UFC 148 will be one of the biggest cards of the year. The event is of course anchored by what some are calling the biggest rematch in UFC history. The first time around, Chael Sonnen came closer to beating Anderson Silva than anyone over the last six years. However, after dominating the middleweight champion for four and a half rounds, Sonnen was forced to tap.

Ever since that first fight a few years ago, Sonnen has turned up the hype and trash talk looking for this day. Stylistically, he is a nightmare for Silva. He is a dominant wrestler with underrated boxing skills. Sonnen is also extremely aggressive and didn’t give Silva time to set his feet the first time out.

Silva may be the greatest fighter in MMA history. He has not lost for over six years, dominating fighters from both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Silva’s striking, Muay Thai, footwork and reflexes are some of the best the sport has ever seen. On top of his dominance on his feet, he is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with slick submissions. His one glaring weakness is his wrestling, and that was exploited to perfection by Sonnen in their last meeting.

While the title fight is a big draw, it is far from the only fight on the card. Two former champions will meet again as Tito Ortiz has a retirement fight against Forrest Griffin to conclude their trilogy. Ivan Menjivar meets Mike Easton in a fight with huge title implications in the bantamweight division. Demian Maia will make his welterweight debut against Dong Hyun Kim. In a fun striking battle, Patrick Cote will match his power punching against Cung Le’s diversified striking attack. And those fights don’t even cover the entire main card.

UFC 148 takes place on Saturday, July 7, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The Facebook preliminary card begins at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the rest of the preliminary card airing on FX starting at 8 p.m. ET. The main card airs on pay-per-view starting at 10 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner panel of Paige Berger, Jake Martin and Richard Wilcoxon break down the entire main card and give their quick picks for the prelims in this edition of the Round Table.

BW: Mike Easton (12-1) vs. Ivan Menjivar (24-8)

Martin: If Mike Easton and Ivan Menjivar isn’t a crowd-pleasing fight, then there is a glitch in the Matrix.

Easton (top) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Both of these bantamweight prospects come 99 m.p.h. with fluid Muay Thai and impressive ground skills.

Easton is riding high after his decision victory against Jared Papazian, while Menjivar is soaring after his thrilling submission victory against John Albert.

This is a difficult fight to pick, but I think Easton’s size and power will allow him to get Menjivar to the ground. That will put him in a position to steal the rounds, and it will lead to a decision victory for him.

Berger: This fight is a big one in the bantamweight division. Many people thought Menjivar may be chosen to face Urijah Faber for the interim title before Renan Barao got the nod. Depending on how long Dominick Cruz is sidelined, the winner may face the Faber vs. Barao winner.

Menjivar has 18 finishes to his credit and is undefeated inside the Octagon since coming over from the WEC. He is coming off of a Submission of the Night victory in his last fight. He trains at the Tristar gym with GSP and other big-name fighters and is equally well-versed in all aspects of the sport.

Menjivar celebrates victory (Jeremy Botter/Heavy MMA)

Easton is another guy training at a great gym—he’s with Cruz at Alliance. He’s a black belt in both BJJ and Taekwondo, so he’s got the skills to end the fight anywhere it goes; however, he has just as many decision victories as he does finishes.

As Jake pointed out, this is a tough one to call. I’ve been incredibly impressed with Menjivar so far, and I’m going to stick by him and say Menjivar by decision.

Wilcoxon: It looks like I get to be the tie breaker. As my colleagues have indicated, this fight is really a toss-up.

Both competitors have advantages and weaknesses that can be exploited. As Jake pointed out, Easton’s biggest advantage is his size. He is a big bantamweight with incredible strength for the division. Menjivar’s biggest advantage is his experience. He not only has competed in over double the fights Easton has in his career, he has faced much better competition than Easton.

Although Menjivar has shown flashes of greatness throughout his career, he has struggled against the next level up the ladder in terms of talent. This fight will tell me more about where Easton fits on that ladder than it does about Menjivar. For now, I will give Easton the benefit of the doubt. I will join Jake in saying Easton uses his size and strength to edge out a decision victory.

FW: Chad Mendes (11-1) vs. Cody McKenzie (13-2)

Berger: I’ve got to be honest when it comes to this match-up and admit that I literally laughed out loud when I first heard about it. At first glance, looking at their records and their records alone, it seems like a valid match-up. That’s about where it ends.

Mendes (Jeremy Botter/Heavy MMA)

Since entering the UFC, McKenzie is 2-2—and one of those victories came at the TUF 12 Finale to a guy that never saw the inside of the Octagon again. He’ll have a significant size advantage at 6-foot-1 to Mendes’ generously listed 5-foot-6. He also has an insanely sick guillotine choke. But he’s basically a one-trick pony, and in my opinion hasn’t really evolved since his time on TUF.

Mendes is coming off the first loss of his career, a title fight loss to Jose Aldo, and will certainly be looking to build momentum at another run at the crown. He’s not necessarily the most exciting fighter in the world, as seven of his 11 victories have come by decision, but his wrestling has proven to be effective thus far.

These two have trained together in the past, so that may give an edge to one of them. That said, it will be interesting to see how Mendes goes about the fight knowing how dangerous McKenzie’s guillotine actually is. At the end of the day though, they’re not in the same class, and I’m really not sure how McKenzie ended up in a fight with arguably the No. 2 featherweight in the world. Mendes by decision.

Wilcoxon: I couldn’t agree with Paige more. She is spot on in this breakdown and said a lot of what I planned on writing.

McKenzie is a one-trick pony. Granted, eleven of his victories have come from that one trick, so it is incredibly effective. But it also has kept McKenzie incredibly limited, and encouraged him to stick to his modified version of the guillotine without expanding his game.

Mendes is a more technical fighter. His striking is crisp, if not powerful, and his wrestling is some of the best in the division.

McKenzie (R) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

As long as Mendes watches his head placement on takedowns, this should be a one-sided beat down with Mendes getting his hand raised in the end.

Martin: Richard and Paige said it best when they called McKenzie a one-trick pony.

He has one way to win this fight and that’s by guillotine, but can he really guillotine a member of Team Alpha Male? I mean those guys live off of guillotine chokes.

Considering that McKenzie’s best chance to win this fight will be on the ground and knowing that Mendes has the wrestling to dictate where this fight goes, the chances of McKenzie catching Mendes are slim to none.

Mendes wins with a second-round stoppage.

WW: Dong Hyun Kim (15-1-1) vs. Demian Maia (15-4)

Wilcoxon: This fight is flying under the radar of a stacked card, but I expect there to be fireworks.

Maia (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

Demian Maia once challenged for the middleweight title, but going just 1-2 since the beginning of 2011 has forced him to drop down a weight class. Maia entered the UFC as the BJJ ace who would dominate on the mat, but was outstruck when the fight was standing. The BJJ phenom has worked diligently to improve his striking and become a more rounded fighter.

Kim also seems to fly under the radar. Despite only having one career loss, coming against Carlos Condit, he is regularly the underdog. Kim possess a solid judo game that anchors his well-rounded attack.

While Maia has dramatically improved his striking, he has fallen into the trap of going almost exclusively to his stand-up attack instead of mixing it in with his BJJ. Kim is much more fluid in transitioning from the standing game to the ground and back. I look for that to be the major difference in this fight. Maia hasn’t finished a fight since UFC 95 and Kim hasn’t been on the winning side of a stoppage since UFC 84, so this one will go the distance. Kim via unanimous decision.

Martin: I’m not going to lie, this fight really doesn’t excite me as much as the other main card fights.

Could it be entertaining? Sure, but you simply never know what you’re going to get with Maia or Kim for that matter.

As Richard pointed out, Maia has sort of gotten away from being a fearsome submission ace. And like Maia, Kim has been showing some improvement in his striking as of late.

Kim (R) delivers a kick (James Law/Heavy MMA)

So this fight could turn out to surprise many, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into it. A finish is really not expected, and I’ll agree with Richard and say Kim by decision.

Berger: For me, this is one of those fights where it’s genuinely hard to predict. I don’t know if that’s because Maia’s game seems to be ever evolving, or because Kim’s judo background is an often overlooked skill set in the MMA world.

Maia, as Richard pointed out, will be dropping to welterweight for the first time. He’s a big guy, so who knows how the cut will go for him. If you combine his weight cut with the long flight from Brazil, it may be too much for him to overcome.

Kim will have an even longer flight and bigger time difference to overcome. As I mentioned earlier, I feel judo is an often overlooked skill, but it can be as valuable as wrestling in controlling the fight.

Both guys are at the top of the class in their respective expertise, but I’m going to go against the grain and pick Maia. He’s a big guy and his BJJ is off the charts. Maia via decision.

MW: Cung Le (7-2) vs. Patrick Cote (17-7)

Berger: Any time Cung Le steps foot in a cage, I get excited. I love any fight that involves awesome or flashy stand-up, and with Le’s Taekwondo background, he’s a solid mix of both.

Le (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Cote has been considered a major underdog since being named the replacement for Rich Franklin, but I think most have forgotten that he once challenged Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title. Since Le began his film career he’s only been fighting once a year, and I think the infrequency, along with his age—he’s 40—may be problematic. However, he’s so dynamic and you never know where his kicks are coming from, so Cote will definitely have his hands full despite Le’s extracurricular activities.

Cote will make his first Octagon appearance since dropping a decision to Tom Lawlor in October of 2010. Since being released though, “The Predator” is on a four-fight winning streak. He’ll definitely have the advantage on the ground and has good striking as well.

I don’t think Cote will pull a Jamie Varner-style upset, but I think he’s a lot more formidable than most are willing to admit. This is probably Le’s last fight—between his age and film career I think the writing is on the wall—and I think he’ll bring all he has into the cage. Le by decision.

Martin: Who doesn’t love to watch Le, Paige?

When I saw this match-up and was trying to predict the outcome, like Paige, the Varner upset against Edson Barboza at UFC 146 ran through my mind.

Considering that everyone is choosing Le to win this fight, it would be incredible to see Cote pull off a remarkable upset. But is Cote still “The Predator” he once was?

Actually, all signs say that he is. He lost to Anderson Silva, then lost to Alan Belcher in a close fight up until he was pile-driven to the canvas, and then he lost a decision to Lawlor. Since then, Cote was bounced from the UFC and picked up four straight wins.

Cote walks away in victory (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

Call me crazy, but I’m going with the upset. Cote will take a lot of damage early, but Le will wither away like he usually does. Cote wins via second-round TKO.

Wilcoxon: Le versus Cote is a fight that is reminiscent of Pride or other organizations that offered fun fights that have no impact on rankings or the title picture. The only difference is that when other promotions do it, fans applaud and say what a fun fight it will be, but when the UFC does it, they complain about the fight being irrelevant. I guess that is the price of being the top promotion in the world.

There is no doubt this will be a fun standing fight. Le’s Sanshou kickboxing has seen him use inventive strikes, especially kicks, in his short MMA career. There is no doubt he is the more versatile striker who will mix kicks, punches and knees into a fun display at a range.

Cote’s knockout power in either hand has led to eight knockout victories for the Canadian.

While Le could surprise Cote with a kick out of nowhere, I am also leaning towards Cote. In my mind, the difference between these fighters lies in their dedication, age and chin. My colleagues have already discussed how Le is now 40 and spending time filming movies rather than training for fights. Also, both of Le’s losses have come via knockout while Cote has never been left unconscious. Cote wins with a first-round knockout.

LHW: Forrest Griffin (18-7) vs. Tito Ortiz (16-10-1)

Martin: A lot of people aren’t exactly thrilled to see the rubber match between Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz, but I’m happy to see them settling the score.

Ortiz (Jeremy Botter/Heavy MMA)

It’s going to be a fun fight between two legends of the sport, and considering that this is Ortiz’s last go at it, it’ll be historic.

As for the way this fight will go, I think Ortiz needs to go ahead and get his excuses lined up.

It’s no secret that Griffin’s chin has weakened, but with his foot movement, Ortiz won’t be able to land a right hand similar to the one he landed on Ryan Bader.

Griffin overwhelms Ortiz on the feet, and Ortiz is unable to get the fight to the ground. As result, Griffin wins by decision and sends Ortiz packing with a loss.

Wilcoxon: The UFC loves their trilogies. Last month, we saw the conclusion of the Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout trilogy where the last fight took place over five years ago on an Ultimate Fight Night event. Unlike that trilogy, this one has a much broader appeal and recognition with the last fight headlining a pay-per-view a few years ago.

I think this is a great fight for Ortiz to retire on. It is a winnable fight, but not a gimme squash match. Let’s not forget Griffin is also nearing retirement and has seemed unfocused and unmotivated recently.

Striking-wise, I have to agree with my colleague. Griffin should have better stand-up technique, and Ortiz hasn’t shown the standing knockout power that has humbled Griffin at times.

Griffin (Heavy MMA)

The real questions in this fight are wrestling and the mental game. Ortiz made a living with vicious ground-and-pound. Since the division’s wrestling caught up to his own, he has struggled. Griffin is not a standout wrestler, so there is the potential for Ortiz to get the takedown. I also mentioned earlier Griffin’s apparent lack of focus in recent fights, so Ortiz may be more interested in this fight than Griffin.

In the end, I can’t hang my hat on “may be.” I will take Griffin to win the standing battle and be even on the ground. Griffin takes a unanimous decision.

Berger: Well, Jake, count me as one of the ones that’s not excited for take three of Griffin versus Ortiz—not at this point in their careers or as a co-main event, anyway.

I agree with Richard when he says that Griffin seems unfocused and ultimately unenergized lately, and I think that could be the opening that Ortiz needs to go out with a win. However, I think Forrest still has more power and speed than Ortiz at this point.

Ortiz will definitely bring it as we all know this is his last dance. He’s being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame approximately nine hours before he steps in the cage, and Tito is an emotional dude. I think the emotions surrounding the induction and his last fight may be a lot for him to overcome in the cage.

It’s really a question of who will be more focused come fight time. Even with Forrest’s apparent lack of focus, I think there will be too much extracurriculars for Ortiz. Couple that with Griffin being the sharper fighter at this point in the game and, like my colleagues, I’m going with Griffin by decision.

MW Championship: Anderson Silva (31-4) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)

Wilcoxon: Many are dubbing this fight the rematch of the century. The first fight was a classic where Chael Sonnen dominated for the better part of five rounds before being submitted by Anderson Silva. This time he is hoping to finish the job.

Sonnen (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

What is there really to say about Silva’s skills? His striking and Muay Thai may be the best ever seen in the sport. His footwork and movement are off the charts. He has given us countless highlight-reel moments, including looking like he was in the movie The Matrix. On the ground, he is a BJJ black belt. Silva’s lone weakness remains his wrestling. However, this is not some hole that Sonnen pointed out. It has been known dating back to before his fight with Dan Henderson. Silva’s other skills have just been so good that they offset this weakness.

Sonnen has slowly transformed himself from journeyman to a can’t-miss interview. He has taken trash talk to an entirely new level and in the process garnered a ton of new fans and haters. Sonnen has always had excellent wrestling and has improved his tight boxing. However, he has also always had a weakness. His submission defense is horrible, and has been throughout his career. In an attempt to fix that, he brought in ADCC medal winner Vinny Magalhaes.

While we can look at the last fight for clues of how this one will go, it is a completely different bout. Silva claims he was injured the first time out. Sonnen’s game plan was perfect and executed to perfection.

The biggest question mark in my mind has nothing to do with Sonnen, his game plan, or his ability. It is that Silva is now 37 years old and relies heavily on his quick reflexes and speed. At some point, those are going to go. Is this the fight where it happens?

I don’t think so. Silva is motivated to crush Sonnen. Silva has already seen the best Sonnen has, but Sonnen didn’t see the best of even an aging Silva yet. And while it may be controversial, Sonnen did test for an elevated T/E ratio last time. He will be under much more scrutiny to be within the legal limits this time around. I look for Silva to end this quickly with a second-round knockout.

Berger: Well, I think Richard hit this one pretty spot-on with his preview, so there’s not really much more to say.

Yeah, Silva says he was injured last time, but it’s not very often a guy that loses doesn’t have a book full of excuses as to why. Granted Silva didn’t lose, but he was closer to defeat than he’s ever been in his UFC career. Point being, who really knows if he was actually hurt?

Wrestlers may not be the most exciting fighters in the world, but they do have the ability to control fights. I don’t think Sonnen will bring anything different this time around, but if he can utilize his wrestling the way he did a couple years ago, he may not need anything else. Besides, when it comes to Sonnen, would anything really surprise you? For all we know, he’ll pull out a triangle of his own—feel free to laugh now.

Silva (Sherdog)

Obviously, Silva has more motivation for this fight than he’s had in a long, long time. But he also seemed genuinely pissed that the fight was moved out of Brazil. Which emotion will be stronger? I’m sure it will be the motivation to shut Sonnen up permanently (is that even possible?). I’d love to sit here and tell you that I think we’ll see a new middleweight champ for the first time in six years, but unfortunately I don’t think that’s going to happen. Silva will walk away with yet another submission victory.

Martin: Ah, it’s finally here.

Never have I anticipated a bout more than this rematch, simply because we have a lot of unanswered questions which both my colleagues hit on.

There’s the T/E factor with Sonnen, as Richard alluded to, and you have the rib injury which Paige pointed out. And this leads me to this question that we will have answered Saturday night: Did Silva’s injury diminish his overall ability or is Sonnen’s style simply Silva’s Kryptonite?

We can speculate all day long about which might be the case, but nobody really knows. But hey, that’s what the Octagon is for, right?

As far as who will win, I’ve gone back and forth on this prediction. I want to say Silva will get a quick knockout and embarrass Sonnen after everything he’s said, but I’m genuinely starting to believe Sonnen is the man to knock Silva off of his throne.

I’m going with the upset. The gangster from West Linn, Ore., makes good on his vow to his father on his deathbed and becomes a world champion via decision.

Prelims Quick Picks

LW: Rafaello Oliveira (14-5) vs. Yoislandy Izquierdo (6-1)

Martin: So far, Rafaello Oliveira has been somewhat of a punching bag in the UFC with his two straight losses. In facing a relatively unimpressive Yoislandy Izquierdo, Oliveira will get his first UFC win by decision.

Berger: Both men will be looking for their first win inside the Octagon. Oliveira has faced the higher level of opponents thus far and trains out of AMA Fight Club with the Miller brothers. That, combined with the fact that he’s a BJJ black belt and Iziquierdo’s only loss has come by submission, leads me to agree with Jake and say Oliveira will come out victorious.

Wilcoxon: Make it unanimous. Oliveira has faced better competition, trains with a better camp, and has already competed in the Octagon. Oliveira wins by a decision.

LW: John Alessio (34-15) vs. Shane Roller (10-6)

Berger: This will be Alessio’s 50th professional fight—half of those have been finishes in his favor. Couple that with Roller being on a three-fight losing streak, and I think Alessio walks away with his first promotional victory.

Wilcoxon: I’m going the other way from Paige. Alessio has always struggled against power punchers and those with strong wrestling. Roller fits both of those categories. As long as Roller can avoid submission attempts, he should win a decision.

Martin: Roller will get the win in this one. Richard nailed it on the head about Alessio’s weaknesses, and when it comes to exploiting them, Roller fits the bill. Roller wins via decision.

MW: Constantinos Philippou (10-2) vs. Riki Fukuda (18-5)

Wilcoxon: Constantinos Philippou lost in his UFC debut when he was a short-notice replacement, but since then he has reeled off three victories against reputable competition. Although Riki Fukuda is a fighter I would like to see reel off some more wins, I feel this is a bad style match-up for him. Philippou will have a strength advantage that I think will allow him to grind out a decision.

Martin: Philippou is a heavy-handed fighter, but Fukuda is a grinder. Both guys should test each other’s chin early, and if this fight leans toward becoming a slugfest, Philippou should be the last man standing. Philippou gets the second-round TKO.

Berger: I agree with both of my colleagues. Fukuda has been training at AKA, so that should’ve helped round out his game a bit, but Philippou has been impressive of late. Philippou by decision.

LW: Melvin Guillard (29-10-2) vs. Fabricio Camoes (14-6-1)

Berger: After dropping two straight via submission, I think Melvin Guillard is going to come back with a vengeance. If he can avoid a third straight submission and keep this fight standing, I think we see a KO victory from the Blackzillian fighter.

Martin: I completely agree with Paige. Guillard went from being a contender for the lightweight belt to the middle of the pack so quickly. But, this is where Guillard gets back on track. Guillard is due for a knockout, and I see it coming in the first round.

Wilcoxon: Fabricio Camoes has the skill set to win this fight. The BJJ ace will need to get the fight to the ground in order to pull it off. I think he is just a little too one-dimensional though. Guillard will be looking for the shot and should be able to keep it standing, where he will hold a huge advantage. I agree with both my colleagues., Guillard takes the win.

LW: Gleison Tibau (25-7) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (17-0)

Martin: Khabib Nurmagomedov turned heads with his submission victory against Kamal Shalorus, but can he handle a powerful wrestler like Gleison Tibau? Tibau is riding a three-fight winning streak, and I don’t see that stopping at UFC 148. Tibau by decision.

Wilcoxon: Shalorus is actually a great wrestler, but he prefers to brawl. Tibau just prefers to wrestle and look for submissions rather than brawl. While I would love for the newcomer to win, Tibau is a huge step up in competition. Both fighters’ BJJ is good enough to avoid a submission, so Tibau will grind out a decision.

Berger: Tibau is a giant lightweight—I mean huge—and the guy is all muscle. Size and wrestling are a dangerous combo for anyone. Nurmagomedov does seem to have a little hype behind him coming into this fight, but the hype won’t do anything to help him get the win. Tibau in a dominant showing.

Top Photo: Dana White gets between Anderson Silva (L) and Chael Sonnen at the UFC 148 pre-fight press conference (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.