UFC 116 was in the opinion of many MMA fans, the best card that the UFC has ever put on. On paper it appears that UFC 117 can live up to it or surpass it. A middleweight title fight and two number one contender matches, a UFC Hall of Famer in Matt Hughes, and the always exciting Clay Guida make up the main card of the event.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

People questioned if Silva was insane after his fight at UFC 112. His refusal to engage Demian Maia earned him the ire of many including Dana White, and also led many to wonder how the UFC would promote Silva in the future. Enter Chael Sonnen, who has promoted the fight behind one the best displays of trash talking I’ve ever seen. Sonnen has said some outlandish crazy things into the lead up to the fight, and it will be intersting to see if Sonnen can come anywhere close to backing them up.

Predicition: Sonnen believes he’s going to take the fight to Silva by putting him on his back and pounding a hole in his head. I see two problems with Sonnen’s strategy. Shooting for takedowns forces you to put yourself in range of Silva’s pinpoint striking. Setting up a takedown puts Sonnen right in Silva’s wheelhouse, shooting for one leaves him susceptible to catching a knee or a well timed punch .

Even if Sonnen lands a takedown he still has to avoid the submissions of Silva, who many forget is a BJJ black belt. Seven of Sonnen’s ten losses have come by submission and Silva is no slouch off of his back.

The UFC should thank Sonnen for doing a great job in hyping a fight that he has little to no chance of winning. I think he’ll eventually put Silva on his back after eating a few punches, but it won’t be a good spot for him. Silva by Submission (Triangle Choke) Round 2.

Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves

This is a rematch from three years ago in which Fitch won by a third round TKO following an upkick and punches. If you have time go back and watch that fight, it’s amazing how much each of these fighters has progressed since then. Alves would go on to ring off seven straight wins after loss before losing a decision to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100. Fitch would go on to win an at the time UFC record tying 8 wins before dropping a decision to GSP at UFC 87.

Alves morphed into a devastating striker, with leg kicks that could chop down trees and flying knees that destroyed Matt Hughes and Karo Paryisian. The win over Alves is Fitch’s last finish by KO or TKO, Fitch is a true grinder who looks for and often gets the takedown. This will be Alves’ first fight since UFC 100, a 13 month layoff. Alves suffered an injury when the two were supposed to meet at UFC 107, and later a brain irregularity forced him off the card at UFC 111. The winner of this fight will be next in line for the 170 lb title after Josh Koschek.

Predicition: Everyone raved about Alves’ takedown defense until his fight with GSP at UFC 100. Alves couldn’t land a strike without St. Pierre smothering him. Expect to see Alves try and keep the fight on the feet and to go after Fitch’s legs with kicks in the first round. This would severly hinder Fitch’s ability to go for takedowns. On the flip side, Fitch absolutely cannot stand with Alves, who is more than likely the divisions best striker. Expect to see Fitch do what he does best. Get the takedown and try and find a way to do damage out of Alves’ guard.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that wrestling is perhaps the most important base to have in MMA, and Fitch is one of it’s elite practitioners. I think GSP exposed some holes in Alves’ game in his last fight and I expect to see Fitch exploit them in route to a victory. Fitch by dec.

Roy Nelson vs. Junior Dos Santos.

There is a good chance this fight may provide knockout of the night honors, the best part is either fighter could provide the fireworks. Nelson is the TUF 10 winner and former IFL champion who has shown heavy hands in wins over Brenden Schaub and Stefan Struve. Dos Santos is a member of the Black House camp who has finished anyone the UFC has put in his path including Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Crop Cop, and Gabriel Gonzaga. The winner of this fight is next in line for the heavyweight title after Cain Velasquez.

Prediction: Few people in the division can stand with JDS, Nelson might actually be one of the few, it still wouldn’t be Nelson’s best chance for victory however. Nelson is a black belt under Renzo Gracie, and still hasn’t had the opportunity to show off his ground skills in the UFC. JDS is a brown belt under the Noguiera brothers, and is apparently no slouch off his back, but we’ve yet to see it.

It’ll be interesting to see if Nelson can get the fight to the ground. He may be able to stand and trade with Dos Santos, but it still puts him at a disadvantage. Dos Santos is the division’s best boxer and I expect him to showcase it on Saturday. Dos Santos by TKO RD 2.

Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida.

People want to turn this into a grudge match, Hughes has wins over Royce and Renzo Gracie and Almeida is a BJJ black belt under Renzo. It’s really more about Hughes proving he’s still relevant at welterweight and it’s about Almeida showing that he can contend in the division.

Hughes looked a little sluggish in his win over Renzo at UFC 112, and Gracie didn’t make Hughes look any better by putting in a terrible performance. Almeida however looked right at home in his welterweight debut at UFC 111 when he choked out Matt Brown in the second round.

Prediction: Much like the Gracie fight I can’t see Hughes wanting to take this fight to the ground. Both fighters are only average strikers whose strength lies in their ground game, that having been said Hughes may enjoy a small advantage in the stand up. Almeida though won’t have as much trouble getting the fight to the ground as Renzo did, and from there I think Hughes might be in trouble. Almeida by Submission (RNC) Round 2.

Clay Guida vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

Dos Anjos is a dangerous Muay Thai striker on his feet and very good off of his back so he matches up well with Guida who is known for his boxing and wrestling. I expect this fight to be a 15 minute war that wins fight of the night. Guida is always entertaining and Dos Anjos is making his PPV main card debut, so he has something to prove.

Prediction: Guida has finally settled down for good with Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jackson is perhaps the best in the game at creating a plan and having his fighters stick to it. Expect to see Guida do what he does best, get inside with his striking and use it to set up his takedowns. From there he’ll fend off submissions and Ground and Pound his way to a decision. Guida by dec.

Undercard Fights

Ben Saunders vs. Dennis Hallman. Saunders

Stefan Struve vs. Christian Morecraft. Struve

Jonhny Hendricks vs. Charlie Brenneman. Hendricks

Tim Boetsch vs. Todd Brown. Boetsch.

Phil Davis vs. Rodney Wallace. Davis.

Dustin Hazelett vs. Rick Story. Story.

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