History was made last September at UFC 152 when Demetrious Johnson defeated Joseph Benavidez by split decision for the inaugural UFC flyweight championship. It was a back-and-forth battle that truly displayed exactly what the 125-pound division is all about, showcasing speed, quickness, agility and, believe it or not, power. The two put on a great fight, and a little over a year later, we’re back to where we started. “Mighty Mouse” has gone on to defend the title two times, while Benavidez rebounded from the defeat and has won three in a row to get back to the title bout. Those who missed their first fight are in for a treat, because this time it is live and free on Fox.

But that isn’t all. The main event is a title fight, but there could be a couple of No. 1 contenders awarded to victorious fighters in the other main-card bouts.

Urijah Faber squares off against Michael McDonald in the co-main event in a match-up between two of the best bantamweights in the world. The two fighters have their eyes on UFC gold, and the winner will likely get a crack at it.

Also, with Chad Mendes on a four-fight winning streak, it would be hard to deny him another crack at UFC gold with a win on Saturday over Nik Lentz.

Opening up the main card will be exciting lightweight Joe Lauzon taking on The Ultimate Fighter winner Mac Danzig.

The preliminary card starts with a single fight on Facebook at 4 p.m. ET, then shifts over to Fox Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET for the remainder of the preliminary card action, before moving to Fox at 8 p.m. ET for the main card. The panel of Gregory Chase, Kyle Symes and Brian McKenna break down the action in this edition of the Round Table.

LW: Mac Danzig (21-11-1) vs. Joe Lauzon (22-9)

Chase: This is a great match-up between Joe Lauzon and Mac Danzig, two great fighters. It’s also a fight that both desperately need to win. Both are in danger of losing a third in a row, so it will come down to who wants it more.

Lauzon is a fighter you can bank on coming out and putting his heart on the line. If the fight goes to the ground, he holds a strong advantage. This fight will be no different in that regard. However, that’s not to say Danzig doesn’t have a chance against the high-level grappling of Lauzon. Danzig will surely look to stop any takedowns and use his striking to get the better of Lauzon. Although Danzig’s striking may be formidable, it won’t be enough to shut down Lauzon’s game plan.

I will have to side with Lauzon in this one. He has the better ground game and will showcase it over Danzig. I predict a first- or second-round submission for Lauzon.

Symes: This should be a pretty one-sided fight in favor of “J-Lau.” I know he looked like a zombie in his fight with Michael Johnson, but just look at his history of exciting fights and the fact that he’s only 29 years old, and you have to give him a pass for that debacle. It’d also be ignorant to discredit the fact that Johnson improved tenfold from his loss to Reza Madadi.

Danzig is someone who hasn’t improved throughout his UFC career. He hasn’t done anything in his career since winning TUF, and all his victories (except the one over Mark Bocek) have come against guys no longer in the UFC. And outside of the UFC is exactly where Danzig will find himself after Lauzon takes the submission victory.

McKenna: It’s never a good thing when a fighter makes the walk to the Octagon riding a two-fight losing streak. But if I was to tell you that there was a current Ultimate Fighter winner with an active promotional record of 6-8, would you believe me? Well, guess what? That’s Danzig’s tally in the UFC. I understand that the promotion has its ties to its reality show winners, but something has to give.

On the other hand, Lauzon didn’t even look awake during his last outing against Johnson. He was picked apart on the feet en route to the lopsided defeat, where one judge went as far as to score it 30-25. With that, the guy deserves a mulligan. All he does is put on extremely exciting fights, which is evidenced by the number of bonus awards he has taken home, even in defeat.

Kyle made a keen observation about the guys that Danzig has beaten: they’re not around anymore. And those who did beat him really aren’t exactly guys at the top of the division either. Lauzon is just the better fighter, and he will get back on the winning side of things starting on Saturday night.

FW: Nik Lentz (24-5-2) vs. Chad Mendes (15-1)

Symes: Nik Lentz has really reinvigorated his career since dropping to featherweight. After technically losing three straight fights (although the loss to Charles Oliveira was overturned), Lentz made a successful featherweight debut at UFC 150. He’s yet to taste defeat since dropping down, and although his fighting style won’t win any popularity contests, he’s still a dangerous fighter.

Chad Mendes has also reinvigorated his career in the featherweight division. After a less than spectacular run of 11 consecutive wins to begin his career, Mendes lost to Jose Aldo at UFC 142. I’ve heard people say you need to lose to reach the top when talking about surging fighters. Although I don’t necessarily always agree with that sentiment, I think it rings true with Mendes. Prior to the Aldo fight, the athletic wrestler was very one-dimensional and didn’t offer either ground-and-pound or submissions while grappling. Now, Mendes is a threat on the feet and the mat. Three first-round knockouts and a TKO of Clay Guida prove that Mendes has evolved as a fighter, thanks in large part to the addition of Duane “Bang” Ludwig to Team Alpha Male.

There is not an area where Lentz is better than Mendes. “Money” Mendes is more athletic, the better striker, the better wrestler, and should add another TKO to his resume before calling out Aldo in his post-fight interview.

Chase: I have to agree with Kyle on this one. Mendes is overall the better fighter all around. I expect him to dominate this fight and control it wherever it goes.

Lentz has a good ground game, but the wrestling of Mendes should put a stop to anything that Lentz might be able to get off while on the mat. Of course, that is given that it goes there in the first place. Mendes, aside from his ground control, has shown dangerous striking. His striking has given him a nice comeback from his loss to Aldo, and it will be the determining factor in this fight.

Mendes will come out strong and catch Lentz with an early counter. It may require some follow-up ground-and-pound, but this fight ends with Mendes having his hand raised with a TKO win. It will come in the first round, all for the “Money.”

McKenna: The biggest difference between the two fighters here is that Lentz has revived his career since dropping to featherweight and is working his way to the top, whereas Mendes has been a dominant force at 145 pounds for a long time.

Mendes, having made it to nearly the top of the mountain only to ultimately lose to Aldo, has come back and been even more of a force to be reckoned with. And adding Coach Ludwig to the mix only makes Mendes that much more dangerous.

“The Carney” is certainly a solid fighter and well-rounded, but overall there is nothing that he does better than the Team Alpha Male Fighter. Another fight stopped due to the hands of “Money” will surely earn him another crack at the title.

BW: Urijah Faber (29-6) vs. Michael McDonald (16-2)

McKenna: Despite nobody from the company coming out and actually acknowledging it, this fight between Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald is to see who will go on to fight the winner of Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao. Just look at the rankings in the bantamweight division—nobody is even close to being as highly ranked as Faber and McDonald.

A young superstar, McDonald has impressed everyone as he has quickly risen to the top of the division. He really opened eyes when he knocked out Miguel Torres at UFC 145. That victory made him a perfect 4-0 in the division, which was good enough to earn him a title shot against Renan Barao. Even though he lost that fight, McDonald bounced back nicely with his dominant victory of Brad Pickett, showing the world that he belongs in there with the best of them. But the scariest part about McDonald has to be his age. At 22, he is one of the new generation of fighters who has trained everywhere from the beginning, rather than overly specializing in one trade. This is evidenced by his ability to end the fight from anywhere (14 of his 16 victories are stoppages).

But, on the other hand, there is “The California Kid.” Faber has been a top-five featherweight and bantamweight fighter for what seems like forever. Lately, he has been on a serious roll too, having ripped off three straight victories against Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen and Iuri Alcantara. With the recent addition of Duane Ludwig as the head trainer of the Alpha Male team, Faber’s already strong striking will be as crisp as ever. In fact, the Team Alpha Male fighter has gone 18-0 in non-title fights throughout his career. Wouldn’t you know? This happens to be another non-title fight.

I’m not sure I see this fight ending with a stoppage. Both fighters are so skilled and lack a lot of holes in their games, which leads me to believe that this bout will go the entire 15 minutes. But when it is all said and done, the dominant wrestling game possessed by Faber will be good enough to propel him to the victory. The next question is, who will he be rematching for the then unified bantamweight championship?

Symes: Brian makes a number of excellent points. McDonald is a scary fighter for anyone to match up against given his ability to end a fight at a moment’s notice. The crazy thing, as Brian also mentioned, is that “Mayday” is just 22 years old. Like fellow young uber-prospect Rory MacDonald, he’s still got room to improve as a fighter.

With that said, this is Faber’s fight to lose. McDonald might have the edge when it comes to power, but he hasn’t been knocked out since his whiff against Mike Brown at WEC 36. Faber is the faster fighter, better grappler, and has the better gas tank. McDonald may prove me wrong on some of those points, but Faber’s sample size is far greater than that of “Mayday.”

Faber seemingly wins every time a belt isn’t on the line, and that trend will continue. Faber is 34 years old, and although that’s normally a time when fighters begin to show their decline in skills, we’ve yet to see that from Faber. “The California Kid” works his way to yet another title shot with a submission victory.

Chase: This fight could easily go either way, and both men have the ability to finish it standing or on the ground.

Faber has refocused himself again and is starting to fight better than he did when he first came into the UFC. He had a back-and-forth start, but he has his training camp right and is set up to have continued success here in the near future. McDonald will be a true test of the new success trip Faber has been on.

Like Brian, I don’t necessarily see this fight ending in a finish this time around, but if I had to predict one, I’ll have to say Faber if it goes to the mat and McDonald if it stays standing. This one will not end quickly by any means, but both men are scrappy and have a killer instinct that will surely lead to a good show.

Both men have the tools to make big statements in their division, but Faber will be the one to emerge victorious, either by a tough decision or a submission victory.

FlyW Championship: Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1) vs. Joseph Benavidez (19-3)

Chase: What can be said about this fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, other than to expect to see two scrappy flyweights go out and give it their all? It’s always a pleasure to see guys like “Mighty Mouse” go out and fight. They are exciting fighters that never seem to stop moving. They keep the action alive and always deliver.

Benavidez is coming into this fight in the hopes of getting back the loss he suffered to Johnson at UFC 152, where he just fell short of being the first flyweight champion of the UFC. He will now get his second chance to show what he is made of.

Johnson has now defended his title a couple of times, but this will be his toughest title defense yet. As seen in their first match-up, both men are great technical strikers, but the edge in power has to go to Benavidez. Johnson may have some speed on Benavidez, but it will be a matter of who has learned the most and improved the most over the past year.

This fight will go the same way as before, with Johnson keeping the title. However, it will not be an easy victory. Another grueling decision win is on the horizon here, and it will be a hard one to call.

Symes: Another flyweight title defense on Fox TV? Is the UFC really that afraid to put “Mighty Mouse” on a pay-per-view card?

Anywho, this fight is labeled as a rematch, but I don’t label it as such. Benavidez is an entirely different fighter since Duane Ludwig’s arrival, and I don’t believe Johnson will be able to control the action as easily as he did in their first match-up. Benavidez has obviously added some dangerous striking to his arsenal, evident by his two TKO victories over guys that were brought in to challenge for the flyweight crown.

At the same time, Johnson has faced a number of tests since winning the title as well. He struggled through some adversity during his bout with John Dodson, but found a way to win. “Mighty Mouse” even managed to get his first finish in the Octagon.

Hopefully the rematch is better than their first encounter, which left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths. Regardless of how much Benavidez has improved since then, I’m still going to side with the champion until somebody proves me wrong. And then there’s that whole Team Alpha Male struggling to win in title match-ups thing, too.

McKenna: Anyone who claims that flyweights don’t belong in the UFC have clearly never seen either Johnson or Benavidez fight, let alone fight each other. Their first fight was an instant classic on multiple levels, but mostly because the inaugural 125-pound championship was determined by a split decision.

Although I agree with Kyle’s assessment of the title struggles that exist for the Alpha Male crew, their recent rejuvenation in the striking department really has them knocking at the door for big things. The flyweight title on the mantle of the gym could very well be the first of many, thanks to Coach Ludwig.

But, with that being said, I truly feel as though “Mighty Mouse” may be as close to the perfect flyweight as there is out there. The man was a machine at bantamweight, a weight class in which he was extremely undersized. Ever since the 125-pound weight class was created, it was easy and clear to see how Johnson would be dominant in the early stages.

“Mighty Mouse” holds the psychological edge in this one after he defeated Benavidez the first time around. However, something tells me that it won’t affect the Alpha Male fighter here. Benavidez takes home another close decision, which then sets up the inevitable trilogy bout between the two top 125-pound fighters in the world.

Preliminary Card
FlyW: Alp Ozkilic (8-1) vs. Darren Uyenoyama (8-4)

Symes: Darren Uyenoyama will no doubt be looking for a win after getting finished by Joseph Benavidez in his last outing. He welcomes Alp Ozkilic to the Octagon after Ozkilic stepped in as an injury replacement. Although I’m always hesitant to pick fighters making their UFC debuts, I’ll take Ozkilic for the upset based on the fact that he’s a member of the national Greco-Roman wrestling team.
McKenna: This fight may be the hardest one on the docket to pick. You have a relatively unknown fighter coming in to make his promotional debut, taking on a fighter who is an average promotional veteran. It all comes down to how the newbie handles the bright lights. I have a feeling he’ll be starstruck, as Uyenoyama takes home the bacon.

Chase: Tough fight to call, indeed. Hard to go off experience, but I think I have to go with Uyenoyama for this one. His strong submission game will help him bounce back from his recent loss. Uyenoyama by second-round submission.

LW: Cody McKenzie (14-3) vs. Sam Stout (19-9-1)

McKenna: Here we have a fight between Sam Stout, a fighter who likes to stand and slug it out, and Cody McKenzie, a fighter who likes to bring it to the ground. Nicknamed “Hands of Stone,” the Canadian Stout has won nine of his fights by knockout. McKenzie has slapped on his famous “McKenzietine” guillotine choke 12 times for the finish in his career. The winner of this fight will be the one who dictates where it takes place. Look for Stout to keep the fight standing and knock out McKenzie.

Chase: Stylistically, this could be a good fight. It’s always interesting to see a stand-up guy versus a submission fighter. It really comes down to if McKenzie can avoid the punch, and if Stout can keep his neck safe. McKenzie will not try to trade punches with Stout, but he may have to in order to help close the gap. Stout will want to keep the distance and pepper McKenzie from afar and then come in for the kill when there is an opening. Stout takes this one by TKO.

Symes: It’s crazy to think that Stout made his UFC debut all the way back at UFC 58. He’s always struggled to remain relevant in the lightweight division, but has shown the ability to be involved in an entertaining fight, something the UFC surely loves. I’m not sold on McKenzie as an UFC-level fighter, so I’ll take Stout to win by decision.

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

Symes: Tough to pick either of these guys coming into this rematch. Roger Bowling is clinging to his career as an UFC fighter, and Abel Trujillo had some holes exposed in his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. I’ll pick Trujillo. He’s the better fighter right now, and it seems like the Blackzilians finally have all the pieces in place inside the gym.

Chase: It’s true that both men are in need of a big win here. Bowling has the better hands, but Trujillo is better on the ground. Trujillo will take the win, but he will have to do it on the ground. I will predict a second-round submission from Trujillo.

McKenna: Make it a sweep. Trujillo is just a better fighter than Bowling. To be perfectly honest, I was surprised when Bowling was brought into the UFC when the Strikeforce fighters were absorbed into the promotion. Yeah, he has a lot of knockouts, but he doesn’t have very many quality wins. “Killa” gets back on track with the victory.

FlyW: Scott Jorgensen (14-7) vs. Zach Makovsky (16-4)

Chase: Scott Jorgensen has fought better caliber fighters than Zach Makovsky, and he is the better fighter all around. He will be welcoming Makovsky into the UFC, and also leaving him very disappointed. His striking will get the better of Makovsky very quickly, and the UFC debut jitters may end up playing a big role in this fight. Jorgensen by TKO in the first round.

McKenna: Although Greg makes a lot of valid points, this fight has all of the makings of a “trap game,” or trap fight in this case. Yes, Jorgensen has been fighting better opponents at a higher level than “Fun Size,” but Makovsky, as a former Bellator champion, has a lot of experience in the fight game. Jorgensen hasn’t been the same since the five-fight stretch he had in 2009 and 2010, and he is going to cut to flyweight for the first time in his career. This fight has upset written all over it. Makovsky by second-round submission.

Symes: I like Brian’s thoughts about this being a “trap game/fight” for Jorgensen. It’s not often that you have a former Bellator champion as a last-minute fill-in. I expect Jorgensen to look to play it safe with a grappling-first mindset due to the number of opponent changes he’s endured. Makovsky could surprise a lot of people, given that he isn’t well known. But in the end, I believe Jorgensen will be too much for the former Bellator champ.

LW: Bobby Green (21-5) vs. Pat Healy (29-17)

McKenna: Bobby Green is the best lightweight that nobody is talking about. With 21 victories, eight knockouts and nine submissions, the kid can do it all. He has slowly earned his way into a higher-profile fight against Pat Healy. “Bam Bam” would be 1-1 in the UFC if his victory wasn’t taken away from him after testing positive for marijuana, but that doesn’t take away from his abilities. This should be a good test for Green, considering it is a big step up in competition. However, look for Healy to bounce back from his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov and submit Green.

Symes: Green will likely always receive praise from fans for sending Jacob Volkmann out of the UFC, but he’s reaching too far in facing a guy like Healy. I applaud him for stepping in on short notice, but Healy is a whole different animal than guys like James Krause and Volkmann. Healy by submission.

Chase: I agree with Kyle. Green has some hype around him that he may not live up to this time around. Healy is a huge test, and the caliber of fighting he brings into this match will make it tough for Green to continue his winning streak. I am more impressed with the performances of Healy in Strikeforce than those of Green, and I think that trend will carry over into this fight. This will be a wake-up call to Green, and Healy will get back on track with a great finish. Healy by submission.

LW: Edson Barboza (12-1) vs. Danny Castillo (16-5)

Symes: At first glance, this appears to be a mismatch, given that Edson Barboza is so highly regarded in the MMA scene. He’s definitely an intriguing prospect, but I want to see him deal with the pressure and pace of a wrestler coming at him, something Jamie Varner had success with at UFC 146. Look for Danny Castillo to utilize his wrestling en route to disappointing MMA fans across the internet as their blue-chip prospect loses another bout.
McKenna: Don’t sleep on Castillo. Sure, he isn’t quite the young prospect that Barboza is, but “Last Call” is aging like a fine wine—he’s only getting better. All of the Team Alpha Male guys are high-caliber athletes, but to sound like a broken record, he is being pushed to an even higher level by coach Duane Ludwig. Barboza will get knocked out in the second.

Chase: Castillo needs to watch out for those legs! He does have some good experience, but Barboza has that fire in him right now to make a strong statement with each of his fights. I have to agree that the wrestling of Castillo may pose a challenge, but I have to go the other direction from my fellow panelists here and say that Barboza will put on another strong performance and come out with the win, but not without his share of adversity in this match.

WW: Ryan LaFlare (9-0) vs. Court McGee (16-3)

McKenna: Let’s be honest, Court McGee isn’t exactly among the elite of the UFC ranks. The former Ultimate Fighter winner has held his own and has appeared to turn things around since he has dropped from middleweight to welterweight. This fight being his third welterweight bout, he will definitely hit his stride at 170 pounds, as he puts another one in the win column, defeating the less-experienced Ryan LaFlare.

Chase: This is a one-sided beating in my eyes, with McGee putting an end to LaFlare’s winning streak. He is the better fighter all around, especially on the ground. He is refocused, and he will make a big statement in this fight. Expect a good fight from McGee, who will win by TKO.

Symes: Will McGee ever contend for an UFC title? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make a lot of money by putting on exciting fights and becoming a tough gatekeeper for prospects and dwindling fighters. He’s the MMA version of a power-run team—his fights aren’t going to be pretty or a display of technical brilliance, but the guy will grind away at his opponents and look to break them. LaFlare is an interesting prospect. Even though he’s 30 years old, he’s only had nine total fights. However, McGee will take this by split decision as LaFlare’s takedowns make for some interesting judging.

Photo: Demetrious Johnson (R) connects with a right hand (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.