The UFC returns to the Windy City for the tenth installment in the FOX franchise. This time there's no belt on the line, but two former champions will duke it out for a chance to get back to the title. In addition, two top-tier heavyweights will also meet to decide who has what it takes to truly challenge the upper echelon of the division.
Will Benson Henderson have enough to get past the strong wrestling and athleticism of Josh Thomson? Is Stipe Miocic the next big thing at heavyweight? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC on FOX 10: Henderson vs. Thomson
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: Saturday, the one-fight Fight Pass card starts at 4:30 p.m. ET, the six-fight Fox Sports 1 card starts at 5 p.m. and the four-fight main card starts on FOX at 8 p.m.
Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson
Henderson is nothing if not consistent. Ok, sure, he wasn't so consistent against Anthony Pettis, but it's hard to read his resume as anything but a model of impeccable repetition and application. We basically know what kind of Henderson we're going to get. We know, at least, what the basement on his abilities is. I suspect Thomson is going to be able to keep pace with Henderson, matching him move for move. I also, however, believe the stories about Thomson's training camp. And either way, Henderson's too good at defining the fight on his terms, something Thomson also does, but not to the same effect. Look for Henderson to slowly but surely take over.
Stipe Miocic vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
I've struggled with this pick. I think some are annoiting Miocic the winner ahead of time over a Gonzaga who isn't the same fighter who once washed out of the UFC. I also don't think the loss to Travis Browne is particularly indicative of his abilities. If this fight goes to the floor, I expect Gonzaga to have his way (and yes, I recognize Miocic's wrestling acumen). On the feet, however, Miocic has shown he can sit behind the jab and combinations if he needs to. More than anything, that's his ticket to win. But Gonzaga can disrupt that rhythm with a big shot and on the floor, I don't see how Miocic could be an even match.
Martins has a hell of a top game, particularly as a passer. I'm also not necessarily blown away by Cerrone's takedown defense, but I don't see this particular pairing of skills and deficiencies as the one to decide all things. Cerrone is a better striker by an order of magnitude and has fought significantly better opposition. He may have a bad spot or two to fight out of, but that's about it.
I'm going to go with the upset here and take Elkins. He didn't look great against Chad Mendes. I also grant Stephens' power seems to translate perfectly at featherweight. I also think Elkins is criminally underrated. He has one of the best fight IQs of any fighter in the game. He knows his abilities, what it takes to win and how best to use them. Mendes was too much no matter what the strategy, but he finds ways to win because he's clever. Stephens could blow him out and I don't want to suggest he doesn't have the ability to adjust, but Elkins is crafty in self-preservation. That might just be enough.
From the preliminary card: