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UFC Fight Night 55 predictions

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Matt King

The UFC is back in Australia, this time with a Fight Pass card filled with countrymen from Down Under and a headlining bout between two top middleweights. Luke Rockhold is looking to cement his place as a title contender while Michael Bisping is trying to do the same before it's too late, given his relative age.

Will Rockhold prove he's the division's next great title contender or is Bisping ready to finally get the title shot he always wanted?

What: UFC Fight Night 56

Where: Allphones Arena, Sydney, Australia

When: Saturday Friday, the seven-fight Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 7 p.m. and the four-fight Fight Pass card kicks off 10 p.m.

Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping

I just have a hard time seeing how Bisping is going to be able to get in a rhythm long enough to win three of five rounds. I simply don't consider a stoppage of Rockhold as likely enough to merit comment (although stranger things have happened). Rockhold's takedown defense is superb, so Bisping will have to contend for things on the feet even if he's trying to mix things up. In the clinch, Rockhold has all the advantages both physically with his height and in the clinch. At range, they're two different kinds of strikers, with Rockhold blasting away at kicking range or hard, single or double shots while boxing. Bisping is better within boxing range, but the fight has to stay there for it to matter. It will in some spots, I'm sure, but not enough of them.

Pick: Rockhold

Ross Pearson vs. Al Iaquinta

This is a very tough call. Iaquinta is better all around and particularly on the floor, but Pearson's takedown defense is pretty formidable. Both tend to get hit at the end of their combinations when they don't move away, although the Brit is cleaner in that department. For me, Iaquinta's going to have to contend with Pearson at distance, which he can do in spots, but his lunging style from too far outside without combinations or much set up is probably going to cause him to get chewed up enough to lose.

Pick: Pearson

Robert Whittaker vs. Clint Hester

Whittaker's in a different weight class now, one where he might be a bit undersized, especially against someone as physical as Hester. On the feet, there's no doubt about it. Hester is nasty. An extremely hard puncher who is almost equally creative. He's quick and athletic. The problem? While improving rapidly, his technique on the floor leaves a lot to be desired. He has poor defensive instincts and not much technical skill to compliment or cover it. Whittaker will have to use his speed advantage, but he's aggressive in scrambles. That should be enough to control the potent Hester.

Pick: Whittaker

Soa Palelei vs. Walt Harris

I'm not really sure what to make of this bout. Harris really never got out of first gear during his initial UFC run. Palelei has had his issues, but also found ways to capitalize on short openings. I suspect this contest will end due to strikes, but perhaps not on the feet. After some M-1 grappling exchanges, albeit won by Palelei, I see Harris having to get the ref to save him. If nothing else, Palelei is decent enough at establishing dominant position and landing crushing blows from there.

Pick: Palelei

From the preliminary card:

Jake Matthews def. Vagner Rocha
Guto Inocente def. Anthony Perosh
Dylan Andrews def. Sam Alvey
Louis Smolka def. Richie Vaculik
Vik Grujik def. Chris Clements
Luke Zachrich def. Daniel Kelly
Marcus Brimage def. Jumabieke Tuerxun