Gray Maynard vs. Frankie Edgar
Easily the most anticipated rematch of the year. Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar will lock horns for the second time this year and the third time overall. The second fight, which was held on January first, is still a favored candidate for fight of the year. From the first round near knockout in which Maynard to the amazing comeback Edgar had for the duration of the fight only to have it end in a draw. They were set to meet earlier on but injuries on both sides forced them out of the fight on the same day. Though both are healthy and ready to finish this for all time and let everyone know if this is the start of the Edgar era, or if Gray Maynard will cut that reign short.I'm hesitant to pick against Frankie here. Not only because he came back from a brutal round to arguably win the fight in the opinion of some, but because this kind of reminds Me of the second fight with BJ Penn. It's like in the second fight he solved "the riddle". Unfortunately for Gray this could be the case again.
As far as the fight goes I feel that the shot Gray landed on Frankie that rocked him hard was an anomaly. I don't remember Gray landing something like that ever before and given the rest of the fight I don't think it's something likely to happen again. While Gray does have power in everything he does, being a wrestler, I don't think he is a one punch kind of fighter yet. That being said striking advantages are split. Frankie is the better all around striker and Maynard has more power. Wrestling is a wierd subject here. Maynard should be the better wrestler but Frankie's striking style makes his takedowns much more difficult to see coming. I think just like the last fight he can surprise Gray and be the better wrestler in this fight. Cardio is absolutely an advantage for Edgar. I see this fight going much like the rounds following the first in the last matchup with Edgar edging Gray enough to win the decision.
Prediction: Frankie Edgar by DecisionJose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
The second of two title fights on the card. Following his debut at Featherweight Kenny Florian will challenge for the title against fearsome champion and top pound for pound fighter Jose Aldo. This could be Florians last chance to win a major title in the sport, though I'm sure he's not taking it lightly at all. Florian has appeared in several number one contender/title fights, with the same let down at the end denying him gold. There is some conjecture that if Florian is blown out here he may elect to either retire and go into announcing, or stick to seeking out selective fights ala Matt Hughes. Aldo meanwhile has been busy making a name for himself as a very dangerous man. Of his nine appearances for Zuffa he has finished seven of his nine fights, winning all nine in dominant fashion. Will Kenny realize his dream of holding a UFC title?
Fight wise there are a few areas of distinct advantage for these two. Striking is split between raw power and reach. Aldo throws with bad intention and has the capacity for a ton of damage. Kenny has the reach advantage. Technical skill is a wash really as Florian has the better hands while Jose has the better kicks. Wrestling overall goes to Aldo. Overall grappling is a wash really. Both use jiu jitsu as a means to finish a fight once they have an opponent dropped or rocked from top position. I see this fight going similarly to Aldo's fights with Faber and Gamburyan to be honest. I think he will use his speed and land those leg kicks with frequency. Kenny has proven to be a durable fighter but I just don't know how long that holds up. People, including Myself, said Faber was durable too and his leg ended up looking like he was about to turn into the red hulk by the end of that fight. I think Florian survives into the third round before Aldo drops him with leg kicks and jumps on him to finish the fight.
Prediction: Jose Aldo by (T)KOChael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
Chael Sonnen makes his long awaited return, after giving Anderson Silva his toughest fight in the UFC to date, against the All American Brian Stann. While Chael was a mere two and a half minutes from dethroning the most dominant fighter in UFC history Stann has finished his last two opponents in devastating fashion. As is usually the case Sonnen will be at a disadvantage striking but will own a distinct advantage in the wrestling department. Stann packs about as much power behind his punch as anyone in the division but Sonnen has dealt with his fair share of heavy handed strikers. What concerns Me is that Stann hasn't exactly been a very productive fighter off of his back, which is exactly where I see him ending up frequently here. Sonnen won't want to chance being rocked hard by those cinder block fists of Brians, so he'll be looking to impress his wrestling pedigree upon the All American. Stann has apparently be training at the Gracie Barra academy to learn some tricks off his back, but I just don't think they will be enough to submit Chael here. Chael has a weakness in his game to submissions, however he hasn't exactly been getting submitted by scrubs on the mat. Among his submission losses Trevor Prangley, Forest Griffin, Jeremy Horn, Babalu Sobral, Paulo Filho, Demian Maia, and Anderson Silva are the only men to have finished him via submission. Aside from Prangley I don't see anyone who isn't known for having an above average or underrated ground game. Brian Stann unfortunately isn't someone I would count among the skill level of those who have submitted him before.
Prediction: Chael Sonnen by DecisionMelvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon
Two TUF alumni will meet in Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon. Both are coming off fantastic wins in their last appearances. However only one of them can come away with the win this time around. Lauzon has some decent power in his hands along with a very effective top control submission game. Guillard has heavy hands along with some crazy athleticism and speed as well as a wrestling pedigree. What concerns Me here is that Lauzon has a tendency to lose steam after the first round. He pushes such a high pace looking for the finish and if it isn't there he comes out looking like a shell of the same guy the next round. Unfortunately I don't think Lauzon is fast enough to keep up with Guillard, this one is probably going to look like the fight with Jeremy Stephens where Guillard wades in to land his shot and is out of there before Lauzon can counter, without quite the butterfly dancing act. I also see Guillard stuffing or avoiding any takedown attempts Lauzon tries to throw at him, and taking over in round two, or if it gets that far, round three.
Prediction: Melvin Guillard by (T)KODemian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago
Since making his return to the UFC Jorge Santiago had a rough go of it against Brian Stann who knocked him out in the second round after rocking him something fierce in the first. Demian Maia just dropped a close decision to Mark Munoz in which he showed vastly improved striking, even managing to rock Munoz early on. This fight is possibly even tougher for Santiago than the last one. While Maia doesn't exactly hit quite as hard as Stann does, he has made leaps in his striking skill and still has the potent ground game to stifle almost anyone. Striking wise I give a very slight advantage to Santiago because his attack is so varied and he has a history of finishing fights big. Grappling in all it's forms is no contest really, Maia has the much better wrestling, judo, jiu jitsu, and submissions. If it goes to the ground Santiago may be able to avoid getting subbed because of his own skill in that department but it will probably look like when Maia fought Mario Miranda in that he will put a positional clinic on Santiago. Honestly I think that's what this is going to look like. Maia will probably strike early on just to show Santiago he's capable before he starts stringing takedowns together and putting constant pressure on Jorge. However barring a knockout I don't see Maia finishing this fight.
Prediction: Demian Maia by Decision