clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC Fight Night 49 predictions

New, comments
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC circles back to Tulsa, Oklahoma with a fight card headlined by top lightweight contender and consistent television ratings draw Benson Henderson, who faces consistently difficult Rafael dos Anjos. The card also features five other bouts south of heavyweight in battles between prospects looking to stick out and veterans attempting to stay relevant.

What: UFC Fight Night 49 (UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Dos Anjos)

Where: BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

When: Saturday, the one-fight preliminary Fight Pass card starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and the four-fight Fox Sports 2 preliminary card starts at 8 p.m. and the six-fight Fox Sports 1 card kicks off 10 p.m.

Ben Henderson vs. Rafael dos Anjos

I have all the respect in the world for dos Anjos and the incredible development he's had as intriguing member of the weigh class to no B.S. top 5 or 10 talent. He's one of the few black belts who had his jiu-jitsu skills inculcated early enough in his athletic development to give him the time to invest and improve in the other portions of his game. Through hard work, he's done exactly that. The problem is Henderson is simply a bad match-up seemingly for everyone not named Anthony Pettis. Henderson is very difficult to submit, borderline impossible to take down, and while can be baited into striking exchanges, seems to have a penchant for impressing judges with his version of it.

I can easily see this bout go the distance with dos Anjos maybe even stealing a couple of rounds. Henderson is many things, but being a consistent finisher is not one of them. Ultimately, though, it's hard for me to imagine the Brazilian putting it on Henderson for three of five rounds.

Pick: Henderson

Mike Pyle vs. Jordan Mein

I feel gross writing this, but I do wonder what effect the arrest of Mein's father will have on his son here. Maybe nothing. It's impossible to say. Either way, though, I don't think Pyle is outgunned here at all, despite what the odds makers say. I like Pyle to patiently find an opening standing where he can use volume punching to finish the job. In the end, I like Pyle's defensive sensibilities more than Mein's, especially at this precarious time for the Canadian.

Pick: Pyle

Francis Carmont vs. Thales Leites

A very tough call and close contest. I'm going to lean towards Carmont, though. While Jacare was able to nullify Carmont's offense, Leites is a different kind of athlete and grappler. Jacare is his own takedown threat and much more mobile as a grappler. Leites has tremendous skill, but doesn't rely on misdirection and mobile passing as much as a grind, pressure style. That could work, but I have my doubts. Carmont's going to get the takedown and defend submissions off of his back en route to a decision victory.

Pick: Carmont

Max Hollaway vs. Clay Collard

Hollaway is simply a much more polished, clean striker and Collard is coming in on short notice. Short of MMA BEING MMA, Hollaway should make short work of this opponent.

Pick: Hollaway

James Vick vs. Valmir Lazaro

Lazaro is a powerful striker with all the trimmings of Brazilian muay Thai goodness: heavy, consistent leg attacks, powerful hooks, forward pressure and plenty of guts. He's not to be underestimated, but Vick's versatility should be the difference. Lazaro's hand and leg reach are going to pose problems for anyone, but Vick, while not the striker necessarily Lazaro is heads up, is better at more aspects of the game. And when you mix it up, you not only take advantage of vulnerabilities, but enable one's self to use an opponent's own best weapon against them. If Vick can establish the takedown threat, Lazaro could end up being TKO'd with strikes.

Pick: Vick

Chas Skelly vs. Tom Niinimaki

Wow, this is an incredibly difficult call. Will it be Skelly's range and wrestling prowess that does the trick or Niinimaki's superb mat grappling and overall well-rounded game? Skelly is pretty green still while Niinimaki is the veteran, but the length differential and ability to maintain control positions could probably be the difference for the American. As cliched as it sounds, though, this is very close to being a pick 'em bout.

Pick: Skelly

From the preliminary card:

Alex Garcia def. Neil Magny
Tony Martin def. Beneil Dariush
Aaron Phillips def. Matt Hobar
Ben Saunders def. Chris Heatherly
Joby Sanchez def. Wilson Reis