that Dana White's famous pre-event speech gets them amped. For those that don't know, White is famous for reminding fighters that their job is never guaranteed and anytime they want, he can find a fighter to replace them. If they don't want to get fired, they need to prove it that night. I'm choosing grit on this night.
Danzig via unanimous decision
Lynch: McGee, Barboza, Green, Jorgensen, Stout
JC: McGee, Barboza, Healy, Jorgensen, McKenzie
Also be sure to tune into the "Weigh-In" on TSN Radio 1290 Winnipeg every Saturday as myself, Jordan and "Big Marv" Timog go toe to toe discussing the hottest topics in MMA.