Will Jake Ellenberger follow up his destruction of Jake Shields with a similar demolition of Diego Sanchez? Or is Sanchez ready to make the case that he's closing in on welterweight title contention? Can Dave Herman make it two in a row in the UFC heavyweight division? Or is beating Stefan Struve too tall an order for Herman? Can Ronny Markes continue to show that he's one of the best young middleweights in MMA? Or is Aaron Simpson's wrestling too much for Markes?
I'll attempt to answer those questions and more as I predict the winners of Wednesday night's UFC on Fuel card below.
What: UFC on FUEL TV: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger
When: Wednesday, the Facebook preliminary fights begin at 6:20 PM ET and the FUEL TV card starts at 8.
Where: Omaha Civic Auditorium, Nebraska
Predictions on the televised fights below.
Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger
In a UFC welterweight division that is going through some radical changes while Georges St. Pierre is sidelined, this is a big-time fight. Ellenberger has won five in a row and removed any doubt that he's a Top 10 welterweight with his knockout win over Jake Shields. Sanchez is finally ready to return almost a full year after winning a three-round war with Martin Kampmann. This fight should be a lot of fun, and I think Ellenberger will do enough to earn a hard-fought decision. If that's what happens, I'd love to see the UFC give Ellenberger a shot at Carlos Condit's interim welterweight champion; the two of them have some unfinished business after Condit beat Ellenberger by split decision in Ellenberger's UFC debut in 2009.
Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman
Herman looked good in his UFC debut and is the favorite to improve to 2-0 inside the Octagon, but I see this one going in Struve's favor. Look for Herman to take Struve down and then live to regret it, as Struve is outstanding at using his long legs to submit opponents off his back.
Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes
Markes is an extremely talented 23-year-old Brazilian who is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Karlos Vemola in his UFC debut. I like Markes's future a lot, but at this point in his career I think Simpson is the worst kind of matchup for him, a powerful wrestler who can take him down and stay on top of him. Markes will win plenty of fights in the UFC over the course of his career, but I see Simpson taking a decision here.
The 7-0 Miocic was a college wrestler who has developed into an impressive striker and has a lot of potential to make some noise in the UFC heavyweight division. The 8-0 De Fries has a good ground game and is a threat to submit Miocic, but I think Miocic's kickboxing will be too much, and De Fries will be the one to suffer his first professional loss.
Dillashaw is making a quick return after losing in the finale of the last season of The Ultimate Fighter. He's going to have a tough test on his hands against Watson, who's basically the bantamweight version of Struve: A long and lanky fighter who doesn't often excel at using his reach advantage standing up but does a nice job of using his long limbs to submit opponents off his back. That's dangerous for Dillashaw, a good wrestler who will want to put Watson on his back, but I think Dillashaw will be savvy enough to avoid getting caught and win a decision.
Albert was also a competitor on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter and he had a solid win over Dustin Pague in the Finale. But I don't think he matches up well with Menjivar, a grizzled veteran who has a more well-rounded game than Albert.