There are few things, other than ourselves, that Americans unquestionably love and support in this world, but our veterans are at the top of that short list. Our government may allow itself to be shut down over partisan politics, but when it comes to mixed martial arts we can put those differences aside and come together to enjoy some agreeable violence in the name of our veterans.

UFC Fight Night 31—or, as it is alternatively known, UFC Fight for the Troops 3—is actually the UFC’s fourth event held in conjunction with the U.S. military. It’s been a couple of years since the last Fight for the Troops event, and this will be the first time the series has not aired on Spike. Another characteristic that will set this event apart from its siblings is that actual veterans take part in headlining the show in the main and co-main events.

In the main event, Green Beret sniper and Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran Tim Kennedy will play leading man to Brazilian black belt Rafael Natal. Kennedy seeks his second UFC win and a chance for a marquee match-up down the line here. Natal, employed by the UFC since 2010, looks to build on his quiet three-fight run of wins in his ninth overall fight within the promotion.

Marine, veteran of three Middle East combat tours, and Strikeforce and UFC bantamweight title challenger Liz Carmouche makes her return to the Octagon following a thrilling victory on a Fox card in July. In the co-main event, she’ll greet fellow veteran Alexis Davis, who comes into the bout with victories over name opponents in six of her last seven outings.

The main card will also see the meeting of skilled grapplers Ronny Markes and Yoel Romero, a lightweight bout between exciting fighters Jorge Masvidal and Rustam Khabilov, and active U.S. Army soldier Colton Smith’s lightweight clash with fellow TUF alum Michael Chiesa.

The festivities kick off on Facebook with four preliminary bouts, beginning at 3:15 p.m. ET. The remainder of the prelims air on Fox Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET and the main card, also on Fox Sports 1, gets underway at 7 p.m. ET.

So without further ado, The MMA Corner’s Greg Byron, Joe Chacon and yours truly, David Massey, will make like the opposite of the U.S. Congress by coming together to do our job with a full breakdown and set of predictions for the evening’s entire lineup.

LW: Michael Chiesa (9-1) vs. Colton Smith (3-2)

Chacon: Michael Chiesa takes on Colton Smith to start off the main card portion of the event in what is a very pivotal fight for both. Chiesa is coming off his first loss, whereas Smith is trying to avoid falling to 1-2 inside the Octagon.

Chiesa’s strategy is no surprise. He wants to get Smith to the ground and work on grinding out a win via submission or decision. Smith is also well-versed on the ground, but may look to find a way around Chiesa’s five-inch reach advantage to land some significant punches. On paper, it’s hard to see this fight staying standing up for very long, but the one wild card is Smith’s advantage should the two exchange punches.

Don’t count on these guys being on their feet much. While Smith will defend against Chiesa’s rear-naked choke, Chiesa is going to get back to his winning ways and wear down Smith en route to a split decision victory.

Byron: Both of these Ultimate Fighter winners will be looking to get back on track in this bout after tasting defeat in their last fights.

Undoubtedly, Smith will be a fan favorite as an active member of the U.S. Army and will get the crowd going early on. This may help or hinder Smith, but will undoubtedly lead him to press the action from the outset.

Chiesa has gained a large majority of his wins via submission. This would no doubt be a concern for Smith, should he look to utilize his wrestling skills as he has tended to do in the past.

I would not be surprised to see Chiesa catch Smith standing and then jump on him with a submission, but overall I see Smith gaining the win here in front of the troops by decision, thanks to his strong wrestling and ability to press opponents against the fence. I don’t expect it to be particularly pretty, but Smith by decision would be my pick here.

Massey: I agree with what Greg pointed out about the “home-field advantage,” so to speak, for Smith, and think it’ll have him looking to impress with a stoppage win. I could see him coming out to impose his will and drop Chiesa with a strong punch to set up the beginning of the end. So, it will be important for Chiesa to keep a level head and not get swept up in the action.

Chiesa showed a confidence in his improved hands in his last outing, even dropping Jorge Masvidal with a clean one-two combination preceded by a knee. In this case, it might be better for him to counter Smith’s aggression with combinations. When Smith over-aggressively comes forward, he leaves himself open to taking damage, which is what hurt him in his fight with Robert Whittaker.

When it comes to grappling between the two knowledgeable wrestlers, it simply might come down to raw strength, where I’d give the edge to Smith, who might be able to stall his opponent against the cage and wear him down with dirty boxing. When it hits the floor, the Team Alpha Male member, Chiesa, will have more tricks up his sleeve based on his experience. If Smith isn’t strong enough to hold Chiesa in place, then we’re likely to see some mad scrambles for position and a stream of submission attempts.

These guys will offer a pretty entertaining and gritty fight while it is standing. The question is who can be the more imposing grappler, if either will be content to ride out a victory in front of the troops. If Chiesa learned from his last fight, then I’m with Joe in thinking that he’ll find his way to a decision win. He’ll want to be cautious and not let his emotions take over, and I think he’ll have a bit of an easier time of it too.

LW: Rustam Khabilov (16-1) vs. Jorge Masvidal (25-7)

Byron: Jorge Masvidal has been in with some of the very best in the lightweight division across all of MMA in recent years. He defeated K.J. Noons and, even further back, Joe Lauzon, whilst suffering losses to the likes of Gilbert Melendez and Toby Imada.

Rustam Khabilov, meanwhile, had one of the most impressive victories in a UFC debut ever, using multiple suplexes in the process before finishing off Vinc Pichel with punches in a real one-sided fight. Masvidal will be a real test for the rising star, who trains out of Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, N.M.

If this fight is to be contested on the feet, then Masvidal will be a real threat to Khabilov. However, if Khabilov can get a hold of Masvidal he can once again show his strength and impressive use of that strength.

I don’t see Masvidal having the ability to counter the grappling dominance of Khabilov if the fight hits the floor, so Masvidal will hope he can keep the fight at range on the feet and try to pick apart Khabilov in the process.

All in all, Masvidal’s efforts will be in vain and we will see a real contender emerge from this fight. Khabilov will finish Masvidal, cementing his place in the top-10 rankings in the talent-filled lightweight division.

Massey: With all due respect, of course, I think that Greg is overlooking Masvidal’s grappling defense.

Masvidal has faced higher-caliber opponents than Khabilov, many of whom are strong wrestlers. Fighters like Justin Wilcox and Michael Chiesa pressured Masvidal with takedowns, but couldn’t keep him planted for long. Masvidal adopted a wide stance and looked to counter them coming in. Even when he is taken down, he is savvy enough to roll to a better position or back to his feet and can remain calm to threaten with his own submissions. I believe Masvidal will be comfortable enough on the ground, but it is yet to be seen how imposing Khabilov’s grappling can be as he takes a step up in competition against a veteran like Masvidal.

Standing, the advantage is definitely in favor of “Gamebred.” Khabilov hasn’t shown much diversity with striking beyond one-two combinations used to throw his opponents off-balance. But then again, he really hasn’t needed to because he’s been so successful at taking his two UFC opponents down and ground-and-pounding them. Masvidal has a tendency to take a back seat in fights when he is thrown off of his rhythm, but if he can bait Khabilov to try to stand, then it would be in his favor.

Overall, a veteran like Masvidal is going to be comfortable wherever the fight goes. If Khabilov can keep a steady pressure and blend his takedowns with strong counters, then he’ll slow Masvidal’s momentum. But Masvidal has been in wars with some of the world’s best lightweights, and he’s not likely to lose his head whether fighting from the bottom or trading on the feet.

It might be hard fought, but the veteran Masvidal has all the tools to work his way to a decision.

Chacon: I completely agree with David on this one. Masvidal is fluid and can win a fight standing up or, as he showed against Chiesa, on the ground. Khabilov had a very successful run in Russia and in his first two UFC appearances, but Masvidal is going to be as good or better than anybody he has faced to date.

Khabilov doesn’t stand still for long and will look to keep Masvidal off-balance. Masvidal, while he does have 10 career knockouts, hasn’t displayed too much of that power since 2009, when he last scored a knockout. Instead, Masvidal is now best known to take his fights the distance and grind out decisions.

The wild card for this match-up is experience, and that’s what tips the scales towards Masvidal’s advantage. Masvidal is just two years older than Khabilov, but has been involved in 15 more professional fights. Look for Masvidal to take this fight the distance and earn a narrow split decision win.

MW: Ronny Markes (14-1) vs. Yoel Romero (5-1)

Massey: Ronny Markes and Yoel Romero have fought at higher weight classes and cut down in order to be large and powerful middleweights. Each comes from a grappling base, but they implement those skills towards very different game plans. Romero likes to brawl, whereas Markes is more of a straight-up jiu-jitsu fighter.

Ronny Marki Sales da Silva, or Ronny Markes as we Westerners know him, faced decent competition in his last two UFC outings in the form of Aaron Simpson and Andrew Craig, and worked his way to a decision against each. He did the same against jiu-jitsu World champion Paulo Filho in 2011, so we know that he can handle himself against stout grapplers. That will be much-needed experience when he faces 2000 Olympic Summer Games silver medalist Yoel Romero. Grappling has been Markes’ single greatest asset in the cage, and he is able to use his strong hips to hold his opponents against the fence in a clinch and wet-blanket them to steal rounds. Doing so against a former Olympian shouldn’t be as easy, however.

Romero was once one of the best freestyle wrestlers in the world, but he prefers to live and die by his hands when it comes to MMA. The 36-year-old is light on his feet. He circles and jumps in and out of range, mainly looking to counter. He’s not afraid to pressure his opponent and fight inside, and he can deftly slip under punches to shoot if he gets tagged. That aggression will be a strong asset against Markes, who isn’t as comfortable on the feet.

Markes mostly prefers to control his opponents with grappling, but has shown a willingness to plant his feet and trade. However, Markes often leads with his head, leaving himself open to shots. His last two opponents were able to drop him and send him into wrestle-mode to regain his senses. Romero’s aggressiveness and fluid striking game (as well as power) gives him a definite advantage in the stand-up game. The question is whether Markes can overpower Romero and hold him with his strong clinch base to stall these exchanges. If Markes’ attempts to control the fight through clinching are shrugged off, then he’ll be a babe in the wilderness waiting to get eaten up.

Either way, as the fight wears on, Romero’s heavy hands and impressively smooth arsenal of strikes will only get more dangerous as Markes grows tired. All the Cuban has to do is catch Markes once in order to put him in fight-ending danger. Given his raw talent and killer instinct, Romero will get that done by the second round for a TKO victory.

Chacon: Terrific preview by my colleague, but I’m on the other side of the coin with this one.

Although Romero does possess a nice combination of power and speed, his best days as an elite wrestler are behind him. He still has the explosive double-leg takedowns you’d expect from someone who wrestled in the Olympics, but it was nearly 14 years ago that he took part in the Summer Games. He can still take down an opponent, but most skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artists should be able to stay out of danger against Romero. Markes will do just that.

Markes is 11 years younger than Romero, but he has nine more professional fights. Granted, most of those fights have took place in Brazil, where it is never surprising to see somebody with an 11-18 record maintain a fighting career, but Markes has more MMA experience nonetheless. It won’t surprise me in the least for him to use the lay-and-pray approach against Romero. After all, his last four fights have been wins by decision. As soon as Markes gets the fight on the ground, he will do whatever it takes to keep Romero there. From there, we’ll see him maintain a dominant position and work towards winning the fight on points.

Romero is going to come out like a bull in a china shop and may catch Markes, but Markes has the ability to slip through the punches and bring this fight to the mat. It’s also important to note that Romero has not had a fight go the distance over the course of his very short professional MMA career. Markes wins this one via unanimous decision.

Byron: Markes is looking to bounce back from an unusual setback prior to his last scheduled bout where a car accident on the day of the weigh-ins prevented him from taking his place against Derek Brunson. He will no doubt be extra vigilant to ensure he makes it to the arena safe and sound in Kentucky.

Markes has faced some strong wrestlers in his UFC stint, defeating the likes of Karlos Vemola and Simpson in his first two UFC fights before defeating Craig in his last outing in January.

However, in Romero, he faces an elite-level wrestler who can boast an Olympic silver medal from Sydney in 2000. Romero should look to his strengths in taking this fight to the floor and dominating top position for 15 minutes, or until Markes succumbs to the Cuban’s ground-and-pound attack.

Markes’ best opportunity of success may be to keep the fight standing and look to control the distance with leg kicks to stop Romero from setting his front leg for a level change. Against such an elite wrestler, this is easier said than done. At one point or another, it is likely Markes will end up on his back and will need to call on the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills gained from his training at Kimura Nova Uniao alongside the likes of Gleison Tibau and Renan Barao, among countless others.

Romero’s positional dominance will be too much for Markes. Expect Romero to capture a decision or finish Markes in the later rounds via ground-and-pound.

Women’s BW: Liz Carmouche (9-3) vs. Alexis Davis (14-5)

Byron: Liz Carmouche has experienced the biggest stage the UFC has to offer women. As such, a co-main event on a smaller show may well be seen as a come down from that perspective but the quality of opponent that she faces remains at the very top of the division, so this is certainly not an opportunity for her to relax and fight without pressure.

Carmouche has a real affinity with the troops she will be fighting in front of, having previously served alongside them in her time in the Marine Corps in the Middle East prior to becoming a professional mixed martial artist. She has developed into one of the most well-known female MMA fighters, as well as one of the most complete fighters in the admittedly shallow division at present.

Alexis Davis is a Canadian national grappling champion. Therefore, her best course of action might be to take this to the floor and look to dominate position from there against Carmouche, though as we saw from the Carmouche v Rousey fight, Carmouche is not afraid to mix it grappling-wise with even the very best.

Both fighters go into this co-main event on the back of a win last time out and would expect to be catapulted into title contention given the women’s division is still yet to really add the depth that we have come to expect in the UFC’s male divisions.

Overall, Carmouche is simply too experienced and controlling for the Canadian. The American gives the troops another reason to celebrate in Kentucky.

Chacon: My colleague brings up a very important point. Carmouche is going to have such an adrenaline rush fighting in front of the troops. Although she may never again experience the hype and media attention she received heading into UFC 157, she may be just as excited to fight on this card because of the crowd.

Should Carmouche win this fight, it will be by knockout. In order to win, she’s also going to have to take the experience she got from fighting Ronda Rousey and Marloes Coenen and apply it to fighting Davis. More specifically, she’ll need to duplicate her efforts to avoid being submitted, since Davis is arguably just as strong on the ground as Rousey and Coenen.

Look for Carmouche to keep her distance from Davis for the first couple of rounds. Eventually, Davis is going to get to the “Girl-Rilla” in the third round and do what she does best by submitting Carmouche via rear-naked choke towards the end of a thrilling fight.

Massey: Both Greg and Joe pointed to Davis’s submission grappling as an area of concern for Carmouche. Well, it will be interesting to see how she deals with that defensively. Carmouche prefers to be the bully in fights, muscling her opponents with raw strength and softening them up with hard shots to create openings to win the contest. Davis likes to close the distance and drag her opponents to the mat, where she makes them carry her weight and flattens them out while looking for a choke. It will be in intriguing game of Carmouche’s power vs. Davis’s finesse in the grappling battle.

While it’s standing, Carmouche’s more powerful punches will likely have Davis rushing forward to take her down if she starts to get tagged. It will be in Carmouche’s favor to fire off hard shots from a safe distance to wear her opponent down so that Davis doesn’t have the edge in grappling at the beginning of the fight. Davis tends to be a bit flat-footed, but she can deliver some tricky elbows and knees to help her throw opponents off-balance when fighting in close distance.

Stick and move sounds like a good game plan for Carmouche. She’s shown a definite growth of in-cage poise for her two UFC outings, so fighting in front of a military crowd won’t affect her performance as much as both of my fellow panelists suggest.

This fight really is a toss-up. Both women are very good and hover right below the top fighters of the division, or in the world, for that matter. Carmouche has had trouble with grapplers in the past, but we’re talking former champions. Davis doesn’t wilt under pressure or at the sight of her own blood, but it’s yet to be seen how effective her grappling will be if Carmouche has worked to improve her defense.

So I’ll make my decision based on an intangible: momentum. That’s what Carmouche has. Carmouche has tasted the bright lights of the big show and became stronger from her defeat versus Rousey. She is more determined and confident that she can beat the best in the world. I think she’ll stay focused and find a win.

MW: Tim Kennedy (16-4) vs. Rafael Natal (17-4-1)

Chacon: Tim Kennedy and Rafael Natal square off in the main event in what promises to be reminiscent of the fight we saw just a few weeks ago between Jake Shields and Demian Maia. You won’t hear many people clamoring in anticipation of this fight, and it more than likely won’t be one of the most exciting, but we should all be able to appreciate how good these two are on the ground.

Kennedy is coming off a decision victory win in his UFC debut over Roger Gracie, whereas Natal has won five of his last six. Although Kennedy and Natal are capable of knocking out an opponent, it’s not something you’d expect. Instead, look for both to trade positions on the canvas for five rounds as they counter each other with exceptional jiu-jitsu.

I’ve enjoyed watching both these guys over the last couple of years. Quite honestly, it’s hard to pick a winner. Kennedy has had a tougher slate of opponents to deal with leading up to this fight, though, and that experience should carry him to a narrow split decision victory over Natal.

Massey: I’m one of those people that Joe speaks of who won’t be clamoring in anticipation for this fight. That’s primarily because Kennedy’s fights are pretty uneventful. Accuse me of not appreciating skilled grappling battles if you like, but Kennedy, a product of Greg Jackson’s team, certainly fights with a smart game plan and keeps himself in good positions, a strategy that doesn’t always translate as being fun to watch. However, I have to give the Green Beret sniper props after watching him keep Gracie, a decorated jiu-jitsu competitor, at bay in his last outing.

In his last fight, Natal showed the power in his hands when he blasted Tor Troeng with shots that would have ended most other fighters. It didn’t end Troeng, but it was enough to take the fight out of him for the most part. Joe is correct in his observation that Kennedy’s slate of opponents is much stronger than what Natal has seen. The last two opponents that were able to keep Kennedy’s grinding game plan at bay were Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, so I’m not too sure about Natal’s chances.

Natal will have the tricky task of getting through Kennedy’s defenses to hurt him on the feet, while also keeping himself from getting planted on the ground and out-grappled. It’s hard to argue against Kennedy’s track record against tough opponents and the smart game plans he brings to the cage. So I’m going to have to give him the nod here, though I hope Natal goes for the exciting route since he’s a replacement fighter and doesn’t have a ton to lose here.

Byron: This is a fight that was booked after a lot of lobbying from Kennedy on social media. In fact, he practically harassed every middleweight on the UFC roster for a fight until it was decided that the Brazilian would fill the void left by his countryman, Lyoto Machida.

Just as Liz Carmouche promises to be a main attraction on this card, Kennedy is most certainly the man of the night, especially with his armed forces affiliation. Thanks in part to a Michael Bisping injury, his chances of leaving Kentucky with a win were definitely boosted. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Machida would have presented Kennedy with a significantly different set of problems than what Natal offers. That is not to say that Natal doesn’t have the skills or ability to trouble the American. Rather, it is a testament to the abilities of Machida and the unique problems he poses for just about anyone.

Natal is a well-respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and is one of the instructors at the Gracie academy in New York, so it is safe to say he sees and has seen the very best on a frequent basis. You would expect to see an improved version of the Brazilian every time he competes. He has converted his BJJ skills into submission victories on eight occasions during his 22-fight career and will no doubt be looking to add Kennedy to his list of submission victims.

Kennedy, however, has fared well in any bout that is not slated for a title shot. He failed at that final hurdle during his Strikeforce days against Jacare and Rockhold. Moreover, Kennedy has yet to be tapped during his MMA career. Having been in there with Gracie and Jacare, two of the best pure BJJ fighters on the planet, Kennedy will be confident that he can avoid Natal’s attempts.

The experience that Kennedy has gained from fighting five rounds previously against top-tier competition will stand him in good stead for doing so again in this fight. Kennedy should pull away towards the latter part of this fight and gain a finish somewhere around round three or four.

Preliminary Card
MW: Derek Brunson (10-2) vs. Brian Houston (4-0)

Massey: What little we know of Brian Houston is that he has heavy hands. But what we don’t know from looking at his eight or so minutes of professional cage time is how he’ll fare against a good and tested wrestler. If anything, this is Derek Brunson’s chance to get a standout victory for himself against an unknown fighter. Brunson has overall great defense, and he won’t be careless enough to get caught. Brunson might have to weather a storm out of the gates, but eventually he’ll get close to Houston and get him down. Then, he should be able to work his way to a submission victory.

Byron: Although Houston’s record would have you believe he is an undefeated prospect, the fighters he has faced thus far largely have losing records themselves. In Brunson, Houston is fighting a former All-American wrestler who has had his taste of UFC experience with a win over Chris Leben in December. Houston’s best chance of winning this is on the feet, but expect Brunson to utilize his wrestling superiority to take the fight to the floor and finish Houston from there. Brunson by TKO, round one.

Chacon: This is a perfect example of why one needs to take a closer look at the opponents of somebody who has an undefeated record. Greg’s keen eye spotted the pretty poor competition that resides in Houston’s 4-0 record. Brunson will get this fight to the ground easily and give Houston his first submission defeat.

WW: Seth Baczynski (18-10) vs. Neil Magny (8-2)

Chacon: After winning six straight fights between December 2010 and September 2012, Seth Baczynski now finds himself on the cusp of the dreaded three-fight losing streak. This fight against Neil Magny has the makings to be pretty exciting, as both men are no doubt looking to make a statement to keep their spot on the UFC roster. Magny should have the legs to get this fight to the third round and eventually secure a split decision victory of Baczynski.

Byron: Baczynski certainly has the experience advantage over Magny in this one and can boast that he is the last man to beat Matt “the Immortal” Brown, way back in November 2011. However, Baczynski enters this fight on the back of two losses and will certainly be feeling the pressure to get back in the win column. Magny will be looking to rebound from a loss against Sergio Moraes that put his UFC record at 1-1 since exiting The Ultimate Fighter house and entering the UFC Octagon. Both men will feel they have something to prove here. I, too, feel it will be a close-fought encounter, but I just see Baczynski edging through this one to win a close three-round decision.

Massey: Magny will want to use his wrestling to wear down Baczynski, who likes to come out strong. Magny’s safest bet will be to steal the better part of rounds by forcing Baczynski to fight off his back. It helps that Magny can be rangy with his strikes and has the wrestling chops to do it. It might lead to a workmanlike effort, but Magny will get the decision.

LW: Yves Edwards (42-20-1) vs. Yancy Medeiros (9-1)

Byron: Yves Edwards has suffered back-to-back split decision losses. As such, you would expect him to come out aggressive from the start in an effort to ensure that this one does not end up in the hands of the judges yet again. Yancy Medeiros, meanwhile, will look to get his career in the lightweight division underway here with a win. Medeiros lost to Rustam Khabilov last time out due to an injury sustained during a scramble. Edwards had already been active in MMA for 10 years before Medeiros had his first fight. Whilst a lot can be said for experience, MMA really is a young man’s game. I expect that to be the decisive factor in this one, with the 26-year-old Medeiros getting the win via decision.

Massey: You really don’t know what to expect from Edwards these days. Consistency has not been his strong suit. He has the ability to end the fight with strikes, but his last two opponents were able to lessen that threat with constant pressure. Edwards is still a big step up over anyone Medeiros has faced before, and he has more offensive tools too. Even with his current spotty run, I don’t count the vet out of this one. He’ll be a stiff test for Medeiros. I give Edwards the nod.

Chacon: Edwards is a roller-coaster ride and is probably nearing the end of his UFC tenure, which has spanned parts of the past 12 years. The 37-year-old has lost four of his last six, and it doesn’t get any easier for him in this fight against Medeiros. Medeiros is going to run circles around Edwards en route to a dominant, unanimous decision win.

MW: Chris Camozzi (19-6) vs. Lorenz Larkin (13-1)

Massey: Chris Camozzi enjoys standing toe-to-toe with his opponents and doesn’t mind taking damage in the process, which won’t work for him if he is to play kickboxer against Lorenz Larkin, who prefers to push the pace of the bout with his own blend of savvy striking. Larkin’s dynamic skills were showcased against two top-level fighters in his last couple outings, which illuminates the skills gap between him and Camozzi. Both guys are tough enough to take the fight the distance, but Camozzi gets hit with something dramatic and is put away in the first.

Chacon: When Camozzi wins, it’s typically by going the distance and earning a decision. This fight is not going the distance, but Larkin isn’t coming away with the win. Look for Camozzi to take advantage of Larkin’s over-aggression early in the fight and hand him the first submission loss of his career.

Byron: These two are well-rounded and respected fighters who have both lost via unanimous decision to Francis Carmont inside the Octagon, albeit Larkin was somewhat unfortunate to lose to Carmont in the eyes of some. Whilst Camozzi has vastly improved in recent years, he will not have enough to get the win over Larkin, who has displayed that he has solid skills everywhere. Unlike my colleague, I think this fight may in fact last the distance. It will be Larkin who grinds out a close decision victory.

Women’s BW: Amanda Nunes (8-3) vs. Germaine de Randamie (4-2)

Byron: Amanda Nunes and Germaine de Randamie have good stand-up skills and enter this fight fresh off the back of successful Octagon debuts. The age-old problem of whether the similar skill sets of these two will cancel each other out is a question that will play out over this fight. It’s arguable that Nunes has the advantage if it hits the mat. Neither fighter will particularly look for a takedown, so expect this one to be largely contested on the feet. The edge goes to the former kickboxing world champion, de Randamie. She takes the win by TKO in the second round.

Chacon: Nunes is a completely different animal than the talent de Randamie is used to fighting. Nunes is coming off an outstanding performance against Sheila Gaff and has recorded seven of her eight professional wins via knockout. Nunes and de Randamie are about three months removed from their last fights and should be ready to put on an exciting bout. It’ll be a thrill, but Nunes will make short work of de Randamie and knock her out in the first round.

Massey: This one should be thrilling. It’s a tough call, but Greg’s assessment swayed me. Nunes has a great, stout physical frame that could help her wrestle de Randamie down for some patented ground-and-pound, which is a real threat. On the other side is de Randamie, who is tall with long rangy legs and a frame tailored to keeping opponents at bay. I believe that de Randamie’s striking background will allow her more versatility than her opponent’s strong boxing. That’s why I’m siding with her taking the victory, but we’ll likely see how tough Nunes is in the process.

FW: Dennis Bermudez (11-3) vs. Steven Siler (23-10)

Chacon: Dennis Bermudez is somebody I’ve had my eye on for a while now. His fight against Matt Grice at UFC 157 ranks as one of the best fights I’ve ever seen in person. His chin is rock solid and he’s as strong of a featherweight as you’ll find in the UFC. Bermudez has rattled off four consecutive wins inside the Octagon and will utilize his powerful striking and excellent wrestling to overcome a much taller opponent in Steven Siler. Look for Bermudez to win by TKO prior to the third round.

Massey: This might be an obvious statement, but this should be a competitive match-up. Siler is a guy that stands out as having more striking power than he’s shown. He got his first UFC finish in six fights over Mike Brown, and he has the potential to end more fights like that. However, Bermudez has shown that he can take a punch or a kick to the head. It actually wakes him up and prompts him to fight harder. In all, the wiry Siler has a good enough overall skill set to fight to a decision win over Bermudez, who might be harder to put away than others.

Byron: This one has all the makings of a “Fight of the Night” contender. I expect these two to engage from the start, with a wrestling advantage for Bermudez and perhaps a grappling edge in Siler’s favor. This fight will take place in every area at some point in time and will be a bit of a scramble in the early going before Bermudez takes over the fight and looks to finish or close out a decision in the latter stages of the affair. Bermudez with a late finish in round three.

BW: Francisco Rivera (9-2) vs. George Roop (14-9-1)

Massey: George Roop enters this fight while riding more than a single win for the first time in five years, so it just seems like it’s easy to bet against him and his spotty record. Yet, he’s a guy that comes to fight each time and can definitely knock out anybody in the division if they don’t give him their full attention. Opposite him will be Francisco Rivera, who has looked great in his last two contests, finishing both his opponents with strikes. I don’t doubt that Rivera will want to come out strong and scrap it out, so it could be a coin toss for who will get the job done. I’ll lean towards Rivera, who tends to end things more quickly. He can stop Roop in the first via TKO.

Byron: Roop has been around for a very long time and has never really established himself in the UFC due to a number of setbacks against guys who now heavily feature in the top of the division. Rivera, meanwhile, had to fight his way back into the UFC. His return had been promising prior to his failed drug test following his win against Roland Delorme. This will be a high-paced fight, but ultimately, despite David’s optimism, I don’t see this one ending quickly. However, I agree I would expect Rivera to be the one more likely to find the stopping power to finish it early. This one goes all the way to a decision, with Roop coming out on the better side.

Chacon: Rivera knocks people out and Roop has been on the wrong side of a couple knockouts, including one on the last Fight for the Troops show in January of 2011. Although Roop did look good against Brian Bowles, Bowles went nearly two years in between fights. Rivera has the speed and power to put Roop away early in this fight via TKO.

LW: Bobby Green (20-5) vs. James Krause (20-4)

Chacon: Bobby Green and James Krause are both riding hot streaks heading into this fight. Green has won five straight, whereas Krause has been victorious in his last eight. Krause is the more dangerous fighter standing up, but Green has the edge on the ground. Look for Green to win later in the second round via rear-naked choke.

Byron: These two both enter the Octagon fresh off “Submission of the Night” victories in their last UFC outings. Both men have serious submission pedigree within MMA and have obtained a large proportion of their wins by this method. This could only serve to nullify the submission game of both and result in a stand-up tussle. This fight will feature a lot of stand-up and clinching against the cage, with positional dominance being the decisive factor. Green will get the better of these aspects and see it out to a decision victory.

Massey: This is why I think of the prelims as not to be overlooked. After all, a great fight between two men who had impressive UFC debuts is worthy of the attention of fans. I was very impressed by Green making a splash by out-wrestling Jacob Volkmann, as I also was by Krause beating up Sam Stout on the feet. So, I concur with Joe about each fighter’s strength in the fight and believe Krause will want to keep it standing. I like Greg’s line of thinking about Green’s road to victory, but I’m gonna flip both of their predictions and say that Krause will be able to use his wrestling in reverse to put a beating on Green.

Photo: Tim Kennedy (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

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