At the UFC’s first venture onto network television, Junior dos Santos took the heavyweight belt away from Cain Velasquez. Now, dos Santos is returning at UFC 155 to defend his belt against that same man.

These are two of the best heavyweights in the world and seemingly a couple of the nicest guys as well. However, fans know that they mean business when they step into the cage and can expect a far more violent encounter than the anti-climactic minute-thirty of action that was shown for free on Fox.

A win for the Brazilian would put him as only the third man behind Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar to defend the heavyweight belt two times. No other man has been able to hold onto the hot potato of heavyweight gold longer than that.

Also on the card, we will be seeing two middleweights contenders—Tim Boetsch and Alan Belcher—seeking wins in the hopes that UFC President Dana White will take notice and say either could “probably” be fighting for the title (or at least a No. 1 contender spot) in 2013. A newly sober Chris Leben returns to the middleweight division after sitting out a year for his second suspension due to a failed drug test. Lightweights Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon square off, and an anticipated match between Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard that was scratched from the TUF 16 Finale makes its way onto the preliminary card.

UFC 155 takes place on Dec. 29 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with the main card airing live on pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET. The Facebook prelims, which begin at 6:30 p.m. ET and feature a total of three bouts, will see heavyweight Todd Duffee’s return to the UFC and a flyweight match between Chris Cariaso and John Moraga. Then the action shifts to FX at 8 p.m. ET for the remainder of the preliminary card.

The MMA Corner’s Paige Berger, Dan Kuhl and yours truly, David Massey, will preview the entire card and give predictions in this edition of the Round Table.

MW: Chris Leben (22-8) vs. Derek Brunson (9-2)

Kuhl: UFC veteran Chris Leben is finally making his return to the Octagon after being suspended for a positive drug test following his loss at UFC 138. After getting busted up by Mark Munoz, he got busted for prescription narcotics. Formerly a polarizing contestant on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Leben has had a wild ride in UFC action, almost exclusively winning by knockouts, but finding himself susceptible to both knockouts and submissions. He has a wild style and always swings for the fences. His durability has been matched by few, which hopefully was not due to painkiller abuse.

Leben (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Derek Brunson is a promotional newcomer, merging in from Strikeforce. Leben was originally set to face Karlos Vemola, who had to pull out, so Brunson is getting his shot. Although he opened his pro MMA career just two-and-a-half years ago with a nine-fight winning streak, this three-time All-American wrestler has only beaten one semi-notable fighter in Lumumba Sayers. To his credit, he does train with Greg Jackson and Renzo Gracie, but his last two fights were losses to Kendall Grove and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Leben is still only 32 years old, but with his level of experience, ring rust should not be too big a factor. On the other hand, Brunson may have strung together a couple losses, but he still has a great camp and has had two fights in the last year. That being said, Brunson doesn’t stand a chance.

Leben is coming out to bust heads in his UFC return. He has amazing takedown defense, which will definitely pose a problem for Brunson. There is no doubt that Leben is the better striker, so look for him to showcase that talent with an early barrage.

Leben by first-round TKO.

Berger: To say that Leben is a different person since the last time we saw him in the Octagon would be an understatement. “The Crippler” has undergone a complete transformation in the last year that includes getting sober. He’s talked extensively about his renewed focus and a level of training he’s never been at before—and he’s posted the pictures to prove it. Months out from his fight, he appeared to be in better shape than he typically is on fight night.

If the pictures are any indication, then Brunson will be in for a rude welcome to the UFC. Not only is Leben significantly more experienced than the Jackson’s MMA product, but he’s also the highest-level opponent Brunson has faced thus far in his career. Yes, Jacare is up there, but Jacare is certainly not known for his stand-up and was still able to knock him out.

Brunson (Wilson Fox/Sherdog)

With everything that’s already been said about this match-up, and the fact that it’s a short-notice fight for Brunson, I see Leben walking away with a similar outcome to the last time he fought in Vegas when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva in 27 seconds. I don’t know if this one will end that quickly, but I agree with Dan—Leben by first-round KO.

Massey: Right off the bat, I can say that I follow with what has already been said by my two cohorts here. Leben will personify the “there are no easy fights in the UFC” line for Brunson. Ring rust might be factor for the Hawaiian resident, but I don’t think Brunson will offer too much danger at the start of the fight. Leben should have enough time to warm up from his absence.

I think it is possible that Brunson could offer a decent wrestling offense given his training credentials. Leben’s last performance, while possibly due to other factors, saw him being controlled by a superior wrestler. So, if I were to give Brunson a nod in this fight, his ability to control Leben with wrestling sounds like his best option. Standing, we have to look at Brunson being knocked out with one shot just 41 seconds into his fight with Jacare. In the “Crippler,” he’s facing a man that hits like a sledgehammer, and I think that is as far as we need to go in determining the direction that this fight will be headed.

Leben will be too stern of a test for Brunson. Not many people are probably giving him a chance, and anything he can do to look good in this fight against Leben will boost his profile. Nevertheless, I see Leben returning after a year and settling right back into his old routine of finishing fights with his heavy hands. Leben by TKO.

MW: Alan Belcher (18-6) vs. Yushin Okami (27-7)

Berger: This is an interesting match-up to me. These two seem to fly under the radar pretty consistently in the middleweight division.

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

Yushin Okami did compete recently for the belt, but was disposed of as easily as most of Anderson Silva’s opponents are. That said, I don’t know that Okami ever really deserved the shot, as the only person of note he beat on his way to the title bid was Mark Munoz. At 31 years old, Okami’s better years are behind him and he will unfortunately fall into a glorified gatekeeper role.

On the other hand, Alan Belcher seems to have really come into his own and is quietly riding a four-fight winning streak with his only loss in the last four years being a split decision. He’s finished all four fights since that loss and could be a legitimate contender if he makes easy work of Okami.

While Belcher will be making his return after a hand injury, I don’t feel that it will hamper him too much. Belcher by TKO in the third.

Massey: As Paige pointed out, Belcher has flown under the radar, but a big part of that is due to his time off recovering from injuries. This will be only his fourth fight in the last three years. But Belcher’s record of late consists of dispatching of his opponents within two rounds, and that has kept his name in the mix.

Okami was cruising to a unanimous decision by using sound boxing with solid wrestling and submission defense against current middleweight contender Tim Boetsch before he fell to a come-from-behind KO. Nobody batted an eye when Okami TKO’d Buddy Roberts in his last fight though—that is what he was supposed to do against the unknown fighter. Okami has only lost to top middleweights in recent years, one of them being the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Okami is still a threat, and this will be a do-or-die fight for his chances at making another title run, lest he get stuck in the dreaded role of gatekeeper.

Both men are large middleweights that stand at 6-foot-2, and Belcher will have a slight reach advantage. But I’d call it pretty even in the regard of physicality. Belcher also holds a better grappling and submission acumen, so a ground battle will favor him over time. Okami could technically implement the same game plan as he did against Boetsch, but Belcher has several tools in his box for a fight standing or on the ground. He will be able to adjust if he can’t find an advantage in one area.

Okami (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

Perhaps Okami’s abilities are weakening with age, as Paige asserted, but I believe he’s more so forgotten by fans than not being durable in the ring. But, when guys are this far in the game, even the smallest weakness or mistake can result in a loss. Over time, Belcher’s ability to thrive wherever the fight may go is going to chip away at the former title challenger and the man with the ugly Johnny Cash tattoo will find himself the winner.

Kuhl: I must say that I’m a little shocked that both of my colleagues completely breezed over the fact that this is a rematch, six years in the making, of both fighters’ UFC debuts. And, even more so, look at whom these guys have fought since their original match and whom they have been training with as of late.

Okami is a bad dude, a southpaw who’s proficient in judo and trains with former foe Chael Sonnen. Okami’s only losses in his six-year, sixteen-fight stretch in the Octagon have been to Rich Franklin, Sonnen, Anderson Silva and, most recently, the currently red-hot Boetsch. At only 31 years of age, Okami is a fighter’s fighter with world-class experience against some of the biggest names in the sport.

Okami’s biggest problem isn’t really a problem, per se; it’s why he has a job in the UFC. He loves to push forward on his feet, but since he’s more proficient on the ground, he can get clipped. When he doesn’t push forward, his fights tend to go the distance, which can also be dangerous against a guy like Belcher.

Belcher, at only 28 years of age, is more of a finisher, having a better finishes-to-decisions ratio than Okami. The Duke Roufus fighter has had injury issues keeping him out of the ring, but is, technically, a more decorated martial artist. However, Okami is a black belt in real Japanese judo and trains with amazing wrestlers at Team Quest.

Both fighters have tremendous camps. Although Belcher has momentum on paper, he really doesn’t have that much momentum, because his fights have been so far apart that it’s more coincidence than momentum.

It is really important while looking at this fight to go back to their first match-up. Okami won by decision. Today, if Okami tries to go the distance, Belcher will most certainly have more than enough chances to finish the fight. If Okami comes in with a fire in his belly, he may put on a show with a spectacular TKO finish.

I’ll go devil’s advocate on this one and pick Okami by second-round TKO.

MW: Tim Boetsch (16-4) vs. Constantinos Philippou (11-2)

Massey: Constantinos Philippou is getting the biggest opportunity of his career with main card treatment on a pay-per-view, and Tim Boetsch, on paper, is moving backwards from the caliber of his previous two opponents. It is imperative for “The Barbarian” to shake off the stink of his last performance against Hector Lombard, which was ill-received by fight fans due to lack of engagement from both fighters. This fight will be about who wants it more and a finish would go a long way for either combatant.

Boetsch (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Philippou, a former professional boxer, throws solid jabs and combinations that sting his opponents, but his knockout power hasn’t been seen often in his career. More impressive is Philippou’s takedown defense, which has given most of his opponents fits and kept the fight standing in his favor. Boetsch, a former NCAA Division I wrestler, should give Philippou a stiff test, but more likely Boetsch will have success closing the gap and damaging his opponent from the clinch or scoring points with him pressed against the cage.

The question is if Philippou can control the pace against a top-10 opponent and keep Boetsch on the end of his punches. Philippou will want to use his superior footwork to accomplish that goal and stay on his feet and away from being tied up. Boetsch will be willing to eat shots to get close to Philippou if he begins to lose to rangy striking, and he should have moderate success, at least more than any of Philippou’s previous opponents. The tables will be turned on the Serra-Longo team member this time around though, and Boetsch will make him carry his large frame to tire him out and take the rounds, even if he has to receive hard shots and accumulated damage in the process.

Boetsch by decision.

Kuhl: Boetsch versus Philippou is arguably the best injury replacement of the year, which is tough to live up to when Boetsch’s previous opponent was the dazzling Chris Weidman. But, when it comes down to it, Philippou is a tough, tough guy and is on a four-fight UFC winning streak, all against top-level opponents.

Speaking of top-level opponents, I must also mention that Boetsch has fought just as often, against just as tough of opponents, and is also on a UFC four-fight winning streak.

Both fighters are extremely durable, able to go the distance in three-round wars, and they can beat you on your feet and prefer to stand and bang. On the flip side, as David pointed out, Boetsch holds the clear advantage in the grappling department.

Philippou will look to keep this fight standing, and Boetsch will look to take it to the ground. Barring a flash knockout, I have Boetsch taking this to the ground to pound out Philippou.

Philippou (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Boetsch by second-round TKO.

Berger: As has already been pointed out, Philippou is an injury replacement for Weidman. However, the Serra-Longo product is one of Weidman’s teammates and was surely helping Weidman prepare for this fight. Therefore, Philippou has likely had a full training camp preparing specifically for Boetsch. He’s a great boxer and has the ability to knock anyone out, but he’ll being taking on a much more well-rounded fighter.

Yes, Boetsch is riding a four-fight winning streak, but if we’re being honest then the fight with Lombard was painful to watch and he was losing to Okami before earning the knockout in the third round. The two fights before that were against mid-level guys Nick Ring and Kendall Grove. So while he’s won each fight fair and square, I’m not quite as impressed as many are. That said, Boetsch is a tough guy that can finish his opponents standing up or on the ground and will have both a wrestling and jiu-jitsu advantage in this one.

When all is said and done, I think Boetsch will grind out a potentially boring, yet somewhat impressive decision.

LW: Joe Lauzon (22-7) vs. Jim Miller (21-4)

Berger: This is a definite “Fight of the Night” contender on this card. Both of these men bring it every night and rarely go the distance, though I think this one may just go a full 15 minutes.

Lauzon (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Jim Miller is coming off a tough submission loss to Nate Diaz—the first time the AMA Fight Club member has been finished in his career. He’s a 13-fight UFC veteran, so I expect him to come back full force and not let the loss get to him. I think Miller will hold the advantage in the wrestling department and is overall a very complete fighter, dangerous wherever the fight may go.

Joe Lauzon, in my opinion, is only a win away from title contention. He’s coming off a “Fight of the Night” and “Submission of the Night” performance against Jamie Varner at UFC on Fox 4, and will look to ride that momentum into his bout with Miller. The 28-year-old will definitely have the advantage on the ground, is one of the most dynamic fighters in the division, and leads the UFC in “of the night” bonuses.

I think the only “of the night” bonus up for grabs in this one will be “Fight of the Night,” as I think Lauzon celebrates the New Year with a decision victory under his belt.

Kuhl: No disrespect to the reigning “of the night” champ, but if I wrote a book about Lauzon’s career, it would be titled “Always A Groomsman, Never The Groom.” As a competitor, Lauzon is one of the best BJJ and MMA practitioners ever, a consummate professional. The only problem is he has no professional MMA titles to show for it. The reason? Every time he gets close, he drops an important fight. It happened most recently when he was knocked out by one of Anthony Pettis’ fierce head kicks. Somehow, a third-round choke of Jamie Varner launched him back into the spotlight, even though BJJ is his bread-and-butter and was the only way he was going to win that fight.

Miller is also a BJJ black belt with the majority of his wins coming by submission. He suffered his one-and-only submission defeat at the hands of Nate Diaz in May. Miller has also had a stellar career in the UFC, but has lost to much better opponents in Frankie Edgar, Benson Henderson, Gray Maynard and Diaz.

Lauzon has shown that he can scrap on his feet, but Miller is by far the superior striker in this exchange. Lauzon has an ever-so-slight advantage in the grappling game.

Miller and Lauzon are both looking really good right now, but I like Miller’s chances. He definitely has the chance to hand Lauzon another knockout to cap the year.

Jim Miller (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

I have Miller by TKO.

Massey: While I very much respect Paige’s opinion, I cannot see Lauzon being close to a title shot. He’s kept himself relevant as an excellent and entertaining fighter for television audiences, but he hasn’t been able to build an impressive run like Miller. Miller, on the other hand, is easily forgettable, honestly. Even with two losses in his last three, one to the current champ Benson Henderson and one to the latest challenger Nate Diaz, he has more clout than Lauzon to move forward.

I could spend all day watching tape on both guys and still not know what to expect in this fight. Lauzon edges out Miller in submission grappling, and Miller edges out Lauzon with wrestling and standing offense. However, Miller’s wrestling defense can be exploited as we saw in the Henderson fight. Lauzon usually softens up his opponents with crisp striking and then wraps them up for a submission finish, something that Miller should be wary of even if he has Lauzon hurt and were to jump into his guard.

This is where I side with Dan that Lauzon usually drops the ball when he is in an important fight, much like Michael Bisping. I know, because my heart dropped when I saw him fall to Pettis, someone who is better suited to be a contender in 2013. I could tap dance with indecision all day with who would win between these two, but Miller’s grit speaks favorably to me. He could easily be grounded to a decision, but I think his heavier hands and controlled aggression could be enough to handle Lauzon. The faster he gets out of there, the better.

As an avid gamer, I’m going to be hypocritical and say that Lauzon should focus on getting “kill-streaks” inside of the Octagon and not in Call of Duty. His inconsistency to lesser competition than Miller has me leaning away from him. I will eat crow for Paige’s sake if I am wrong, but I’m going with Miller.

HW Championship: Junior dos Santos (15-1) vs. Cain Velasquez (10-1)

Kuhl: Without getting too far into the analysis of this much-anticipated rematch, I can say, without a doubt, that this fight will not go anything like the first bout between the undisputed top two heavyweights in the world.

dos Santos (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

There’s really not much to discuss regarding the last bout between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. After a huge build-up for the first-ever UFC on Fox card, a ton of waiting between fights, including more commercials and lead-in commentary than occur for the Super Bowl, the two fighters came to the center of the Octagon and exchanged a few punches and kicks before dos Santos caught Velasquez with a right hook to the temple, sending him to the mat to get finished in just over a minute. It was a pretty anti-climactic ending to one of the biggest hyped fights in UFC history.

I would bet the farm that this fight will not end so quickly.

Velasquez is traditionally a quick starter, and his vicious power and tenacity in the cage has made for a lethal combination. Not to mention, he was an extremely talented NCAA Division I wrestler and has a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. He is coming into this fight with a vengeance, looking to get his title back from the very man who took it from him. However, the Mexican-American’s best aspect, other than his wrestling, is his striking game, and, right now, dos Santos is the best with his freakishly long arms, incredible speed and laser-like accuracy.

Dos Santos continued his meteoric rise with a quick finish of UFC veteran Frank Mir in May, and the Brazilian has a ton of momentum.

I believe that the fight will last well into the first round, if not into the second, with Velasquez trying to close distance and get dos Santos to the ground. I see dos Santos repeatedly stuffing the takedown attempts and punishing Velasquez for even trying.

Dos Santos will keep his belt, dashing the hopes of Velasquez, with a first- or second-round TKO.

Massey: We always hear that fights can turn out any number of ways in MMA, or that is was just one person’s night that ended lucky for them. I don’t usually try to dissect a fight past the concrete evidence that was shown in it. And what dos Santos showed in the first meeting with Velasquez is that he is the superior striker. He is the top heavyweight in the world because of his second-to-none skill in boxing, and we will see proof of that again. Velasquez might be able to show us something we didn’t see in the first fight, but dos Santos still holds an upper hand in my eyes.

Dos Santos has excellent takedown defense and is actually hungry to submit an opponent. That might just be trash talk, but he is part of Team Nogueira and is a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He is prepared for the ground but is simply better on the feet. Velasquez is a solid wrestler but, like Dan said, he is going to pay for trying to close the distance. That is exactly what Frank Mir wanted to do, knowing that putting dos Santos on the ground would be his best route to victory. Dos Santos is good at staying on his feet; it is what helped get him to the championship. He sent shockwaves through Mir’s body for trying to get close before he even hit the ground from “Cigano’s” punching power.

Velasquez strikes fast with killer blows. If he were to end up in dos Santos’ guard then we will see him attacking like he did with Antonio Silva. Everyone is expecting that kind of brutality, and Velasquez has a better record of it. Yet, dos Santos can go three-plus rounds with the same strategy and watch the damage pile up until his opponent is a broken husk standing before him, as he did in the Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin fights. Velasquez is not one to be pushed around, but his attack will be stifled, and dos Santos will keep his distance and play it safe while working his top-notch strikes.

Velasquez (Sherdog)

I see Velasquez taking a hard body shot somewhere around the third stanza and falling to the mat in a heap. Dos Santos will swarm with academic shots until the TKO victory is called in his name.

Berger: This fight is exciting for so many reasons, the biggest being how evenly matched theses two actually are. I’ve had many conversations about this pairing since the rematch was announced, and what I’ve said in each one is that if these two fought 10 times, I genuinely believe each would win five.

There’s no denying that Velasquez has the best cardio of anyone in the heavyweight division, and potentially the entire UFC. The man is a workhorse and takes his craft incredibly serious. While I believe dos Santos holds the edge in straight boxing, Velasquez is a better kickboxer and has some pretty devastating kicks. The 30-year-old also has the ability to control where the fight goes with what may be the best wrestling in the division. He’s a master of ground-and-pound and has a decent submission game.

Dos Santos has mentioned that he wants to show off his ground game, and I’ll be interested to see it. If it’s as good as people think it may be, Velasquez could be in trouble regardless of where the fight goes. His striking ability is well documented, as both Dan and David have pointed out, but I do think that the 64-second finish was a fluke.

Both men have the ability to end this fight in quick fashion; however, I think dos Santos has the better chin, and in order for Velasquez to earn his belt back he’s going to have to grind it out over five rounds or work his ground-and-pound. Whatever the outcome, I think both men see the championship rounds for the first time in their careers, and the longer the fight goes, the better I think it is for the challenger. Velasquez by TKO in the fifth.

Preliminary Card

FlyW: Chris Cariaso (14-3) vs. John Moraga (12-1)

Massey: Chris Cariaso is an all-around scrapper that has transitioned into a better fit for his size at flyweight. He’s already faced a few of the UFC’s best bantamweights in losing efforts, and that experience will be an advantage. John Moraga hasn’t had the best quality opponents before he entered the UFC, but he did win his debut by KO against a serviceable Ulysses Gomez. Cariaso has dealt with larger fighters before and knows how to keep active, but Moraga has been on a tear lately. It is tough to call, but I’m leaning towards Moraga to have a slight size advantage that will allow him to dictate the action in most positions and get the ‘W.’

Berger: While I agree with David that Cariaso’s past opponents will give him a significant experience edge, Moraga trains out of a great camp with guys like Benson Henderson and Jamie Varner—that’s something Cariaso doesn’t have. I think this bout will come down to whether or not Cariaso can find a way to close the distance, seeing as how Moraga is a NCAA Division I wrestler, I think Cariaso will have his work cut out for him. I think Moraga walks away with a decision victory.

Kuhl: Let’s be realistic here, Moraga is a game fighter, deserving of a shot on the big stage, but he has his hands full with arguably one of the top five fighters in the flyweight division. Many expect Cariaso to get a shot at the title soon, possibly even in the next year. The only way Moraga takes this is on the ground, and Cariaso won’t let that happen. Cariaso will stuff Moraga’s takedowns and drag this one out to a unanimous decision.

HW: Philip De Fries (9-1) vs. Todd Duffee (7-2)

Kuhl: The last time Philip De Fries stepped into the Octagon, I greatly underestimated him. I was sure that he would get knocked out by Oli Thompson, but he did what he always does in pro MMA, he submitted the big Brit at the end of round two. De Fries is a BJJ specialist to say the least. Todd Duffee, on the other hand, is a knockout specialist.

Duffee is making his return to UFC action after a falling out with UFC President Dana White got him cut from the organization. Duffee, who has been boxing since he was only 16, trains at the famous American Kickboxing Academy in California and holds the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history by tagging Tim Hague in seven seconds at UFC 102. He is definitely a game fighter and will bring a lot more skill against De Fries than former Strongman competitor Thompson was able to.

De Fries definitely has his hands full in this one. The Englishman has suffered only one defeat, which was at the hands of another amazing striker in Stipe Miocic. Duffee will likely pose a lot of problems for him. However, I called against De Fries once, and I’m going to go the other way this time. This fight is a lot of pressure for Duffee in making his return, and if he comes out swinging wildly, he could easily get tied up by the BJJ specialist.

I’m going with DeFries by first-round submission.

Berger: I’m going to have to disagree with Dan. I feel that Duffee’s time spent at AKA over the last few years training with the likes of Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier is only going to improve his game. As Dan mentioned, Duffee is a knockout artist, whereas De Fries is a submission ace. You’ve got to think Duffee’s takedown defense has improved while at AKA, and he’s always had bricks for hands. Duffee via KO.

Massey: What more is there to say? De Fries wants push his opponent against the cage, work a takedown, and try to submit him. Duffee is returning to the UFC like Odysseus returning to Ithaca after two years of slaying monsters around the globe with mixed results. Duffee has only known KO’s or TKO’s his entire career, and I see this fight being no different. The way De Fries was overwhelmed by Miocic is the way I see Duffee handling him. Duffee by KO.

FW: Leonard Garcia (15-9-1) vs. Max Holloway (6-1)

Berger: If Max Holloway wasn’t a late replacement for an injured Cody McKenzie, I’d actually think this was a better match-up than the original fight. Holloway is a young star on the rise and has a more complete game than McKenzie. However, 10 days’ notice is a heavy task for anyone. Leonard Garcia will be fighting for his UFC life and has had a full camp to prepare. Garcia by early submission.

Massey: Garcia lost his original opponent in McKenzie but now has a tougher match with Holloway. Garcia, while always exciting, has dropped three in a row and is probably fighting for his job here. Holloway is a more technical striker than Garcia, showing promise against Dustin Poirier, who took him down to avoid striking, and he also TKO’d the dangerous Justin Lawrence in his last match. If this is to be another Garcia stand-up war, then Holloway will take a nod from the judges by using better technique.

Kuhl: The biggest problem for the young 21-year-old Holloway is that he has never faced anyone with Garcia’s durability. Garcia can eat haymakers all night without going down, and thus far, striking is the best thing we’ve seen Holloway bring to the cage. Even though Garcia is fighting for his job, as David pointed out, he will drop this one by unanimous decision, as David also pointed out.

LW: Michael Johnson (12-6) vs. Myles Jury (10-0)

Massey: We have two dangerous and rangy strikers, but this fight will most likely be contested on the ground. Michael Johnson is enjoying a nice three-fight winning streak that has shown his excellent ability at taking a hit and dishing it back against fellow competitors of note Danny Castillo and Tony Ferguson. Myles Jury hasn’t struck with the kind of opponents that Johnson has, but he does boast a brown belt in jiu-jitsu and two submission finishes in his last two fights. The ground is an area that Johnson should be intent on avoiding. Johnson usually loses rounds by being out-grappled, unless he can get back to his feet and turn the fight around. Jury might take his chances standing, but Johnson’s biggest weakness is there to exploit. If his defense is kept high at all times while standing, Jury will get the win.

Kuhl: This match-up of previous TUF contestants pits a grinder, in Johnson, against a finisher, in Jury. On paper, it looks as if Jury can get this to the ground, he could easily secure a victory, but the one thing paper doesn’t portray is Johnson’s great takedown defense. Jury may be undefeated, but, as David pointed out, Johnson’s previous competitors are so much tougher than anyone Jury has ever faced. Johnson was a favorite going into his stint on TUF, until he dropped a decision to Jonathan Brookins. Regardless, he has totally redeemed himself, and Johnson should grind this one out to a unanimous decision.

Berger: One of the most intriguing things about this fight for me is that both of these guys are coming out of one of the best up-and-coming gyms in the country. Johnson is with the Blackzilians, and Jury is at Alliance MMA in San Diego. I know a lot of people are anti big gym, but it’s fun to watch these camps grow and improve. Johnson is certainly more experienced inside the Octagon, but Jury has finished every fight he’s been in. I think Jury has the ability to finish this one as well, but Johnson looked better than ever in his last outing with Danny Castillo. I think Johnson walks away victorious after a 15-minute battle.

BW: Erik Perez (12-4) vs. Byron Bloodworth (6-2)

Berger: Erik Perez may just be a diamond in the rough in the UFC’s bantamweight division. He’s 2-0 thus far inside the Octagon, needing less than five minutes total to dismantle his opponents. On the other side of the cage, Byron Bloodworth will be making his first appearance in more than a year and is coming off a loss. He did well on the smaller regional circuit, but I don’t feel that will be enough to stop Perez. “El Goyito” by submission.

Kuhl: Perez looked awesome in his 17-second UFC 150 knockout of Ken Stone, the fastest in bantamweight history. He is young and hungry, and he has defeated some great opponents in Stone and John Albert. Bloodworth is 29 years old, compared to Perez’s 23, but Perez is extremely well-rounded and has twice as many pro fights under his belt. I agree with Paige—Perez by submission.

Massey: My colleagues make points that are hard to argue against. Perez is younger and has double the experience with a fantastic record on paper. Bloodworth, of course, should not be overlooked out of respect, but Perez’s qualifications and history speaks for itself. I call Perez winning with a finish.

BW: Brad Pickett (22-6) vs. Eddie Wineland (19-8-1)

Kuhl: I can say with some certainty that this will be “Fight of the Night,” no questions asked, and is a perfect finale to the FX card. Brad “One Punch” Pickett and Eddie Wineland are two old-school WEC vets with a ton of talent and completely well-rounded backgrounds. Pickett is a little more submission heavy in his past wins, and Wineland has more knockouts, but both have won and lost by every way imaginable. Both men are coming off spectacular knockout finishes over top opponents and are looking to make a statement that could possibly move them into title contention. This is a tough one, but I’m looking to Pickett to “One Punch” his way to a third UFC win in a row. Pickett by TKO in the second round.

Massey: Here, we have a match that makes sense between two bantamweight bangers that are camping right outside contention. I’m going to have to diverge with Dan and say that Wineland, who most recently handed the ever-durable Scott Jorgensen his only KO loss, will win a prolonged stand-up battle. Wineland has had trouble with submissions in the past, but he’s been able to keep himself standing and opponents have been unable to be finish him as of late. Pickett is back on a patented tear, but I think Wineland will be able to keep the fight standing with his wrestling defense, as he has done against the best bantamweights. Also, I see his hands as being slightly better than Pickett, which will take Wineland to a win.

Berger: I’m not going to lie, this fight excites me. I’ve always loved the pace of the lighter weight classes, and this one will surely have an up-tempo vibe right from the get-go. As both of my colleagues have alluded to, these two men have the ability to end the fight whenever or wherever it may go, and this makes it incredibly hard to predict. I feel that Wineland’s size advantage, along with the experience gained in bouts with guys like Urijah Faber and Joseph Benevidez, will give him the edge. Wineland by decision.

LW: Melvin Guillard (30-11-2) vs. Jamie Varner (20-7-1)

Massey: Jamie Varner starts off strong, but burns up most of his gas tank by the time the fight reaches round three. His striking is always dangerous, as is Melvin Guillard’s, and at any moment a solid combination will change the course of the fight. However, Guillard has a successful wrestling offense and mixing that into striking exchanges will be key in throwing Varner off his rhythm. If Guillard chooses to be meticulous over exciting, I can see him walking away the winner.

Berger: Varner is easily the more well-rounded man in this fight. He’s got power in his hands, has a far superior wrestling pedigree that will allow him to control where the fight goes, and possesses a stronger ground game. Guillard is an always dangerous and game fighter, but once the fight goes to the ground he often looks lost. David is right regarding Varner’s gas tank, and coming off illness that may be more in question. However, I don’t see this going three rounds, as Varner will earn himself a submission victory in the second.

Kuhl: There’s no way this fight hits the ground. If Guillard walks backward, Varner will make him pay with his high-level boxing. If Guillard comes out swinging like a wild man, one of these guys is taking it on the chin and going to sleep. I feel that Varner’s tight, calculated hands are much more effective than Guillard’s haymaker style. I see Varner picking apart his fellow veteran for a unanimous decision.

Top Photo: Cain Velasquez (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.