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UFC 193 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ronda Rousey's unbeaten streak, her UFC women's bantamweight title and her legacy are all at stake at UFC 193 on Saturday night (Sunday afternoon local time) in Melbourne, Australia. Holly Holm, the former three-division boxing champion, is a heavy, heavy underdog -- one of the largest in UFC history.

In the co-main event, women's strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk will try to continue her string of TKO finishes against tough-nosed kickboxer Valerie Letourneau. Also on the card, there is a rematch of a classic heavyweight fight and an important middleweight contender bout.

Will Rousey dominate again in short order? Or will Holm shock the world? Does Letourneau have any shot against Joanna Champion? I answer those questions and more in my predictions for Saturday night.

Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm

Holm has a handful of things that Rousey's other opponents never did. She has experience as a champion in combat sports, a decorated striking pedigree and a training camp -- JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque -- that can develop and help her execute a sound game plan. Holm very well might be Rousey's smartest, most poised foe.

There's a very good chance, though, that none of those things will matter. Even if Holm stays on the outside, throws those sidekicks and counters and circles away when Rousey tries to close the distance, how long can she really do it? One round? Maybe two, the most? Eventually Rousey is going to get close enough to grab Holm into a clinch and that's when the fight will truly start. If Holm can survive one or two of those situations without getting thrown and submitted, this one could be competitive.

But let's be honest. That probably won't happen. Rousey is too fast and too agile. She's willing to take a punch (or kick) to get inside and she's shown a substantial chin. If Friday's weigh-in antics are any indication, Rousey is going to come in extremely aggressive. Holm better be ready, because it could be over on the first exchange, like many of Rousey's previous bouts. Rousey will be ready for action in the locker room; there won't be any time to get your feet wet in there.

Pick: Rousey

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valerie Letourneau

If Rousey's fights are like an Instagram video, Jedrzejczyk's are more of a gory, Japanese horror flick. Jedrzejczyk finished Jessica Penne by TKO in the third round and Carla Esparza in the second in a similar manner, but not until she inflicted an ample amount of damage on both. This fight with Letourneau could be more of the same.

Letourneau has an advantage in size and perhaps even in punching power. She used to fight in the UFC at 135 pounds and will come into the Octagon a bigger woman than the champion. If she can get Jedrzejczyk down and hold her there, the American Top Team product could prolong the inevitable. But she's not as good of a wrestler as Esparza or Claudia Gadelha or as good of a grappler as Penne and we know how all of those fights ended up. (Granted, Letourneau is a better striker than all of the above.)

Gadelha has somewhat written the book on how to beat Jedrzejczyk, even though she lost a tight decision. The question is whether Letourneau has the skillset and if she can execute it before getting elbowed in the nose a few times.

Pick: Jedrzejczyk

Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva

Their first fight was one of the most bloody, grueling heavyweight encounters of all time and it finished in a five-round draw back in December 2013. There's very little chance this one will end up anything like that one, because, well, when does that ever happen? The most likely scenario is a first-round finish, which favors Hunt. He's faster, hits harder and has a more technical striking game. Silva's chin also seems to have deteriorated since the first fight and he's no longer on TRT. After the first fight, Silva popped for elevated levels of testosterone.

However, "Bigfoot" has an advantage the longer the fight goes, provided he can use his superior wrestling and jiu-jitsu. He's no Stipe Miocic, but Miocic was able to wear Hunt down in May by pushing the pace. The Brazilian has also been known to rally after being counted out. But will Hunt give him that chance? Doubtful.

Pick: Hunt

Robert Whittaker vs. Uriah Hall

This is the most intriguing and perhaps most unpredictable fight on the entire card. Mostly, that's because Hall can be two different fighters -- sometimes in the same fight. Will Hall be the guy who finished Gegard Mousasi with a spinning back kick-flying knee, Street Fighter combination? Or the one who went to an uneventful decision with Rafael Natal? Whittaker can match Hall's striking and he's not afraid to exchange. That latter part could favor Hall. Standing with him is usually not a recipe for success, though Whittaker will be the best pure striker he's ever faced.

Expect a close decision with Hall doing a little more damage throughout. Whittaker doesn't seem like the guy who would lose due to a flashy, video-game technique. But that's what everyone said about Mousasi.

Pick: Hall

Stefan Struve vs. Jared Rosholt

There is essentially one way Rosholt can win this fight: by taking Struve down and grinding out an ugly decision. That might not make the tens of thousands of fans in a giant soccer stadium very happy, but it is a realistic possibility for the former Oklahoma State stud wrestler. However, there are far more paths to victory for Struve. He can pick Rosholt apart at range, land a clean damaging blow that changes the fight or even (and this is somewhat less probable) cinch in a submission off his back. Rosholt certainly has a chance to execute his game plan here, but Struve has multiple, varied ways to win and for that reason he is the pick.

Pick: Struve

From the preliminary card:

Jake Matthews def. Akbarh Arreola

Kyle Noke def. Peter Sobotta

Gian Villante def. Anthony Perosh

Richie Vaculik def. Danny Martinez

James Moontasri def. Anton Zafir

Richard Walsh def. Steven Kennedy

Daniel Kelly def. Steve Montgomery

Ryan Benoit def. Ben Nguyen

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