UFC 136 will mark the third meeting between current UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and the undefeated Gray Maynard. Both men must be hoping the third time really is the charm.

For Maynard, a 2008 win over Edgar is all he really has to show for his efforts in the trilogy.

Meanwhile, Edgar has even less to show for his efforts against “The Bully.” After the 2008 loss, Edgar put together a three-fight winning streak that landed him inside the Octagon with B.J. Penn. A victory over Penn, and an even more clear-cut ‘W’ in the subsequent rematch, gave Edgar the title and put him in the bull’s-eye of Maynard, who had put together a solid argument of his own for a title shot in the time since that 2008 clash. When the two finally stepped into the Octagon on New Year’s Day 2011 to face off for a second time, Maynard gave Edgar an initial scare, but the champ eventually turned the tide and the bout ended in a draw, a disappointing outcome for both men.

Now, Edgar would like to continue the momentum he gained in the latter portion of their second outing and hand Maynard the first loss of his career when the two touch gloves for part three of their trilogy on Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston. “The Bully” has a different outcome in mind, though, as he seeks to pry the UFC lightweight championship from Edgar’s hands.

The title tilt is but one of the intriguing match-ups on a stacked pay-per-view card set for 9 p.m. ET on Saturday. In fact, it’s not even the only championship affair of the evening.

Before Edgar and Maynard have a chance to settle their score, former lightweight contender Kenny Florian makes a run at a title in his new weight class of 145 pounds. “KenFlo” will challenge the UFC’s featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. Florian always fell short in big fights in the lightweight division, but can he buck that trend as he competes in the fourth different weight class of his UFC career? And can he accomplish such a feat against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world?

Chael Sonnen’s legal issues and a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs have kept him out of action since his stunning performance and disappointing loss to Anderson Silva in their middleweight championship battle. Sonnen will jump right back into the deep end of the 185-pound pool at UFC 136 when he faces fellow contender Brian Stann. The winner of this showdown can most likely expect to be across the cage from Silva in the near future.

Rounding out the main card action at UFC 136, Melvin Guillard will look to further his ambitions as a lightweight contender when he squares off with Joe Lauzon and Nam Phan will get the opportunity to avenge an extremely controversial decision loss he suffered against Leonard Garcia as the two rematch in the opening bout of the pay-per-view.

The MMA Corner’s fine set of prognosticators – Brian McKenna, Sean Smith and Rob Tatum – share their opinions on the outcomes of all five main card bouts in this edition of the Round Table.

FW: Leonard Garcia (15-7-1) vs. Nam Phan (16-9)

Tatum: This rematch is certainly justified.  Garcia claimed victory when the pair met in December of 2010 in what can only be described as a “gift decision.”  Phan was the better fighter on that night, landing more strikes and avoiding nearly all of Garcia’s wild flurries.  Unfortunately for the veteran of The Ultimate Fighter, the judges rewarded Garcia for his aggressiveness, not his effectiveness.

Nam Phan (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Almost a year later, both fighters are coming off losses.  Phan dropped a decision to former featherweight champ Mike Brown at UFC 133 in August.  Phan survived a first-round onslaught and fought his way back to make the fight competitive.  Garcia, meanwhile, was the victim of the first twister submission in UFC history, as he was finished by Chan Sung Jung in March.

It is hard to envision this fight going much differently than the first.  Both fighters like to stand and trade.  Phan is the better, more technical striker and that should shine through yet again.  Garcia’s propensity for “lucky” decisions is one of the more frustrating things in the sport.  His narrow wins over both Phan and Jung in the past are the only things that have prevented him from being released from the promotion.  In reality, the Jackson-trained fighter should be just 1-6-1 in his last eight fights.  Unless Garcia has reinvented himself over the last six months, he should come out on the wrong end of a rightful decision against Phan, likely spelling the end of his UFC run.

Smith: Judging by their last fight, it does seem that Garcia would need to make some major adjustments for things to go any differently inside the cage. However, the fact of the matter is that Garcia’s attacking style is what allows him to remain competitive in the UFC. It may not be the most effective way of fighting, but Garcia’s aggression has proved to sway the minds of the judges on multiple occasions.

That being said, the first meeting between these two fighters will undoubtedly be in the back of the minds of the officials overseeing this fight. Whether that element of human bias is fair or not, Garcia is going to have to prove that he is the better fighter than Phan.

Leonard Garcia (Tracy Lin/Combat Lifestyle)

It’s unlikely that either of these fighters has made significant improvements since their last meeting, so this match-up should look much like it did in December 2010. The only difference will be the judges getting the call right in the rematch.

Phan uses the same game plan he did in his first fight with Garcia to take the edge on the scorecards.

McKenna: Sean said something that really stood out to me: “Garcia is going to have to prove that he is the better fighter than Phan.”  Well, honestly, I think that Garcia is indeed a better fighter than Phan, but he didn’t show it in their fight.

It is no secret that Phan was absolutely robbed in that fight.  While being a judge must be extremely difficult, the fact that they likely did judge on the aggressiveness and not the effectiveness that Rob talked about was just wrong.

Ultimately, I don’t really think that either of these fighters are very good, but they will put on another entertaining fight, which is good for the fans.  What I do think that we will see is a lot of the same from the first fight, but this time Garcia landing more strikes and pacing himself just a little bit more than he has in the past.  Because of it, “Bad Boy” will earn the victory in this fight, rather than being handed it like he was the first time.

LW: Melvin Guillard (29-8-2) vs. Joe Lauzon (20-6)

Smith: Although this fight doesn’t make much sense from a rankings perspective, Joe Lauzon does have the ability to pull off an upset if he can coax Guillard into a grappling match. All but one of Guillard’s eight career losses have come by submission, which means Lauzon’s crafty ground game could give “The Young Assassin” problems.

Melvin Guillard (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Unfortunately for Lauzon, Guillard now trains with one of the masterminds of the sport, so it is unlikely Greg Jackson will advise Guillard to take take this fight to the ground. The better wrestler and more athletic fighter, Guillard will likely force Lauzon into a stand-up fight he would be incapable of winning.

If this fight does stay standing, Guillard’s speed and power will overwhelm Lauzon. Lauzon usually comes out strong before fading in the second round, so he might be able to survive the first stanza, but Guillard will finish the fight before it reaches the final bell.

Guillard takes one step closer toward earning a lightweight title shot by taking Lauzon out with punches in the second round.

McKenna: If this fight took place a year ago, I’d pick Guillard every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  However this fight is taking place this Saturday, which will benefit Lauzon.  To call the 27-year-old a submission specialist would be a bit of a stretch, but the jiu-jitsu purple belt has impressively submitted most of his opponents and looked good while doing it.  Everyone remembers the great kimura submission that he slapped on Curt Warburton in his last fight, which was a piece of that pie.  But that particular submission was set up by the ever-improving striking that Lauzon has been displaying.

That striking is not on the level of Guillard.  “The Young Assassin” has gotten to where he is today from that striking, including the five-fight winning streak he is currently riding.  But like Sean mentioned, the biggest thing that scares me with Guillard is his submission defense.  All of the striking ability in the world is great, but if you can’t grapple then this isn’t the sport for you.

I am going to take Lauzon in the upset here.  I think his improved striking and his submisison ability will be the biggest factor in this fight.  “J-Lau” needs this win for his career more than Guillard needs it and “The Young Assassin” will be looking past this fight when he should have spent more time focusing on it.  Lauzon earns the second-round submission.

Joe Lauzon (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Tatum: Clearly, Brian has spent too much time watching something else on Sundays, because Lauzon is in for a world of hurt in this fight.  Matchmaker Joe Silva should rarely be questioned, but when these two lightweights began to talk about this fight, he should have told them both no.

Guillard is on a tear, to say the least.  The powerful striker has reeled off five straight wins and has come out on top in eight of his last nine fights.  This is his fight to lose, without question.

To say that Lauzon’s striking is not on Guillard’s level is like comparing a Honda to a Cadillac.  One gets you from point A to point B and occasionally makes a pass while going uphill, but the other sets the standard for luxury and performance.  Lauzon’s “Honda” hasn’t made a pass in nearly three years.  He’s been overwhelmed by better strikers in Kenny Florian and Sam Stout, neither of which have Guillard’s explosiveness and athleticism.  His only hope is to coax the Jackson’s MMA fighter to the ground in the way that Nate Diaz did to lock in a submission.

If this goes past the first round, it would be shocking.  Guillard wins easily by knockout in the first, likely taking home KO of the Night honors in the process.

MW: Chael Sonnen (25-11-1) vs. Brian Stann (11-3)

McKenna: UFC 136 will host the long-awaited return of Chael Sonnen to the Octagon.  Love him or hate him, Sonnen was able to dominate and control Anderson Silva in his last fight.  Sure, “The Sypder” was able to apply a triangle choke to the Team Quest fighter and successfully defend his title, but Sonnen showcased his superior wrestling ability in that fight.  From there, things got worse as he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and then proceeded to be caught knee-deep in a money laundering scheme.  To say it has been a rough return to the UFC would be an understatement, but the former No. 1 contender is looking to return with a bang and get another shot at the title he feels belongs to him.

Sonnen (r) battles Anderson Silva (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

While some of the biggest trash talk in the history of sport has come from Sonnen, his opponent Brian Stann will hardly ever utter such words.  The humbleness that Stann has comes from his time serving our nation as a member of the United States Marine Corps.  Stann has been in the thick of it while being stationed in Iraq, having been awarded the Silver Star for his efforts in protecting his men during an operation.  When he returned stateside, he started fighting MMA and eventually accumulated a 6-0 record and the WEC 205-pound championship.  Things got a little rocky from there for “The All-American,” but since he dropped to middleweight he has not been defeated.  Part of it has to do with the fact that he is now in a more suitable weight class, but another part of it has to do with the fact that he is now training full-time because he is not on active duty.

This fight could headline a pay-per-view of its own, which shows you just how fantastic this card should be.  However, I believe in ring rust and while Sonnen lost to Silva last August, Stann has won three fights since last August.  The desire and determination that Stann holds in his mind will be the reason that Stann will win this fight by decision.

Tatum: While I’m inclined to agree with Brian’s comments about ring rust, I’m not sold on Stann’s ability to keep this fight standing.  Undoubtedly, the former Marine is the better, more powerful striker, but he will be completely out of his league in the wrestling department.

Sonnen’s antics, trash talk, steroid controversy, money laundering… the list goes on and on… are something I find deplorable.  However, the bottom line is that he comes to fight.  Once in the Octagon, he manages to find ways to win again and again.  Victories over Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt were unexpected to the say the least and he definitely gave Silva the biggest challenge since the Brazilian entered the UFC.  Sonnen’s biggest weakness has always been his submission defense (eight of his 11 losses have come by tapout), but I don’t expect Stann to exploit it.

For Stann, this fight will be all about finding his timing and preventing Sonnen from taking the fight the mat.  Even with his full-time commitment to training with Jackson’s MMA, I don’t believe Stann has the tools to do such a thing.  He’ll get his licks in during the course of the fight, but Sonnen’s top control with prevent him from finding a knockout blow.

Brian Stann (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Sonnen’s return won’t be pretty, but his grinding style will be too much for Stann.  Sonnen takes the decision win and hands Stann his first defeat at middleweight.

Smith: Chael Sonnen is a man on a mission. He might redirect his anger by calling himself “The People’s Champion,” but the Team Quest product has his eyes set on one thing: A rematch with Silva. Stann just happens to be the only thing standing between Sonnen and another shot at the pound-for-pound king.

While Stann might have more power in his hands, it is going to be tough for him to keep this fight standing. Sonnen should be able to take the fight to the ground early and often. From there, the fight will be determined by which fighter has been working harder on their jiu-jitsu.

Triangle chokes have led to Sonnen’s last five losses, so Greg Jackson has surely been having Stann work off of his back a lot in training. While it’s not impossible for Stann to shock everyone with the second submission of his MMA career, his ground game isn’t quite on the same level as those who have submitted Sonnen in the past.

Sonnen should be able to grind out a decision in this fight, which will put him in position to fight for the middleweight title once again.

FW Championship: Jose Aldo (19-1) vs. Kenny Florian (14-5)

Smith: Competing in his third UFC title fight, Kenny Florian is out to prove that he can perform in big fights. In his prior attempts to capture a belt, Florian was defeated by B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk. Florian recently had a chance to earn a third lightweight title shot, but he also fell short to Gray Maynard in that opportunity.

Now at featherweight, Florian will test his luck against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. The 145-pound UFC champion, Jose Aldo, has won 12 straight fights and is looking to cement himself as the best featherweight ever.

Aldo is coming off of a less-than-spectacular win over Mark Hominick, but he was held back by illness in that performance at UFC 129. While Florian is tough competition for any fighter, a healthy Aldo is as close to unbeatable as it gets in the featherweight division.

When standing, there might not be a 145-pound fighter capable of defeating the Brazilian. That should prove true in this match-up, as Aldo will keep the fight standing and pick Florian apart throughout the fight. Florian will hold his own and take the fight to the scorecards, but the decision will be a lopsided one in favor of Aldo.

Tatum: This is the type of fight that will epitomize the career of Kenny Florian.  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  Every time Florian gets close to UFC gold, he fails miserably.  Some have said it is due to the immense pressure, but I tend to believe that Florian may not be a championship caliber fighter.

As Sean alluded to, standing with Aldo is a recipe for disaster.  Ask Canadian striking specialist Mark Hominick or wrestler Urijah Faber what it’s like to stand with the Brazilian for five full rounds.  Hominick came out his contest sporting a hematoma that could have been mistaken for a second head, while Faber sacrificed his ability to walk for over a week due to leg kicks.

Florian will have one thing going for him: Size.  The former Ultimate Fighter competitor is fighting in his fourth weight class in the promotion, and in this title affair, Florian won’t be facing the wrestling onslaught that has proved to be his kryptonite in the past against the likes of Sherk and Maynard.  However, Florian will be at a massive speed disadvantage against Aldo.

If there’s one piece of evidence that really alarms me for Florian heading into this contest, it is his featherweight debut against Aldo’s teammate Diego Nunes.  Unlike Aldo, Nunes is smaller, slower and not noted for his striking prowess.  However, Nunes connected with Florian’s chin repeatedly in the fight, even dropping Florian as the fight came to a close.

I’ll agree with Sean on the victor, but I believe Aldo wins his thirteenth straight by TKO in the fourth round to retain his belt.

McKenna: A lot of people complained that Florian got a title shot after such a short period of time in the featherweight division.  Considering that the UFC is in the business of making money, it is not surprising that they would award the shot to Florian, a guy who they groomed from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter.  Say what you want about Florian, that he is too old, too slow, or that he doesn’t win big fights.  What he has done throughout his career is earn stoppages and keep himself title-relevant.

On the other hand, we have a fighter that might be in the top three of the pound-for-pound rankings in Aldo.  Since breaking into the WEC, the guy has been a dominant force.  The only time he looked human was in his last fight, but later it was revealed that an illness slowed him down.  “Scarface” is just 25-years-old and is showing no signs of stopping, and he should be as good as he has been this Saturday.

With all of this being said, I am going to flip the script on this one.  I have a really good feeling that “KenFlo” will be the best we have ever seen him, and he will land a key strike which will set up a submission in the second round and we will have a new featherweight champion.

LW Championship: Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) vs. Gray Maynard (10-0-1)

Tatum: The trilogy will finally come to an end (hopefully).

Gray Maynard sports an undefeated record against the current lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, but has little to show for it.  The undefeated Maynard gave Edgar his only career loss in 2008, and in their UFC 125 title collision, Maynard and Edgar fought to a draw.  With the rule that a title can’t change hands in a draw, Edgar retained his belt, leaving Maynard empty-handed.

Frankie Edgar (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

The pair were slated to fight again in May at UFC 130, but both fighters suffered injuries in training and the fight was pushed back four full months.  Healthy and fresh, the two wrestlers will have to put on a performance for the ages if they’re to top the war they staged on New Year’s Day.

Maynard will again enter the match-up with a size and power advantage.  It was exactly this that led him to overwhelm the champion in their most recent meeting.  Edgar was dropped three times in the opening stanza, but managed to survive.  Following the first round, Maynard continued to employ crisp boxing technique, but failed to deliver the kind of big shots that were so effective in the first frame.

For Edgar, the UFC 125 bout was a testament to the champion’s heart and resolve.  Many other fighters would not have survived the first five minutes, let alone come back to even the scorecards after 25 minutes.  Edgar’s footwork and speed proved to be the difference in the later rounds, along with his superior conditioning.

It’s unlikely that we’ll witness another fight like the one at UFC 125.  I expect Edgar to be more prepared for the aggressive nature of Maynard and he’ll look to use it against the challenger.  Based on their first two fights, I can’t see either fighter finishing the other, but I expect Edgar to cruise to a lopsided decision win to put this rivalry to bed once and for all.

McKenna: To me, the story of the last fight was not that Maynard dominated the first round, but rather how Edgar bounced back

Gray Maynard (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

and controlled the rest of the fight from there.  The beating he took right off the bat was enough to turn the lights off of most fighters, but not the champion.  That heart and desire is what got Edgar to where he is, and he wasn’t going to just lay down and die when the going got tough, which was very telling in that fight.

However, with all of that being said, the only person to treat Edgar the way that that first round went was Maynard.  He slipped a shot through Edgar’s defense which set off the fireworks in that fight, and you have to figure that “The Bully” will be able to get at least one more shot through.  If he does, then he will definitely be more intelligent in trying to finish off the champion after the way he gassed himself out while trying to do so the first time.

The psychological edge that the champion holds over the challenger in knowing that while he was down and out, but able to claw back into the fight and hang on is huge.  That will be one of the reasons why, like Rob said, Edgar will go on to retain his title via the scorecards.

Smith: How would their last meeting have gone differently if Maynard had paced himself after rocking Edgar in the first round? That

Edgar (l) and Maynard (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

is the biggest question surrounding this third fight between the two elite lightweights.

It is a tough question to answer, but one would have to believe a more patient Maynard would have carried more energy into the later rounds of that fight. If Maynard had not spent a lot of energy looking for the finish, his takedown attempts may have been much more effective as the fight went along.

Unless he allows another big shot to penetrate his defense, Edgar has the striking advantage in this match-up. It will be Edgar’s ability to stuff Maynard’s takedown attempts that will decide the outcome of this fight.

While Edgar has been known to make significant improvement in every fight during his UFC career, Maynard has the advice of Randy Couture at his disposal. Expect “The Bully” to come into this fight with a much more patient approach. Using better setups for his takedowns, Maynard will walk away from another close decision with the belt around his waist.

Top Photo: Edgar (l) and Maynard (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)