As the UFC ventures across the pond to Birmingham, England, for UFC 138, the promotion is preparing to enter new territory.  With its first network-televised event only a week away, the UFC is also heading into uncharted waters with its move to five-round non-title main events beginning at UFC 138, which takes place Nov. 5 and airs tape-delayed on Spike TV beginning that evening at 8 p.m. ET.

The first fighters to enter the ring in such a contest will be Chris Leben and Mark Munoz.  The UFC 138 headliners bring very different styles to the Octagon. Leben prefers to brawl, swinging for the fences without much concern about getting knocked out in the process.  Meanwhile, Munoz is a high-level wrestler with a sometimes questionable chin, but the ability to hang in there and turn the tables with the wrestling instincts that take over when he’s in trouble.

Can Leben render Munoz unconscious?  Will Munoz’s wrestling be too much for “The Crippler” to handle?  And will we see the first-ever five-round non-championship decision in the UFC, or will these two warriors make the addition of ten extra minutes unnecessary?

The MMA Corner’s panel of Chase Buzzell, Sean Smith and contributing writer Joe Atkins, explore those questions and break down the other four main card bouts in this edition of the Round Table.

LHW: Cyrille Diabate (17-7-1) vs. Anthony Perosh (11-6)

Atkins: It’s not hard to predict what either fighter’s game plan will be going into this bout. Perosh, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, will want to take the fight to the mat and overwhelm Diabate with his high-level grappling. Diabate, on the other hand, will want to keep the fight standing and punch a hole in Perosh’s head.

Cyrille Diabate (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

In recent fights, Diabate has displayed significant improvement in his ground game and takedown defense. Perosh isn’t known for his wrestling, and I believe Diabate will be able to thwart his attempts to take the fight to the ground. Although getting on in years, Diabate’s victories over Luiz Cane and Steve Cantwell have shown he is still one of the most technical strikers at light heavyweight.

Perosh’s ground game is top-notch, but he has had difficulty getting his opponents down in the past. Against Mirko Cro Cop, Perosh’s inexperience on the feet resulted in him receiving a beating at the hands of the Croatian. I see this fight playing out in a similar fashion, with Diabate pummeling Perosh and winning via first-round KO.

Buzzell: My fellow colleague, Joe, nailed it: Each fighter will have their respective game plans going into the fight and will attempt to dictate the style of the bout. Which style prevails remains to be seen, but given the struggles, as Joe alluded to, that Perosh has had in getting his opponent to the ground will ultimately serve as a death knell to Perosh’s objective.

Anthony Perosh (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

However, I will temper Joe’s enthusiasm a bit, with respect to Diabate pummeling Perosh. Diabate is a little long in the tooth, as they say, and I believe Perosh is elusive enough to avoid a first-round loss. Eventually, Diabate will find Perosh, wear him down, make his strikes count and the referee will need to stop the fight in the second round.

Smith: If Perosh is able to take this fight to the canvas, he should be able to submit Diabate. The problem is that Diabate is the much better athlete and will be looking to do everything he can to keep this fight standing.

There aren’t too many fighters in the light heavyweight division who can handle Diabate in a pure striking matchup, and Perosh certainly isn’t one of the few who can. Expect Diabate to keep this fight standing long enough to land a knockout blow, which shouldn’t take very long.

Diabate will earn a technical knockout in the first round of this bout.

LW: Terry Etim (14-3) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-2)

Buzzell: Etim possesses some serious jui-jitsu skill, which is evident by his 11 wins by submission. Generally, a fighter with such a good ground game is efficient at taking an opponent to the mat. However, Etim does not excel at takedowns, nor does Etim have above average striking. At the proverbial end of the day, you have a fighter that is excellent at submissions but struggles getting his opponent to the ground via takedowns, or by dictating that the fight go to the ground due to superior striking.

Terry Etim (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

I do not know much about Faaloloto with respect to his fight game. What is known is Faaloloto started his career with two wins and has followed the two wins with two losses. Whether this is due to stepping up and facing superior competition, or whether he just had an off night remains to be seen. When he steps in against Etim, an off-night will most likely result in Faaloloto tapping early. On the surface, the match-up seems to be favorable for Faaloloto given that striking is not Etim’s forte and Faaloloto was completely out-matched on his feet in his last two outings. However, the alternative for Faaloloto, the ground, plays right into Etim’s strong point. Moreover, Faaloloto’s two credited wins (The UFC lists Faaloloto with five wins) are against opponents who were making their MMA debut.

I have Etim winning with an early submission.

Atkins: I think Etim is a great striker. He convincingly beat Sam Stout on the feet, and whilst most of his fights have ended via submission, they were often set up after hurting his opponent with punches or kicks.

There isn’t a lot known about Faaloloto, but his record indicates he doesn’t do well against strikers. This is a horrible match-up for him.

I feel this is a good tune-up fight for Etim, who has been out of action since UFC 112, and I predict Etim will catch Faaloloto in a submission after outclassing him on the feet.

Smith: Given the length of time Etim has been out of action, it’s hard to say how he’ll perform at UFC 138. However, Faaloloto is an excellent stylistic match-up for Etim to return with a victory.

Faaloloto has been thrown to the wolves early in his career and hasn’t been able to answer the call. Etim’s striking will likely be too much for Faaloloto to handle in this fight. Expect Etim to hand Faaloloto a third straight loss by technical knockout, which will likely result in his release from the organization.

WW: Thiago Alves (18-8) vs. Papy Abedi (8-0)

Atkins: I’m still a little bewildered by this bout. Papy Abedi is an unheralded fighter from Sweden who has been matched up with a seasoned destroyer in Thiago Alves. Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with Abedi and needed to dig up some of his fights on YouTube. I can’t say I was too impressed with his most recent bout, and I noticed he tends to put a lot of weight on his lead foot. This might not seem like a big deal, but to Alves, a leg-kick master, it spells trouble.

Thiago Alves (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Alves has slipped down the welterweight ladder after losing to Rick Story, but he’s still a dangerous fighter and an absolute killer on the feet. He has fought some of the best in the world, including champion Georges St-Pierre, and should, at least in my opinion, be able to take Abedi out with relative ease. I predict a TKO in the second round.

Smith: Abedi has gotten his career off to an excellent start by going undefeated in his first eight fights. However, it would be a shot in the dark to take Abedi in a fight with a former No. 1 welterweight contender in Alves.

Abedi hasn’t fought an opponent anywhere near Alves’ skill level. While Alves’ career has gone through some bumps as of late, he is still an elite striker in the division and a ridiculously tough opponent for a fighter to meet in their UFC debut.

Abedi likes to stand, which plays right into Alves’ hands. Expect Alves to get his career back on track with a knockout win early on in this match-up.

Buzzell: Similar to my colleague, Joe, when I first heard of this fight I was surprised to say the least. However, after further research I can see this shaping up to be a very good fight. Alves unquestionably has awesome stand-up and has displayed knockout power and efficient striking throughout his career. Although relatively little is known about Abedi, just by pure looks he is seemingly a formidable opponent; in short, he looks the part. Abedi is chiseled, well-conditioned and explosive. This match-up seems to pit two fighters with similar strengths against one another.

Papy Abedi (Ryan O'Leary/Sherdog)

Any time a fighter wants to stand and bang, the fighter is going to at some point need to stand in front of his opponent. When this occurs, it makes the fighter susceptible to leg kicks. As Joe alluded to, Alves has some of the best leg kicks in the game. I differ from Joe’s take on Abedi and I do not believe that the UFC newcomer is overly heavy on his front leg. Rather, Abedi has shown good footwork, speed and agility. This is not to say that Abedi isn’t going to eat some leg kicks, but I do believe he will do a sufficient job at avoiding Alves’ punishment to a degree.

I think this fight is going to be a war, so long as one fighter catches the other early when the punches are still crisp and powerful. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the new blood in the UFC will pull off the upset. Abedi, by decision.

BW: Brad Pickett (20-5) vs. Renan Barao (26-1)

Buzzell: Pickett is making his long-awaited UFC debut after being forced off a previous UFC card due to an injury. He is a well-rounded fighter that has evenly dispersed his success across all facets of the MMA game with a substantial amount of wins by knockout, submission and decision. Also, Pickett has quality wins against the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Ivan Menjivar. However, nothing in Pickett’s career or in his skill-set stands out that would cause an observer or an opponent to be thoroughly fearful. Pickett is the ultimate blue-collar fighter that goes into the ring, puts on a good fight and more often than not walks away with a win. The key to Pickett’s success is timing. Throughout his career, Pickett has shown a knack for well-timed strikes and takedowns.

Barao’s record is scary. After losing his first fight, he has walked through 26 Brazilians, mostly by submission, no easy task when fighting any Brazilian. When looking at the numbers beyond the wins and losses, it becomes even more scary. Barao has insanely good takedown defense, thus when it goes to the ground it is on his terms, evidenced by his takedown success throughout his career. Although Barao does not have a landmark win against a household MMA name, he has defeated quality opponents on his way to an impressive record.

Pickett is a really good fighter with a lot of experience, but Barao’s rise seems to be meteoric and Pickett may be in the way. I have it as a close fight, but Barao will prove to be too much for Pickett. Barao by decision.

Smith: With his incredible winning streak, Barao is a serious threat to contend for the bantamweight title in the near future. If he can do what Demetrious Johnson and Scott Jorgensen were unable to do by stopping Pickett, he will be well on his way to a title shot.

Barao is incredibly dangerous on the ground and Pickett has been submitted multiple times in his career. It won’t be easy to put Pickett on his back, but Barao is more than capable of finishing his opponent with a submission if he can do just that.

With 15 minutes to work, my guess is that Barao will have his chance to submit Pickett at some point in this fight. He will make the most of that opportunity by submitting Pickett in the final round.

Atkins: Barao is riding an insane winning streak, but a lot of the fighters he has beaten don’t even have Wikipedia pages. He has shown his jiu-jitsu is first class, as one would expect from any mixed martial artist fighting out of Nova Uniao, and his stablemates include Marlon Sandro and UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo.

Pickett, on the other hand, has proven he can hang with the best of them, and like Chase pointed out, he has good wins over Johnson and Menjivar. He also fights out of a great camp, American Top Team, so it’s safe to say he is well-versed in all aspects of the game.

Pickett has fought better competition, but Barao has looked unstoppable lately. Both men like to mix striking with takedowns, so I expect it to be an evenly contested fight, but in the end I think Pickett will come away with a unanimous decision victory.

MW: Chris Leben (22-7) vs. Mark Munoz (11-2)

Smith: For as long as he’s been with the UFC, Chris Leben hasn’t been matched up against many wrestlers. When he has, Leben has found mixed success. Leben scored a knockout victory over Aaron Simpson, but he was submitted by Jake Rosholt two fights prior.

Chris Leben (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

A former NCAA champion, Mark Munoz’s amateur wrestling credentials are much more comparable to Rosholt’s than Simpson’s. Leben will want to keep this fight standing, but that will be extremely difficult to do against Munoz.

Munoz has devastating ground-and-pound, but Leben has a granite chin, so Munoz might have to secure the first real submission of his career in order to put Leben away. I don’t see a fight between these two power punchers lasting 25 minutes, so I’ll put my money on Munoz locking up a rear-naked choke in the second round.

Atkins: I’m still not sold on Munoz. His wrestling, whilst looking great on paper, hasn’t translated well to MMA, and unfortunately for him that’s his main weapon. Munoz’s striking is still rudimentary, and I’m not sure how well he can take a punch after seeing Demian Maia wobble him.

Leben only needs to replicate his performance against Simpson to win this fight. Simpson struggled to secure a takedown in their bout, and Leben, in typical fashion, drew the NCAA Division I wrestler into a brawl.

If Munoz gets this fight to the mat, look for him to unleash his ferocious ground-and-pound. But I think if Leben comes into this bout well-prepared, he will be able to fend off Munoz’s takedowns and find a home for his left hand.

Leben wins via KO.

Buzzell: Some MMA fans may not like Leben, but no one can deny that his fights are extremely exciting (or perhaps scary when considering the punishment Leben and his opponent usually take). Moreover, I think it is no coincidence that the UFC has slated this fight to be the first five-round non-title match in UFC history. The UFC is looking to put on a show and Leben is the right man to provide such. Moreover, Munoz is an equally exciting up-and-comer that has amassed some impressive wins in his short MMA career.

In addition to his MMA success, Munoz is an excellent wrestler. Thus, he can stand and get it done on his feet, or take it to the mat, control his opponent and possibly pound him out. Because of this multi-dimensional game, I believe Munoz has an advantage in this fight over the “Crippler.” This is not to slight Leben in any manner, he has continually stood toe-to-toe with the best of them and knocked them out or at the very least made it to the final bell all the while doling out severe punishment.

All in all, I do not think Leben is easy to finish and this will be the greatest obstacle for Munoz to overcome, the fact that Leben will not go away and remain a threat throughout the fight, even if he is down on the cards. But in the end, the fact that Munoz can take it to the ground and still be effective causes me to believe that Munoz will win the fight via decision.

Top Photo: Chris Leben (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)