Fox Sports 1 makes its debut this Saturday, and the new sports network’s first day on the air is highlighted by one of the best UFC cards of the year. UFC Fight Night 26 may not feature any title fights, but it is one of the most complete cards from top to bottom that the UFC has put together in some time. UFC President Dana White has been calling this event “the greatest free card in UFC history,” and considering the amount of talent set to compete in Boston, it’s hard to argue with the boss on this one.

The main event will feature the best trash-talker in the sport, Chael Sonnen, taking on former UFC champion and Pride superstar Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a fight between two of the most popular fighters in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. With a solid heavyweight showcase between Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne in the co-headlining spot and fan favorites like Urijah Faber, Joe Lauzon, Matt Brown and Uriah Hall all set to compete on the main card, this
may end up being the most entertaining fight night of the year.

It’s obvious the UFC and Fox wanted to kick off Fox Sports 1 in style, and with six straight hours of UFC coverage and a total of 10 live fights to be broadcast, the UFC-Fox alliance definitely did its job.

UFC Fight Night 26 kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 17, from the TD Garden in Boston. Preliminary bouts on Facebook start at 4:30 p.m. ET. The card will then shift over to Fox Sports 1 at 6 p.m. ET for the remaining prelims and the main card.

The MMA Corner’s Vince Carey and Sal DeRose are joined by the newest addition to the writing staff, Tim Thompson, for a breakdown of the entire fight card in the latest edition of the Round Table.

LW: Michael Johnson (12-8) vs. Joe Lauzon (22-8)

Thompson: Anytime the UFC has a big card, it likes to stack it with some hometown guys who should win impressively and get the crowd excited. The promotion did exactly that with Lauzon and the first fight of the night on the main card.

Let’s start with the “foreigner” in this match-up, Michael Johnson. Up to this point Johnson’s career can only be defined as a roller coaster. He has tossed back and forth between wins and losses, with an impressive three-fight winning streak mixed in. The only problem is that he is on a two-fight skid and his weaknesses feed into his opponent’s strengths.

Lauzon, the Bostonian, has fought a who’s who of the UFC lightweight division and always puts on a show, win or lose. He lost at the year-end show to Jim Miller, but that was not only “Fight of the Night,” but also the “Fight of the Year.” Lauzon is tough, he can stand with any lightweight and, most importantly, he is an absolute stud on the ground.

I think this will be an entertaining fight. That is if you enjoy Lauzon and you want to see Johnson get hurt. Johnson is strong in areas where Lauzon is stronger and weak in areas where Lauzon is a beast. Lauzon wins this one via a “Submission of the Night”-winning second-round armbar.

DeRose: I’m going to agree with Tim here. I like the home-field advantage Lauzon will enjoy. The crowd will be electric and Lauzon certainly will feed off that buzz. I know I certainly would.

Lauzon’s got that high-level grappling and is strong enough in the striking department to where he can get the win either way. Grappling, though, would certainly be the way to go for Lauzon. His grappling style and the moves he makes are pure genius. His submission game is outstanding and has accounted for 18 submission victories and six “Submission of the Night” honors. Point made.

Johnson has knockout power that has accounted for six knockout victories, but if Reza Madadi can choke him out, I can only imagine what Lauzon will do. I’m feeling either an armbar or a kimura victory for Lauzon in the second.

Carey: As much as I hate to agree with Sal (and trust me, I do) both Mr. DeRose and Mr. Thompson nailed this one.

Lauzon is a dangerous fighter no matter where they set up the Octagon, but to give him the show-opening fight in front of his hometown fans is almost guaranteed to set someone up for failure. Unfortunately for Johnson, he’s the unlucky soul who was given this assignment, and he’s going to have to try to play major spoiler here.

There are a lot of things to like about Johnson’s game, but it’s tough to see where he can have success against Lauzon. Johnson’s striking isn’t going to give Lauzon any significant difficulties on the feet, and although “The Menace” has a decent wrestling game, getting into a grappling match with “J-Lau” would be near suicide.

This fight was made for Lauzon to win, and since it’s a Lauzon fight, expect to be very entertained in the process. The Bostonian is going to get things started quickly and violently, locking in a fight-ending triangle choke just minutes into the first round and blowing the roof off of the TD Garden.

MW: Uriah Hall (7-3) vs. John Howard (20-8)

DeRose: Uriah Hall came into the UFC with an extraordinary amount of hype. Hall’s tenure on The Ultimate Fighter was the stuff of legend.

John Howard doesn’t get an easy return fight to the UFC. Hall’s striking is great—he’s a second-degree black belt in Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts and has four career knockout victories—and if he is going to win this fight, it will be due to his striking and knockout power. Hall needs to be mentally prepared for this as well. In his last fight, Hall didn’t seem to be all there and that was an issue at times on the show as well.

I give Hall the edge in the overall talent department over “Doomsday.” Howard is no slouch, however, and has nine knockout victories and six submissions. He has also won six of his seven fights since departing from the UFC in 2011. That winning streak includes five knockout victories, but it’s hard to know whether that streak is a sign of his improvement or is simply the result of the level of talent he has faced.

Hall can’t have a two-fight losing streak, especially considering what was expected from him after the reality show ended. He must take this fight. Hall will pull out all the stops here. He will be focused and win by TKO in the third.

Carey: Not so fast, my friend! (Thanks, Lee Corso).

Sure, there was a lot of hype behind Hall coming out of The Ultimate Fighter, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a highly touted prospect sink instead of swim on the big stage. Remember Phillipe Nover?

Despite Hall’s impressive performances inside the house, his resume is filled with names that the majority of fight fans have never heard of. His losses have all come against quality opposition, but that doesn’t mean he has the tools to actually defeat a good opponent.

Howard is on a hot streak. He’s going to be fighting in front of a hometown crowd, and he was begging and pleading for a shot to fight on this card from the second it was announced. It’s rare to see an ex-UFC fighter’s Twitter campaign actually get them back inside the Octagon, but Howard somehow made it happen and he has a huge opportunity on Saturday night.

Hall has an advantage in the striking game, but Howard hits incredibly hard and has a history of coming back from a beating and stealing fights late. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hall has a dominant first round or so, but Howard will just keep on coming. Eventually, he’s going to have to wear down the New Yorker. It will take a mixture of aggressive striking and an occasional takedown, but Howard is going to win this one by a close decision.

Thompson: Pressure, and how a fighter handles it, can mean the difference between an impressive performance and a boring decision. There is a substantial amount of pressure on both Hall and Howard this Saturday.

Howard has finally made his way back into the UFC after almost two years fighting on the regional circuit. He is known for his stand-up and hasn’t been stopped by anything other than a doctor’s stoppage since 2007. It seems that part of the issue has always been that Howard is too focused on the stand-up game. He has looked very impressive, but how will he perform in his UFC return in his hometown of Boston?

I don’t think there was ever a bigger favorite than Hall during his stint on The Ultimate Fighter. He demolished everyone on his way to the finals before succumbing to Kevin Gastelum in a very underwhelming performance. Hall has extraordinary power in both legs and always seems to be stalking his prey. However, which Hall will we see on Saturday? Will it be the impressive killer who stalks his prey and finishes fights or the tentative bore that we saw in the TUF Finale?

This fight has the potential to be the “Fight of the Night,” but the outcome is a coin flip at best. I tend to favor Hall, but with his changing of camps from Tiger Schulmann’s to the Reign Training Center, we don’t know which Hall we will see. Both men will take the center of the Octagon and throw hands. I think the biggest factor will be Hall’s speed. Hall wins this fight via second-round TKO.

WW: Matt Brown (17-11) vs. Mike Pyle (25-8-1)

Carey: No one throws down quite like Matt Brown, and with a willing opponent in Mike Pyle, don’t be surprised if these two pull in a “Fight of the Night” bonus on Saturday.

Brown and Pyle are wily veterans with pretty well-rounded skill sets, but the way these two love to brawl, this fight may end up being more like a technical bar fight than a true MMA bout. Brown has that rare ability to draw his opponent into a brawl, and that truly is where “Immortal” shines. However, Pyle is just as tenacious as his chewing tobacco-fueled counterpart.

I hate to call a fight a coin flip, but this is one of those bouts with fighters that almost match up too well. Pyle has looked good in his last few bouts, and the resiliency he showed in his win over Rick Story almost convinced me to pull the trigger on “Quicksand,” but I’ve got to lean towards Brown here.

There isn’t a fighter on a hotter streak than Brown at the moment, and although Pyle is one of the toughest outs in the welterweight division, I don’t see him slowing “Immortal” down. Brown wins by third-round TKO in an absolute slobberknocker.

Thompson: At some point all fighters must decide whether they are going to make one last run at a title or if it’s time to hang ’em up. It is exactly that time for one Mike Pyle.

Pyle is one of the most interesting people in MMA. He is like a star basketball player from a Division II school. You haven’t heard too much about him and you know he would destroy you in a pick-up game, but for some reason you like to think he isn’t that good. Pyle has won everywhere he has fought, from Strikeforce to the IFL, and he is currently on a four-fight winning streak.

Brown has been a fan favorite since the second he went stone faced after tasting lemon juice in his tobacco tin on The Ultimate Fighter. He is a brawler by every definition of the word, but his winning streak is very overrated. In the UFC, winning five fights in a row cannot be downplayed, but let’s face facts. The impressive victories on this streak are against Mike Swick, who had a quick turnaround after his first fight in over two years, and Jordan Mein, who was a very late—and very young—replacement.

I love watching both of these guys fight, and I will feel bad for the setback that either man suffers with a loss. MMA math can never be counted on, but Brown was submitted by Ricardo Almeida, whereas Pyle punished Almeida in a unanimous decision victory. I have to go with Pyle staving off retirement for yet another day with his fifth win in a row via a unanimous decision victory.

DeRose: I don’t think so, Tim. The numbers just don’t add up in my mind. If we go by MMA math, Brown beats Pyle.

Vince mentioned it and I’ll reiterate: Brown tends to draw his opponents into a brawl, and Brown strikes just like the cobra that draws its victim into its den.

I can totally see this turning into an all-out brawl. These guys are just too good all-around. It definitely will be a setback for whichever of these two veterans goes down, but I think the loser goes out in a blaze of glory.

Although Pyle is on a big winning streak, I think Brown makes this a brawl and steals the show with a late knockout victory.

BW: Yuri Alcantara (28-4) vs. Urijah Faber (28-6)

DeRose: I don’t know how I feel about this fight. Yuri Alcantara is lucky to have this sort of opportunity considering how huge of a step up Urijah Faber is for him. Faber is easily the third-best bantamweight the UFC has and Alcantara, well, isn’t even top 10.

Alcantara may be a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but Faber has the clear grappling advantage here. Faber’s wrestling has played a major part in just about every fight he’s been in. Throw in his speed and strength, and you have a recipe for a dangerous fighter.

Alcantara has a few triangle-choke victories and he has a bunch of wins via armbar, though I can’t figure out just how many of those came from the bottom. Alcantara certainly hasn’t faced someone of Faber’s caliber. Most of his wins came on the Brazilian circuit, and his biggest win is a knockout victory over Ricardo Lamas in his WEC debut at WEC 53.

Although Lamas is no slouch, Faber is in the upper echelon at 135 pounds. Alcantara really has no clear way to victory in this fight. He has a two-inch reach advantage, which makes me think that he should keep his distance while utilizing the jab and leg kicks to help keep Faber at bay in hopes of claiming a decision victory.

Meanwhile, Faber should work his takedowns. When the fight is standing, he needs to use his speed to pop off some combinations and weaken Alcantara.

Faber has this in the bag. Considering the guillotine choke is his signature move, I’ll take Faber to secure one in the first round, much as he did in his fight with Ivan Menjivar.

Thompson: I really think that this fight is going to be the diamond in the rough. I can see it being much closer than people think, and the “Fight of the Night” bonus could come from these two right here.

Next to the word “relentless” in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Faber. He never stops during a fight, and he never deviates from his mission to have his first UFC title wrapped around his waist. Faber has above-average striking and a very deceiving ground game that seems to trouble the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys. If he has any chance of getting another shot at Renan Barao or Dominick Cruz, then he needs this win and he needs to do it impressively.

Alcantara is a very confusing puzzle to piece together. He has bounced between divisions over the last four years and seems to be looking for comfort. He is second to none on the ground, so the question is, how will his stand-up match up against Faber? Faber tries to get fancy sometimes, and I think a fast Alcantara may be able to use that to his advantage and set the pace with Faber.

Faber may underestimate Alcantara and get caught early in the fight, only to recover. Trivia question: When was the last time Urijah Faber lost a non-title fight? The answer is never. That won’t change on Saturday. Faber, 29-28 across the board, in a thriller.

Carey: Well, at least my colleagues were able to agree on a winner.

Faber is the clear pick here. The only question is how long Alcantara will be able to survive. As Sal pointed out, Faber is clearly the third-best bantamweight on the planet and marks a massive step up in competition for Alcantara, a skilled fighter in his own right.

There’s a huge difference between fighting guys like Iliarde Santos and Pedro Nobre and fighting Faber. Alcantara will quickly come to realize this on Saturday. In Alcantara’s lone loss under the Zuffa banner, he was taken down repeatedly and controlled by Hacran Dias at UFC 147.

The loss was enough to prompt Alcantara to drop from the featherweight division to 135 pounds, presumably to help prevent guys from holding him on the mat. That may work against most of the bantamweight division, but there’s no way that Alcantara is going to be able to keep Faber off of him.

I can’t see Faber overlooking Alcantara, mostly because he doesn’t really have anything else to worry about at the moment. He’s still likely a couple of wins away from being in the mix, and he knows a win over Alcantara is his next step on the road back to yet another world title shot.

With that in mind, Faber’s going to walk into the cage and take care of business this weekend, wearing down Alcantara in the first round before taking his back and locking in the fight-ending rear-naked choke in the second.

HW: Travis Browne (14-1-1) vs. Alistair Overeem (36-12)

Thompson: There have been few things over time that have made people happier than large men punching each other in the face. With this bout between Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem, UFC President Dana White might as well just go ahead and say, “You’re welcome, world.”

Browne has looked like one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Browne’s lone loss came against former UFC No. 1 contender Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. He has fought a number of the UFC’s top-20 heavyweights already and is trying to put his name on the map—and into the UFC’s top 10—with an impressive victory over Overeem.

Rumor has it that Overeem doesn’t even bother cooking his meat anymore and is just consuming raw tiger flesh to get bigger. His UFC ego was checked after being knocked down a peg, literally, by Bigfoot Silva. I can’t see any way that he drops his hands again and buys into the hype that he is invincible

People forget that Overeem has 19 submission victories in his MMA career. He has totally changed his game since he gained 150 pounds of pure muscle, but I still like his submission game. I see this going back and forth until Browne eventually gets caught. Browne will recover, but not fast enough. Overeem via guillotine choke in the third round.

Carey: I really hope Tim is wrong, because if these two make it into the third round, we probably just sat through 10 minutes of inactivity. Both of these guys hit like tanks, and the second one of them lands a clean punch or kick this one could be over.

On paper, this is probably Overeem’s fight to lose. His striking credentials are better, he has more submission wins, he’s fought tougher competition, and the list goes on and on.

Browne is the underdog for a reason in this one, but don’t count him out. He is one of the hardest hitters in the entire UFC, and as he’s become more and more technical with his striking, the more lethal his skills on the feet have become. Overeem may have that same type of power, but his ability to take a shot or two in order to land that big shot or combination is quickly declining, which is a big problem.

Even though every highlight reel leading up to UFC 160 made it look like Bigfoot was a wrecking machine against Overeem, the truth is that neither fighter looked all that great before the knockout came. Overeem was handily winning the fight on the judges’ scorecards, but a decision win would have been considered lackluster at best, and “The Reem” never looked like he was comfortable inside the cage. It only took one shot for Bigfoot to put “The Demolition Man” away, and I think Browne can do something similar here.

A long, lengthy kickboxing bout between Browne and Overeem would likely turn out badly for the young Hawaiian, but I don’t think Overeem is going to last long enough to even establish a rhythm in the cage. Against the heaviest hitters in the sport, I just can’t trust Overeem’s chin. Browne pulls off a huge upset win here with a first-round knockout.

DeRose: Oh yeah, these guys hit hard. Both Browne and Overeem hit harder than Mike Tyson from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! If you have ever played that game, then you definitely know what I’m talking about.

I would be shocked to see this fight last more than seven or eight minutes. Both guys are most likely going to stand and trade blows.

Overeem needs to learn from his fight with Silva and know that you aren’t going to get somebody in the heavyweight division who can’t knock your block off and make you do the stanky leg. It just doesn’t work that way.

While I think Browne’s got a good kickboxing style, you can’t argue with Overeem’s K-1 kickboxing pedigree, regardless of his last fight. Overeem is still a champion kickboxer, plain and simple.

On the ground, Overeem does have the submission skills that Tim mentioned, but Browne has a purple belt of his own in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It doesn’t close the gap between him and Overeem, but it certainly says a little bit.

I’m going to disagree with Vince on the outcome. I don’t think this is Browne’s big win. Overeem’s chin will hold up and he’ll claim a second-round knockout victory over Browne.

LHW: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (21-7) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-13-1)

Carey: Even in the modern age of complete mixed martial artists, there’s always going to be room for a classic striker vs. wrestler match-up. There’s no doubt that Chael Sonnen is going to do everything in his power to drag Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to the mat, and whether or not Sonnen can get this fight to the floor is going to be a major factor in the outcome.

Shogun is still one of the most dangerous fighters in the light heavyweight division when he’s given the opportunity to stand and trade shots. Even though injuries and age have started to catch up with the Pride Grand Prix champion, we still get to see a glimpse of the Shogun of old every once in awhile .

The problem is that we’ve seen far more bad Shogun than we have good Shogun as of late, and it’s going to take a vintage performance by the Brazilian to keep Sonnen off of him for five rounds. Although Sonnen isn’t the most technical striker and he certainly doesn’t have the best defense in the world, “The American Gangster’s” ability to keep coming forward and take a few shots in order to set up his takedowns makes him a rarity in this sport.

Unless Shogun can end this fight early, Sonnen is going to have an easy time dispatching of the Brazilian. At worst, Sonnen may struggle to get the fight to the mat for the first round or two, but eventually Rua is going to end up on his back and in Sonnen’s world.

If Rua had the ability to stay fresh for the full five rounds, he would have a much better chance at pulling off the win here, but his recent cardio issues make that seem impossible. There’s no worse match-up for a striker with questionable cardio than an aggressive wrestler, and that’s exactly what Shogun is running into on Saturday. Sonnen by decision.

DeRose: So, Vince, what you’re saying is that there’s a chance?

I know it’s a pretty easy breakdown here. Shogun is a deadly striker and Sonnen is the typical wrestler. We haven’t seen a lot of the “good Shogun” that Vince mentioned. Since his UFC tenure started, it’s been a mixed bag of inconsistent performances.

Shogun better have worked on his takedown defense here, as he certainly will be tested by Sonnen. Sonnen has some of the best, if not the best, takedowns in MMA. Shogun’s game plan here? Keep Sonnen out of reach, work his leg kicks and if Sonnen does get close enough in the clinch, work some knees and dirty boxing to weaken Sonnen.

Sonnen, in order to win this fight, has to take it to the ground. His striking alone isn’t enough to win him a decision, and getting into the later rounds, he also has a distinct advantage over Shogun, considering Sonnen has been in back-to-back title fights. Sonnen is no stranger to five-round fights.

I have to agree with Vince here: cardio is a huge factor in this fight. Sonnen does take punishment well enough to where he’ll make it into the championship rounds, but Sonnen’s ground-and-pound and submission game isn’t good enough to stop Shogun. Barring some amazing sprawl-and-brawl technique from Shogun, Sonnen has the potential to walk away with an easy decision victory.

Thompson: People were shocked and confused when Sonnen was chosen to fight Jon Jones last year for the light heavyweight title. Everyone will understand why he was given the shot on Saturday.

Think about Chael P. Sonnen over the last year. This is a man who was—and still may be—considered one of the top three middleweights in the world. He moves up a weight division last year to fight the champion and is unranked. He loses. Today, he is an unranked light heavyweight and is barely ranked at middleweight, yet he is still favored to win over the UFC’s No. 8-ranked 205er. And people say words don’t make dreams come to fruition?

I try my hardest to remember the Shogun from Pride Fighting Championships—the guy who demolished Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and foot stomped his way through the best of the best in Pride. The fact is that I just can’t. If you browse his record, he hasn’t beaten anyone of substance since Lyoto Machida in 2010, and in hindsight, given Machida’s more recent performances, how impressive was that?

I find it very amusing that one of the easiest fights of the night to call is the headliner. Obviously, there is always a chance Shogun will remember that he knows how to use a Thai clinch, a high kick and his takedown defense, but don’t hold your breath. Forrest Griffin took Shogun down at ease, so what do you think Chael P. will do? Sonnen wins this impressively via TKO in the fourth round.

Preliminary Card
LW: Ramsey Nijem (7-3) vs. James Vick (4-0)

Thompson: The simple fact is James Vick has no business being in the Octagon this weekend in Boston. Vick is only 4-0 and hasn’t fought since losing in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighte last year. Ramsey Nijem is proven and will bounce back from his knockout loss in April. Nijem wins via a dominant unanimous decision.

DeRose: I don’t see this fight going much differently than Tim suggests. Barring Vick finding that perfect opportunity to strike and knock out Nijem, it’s highly unlikely he wins this fight. Nijem will take Vick down and get the decision victory.

Carey: I don’t know if I agree that Vick has no business being in the Octagon, but he will have his hands full on Saturday. Before he was caught by a big punch from Myles Jury earlier this year, Nijem was starting to get on a roll, and I fully expect him to regain that momentum against a relatively inexperienced Vick. Unlike my fellow panelists, though, I have confidence in Nijem’s ability to finish on the mat. He’s going to get a late submission win, finishing the fight by third-round rear-naked choke.

LHW: Cody Donovan (8-2) vs. Ovince St. Preux (13-5)

DeRose: Cody Donovan needs to end this one early to beat Ovince St. Preux. OSP’s only loss since his first fight in Strikeforce is to Gegard Mousasi.OSP’s wrestling will certainly be the tale of this fight. Donovan needs to land a shot when OSP is coming in for a takedown, otherwise it is going to be a very long night for Donovan. OSP by decision.

Carey: Donovan’s average record and lack of wins over top competition may cause OSP to overlook his skills at first, but the Iowa native does have the tools to put St. Preux away on the feet. This may seem like the type of fight where the former Tennessee football player could show off his striking, but Donovan is dangerous enough to make the risk greater than the reward, and it would be a mistake for OSP to trade punches here. Even though I feel that Donovan is a very live underdog in this fight, I’m going to agree with Sal and take OSP by decision. It may take a few hard shots on the feet to get him to realize it, but eventually St. Preux will do what he has to do and wrestle his way to a decision win.

Thompson: Apparently there were still two seats left on the OSP hype train. Don’t get me wrong, he can be dominant, but no one should sleep on Donovan. Donovan is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with knockout power. I see this going back and forth, but I believe at some point Donovan will catch OSP in a submission. Donovan wins via triangle choke in the third round.

FW: Manny Gamburyan (12-7) vs. Cole Miller (19-7)

Carey: Manny Gamburyan and Cole Miller were former teammates on Team Pulver on The Ultimate Fighter 5, but while Gamburyan out-performed Miller on the reality show, I think the opposite happens here. It’s unfortunate how tough it’s been for Gamburyan to stay healthy over the last few years. The Armenian has suffered a ton of injuries during his MMA career and they’re going to start catching up to him. Miller is going to take this one by submission at some point, but Gamburyan will put up an admirable fight.

Thompson: These two fighters have followed a very similar up-and-down path following their stint together on TUF. Gamburyan is going to come out looking to push the pace and land a bomb. The problem is that everyone knows it, including Miller. While Miller doesn’t have great stand-up, he has enough to get Gamburyan to the ground. I see a lot of scrambles and some good exchanges, but in the end Miller is too well-rounded to get caught. Miller wins a split decision.

DeRose: Gamburyan is going to look to land the knockout blow, that we can count on. Tim is right in suggesting that Miller doesn’t have the striking to stand and trade. Considering his judo background, Gamburyan is not going to be all that easy to take down, and I certainly don’t think Miller will submit him. It’ll be a good grapple and clinch exhibition. Miller by decision.

FW: Diego Brandao (17-8) vs. Daniel Pineda (18-9)

DeRose: Diego Brandao and Daniel Pineda are finishers, plain and simple. Pineda has finished each one of his wins and Brandao has as well, with the exception of three decision victories. Brandao and Pineda are also coming off of first-round submission victories in April. I like Brandao to take this by submission.

Thompson: It is very sad that only the diehard fans who watch the whole card will get to see this fight. These two have a great chance of putting on a “Fight of the Night” performance. They both push forward, they are both fast, and, as Sal mentioned, they are both finishers. It may take a couple minutes for these two to get going, but once they do it will be a slugfest. Brandao will finish this one via TKO in the second round, and the two men will be rewarded with “Fight of the Night” honors.

Carey: This one is going to be fun. Pineda always comes out of the gate like a killer, and Brandao will have no problem matching his intensity when the fight starts. In fact, don’t be surprised if these two sprint out to the middle of the cage and start throwing flurries before Jon Anik and Kenny Florian have time to catch their breath. This is a dangerous fight for both guys, but it’s tough not to side with Sal and Tim here in taking Brandao to win. His striking is a little cleaner, his wrestling defense is a little better, and he has the submission skills to pull something off on the feet. Brandao by first-round knockout.

FW: Mike Brown (26-8) vs. Steven Siler (22-10)

Thompson: Steven Siler is a tough fighter, but he is in way over his head in this one. Mike Brown’s ground game is top-three among the featherweight division and he has shown that he can stand and trade when necessary. I don’t see this fight being very exciting or competitive, but Siler always has the puncher’s chance. I like Brown to take all three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Carey: Following his three-fight winning streak after his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, Siler almost had me ready to find my spot on the Steven Siler bandwagon. One fight with Darren Elkins later, and I’m almost certain Siler is going down here. Elkins used his wrestling to stifle Siler’s offense, and it will be pretty easy for Brown to do the same. Tim nailed this one, so I’m going to second his pick and take Brown by decision.

DeRose: I’ll make it three in favor of the conclusion that Brown wins by decision. Granted, Brown has been out of action, but his wrestling simply takes control here and dominates Siler on his way to an easy victory. Siler isn’t just there quite yet.

FW: Max Holloway (7-2) vs. Conor McGregor (13-2)

Carey: Not to go full Chandler Bing on everyone, but could this card be any better? Seriously though, the fact that these two aren’t even in the featured prelim of a six-fight main card proves just how stacked this card is. Conor McGregor is the hottest prospect in the UFC at the moment, but he’s not exactly getting an easy route to the top with a bout against Max Holloway in just his second UFC fight. This should be one of the most entertaining fights of the night, and although I’m taking McGregor by decision, I’m fully expecting a nail-biter between two of the top young featherweights in the UFC.

DeRose: Hey Vince, how you doing? This is a great fight and certainly gets the Joey Tribbiani thumbs up of approval. Both guys are top prospects at featherweight for the UFC and are certainly talented all-around. McGregor has never been past the second, so I don’t know how his gas tank will last, which makes me a little hesitant to pick him. However, then I realize McGregor has finished every single one of his opponents. Cardio be darned, I’ll take McGregor by knockout.

Thompson: I have not been this excited since Ross and Rachel kissed for this first time. McGregor is one of those rare talents that combines great skills with an infectious personality that makes you want to see and hear more. He is focused, motivated and willing to do whatever it takes to work his way to the top. It really doesn’t matter if he fights Andy Ogle or Max Holloway, McGregor will prove again on Saturday that his time is now. McGregor will put on a dominating performance and win impressively with a first-round knockout, taking home “Knockout of the Night” honors in the process.

BW: Michael McDonald (15-2) vs. Brad Pickett (23-7)

Thompson: Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett are very similar fighters, but they are on totally different ends of their fighting careers. They both have fought top-level opponents and are looking to find their ways back to champion Renan Barao. The only chance the younger McDonald has is to keep this fight on the feet. Pickett is a veteran who has the ability to control the fight and shut McDonald down. Pickett is going to smother McDonald for three rounds and win a unanimous decision victory, taking all three rounds on the judges’ scorecards.

DeRose: I don’t know about this one. It’s one of those fights that can go either way. McDonald certainly has the striking to stand with Pickett, but Pickett has the grappling to win. It’s also scary to note that Pickett does have the knockout power too, giving himself a couple different ways to victory. No matter where this fight goes, I give the edge and the victory to Pickett by decision.

Carey: I love it when I get to disagree with both of my fellow panelists! Pickett is a very tough veteran, and he may be able to use his wrestling to squeak by with a decision win here. However, that’s not going to come easy against McDonald. “Mayday” may not have given Barao too many problems when he fought for the title earlier this year, but he showed he can hang with the best fighters in the division. I expect him to do the same against Pickett. This is yet another fight on this card that has show-stealing potential, and if McDonald’s takedown defense holds up as well as I believe it will, we’ll be in for an awesome scrap. This fight will go everywhere and come down to a close decision, but “Mayday” will get the nod here and take home a split verdict.

Photo: Chael Sonnen (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.