Call it the UFC vs. Strikeforce.

The UFC’s seventh installment on network television has a new flair to it, with each of the main-card contests featuring a former Strikeforce fighter taking on a UFC veteran. Fittingly, the event takes place from the HP Pavillion in San Jose, Calif., the longtime home of the now defunct promotion.

In the headlining bout, UFC lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson puts his belt on the line against long-reigning Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez to determine who is the best at 155 pounds.

Also on the main card, Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier clashes with former UFC champion Frank Mir, former Strikeforce title holder Josh Thomson meets The Ultimate Fighter winner Nate Diaz, and Matt Brown looks for his fifth straight win against rising Strikeforce prospect Jordan Mein.

The 12-fight event will kick off Saturday, April 20, at 4 p.m. ET with two bouts streaming on the promotion’s YouTube and Facebook pages. Six additional bouts will follow on FX at 5 p.m. ET, with the Fox-broadcast main card starting at 8 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Rob Tatum, Joe Chacon and Dale De Souza break down the entire card below and make predictions for each bout.

WW: Matt Brown (16-11) vs. Jordan Mein (27-8)

Chacon: Matt Brown and Jordan Mein may very well turn out one of the most exciting fights of the entire card. Brown will be entering the Octagon for the 15th time and is riding a four-fight winning streak. Mein, on the other hand, will be making just his second appearance within the UFC.

Mein (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

Among the exciting aspects of this fight is the fact that both these guys go for the finish, and they do so in a very well-rounded way. Both Brown and Mein have knockout power as well as a refined ground game that allows them to finish their opponents via submission.

At first glance some may be impressed with Mein beating Dan Miller at UFC 158, but keep in mind that Miller had lost five of his previous eight fights before his bout with Mein. Mein now faces somebody on a winning streak and fighting with a sense of purpose and urgency.

Mein hasn’t been knocked out since 2007, but I see him losing via TKO to Brown in this one. Look for Brown to utilize what I consider to be a ground advantage early on in the fight. He’ll then show his strength standing up towards the second round and catch Mein with a knee, leading to a TKO win.

De Souza: I’ll agree with Joe that this bout holds potential to steal the show, which says something, considering the headliner. Although Brown could easily look to outwork opponents en route to a decision, he holds no reservations about standing with anyone. Mein also never shies away from a good stand-up battle, and as his record will show, he gets his best results in that area.

Mein’s only recent blemish came against Tyron Woodley, but with the recent win over Miller, Mein appears as something of a different fighter from the man Woodley outwrestled. Granted, one cannot say for sure that Mein will showcase improvements in his grappling, but his diverse attack on the feet will always present problems for anyone he fights.

Mein also owns seven career submission wins, but one cannot rest assured that Mein will out-grapple Brown or come close to doing so. Since the loss to Seth Baczynski almost two years ago, Brown improved seemingly everywhere, offensively and defensively. Three of the wins he owns in his current four-fight streak come by a form of knockout, but if an opponent leaves the appropriate opening available, Brown can capitalize on the opportunity to submit his foe.

Brown (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Although it normally takes a solid ground game to force Brown to tap, history shows that a solid grappler can also end Mein’s night. Brown will try to strike with Mein momentarily, but look for him to grind him out against the cage and hunt for takedowns. Once he tires out Mein, Brown will take his back and secure a rear-naked choke to snap Mein’s three-fight winning streak.

Tatum: Whereas my colleagues are focused more on the technical advantages Brown may have going into this contest, it should be noted that Mein fought just one month ago. Certainly the 23-year-old has plenty of experience, but that’s not a lot of time to prepare for a crafty veteran like Brown.

Brown’s current streak seemed improbable after he dropped four of five and appeared to be on the chopping block. But the TUF alum has really turned things around with a willingness to go for broke with his stand-up and his takedowns. His best weapon in this fight will be his pressure and perhaps even his judo.

Those that have followed Mein’s career know that he’s a very talented striker who uses his range and angles perfectly. Obviously being the first to stop Dan Miller with strikes is something he can hang his hat on, but he doesn’t want to stop there. The Canadian’s biggest weakness has been wrestlers, and being that Brown’s base is judo, there’s potential for Mein to find himself fighting off his back once more. The question is whether he can get back to his feet if he does.

I don’t blame my fellow panelists for taking Brown and his current wave of momentum, but Mein is the type of fighter that can pick apart even the most experienced fighter on the feet. Brown will make it competitive, but Mein will walk out of the Octagon with his second UFC win in as many months, albeit by decision this time.

LW: Nate Diaz (16-8) vs. Josh Thomson (19-5)

De Souza: It somehow seems appropriate that the two most recent opponents of the night’s two headliners would face each other inside the Octagon. Nate Diaz lost a three-fight winning streak to UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 5. Depending on who you ask, however, Josh Thomson may be coming off either a second loss to or a second win over former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (officially, it was a split decision loss for Thomson).

Diaz (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

When everything goes well for Thomson in camp, he can do just about anything he wants to inside the cage. He may receive more praise for what he can do with his grappling, and his recent inconsistencies in the win-loss column often draw away from that. He also proved in his trilogy with Melendez that he doesn’t have a problem getting into a firefight with the best in the world.

Against Diaz, an emphasis is placed on the “fire” in the term “firefight.” Diaz lights a fire in the majority of his opponents before fight week approaches, Thomson being one of the few exceptions. When fight time comes, his high-volume striking poses a dilemma for anyone, even those with notably high-level striking. Naturally, as a product of the Cesar Gracie camp, the level of his jiu-jitsu game needs no real explanation.

Thomson doesn’t bring a fight akin to a Takanori Gomi or a Donald Cerrone. But look for him to turn the heat up against a game Diaz in a fight that almost resembles the Gomi fight in some ways. Both will go for it early, but Diaz will find his rhythm, and he will force the tap in the only way Stockton boys know how to do it: mean-mugged and without any apologies for choosing to leave no doubt.

Tatum: Dale forgot one key element of this match-up: the wrestling. Thomson may not use his wrestling in the same manner as Benson Henderson or even Diaz’s teammate Melendez, but the chink in the arsenal of the Diaz brothers has always been takedown defense. As Thomson prepares for his second stint in the UFC, he has to be chomping at the bit to put Diaz on his back. Just look at Diaz’s record: eight losses, with seven coming by decision.

That’s not to say this will be a lopsided fight by any means. Diaz can use the knowledge that Melendez has from his trilogy with Thomson to exploit holes in the AKA-trained fighter’s stand-up game. Diaz’s length and high-volume boxing are much different obstacles than what Thomson saw against Melendez. What is concerning is that Diaz likes to close the distance along the cage, which almost always leads to him ending up on the ground.

Thomson (R) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

To be blunt, it will be a complete shocker if this fight gets finished. In the 48 combined fights on their resumes, each has only been finished once. Both have Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts, so expect a chess match on the ground. But Thomson’s ability to dictate where the fight goes will be the difference maker.

Thomson by unanimous decision.

Chacon: I completely agree with Rob. I expect this fight to resemble what we just saw between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz. Sure, Thomson is no GSP, but the blueprint for beating one of the Diaz brothers is still the same.

Nate can fight off his back, but regardless of how much damage is done from the back, it doesn’t appear to be something the judges take into consideration. Thomson will be able to get Diaz to the ground, most likely after a close exchange of dirty boxing.

I don’t expect this to end in anything but a decision. Look for Thomson’s hand to be raised and the Diaz camp to be shocked by the decision.

HW: Daniel Cormier (11-0) vs. Frank Mir (16-6)

Tatum: This fight may signal a changing of the guard in the heavyweight division, as Strikeforce Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier makes his Octagon debut against former UFC champion Frank Mir.

Cormier (top) (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

Cormier’s ascension through the heavyweight ranks has been an impressive journey. The Olympic wrestler has proven that he’s a threat not only on the mat, but also on the feet thanks to his time at American Kickboxing Academy. Although Cormier is undersized at 5-foot-11, he possesses a unique combination of speed and power that gives opponents fits. He effortlessly ragdolled the much bigger Josh Barnett to claim the Strikeforce tournament and completely outclassed current UFC No. 1 contender Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva with his striking.

For Mir, this is a chance to play spoiler. At 33 years old, Mir isn’t ready to hang up the gloves by any means, but the submission ace has had his chin exposed with regularity in his career, including in his most recent defeat to Junior dos Santos. Even though he’ll have a four-inch height advantage and eight inches in reach, Mir would be ill-advised to trade with Cormier. It would be hard to argue that there’s a better BJJ practitioner in the heavyweight division and that’s where Mir has his best chance in this fight. There’s a strong likelihood that Cormier will plant him on his back, but the veteran needs to find a way to bait Cormier into a submission.

Cormier could be the future of not only the heavyweight division, but perhaps light heavyweight as well. Mir won’t have an answer for Cormier’s speed on the feet, forcing him to tie up. From there, Cormier will plant him on the mat and rain heavy shots, scoring a first-round TKO win.

Chacon: I lost confidence in Mir’s chin quite some time ago. He now reminds me of what I saw in my personal favorite fighter of all time, Chuck Liddell, towards the end of his career. Liddell still had the skills and power to compete, but his chin had left him, and that’s exactly what I see in Mir.

Mir can still beat guys who are in the Octagon with the sole purpose of taking him to the ground, but that’s not what we have in Cormier. Make no mistake about it, Cormier is a world-class wrestler, but he also has some of the most power punches you’ll see in any MMA organization today.

Mir (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Cormier doesn’t have to hit Mir flush on the chin to knock him out. Just like Rob, I do not see this going past the first round. I see Mir going in for a desperate takedown after getting rattled by a couple of shots and being viciously knocked out in the first round.

De Souza: Liddell stands as one of my favorite fighters of all time as well, and as I also found sadness in how the end of Liddell’s career turned out, I understand Joe’s correlation between the end of the “Iceman’s” career and the things we have seen lately out of Mir.

Of course, that he even drew Cormier once probably does not help Mir out, though it does motivate Mir’s strongest supporters. How so? Well, go back to the issue of Mir’s now-suspect chin and it will spark some debate over whether we can stick a fork in Mir, though his strongest supporters will remain adamant that the former UFC heavyweight champion still has a ways to go before he is done.

I wouldn’t blame Mir’s supporters for thinking he has something left. Say what you will about his wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and the way he found himself in UFC 146’s headliner, but let’s not act like Mir no longer can get results when it counts. His boxing and his Muay Thai both remain as lethal as anyone at 265 pounds, and when he gets someone on the ground, his jiu-jitsu still stands as some of the best showcased by any non-Brazilian athlete in the sport right now. When he puts it all together, he still can strike some fear into even a few of the elite of the division, especially considering some of his past submission victories.

The brunt of the favoritism towards Cormier comes from Mir’s past history against heavy-handed wrestlers. Reflect back to when he came off his win over Cheick Kongo and fought a then-undefeated Shane Carwin. Sure, Carwin never thought of bringing anything close to what Cormier will bring to Mir, but despite the clear lack of experience against Mir, Carwin pinned Mir against the cage and left him no room to escape Carwin’s shots.

Cormier knows how to break down foes and wear them out to where they legitimately cannot muster up the energy to intelligently defend his strikes. So, yes, one can expect Cormier to try and enact a similar strategy to Carwin’s, albeit with a bit more technical striking involved. Look towards Cormier to force some heavy breaths out of Mir early in the first and put him away late in that same round—not because Mir is “done,” but because Cormier is simply that good and can make it look very simple at this level.

LW Championship: Benson Henderson (18-2) vs. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)

De Souza: People knew Gilbert Melendez would eventually come to the UFC, even in the days when many considered B.J. Penn and Shinya Aoki as two of the best lightweights in the world. However, nobody knew exactly when he would debut or against whom. Now those details are known, and everyone can agree that Melendez, the best lightweight outside of the UFC, could not have drawn a more perfect opponent than the reigning UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson.

Melendez (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Those who have never seen Melendez fight before will find themselves in for a treat on Saturday. Melendez brings arguably one of the most punishing offenses in the division right now. He uses his wrestling just as well, if not better than some of the best in the world right now, to control opponents and create opportunities to finish his fights. Additionally, he pushes the type of pace that one would need to push in order to frustrate Henderson.

Melendez should expect to see a difference between outworking someone like Thomson and outworking Henderson. Henderson also packs some mean wrestling and his strength allows him to secure submissions that few other fighters could. Only his submission defense proves scarier, and past fights with the likes of Donald Cerrone and Mark Bocek prove this fact.

Remember, though, Henderson doesn’t exactly push a slow pace either, and with the high-volume striking that both men bring with their respective boxing games, expect this one to bring quite the drama from start to finish. Melendez will give Henderson his most intense challenge to date, and at least four of the five rounds will prove close, but in the end, the champion’s composure, aggression and cardio will sway a split decision in his favor and keep the belt around his waist.

Chacon: Dale nailed it when he talked about the pace of this fight—it’s going to be frantic. Henderson is going to be ready for it. After all, he’s had to fight Frankie Edgar twice, as well as a spasmodic Clay Guida in late 2011. Henderson’s two biggest advantages are going to be his strength and calm demeanor.

Henderson doesn’t get rattled (unless somebody jumps off the side of a cage and kicks him in the head), and I can’t really see Melendez doing anything special that Henderson hasn’t seen in his previous six fights.

I don’t want to say I’m not sold on Melendez, because I believe he is a top-tier fighter, but I just don’t believe he is going to figure out Henderson the first time around. It’s always hard to predict either fighter finishing the other because they are so dang durable, but I’ve seen Melendez get battered pretty well by fighters of lesser talent than Henderson. He just managed to weather the storm and grind out decisions in the past.

Henderson (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Henderson hasn’t finished somebody by something other than submission since 2009, but I think the drought ends against Melendez. Call me crazy, but I think Henderson’s cool demeanor and strength will allow him to wear our Melendez and eventually catch him with a kick to the head, leading to a barrage of punches and a TKO win in the third round.

Tatum: I will make this unanimous, as I also see Henderson walking out of the cage on Saturday with the belt around his waist. But that doesn’t mean Melendez won’t make it interesting over the course of five rounds.

Melendez has dispatched of nearly every lightweight outside of the UFC in his Strikeforce reign and the Cesar Gracie product will be eager to prove that he belongs amongst the division’s elite. The problem? He’s running into a well-rounded champion who, as Joe alluded to, has already encountered everything Melendez brings to the table.

When this fight ends with Henderson’s hand raised, it won’t be because Melendez isn’t a great fighter. It will be because Henderson is just that much better than everyone at 155 pounds right now. The champion won’t find a finish, but he’ll claim another title defense on the scorecards.

Preliminary Card
MW: Clifford Starks (8-1) vs. Yoel Romero (4-1)

Chacon: I find it extremely rare when somebody makes their UFC debut at the age of 35 with only five professional fights under their belt. That’s exactly what we have in Yoel Romero. Four out of Clifford Starks’ nine fights have gone to a decision, and I believe that’s the key in this fight—cardio. Look for Starks to win via TKO approximately midway through the third round.

Tatum: Romero is one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever enter MMA, earning a silver medal for his native Cuba. Couple that will his boxing training and he’s got the tools to be a star. His Strikeforce debut was extremely bizarre, as he wasted a lot of energy looking for haymakers. Starks, meanwhile, has a collegiate wrestling base, but he’ll be outclassed in that department by Romero. As long as Romero uses a better game plan, he’ll batter Starks and score a second-round TKO.

De Souza: Starks may bring more of a solid game than what he’s been given credit for thus far, but Romero will look to turn heads. I agree with Rob that we will not see Romero try to fight Starks as recklessly as he tried to fight Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante. Instead, we will see Romero’s patience pay dividends as he frustrates Starks early and put him away late in the second frame.

LW: Roger Bowling (11-3) vs. Anthony Njokuani (15-7)

Tatum: This will be Roger Bowling’s first appearance in the 155-pound division, and he faces a stiff test in Muay Thai artist Anthony Njokuani. Bowling’s chin has looked suspect during his Strikeforce tenure and the weight cut isn’t likely to aid that. Meanwhile, Njokuani has really struggled with fighters who can take him down or take away his range. If Bowling can turn this into an ugly brawl, he has a solid chance, but look for Njokuani to outpoint him on the feet en route to a unanimous decision win.

De Souza: I agree with Rob about Bowling’s suspect chin, and I will say that I don’t think Bowling will try to take Njokuani down. Bowling will try to stand with Njokuani, which at first may seem smart, but eventually will give Njokuani what he needs to find the win. I also would look for Njokuani’s Muay Thai to be on full display here, and I also see Njokuani breaking down Bowling for a unanimous decision win.

Chacon: Both fighters leave much to be desired when it comes to their recent record—both are 3-3 in their last six fights. This could be a very sloppy fight, but I expect Bowling to come away with a late TKO win.

BW: T.J. Dillashaw (7-1) vs. Hugo Viana (7-0)

Chacon: T.J. Dillashaw certainly looked impressive in his last fight against Issei Tamura. Hugo Viana is one of those fighters that like to grind out a decision win. He’s not going to see that this time around, as Dillashaw will continue building on the momentum he has en route to earning a TKO win in the second round.

De Souza: Dillashaw’s loss to John Dodson in The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale might’ve been the best thing for him, given his current three-fight winning streak. However, if he has a weak spot, Viana can exploit it. I would not get comfortable with expecting Viana to beat Dillashaw. Look for Dillashaw to punish Viana on the feet, tire him out on the ground, and score a late first-round submission win.

Tatum: Viana’s aggression has carried him this far in the sport, but it’s a recipe for disaster against a wrestler like Dillashaw. Unless Viana clips him early, look for the Team Alpha Male product to secure a takedown and pound out Viana late in the opening frame.

LW: Jorge Masvidal (23-7) vs. Tim Means (18-3-1)

De Souza: People know that Jorge Masvidal can fight anyone in just about any area. However, he must contend with a lanky cardio machine in Tim Means. Despite only a two-inch reach advantage, Means will find a way to effectively use his reach and control the action. Anticipate him doing this for the first round and a half before taking Masvidal to the ground and scoring a second-round TKO victory with some ground-and-pound.

Tatum: I’m going to adamantly disagree with Dale’s assessment of this fight. Masvidal may never hold a UFC belt, but he’s one of the most durable fighters on the planet. He comes to brawl in every fight and has a rock-solid chin that has endured the likes of Paul Daley and K.J. Noons. Means’ length may help him get this one to the scorecards, but I don’t see him finishing Masvidal. I’ll take the more experienced Masvidal to turn this into an ugly fight and take the decision win.

Chacon: I’m very intrigued with this fight. Both Masvidal and Means can get knocked around pretty good and continue to press forward. The key stat I’m looking at is that Masvidal has had his last seven fights go to a decision (he holds a 4-3 mark in those contests) and Means has only gone the distance three times in his 22 professional fights. Neither of these guys is going down, and I believe Masvidal will show enough Octagon control and inflict just enough damage to edge out a split decision win.

FlyW: Joseph Benavidez (17-3) vs. Darren Uyenoyama (8-3)

Tatum: This fight will be a good gauge of where Darren Uyenoyama is in his career. Without question, Joseph Benavidez is an elite flyweight and wants another shot at Demetrious Johnson’s belt. Benavidez has the knockout ability and wrestling to really frustrate Uyenoyama in this fight, but he needs to be judicious with his kicks, as he does not want Uyenoyama—with his lethal ground game—on top of him. Look for Benavidez to show off his power with a second-round knockout.

Chacon: I agree with Rob and believe Benavidez is going to win this fight. Benavidez only has three losses in his 21-fight career. Those losses have come against Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz (twice). I think Benavidez is going to completely control this fight on the ground and win early by submission. I’d be floored if Uyenoyama pulled this one off.

De Souza: Quite simply, this card is loaded if Benavidez and Uyenoyama are stuck on the prelims despite both getting recent wins. But history shows that the best Benavidez shows up in situations akin to this. I see a mix of Benavidez’s power and ground game leading to a TKO win midway through the second round, but bet your bottom dollar on him winning all three rounds if he can’t finish “BC” in this flyweight thriller.

LW: Myles Jury (11-0) vs. Ramsey Nijem (7-2)

De Souza: Myles Jury’s last fight looked far from pretty to some, but he earned his win over Michael Johnson without question. People can say the same for Ramsey Nijem’s win over Joe Proctor, though Nijem-Proctor definitely entertained. Unless Jury gets in Nijem’s face early, Nijem will take him down and control him in round one before getting a submission win midway through round two.

Chacon: Dale is correct—both Jury and Nijem looked less than impressive in their last fight respectively. Jury, although undefeated with an 11-0 record, didn’t have a fight go out of the first round until his most recent outing. Nijem, along with his other Pit Elevated teammates, pride themselves on cardio. While Jury is going to be able to hang with Nijem for the first couple of rounds, I believe Nijem’s cardio will be the deciding factor in this fight. Nijem via split decision.

Tatum: I have to echo both Dale and Joe with some doubts about Jury. His record is impressive, but his time on The Ultimate Fighter did little to install confidence. But his win over Johnson showed he’s capable of winning the ugliest of fights. My concern for Nijem is that he tends to fight reckless and put himself in bad positions. He has the skills to beat Jury, but I think he’ll make a mistake that allows Jury to score a submission late in the fight.

MW: Francis Carmont (20-7) vs. Lorenz Larkin (13-0)

Chacon: Francis Carmont and Lorenz Larkin bring aggressive styles into the Octagon. While Carmont does have some wrestling in his background, he may go toe-to-toe with Larkin. Carmont could use his wrestling experience to get Larkin on the mat, but he may not have the complete skill set to keep Larkin down and control the fight that way. This will either end in a submission or decision victory for Carmont, or a knockout win for Larkin. I will go with Carmont.

Tatum: Joe brings up an interesting point about Larkin, as the knockout artist has rarely been challenged on the mat. The one time he faced a wrestler (“King Mo” Lawal), he was beaten handedly, but the fight was later overturned to a no-contest. Carmont does not have the takedown attack of a wrestler, but he’s shown a strong submission game. However, if I had to guess, the taller and longer Carmont is going to stand and trade with Larkin. That will prove to be a poor choice as Larkin scores a second-round TKO.

De Souza: Carmont is coming off a win over Tom Lawlor, though some may argue that Carmont actually lost that fight. Either way, I echo Rob’s sneaking suspicion about Carmont wanting to stand with Larkin, even though he should take Larkin down. Larkin will make him pay for it with a TKO, and he’ll get it in the first round once Carmont commits a technical error.

FW: Darren Elkins (16-2) vs. Chad Mendes (13-1)

Chacon: Since October of 2009, Darren Elkins and Chad Mendes have combined for a record of 15-2. The only blemish on Mendes’ career record is a first-round loss to Jose Aldo with one second left in the round. Both are terrific wrestlers that balance out their ground game with tremendous power. This fight is a coin flip, but I’m going with Mendes by split decision.

De Souza: I’ll point out a wildcard factor in this bout by mentioning that Mendes only drew Elkins weeks ago when Clay Guida suffered an injury. Then again, Elkins doesn’t have a long head of hair like Guida, so Mendes’ composure in this one won’t be a problem. However, I’m calling it now: if Mendes cannot finish Elkins or take him down by the midway point of the second, Elkins’ aggression and ability to control the Octagon will earn him the upset by way of a unanimous decision.

Tatum: Elkins has a ton of momentum coming into this fight, but facing Mendes even with a full camp would be no easy task. Mendes is better at everything Elkins does in the cage. Elkins will survive to the final bell, but he’ll be beaten and battered as Mendes walks away with a lopsided decision win.

Top Photo: Benson Henderson (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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