The UFC has started the new year off strong with a bunch of free television events, as well as the farewell show of the Strikeforce promotion. Now, the UFC brings a huge card to its first pay-per-view effort of 2013.

The card is stacked with big-name, well-known fighters, and is capped off with a superfight between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar for the UFC featherweight championship.

Also on the card is a heavyweight showdown between Alistair Overeem and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, a light heavyweight match-up between Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, a welterweight clash between Jon Fitch and Demian Maia, and a flyweight scrap between Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall.

UFC 156 goes down on Feb. 2 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The pay-per-view main card starts at 10 p.m. ET, with prelims airing on Facebook at 7 p.m. ET and shifting to FX at 8 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Gregory Chase, Richard Wilcoxon and Corey Adams break down this stacked UFC card in this edition of the Round Table.

FlyW: Ian McCall (11-3-1) vs. Joseph Benavidez (16-3)

Wilcoxon: This is a battle between two of the very best in the flyweight division. A win could put either of these guys in line for another run at the belt.

McCall goes for a suplex (Heavy MMA)

Not very long ago, McCall was viewed as the best flyweight in the world. “Uncle Creepy” has a well-rounded attack based on his dominating wrestling ability. He has both solid takedown defense and great takedowns of his own. He has good striking ability, strong submissions attacks and defense, and a great top game.

Benavidez was widely picked as the favorite to win the flyweight belt. Before losing to Johnson in his last bout, Benavidez had only lost to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. The Team Alpha Male fighter also has a great wrestling base and has shown the ability to control much larger fighters with his wrestling ability. Benavidez has solid striking technique and a great submission game, highlighted by his infamous guillotine choke.

Although McCall can beat just about anyone in the division (and I actually favored him against Johnson in the past and might in the future), Benavidez is a different beast. He uses a different style, and styles make fights. Benavidez will make this fight nasty, and he is the stronger of the two men. He will fight close with dirty boxing and shove McCall against the cage. Benavidez will grind out a decision.

Adams: With Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson retaining his belt at UFC on Fox 6, a new No. 1 contender needs to be named, and it will be the winner of this bout. With no other contenders currently in the flyweight division, Benavidez and McCall will do anything they can to win this fight.

Benavidez fell just short by split decision to allow Mighty Mouse to win the title at UFC 152, and he should have a ton of motivation for this fight in hopes of getting another shot at the belt. The Team Alpha Male member is very well-rounded, has great cardio and has never been finished.

Benavidez (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

McCall is very similar to Benavidez. “Uncle Creepy” is good both standing and grappling, and he has beaten some of the best flyweights in the world. McCall will also be trying to get another fight against Johnson, as the two have fought twice already, with the first contest ending in a draw and the second going to Johnson by unanimous decision.

As Johnson and John Dodson showed at UFC on Fox 6, this flyweight bout between Benavidez and McCall will be a close, exciting scrap. In the end, I will take Benavidez to edge out McCall by decision.

Chase: This is the match-up people thought was going to be for the inaugural flyweight belt, but Might Mouse put a wrench in those works. This is certainly a candidate for “Fight of the Night” in my book. Both men are great strikers, and they aren’t afraid to stand and trade or go to the ground. McCall showed some wrestling dominance against the current champ, but Benavidez might have the strength to prevent it.

Both men are great on the ground, but I think the stand-up game will dictate this fight. Both men have mostly lost by decision, with the exception of McCall, who has a submission loss. The hands will tell the tale, and I think Benavidez will emerge the victor. As Richard said, Benavidez’s strength will pose a new problem for McCall, and it will make this fight a ferocious one.

WW: Jon Fitch (24-4-1) vs. Demian Maia (17-4)

Adams: When looking at the main card, some may skip over Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia, but this fight has a ton of meaning in the welterweight division.

Fitch (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Since Maia has moved from 185 to 170 pounds, he has looked outstanding. Sure, one of those wins was due to an injury by Dong-Hyun Kim, but he came back in his next bout to submit Rick Story in the first round. With his excellent submissions and improved boxing, Maia is a serious threat to the division.

However, he has a tough task in front of him. Fitch has been one of the top dogs at welterweight for years, and many forget he has been fighting for the UFC since 2005. With a UFC record of 14-2-1, Fitch is one of the most successful welterweights of all time. The American Kickboxing Academy product has had some bumps in the road recently, with a 12-second knockout loss to Johny Hendricks, but in his last bout against Erick Silva, we saw a new Fitch that appears capable to fight for the belt again.

Due to his experience, toughness and new-look aggressive fighting style, I’m going with Fitch to edge out Maia by decision.

Chase: Fitch vs. Maia would normally be a mediocre match-up to some, but due to the recent performances of both, I think this could be a great fight. You have a very strong wrestler in Fitch who has normally used that strength to win his fights. However, his most recent fight with Erick Silva showed a hungry and dominant Fitch that we haven’t seen in a long time. For me, this sparked a new hope that Fitch may be looking to change up his style and fill out his potential. His setback from Hendricks showed his chin can be tested at times, but Maia is not the best striker in the division.

Maia is someone who I enjoy watching fight, except when he tries to fix something that isn’t broken. He is the new Gracie in a sense and possesses some of the best ground game of any UFC fighter. In his recent fights, he has been straying away from the ground and has been trying to prove himself on his feet. This has led him to some disappointing fights and losses. His last fight with Rick Story though was classic Maia.

Maia (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

Style-wise, this is a great fight where we could see a finish. I think Fitch will get the better of Maia on the feet, but if Fitch takes it to the ground or allows it to go there, Maia will submit him. I will go with Fitch by TKO, but if anyone will get the sub, it is Maia, quick and early.

Wilcoxon: This is a fight between two of the best grapplers in the division and maybe in the sport.

Fitch is the former captain of the Purdue wrestling team and a Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Dave Camarillo. He has been criticized as boring for his dominant top control performances in the past. His top game is suffocating, and in those critics’ eyes, he didn’t open up and take risks enough to finish fights he had under control. However, before his last fight, Fitch finally came to terms with the idea that it doesn’t really matter in the UFC who you beat as long as you are exciting. This realization led Fitch to dominate Silva while repeatedly looking to finish the fight.

Maia was possibly the greatest BJJ practitioner in the world at one point in his career. His prowess concerned opponents so much that they would do anything to keep the fight standing. Maia, in reaction to this, began training his striking and has improved in that area.

Maia adds excitement to a stacked division, but this fight is not a favorable match-up for him. Fitch is a more technical striker and should be able to win the stand-up exchanges. He also has the better wrestling to prevent being caught on the bottom. But most importantly, Fitch has extremely underrated grappling. He has only been submitted once in his career—in his first fight. Since then, his top control game has neutralized some of the best grapplers in the world. Fitch could end this fight early, but I think Maia will survive until the end and lose on the judges’ cards.

HW: Alistair Overeem (36-11) vs. Antonio Silva (17-4)

Chase: Who doesn’t appreciate a great heavyweight showdown?

Overeem (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

This is a great fight between two guys who really made names for themselves well before coming into the UFC. The sheer physique of both of these fighters is enough to intrigue fans.

On one hand, you have Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, appropriately named to signify his very large stature. While not the tallest, his overall size is noteworthy and memorable, and he has a cranium that would make Tito Ortiz feel less self-conscious.

Silva’s opponent is Alistair Overeem, a man who has faced controversy in the light of allegations of using steroids and other PEDs. Regardless of how he got to be as big as he is, he is an intimidating specimen at heavyweight. But size doesn’t determine fights.

This comes down to the skills of both. Overeem is a better striker and is more well-rounded, but Silva has shown a resiliency in his game. Silva has shown dominant performances over the likes of the great Fedor Emelianenko, but has displayed some weaknesses off of his back. Silva has the power to finish Overeem, but the technicality goes to Overeem. Overeem might have the ground game to finish Silva, but will dictate this fight on the feet instead. His kickboxing will get the better of Silva, and he will emerge victorious with a TKO.

Wilcoxon: Despite disagreeing with some of what Gregory has said, I still came to the same conclusion about the fight.

Silva is the more well-rounded fighter. He has demonstrated his knockout power in striking, has good wrestling, and is a BJJ blackbelt. Physically, he is big and strong. Silva highlighted his ability to dominate when he completely destroyed Emelianenko. He took him down with ease, got on top, and rained down strikes until the referee had to stop the fight. He has also shown his toughness in a number of fights.

Overeem, on the other hand, has proven to be a specialist of one type of another throughout his career. A quick glance at his record shows a large number of submission wins, but nearly all of those are due to a guillotine choke. However, Overeem hasn’t even looked for a submission since 2009. His background is in kickboxing. Since gaining his large physique with a little chemical assistance, he has gone back to his roots and is looking for a knockout.

"Bigfoot" (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Overeem is the far more technical striker and will offer a more varied attack on his feet. His takedown defense is solid. Silva will try to get this fight to the ground, but that means swallowing shots while trying to get past Overeem’s takedown defense. Overeem wins this in the first round by TKO.

Adams: It’s good that the UFC is putting a big heavyweight fight on this card to go along with the other fights, and this is one that people will look forward to.

The main reason this fight is being hyped up is that it is the return of Overeem. My fellow writers have laid out the strengths and weaknesses of both men, and I’m going to have to agree with their assessments.

Silva is a solid fighter with many great performances, but against a hungry Overeem, I see Bigfoot getting knocked out. Overeem is the overall better fighter and has better knockout power, which is what will dictate the outcome of this fight.

Nine of Overeem’s 11 past wins have come in the first round, and that’s when it will end on Saturday. Overeem will have his hand raised and a future title shot with a first-round finish.

LHW: Rashad Evans (17-2-1) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5)

Adams: It’s been a little under a year since Rashad Evans lost to Jon Jones at UFC 145, but “Suga” is back in a huge fight for his career that could get him back on track.

Evans (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Evans will take on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who hasn’t fought since late 2011. “Minotoro” defeated Tito Ortiz in his last bout, but Evans will be a much larger task for him. It will be interesting to see if an aging, injury-prone Nogueira will still be able to hang with top athletic fighters like Evans.

No offense to Nogueira, but this appears to be a bounce-back fight for Evans. Evans wants to get back to title contention, and a fight against “Lil Nog” is a winnable one for him.

“Suga” will come in motivated to pick up a much-needed win and will show off the power in his hands that hasn’t been displayed since his days as a champion. Evans by TKO in round two.

Wilcoxon: Where has the time gone? It has been nearly 12 years since Nogueira debuted. When he came onto the scene, he quickly climbed the rankings. Nogueira was one of the true mixed martial artists of his time. He mixed together the trademark BJJ made famous by his brother with a great boxing background. He had such skill at boxing that he spent much of 2006 and 2007 away from MMA competing as a boxer, securing wins at the Brazilian and South American Championships and a bronze medal in the Pan Am games. Now at the age of 36, Nogueira is trying to shake off injuries and father time for one more run.

Evans hasn’t competed since losing to Jones last March. He has spent most of the time since trying to determine if he would make a cut to middleweight to go after Anderson Silva or would stay at his current division. At least for one more fight, Evans is a light heavyweight. Evans has a big background in wrestling, but he has turned himself into a feared striker.

Nogueira (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Both fighters have been out of action for a while, so ring rust could be a factor against both guys. I find that while Nogueira will be the more technical striker, he will have less power. That coupled with Evans having his wrestling to fall back on if the fight starts to go bad for him makes this fight a fairly easy win for him. Evans by TKO in round two sounds right to me as well.

Chase: It has been another long layoff for Evans, but one that will make him hungry and determined to get back to Jones for a rematch.

Evans has shown that a loss motivates him, and he comes back strong from them. He will look to take the first step by dominantly beating “Lil Nog.” I expect Evans to come out strong and to come out trying to make a statement. He is coming off the loss to the champ, but I think this has just fueled the fire even more.

“Lil Nog,” though, has his own plans to bounce back and return to a solid winning streak. Although he comes from a family and camp of great submission artists, Nogueira’s career has been about his hands recently, and he is not afraid to trade with Evans. The reach for these men is about the same, but Evans has the quick striking that could give Nog a very short night.

I predict that Evans’ speed and explosiveness will overwhelm “Lil Nog” and provide him with a TKO/KO early on. If the fight goes into the later rounds, Nogueira might be able to tire Evans out, but I think Evans will be ready for anything and will come out and make a statement.

FW Championship: Jose Aldo (21-1) vs. Frankie Edgar (15-3-1)

Wilcoxon: It is hard to believe that it is only January and this could be the fight of the year. People are constantly talking about superfights between Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre or Silva and Jon Jones, but this is also a superfight. Frankie Edgar is a bad decision away from still being the lightweight champion, while Jose Aldo is the only featherweight champion the UFC has ever known.

Edgar (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

The reigning featherweight champion has never lost at 145 pounds. He possesses a BJJ black belt, although we rarely get to see him show off his submission game. The reason why is that Aldo is so fast and has great takedown defense that he uses to show off his great striking. Aldo possesses both technical striking and great power for a guy his size.

Edgar is the former lightweight champion, and many believe he should still have the title. Edgar climbed to the top of the lightweight division as an extremely undersized fighter. He cut almost no weight for that division, and his transition to featherweight should be easy. Edgar has a great wrestling game that he mixes with a very technical boxing game.

Outside of the fighters’ skill sets, this fight has some other interesting angles to consider. Edgar has typically been the faster man in the cage at lightweight, but that won’t necessarily be true in this fight. At the same time, he has almost always been the smaller man in the cage, and it again that won’t necessarily be the case. How will Edgar adjust his fight to these differences? At the same time, Aldo hasn’t fought in over a year. How will that impact his game?

At the end of the day, this fight is really a coin toss. The long layoff for Aldo has me concerned about his cardio in the later rounds when dealing with Edgar’s constant pressure. For that reason, I am going with Edgar to pull away late en route to a decision victory.

Chase: I’ve been waiting for this fight for a long time. This is the weight class where many people have said Edgar belongs, and he will have his chance to prove it come Saturday night.

Edgar has always had a great advantage over his opponents at lightweight with his speed and footwork. His in-and-out style has caused many fighters issues in the past, but he moves down to a weight class where there are some very fast fighters.

Aldo is a very explosive and dynamic fighter, and he is the one person in everyone’s mind that can match the speed of Edgar. Aldo has shown he can hang in there with wrestlers, and Edgar may want to look for the takedowns like he did against B.J. Penn. Both men are well-rounded, fast and very technical fighters, but the biggest factor in this fight will be the stamina. Aldo must come into the fight ready to go all five rounds and still be fresh, meaning the weight cut hopefully won’t be as trying as it has been on his body in the past.

Aldo (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

On Edgar’s part, this is a whole new weight class. The weight cutting doesn’t seem to be a problem for him, but you never know until you step into the cage and go five full rounds. Although Edgar has shown that he is resilient, Aldo is a whole different type of competition. If Aldo comes in with the right conditioning, we may see Edgar getting outclassed and frustrated by someone equally as fast and technical. I will say Aldo takes this one by a TKO within the first couple rounds, or by a decision.

Adams: So much can be said about this fight, and I thank both Gregory and Richard for laying out the fight perfectly.

Like the commercials say, Edgar has “heard this story before,” meaning that he’s been doubted in every fight he has been in and yet finds a way to overcome or make it a close fight in the end. At 145 pounds, Edgar will be in top form at the weight he should have been fighting at all along. His heart and determination, along with quickness and constant movement, will keep him in the five-round battle, but will it be enough to dethrone the champion?

It’s hard to say. As indicated, Aldo is coming off an injury that sidelined him for over a year, and it is cause for concern heading into this fight. It will be interesting to see if Aldo can handle the constant pace Edgar has, as well as the wrestling ability of the former lightweight champion.

It is not only a big fight for Edgar, but also for Aldo. The Brazilian has a lot on the line besides his belt. To move up the pound-for-pound rankings, Aldo needs to win superfights, and this is one of them. In the end, my hunch is that Edgar will survive to the championship rounds, but will get rocked by an Aldo punch. From there, the champion will finish him off with strikes to retain his title.

Preliminary Card
BW: Edwin Figueroa (9-1) vs. Francisco Rivera (8-2)

Chase: Francisco Rivera is a guy who has great hands, and he would normally be the one with that advantage. However, Edwin Figueroa poses a tough challenge for him and has just as good striking. I think Figueroa has had better experience and will take this fight by TKO.

Adams: This is a tough prelim fight to pick, but I’m going to take Figueroa as well. The only loss “El Feroz” suffered was against current top contender Michael McDonald, and that was a fight that went the distance. Figueroa finishes Rivera late in the fight by TKO.

Wilcoxon: Make it unanimous. Figueroa has only ever lost to McDonald, and that was by decision. He has faced better competition and looked better in those fights. Figueroa finishes the fight in the second round, but I will say it happens by submission.

BW: Chico Camus (12-3) vs. Dustin Kimura (9-0)

Wilcoxon: Dustin Kimura has been a monster on the regional scene. He has stopped eight of his nine opponents. Chico Camus is a different type of fighter. His last five fights have ended with the judges’ scorecards. Camus will be favored in this fight based on both his experience in the UFC and the competition he has faced, but I am going with the underdog to get an early stoppage. Kimura wins by a triangle.

Adams: This is a great fight of two prospects in the bantamweight division. Kimura has some hype behind him following his regional success, as Richard pointed out. Camus, having defeated a tough Dustin Pague in his UFC debut, is equally impressive, but I’m going to take Kimura to impress by winning via submission.

Chase: Richard makes a great point on the UFC experience and competition, and I think that will be a big part of this. As much as I would like to say Kimura wins by kimura, I will go with Camus.

LW: Yves Edwards (42-18-1) vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg (13-3-1)

Adams: One of the many debuting Strikeforce fighters on the card is Isaac Vallie-Flagg, but I don’t see him winning his debut against Yves Edwards. The last two fights for the Strikeforce vet were won by split decision, and before I can pick him, I need to see him fight in the UFC. I’m going with Edwards to add another finish to his resume, giving him 43 wins.

Chase: Edwards has had a rocky past few fights, but this is a hands down win for him. I think Edwards’ experience against a high level of competition will show very obviously in this fight, and he will send Vallie-Flagg home with a loss. I will say Edwards via TKO late in the first.

Wilcoxon: Edwards is definitely the favorite here. He has skill both on his feet and on the ground. It is his ability on the ground that will secure him a win in this one. Vallie-Flagg has suffered all three of his losses via submission. Edwards has the ability to raise that number to four.

LW: Bobby Green (19-5) vs. Jacob Volkmann (15-3)

Chase: I have to go with Jacob Volkmann in this one. The guy is going to grind you out to a decision, or submit you once he gets you down on the mat anyway. Bobby Green is a finisher, but I think Volkmann gets this one by decision.

Wilcoxon: Both of these fighters have a similar skill set. They are strong wrestlers and have solid submission games. Green may be a better striker, but I don’t think much of this fight will happen on the feet. Volkman is the better grappler and will win this fight.

Adams: Make it unanimous for Volkmann. He will be the smarter, more technical fighter against Green. Green may have better stand-up on paper, but Volkmann is well-rounded and will be able to dictate where the fight goes. I’ll say “Christmas” takes a decision win.

WW: Jay Hieron (23-6) vs. Tyron Woodley (10-1)

Adams: One of the top welterweights coming over to the UFC from Strikeforce is Tyron Woodley, who lost to Nate Marquardt in his last bout. Even though “T-Wood” didn’t win the 170-pound Strikeforce title, he has potential. Against Jay Hieron, this is a very winnable fight for Woodley, and I say he gets it with a clear-cut decision.

Wilcoxon: Don’t sell Hieron short in this one. Many would argue the longtime veteran beat Ben Askren for the Bellator belt. He took Jake Ellenberger to a decision as well. Both fighters will rely on their wrestling, and Woodley will have the edge there. However, Hieron will have the edge in the submission game and probably is the better striker. I think Hieron’s experience in big fights pays off here and he wins the decision.

Chase: While Hieron does have the experience, I have to side with Corey on this one and pick Woodley. I think he is the better finisher and will find another TKO in this fight. The only issue that keeps me unsure is the UFC debut curse. If Woodley can be the same Woodley from before, he should be able to take home a great victory.

LW: Evan Dunham (13-3) vs. Gleison Tibau (26-8)

Wilcoxon: Gleison Tibau is a big lightweight. His size and his ground ability have been enough to secure many victories. However, Evan Dunham isn’t a small lightweight either. He will have a clear advantage on the feet, may be the better wrestler, and is a good enough grappler to stay out of trouble. Dunham wins this in the second round.

Chase: Dunham is a well-rounded fighter and one that looks for the finish. His striking is better than that of Tibau, but the fight will be dictated on the ground. I think Dunham pulls out a submission sometime late in the first or second round.

Adams: Dunham was once considered a rising contender in the lightweight division, but with losses to Melvin Guillard and T.J. Grant, he has fallen down the ladder. Tibau is one of the toughest fighters in the division, and as has already been mentioned, he is huge for a 155-pound guy. I will agree with my fellow writers and take Dunham, but the win won’t come easy.

Top Photo: Jose Aldo (center) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Gregory Chase
Staff Writer

Gregory Chase is an MMA enthusiast and aficionado. He is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report (MMA), a Featured Columnist at Sports-at-Work, a Contributor for The MMA Corner, and is the Connecticut MMA Examiner for Chase also trains in MMA, focusing on a mixture of striking disciplines, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He writes to promote thought, give perspective and provide a coherent analysis on topics, while maintaining a smooth read and educating/entertaining. He lives by his motto of “MMA: Live it. Breathe it.”