UFC 156 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Is it a superfight? Is it not a superfight? I don't know. It depends on how you want to define what a superfight is or isn't. I can see a case for both, frankly.

Here's what I know for sure: Jose Aldo defending his featherweight title against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar is an incredible fight no matter the nomenclature or label. The bout pits two of the UFC's best pound-for-pound fighters against one another in a bout that isn't contrived and fairly meaningless like the proposed Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre bout would be.

Aldo and Edgar are, for fighting purposes, roughly the same size. They are both in their primes. Their battle for supremacy is real and arguably if somewhat controversially, very deserved. A bout like this can do wonders for the development not simply of featherweight, but lighter divisions generally.

Can Edgar get back to his winning ways after disappointing decision losses at lightweight? Is Aldo truly the best featherweight in the world? I try to answer these questions and more with predictions for Saturday's event.

What: UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar

Where: The Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada

When: Saturday, the two-fight Facebook card starts at 7 p.m. ET, the four-fight FX card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight main card starts on pay-per-view at 10 p.m.

Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar

Let me state up front I've been on the wrong end as far as predicting Frankie Edgar fights are concerned. I've not been wrong every time, but certainly a healthy portion. Today could be no different.

Still, I've got to go with my gut and I like the featherweight champion to retain his crown. I believe Aldo could fade and Edgar's pressure game could end up taking a round or two at the end of a five-round fight, but I don't see him dominating the champion for the first fifteen minutes or winning enough of the striking exchanges.

What makes Aldo special is his reflexive decision making, which itself is facilitated by his explosive athleticism. Edgar, by contrast, gets hit a lot and more so at the beginning and middle of fights. I don't see how Edgar escapes the early rounds without taking a fair amount of abuse, particularly in the leg kick department.

In addition, Aldo's takedown defense is good not just because it's consistent, but because he creates separation after stopping a takedown very quickly. People don't typically pin Aldo to the cage and force him to fight off a protracted attempt.

Edgar could make things very interesting late, but I'm betting he loses early and long enough to make winning the entire thing unlikely.

Pick: Aldo

Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

I don't see this as particularly competitive. Evans has been off for sometime and could be rusty. I also suspect spending too much time at range with a decently accurate, combination southpaw like Nogueira could be trouble. We further know the Brazilian's double leg takedown defense is very good. But Evans can transition to the level change better than almost anyone at light heavyweight as well as switch from double to knee tap to single if need be. Things might be hairy early, but it's hard to see how Evans will be offensively muted for very long. He'll get the takedowns he needs and will land enough shots to score the points necessary for a decision victory.

Pick: Evans

Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva

Neither heavyweight is particularly fast, but one is very proficient in one facet of the game, namely, striking. And that heavyweight is Overeem. Silva's only real shot is a Hail Mary punch or damage on top from ground and pound. I don't rule out the possibility of the latter, but I see it as unlikely. What seems more plausible is that Overeem will stalk Silva and overwhelm him with superior combos and well-placed, heavy punches with enough takedown defense to earn a stoppage TKO.

Pick: Overeem

Demian Maia vs. Jon Fitch

This fight is probably the hardest to figure out of all on the main card. I think a compelling case can be made for either fighter, but I'm siding with the proven commodity at welterweight. There's no denying Maia has looked quick and strong at 170 pounds, but Fitch is a different animal. He's going to be hard to take down and as we've seen, ultra hard if not impossible to submit. Maia is a better submission finisher than Erick Silva, but Fitch has ungodly abilities to work out of bad submission spots (particularly chokes). I also think Fitch's wrestling and superb scrambling will help him work from a spot where Maia is far less dangerous: his own guard. Look, Maia's guard is world-class and he could catch almost anyone on the right day from it, but relative to top or back control, his guard isn't as potent. If Fitch is proactive and disciplined in his attack, Maia should fold.

Pick: Fitch

Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall

Two really excellent flyweight fighters, but I'm going with the Team Alpha Male product. I actually believe McCall could outstrike him as he has the cleaner technique while Benavidez tends to rely on athleticism for combinations and distance management. But Benavidez's wrestling will be too much for McCall. It's true 'Uncle Creepy' is a very good MMA wrestler himself, but people routinely discount how good Benavidez' strength and control actually is. He'll use it for either a decision or submission victory.

Pick: Benavidez

From the preliminary card:

Evan Dunham < Gleison Tibau
Jay Hieron > Tyron Woodley
Edwin Figueroa > Francisco Rivera
Bobby Green < Jacob Volkmann
Isaac Vallie-Flagg < Yves Edwards
Chico Camus > Dustin Kimura

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