The UFC is back in full swing this Saturday at the IZOD Center in New Jersey with their third foray on primetime Fox. The last time fans got the pleasure of watching the UFC’s budding relationship with Fox unfold was in February in Chicago (my stomping grounds), an event billed with a “triple-headliner,” including a main event between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis. Everything looked pretty exciting on paper until all three hyped main fights concluded in lackluster decisions.

Needless to say, a good portion of those 4.7 million viewers were less than thrilled by the lack of intense action most UFC events provide. Well, this follow-up card should not disappoint in the same way—starting with the loaded preliminary fights.

Over the past few years, the UFC’s flagship television show, The Ultimate Fighter, has really been a great platform for funneling in top talent to all the divisions. The proof is in this pudding; just look at how many TUF guys are going to war here. This prelim card should be billed as an Ultimate Reunion show.

First, there are two season winners in Tony Ferguson and John Dodson, two season runner-ups in Dennis Bermudez and Michael Johnson, and a supporting cast that includes Louis Gaudinot, Pablo Garza and Roland Delorme. And that’s just the undercard. Rounding out the top billing spot is headliner Nate Diaz, a season winner, along with co-headliner and original TUF alum Josh Koscheck.

Consequently, this might be a good time to bust your cable provider’s chops about getting Fuel TV. The top four TUF guys previously mentioned will be the ones to definitely pay attention to leading up to the main card. In fact, it’ll be hard to miss Ferguson and Johnson since they are pitted against each other in what could be Fight of the Night. Also, Bermudez gets a stiff test in long submission specialist Pablo Garza.

Mind you, they are certainly not the only reasons to watch. We’ve got headhunters Nick Denis and newcomer John Lineker looking for knockouts in their respective matches. British welterweight prospect John Hathaway and returning Pascal Krauss will be locking horns in what could be an exciting contest of future contenders. So there’s plenty of reasons to blow off your homework and girlfriends this Saturday night. Plus, who’s doing homework on a weekend night?

The prelims start at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on Facebook followed at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on Fuel TV and the main card starts at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Fox.

Now enjoy a more in-depth round table breakdown of why you should be glued to the tube Saturday night. Myself and my colleagues, Brian McKenna and Sal DeRose, caught up with each other at a local watering hole in cyberspace to discuss our thoughts on the impending action. This is what came of it.

MW: Mike Massenzio (13-6) vs. Karlos Vemola (8-2)

DeRose: Mike Massenzio is 2-4 in his UFC career and 3-4 in his last seven fights. It’s not like Massenzio hasn’t fought top competition in those fights though. Brian Stann, Rousimar Palhares and Kryzysztof “My Name is Perfect for Scrabble” Soszynski have been some of his opponents.

Karlos Vemola (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Coming into this fight though, it is most likely a must-win fight for Massenzio to stay in the UFC after getting submitted by Palhares in Brazil earlier this year.

Massenzio has a good ground game, having top wrestling skills mixed with black belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s his stand-up that needs improvement to compete with these top-tier guys.

Karlos Vemola hasn’t fought since his August 2011 loss to Ronny Markes, and since then has dropped down to middleweight.

The former six-time Czech Republic freestyle wrestling champion possesses good strength and a good, aggressive striking style that could be the demise of Massenzio.

In the end, I think the mesh of Massenzio’s wrestling and Vemola’s strength and striking will be tested with Vemola coming out on top by unanimous decision.

McKenna: I think that it is safe to say that this fight could be a loser-goes-home match considering that the two have combined for a total record of 3-8 in their UFC career.  Quite frankly, I am surprised that the two are even still under contract despite the fact that, like Sal mentioned, Massenzio has fought some decent competition.  But with Vemola making his UFC debut at heavyweight, then dropping to light heavyweight, and now dropping to middleweight for the first time in his career, that has to be extremely difficult.  Dropping from light heavyweight to middleweight is difficult enough as it is, but when you used to be a heavyweight, it makes it that much more difficult.

MIke Massenzio (Ken Pishna/MMA Weekly)

Honestly, that weight cut will supersede everything else in this fight as Massenzio will win by third-round TKO after Vemola gasses out.  Maybe a trip back down to the minors will be the best thing for Vemola, as he needs to get that hunger back into his fight game, literally and figuratively.

Schafer: Sir, have you seen this bruiser? I don’t think hunger is an issue at all! Granted, Vemola wasn’t the biggest heavyweight in the world, but I do agree with Brian’s suspicion about the Czech’s inner gas-guzzling cardio tank. It’s understandably difficult for guys to make such a drastic change in weight classes and not have issues with the cut. I’m not completely convinced he’ll be able to make 185 pounds to begin with—of course, that would be a Zuffa deathwish no main-card hopeful wants to make.

Honestly, putting Vemola’s mauling of Seth Petruzelli aside, I’m far from impressed and the same applies to Massenzio, a journeyman not cut out for the next level of competition. This is a bathroom- or beer- or Twitter-break fight and surprisingly tough to call—close, not in a good way.

I see Massenzio coming out far too cautious, allowing Vemola to overpower him into the cage, where the curtains will be ready to fall. I have Vemola getting a first-round TKO.

BW: Roland Delorme (7-1) vs. Nick Denis (11-2)

McKenna: Nick Denis’ first trip to the Octagon couldn’t have gone any better.  He took down Joseph Sandoval in just 22 seconds and landed the Knockout of the Night award along the way. To say that is likely to happen again is highly unlikely, but I don’t think that the Canadian would shy away from the opportunity of a repeat performance. From watching that fight, it is truly difficult to learn anything from the fighter other than he will look for the quick knockout if it is given to him. We do know it was his 10th career knockout, which is something worth noting. However, when you go up and down the fights of his career, another fight stands out. He lost to Marlon Sandro by knockout in just 19 seconds in 2009.  Based on the fighters he has faced, Sandro is clearly the best fighter Denis has seen, but what it shows is that he is human after all and is capable of getting knocked out too.

Nick Denis (R) (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

Another Canadian will be in the cage with him in The Ultimate Fighter 14 veteran Roland Delorme. With his time on the show, he was clearly out-wrestled by T.J. Dillashaw which eliminated him from the competition, but that isn’t something to get too mad about because Dillashaw is a top-level wrestler. But when you dig a little deeper, you find that “Stunning” has five submission victories, not including his triangle choke submission which got him into the house in the first place. You can parlay that with the two knockout victories that he also has, and you have what looks to be a strong up-and-coming fighter.

One way or another, only one time between these two fighters has the fight gone to a decision, and I don’t see any reason why this fight would go the distance.  The game plans are clear: Denis will try for the knockout, Delorme will go for the submission. Because only one of those two things can happen, I am going to go with Delorme and the submission.

Schafer: Before his TUF dreams were shattered by Dillashaw, Delorme ran through six fellow Canadians, never seeing a third round. Fast-forward past his time on TUF: Delorme was invited back to the Octagon and made the most of it by defeating Josh Ferguson with a rear-naked choke.

So far, so good. But now, he’s being pitted against a guy who is coming off two impressive knockout victories—one by a slam (who does that anymore?) and the other by making “hellbows” rain. This is clearly a classic fight between wrestler and striker. In this case, the advantage should go to the striker in Denis, who will be too explosive and dangerous to let this one go past the first round.

Roland Delorme (L) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

I’ve got Denis scoring a quick first-round KO. Fine, I’ll admit I’m biased towards guys who keep the slam alive and well.

DeRose: Denis’ slam victory was awesome and I still can’t believe it happened.

He has some good crisp striking and will try and work his game to knock out Delorme. Denis also has some good experience in big fights, having fought current top Bellator featherweight Sandro in 2009. Denis may be making only his second UFC appearance, but he is no stranger to big fights.

Delorme didn’t really impress me on TUF and didn’t really impress me with a win over Ferguson, who is much smaller than him and is definitely a flyweight.

The two fighters are finishers though, and I can’t see this going the distance unless both of these guys just come in on their B-game. I’ll take Denis by knockout in the second.

FW: Dennis Bermudez (7-3) vs. Pablo Garza (11-2)

Schafer: Despite losing his last three official fights, Bermudez looked good throughout his Ultimate Fighter 14 stint and mounted enough impressive wins to finish second to that season’s winner Diego Brandao in what was one of the best finals the series has ever produced.

Pablo Garza (L) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

That fight was an electrifying back-and-forth contest on par with Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar’s epic showdown that launched the UFC’s reality show into the spotlight. Granted, it was shorter, but it was anybody’s guess who was going to end up with their hand raised—a Fight of the Night no-brainer.

Bermudez’s wrestling, along with his ground-and-pound, really stood out for me. In fact, it almost won him TUF 14 had he not left his arm for dead in Brandao’s guard with nine seconds left of the first round. It was a costly mistake he’ll have to avoid again against Garza, another submission specialist with the ground tools to make overzealous wrestlers pay.

In this case, Bermudez will use his strength and technique to bulldoze through his 6-foot-1 opponent’s takedown defense in the early parts of this fight. That should be the easy part, but again, he’ll have to be attentive to positioning and not be lazy in “The Scarecrow’s” lengthy guard.

Furthermore, it won’t be all that easy to edge out a victory over Garza, who can easily expose Bermudez’s questionable cardio—assuming he gasses too early from dropping too many off-target ground-and-pound bombs—and hasn’t improved his average submission defense (having got caught his last three losses). There are holes for Garza to exploit, but at the end of the day, I think Bermudez will fight smart. He’ll be desperate to prove he belongs in the Octagon and should be too much of a juggernaut from top position in the early rounds to allow any effective offense from Garza.

I like Bermudez via third-round TKO.

DeRose: I’m going to have agree on all points here with Joe about Bermudez. He is a good wrestler and dropped down from lightweight to compete on TUF and in the UFC, so the division and cut is still relatively new to him.

Bermudez looked good on the show, and I thought for sure he would be able to take home the tournament. His wrestling seemed to be able to neutralize Brandao’s aggressive in-your-face style.

Despite the loss, I think Bermudez is going to have to learn from that fight against Garza, who will submit you if you give him the opportunity. Garza is a very dangerous fighter, and if Bermudez takes the fight to the ground to work his dangerous ground-and-pound, he will have to worry about leaving openings for Garza to take.

Dennis Bermudez (top) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

On the flip side, I think Bermudez can utilize his strength and wrestling to neutralize Garza on the ground and avoid any major submission attempts. If not, he could be in for a short night.

I’ll take Bermudez by unanimous decision.

McKenna: Bermudez is on a mission in this fight. He entered the reality show’s house on a two-fight skid, and then almost made it to the top of the mountain and was doing great in his fight until he lost to Brandao by armbar. I don’t know what type of mind that he has, but those two things right there are a  major motivating factor in being able to come back stronger than ever and prove that he is worthy of fighting in the UFC. With his time on the show, he has proven to the people that he is a good fighter and should be feared, but mentally he probably feels as though he still needs to legitimize himself, which makes him even more of a dangerous opponent.

The last time we saw Garza, he was choked out by now No. 1 featherweight contender Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fox 1. Considering how he looked against Michael Johnson in his fight on The Ultimate Fighter, he appears to have struggled against wrestlers. Well, considering that Bermudez’s base as a fighter is wrestling, Garza could be in for a long night.  Now that doesn’t mean that “The Scarecrow” doesn’t stand a chance in this fight, because we have seen just how dangerous he can be after his quick flying knee knockout and his flying triangle choke at UFC 129. You would have to figure that Garza is going to be training heavily on his takedown defense due to the wrestling weakness, but also because his only losses in his career have come from being choked out on the ground.

If Bermudez tries to turn this fight into a slugfest, he would be playing right into Garza’s hands. I expect him to try to throw some jabs to make “The Scarecrow” think he will be in for a striking match, which will leave him open for a takedown to be followed by a quick submission for “The Menace.”  Bermudez by late first-round guillotine choke.

LW: Danny Castillo (13-4) vs. John Cholish (8-1)

McKenna: While The Ultimate Fighter: Live has a lot of upside based on the live format, the fact that Urijah Faber is one of the top dogs at Team Alpha Male has allowed us to see more Danny Castillo than we would regularly see. While the main focus of the show is on the casted fighters, Castillo could be seen in the background of a lot of camera shots, and when the newest episode aired last Friday night, “Last Call” was seen in that satirical workout by Faber and company inside Team Cruz’s dressing room. But while the Californian was seen joking around there, he takes his fighting rather seriously. He linked two straight victories when he took a split decision from Anthony Njokuani at UFC 141, and a victory on Saturday night would put him in a good position as far as the lightweight title is concerned.

Danny Castillo (R) (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Looking to get his second victory in as many fights with the UFC, John Cholish enters this fight as an underdog. His opponent has a fairly big name as far as MMA standards are concerned, while Cholish is just the opposite.  His first fight with the promotion took place as the first fight of the night at UFC 140, where he TKO’d Mitch Clarke, who was also making his UFC debut. Cholish looked good in that fight, but it is difficult to gauge exactly where his skill set is because of the fact that we don’t know just how good Clarke is. But there are a couple of advantages for him in this fight. First, he is from New Jersey, which is where the fight is taking place. Second, he has fought at the IZOD Center before as he fought and was victorious at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva last year. While these advantages are fairly small, they still matter.

But at the end of the day, I have to go with Castillo in this fight. Cholish looked promising in his fight against Clarke, but Castillo has a lot more experience that will be the deciding factor in this fight. The wrestling that comes from the guys at Team Alpha Male will be huge, and it will be enough to give “Last Call” the decision victory.  It should be interesting to see how Cholish, who trains with Renzo Gracie in New York, fights off of his back, but ultimately it won’t be enough in this particular fight.

DeRose: I look at this fight and I see a mismatch. Castillo has notched some good wins since his entrance into the UFC over names like Njokuani and Joe Stevenson. Even going back to his WEC days, Castillo owns a win over top featherweight contender Dustin Poirier.

Cholish possesses the tools to negate Castillo’s wrestling though. Cholish has seven wins in his MMA career with four of those coming by way of submission. It’s safe to say Cholish has the necessary grappling to win the fight.

Castillo took his last fight on five weeks’ notice and still scored some huge takedowns and displayed dominant ground control.

For Cholish the gameplan is simple: avoid the takedown and if the fight goes to the ground, look for a triangle or any sort of submission to keep Castillo busy and from settling in.

John Cholish (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Castillo’s game plan is also quite simple: get the takedown and dominate the ground game like in fights past. Castillo needs to also avoid any big shots and break Cholish early, otherwise he’ll be fending off submissions all night long.

In this fight, I’ll give the edge and the fight to Castillo by unanimous decision.

Schafer: I completely agree with Sal here. After squeezing by Njokuani with a split decision win, Castillo remains a divisional prospect coming from a strong camp in Team Alpha Male. Again, let’s not forget that fight was on five weeks’ notice.

This fight screams mismatch. Cholish still has a full-time job as a Wall Street broker. His only hope of winning this bout will be clipping Castillo or capitalizing on a mistake with a submission. I’m not saying Cholish doesn’t have enough skills to belong in the same cage. Castillo just seems too powerful—with too much training experience with top guys—to let it happen.

As much as I want to curse Castillo with a loss for his involvement in TUF’s most awkward moment of season 15—and possibly the entire series—I can’t see him dropping this fight to Cholish. As likely as it seems that the Alpha Male lightweight will grind out another decision, I’m going on a limb to say Castillo will make a second-round TKO statement.

FlyW: Louis Gaudinot (5-2) vs. John Lineker (19-5)

DeRose: The former TUF contestant, Louis Gaudinot, drops back down to flyweight after his stint on TUF and his first UFC fight as a bantamweight.

Louis Gaudinot (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Gaudinot looked bad in his last fight against Johnny Bedford mainly because he was too small and was manhandled by the much bigger Bedford. Gaudinot is a top flyweight though and is very well-rounded and very dangerous.

Lineker comes in primarily having fought in Brazil, which kind of scares me to pick him in this fight. Lineker has eight wins by knockout and seven by decision in his career and hasn’t lost since December of 2009. He has fought one guy of name and that is featherweight Felipe Arantes. The fight happened in 2009 and Lineker lost by armbar.

Gaudinot is going to come out and push a pace and use his striking to pick apart Lineker, who will be making his UFC debut.

Octagon jitters, anybody?

Gaudinot is a tough first fight in the UFC considering how high he was ranked at flyweight going into his stint on TUF. Gaudinot will pick apart Lineker and take the decision victory.

Schafer: These prelims are stacked with past TUF talent! I’m genuinely excited to watch these alumni prove themselves on the big stage. Like my comrade was saying, I also like Gaudinot’s energy and ability to control the pace, but he has to weather the impending Brazilian storm that Lineker will likely—and recklessly—bring out of the gates.

If Gaudinot can use quick footwork and counters, he can slow the demolition man down enough in the late rounds to control the fight and unleash his own bombs on a winded opponent. Basically, if Gaudinot survives the first round, he should be able to get the better of Lineker, a young Brazilian headhunter. What a shocker; I blame Wanderlei Silva’s interpretation of Muay Thai for the next 15 years of young Brazilian sluggers, who will only amount to a slightly above-average record. Who am I kidding? There’s something to be said for the sport’s fearless sluggers.

John Lineker (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

The downside of such a strategy is it usually only works half the time. With the step up in competition, Lineker’s fight against Gaudinot will be one of those nights when the glass is half empty. I predict Gaudinot will have colorful hair and a third-round TKO at UFC on Fox 3.

McKenna: If you were to go back and look at Gaudinot’s performance on TUF, you might say to yourself that he is a guy that may get a crack at it in the UFC, but will only hang around for a fight or two.  Well, that would have been true if the promotion did not create a home for the flyweights.  While some fighters have success on the reality show fighting up a weight class, Gaudinot wasn’t exactly one of those guys.  Simply put, his body isn’t big enough to shine at bantamweight.  Fans of New Jersey’s Ring of Combat promotion know “Goodnight” well considering his last fight before he went on the reality show saw him capture the promotion’s flyweight title.  His time on the show was short, but that was because, well, he was too short.

I had to do some research to learn about his opponent, John Lineker.  I am trying my best to learn about all of the new flyweights, but it is difficult because a lot of them haven’t made their name in the sport yet.  But when I came across his fight docket, I was immediately impressed.  Brazil has strong MMA roots and breeds great fighters, and the Brazilian hit his stride and has ripped off 13 straight fights and took the Jungle Fight bantamweight championship in his last fight.

That last piece is what interests me the most.  The fact that he was the 135-pound champion tells me that he is capable of being a big flyweight, or that he was a small bantamweight that was able to handle the competition.  But then again, perhaps said competition wasn’t solid competition, like Gaudinot saw on TUF.  Before I continue to talk in hypothetical circles, I am just going to go with the black-and-white facts on the fight, and one of those facts is that Gaudinot is from New York, trains in New Jersey, and has only fought once outside of New Jersey.  He clearly has the home-field advantage in this fight, and because Lineker hasn’t fought outside of Brazil before, he will have a hard time in this fight.  If the fights at the top of the fight card don’t live up to their expectation, watch for this fight to be a dark horse candidate for Fight of the Night.

However, after all of that, I have to take Gaudinot in this fight by second-round TKO.

WW: John Hathaway (15-1) vs. Pascal Krauss (10-0)

Schafer: Sie Germans are coming! Wait, no, the British are coming! Well, I guess both distant cousins will be bringing their respective country’s historical ties to the Octagon, in what should be yet another highly intriguing preliminary contest. Traditionally speaking, rarely do both sides disappoint—whether the Jerries and Limeys meet on the “soccer” pitch or on the battlefield, they provoke a competitive edge born out of hundreds of years of coexistence and conflict.

John Hathaway (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Thankfully, it’s now 2012 and civilized sporting contests are usually the only thing to bring most western countries to a nationalistic boil. Despite what Dana White wants you to believe, mixed martial arts is a long way from topping soccer as the world’s beloved game, but for us History Channel junkies, this fight should be especially fun to watch.

Moreover, this bout was originally slated for UFC 138 until the “Panzer” was sidelined by a shoulder injury, extending his inactivity status to one-and-a-half years come Saturday. That is one rusty tank. Sure, cage corrosion affects fighters differently, but that is an extremely long layoff for anybody at any level of the game. If I were a Krauss fan, I’d be concerned about how vulnerable the cardio and mental aspects of his game will be come fight night.

Since making a statement against Diego Sanchez back at UFC 114, Hathaway has looked rather lethargic and disappointing. Veteran Mike Pyle completely manhandled the Brit, who followed that loss up with a split decision win over Kris McCray. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the young welterweight can rebuild some of that early momentum.

With that said, I think experience and grappling (I know he’s British and probably just discovered singlets a few years ago, but he’s proven to be versed enough to be effective) will trump inactivity. I have Hathaway getting back on track with a convincing decision nod over Krauss (my great-grandparents would be disappointed).

McKenna: Joe highlighted the biggest thing going on in this fight, and that is that Krauss has been out of action so long that it is really difficult to know what to expect of him.  His only fight with the promotion was at UFC 122, and that was back when we couldn’t stream the undercards on Facebook.  My limited knowledge of Krauss tells me that he has won Fight of the Night once and that he has seven submission victories.

Another thing that my colleague pointed out is that Hathaway has been fairly disappointing considering the pep he showed earlier in his UFC career, but say what you want about him because he is winning his fights. Grinding out decisions isn’t a good way to make a ton of fans, but at the end of the night what Hathaway is most concerned with is getting the “W” and collecting his paycheck. It would be fun to see if “The Hitman” will try to capitalize on the fact that the German has been out for so long and try for a quick knockout, but it would be foolish to not respect the 10-0 record that Krauss has accumulated in his career, which is why the Englishman will take home another unanimous decision victory.

DeRose: I have the same huge concern as everyone else. Krauss last fought almost two years ago, and I haven’t seen that fight since it wasn’t aired. The fight did earn Fight of the Night honors though.

What I have seen is Hathaway, and I’m not overly impressed. Sure, he wins, but at what cost? Grinding out decisions doesn’t impress me in the slightest. Hathaway has the upper hand, having actually fought in the last year-and-a-half, and the fact that these two were supposed to meet at UFC 138 means Hathaway probably has a good insight on Krauss and vice versa.

In the end, I can’t really pick a guy I don’t know too much about over a guy who has ground out decisions. Hathaway will take home a unanimous decision victory and probably will get booed by New Jersey brethren.

FlyW: John Dodson (12-5) vs. Tim Elliott (8-2-1)

DeRose: Oh John Dodson, how awesome you were on TUF, and I can only imagine what I’m going to see at flyweight.

Dodson is a crazy, crazy, crazy fighter and pushes a tough, fast pace. Did I mention he is absolutely crazy?

Tim Elliott (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Tim Elliott is going to have his hands full with Dodson, who was the first-ever TUF bantamweight champion after he went on a spree where he beat Brandon Merkt and John Albert by decision, knocked out Johnny Bedford (which was Knockout of the Season) and then demolished T.J. Dillashaw on TV to earn Knockout of the Night honors.

Elliott is a finisher with seven wins by knockout or submission and will most likely enjoy the fast-paced style of Dodson.

Since starting his career 0-2-1, Elliott has won eight in a row since August of 2009. That includes a win over former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver. Elliott has power in his hands and that is coupled in with his wrestling skills to get him highly ranked at flyweight.

Unfortunately for Elliott, I think Dodson was amazing at bantamweight and I can only imagine how quick and agile he’ll be when 10 pounds lighter. Dodson takes the fight by knockout in the second round.

McKenna: While The Ultimate Fighter 14 winner John Dodson deserves all the praise that he received from Sal just now, the most important fact of it all in my book is that he won the show while fighting up a weight class.  Dodson truly is better suited to fight at 125 pounds, and he may make a case for himself to be the first man to challenge for the flyweight title after the tournament is concluded.  But the Jackson’s MMA fighter has to go out and execute, rather than expect the title shot to fall into his hands.

John Dodson (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Elliott will oppose Dodson, and he will be making his UFC debut in the process.  Let’s just say stepping into the Octagon for the first time is difficult as it is, but having to step in across from The Ultimate Fighter winner is going to make matters worse.  The eight-fight winning streak that he is on is impressive, especially considering he took down Pulver in the process, but Dodson is clearly the toughest fighter that the Missouri native has ever encountered.  Because of this, “The Magician” is going to overwhelm the newbie and score a first-round knockout.

Schafer: Dodson won The Ultimate Fighter, right? Of course he did, and that’s why he is competing on this card. Like the guys are saying, I too am excited to see what Dodson can do at a lighter weight. He was extremely fast, strong and weird at 135 pounds, so I’ll put money on the fact that he’ll be faster, stronger, and at least just as weird at flyweight.

Before getting the better of the bigger Dillashaw, I was really expecting Dodson to fall short (I’ll let you decide if pun was intended or not). In most cases, bantamweights are typically shorter guys, but Dodson was vertically challenged in that division.

Say what you will about Elliott being a finisher, I just see Dodson being too much for him. It’ll be a fast and fun fight to watch, but I have a feeling Dodson’s hand will be raised. Now there are five notable 125-pound contenders.

I have Dodson winning a second-round TKO.

LW: Tony Ferguson (13-2) vs. Michael Johnson (10-6)

McKenna: Rounding out the portion of the fight card that will air on Fuel TV will be a battle between the winner of season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, Tony Ferguson, and the runner up from season 12, Michael Johnson.  Ferguson was originally expected to take on Dennis Hallman, but after a couple of replacements, Johnson will be the man across the cage from him.

“El Cucuy” is best known for his knockout power. In his three fights on the reality show, Ferguson won by either TKO or knockout. He knocked out Ramsey Nijem at the finale to win the show, and he broke Aaron Riley’s jaw in the first round which earned him the TKO victory off of a doctor’s stoppage at UFC 135.  Personally, I was surprised that he didn’t knock out Yves Edwards last December, but I suppose you can’t just go around knocking out everyone. I’m sure Ferguson wanted the knockout, but at the end of the day he was probably more than content with the victory. Now in his fourth official fight with the UFC, he is going for his fourth victory and a chance to enter his name in the lightweight title picture.

Looking to derail Ferguson’s chances at that will be Johnson.  “The Menace’s” time with the UFC hasn’t gone exactly the way that he had hoped for it to happen, as he has gone 2-2 in his four promotional fights. But one thing that I like about him in this fight is that he finds ways to avoid getting hit with big strikes. Sure, Jonathan Brookins is far from being known as a top-tier striker and his defeat by Paul Sass lasted just three minutes, but the way he moves prevents him from getting hit by big strikes. Considering the fact that the guy who is opposing him is known for landing big strikes, it proposes a fun fight from a matchmaking perspective.

While the easy pick in this fight is to take “El Cucuy” by knockout, I am going to flip the script and take Johnson by knockout. I see Ferguson leaving himself open to be countered, and “The Menace” will land a big head kick knockout in the second round.

Tony Ferguson (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Schafer: This is an excellent fight between two TUF studs: Ferguson having won season 13 and Johnson coming up short against season 12 winner Brookins.

There’s no doubt Ferguson has destructive power in his hands. A fighter can’t cruise through a season of TUF, defeat everybody by knockout and win the show without it. After being crowned the winner and embarking on his UFC career, he broke scrappy veteran Riley’s jaw in his debut bout and continued his winning ways by defeating another crafty veteran in Edwards by decision at TUF 14 Finale card.

While all that is fine and well, I have a feeling Johnson is coming into his own and will expose the truly untested Ferguson as a powerfully one-dimensional young buck who still has a lot to learn in the cage. Just examine each fighter’s last outing.

Ferguson wasn’t able to get by with his knockout power against Edwards. He fought well, but looked a bit lost for answers later in the fight and pushed through for a decision against a guy most people thought would be annihilated. Miles better than a one-trick pony, Ferguson is en route to becoming a force; I just think he will finally get tested in this fight.

Don’t be fooled by Johnson’s UFC record; that loss was a huge building block. He pulled a Georges St-Pierre and came back a stronger, better fighter against the highly touted Shane Roller. The Blackzilian’s footwork looked great, his combinations were pinpoint, and his overall confidence was shining. Progress has definitely been made in Johnson’s game.

I like the upset here. Look for Johnson’s movements and counterstriking to frustrate Ferguson; I have Johnson winning this contest by decision.

DeRose: Yet another battle involving TUF fighters and another good fight. Ferguson was on a straight roll on TUF, breezing through everybody while getting in a few faces towards the end.

Ferguson possesses knockout power that if you get hit once, you’ll be rolling on the ground unconscious and getting romoshopped the next day. Like Brian, I’m surprised he didn’t knock out Edwards, but his jaw-breaking punch against Riley is something to remember.

Ferguson will finally get someone who can be used as a litmus test to see where he is at in the division. Johnson isn’t a joke and can be a tough fight to anybody who wants to underestimate the TUF graduate.

Much like Ferguson, Johnson has a good striking base and utilizes great footwork to avoid the big shot. Johnson’s style will surely clash with Ferguson’s “look for the big shot” style. If Johnson is on his game, Ferguson can be in for a long night.

Unlike everybody else though, I’ll go against the grain and be the outcast sitting by himself at the lunch table and pick Ferguson to get a late knockout victory.

Top Photo: Michael Johnson (R) (James Law/Heavy MMA)

This piece was authored by Joe Schafer. You can find Joe on Twitter: @joeschafer84

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