Twenty-six significant strikes to 35. Fifty-two total strikes to 71. Five takedowns to three. Six submission attempts to three. Three passes to four. Two reversals to none.

Those were the FightMetric totals by the end of the UFC Fight Night 18 bout between Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann (the former numbers are Kampmann’s, the latter are Condit’s). The statistics were close enough to warrant a draw, but judges Nelson Hamilton and Doug Crosby tilted in favor of Kampmann, giving the Dutchman the split decision win instead. It was a bitter end to Condit’s first trip to the Octagon.

Now, at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis, Condit gets his opportunity for revenge.

The two men headline the UFC’s second effort on Fox Sports 1 airwaves. The remainder of the main card is rounded out by a lightweight showdown between Donald Cerrone and Rafael dos Anjos and a number of bouts that feature former Ultimate Fighter participants, including most recent TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum.

The action starts at 4:30 p.m. ET with the Facebook prelims, moves to Fox Sports 2 at 6 p.m. ET for the remainder of the preliminary card and then heads to Fox’s new flagship sports network at 8 p.m. ET for the six-fight main card.

The MMA Corner’s newest staff addition, Greg Byron, joins Rob Tatum and Bryan Henderson to preview the entire 12-fight lineup in this edition of the Round Table.

MW: Robert “Bubba” McDaniel (21-6) vs. Brad Tavares (10-1)

Byron: This is a fight between two TUF alums who both lost to the winners of their respective seasons. However, the similarities don’t end there. They have both had to undergo the training camp for this fight while their head coaches focused on Bellator’s Fight Master television series—Robert “Bubba” McDaniel is a Jackson’s MMA product, whilst Brad Tavares trains out of Xtreme Couture. How much of a disruption will this have caused for either man?

In terms of past performances, I think it’s clear that Tavares has fought the better opponents and has beaten some tough competition in Tom Watson and Riki Fukuda. Meanwhile, McDaniel’s biggest win came against Gilbert Smith.

McDaniel is on a seven-fight official winning streak, which doesn’t include the fights in the TUF house. Five of those seven wins have come by submission, so expect him to look to drag the fight to the ground and try to continue this streak. Meanwhile, Tavares has been unable to finish the fight within the distance, going to a decision in five of his last six outings.

However, I would be concerned about the mental frailties that McDaniel showed during his time in the TUF house and his ability to handle the pressure of a big occasion against an opponent who is familiar with the Octagon and a UFC event.

Tavares will look to keep this one standing and land some big shots to finish the fight. The higher quality of opponents that Tavares has faced will give him the edge in this one and he will have enough to end his streak of decisions by finishing McDaniel via TKO in round two.

Tatum: Greg nailed this one on the head. Although McDaniel has the experience advantage on paper, his inconsistency and lackluster performances on the reality show are a huge cause for concern. The 30-year-old showcased more holes in his mental game than strength in his vaunted submission game.

Of all the middleweights that competed on season 11 of TUF, Tavares has proven to be one of the most promising. Outside of a hard-fought loss to Aaron Simpson, the 25-year-old Hawaiian is unbeaten. Tavares possesses an iron chin and has the ability to win ugly. Even in defeat, Tavares showed that a very experienced wrestler like Simpson could not hold him down. That will play a huge role in this fight.

For McDaniel to come out on top in this fight, he has to get the fight to the mat and make Tavares uncomfortable. I just don’t see that happening. Tavares will control the fight with his strikes and eventually force McDaniel to wilt. Like Greg, I see Tavares forcing the referee to intervene late in round two.

Henderson: In Greg’s first editorial feature on this site, he cited a quote from legendary golfer Bobby Jones. “Competitive sports are played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch court, the space between your ears,” Jones said. There may not be a more appropriate example of a fighter to which this quote applies than Robert “Bubba” McDaniel.

Despite a veteran status that should have made him a favorite on his season of TUF, McDaniel was never able to master the mental aspect of the fight game. Although his losses on the reality series came against eventual finalists Gastelum and Hall, it was McDaniel’s own mind that hurt him the most in his performances. He was able to overcome the psychological aspect in his Octagon debut, but Tavares does represent a step up from Gilbert Smith.

We’ve seen Tavares go up against tough competition inside the UFC and emerge victorious in all but one fight. The Hawaiian is the type of competitor that can cause McDaniel to start doubting himself before he ever makes the walk out to the cage. McDaniel does have the skills to submit Tavares, but I don’t think he can put Tavares on the mat or successfully throw something up from off his back. The more likely scenario is that Tavares scores the TKO finish.

WW: Court McGee (15-3) vs. Robert Whittaker (11-2)

Tatum: In a fight that matches Ultimate Fighter winners, former middleweight Court McGee makes his second appearance at welterweight against TUF Smashes winner Robert Whittaker.

This fight has all the makings of a stand-up brawl. McGee was an accomplished karate practitioner before finding MMA, and he has showcased a willingness to stand and trade on multiple occasions. Although he struggled against larger, stronger fighters at middleweight, McGee looked sharp in his 170-pound debut as he bested well-traveled veteran Josh Neer and landed a UFC welterweight record for significant strikes in the process.

The Australian Whittaker has been impressive ever since joining the promotion through the reality show. At just 22 years of age, Whittaker’s upside is just now coming into perspective. After outworking the UK’s Brad Scott to claim the TUF crown, Whittaker steamrolled through another TUF winner, Colton Smith, in his last outing. Whittaker’s strong boxing and athleticism make him dangerous on the feet.

And now for the wild card: McGee’s wrestling. The Utah fighter isn’t a highly credentialed wrestler like some in the welterweight division, but he has shown the ability to mix in well-timed takedowns to offset his high-volume striking attack. While Whittaker was able to anticipate Smith’s takedown attempts due to Smith’s rudimentary striking game, he won’t have the same luxury against McGee. Ultimately, that will be the difference in the fight as McGee simply outworks Whittaker en route to a unanimous decision win.

Henderson: There’s not much to argue with in my colleague’s analysis of this fight. Whittaker is young and has a ton of potential to do big things further down the road in his career, but he’s not yet at the stage where he can overcome someone like McGee.

Through 13 bouts, Whittaker has already suffered two losses. The more troubling fact is that those two losses have come within his last six fights and one of those defeats was a first-round submission loss to a fighter who now sits at a career mark of 9-9.

McGee is a skilled striker, but throughout his career he has scored more wins via his grappling. That doesn’t bode well for Whittaker, who needs to keep this fight standing in order to have any hopes of emerging with the victory. Rob locked on to the perfect wild card, McGee’s wrestling. It’s a matter of when, not if, McGee can get Whittaker to the mat.

The one place where I disagree with Rob is in the outcome. Once McGee takes the Australian fighter to the ground, the finish will come in short order. McGee via submission some time within the first two rounds.

Byron: Not to disregard what Rob and Bryan have said above, but I find this fight going quite different.

I acknowledge that McGee has certainly shown tremendous improvements since leaving The Ultimate Fighter, I simply feel that Whittaker is headed towards the upper levels of the UFC, whereas McGee will be no more than a mid-level fighter who will beat those on the fringes without ever breaking into a contendership role.

A key factor in this fight is age, but perhaps not in the ordinary sense in fighting terms. At 22, Whittaker is certainly inexperienced, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for in terms of growth potential. I expect significant improvements since his last fight against Colton Smith.

Although McGee’s skills cannot be doubted and he has the ability to defeat Whittaker on his day, this would be on the lower end of the probability scale.

If the fight stays on the feet, I would expect Whittaker to win this one based on past performances. Given that Smith could not get the takedown largely due to improved defense from Whittaker, McGee will have similar problems and may find himself on his feet for the duration.

Whittaker via frustrating McGee for 15 minutes en route to a decision.

WW: Kelvin Gastelum (6-0) vs. Brian Melancon (7-2)

Tatum: Continuing with the Ultimate Fighter flavor to the card, TUF 18 winner Kelvin Gastelum will drop to 170 pounds to take on Strikeforce import Brian Melancon. Melancon comes in as a last-minute injury replacement for Brazilian Paulo Thiago.

This fight has the makings of a contrast of styles. Gastelum claimed the TUF title by showcasing a strong work ethic and an ability to adapt to his opponents’ weaknesses. If his opponent was a grappler, he chose to stand. If his opponent was a striker—like finalist Uriah Hall—he opted to wrestle. Don’t be surprised if Gastelum again chooses to rely on his wrestling skills in this contest.

Melancon quickly put himself on the map in his last outing. After being out of action for nearly two years, Melancon needed only one round to dispatch of TUF veteran Seth Baczynski by knockout. The Strikeforce veteran scored over and over with punishing hooks despite a massive seven-inch height disadvantage.

In this contest, Melancon won’t face the same sort of challenge, but he’ll need to do a better job of mixing things up if he wants to upset Gastelum. Melancon fell in love with his lead hook in the Baczynski fight, and if he telegraphs it against Gastelum, he’ll find himself planted on his back early and often. Look for Gastelum to score the decision win with his wrestling.

Byron: I agree with Rob. Gastelum showed impressive fight IQ during his time on The Ultimate Fighter in beating opponents despite having little chance, at least according to some. With his confidence level at an all-time high, Gastelum will dictate where the fight takes place and take it to the floor quickly.

There are definitely better fights for Melancon to take at the last minute than one against an undefeated wrestler with a knack for controlling where the fight goes and the pace at which it takes place.

Not to be ignored is the fact that Gastelum is making his welterweight debut, which should allow him to implement his game plan with even greater ease than we have seen from him previously.

Overall, in the four months that have flown by since Gastelum beat Hall to take The Ultimate Fighter title, I expect him to have improved significantly. He will take this fight to the floor and submit Melancon in the first round.

Henderson: In Melancon’s performance against Baczynski, my mind kept flashing back to memories of Kamal Shalorus. Shalorus’ Zuffa appearances were predominantly filled with the talented world-class wrestler seeking to land a murderous haymaker. If the blow found the mark, his opponent was left wondering what year it was. If it missed repeatedly, Shalorus had little else to offer in terms of offense and was often edged out by his opponent. Although Melancon has not proven that he’s Shalorus with a lunging left hook in place of a wild haymaker, the potential for that does exist.

On the upside, Melancon immediately recognized this flaw in his post-fight interview after laying out Baczynski. The Strikeforce import is smart. That showed not only in this post-fight admission, but also in his ability to follow his corner’s instructions during the fight. Too many times, a fighter will turn a deaf ear to his corner and, in most cases, do the opposite of what his coach is requesting.

The problem here is that Melancon is facing a smart, young fighter in Gastelum. My fellow panelists have already reviewed Gastelum’s history of success on The Ultimate Fighter. It’s not just his ability to adapt to the competition and play on their weaknesses that impresses me, but also the level of competition that he has overcome. The 21-year-old didn’t have an easy road to the TUF finals. He submitted a competent veteran in Robert “Bubba” McDaniel and a tournament favorite in Josh Samman, then overcame any psychological hurdles that Hall’s path of destruction in the TUF house could have potentially brought him.

This might be a more intriguing battle than the original match-up of Gastelum and Thiago. In this fight, it’s all about who has more smarts. Is Melancon capable of a more diversified game? Does Gastelum have Melancon figured out already?

Melancon has some potential, but Gastelum has looked stellar from the start on TUF. Melancon has never been finished in a fight and, like Gastelum, holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Those are two factors that should allow him to remain competitive in this fight. Gastelum will display the superior skills, but he’ll have to settle for the decision win.

LW: Donald Cerrone (20-5) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (19-6)

Byron: This has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Donald Cerrone has a habit of producing entertaining fights for the fans, as evidenced by his six previous bonus awards under the UFC banner. He has been a perennial contender and his only losses come to those who have gone on to fight for the title.

Meanwhile, Rafael dos Anjos is a well-traveled fighter, having competed just about everywhere that mixed martial arts is prominent. Whilst his finishes on the feet are few and far between, he is on a four-fight winning streak that will give him the confidence to step up against Cerrone, who will undoubtedly be the favorite and produce a performance which can catapult him into the upper echelons of the UFC rankings (Cerrone currently sits at No. 10 in the lightweight division).

If we are to place any stock in MMA math, it would again spell a victory for Cerrone. Both fighters have faced off against Jeremy Stephens and Anthony Njokuani, with Cerrone defeating both and dos Anjos tasting defeat against Stephens back at UFC 91.

Even though MMA math is at best unreliable, I feel it delivers the most likely outcome in this scenario. Cerrone’s kickboxing ability will prove the difference in this fight and allow him to control the fight. However, despite his constant pressure, I don’t foresee him finishing dos Anjos inside the distance. Instead, he will win a comfortable decision against the Brazilian.

Henderson: I don’t need a calculator to make the numbers add up in this one.

Cerrone maintained the role of runner-up throughout his WEC career and now he’s following a similar path in the UFC. Those losses Greg mentioned came against current champion Benson Henderson (twice) in WEC title fights, Jamie Varner in a WEC title bout, Nate Diaz in a “Fight of the Night” effort and Anthony Pettis in a fight that secured Pettis a crack at lightweight gold. Meanwhile, he’s also taken out the likes of Dennis Siver, Melvin Guillard and Charles Oliveira and notched decisions over former champs Varner and K.J. Noons.

Cerrone has made a habit of submitting opponents in MMA combat, but he’s also a Muay Thai practitioner with a healthy undefeated mark in the realm of kickboxing. It shows in his approach inside the Octagon. He has stood toe-to-toe with opponents, but he’s not out of his element when on the mat.

Dos Anjos also brings a well-rounded game and has come a long way since entering into UFC highlight reels courtesy of Jeremy Stephens’ fist. Yet, despite some impressive performances and very few decisive losses, I can’t bring myself to view dos Anjos on the same level as Cerrone. Perhaps it’s Cerrone’s history of high-profile fights, but dos Anjos lacks the same sort of compelling performances on his resume that we’ve seen time and time again from Cerrone.

Cerrone has had an aggressive streak lately that has served him well for the most part. Dos Anjos isn’t known as a strong wrestler, and wrestling happens to be the one aspect of the fight game that can cause issues for Cerrone.

Cerrone is the most complete striker dos Anjos has seen in his career thus far, and dos Anjos won’t have an answer for what the “Cowboy” brings to the cage. Cerrone will test dos Anjos’ chin, and eventually that chin will fail. Cerrone via knockout midway through the fight.

Tatum: Like Greg and Bryan, I have sang the praises of Cerrone’s striking arsenal on more than one instance. But after watching what Diaz and Pettis were able to do against him, that praise is a little more tempered.

The bottom line with Cerrone is that he does not fight well when an opponent gets in his face and forces him to back up. If given the chance to find his range and start unleashing combinations, Cerrone can beat anyone in the division, but will dos Anjos let that happen? I’m inclined to say yes. The Brazilian is aggressive, but he lacks the sort of technique that aided Diaz and Pettis in throwing off Cerrone’s game. If Cerrone avoids brawling and fights smart, he can batter dos Anjos on the feet.

If there’s a wild card in this fight, it’s dos Anjos’ recent improvements in the wrestling department. I feel my fellow panelists overlooked that aspect of his game, especially with how he utilized it in his last couple of fights. If the Brazilian can plant Cerrone on his back, he can rack up points. But, as Bryan mentioned, Cerrone does have a solid submission game off his back which may lead dos Anjos to take his chances on the feet.

The technique discrepancy on the feet is simply too much to ignore in this fight. I’ll agree with my cohorts and take Cerrone to come out on top, likely by a lopsided decision.

WW: Carlos Condit (28-7) vs. Martin Kampmann (20-6)

Henderson: The last time Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann touched gloves, it was in Condit’s UFC debut. “The Natural Born Killer” was fresh off a WEC welterweight title reign that saw him capture the belt and successfully defend it on three occasions. When the dust settled in that fight, Condit was on the wrong end of a split decision. Can things turn out differently in their second go-around? I believe so.

FightMetric had that first bout scored as a draw and the argument could be made that Condit was just as deserving of the decision as Kampmann. The trajectories these two men have taken since that fight suggests that a different outcome could be in store for their rematch. After all, Condit rebounded from that verdict to edge Jake Ellenberger in another razor-thin split decision and then rallied to score a TKO of Rory MacDonald, two knockouts and then a decision over Nick Diaz to claim interim gold in the UFC’s welterweight division. Since then, he’s lost two straight, but those defeats came courtesy of champion Georges St-Pierre and current top contender Johny Hendricks. Meanwhile, Kampmann has gone 5-4 since his win over Condit. The Danish fighter not only lost to Hendricks, but also suffered a defeat at the hands of Paul Daley, plus additional losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez. Kampmann has had an up-and-down road where he has failed to string together more than three consecutive wins.

The Condit we see now is more like the Condit from the WEC. He’s a confident welterweight sitting near the top of the mountain. When he met Kampmann, he was making his transition to the UFC. He was dealing with the legendary Octagon jitters and wasn’t at the top of his game. Now, he is.

What made their first fight close and what will keep this one close as well is that these are two of the most well-rounded fighters around. Kampmann holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Robert Drysdale, but he is also a skilled striker with eight knockout wins compared to seven submission victories. Condit is also a brown belt in BJJ, but he trains under the tutelage of Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson and has 13 knockout victories to match 13 submission wins.

Now that Condit is comfortable inside the eight-sided cage, the superiority of his skills will shine through. Kampmann has been prone to knockouts, and Condit has game-changing power (just ask Rory MacDonald). This one remains even through two rounds, but ends with Condit delivering a TKO in the third stanza.

Tatum: I’m inclined to agree with everything Bryan has said about this fight.

I was one of the many that scored the first fight for Condit, albeit in a very close bout. Since that time, Condit has only gotten better. Although his takedown defense was exposed against Hendricks and St-Pierre, he won’t have to be concerned about that against the Dutchman. In fact, this fight is likely to play out much like the first meeting, with both fighters standing toe-to-toe.

With Kampmann’s striking background, you might think that would tip things in his favor, but that’s simply not the case. While Condit has perfected the ability to string together combinations and effectively get in and out of the pocket (see the Diaz fight), Kampmann is still the type of fighter that moves in straight lines. For someone with the experience that Kampmann has, he should not absorb as many strikes as he does. It’s the main reason he’s been knocked out by nearly every power puncher he’s faced.

With more than 30 combined finishes between the two of them, it would appear that their first meeting was a bit of an anomaly. This fight is unlikely to see the scorecards and, like Bryan, I see Condit simply overwhelming Kampmann with volume over the first two rounds and securing a referee’s stoppage in the third.

Byron: Given the recent performances of these two, I largely see this one going the same way as predicted by my colleagues above.

Despite the fact that Condit is on a two-fight losing streak, he should still be regarded as at the very top of his game. He is certainly the most improved fighter of the two since their first meeting way back in April 2009.

Condit’s current predicament can be likened to that with which Chael Sonnen was faced prior to his meeting with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua last weekend. Condit is on a two-fight skid, but the statistic alone does not do it justice. Both Condit and Sonnen suffered their respective losses against the very best the UFC has to offer, and there is no shame in losing to anyone of that caliber.

As noted by Rob and Bryan, that first fight was very close. The leaps forward that Condit has taken since then will simply be too much for Kampmann when all is said and done. That is not to say that the Dane won’t have his moments in the early going. His best chance is to fly forward from the opening bell and not let Condit settle into the rhythm that saw him move past Diaz to win the interim title.

Whilst I agree with Rob and Bryan’s assessments of the fight, I see it ending in the second round. I think Condit will catch Kampmann with a head kick to finish the fight. In the process, Condit will secure his first win towards returning to title contention.

Preliminary Card
LW: Roger Bowling (11-4) vs. Abel Trujillo (10-5)

Byron: This is a pivotal fight for Roger Bowling and Abel Trujillo if they are to continue in the UFC. In fact, it can be viewed as a “loser-leaves-town” fight, with Bowling being on a two-fight skid and Trujillo scoring his only victory against Marcus LeVesseur, who was stepping up on a day’s notice after Tim Means’ freak sauna injury. Bowling’s career has been up and down, with his wins predominantly coming via knockout and three of his four career losses also ending in knockouts. He took part in a trilogy against Bobby Voelker, but eventually came out on the wrong side of the rubber match.

I’d look for Bowling to press the action and try to pressure Trujillo against the cage. He’ll try to grind Trujillo down from the inside with some classic dirty boxing and elbows on the break. I expect this one to test both fighters desire to stay on in the UFC, which could make for a highly entertaining back-and-forth battle of will. I see Bowling doing enough to keep his UFC status alive by pressing the action against Trujillo and grinding out a decision.

Tatum: I’m not sure I agree with Greg that Trujillo needs to be worried about his job in this one, but after getting ragdolled for 15 minutes straight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last outing, he definitely needs to get back on track. However, I do agree that Bowling is fighting for his job. After starting his career 8-0, the Strikeforce veteran is just 4-4 in his last eight fights. He could not match the speed of Anthony Njokuani in his Octagon debut and the Ohio native needs to do a better job of mixing up his wrestling and striking.

If this fight turns into a brawl, it favors Trujillo. However, with Bowling desperate to keep employment, I’ll echo Greg and take him by decision.

Henderson: Given his two-fight skid across the Strikeforce and UFC promotions and a 3-4 mark over his last seven fights, I’m somewhat surprised that Bowling hasn’t already seen a pink slip. Trujillo, meanwhile, had the misfortune of drawing Nurmagomedov for his last outing. Prior to that, the four-time NAIA All-American wrestler demonstrated a well-rounded skill set against LeVesseur. Bowling is here to brawl, but Trujillo can offer a better wrestling game and has the superior training partners with the Blackzilians camp. I’m with Rob in thinking that Trujillo isn’t in quite as much peril as Bowling when it comes to job security. I’ll go against the grain in this one and say that Trujillo will use his wrestling and athleticism to edge Bowling on the scorecards.

WW: Ben Alloway (12-4) vs. Zak Cummings (15-3)

Tatum: This is a clash of more TUF alums and more fighters looking to maintain their employment. Ben Alloway impressed in his Octagon debut with a violent knockout, but looked overmatched in his second outing. Meanwhile, Zak Cummings will make his official promotional debut after missing the TUF 18 finale due to injury. Cummings is the naturally larger fighter and that size will enable him to put Alloway on his back and secure a fight-finishing arm-triangle choke early in round three.

Henderson: Cummings has gone the distance in five-round title fights with Elvis Mutapcic and Ryan Jimmo. He also lasted into the second frame with Tim Kennedy before succumbing to a north-south choke. He’s performed well against all but the best that he has faced. Alloway’s UFC debut ended in spectacular fashion, but his second Octagon appearance is more telling of what we can expect from him in the future. Cummings has the grappling skills to attack Alloway where he is weakest and force a tapout in the opening round.

Byron: There is not a great deal to add to what Rob and Bryan have already stated. Alloway, whilst making a good start in the UFC, will see his fortunes take a further turn for the worse in this one. Cummings has the size and experience to get the job done here, having been in with tougher opposition in the past, and I don’t expect it to take all that long. I also see this one ending with a submission in the first round for Cummings.

WW: James Head (9-3) vs. Jason High (16-4)

Henderson: Jason High and James Head are seeking to rebound from losses in their last outings. Head suffered a TKO loss at the hands of Mike Pyle and High was submitted in 71 seconds by Erick Silva. These two are likely fighting for their UFC jobs. Head is a BJJ practitioner, but he actually possesses more wins via knockout than submission. High is a wrestler with a tendency to work for submissions. High’s wrestling will land him in top position when this fight goes to the mat. The BJJ purple belt has only lost via submission once in his career, so he should be able to keep out of trouble and work to set up a submission of his own for the victory.

Byron: Whilst I agree that High is likely facing the axe should he lose, I feel that Head would and should get one more chance even with a loss in this one. High will look to utilize his superior wrestling ability to stifle Head where possible and creep his way towards a decision. As the decision draws near for High, he may get his chance to finish the fight as Head is forced to fight with reckless abandon due to being down on the scorecards. High via third-round finish.

Tatum: Like my colleagues, I also favor High in this match-up. Head is an under-the-radar fighter that can catch others by surprise, but High is the more gifted of the two and has faced stiffer competition. I see Head scoring early on the feet, prompting the former University of Nebraska wrestler, High, to bring the fight to the mat. As Head desperately scrambles to get back to his feet, High will attack with his signature guillotine choke and coerce a tap from Head late in round two.

FW: Darren Elkins (16-3) vs. Hatsu Hioki (26-6-2)

Tatum: This fight is a subtle message to Hatsu Hioki that he’s going to have to beat a wrestler to keep his job. After winning his first two UFC bouts, he’s fallen to Ricardo Lamas and Clay Guida in back-to-back fights. Now, he’ll have to overcome the blue-collar wrestling game of Darren Elkins. Elkins himself is looking to put a violent knockout loss to Chad Mendes in his rearview mirror, but to do so, he’ll have to avoid the active guard of Hioki. If Hioki spends another 15 minutes on his back, he’ll find himself with another loss and looking for a job, but I believe the Japanese fighter will exploit Elkins’ sub defense and take home a first-round armbar win.

Byron: Elkins comes into this fight looking to forget his last outing, which ended quickly and brutally, denting his ambitions for a title shot in the process. Meanwhile, Hioki is another fighter on the card to be on a two-fight losing streak, and he could find himself looking for new employment if he doesn’t impress here. Although these two have a mutual opponent in Michihiro Omigawa, it would be unfair to draw any conclusions based on the results of these fights alone, as both were highly controversial decisions.

As Rob observed, Hioki has had trouble with wrestlers in the past. He had better hope he has learned from these experiences if he harbors any hopes of getting the win against Elkins.

Prior to the loss to Mendes, Elkins was on a five-fight winning streak with some impressive performances. Beating Diego Brandao and Steven Siler is no easy task, as has been evidenced recently. Elkins will look to outwork Hioki and grind out a decision win in what could be a very dangerous fight for him. Should he take the fight to the floor, he cannot rest for a second or else Rob’s prediction could very well come true. However, I feel Elkins will get the decision victory and work his way back towards the conversation in the featherweight rankings.

Henderson: Hioki and Elkins are two featherweights who appeared to be on the verge of a title bid, but both men have experienced recent setbacks. Hioki seemed well on his way with the decision win over Bart Palaszewski, but the upset loss to Lamas changed that. Hioki may have an active guard, as Rob pointed out, but his finishing ability isn’t there. He’s gone the distance in every UFC outing and has a few too many split decisions on his resume. Despite an almost even balance of knockouts, submissions and decision wins, Elkins tends to work a grinding wrestling style. That style will cause Hioki fits and ultimately result in a win for Elkins.

WW: Justin Edwards (8-2) vs. Brandon Thatch (9-1)

Byron: A late replacement for Team Dos Santos on TUF, Justin Edwards lost to eventual winner Tony Ferguson in the house. He has had mixed success since in losing to John Maguire and Clay Harvison, whilst most recently defeating Josh Neer by guillotine choke, which is no easy task.

Edwards has a history of submission victories—six of his eight wins have come in this manner. In Brandon Thatch, Edwards is facing a consistent finisher who only has one split decision loss on his record. Despite Edwards showing signs of improvement in his loss to Maguire, Thatch has the stand-up advantage in this one, which can only have improved further through training with Matt Brown, Nate Marquardt and Donald Cerrone in the build-up to this fight.

Expect Thatch to try to keep this one standing to take advantage of where his strengths and Edwards’ comparative weakness overlap. He’ll dominate Edwards in the process. I see this as a first-round finish for Thatch, who makes a statement that he is ready for a higher level of opposition.

Henderson: Thatch has only seen the second and third rounds on one occasion, the lone loss of his career. In every other contest, he has needed less than five minutes to get the job done. Often, he doesn’t even need 60 seconds. Edwards sported a similar resume of quick finishes before entering the UFC, but he has now seen three of his last four fights go the distance. The key for Edwards is to test Thatch’s cardio and force Thatch to fight for a full 15 minutes. That’s easier said than done. Thatch can finish fights anywhere, so Edwards is not much safer on the mat than he is on his feet. Edwards is a tough out, so Thatch may have to settle for the judges’ nod in this one, but if he does get the finish, it’ll come via knockout.

Tatum: Living in Denver, I’ve been able to witness the majority of Thatch’s destruction firsthand during his tenure with Ring of Fire and Resurrection Fighting Alliance. Despite the promise that Edwards showcased during his time on The Ultimate Fighter, he’s going to be overmatched in this fight. As my fellow panelists have stated, Thatch can finish a fight anywhere, and I also expect it to come via knockout. I’ll side with Greg and predict it to come quickly and violently in the first round.

MW: Papy Abedi (9-2) vs. Dylan Andrews (16-4)

Henderson: Dylan Andrews scored a first-round TKO victory over Jimmy Quinlan in his UFC debut, but now he takes another step up in competition to face judo black belt Papy Abedi. The Swede is currently 1-2 inside the Octagon and needs a win versus Andrews in order to avoid a pink slip. In both of his UFC losses, Abedi was stunned by strikes before he was finished with a submission. Andrews could follow a similar blueprint to victory. Andrews by ground-and-pound TKO.

Tatum: No argument from me on this one. The Aussie Andrews is simply too gritty for Abedi. Abedi has the look of a dangerous fighter, but thus far in his UFC career, he’s proven that looks can be deceiving. Andrews will clip Abedi on the feet early and polish him off on the mat.

Byron: I think it fair to say that Abedi is relieved he is facing an opponent who will likely wish to engage him on the feet given that his last two fights have ended by submission. In the fight against Thiago Alves, Abedi started well by pushing Alves back against the cage and landing some good shots, but ultimately the holes in Abedi’s defense were exposed, with Alves pouncing on the Swede’s mistake and finishing the fight. Although Abedi is making the unusual step of going up in weight, don’t expect this to intimidate the New Zealander. Andrews will look to make the fight a scrap from the get-go and look to utilize straight punches to end the Swede’s stint in the UFC. Andrews by KO in the first.

BW: Takeya Mizugaki (17-7-2) vs. Erik Perez (13-4)

Byron: This is a fight that has some real potential to be a fast-paced, brutal contest. Although Takeya Mizugaki’s wins come primarily via decision, he has been in there with some top fighters so there is no real shame in that. Whether you consider it foolishness or admirable heart, his refusal to tap against Urijah Faber clearly shows that Mizugaki is prepared to go until the bitter end, quite literally.

Erik Perez is coming back from a nasty staph infection that left him hospitalized for some time and forced him to pull out of a scheduled fight against Johnny Bedford. It’s clear that the coaches at Jackson’s MMA will be busy, with this being their fourth fighter on the card overall. However, this abundance of talent in the gym alongside the Mexican will mean Perez has had a training camp packed with quality training partners, all looking to peak at the same time. The injury aside, Perez has not lost in the almost three years and has a history of winning early and decisively, with four of his last five fights ending inside the first round. It’s probably best to pay attention as soon as Bruce Buffer gets on the mic when this fight comes around.

Perez will have too much for Mizugaki in this one and will harness several months of frustration into an impressive performance, although he will ultimately be unable to continue his impressive habit of early finishes, earning a decision victory instead.

Tatum: At just 23 years of age, it’s easy to see why so many people are excited about Perez’s prospects in the UFC. And with three straight first-round finishes, it’s hard to argue with Greg’s prediction. But if there’s one thing to consider about Mizugaki, it’s his resiliency. Although he has struggled against the upper echelon of the division (Faber, Miguel Torres, Brian Bowles, Scott Jorgensen), only Faber was able to stop him. This fight has the making of a barnburner on the feet and represents a huge step up in competition for Perez. Mizugaki’s experience will be the difference as the Japanese fighter walks away with a razor-thin victory on the scorecards.

Henderson: Mizugaki really provides the perfect test for Perez. This is a fighter who pushed Miguel Torres to his limits at the height of Torres’ WEC title reign. If Perez can notch another victory here, we will know that we’re dealing with a future member of the elite class at bantamweight. Even if he falls short while performing admirably, Perez still has a bright future with the promotion. Perez’s impressive run extends beyond the confines of the Octagon. He edged Paul McVeigh and Douglas Frey via decision and submitted James Brum in the first round. Perez is going to have to work much harder against his Japanese nemesis in this fight, and if he wins, it’ll be on the scorecards. The losses on Perez’s record make me hesitant to give him the nod over someone like Mizugaki, though. This one goes the distance, with Mizugaki earning the unanimous verdict.

Photo: Carlos Condit (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)