The UFC returns this weekend having taken what will be a rare weekend break this year, and they return on network television. Headlining this Fox event at the United Center in Chicago will be former UFC lightweight champion, Ben Henderson, as he looks to get back on the title trail with a win over Josh Thomson, the #4 lightweight in the UFC. In the co-main event we move on to the big boys as Stipe Miocic and Gabriel Gonzaga will lock horns, right after lightweights Donald Cerrone and Adriano Martins collide and featherweights Darren Elkins and Jeremy Stephens get us started.
If you’ve made it this far, then you know why you’re here and you know why I’m here. On to the prelims…
Alex Caceres vs. Sergio Pettis – 135lbs.
It always surprised me that Alex Caceres was given so much leeway by the UFC in his early days with the promotion. A less than stellar run on The Ultimate Fighter and back-to-back defeats after having signed on with the promotion, Caceres was still being given chances by top brass. To his credit, Caceres, or Bruce Leeroy as he likes to be referred to, has turned his fortunes around since making the drop to bantamweight in 2011 and has put together a 4-1-0-1NC run while he has been a 135lb’er. Caceres most recently fought at UFC 165 back in September where he faced off with Roland Delorme, taking home the split decision victory.
Anthony’s little brother made his highly anticipated UFC debut last time out back at UFC 167, and while he did not have it all his own way against Will Campuzano, Sergio Pettis continued to display the kind of technique and fight IQ that has got many a fan wondering where this kid’s ceiling is. Carrying a perfect 10-0 record in to the fight, the 20 year old Pettis will be looking to continue his good start to his career in the biggest of big leagues when he takes on Caceres this Saturday.
Pettis appears to be in the midst of being built up by the UFC, with the young man not yet thrust in to the lions as a result of his name and the surrounding hype. While Caceres has the ability to spring what would be considered an upset, Pettis is superior to Caceres in all areas if he fights to his capabilities. Look for Pettis to outclass Caceres on the feet before taking it to the mat, locking in a sub at the midway point of the fight.
Prediction – Pettis via submission in the 2nd round.
Eddie Wineland vs. Yves Jabouin – 135lbs.
To have been placed on the prelims after having just fought for the UFC Interim Bantamweight title against now full-blown champ Renan Barao, Eddie Wineland must be feeling a little harshly treated. Granted Wineland boasts a 2-3 UFC record during his time in the Octagon, but stats do not tell the whole of the story here. Wineland has fought a murderer’s row of opponents in Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Scott Jorgensen, Brad Pickett and the aforementioned Barao; performing admirably in both victory and defeat. Jabouin is a slight drop in competition compared to recent foes, but will offer Wineland a perfect chance to get back to winning ways.
This is not to say that Jabouin is anybody’s chump, far from it. Jabouin is a wily veteran capable of beating all but the very best that the division has to offer. Jabouin has managed to string together a decent run of form of late, compiling a 3-1 record over his last four fights and with his most recent victory coming over Dustin Pague back in June, Jabouin will be looking to claim arguably the biggest scalp of his career.
Jabouin will bring an element of surprise in his attack, as he is known for some fairly creative striking when the cage door closes. However, Wineland is the far more refined striker of the two and I have been heavily impressed by Wineland’s hands and movement on the feet of late and fully expect him to outwork Jabouin on the feet to a unanimous decision or late stoppage.
Prediction – Wineland via unanimous decision.
Daron Cruickshank vs. Mike Rio – 155lbs.
Daron Cruickshank could find himself in a bit of hot water if he is unable to register a victory over Mike Rio this Saturday. While he currently carries a steady 3-2 UFC record to date, if Cruickshank fails here he will be 1-3 over his last four contests, and in a division as stacked for talent as the lightweight ranks are, casualties are commonplace. Cruickshank last competed in November, losing out to Adriano Martins via armbar.
Where Cruickshank has a possibility of being cut should he fall short, it would come as no surprise to anybody if Mike Rio was to receive his pink slip following a loss, as this would be his third straight defeat. Rio has found it hard in the UFC, registering his solitary promotional win in his Octagon debut back in 2012 and then following that up with consecutive defeats at the hands of Francisco Trinaldo and most recently, Tony Ferguson.
Cruickshank will be the more athletic and powerful combatant of the two, whilst also carrying a sizeable advantage over Rio in the striking department. Rio has serviceable wrestling, but will ultimately be undone on the feet before he has a chance to take it to the mat.
Prediction – Cruickshank via KO/TKO in the 1st round.
Walt Harris vs. Nikita Krylov – 265lbs.
Not exactly the start that either Harris or Krylov would have wanted to kick off their with the UFC career, with each man suffering a defeat in their Octagon debut. Harris went down to Jared Rosholt via unanimous decision back in November, whereas Krylov was to take the more brutal route in being TKO’d at the hands of Soa Palelei this past August.
While Krylov has the more rounded MMA game, Harris will hold both a power and striking advantage in this matchup, which I think will prove crucial in the outcome of this contest. I cannot imagine this one lasting too long.
Prediction – Harris via KO/TKO in the 1st round.
Tags: Alex Caceres, Benson Henderson, Eddie Wineland, Josh Thomson, Mixed Martial Arts, Sergio Pettis, UFC, UFC on Fox 10, Yves Jabouin