Main event: Lyoto Machida vs Mark Munoz
Former UFC Light Heavweight Champion Machida makes his long-awaited debut at 185 lbs as he battles top-ten fighter Mark Munoz.
'The Dragon's' debut comes ten days earlier than expected, replacing hometown fan favourite Michael Bisping.
Coming off a very controversial loss to Phil Davis, the Brazilian is looking to push for the title, especially since training partner Anderson Silva has been dethroned. His unorthodox striking forces opponents to keep their distance from him and his conservative style, along with world class striking, allows him to punish his opponents.
Machida holds victories over a who's who of light heavyweights.Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, Randy Couture and Dan Henderson - all holding a major light heavyweight title in MMA - have fallen at the hands of 'The Dragon.'
Munoz, once also a light heavyweight, has seen real success at 185 lbs - posting an 8-2 record. His raw strength allows him to control his opponents on the ground and land his 'Donkey Kong' punches, like in the Chris Leben and CB Dolloway fight.
What is interesting about the two is that they have trained together in the past. Munoz claims he has 'taught Machida more than Machida taught him.' However there is a a difference between teaching and putting it into practice.
Although Machida has been suspect when other fighters press forwards, he thrives on counter striking - especially when opponents try and throw power punches. Munoz has superb strength and wrestling, but he doesn't set up his takedowns well at all.
Machida is better in all areas than Munoz. I expect this fight to be much like when Machida KOd Ryan Bader. He out-struck the wrestler and forced him to do something radical. Munoz's stand up is wild and clashes awfully with the technical striking of Machida. Expect Munoz to last a round, be frustrated, throw a wild right hand and be countered by a straight that ends him.
Prediction: Machida via 2nd T/KO
Co-main Event: Ross Pearson vs Melvin Guillard
Going into his fight with Joe Lauzon at UFC 136, Guillard was one win from a title shot. He was submitted in just 47 seconds and has gone an abysmal 2-3.
Pearson, on the other hand, has looked superb since moving back to lightweight. The TUF 9 winner has done what not many British fighters have done, and that's moved their camp to America. He trains at Alliance MMA with world-class fighters such as UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, Alexander Gustafson and Phil Davis.
He has really re-invented himself since the move back to 155 lbs, winning easily against George Sotiropolous and Ryan Couture. What Pearson doesn't want to do is get into a dog fight with the American as Guillard holds serious power in his hands.
However, I feel Pearson will fight sensibly here. Guillard has very suspect Jiu-Jitsu, with nine of his twelve losses coming via submission. Pearson has Jiu-Jitsu wizard Lloyd Irvine training him and has wrestling ace Davis at the camp so the Brit will have a slick game plan.
The question is: can Pearson implement it? Guillard is certainly no Sotiropolous or Couture. His striking is a little wild but packs a solid punch and offers decent takedown defence.
Pearson, though, has fought one of the best strikers in the UFC when he lost a close split decision to Edson Barboza. His three UFC losses have come to three decent names in Cole Miller, Barboza and Cub Swanson.
You never know which Guillard will turn up - either the cocky, thrash fighter who appeared against Joe Lauzon or the technical fighter seen when he faced Fabricio Camoes. Guillard has yet again changed his camp for this fight.
Pearson has been consistent lately and really matured as a fighter. For that reason I think - although he will take a few shots - he will mix his standing and takedowns and get an almighty roar from the British crowd when he has his hand raised.
Prediction: Pearson via Decision (Fight of the Night)
Jimmy Manuwa vs Ryan Jimmo
Two light heavyweights who are looking to move forward in the division as 13-0 Manuwa faces the man boasting the quickest KO finish in the UFC.
Manuwa has looked unstoppable in every one of his MMA fights, going no further than two rounds in the cage. His striking his deadly and he holds serious KO power in both hands. If he doesn't knock you out, he'll force you to quit.
Manuwa is constantly in his opponent's face, throwing technical combinations as showed in his last fight against Muay Thai wizard Cyrille Diabete.
Jimmo, however, poses a threat to Manuwa. There's no doubt he holds power in his hands, but he is a grafter in his fights and will really look to clinch 'Poster Boy' up against the cage and drag him to the ground.
Manuwa will be ready for this though. Jimmo's only UFC loss came to James Te-Huna, who is a decent striker however I don't think he is on the same level as the Brit. Jimi holds a 2.5 inch reach advantage which he will use to feel out Jimmo and find his range. After doing so, he'll very much wait for the right moment and land the killer blow.
Prediction: Manuwa via 1st round T/KO (KO of the Night)
Norman Parke vs Jon Tuck
Two real good grapplers face off here. Parke, who won the TUF: Smashes Lightweight tournament, has displayed a very good all round game in his fights.
However, so has Tuck. He is an elite BJJ practitioner and has a killer instinct.
Parke though, for a British fighter, has showed excellent wrestling in his two UFC wins. He has a strong Judo background and trains with Robert Drysdale for BJJ.
I feel Parke is too well rounded for Tuck and will have his hand raised.
Prediction: Parke via Decision
Alessio Sakara vs Nicholas Musoke
This is really a sink or swim fight for Sakara. He is very much a journeyman in the UFC, holding a 6-7 record in the company.
Lucky for the Italian, he meets late replacement and UFC newcomer Musoke whose training partner, Magnus Cedenblad, was injured prior to this fight.
Sakara is currently on a three fight losing streak. However this is deceiving as he lost to now UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, Brian Stann and Patrick Cote - with the latter due to illegal strikes.
Musoke posses a 10-2-1 (1) record, however, he has been fighting on the European circuit. The only advantage is that his camp would have had a set gameplan for Sakara which he can shadow.
Sakara looked very good against Cote. Yes he is a journeyman, but he has excellent boxing and his experience will be too much for the newcomer.
Predicition: Sakara via 3rd round TKO
Phil Harris vs John Lineker
British native Harris opens up the main card in Manchester and meets a very tough opponent in John Lineker and it could be a belter.
At just 23, Lineker has a record of 22-6 and a 3-1 record in the UFC. He has bundles of talent and may have the most KO power in the flyweight division.
Harris, on the other hand, is a BJJ expert and will be looking to grind the Brazilian to the mat.
I just feel that from their UFC fights, it is Lineker who has shown more to go with the pick. He is no slouch on the ground, his striking is crisp and he has KO power in his hands.
Prediction: Lineker via 2nd round T/KO
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