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UFC 164 predictions

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

I'm fairly certain this won't be the highest-selling pay-per-view event of the year for the UFC, but that's a shame. The card the organization has put together on Saturday is sensational and worthy of every mixed martial arts fan's dollar.

There's quite a lot to enjoy, but nothing more so than the main event. It's a hell of a rematch and perhaps most enjoyably, all signs indicate it will be both different and potentially as good as the fighters' first meeting roughly three years ago.

Will Benson Henderson earn the respect he should be beating the only man who has defeated him in a Zuffa organization? Will Anthony Pettis prove he has Henderson's number as he has stated for some time? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.

What: UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis

Where: BMO Bradley Harris Center, Milwaukee, WI

When: Saturday, the two-fight Facebook card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight main card starts on pay-per-view at 10 p.m.

Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis

It really is possible to cobble together several plausible scenarios where either fighter wins. Henderson's mix of offense, inability to be trapped in bad spots and nearly 30-rounds of UFC experience are hard to overlook. By contrast, Pettis' development and momentum is hard to ignore. He is clearly the superior striker of the two and it's not impossible to think he can stuff the takedown enough over five rounds to win three.

In the end, I'll side with Pettis. I don't know if he's the best lightweight in the sport, but I do believe his talents match up uniquely well with Henderson's, which is all that matters for our purposes here. I simply cannot ignore how long Henderson lets opponents hang around and how many times that's come close to costing him with the judges. I believe this time it'll come back to haunt him. We shall see.

Pick: Pettis

Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett

What a tough fight to call. It's not just a fun scrap, but a well-matched one as well. Barnett is the sturdier pocket exchanger, but Mir's combination punching is nothing to overlook. Barnett is a top player on the ground, but Mir's guard is the best in the heavyweight division (in terms of MMA jiu-jitsu, anyway). Neither is a spring chicken, but both are still viable competitors. I'm going to side with Barnett (while acknowledging the fight is ultra close) because of his more proactive style of offense. For better or worse, he typically presses the action, especially standing. Mir is often a little too content for my tastes to react to his opponents attacks.

Pick: Barnett

Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida

This is going to be a hard one for Guida to win. He's not going to break Mendes with his pace. He might score a takedown or two, but won't be able to rely on it. He also won't be able to avoid Mendes' attempts, at least not for very long. I'm not entirely sure how the fight will play out, but I don't see Guida being able to mount enough sustained enough to either stop or decision Mendes, which is basically all that matters.

Pick: Mendes

Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera

I believe this one will come down to the ability to absorb damage. Rothwell could try to smother Vera against the fence and on the ground. That is a realistic possibility, but I suspect this will more be a series of striking exchanges. For all of Vera's many problems, he is the cleaner, more reliable, and frankly, more battle-tested striker of the two. I get the inclination Rothwell will get popped with a few hard strikes that either put him away or give Vera the openings he needs to win rounds.

Pick: Vera

Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier

Another tough, well-matched bout on the card. I deeply respect the talents of both competitors, but will side with Koch. He's a bit more of a potent outside striker and has all the tools to at least be defensively nullifying in the clinch or on the ground. Poirier, however, is by no means out of this fight.

Pick: Koch

From the preliminary card:

Jamie Varner > Gleison Tibau
Louis Gaudinot > Tim Elliot
Pascal Krause > Hyun Gyu Lim
Chico Camus > Kyung Ho Kang
Soa Paleilei < Nikita Krylov
Ryan Couture < Al Iaquinta
Jared Hamman > Magnus Cedenblad