The first weekend in February has become the marquee weekend in American professional sports. The Super Bowl is certainly No. 1 in the eyes of the mainstream media, but the UFC has carved itself a nice little niche on Super Saturday. Traditionally, the company delivers one of its best cards of the year, and this year will be no different as the fighters step inside the Octagon at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which is just a short drive from the the Super Bowl site of Met Life Stadium. The NFL will only crown one champion on Sunday night, but two titles are on the line in Newark. Renan Barao is now the undisputed bantamweight champion after Dominick Cruz was forced to pull out of this unification bout with a groin injury. Barao will make his first title defense against Urijah Faber, the same man he defeated to win the interim belt. In the night’s co-feature Ricardo Lamas finally gets his long-awaited title shot against the seemingly unstoppable featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. Two heavyweight legends will also look to turn around recent streaks of bad luck when Frank Mir faces Alistair Overeem. The main card is rounded out by a possible flyweight title eliminator between John Lineker and Ali Bagautinov and an intriguing lightweight contest between Abel Trujillo and former WEC champion Jamie Varner. The Fox Sports 1 prelims are highlighted by a bout between John Makdessi and undefeated prospect Alan Patrick. Fans will also get to see familiar names like Al Iaquinta, Chris Cariaso, Tom Watson and Clint Hester in action for free before the pay-per-view broadcast begins. Three prelim bouts kick off the action on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET. Those fights will be followed up by four more prelims on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET. The pay-per-view main card rounds out the action at the traditional start time of 10 p.m. ET. The MMA Corner’s Sal DeRose, Kyle Symes and Trey Downey break down all of the action in this edition of the Round Table. LW: Abel Trujillo (11-5) vs. Jamie Varner (21-8-1) DeRose: This is one of the many changed fights to the UFC 169 card. Abel Trujillo was originally slated to face Bobby Green, but now he will get a shot at Jamie Varner instead. Varner is a former WEC standout. The former WEC lightweight champion is a well-rounded fighter with great boxing skills to mesh with his wrestling. Varner is 2-2, including his 2012 “Upset of the Year” victory over Edson Barboza, since rejoining the UFC. Since that fight, Varner has been choked out by Joe Lauzon and dropped a split decision to Gleison Tibau at UFC 164. Varner’s method to victory depends squarely on which Trujillo shows up to this fight. Does Varner have the takedown abilities of Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was able to bring Trujillo down at will? No, I wouldn’t say so. Trujillo showed some pretty good wrestling skills against Roger Bowling in his last two fights. It will be interesting to see if Trujillo does stop the takedown. If so, can he outstrike Varner? Both guys seem equally matched on paper except in the experience department. Despite being a year younger, Varner has fought 15 more times than Trujillo, which could also be a disadvantage if Trujillo lands his strikes just right. This could go either way, really. This fight is a good test for these two guys to see where they’re really at in the division. I’ll take the more experienced Varner to outstrike Trujillo on the way to a decision win. Symes: Sal makes an excellent point that at first glance these two appear equal on paper except in terms of experience. Varner is widely known from his WEC days and his huge upset over Barboza, but it’s been a bit of a mixed bag of results for Varner since then. However, he doesn’t appear to have completely fallen off the map in terms of his skills. Let’s not forget that Varner’s bout with Lauzon was one heck of a fight before Lauzon got the tapout in a scramble. Varner will find himself in a similar situation at UFC 169 as he was in when he faced Barboza. Like Barboza, Trujillo is a surging fighter who, despite being 30 years of age, is still considered a “prospect.” Trujillo blasted onto the UFC scene with his devastating knockout of Marcus Levesseur in December of 2012. The hype train stalled a bit with his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but it’s hard to fault him for that loss. If Varner can come into this fight like he did against Barboza, by getting into Trujillo’s face with punches and takedowns, then he can definitely win. Varner has always had a good grappling game, but it won’t be enough against Trujillo. Plus, it seems the Blackzilians have finally gotten their stuff together. Trujillo will come in ready for the takedown attempts of Varner. Trujillo by decision. Downey: The turnaround for Varner has been pretty spectacular. A lot of people seem to forget that he retired in the cage after losing on a regional show almost two and a half years ago. Varner came back to honor his contract with the XFC and scored a knockout win over Nate Jolly. That fight certainly put the fire back in the veteran, and he soon got the call to return to the UFC. Trujillo has looked like an absolute monster recently. His performance against Bowling really put people on notice about how violent this guy can be. My colleagues have noted that these two guys seem even on paper. Varner does have the advantage on paper, but Trujillo certainly has the advantage in power and explosiveness. Varner does hold his fair share of TKO victories, but I’m just not sure that he puts fear in his opponents every time that he hits them in the same way that Trujillo does. This fight seems eerily similar to the Varner and Barboza fight that Kyle and Sal have mentioned. Varner could come out like a house on fire and get the less-experienced man on his heels. I could also see Varner trying out the style that Nurmagomedov employed against Trujillo. If he goes with the latter, though, he could find himself in a lot of trouble. This fight will be an absolute barn-burner and possibly the “Fight of the Night.” Varner will come forward, but Trujillo won’t back down. The two will get into a brawl and Trujillo will sneak a knee to the chin of Varner after being rocked himself. Trujillo by knockout late in round two. FlyW: Ali Bagautinov (12-2) vs. John Lineker (23-6) Symes: Talk about a big jump in competition for Ali Bagautinov. The Russian sambo champ has gone 2-0 inside the UFC with a TKO win over Marcos Vinicius and a decision win over Tim Elliott. The win over Elliott vaulted Bagautinov into contention and thus he will face John Lineker. The Brazilian has been on an absolute tear inside the Octagon as of late with three straight TKO finishes. He’s also apparently been on a tear at the buffet table—Lineker has missed weight a whopping three times in his UFC career. Lineker is getting into Anthony “Rumble” Johnson territory with the weight issues, but at least he’s still winning. Bagautinov figures to have the grappling advantage, at least on paper, as he sports four wins via submission and Lineker has been tapped out in three of his six losses. Bagautinov is capable in the stand-up game, but it’s hard not to give the nod to Lineker based on the vicious string of knockouts he has delivered. Fans are pretty high on Bagautinov right now, but I’m not completely sold on him. The win over Elliott looks good on paper, but Elliott seemed very off that fight. The fact that Elliott thought he was winning without doing anything for 15 minutes is telling enough that Elliott wasn’t all there that night. However, Lineker’s recent winning streak doesn’t look all that impressive in hindsight either. He defeated Jose Maria Tome, who to this point has been a major disappointment. Phil Harris (not to be confused with Paul Harris) won’t be mistaken for a world-beater, and neither will Azamat Gashimov. Surprisingly, though, Tome was able to find some success initially, so it’s not out of the question that Bagautinov can find some success of his own on the feet. Yet, Bagautinov using his grappling background to take Lineker’s punching power away from him seems like the more likely strategy. Bagautinov has never been knocked out, but he’s also never faced someone with the punching power of Lineker. Hopefully Lineker gets the whole weight-cut thing figured out, because after this knockout win, he should be in line for a title shot. Downey: I don’t know if I agree with the sentiment that this is a huge step up for Bagautinov. Both of these guys are legitimate top-10 flyweights, and if the winner comes out unscathed, there is a good chance that they could headline the April UFC on Fox show in Orlando against the champion, Demetrious Johnson. Lineker is certainly a terror. He has been knocking people out left and right, but he has become notorious for those botched weigh-ins. The weight cut is the first obstacle for Lineker in this bout. I honestly wonder how those cuts went in the past and how much it will take out of him if he does make the 126-pound limit. He has been working with Mike Dolce leading up to this fight. Not one of Dolce’s fighters has yet to miss weight, so I’m confident that if Dolce put his name behind Lineker, then he will make the weight. Lineker’s weakness in the past has also been submission defense. Bagautinov is a solid grappler that could cause trouble for Lineker. Furthermore, the Russian is the highest level of competitor that Lineker has faced since his lone UFC loss to Louis Gaudinot. Bagautinov has all of the skills to give Lineker a lot of trouble. His ability to get inside and close the distance was evident against Elliott at UFC 167. Bagautinov will actually hold a rare height advantage in this fight, too. Both of these men are short in stature, but have stocky and strong builds. One of the deciding factors in this fight will lie in who emerges as the stronger man. This is also a rare flyweight contest where a knockout from either man would not be out of the question. Both men will connect with their fair share of power strikes, but Bagautinov’s grappling will be the difference. He will smother Lineker just enough for a decision victory. DeRose: Although Dolce may be helping Lineker out for this fight, I’m not ready to say that it means Lineker will have a very easy time cutting the weight. He will certainly make weight with Dolce at the helm, sure, but Lineker is a bantamweight fighting at flyweight. Let’s not forget that. In fact, let’s remember that Lineker was a bantamweight before he joined the UFC, with some flyweight fights sprinkled in. Lineker will enjoy a small reach advantage of one and a half inches over Bagautinov. That will certainly help Lineker with his striking, which should form a large part of his game plan. Bagautinov will look to bring this to the mat and, rightfully so. I agree with the assessment from Kyle and Trey that Bagautinov is the stronger grappler. Indeed, that will cause problems for Lineker. This fight rests on how the weight cut goes for Lineker. He has only made weight twice in the UFC and hasn’t made weight since last May. “Rumble”-esque is one way of describing Lineker, guys. Lineker out-strikes Bagautinov en route to a decision. HW: Frank Mir (16-8) vs. Alistair Overeem (36-13) Downey: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem, two perennial top-five heavyweights, find themselves in a situation where they could possibly be fighting for their careers. Both men are on losing streaks. Mir has lost three straight, and Overeem has fallen two times in a row. The part that makes me think these guys are fighting for their careers is the fact that four out of those five combined losses in a row are due to either a TKO or knockout. Getting knocked out in the heavyweight division is nothing to be ashamed of, but when you reach the latter stages of your career, a weakening chin is certainly something that creeps into the back of your mind. Out of the two, Overeem has certainly been more competitive in his losses. He dominated Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva for two rounds before taking his foot off the gas pedal and getting finished in the third. Back in August, Overeem nearly finished Travis Browne early on, but fell victim to a front kick from Browne in an amazing comeback. It isn’t blasphemy to question Overeem’s motivation at this stage in the game. When your last two losses are both contenders for not only “Knockout of the Year,” but also “Comeback of the Year,” people will wonder if your head is still on straight. Overeem has made the decision to leave the Blackzilians in Florida and train in Thailand for this fight. It remains to be seen if the return home will be a positive one for Overeem. Mir has not looked good at all over the past year and a half. It started with a heavyweight title loss to Junior dos Santos, followed up by losses to Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett. Mir probably has to win this fight even more than Overeem does. You rarely see a guy with four straight losses hang around in the UFC, and Mir, more than Overeem, seems like a guy who would be less willing to fight outside of the UFC. Even with those losses, Mir comes into this fight immensely motivated. He was very frustrated after the loss to Barnett and has said that he just feels like he hasn’t had the chance to show how much his skills have improved since he has been training under the tutelage of Greg Jackson. The answer for Mir in this fight will certainly be to take the fight to the ground. He is the best jiu-jitsu specialist in the history of the heavyweight division. He could find himself in some major trouble if he decides that striking with a world-class kickboxer is a good idea. Mir is competent enough in the stand-up game to hold his own with Overeem until he finds his opening to get the fight to the ground. Ultimately, however, it is Overeem who will make a rash decision and take Mir down. He will regret it after he falls victim to an armbar late in the first round. DeRose: Trey may be taking the side that Mir is motivated, but I will take the side of Overeem as the more motivated man. Overeem’s last two losses are exactly the reason I feel Overeem is going to come into this fight with a motivated persona. Those two losses were fights Overeem was dominating before he eventually lost. He had opportunities to finish Browne and Silva, but for some odd reason, he couldn’t repeat his finish of Brock Lesnar. Overeem certainly has the striking advantage with his K-1 championship-level kickboxing. His chin, however, has become a huge question mark after back-to-back knockout losses. Silva knocked him out with punches and Browne served up his foot on a silver platter to Overeem’s chin. That is nine knockout losses in MMA for Overeem and a grand total of 12 if you combine his MMA and kickboxing careers. Mir doesn’t have a bad stand-up game, but he shouldn’t consider remaining on his feet with Overeem for even a second. He can hold his own for a very short period, but any long patch of striking with Overeem will find Mir staring at the lights and the end of his UFC career. The game plans are fairly simple for both fighters, as this is a classic grappler versus striker match-up. Overeem, of course, is going to want to stand and trade with Mir and pummel him on the feet and from the clinch. Overeem has to very aware in the clinch, though, as Mir could look for trips or set up takedowns. For Mir, meanwhile, the name of the game is to get this fight to the ground as fast and as often as possible. Overeem isn’t terrible on the ground, but he isn’t on Mir’s level of grappling by any stretch of the imagination. Mir will certainly have a keen eye for any mistake Overeem makes on the ground. He will work for submissions and work to get into dominant positions to score points and land strikes. Overeem’s motivation from those two losses that should have been wins will drive him to victory against Mir. Overeem by knockout in the first. Symes: Since both Trey and Sal are taking sides as to who will be more motivated, I’m going to make this prediction with the thought that “they are who we thought they are.” Mir has always been a great grappler, and it’s a credit to his level of talent that he has managed to stay in the game for as long as he has. Still, regardless of how different of a fighter he may claim to be since training with Greg Jackson, he’s had the same results inside the cage. He doesn’t like to get hit—but, really, who does?—and often freezes when faced with a guy who is in his face throwing heavy leather. He also has a problem with cage control. He was held against the fence and beaten up by Shane Carwin, Cormier and, recently, Barnett. Overeem’s worst enemy won’t be his opponent at UFC 169. It will be himself. Overeem has always had the skills and overall game to be one of the best heavyweights in the world, if not the very best. Yet, his mental game is severely lacking. It’s one thing to be confident, but Overeem is beyond confident in his own skills. It came back to bite him in the rear against Silva and Browne. In his fight with Browne, Overeem plodded forward with little regard for Browne’s striking. Luckily for Overeem, this fight will not last long enough for his cockiness to cost him the win. Mir cannot handle being hit and he gets pinned up the cage with relative ease. That sounds like a recipe for some “uber-knees.” Mir’s offensive wrestling has never been good enough to allow him to fully utilize his jiu-jitsu game, and it won’t be effective enough to take down Overeem. Overeem will be the one to initiate the clinch and batter Mir against the cage. Mir should have changed camps years ago. It might’ve made a difference then, but now he should work on pressing his suits. Why? Because the next event he will attend will be from the UFC on Fox broadcast booth. Overeem by first-round knockout. FW Championship: Jose Aldo (23-1) vs. Ricardo Lamas (13-2) Symes: Ricardo Lamas finally gets his chance for UFC gold at UFC 169, where he faces featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. Lamas has been arguably the most deserving of a title shot, but he has been routinely passed over for more established names. The problem for Lamas is that he’s only competed on the main card of an event once during his recent winning streak. He also hasn’t competed on a pay-per-view card since joining the UFC. What Lamas has done, however, is completely wreck anyone and everyone they’ve put in front of him. Three of his four wins in the Octagon have been before the final bell, and his decision win came against Hatsu Hioki, who was considered one of the world’s best featherweights at the time. Aldo has also looked impressive during his UFC tenure, though it seems fans have set the bar pretty high for his performances. Aldo’s struggles with weight cutting are well-documented, but it seems he’s figured things out in that department. He’s one of the most technical strikers in all of MMA, but he showed a new facet to his game against Chan Sung Jung at UFC 163. Aldo actually looked for takedowns and worked his grappling game rather than standing with “The Korean Zombie.” That strategy paid off for the champion. One thing people may not know (or forget) about Lamas is the fact he had a decorated amateur wrestling career. Granted, it was at the NCAA Division III level, but it’s not as if Lamas is a slouch when it comes to wrestling. It could play a pivotal role in this fight, as few of Aldo’s opponents have looked to use a ground game against the champion. Lamas may not be a big name at the national level, but he’s a huge star around the Chicagoland area. Those who think Aldo will simply steamroll over the relatively unknown Lamas are in for a surprise. Does he have the tools to take out Aldo? Definitely. Will he? I’m not totally convinced of that. Aldo is an entirely different level of fighter than those against whom Lamas has competed. He’s tough, talented and should make it a scrap early, but I don’t think he’s at a level good enough to take out Aldo right now. Aldo by TKO. DeRose: I’m pretty set on my opinion of this fight, and I haven’t swayed since the bout was announced. Kyle is correct—there are people who think Aldo will steamroll Lamas. I’m one of those people. Aldo is simply a killer, and he has expanded on his already vast set of skills. Aldo’s striking is as lethal as it comes in MMA. Whether it be knees, elbows, punches or kicks, Aldo utilizes every inch of his body in his striking game. Aldo also has some deadly leg kicks, which are the kryptonite to any good wrestler. Aldo’s leg kicks are lethal and have been enough to stop many fighters, including Urijah Faber, in the past. Aldo did work takedowns in his last fight against Jung, but that whole option is out the window here against Lamas, who has a good wrestling base. Only if Aldo fades late can I see Lamas taking the win. Aldo has faded a couple times in his career in the championship rounds, and if he has trouble cutting weight again, it could become a huge problem. Lamas doesn’t have the striking skills to stand with Aldo, so his only option is to take Aldo to the ground. If he can’t get that game plan going extremely early, it’ll be curtains for his title shot. Lamas needs to check the leg kicks and make sure that those fourth and fifth rounds are his to win. Aldo takes this fight by TKO in the second. Downey: Fight-wise, Aldo has met his Chael Sonnen. Sonnen was the first man to give Anderson Silva loads of trouble in the UFC, and Lamas has the potential to do the same to Aldo. If Lamas was half the talker that Sonnen was, then this fight would have taken place ages ago. Lamas even revealed to Ariel Helwani that he had agreed to face Aldo in October 2012. The UFC then rescinded that offer when it decided to go with Frankie Edgar instead. That fight ultimately didn’t happen when Aldo got injured, but Edgar effectively jumped over Lamas for that shot. Lamas’ last fight was over a year ago, when he obliterated Erik Koch in his hometown of Chicago. Lamas has certainly had a lot on his plate close to this fight going down. I saw him at the World Series of Fighting event in South Florida cornering some of his teammates out of MMA Masters. Lamas was also in Chicago this past weekend for the UFC on Fox show. I don’t think this will be detrimental to Lamas in the slightest. He looked great when I saw him two weeks away from fight time, and he shouldn’t have any trouble cutting weight. As Kyle and Sal suggested, Aldo is a different story. The Brazilian has never missed weight, but he has made it no secret that he has a rough time cutting all the way down to the 145-pound limit. With how drawn out he has looked, the man has still put on some memorable performances in the cage. This is also Aldo’s chance to really solidify his name as one of the stars of the sport. Whenever he fights, everyone mentions him as one of the pound-for-pound best, but he just hasn’t fought frequently enough to really become a superstar. Aldo is even being relegated to the co-headliner in this event in favor of his teammate, Renan Barao. I’m sure Aldo is happy for his teammate, but it has to get at him a little that his isn’t the name on the marquee. Aldo will come out and try to show that he deserved top billing. The story of this fight will be how Aldo responds when he gets taken into deep water. Lamas will put him in some rough positions early in the fight. Aldo is going to have to dig deep in the later rounds, which is an area that many view as his biggest weakness. I started off comparing this fight to Silva-Sonnen, and I will end doing the same. Lamas will be in control early on, but Aldo will show the heart of a champion and finish Lamas in the fourth round. BW Championship: Renan Barao (31-1) vs. Urijah Faber (30-6) DeRose: This fight between Renan Barao and Urijah Faber is a tough one to call. The last fight between the two was a horrible disaster for Faber, and it was just one bad fight on a terrible card. Barao dominated that fight from start to finish. He seemed to be ahead of Faber in terms of skill and talent, and it will be interesting to see if Faber has closed the gap enough to pull off the upset victory. Barao has his talented striking skills going for him in this fight. Much like in their last fight and the fight Faber had against Barao’s teammate, Jose Aldo, leg kicks will be a major factor. Barao will attempt to use those kicks to turn the fight in his favor. He needs to weaken Faber’s legs in order to win this fight, and he must slow Faber down enough to work his striking. Faber is going to have to do his best to avoid Barao’s strikes. After Barao’s knockout of Wineland, we know that anything and everything is in this guy’s arsenal of striking attacks. Faber’s best bet is the ground. Bringing this fight into the clinch might be an overall terrible idea, and thus will limit Faber’s ways to bring the fight to the mat. However, Faber will have to take risks to win this fight. There is a reason Barao hasn’t lost in 32 fights. He is an animal and will swarm his opponent. The only thing weakness on his part may be a possible slowdown in the championship rounds. The gas tank will be the only big question mark in this fight for Barao. “The California Kid” could certainly pull off the upset after going on a tear in 2013 and rattling off a 4-0 run, but Barao was simply too good the last time these two fought. That hasn’t changed. Barao won’t finish Faber, but he will win by decision. Downey: After Dominick Cruz was injured, it felt like the entire MMA community just took a collective punch in the gut. Everyone felt horrible for Cruz, and the match-up with Barao was just so darn intriguing. Then it was announced that Faber would get the fight. If this contest would have even been made about six months ago, I probably would have had a “meh” reaction. But with how amazing Faber has looked over the past year, I am very interested to see how this fight plays out. Faber was my choice for “Fighter of the Year” in 2013. He won four fights in the UFC, and he won them in every possible way. I’m done writing Faber off. I didn’t think that it was possible that he could look better than he did when he crushed Brian Bowles in 2011. Yet, Faber bested that performance in his last outing against Michael McDonald. He steamrolled the young upstart in quicker fashion than even Barao did earlier in the year. This will just be a case of how much Faber has improved and how he approaches the bout. Sal highlighted Barao’s knockout of Wineland when talking about how unstoppable the guy is. Barao is an amazing fighter and that was certainly a highlight-reel knockout, but the overall performance wasn’t stellar. Wineland actually had a good share of success on the feet in a very close round one. Barao was also hurt by McDonald in their fight in London before pouring it on and submitting McDonald in the fourth. Long story short, Barao is amazing, but there are chinks in his armor. Barao will need to employ a similar strategy against Faber as he did the first time the two met. He needs to slow down and punish “The California Kid” with leg kicks, just like Aldo did. Barao also holds a speed advantage, so he needs to get in and out as quickly as possible. He can’t afford to have lapses in his defense. Faber is a shark in the fight game, and he won’t stumble the way McDonald did when he had Barao hurt. I have gone back and forth in my mind on this fight probably about eight times just as I have been writing this, but I can’t pick against Faber anymore. It seems like he has his best performances when everyone is counting him out. Faber is the best he has ever been in his career. He will rock Barao and pounce on a submission in the third to win Team Alpha Male that elusive UFC championship. Symes: Sal and Trey have done a great job of breaking down this fight, but I’d like to add in the fact that Faber made it through the five-round bout with Barao at UFC 149 after suffering a broken rib. He has had mid-fight injury issues before, specifically broken hands, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it slowed him down in their first meeting. That could be the reason it seemed as though Barao was a step or two ahead of “The California Kid” during the entirety of their contest. The addition of Duane “Bang” Ludwig to Team Alpha Male has paid huge dividends for Faber, as well as his teammates. It’s not just that Faber won four fights in 2013, but the fact that he walked through a lot of tough guys en route to getting his hand raised. Sal and Trey have pointed out that Barao has some cracks in his armor despite the impressive winning streak. Is Faber the guy to exploit those cracks? A year ago, I would’ve said absolutely not. Now, though? It’s hard for me to ignore what Faber has done, but Barao has looked equally as impressive during his title defenses. Barao is a dynamic fighter that presents a challenge for anyone, both on the feet and on the ground. If Faber can avoid another injury, he’s still good enough to take out Barao. We haven’t seen Faber slow down, nor has there been a degradation in his skills like in those of many of the fighters who were on top with Faber during the WEC days. If anything, Faber looks even better now than he did then. It will take some time for both men to find their range, but Faber will be the guy to finally end the title drought for Team Alpha Male. Faber by split decision. Preliminary Card WW: Neil Magny (8-3) vs. Gasan Umalatov (14-2-1) Downey: Neil Magny is fighting for his job in this one. Other than the winner Colton Smith, Magny is one of the few men left from his season of The Ultimate Fighter. The newcomer, Gasan Umalatov, has seven wins by submission, so Magny will more than likely want to keep the fight on the feet. Magny could have some success, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Russian will win his debut. Symes: Expect Magny to come out fighting with a purpose given that it’s likely his last shot in the UFC. He will likely look to keep the fight on the feet, as it’s clear that Umalatov has a good submission game. The streak of Russian fighters finding success in the Octagon will continue here. Umalatov by decision. DeRose: With Magny fighting for his job, he will certainly look for every possibility to win. However, Umalatov’s great submission game will carry him to a decision win in his UFC debut. LW: Rashid Magomedov (15-1) vs. Tony Martin (8-0) DeRose: Rashid Magomedov and Tony Martin are making their UFC debuts at UFC 169. Magomedov is coming over from Russia and has looked solid during his M-1 tenure. He is currently riding an eight-fight winning streak. Martin is undefeated and has good grappling skills that led him to victory in six fights. Martin via submission. Symes: Both men’s debuts have been highly anticipated by those that follow the regional/international MMA scene. Martin sports an undefeated record and is a threat for submissions, as Sal pointed out. However, there’s a big difference from competing on regional shows compared to fighting under the M-1 Global banner. Magomedov takes this by TKO. Downey: These guys will certainly have a lot of eyeballs on them in their debuts. This also looks like it could be the traditional striker vs. grappler match-up, with Martin’s submission game up against the striking of Magomedov. I’ll side with Sal and say Martin comes out on top. MW: Andy Enz (7-0) vs. Clint Hester (9-3) Symes: Andy Enz will be making his UFC debut after competing exclusively in the Alaskan Fighting Championship promotion. He sports an undefeated record, but I believe that will change at UFC 169. Why? Well, because his opponent, Clint Hester, is on a roll right now and has faced stiffer competition. Hester by decision. Downey: A lot of people forget that Hester was the first pick of Jon Jones on his season of The Ultimate Fighter. The former boxer suffered an upset loss, but the time spent training with Jones was huge for him. He has done nothing but improve since leaving the show. Enz is running into a buzzsaw in his debut fight. Hester by TKO. DeRose: I am going to echo what Trey said. Hester has some good boxing skills and has improved since being upset on TUF. Enz has strictly fought in the Alaskan Fighting Championship and will certainly be stepping up a level in terms of competition. The edge goes to Hester, who will take the victory by TKO. LW: Al Iaquinta (7-2-1) vs. Kevin Lee (6-0) Downey: Al Iaquinta is fighting out of the suddenly red hot Longo-Serra fight team from Long Island. That means the New Yorker will be fighting about as close to home as he can currently get. Iaquinta has won his last two fights after losing in the finals of TUF Live against Michael Chiesa. Meanwhile, Kevin Lee is making his UFC debut on a streak of four straight submission victories. Serra and Longo have likely put a focus on that submission defense, and Iaquinta will win a decision. DeRose: Iaquinta has home-field advantage here and has been pretty good coming off of TUF. Iaquinta is pretty well-rounded, and he will certainly have to look to stop Lee’s submission game. Iaquinta by decision. Symes: I really like what I’ve seen from Iaquinta since his loss in the TUF finale. I believe he’ll be one of the more successful fighters to emerge from TUF in years, and that means Lee won’t be leaving UFC 169 with his undefeated record intact. Iaquinta by TKO. MW: Nick Catone (9-4) vs. Tom Watson (16-6) Symes: Nick Catone and Tom Watson are in need of a win in this contest. Catone has gone 3-4 during his UFC tenure, but he has a win over the highly ranked Costas Philippou. Watson, meanwhile, had a bit of hype surrounding him when he came into the UFC, but he has seen that hype fade. Watson has some issues with takedown defense, and I suspect we will see a heavy dose of wrestling from Catone. Catone by decision. DeRose: Kyle is right on the money here. Watson has had problems solving the takedown-defense riddle, and Catone just happens to excel in that area. Barring an early knockout, it’s difficult to see Watson taking this fight. His hype will fade even more after Catone claims the win by decision. Downey: Watson certainly came into the UFC with a lot of hype, but he has failed to live up to that hype so far. However, the hype was not unwarranted. Watson needed to work on his takedown defense in this camp. Catone is a good wrestler, but he is no world-beater. Watson will finally show some of that promise and score a TKO. FlyW: Chris Cariaso (15-5) vs. Danny Martinez (16-4) DeRose: It will be interesting to see how both Chris Cariaso and Danny Martinez adjust to a new opponent on short notice. Martinez was eliminated in the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter 18, which marked his only fight since December 2012. Cariaso is a dangerous flyweight with some solid striking skills. I’ll take Cariaso to take the decision win. Downey: Cariaso is one of the more underrated guys in the flyweight division. If you look at the fights he has lost in the UFC, they are all against really top-flight competition, including Renan Barao and Michael McDonald. An interesting connection between these two guys is that their most recent losses are against Jussier “Formiga” da Silva. The layoff for Martinez and Cariaso’s experience advantage are the deciding factors in a decision win for “Kamikaze.” Symes: I’m going to make it a clean sweep for Cariaso. Cariaso has at least shown he’s capable of winning inside the Octagon and, as Trey pointed out, his losses are to some quality opponents. Cariaso by decision. LW: John Makdessi (12-2) vs. Alan Patrick (11-0) Downey: I’m happy to see John Makdessi getting the showcase prelim bout on a big card like this. His striking is very technical and he mixes it up enough to keep guys guessing. The Canadian could really vault himself into some big fights if he wins this bout. Alan Patrick is undefeated and looked great in scoring a first-round TKO in his UFC debut. Whether he’s ready for Makdessi, though, is another question. Makdessi stops the Brazilian late in the third. Symes: Makdessi’s striking will be the difference here. Not only is it flashy, but it’s also effective. Patrick had a great UFC debut, but, to answer Trey’s question, he will not be ready to handle Makdessi’s varied attack. Makdessi by TKO. DeRose: Patrick had a fantastic UFC debut, but Makdessi’s striking will be the difference maker in this fight. Patrick is going to be taking a step up for this fight and will ultimately fall to a TKO in the third.