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UFC 186 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It's a card devastated by injuries and bizarre matchmaking plus the weird inclusion of Rampage Jackson, but UFC 186 rolls on on Saturday. The main event features a flyweight title clash while the rest of the card features UFC veterans in various different capacities.

Will Johnson retain his flyweight title or is Horiguchi set to make history? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.

What: UFC 186: Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 main card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off 10 p.m.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi

I have an enormous amount of respect and hope for Horiguchi's future, but Johnson's ability coupled with the division's thinness is simply too much to overlook. My guess is that Horiguchi will have more success at range, which means Johnson is going to try to take that away from him with constant pressure and ultimately a takedown coupled with top pressure. I don't know if the fight will end there, but I do believe any ground work will make Horiguchi that much more readied to be finished. It's a shame. A year or two from now, Horiguchi might truly be ready to challenge Johnson's dominance. And hey, MMA is nuts. He can KO the champ or anyone else. He's that good. But he's dealing with Johnson, who has the potential to be an all-time great. That's just too much to ask of him right now.

Pick: Johnson

Quinton Jackson vs. Fábio Maldonado

I'm going to side with Jackson here, but let's be clear: this is a totally winnable fight for Maldonado .Yes, his style is accommodating of Jackson's, but so what? Maldonado's ability to take a shot is just comically high. If he doesn't get cut, he's going to be in Rampage's face for three rounds. Jackson can thump, yes, but not like he used to. I'm not suggesting a stoppage by Jackson is some remote possibility, but I'm also a little reluctant to put it on the front burner. I think in the end, Maldonado's body punches won't be enough opposite Jackson's winging hooks, but I'm not going to make this fight a matter of routine for Jackson's either.

Pick: Jackson

Michael Bisping vs. C.B. Dollaway

Tim Kennedy showed there are some real liabilities for Bisping when it comes to not merely takedown defense, but scrambling from the bottom. I'd argue, though, that Dollaway's ability to hold down opposition isn't nearly on the same level. Bisping should be able to stop the takedown. And even if he has trouble with that phase of the game, I suspect Bisping will win in terms of the scramble.

Pick: Bisping

John Makdessi vs. Shane Campbell

It likely won't be a ground battle, will it? I'm going to side with Makdessi here. I expect him to be able to keep the fight at range and be a touch more unorthodox with both attacks and movement. Campbell has fantastic muay Thai, but Makdessi has seen enough looks of that in MMA to know how to manage range and proactive offense.

Pick: Makdessi

Yves Jabouin vs. Thomas Almeida

Almeida is still a little wet behind the ears. He gets hit a bit more than I'm comfortable with, but the ferocity of his offense is just too hard to overlook. It's not that Jabouin lacks the striking diversity or experience, but he's a) been in far more fire fights and b) doesn't have the same pop on his strikes as Almeida. I expect the Brazilian to essentially overwhelm the Canadian, breaking him down by the second or third round. Almeida's counters are almost beyond compare relative to Jabouin's. I'm looking to the Canadian to get lit up after throwing his own offensive set.

Pick: Almeida

From the preliminary card:

Patrick Côté def. Joe Riggs
Sarah Kaufman def. Alexis Davis
Chad Laprise def. Bryan Barberena
Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. David Michaud
Chris Clements def. Nordine Taleb vs.
Valérie Létourneau def. Jessica Rakoczy vs.
Randa Markos def. Aisling Daly

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