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UFC on FOX 13 predictions

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The thirteenth installment of the UFC on FOX franchise is set for a Saturday. The card is headlined by an important heavyweight clash between former champion Junior dos Santos and ever-surging contender Stipe Miocic. The card, though, is filled with other important bouts for fighters struggling to stay relevant, those returning from layoff, or looking to earn a title shot.

Will JDS reaffirm his position as the best heavyweight not named Cain or is Miocic set to replace him? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.

What: UFC on FOX 13: dos Santos vs. Miocic

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

When: Saturday, the three-fight preliminary Fight Pass card starts at 3:30 p.m. ET, the six-fight FOX undercard starts at 5 p.m. and the four-fight FOX card kicks off 8 p.m.

Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic

There's an x-factor here and it's how much the two Cain Velasquez fights took from the former champion. They were long enough and brutal enough that the question is more than warranted. We don't know the answer, of course, but whatever it is will determine the outcome of this bout.

If those two losses didn't take much, it's hard to see a clear path for Miocic to win. Dos Santos has monstrous power, quick hands, can strike from distance, superb takedown defense and, as far as we know, extreme durability. He also has fundamental striking skills like a hard, consistent jab. He's an imposing figure as well. This all amounts to the sort of person to give Miocic problems.

On the other hand, if those fights with the champion drained dos Santos, the equation changes. Miocic might still have a problem with takedowns, but maybe he won't need it. The Strong Style Fight Team member has a great jab of his own, good durability and can hit noticeably hard. If the durability or JDS is compromised, Miocic has the ability on his feet to determine that relatively quickly. If we find out that's the case, Miocic can very much grind his way to victory.

Pick: JDS

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Nate Diaz

It's difficult to not admire both men's skill sets for their diversity as well as their lethality. The one difference that impossible to ignore, though, is the physicality of dos Anjos' offense. He can match and exceed Diaz's jiu-jitsu. While he isn't quite the combination puncher Diaz is, the Brazilian is arguably more diverse and good enough to stay out of most problems. More to the point, though, is he's athletic, a deeply underrated wrestler/scrambles, and loves to win on position. Add to that his proactive tendencies and you begin to realize he has to make fairly egregious strategic blunders to get in trouble. I'm certainly not saying that's impossible, but I don't think it's very likely.

Pick: dos Anjos

Alistair Overeem vs. Stefan Struve

How hard is it to pick a winner here? Struve's had all sorts of health issues that have compounded his layoff problems. Let's also not forget he had technical shortcomings before his recent woes that caused him to take unnecessary damage. You'd think that'd be a prime candidate for Overeem, but who knows anymore? Years of taking abuse have seemingly caught up with him as he's unable to sustain damage. Much less polished strikers are connecting just enough to cause Overeem problems and even hand him losses. Asking who is the better kickboxer here is irrelevant. Of course, it's Overeem, but who is better might have nothing to do with it. I'll side with the more active fighter over the one who has been on the sidelines, but only because this column forces me to pick a winner. This is a coin toss.

Pick: Overeem

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Matt Mitrione

This one is uncomfortably close, but I'll side with the Brazilian. Mitrione has been on a nice rebound, but not against opposition with the skills of Gonzaga. Aside from his big power and submission prowess, his defense striking has improved. He also knows how to manage a round, and therefore, earn a decision. I suspect if he can get the fight to the floor, Mitrione might get finished, but short of an errant knockout punch from the America, Gonzaga takes this.

Pick: Gonzaga

From the preliminary card:

John Moraga def. Willie Gates
Claudia Gadelha def. Joanna Jędrzejczyk
Ben Saunders def. Joe Riggs
Jamie Varner def. Drew Dober
Derek Brunson def. Ed Herman
Joe Ellenberger def. Bryan Barberena
David Michaud def. Garret Whiteley
Dustin Kimura def. Henry Cejudo
Anthony Birchak def. Ian Entwistle