UFC 156 ANALYSIS

UFC 156 ANALYSIS

A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 156 today at Mandalay Bay:

JOSE ALDO (CHAMPION, 21-1) VS. FRANKIE EDGAR (15-3-1)

■ CLASS: For featherweight title

■ LINE: Aldo minus-210

■ STORYLINE: This is a fight fans have long awaited, as Edgar, the former lightweight champion, drops down to challenge the dominant 145-pound champ. Aldo is incredibly fast and brutalizes his opponents with leg kicks. Edgar is a smart fighter, though. He will come in with a plan to neutralize that attack. He also will take advantage of the fact he is finally fighting someone closer to his own size. Look for Edgar to use his footwork and jab to set up takedowns and get Aldo to the mat. Aldo hasn’t fought for more than a year, so Edgar probably will try to quicken the pace to test Aldo’s timing. Nobody has really shown a blueprint for beating Aldo, but Edgar says he’s formulated a plan by watching Aldo’s past three opponents. Take his word for it. While Aldo is justified as a big favorite, there has to be an underdog that comes through on this card full of big favorites, and there is definitely value on Edgar.

■ PICK: Edgar by decision

RASHAD EVANS (17-2-1) VS. ANTONIO ROGERIO NOGUEIRA (20-5)

■ CLASS: Light heavyweight

■ LINE: Evans minus-500

■ STORYLINE: Evans continues to be one of the UFC’s more underrated fighters. He has lost only twice in his career, both times in title fights. Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida are the only fighters to beat him. That’s elite competition. Nogueira is accomplished and has had a terrific career, but he’s not on that level. While Evans has remained among the world’s top fighters the past few years, he hasn’t been much of a finisher. Nogueira has been stopped only once in his career, so expect this one to go the distance with Evans using his smooth boxing skills and an occasional takedown attempt to gain the favor of the judges.

■ PICK: Evans by decision

ALISTAIR OVEREEM (36-11, 1 NO CONTEST) VS. ANTONIO “BIGFOOT” SILVA (17-4)

■ CLASS: Heavyweight

■ LINE: Overeem minus-350

■ STORYLINE: The focus has been on Overeem, who has the potential to get a title shot if he wins. Silva isn’t in the same position, but wants to ruin the dreams of Overeem, with whom he has an antagonistic relationship. Silva used to train with the Blackzilians in Florida, but left last year when he heard Overeem was joining. Overeem has been dismissive of Silva’s skills, and the quiet Silva has recently fired back that Overeem “talks too much.” Tempers flared anew at Thursday’s staredown photo op at media day. According to witnesses on stage, Silva got in Overeem’s face and said, “You better start respecting me.” Overeem fired back, “I’m going to (expletive) destroy you.” Don’t expect this one to last long. Silva has been knocked out twice in his past three fights, and it probably will happen again.

■ PICK: Overeem by first-round knockout

JON FITCH (24-4-1, 1 NO CONTEST) VS. DEMIAN MAIA (17-4)

■ CLASS: Welterweight

■ LINE: Fitch minus-205

■ STORYLINE: When wrestlers match up against skilled submission specialists, things often get interesting. Fitch is as good as it gets in the UFC at securing takedowns, but he probably won’t want to be on the ground much against Maia, who can submit anyone from practically any position. Conversely, Maia probably won’t often be able to take down Fitch to a place where he can submit him. That means this could turn into a standup battle between two mediocre strikers. Both have worked extensively on their hands, but neither poses a legitimate threat to end the fight with punches. Look for Fitch to score a couple of takedowns late in rounds to win on the scorecards.

■ PICK: Fitch by decision

JOSEPH BENAVIDEZ (16-3) VS. IAN MCCALL (11-3-1)

■ CLASS: Flyweight

■ LINE: Benavidez minus-240

■ STORYLINE: Benavidez twice lost to Dominick Cruz at bantamweight, but was just waiting for the UFC to add a flyweight division so he could drop to his more natural weight. It was expected Benavidez eventually would be the first flyweight champion, but he lost a split decision to Demetrious Johnson in September. A win over McCall probably would put Benavidez back in the picture for a rematch with Johnson for the belt. McCall is a skilled, well-rounded fighter who gave Johnson fits for two full fights. He might be the third-best flyweight in the world. Benavidez, however, is No. 2. The only time McCall was stopped during his career was by guillotine. Benavidez has won with that maneuver four times. He might make it five tonight.

■ PICK: Benavidez by second-round submission

ADAM HILL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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