The UFC makes its first trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada this Saturday night for UFC 161. The event is headlined by a light heavyweight tilt between Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans, who are both looking to rebound from recent losses. UFC 161 is the first major event in 2013 to be hit by the infamous 'injury bug', with the original main event of Renan Barao vs Eddie Wineland being scrapped when Barao suffered ligament damage in his foot. Shogun Rua vs Rogerio Nogueira was also set for the main card, but Nogueira had to pull out with a pinched nerve, causing a chain of events that ultimately ended in the UFC booking Shogun vs Chael Sonnen for August 17th in Boston. With the card losing two high-profile bouts, Roy Nelson vs Stipe Miocic was added to the card and will serve as the night's co-main event. The card also features the UFC debuts of Alexis Davis and Rosi Sexton in a women's bantamweight fight.
Can Dan Henderson land an "H-bomb" on Rashad Evans? Can Evans avoid the first three-fight losing streak of his career? Will Roy Nelson get a fourth knock-out win in a row against Stipe Miocic? Let's take a look with my main card predictions for UFC 161.
UFC 161 Main Card Predictions:
Main Event: Light Heavyweight Fight
This is a tough fight to predict, partly due to the uninspiring performances put on by both men in their most recent fights. Evans lost a lackluster decision to Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 back in February, where he got out-boxed by the Brazilian, and didn't really attempt any meaningful offense. This, along with some statements made by Evans prior to the fight, caused some fans and pundits to question Evans' desire to keep fighting. Henderson lost to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157, where Machida was able to evade Henderson's attack and counterstrike his way to a decision. Henderson has a more decorated wrestling background than Evans does, but is also nine years his elder at age 42. Evans is very much able to elude his opponents offense, with his quickness and athleticism. Also, if you look at how often Dan Henderson attempts his signature over-hand punch in recent fights, he misses a lot more often than he lands. Evans has fought wrestler's before, Phil Davis and Jon Jones, and was able to mix up his striking and takedowns. Henderson is going to need to connect with one of his 'H-bombs', and probably early, because the longer this fight goes the more I see it favoring the younger, quicker Evans.
Pick: Evans by decision.
Co-main Event: Heavyweight Fight
Roy Nelson vs Stipe Miocic
Nelson makes a quick turnaround in this one, after knocking out Cheick Kongo on April 27th at UFC 159. He's on a three-fight knockout streak, and all of his six UFC wins have come by KO or TKO, with only Mirko "Cro Cop" making it out of the first round. Miocic is coming off of his only career loss, to Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 5 back in September. Nelson will be Miocic's highest ranked opponent to-date, and I don't know if the Croatian-American prospect has come far enough along in his development to be able to get past a veteran like Nelson. We'll see though, as Nelson hasn't performed well against more in-shape fighters who push the pace and keep the pressure on him. I'm going to pick Nelson by KO, but I wouldn't be surprised if Miocic got an upset in this one.
Pick: Nelson by 2nd round KO.
Light Heavyweight Fight
Ryan Jimmo vs Igor Pakrajac
Pokrajac is a veteran of nine UFC fights, and has sported a record of 4-4-1 NC in the octagon. His no-contest came in his most recent fight, where he lost Joey Beltran, who tested positive for banned substances, and the win was overturned. That followed a submission loss to Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 152. Jimmo made his UFC debut at UFC 149, where he tied the fastest knock-out record by starching Anthony Perosh in just seven seconds. He most recently lost a decision to James Te Huna, but had Te Huna hurt bad after dropping him with a headkick in the first round and almost finishing the fight with some vicious ground and pound. Te Huna came back and controlled Jimmo against the fence and on the mat and the last two rounds, and took home a UD. I think that the Canadian will be able to take out the Croatian in this one, and early.
Pick: Jimmo by 1st round KO
Women's Bantamweight Fight
Both of these fighters are making their UFC debuts, and are both looking to continue the hot streak of exciting and gutsy female performances in the octagon. Sexton is a jiu jitsu black belt with a PhD in theoretical computer science, and is on a three fight winning streak. Davis enters the UFC after a very successful run in Strikeforce and Invicta, and has won five of her last six fights. In Sexton's last fight, a win over Aisling Daly at Cage Warriors 47, she controlled Daly from the top for most of the fight, but did allow Daly to almost pull off two armbars in the first round and a pretty deep guillotine later on. Sexton is well-rounded, and smart, but I don't know if she'll be able to get out of those same predicaments if she winds up in one against Davis. I think that when this one hits the mat, Davis will be able to shut down Sexton's ground and pound, and as long as Davis doesn't spend too much time on the bottom, the judges' scorecards will go her way
Pick: Davis by decision
Pat Barry is 5-5 in the UFC and hasn't been able to string together two wins in a row inside the octagon. Both of these Louisana natives will be looking for their second straight, with Barry coming off of a vicious knockout of Shane Del Rosario at the TUF 16 Finale back in December, and Jordan is coming off of a second-round TKO over Mike Russow at UFC on Fox in January. Jordan got hurt early in his fight with Russow, but was able to recover. In the second round, after Russow had spent the bulk of his energy, Jordan was able to take his back and rain down enough punches for the Herb Dean to waive it off. This one is tough to pick, because it's unclear to me at this point how much potential Shawn Jordan really has in the UFC's heavyweight division. I'm not sure if Jordan will be able to recover if Barry catches in him early, like Russow was able to do, but if he does, then he can probably take the fight to the second round and win by submission. I could easily see either fighter winning this one, but since this is predictions piece, I'll go with my gut and say Shawn Jordan.
Pick: Jordan by 2nd round TKO.