As we pointed out on Facebook earlier today, the entire main card of this Saturday’s UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Melendez event features a UFC veteran taking on a former Strikeforce standout. What’s more, there are four fights on the prelims that fit this same pattern. While the UFC has set up cards along national lines in the past — see UFC 58: USA vs. Canada and UFC 117: USA vs. Brazil, Pretty Much they’ve never been this overt with their UFC vs. Strikeforce matchmaking. Will the UFC vets fight harder in an attempt to defend their turf? Will the Strikeforce crossovers band together to continue their invasion of the Octagon? Take a look at all eight matchups below and let us know which side you think will emerge victorious.
Headshot images via Card/The UG.
BENSON HENDERSON vs. GILBERT MELENDEZ (for UFC lightweight title)
The odds say: Bendo is a strong favorite to defend his belt at -250.
We say: When you put this much talent into the cage at the same time, anything can happen. But while we think this fight will be closer than the betting line reflects, there’s been an unbreakable, unstoppable quality to Henderson’s performances during his 6-0 UFC run. Until we see how Melendez actually performs in the Octagon, we’re picking the champ.
FRANK MIR vs. DANIEL CORMIER (HW)
The odds say: Cormier is a virtual lock at -375.
We say: That sounds about right. Cormier has all the skills to be a future UFC champ, and barring any freakish leglocks, Frank Mir is just a stop along the way.
NATE DIAZ vs. JOSH THOMSON (LW)
The odds say: Diaz is a solid -175 favorite against the Punk.
We say: If Thomson proved anything during his trilogy against Gilbert Melendez, it’s that he doesn’t wilt under pressure — which is a good thing, because Diaz knows how to pressure a motherfucker. I say Nate wins enough of the standup exchanges to cruise to a decision victory.
MATT BROWN vs. JORDAN MEIN (WW)
The odds say: Jordan Mein is a -335 favorite to win the fight and end Brown’s career comeback.
We say: Alright, we’re cheating a bit here — Mein already made his UFC debut in March, when he became the first man to stop Dan Miller at UFC 158. Now, he’s returning on a month’s notice as an injury replacement for Dan Hardy. Mein’s recent performances have been enough to make the 23-year-old Canadian a front-runner in this fight. (Remember his annihilations of Evangelista Santos and Forrest Petz?) But don’t sleep on the Immortal. He’s always been a tough bastard, and now that he’s fighting smart, everything seems to be falling into place; his current four-fight win streak includes a knockout of Mike Swick and an upset win over another hot prospect, Stephen Thompson. We’ll take Brown for the upset.
FRANCIS CARMONT vs. LORENZ LARKIN (MW)
The odds say: Carmont has a slight edge at -130.
We say: Tough call, but I’m leaning towards Carmont, if only because he’s had four fights to get comfortable in the UFC. (He’s won all four of those fights, by the way.) Larkin hasn’t competed since his decision win over Robbie Lawler last July, and while that was an impressive performance, the long layoff and first-time Octagon jitters might be enough to sink him.
TIM MEANS vs. JORGE MASVIDAL (LW)
The odds say: Masvidal is another small favorite at -135.
We say: Tim Means is 2-0 in the UFC — or 2-1 if you include his TKO loss to that sauna — and is on a nine-fight win streak overall, but his victories haven’t exactly come against top-shelf competition. Meanwhile, Masvidal has battled (and beaten) some of the very best during his decade-long career. We’ll agree with the oddsmakers and put our money on Gamebred.
ANTHONY NJOKUANI vs. ROGER BOWLING (LW)
The odds say: Njokuani is the favorite at -155.
We say: It’s a fight between a talented striker who’s been woefully inconsistent over the past three years, and another talented striker whose hype fizzled out in Strikeforce after losses to Bobby Voelker and Tarec Saffiedine. Both fighters do best when they take charge early. Again, I think UFC experience will probably be the deciding factor; Njokuani will bully Bowling to a decision win.
CLIFFORD STARKS vs. YOEL ROMERO (MW)
The odds say: -150 edge for Romero.
We say: Yoel Romero is that Cuban Olympic silver medalist who was matched up with Rafael Cavalcante way too early in his career and got crushed. Starks also comes from a wrestling background — and was a teammate of Cain Velasquez at Arizona State University — but has been inactive since a submission loss to Ed Herman at UFC 143 in February 2012. Starks’s long layoff is definitely cause for concern, as is Romero’s world-class wrestling pedigree. Gotta go with Yoel.
Final prediction: The UFC vets will outgun their Strikeforce counterparts, winning by a score of 5-3. If you see if differently, let us know in the comments section.