Normally, free shows from the UFC are outlets to put big names in fights that mean very little. That’s not the case with UFC on FX 4. The show is headlined by a possible lightweight title eliminator, as Gray Maynard makes his much-anticipated return against perennial fan-favorite Clay Guida.

All eyes will be looking at Maynard and Guida in the main event. Maynard is coming off a TKO loss to Frankie Edgar in their rubber match despite nearly finishing the champion for a second time. Guida has also been out for a while after his amazing scrap with lightweight title holder Benson Henderson.

Leading off the card will be a Fight of the Night candidate between Ross Pearson and Cub Swanson. Battling for those honors will likely be the co-main event of the evening, the rubber match between Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher. If you haven’t seen the first two encounters, you really owe it to yourself as a MMA fan to check them out. And Brian Ebersole will also be fighting the young but talented T.J. Waldburger.

Oh and did I mention the consensus No. 2 featherweight in the world, Hatsu Hioki, is fighting on this card as well?

The action gets started with the Facebook prelims beginning at 5 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the main preliminary bouts starting at 6 p.m. ET on Fuel TV, and then switch over to FX once the main card goes live at 9 p.m. ET.

Breaking down the fights and letting you know who to put money on this week will be Bryan Henderson, Sal DeRose and Kyle Symes.

FW: Ross Pearson (13-5) vs. Cub Swanson (16-5)

Henderson: Ross Pearson is one of those lightweights whose drop to featherweight could mean a better chance at a spot in the title picture. He passed his first test at 145 with a win over Junior Assuncao, so now the UFC hands him one of the most inconsistent fighters on its roster in Cub Swanson.

Swanson (bottom) (James Law/Heavy MMA)

It’s not that Swanson isn’t a quality opponent, it’s just that he can’t seem to put together back-to-back victories under the WEC or UFC banners. The last time he had a two-fight winning streak, with both wins coming in one of those leagues, was 2007. Outside of that, he tends to win one and lose one, and right now he’s coming off a win.

The thing is that Swanson’s Achilles’ heel tends to be his submission defense—he’s even lost to Jens Pulver via submission. Swanson’s only knockout loss came against Jose Aldo, so nobody will hold that against the California native, and his only defeat on the scorecards came against a strong wrestler in Chad Mendes.

Pearson has put up some submission victories over the course of his career, but he’s been less of a finisher in his wins since joining the big show. If Pearson can find a way to put Swanson on the mat, this one will end with Swanson tapping. But I just don’t think Pearson has that urgency to his game, and giving Swanson 15 minutes to play spoiler is dangerous. I have a suspicion that Swanson can throw Pearson’s featherweight run off-course, and therefore I’ll pick the Jackson’s MMA fighter to score a knockout victory.

DeRose: Pearson has continually improved in his UFC career, and in just his second fight at 145, he gets a tough opponent in Swanson.

I have to agree with Bryan that yes, Swanson is inconsistent, but much like Takeya Mizugaki, Swanson’s inconsistency is due to the level of fighter he has faced. His last four losses have been to Jens Pulver, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas. So it isn’t like he has faced no-name guys or mid-tier guys, with the exception of Lamas, who I think would fall under the mid-tier. Swanson also has that knockout power that could very well end the fight.

Pearson is a tenacious striker, and he does have a solid ground game that could allow him to pull off the submission. Considering his move to Alliance MMA here in the United States, I can imagine that his overall game is getting that much better.

Pearson (R) (Heavy MMA)

Pearson gave Edson Barboza a run for his money and barely lost the split decision, and I think he will do the same facing Swanson. I’m kind of hesitant to pick against Swanson, though, considering the last time I underestimated him he ended up being the only fighter to beat me and take my belt in UFC Undisputed 3. Hopefully luck sides with me this time, as I’ll take Pearson to take the unanimous decision nod.

Symes: I agree with both of my fellow panelists in the thinking that Pearson continuously gets better and Swanson remains one of the most inconsistent fighters in the division. While Sal was quick to point out the names that Swanson has lost to, we should also look at the names Swanson has beaten. None of his recent victories would be considered anything to write home about, which would seem to indicate Swanson can handle the average competition but can’t compete with the upper-level talent at 145 pounds.

That also begs the question of where we rate Pearson at featherweight. I’d have to say with a strong showing here, we could see Pearson shoot up the rankings. After an up-and-down road at lightweight, Pearson dropped to 145 and met Assuncao at UFC 141. Regardless of his overall record at lightweight, Pearson holds victories over some tough guys and according to a lot of MMA fans, should’ve won against the highly-touted Barboza at UFC 134.

I agree with Sal that Pearson’s move to the States will help shore up his overall game, as it’s clear wrestling is not a top priority in the UK. Swanson has always been a talented fighter that can’t seem to put the pieces together. He comes from a great camp at Jackson’s MMA and should be well prepared, but I see Pearson making it two in a row at featherweight. Pearson via decision.

WW: Brian Ebersole (49-14-1) vs. T.J. Waldburger (15-6)

DeRose: T.J. Waldburger is getting his second fight in three months, and personally I think he has a tough fight ahead of him stylistically with Brian Ebersole.

Ebersole (R) (Heavy MMA)

Waldburger has a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game that has earned him his current two-fight winning streak and a Submission of the Night bonus last September. That is where I think the bad match-up comes from as he faces Ebersole, who is super tough to submit on the ground.

Ebersole was pretty slick on the ground in avoiding the submissions of Chris Lytle and Dennis Hallman, who both have good ground games. I think for Waldburger to pull off the submission victory here, Ebersole will have to make a big mistake or essentially be drained of all energy.

Ebersole will most likely keep the fight standing and use his striking and sprawling to dictate the terms of the fight. With that being said, barring some sort of mistake, Ebersole will take the fight by either late TKO or decision.

Symes: Ebersole will have to play the role of tough veteran against the young Waldburger in their welterweight clash. Ebersole comes into the bout riding a 10-fight winning streak with three of those coming in the Octagon. Waldburger has put up back-to-back wins after being knocked out by Johny Hendricks in March of last year.

Waldburger has displayed a solid submission game with his past two victories come via tapout. A glance at his record tells you exactly what Waldburger will attempt to do in this fight, which is why I agree with Sal that I see Waldburger having a tough time getting his offense going against Ebersole.

Ebersole is a veteran of over 60 professional fights, and his last submission loss came in 2008 to perennial middleweight contender Hector Lombard. As Sal pointed out, Ebersole was able to survive against Lytle and Hallman, who are both crafty submission artists in their own right. Ebersole was also able to handle Claude Patrick in his last bout, and Patrick is by no means a slouch on the ground.

Waldburger (bottom) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Waldburger likely won’t get the takedown in his first attempt, which will test his belief in the game plan he brings to the cage. If Waldburger gets frustrated at how difficult it is to take Ebersole down and hold him there, Ebersole will make him pay for staying on the feet.

Ebersole has never been knocked out, and I don’t believe Waldburger is the man to break that streak. I see Ebersole being able to keep the fight standing and having the ability to stop Waldburger’s submission game en route to a decision victory.

Henderson: What my colleagues mention is Ebersole’s experience, but what they left out is his unorthodox style when he’s in the cage. If this guy’s odd angles and strange attacks could give fellow veterans like Lytle and Hallman headaches, just imagine how it will impact Waldburger’s game.

Waldburger has made a name for himself as a submission specialist. The problem is, beyond Ebersole’s 2008 submission loss to Lombard, which came due to a knee injury, all of his submission defeats came in or before 2005. The Australia-by-way-of-Indiana fighter has obviously shored up that area of his game over the years, as evidenced by those performances against Lytle and Hallman. In addition, Waldburger has to get this fight to the mat, but Ebersole has an often overlooked NCAA Division I wrestling background.

Ebersole’s takedown defense will spoil Waldburger’s plans of making this a grappling clinic, and Ebersole’s unorthodox style will further complicate matters. Ebersole throws Waldburger off his game and battles his way to a unanimous decision victory.

LW: Spencer Fisher (24-8) vs. Sam Stout (17-7-1)

Symes: This exciting trilogy will finally come to a close at UFC on FX 4 when Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout meet one another for a final time. The first two fights were incredibly entertaining, and their first encounter placed well on the “UFC’s Greatest 100 Fights” list.

Both men interestingly enough are coming off losses to the same man in Thiago Tavares. Fisher fought Tavares at UFC 134 and lost via TKO. Stout, meanwhile, faced the Brazilian at UFC 142 and was defeated by way of decision. For Stout, the loss to Tavares snapped his two-fight winning streak; for Fisher, the loss was his second in a row.

I’m going to take Stout in this bout, as Fisher just hasn’t seemed like the same fighter he was years ago while the Canadian Stout has only gotten better. Also, Stout has been more active and fighting on a regular basis, which leads me to believe Fisher may encounter some cage rust and that could hurt him on the scorecards.

Fisher is notoriously hard to finish, and while Stout owns an amazing knockout of Yves Edwards, I see Fisher being able to make it through three rounds. Still, I’m going with the more talented fighter right now in Stout.

Stout (L) (Jeremy Botter/Heavy MMA)

Henderson: Fisher’s fights with Stout were classics. Neither of these two is headed for a title or anything remotely close, but put them in the cage together and it’s a perfect recipe for a great fight.

I expect this to be just as entertaining as the pair’s first two meetings, but I have to echo Kyle’s sentiment. Fisher has not only lost two in a row, but it’s now four out of his last five. There’s a chance that Stout sparks a sudden renewal in Fisher’s abilities, given their previous match-ups, but I also see Stout as the fighter who has maintained himself at a higher level.

This one will be a battle—while Stout won the first by split, and Fisher took the second go-around by unanimous decision, I see Stout rebounding to capture the best-of-three with a unanimous verdict of his own.

But the real winners? The fans, for getting a third performance out of these two vets.

DeRose: I can’t say I disagree with this being an exciting and amazing trilogy fight.

Both these guys put on wars in their last two meetings, and I think in this third bout, they will only want to win that much more, making them fight and use every inch to try and win.

This is literally the one and only time that I won’t look at Fisher’s current losing ways as an advantage for Stout. These two guys want this fight bad. Although, I do see Stout performing against higher-level opponents as an advantage for him.

These two haven’t fought since 2007, and in that timespan, I think Stout has become the better fighter.

In the end, I won’t go against everybody else here, so I’ll take Stout by decision.

LW: Clay Guida (29-12) vs. Gray Maynard (10-1-1)

DeRose: This is a pretty big fight for the lightweight division itself, and overall to me, it could really go either way between Clay Guida and Gray Maynard.

Maynard (L) (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Guida always comes to fight and bring it to his opponents, outside of his fight with Anthony Pettis where he deviated from his normal insane pace and entertaining style to utilize his wrestling to neutralize his opponent.

That being said, I don’t think Guida has the speed or wrestling to take down Maynard and hold him there. Also, I don’t think Maynard will be able to break the takedown defense of Guida and even if he does, I think Guida won’t be held down for too long.

The only way I can see Maynard winning this fight is by decision. I don’t think he has enough power to break Guida’s chin, which has been tested time and time again. This being a five-round fight too, I think plays a little into Guida’s hands if he can maintain his constant pressure and high-paced style.

Again, it is a really tough fight to score, and I think Guida can squeak out one of the early rounds and win the championship rounds to win by decision. Or, in another scenario, he might win by fourth- or fifth-round TKO.

Henderson: Indeed, this is a great fight for the 155-pound division. Maynard can climb back into contention for a title shot, while Guida has a chance to finally overcome that one big foe to put his name in the hat for a title bid.

Guida will benefit from the championship rounds in this one. He’s an Energizer Bunny who could go for 10 or 12 rounds, so five should be a breeze. His chin will help him in the early portion of the fight, which is where Maynard really has his best chances at winning.

Maynard has that power in his fists to help him in the early going, but he slows as the fight progresses, as he did in his meetings with Frankie Edgar. I can definitely see the same happening here.

Guida (James Law/Heavy MMA)

I think Maynard will hold the early edge utilizing his wrestling and power, but Guida’s energy will be the ultimate factor in deciding this fight. Neither man will finish the other, so this one is headed to the judges. I see Guida winning at least three rounds to take the unanimous decision.

Symes: I find it interesting that both of my fellow panelists are picking Guida to upset Maynard on Friday. Guida has always been a fan-favorite and a talented fighter as well, but he can’t seem to get over the hump into contender status, as both Sal and Bryan mentioned.

Guida’s pace and constant pressure will give any of his opponents problems, a fact both my colleagues were right to point out. What they forgot to mention is that Maynard scored takedowns on numerous occasions against Frankie Edgar in their contests. Edgar has better wrestling and way better footwork, which should help Maynard be ready for Guida’s quickness.

Another argument I’d like to tackle is the idea of Maynard slowing down in his last two fights with Edgar. To be fair, the second meeting should’ve been stopped in the first round and the rubber match arguably could’ve been stopped in the first round again. Anyone would’ve been tired from putting that much of a beating on someone, only to have to chase them around the Octagon for another four rounds.

What I believe will be the difference is Maynard’s new training partners. Xtreme Couture is no joke of a gym, but traveling to Nova Uniao to work there and training at AKA has to have had a great impact on Maynard’s talents. It’s easy to get complacent being at the same gym, training with the same people for years. Not that I’m saying Maynard was, but new training partners and new coaches definitely have pushed him to improve his overall game.

I’m going to disagree with the trendy pick, as it seems, and go with Maynard. I believe the “new” Maynard will have enough skills to overcome Guida. Let’s not forget Maynard is a huge lightweight and has some legit power in his hands along with his takedowns. Maynard will get Guida down and look to either ride out a decision or possibly shock everyone and use his new submission game. No matter the path to victory, Maynard will have his hand raised.

Prelims Quick Picks

BW: Dustin Pague (11-5) vs. Ken Stone (10-3)

Henderson: Pague enters this fight as a last-minute replacement for Francisco Rivera and completely changes the fight dynamics. While I’m not huge on Pague, the level of competition he’s faced has to give him the edge here. Pague via submission.

Symes: I’m sure a lot of people will be rooting for Pague due to him taking this fight on such short notice. While in other sports it’s nice to have momentum, we’ve seen in the past how taking a fight on short notice doesn’t always turn out too well. I’ll take Stone by decision.

DeRose: I can’t pick against Pague here as I think he is coming off a nice win over Jared Papazian and fought really good talent on TUF 14. Stone hasn’t been finished by submission in his career, and he has also faced some really good talent at the lighter weight class. But I think here he gets beat by Pague by way of submission.

WW: Ricardo Funch (8-3) vs. Dan Miller (13-6)

Symes: This is what I’ll call the “BCS Prelim” fight as it’s an attempt to judge who has the better loss. Both men have losses against top-level guys, but Miller has the edge in Octagon experience. I’ll go with Miller based simply on the fact I want to see him succeed after so much personal tragedy.

DeRose: I feel like this is the first fight Miller isn’t taking on short notice for the first time in years. I think having a full training camp actually for once will do wonders for him. I’ll take Miller to get the win by unanimous decision.

Henderson: We’re not just talking about a full training camp, or who has the better loss here—we’re also talking about Miller finally shifting from middleweight down to 170. Miller should fare better at the lighter weight, and he will use Funch to announce his arrival. Miller via submission.

MW: Chris Camozzi (16-5) vs. Nick Catone (9-2)

Henderson: This one goes to the fighter that controls where the bout takes place. Camozzi is primarily a striker, while Catone brings high-caliber wrestling to the cage. Catone puts Camozzi on his back throughout the fight to earn the decision win.

DeRose: I can’t say I disagree with Bryan. Catone has the Division I wrestling that makes it hard to pick against him. I normally side with wrestlers over strikers, so I’ll take Catone by decision as well.

Symes: I have to make it three for three with the picks. Catone has a solid wrestling background, and I don’t believe Camozzi has the takedown defense to stop him. Catone by TKO.

WW: Matt Brown (14-11) vs. Luis Ramos (19-7)

DeRose: I think here Matt Brown will dictate the action and make this as dirty of a fight as possible for Luis Ramos. Brown came out last time and surprised me with a win over Stephen Thompson, so I won’t pick against him again this time. I’ll take Brown to win the fight by TKO in the first.

Symes: Brown is like a lesser version of Guida: talented and fun to watch, but has yet to get over that major hurdle. I don’t know if Ramos can keep up with Brown’s pace, and I believe Brown will take this fight via submission.

Henderson: Ramos tends to grind out decision wins, but I don’t see anything on his record that suggests he can dominate Brown. Brown might never make it over that major hurdle, but if the UFC keeps giving him opponents like Thompson and Ramos, he’ll continue to post wins. Brown via early TKO.

FW: Joey Gambino (9-0) vs. Steven Siler (20-9)

Symes: Gambino will be making his Octagon debut, which always makes me nervous about choosing a newcomer. What makes me edge more towards Siler is the fact he’s defeated way better competition during his time in the UFC. Siler takes it via submission.

Henderson: Even outside of the UFC, Siler has the more impressive resume; however, Gambino spends a portion of his training camps at the Tristar gym, and as a late replacement, his inside knowledge of Siler via Siler’s fellow TUF alum Dennis Bermudez might even the playing field. Still, Gambino is stepping into the Octagon for the first time and that might be the deciding factor, as Siler takes this one via submission.

DeRose: Yeah, not going to disagree, as I think the first time in the UFC will play a small factor. Steven “The Miller Killer” Siler has fought some really good opponents in his career, and I think he has the ability to beat Gambino here by submission.

WW: Brock Jardine (9-1) vs. Rick Story (13-5)

DeRose: This will be Brock Jardine’s first fight in the UFC and he gets a super tough fight against Rick Story. Story will get back in the win column, as I think overall Story has an advantage no matter where the fight lands. I’ll take Story by decision to get his UFC career back on track.

Henderson: Story’s wrestling wins him fights, and he’s been in there with some of the best 170ers the UFC has to offer. If Jardine wins, he makes a huge first impression. Thing is, I don’t see that happening: Story via a dominant decision.

Symes: One of the things that’s helped Story beat some of the best welterweights in the world has been his footwork. Every time I watch one of his fights, he’s always able to make the other guy back into the cage and unleash his offense. I see much of the same in this one as Story wins by decision.

LW: C.J. Keith (8-0) vs. Ramsey Nijem (5-2)

Henderson: Keith is undefeated and has faced some decent competition in his career, but Nijem has the edge in Octagon experience. If Nijem can avoid Keith’s striking and get this fight to the ground, he’s looking at another unanimous decision to follow the one he posted in his last outing versus Daniel Downes.

Symes: The question in this fight, like Bryan said, will be Nijem’s wrestling. He got dropped by Tony Ferguson when he couldn’t get the takedown. It seems the move back to 155 pounds has paid off for him, and I see Nijem taking this fight via decision or late TKO.

DeRose: Looks like I don’t have to write too much here! I can’t say I disagree with the sentiment that Nijem’s wrestling will play a big factor. To me, that absolutely determines the fight. Nijem will avoid Keith’s striking, get the takedown and either grind it out for the decision, or win by TKO.

FW: Hatsu Hioki (26-4-2) vs. Ricardo Lamas (11-2)

Symes: Hatsu Hioki is by all accounts a top-five featherweight, so the fact that he’s on the prelims on a free show is shocking, but I suppose that’s what you get when you say no to Mr. White. Ricardo Lamas has shown flashes of talent in his two featherweight showings, and I believe he’ll make this a close fight, but I still see Hioki edging a close decision victory.

DeRose: I think Hioki showed great improvement in his striking and his ground game looked really dominant in his last fight against Bart Palaszewski. Going against Lamas, he won’t have a huge advantage on the ground, but I think he has the talent to outstrike him and control him on the ground. Hioki by unanimous decision.

Henderson: Hioki is a bit of an enigma, given his refusal of a title fight opportunity and his home on the prelims here, but perhaps waiting for a title shot will turn out to be the smart move. However, it does make me doubt Hioki’s overall confidence. Yet, Hioki’s resume features recent wins over a nice list of quality opponents, and he’ll add Lamas’ name to that resume with a submission victory here.

Top Photo: Gray Maynard (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.