Two injured veterans returning to action, four young guns seeking to move up the contenders’ ladder and two top welterweights battling in the evening’s headliner.  It’s the perfect mix for a compelling UFC Fight Night card, and it all goes down Saturday night in New Orleans.

The UFC Fight Night 25 event marks the return of a man who suffered a torn retina and thought his fight career was over.  Now, Alan Belcher is back, seeking to regain the momentum he had built up prior to his injury.  The middleweight squares off with a savvy veteran in Jason MacDonald, who has also sat on the sidelines for a lengthy stretch after suffering a broken leg.

Meanwhile, two Ultimate Fighter winners take on tough adversaries.  TUF 12’s top dog, Jonathan Brookins, will have to get past Roufusport product Erik Koch if he wants to make an impact in the UFC’s featherweight division.  It won’t be an easy task.  TUF 11 champ Court McGee will also have his hands full squaring off with South Korean striker Dongi Yang.

Finally, Jake Shields will make an emotional journey to the cage.  With the passing of his father, many questioned whether Shields would even make the trip to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center this Saturday.  Shields decided to remain in the bout, but there’s no doubt that he’ll enter the Octagon with a heavy heart.  He’ll match up against a worthy opponent in Jake Ellenberger.  Ellenberger has demonstrated a lot of potential in fights against Carlos Condit and Mike Pyle, and a win over someone of Shields’ stature could be just what he needs to put his name in the hat for a title bid against the mighty Georges St-Pierre.

The main card action will air live on Spike beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s panel of Corey Adams, Brian McKenna and Sean Smith share their opinions on the outcome of all four main card tussles in this edition of the Round Table.

MW: Alan Belcher (16-6) vs. Jason MacDonald (25-14)

Smith: In August 2010, Alan Belcher underwent an emergency eye surgery to repair a detached retina. For a period of time, there was concern that Belcher would never be able to fight again. However, Belcher has thankfully made a full recovery and will look for his third straight win at UFC Fight Night 25.

In his return, Belcher will meet another fighter who has been dealing with injury problems for much of the last year. At UFC 113, Jason MacDonald suffered a broken leg in his fight against John Salter, which forced him out of competition for nearly one year. In April 2011, MacDonald returned to the Octagon and picked up an impressive submission victory over Ryan Jensen.

Both fighters are fairly well-rounded, but Belcher should have a significant advantage in the stand-up. Despite potential ring rust, Belcher should be able to dictate where this fight takes place. For that reason, the Roufusport product should be able to finish MacDonald by technical knockout in the first round of his return fight.

McKenna: As Sean said, both of these fighters are fortunate to still be fighting after the serious injuries that they have suffered in their careers. While broken bones and torn ligaments are never good, when you hear about how a fighter has to have their retina reattached it sends shivers up and down the spine. Fortunately for us, Belcher has recovered to the point where he will be able to fight again. “The Talent” has rung in five great performances while fighting with the UFC, which includes four wins and one split decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100.

On the other side, we have the veteran MacDonald, who will make his 13th Octagon appearance on Saturday. This is currently MacDonald’s second stint with the promotion after being released with a 5-5 promotional record. He kicked around in the minor leagues for a while until he returned to the big time in 2010 and has since gone 1-1 with the promotion. The story with “The Athlete” is that he never really rises to the occasion. If you look at his record, the only fighter he has beaten where he did rise to the occasion was Chris Leben, but he couldn’t string together solid victories, which is why he was initially released.

With this fight we have the young, 27-year-old fighter who has looked great recently, and we have the 36-year-old who has struggled against good competition his whole career. Because of this, Belcher will earn the TKO sometime in the second round.

Adams: I’m going to go out on a limb here and take MacDonald instead.

Belcher should be considered the favorite in many eyes, but his Canadian foe has been on a roll lately and has not been defeated since returning to the Octagon.

As mentioned, “The Talent” will have the striking advantage and needs to keep the fight standing to win. However, my hunch is that “The Athlete” will find a way to drag Belcher to the ground and lock up a slick submission hold. MacDonald gets the tapout in the middle of round two.

FW: Jonathan Brookins (12-3) vs. Erik Koch (12-1)

Adams: Winner of TUF Season 12, Jonathan Brookins finally gets his chance to return to action against a 22-year-old who has a bright future ahead of him in Koch.

Brookins may seem like a guy who has not competed much before joining the TUF cast, but he has fought Yves Jabouin, and even UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, before coming into the UFC. He has the experience, the skill-set and a powerful desire to win that will allow him to go far in this sport.

His opponent will be no stepping stone by any means however. Koch is a guy that has loads of potential as an MMA fighter. “New Breed” trains out of a top-of-the-line camp in Milwaukee under Duke Roufus and, as mentioned, is only 22 years old. The only loss in his young career came at the hands of Chad Mendes, which isn’t devastating, as Mendes is one of the top guys in the featherweight division.

This fight is a toss-up for me. I could easily see this fight going either way, but my gut is telling me to take Brookins. Brookins’ hand will be raised after earning a decision victory in a competitive fight.

McKenna: Often times, I feel that the UFC stacks the deck for their reality show winners, giving them easy fights in their first fight since winning the show to make them look better. As Brookins’ first fight out of the gate, this is nothing of the sort as he takes on hot featherweight prospect Erik Koch. This fight has been a long time coming for Brookins, who was scheduled to appear at UFC 129 and at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale, but was forced off of both cards. Now the Oregon native is healthy and is ready to showcase the grappling that he used to win TUF and earn him eight submission victories to this point in his career.

Koch will be no easy task for Brookins, as Corey has said. The Duke Roufus product has seven submission victories of his own and has earned the Knockout of the Night honors in his last two fights. Among all of this, “New Breed” will likely be entering the Octagon with a chip on his shoulder. Despite this being his sixth fight with Zuffa, it will only be the second time that he will be on the main card of the event which is odd, considering he is 4-1 while fighting for them.

Erik Koch (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Koch has a really good chance in this fight, but Brookins will just be too much for him. Even though “New Breed” has a great track record with his grappling, the American Top Team product will have his way with Koch and earn the submission victory late in the first round.

Smith: Even in victory, Brookins has shown massive holes in his striking. Due to injury, we haven’t seen Brookins inside the Octagon in a while, though, so it is possible he has corrected some of his flaws.

However, Brookins showed the same flaws in his stand-up two years prior to his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter in a loss to Jose Aldo. Obviously, a loss to Aldo is nothing to be ashamed of, but I would have liked to see Brookins correct the obvious problem with his form that was pointed out in that fight.

Until Brookins’ striking catches up with his ground game, I don’t see him being able to compete with legitimate contenders, like Koch will become. Koch’s one-punch knockout power will be on display for his second straight fight, as he will put Brookins away in the first round.

MW: Court McGee (13-1) vs. Dongi Yang (10-1)

McKenna: The winner of the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter is going to have a challenge on his hands as he takes on one of the hottest middleweight prospects the UFC has to offer. Court McGee made it to the big time when he defeated Kris McCray for the contract, and kept the momentum going after he was rocked early and came back to defeat Ryan Jensen at UFC 121. Unfortunately for mixed martial arts fans, “The Crusher” has not fought in nearly a year because of a knee injury.

Court McGee (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

When researching Yang, I came across the fact he fought at heavyweight when he faced Pawel Nastula at Sengoku 4. Unfortunately, I can’t find any true confirmation on this, but it is sticking with me. One thing that is tough for a lot of fighters is a weight cut, and the fact that Yang spent time fighting north of 205 pounds, and is now fighting well at middleweight is a bit surprising. People label heavyweight fighters as strikers, and one thing for sure is that “The Ox” loves to bang, as he has finished eight fights with his fists.

Yang is a knockout artist while McGee has never been knocked out. Because McGee has shown a great chin since his time on the reality show, I don’t see this being the fight where he gets knocked out for the first time, but rather think he controls the pace of the fight and grinds out the decision.

Smith: Heading into this fight, my only concern with McGee is his lengthy time away from the cage. Aside from that, McGee matches up well against Yang. Being the marketable fighter that he is, the UFC wouldn’t have matched McGee up with Yang if they didn’t believe it was a fight he could win after the long layoff.

Yang recently suffered a decision loss to Chris Camozzi, who competed alongside McGee on The Ultimate Fighter before being forced out of the competition due to injury. In the later rounds of his fight with Camozzi, Yang began winging his punches. If he does that again on Saturday, look for McGee to duck those punches and take the fight to the ground.

McGee holds the advantage on the ground in this fight, but Yang should be able to do enough to avoid being submitted for the first time in his career. In what should be a back-and-forth fight between two promising 26-year-olds, expect McGee to walk away with a decision victory.

Adams: This fight has been broken down perfectly by both Sean and Brian, giving good insight on both men and picking the guy I favor as well.

Once suffering from a drug problem, McGee has completely changed his lifestyle and is solely set on fighting. “The Crusher” really impressed me on TUF, and is a guy that could possibly hold a championship belt one day.

Yang is a very talented fighter, but still has some progressing to do. Win or lose, “The Ox” will walk away from the fight with more experience in the Octagon against a guy like McGee.

I believe Yang proves he can hang with “The Crusher”, but will get outpointed in a decision loss.

WW: Jake Shields (26-5-1) vs. Jake Ellenberger (24-5)

Smith: Jake Shields heads into this fight only weeks after the passing of his father. It is hard to say how the passing of Shields’ father, who also served as the fighter’s manager for much of his career, will affect him. While the first thought is that the loss of someone so close would have an adverse effect on a fighter, we have seen many instances where athletes use their sport as an escape from the negative emotions they are having in cases like this.

Shields’ opponent in the main event of UFC Fight Night 25 will be Jake Ellenberger, who is looking to make a big move toward earning a welterweight title shot. Ellenberger has won eight of his last nine fights, with his only loss during that time coming via split decision against current top contender Carlos Condit.

Ellenberger possesses knockout power and a solid wrestling background, but we have already seen Shields survive Dan Henderson’s right hand and proceed to take the Olympic wrestler to the ground. If Shields’ mind is in the right place during this fight, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be able to do the same against Ellenberger.

In what would surely be an emotional moment, look for Shields to grind out a unanimous decision victory over Ellenberger.

Adams: Good points made by Sean. Obviously, with the loss of his father, Shields is fighting more than just Ellenberger, he is battling his emotions as well.

Jake Ellenberger (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

I was one of the few people that said Shields did not have a chance against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, and it turned out I was correct. GSP was able to use his game plan of grinding Shields to earn a decision victory.

The match-up for Shields did not favor him, but against a guy like Ellenberger, he has the stylistic advantage. Ellenberger isn’t known for being a wrestler as is GSP, and is more of a stand-and-bang type fighter.

Shields should be able to get Ellenberger to the ground and attempt to go for a submission, but I’ll give Ellenberger some credit, as I believe he is underrated, and say he will fall just short of a decision victory.

McKenna: Considering the recent dominance of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, taking one round from the Canadian is pretty amazing for any fighter in the 170-pound division. Taking two rounds from him is really great, which is exactly what Jake Shields did at UFC 129. Shields was brought in as a free agent when his contract with Strikeforce ended to be the guy to try and take out the current champion, and while fighting in enemy territory in front of a record-breaking crowd, Shields fell just short of taking down the mighty GSP. Ultimately this is not that big of a surprise because of just how good Shields is, as in 2006 he was the winner of an eight-man tournament in which he defeated both Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit in the same night.

In his time with the UFC, Jake Ellenberger has had a lot of success. He does most of his damage with his hands, having won three of his last four fights by knockout or technical knockout. The one thing that troubles me about “The Juggernaut” is that he has not faced steep competition while fighting for the UFC, and his lone UFC loss came to the hands of a fighter that Shields disposed of after fighting a 15-minute fight before it on the same night.

I think that Ellenberger has the necessary skill set to do well in the UFC, however I see him over-matched in this fight. After what has been a tough couple of weeks for the Californian, Jake Shields will emerge victorious with an emotional submission victory in the second round.

Top Photo: Jake Shields (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)