UFC 189 Main Event Preview: Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes

UFC 189 Main Event Preview: Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes

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Subtitle:  A Hell of a Plan B

Like most MMA fans, I was eagerly awaiting the scheduled collision between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, with the extended promotional campaigning combining with the excitement at the meeting of one of the greatest mixed martial artists of our time and the fastest rising star in the sport.

Then Aldo got injured and the UFC had to look for a replacement. My immediate preference would have been for Frankie Edgar to get the call, firstly as he’s one of the biggest stars in the lighter weight classes.   Secondly as he has only lost to Aldo once and has put a top notch 5-0 streak together since, he makes a more compelling potential interim champion than the eventually chosen Chad Mendes who has twice lost to the champion, with the most recent encounter coming less than a year ago.

Howevr, the more I think about it, the more I’m liking the McGregor-Mendes matchup.

Conor ‘Notorious’ McGregor (17-2, 5-0 UFC) was celebrated in Europe before ever being called up to the UFC, winning the Cage Warriors championships at both Featherweight and Lightweight to earn his call up.

Since coming to the UFC, his exciting style and personality have catapulted him up the rankings with a 5-0 UFC streak including four TKO finishes and with the one decision victory came with McGregor injured and against a fighter who has since gone 6-0 to stand close behind the Irishman in the rankings – Max Holloway. That’s a fight I’d like to see again…

McGregor’s fighting style is based around movement and angles, using a wide variety of kicks and punches to disorient his opponent before finding an opening and swarming in to earn the TKO. McGregor also displayed high level grappling skills in his bout with Holloway and in his CWFC tenure showed a Donald Cerrone like ability to translate striking dominance into a submission victory.

On the other hand, McGregor is unproven against a top level wrestler, with the likes of Darren Elkins, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Clay Guida all bypassed en route to title contention. McGregor is also willing to take a punch in pursuit of his opening and has been tagged and dropped several times in his UFC tenure (especially in his recent bout against Dennis Siver) even if he has quickly recovered and gone on to win.

Both of these potential flaws in McGregor’s arsenal are likely to be questioned by his opponent on Saturday.

Chad ‘Money’ Mendes (17-2, 8-2 UFC) started his MMA career with credentials as an All American wrestler and his initial 11-0 streak was characterized by decision victories where those wrestling skills earned the win, especially once swimming in the deeper waters of the WEC & UFC.

That led to his first challenge at Jose Aldo’s title which was lost via a highlight reel head kick knockout in the first round.

Undaunted, Mendes sought to improve his skills and the addition of Duane Ludwig as coach at Team Alpha Male had a profound affect on Mendes’ striking skills, with the power which had always informed his wrestling now turned towards knockouts and complemented by a wider variety of strikes and combinations.

The new, improved Mendes went on a 5-0 streak including four knockouts – most impressively against the tough-as-nails duo of Darren Elkins and Clay Guida – to earn a second title shot.

That title shot saw him press Aldo more than any challenger before, losing out to a decision in what proved to be the Fight of the Year for 2014 and while Mendes dropped to 0-2 against the champion and with a third title shot seeming contingent on Aldo losing the belt, he won a lot of fans in the process.

Bouncing straight back, Mendes rebounded by knocking out Ricardo Lamas – another grappler who had lost a decision to Aldo – in the first round. At that point, it was expected that Mendes would go back into the mix at featherweight, looking to face top ten fighters such as Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway or Charles Oliveira while the Aldo-McGregor showpiece went ahead as planned.

However, the injury bug and UFC brass had other plans and Mendes now finds himself close to championship gold faster than he could possibly have hoped as the decision was read out in Aldo’s favour last October.

Mendes’ main strength is his wrestling which combines a wide array of takedowns with positional sense, strength and excellent level changing to make him capable of taking down or smothering any opponent. Over the past few years this has been augmented with a dangerous striking game, with high level boxing augmented by tactical use of leg kicks and tuned to take advantage of his natural wrestling talents.

Mendes now uses the level change that was once all about the takedown to close distance for striking and force his opponent to drop their guard and if he secures the takedown his ground & pound is more effective than ever.

On the face of things, we have a striker vs. grappler matchup here, but both men possess well rounded mixed martial arts games so it’s not simply a case of McGregor getting a TKO win or decision if he keeps the fight standing or Mendes getting the win if he can get McGregor down.

I would not be surprised to see Mendes score a TKO victory or (less likely) McGregor submitting Mendes from the bottom, or even a tightly contested five round split decision…

The stakes here are huge. A win for McGregor could finally elevate the Featherweight division to the box office realms enjoyed by heavier weight classes and justify the UFC’s investment in him, while also silencing the critics who doubt his top class credentials.

A win for Mendes would be a vindication of all McGregor’s naysayers and a personal triumph for the Team Alpha Male fighter, booking a third bout with Aldo with more momentum and star power in his corner than ever before.

However it pans out and despite the late change of opponent, this is THE big fight of the summer and I can’t wait.

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Robert Whiteford Interview

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We have had the pleasure of interviewing a few of the members of the DNFT (Dinky Ninja Fight Team) over the past few months and are delighted to have finally got a chance to catch up with another of their top stars, Robert Whiteford.

Whiteford sports a 9-1 professional record and is currently on a 9 fight win streak, with his only loss recorded against Bobby McVitie in his pro debut back in May of 2009. That streak has led Robert to become the Vision FC Featherweight champion and saw him come within a whisker’s breadth of being selected for the UFC’s TUF: The Smashes series last year.

Unfortunately Injury has kept Whiteford out of action since the end of 2012, but he is due to step back in to the fray this coming Sunday at the Albert Halls in Stirling as he faces Paul Reed in the headline bout of SFC: Reawakening. He has also recently singed a contract with Cage Warriors which should lead to a number of exciting match-ups for the rest of the  year and beyond. Check out the video below for some of Whiteford’s highlights so far:

Robert was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule in the lead up to this weekends event in order to answer some of our questions, so without further ado, here is what he had to say:

1 – How long have you been involved in MMA, where did you start, what was your first discipline?

Playground fighting was my 1st martial art followed by judo, not entirely sure how long now but it feels like a fucking life time.

2 – What first got you into martial arts?

I was just always really looking for something to do. I like being active, so it kinda kept me out of trouble.

3 – We last saw you fight in September of 2012 when you beat Martin Svensson at Vision FC 4, picking up their Featherweight belt in the process. You were set to face Chris Fishgold at CWFC 50 but had to pull out. How frustrating has that layoff been?

You have no idea how frustrating it’s been. I enjoy fighting and training so it fucked my whole life up, especially when I don’t do anything now apart from that.

4 – You are now due to headline SFC: Reawakening on the 30th June against Paul Reed, What are your thoughts and feelings on the fight as it gets closer and what is it like fighting under the SFC banner once again?

Well it doesn’t matter really what banner it’s under, am just looking forward to getting in there and doing my thing. As for thoughts and feelings, no one plans a murder out loud!!!

5 – You have recently signed a deal with Cage Warriors and have previously spoken about your desire of fighting in the UFC, especially after being so close to appearing on TUF: The Smashes. What would you say are your career aims for the remainder of 2013 & beyond?

My aim for 2013 is to get as many fights in as possible after a slow start to the year, really looking forward to fighting on CW, the longer the UFC thing goes on the more BS I see with it, if only CW could pay the same. lol

6 – We know you’ve spent time training at Allstars gym in Sweden & American Top Team in Florida with a host of UFC fighters. What differences are there between them and your usual home with the DNFT at the Griphouse?

Huge as in the number and over all quality of guys to train with but hey you can only pee with the cock you have and the Griphouse does me just fine as well.

7 – You are clearly proud of your background in Judo, it is even reflected in your twitter handle @Flyinjudoka. With the likes of Ronda Rousey putting Judo more in the forefront of peoples minds, do you see Judo’s profile in MMA continuing to move forward?

The less people that get to know about judo the better I say, it’s a hidden deadly art that only now people are starting to see it for themselves, though a judo child is a safe child!

8 – I noticed on twitter that you agreed with Nik Lentz when he was talking about his social life disappearing due to taking so much time away from it. How do you find the balance between training and maintaining a real life?

Fuuuuuck real life! Wtf is that?

9 – What would you say to any kids considering taking up MMA?

Start judo early and 1st!!

10 – Last of all, a shout out to your sponsors, gym etc.

Shout out to all my guys and girl @dnft and the rest well I can see them all over my ass on my fight shorts! Peace!!!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Robert for his time and wish him the best of luck for his fight on Sunday. At the time of writing the event was very close to being sold out, but if you would like to enquire about tickets then either contact EZ Sports online to check avaialability or drop into any of their branches.

If you have twitter make sure you give Robert a follow @FlyinJudoka. For further information on the SFC go to http://www.fightchallenge.net or search for them on Facebook.

UFC Rankings – 25th February 2013

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The UFC rankings were updated today after UFC 157 at the weekend and you can find them below. It is worth noting that even though the first Women’s Bantamweight division fight took place on Saturday, with Ronday Rousey defeating Liz Carmouche via 1st round armbar, there is still no ranking of that division. The UFC have now announced a number of female signings so hopefully we will see it added in soon.

It is also interesting to note the number of changes in rankings where none of the fighters moving around each other have actually been involved in fights since the last set of ranking were released. For example, Scott Jorgensen moving above Brian Bowles, or Roy Nelson jumping ahead of Big Nog. It is a stark reminder of how much these rankings are solely based on opinion. Anyway, without further ado, the updated rankings are:

Pound-For-Pound

  1. Anderson Silva
  2. Jon Jones
  3. Georges St-Pierre
  4. Jose Aldo
  5. Benson Henderson
  6. Cain Velasquez
  7. Dominick Cruz
  8. Renan Barao
  9. Frankie Edgar

Flyweight

Champion: Demetrious Johnson

  1. Joseph Benavidez
  2. John Dodson
  3. Ian McCall
  4. John Moraga
  5. Jussier Da Silva
  6. Louis Gaudinot
  7. Chris Cariaso
  8. Darren Uyenoyama
  9. John Lineker
  10. Timothy Elliott

Bantamweight

Champion: Dominick Cruz

  1. Renan Barao (Interim Champion)
  2. Urijah Faber
  3. Michael McDonald
  4. Eddie Wineland
  5. Brad Pickett
  6. Rafael Assuncao
  7. Scott Jorgensen
  8. Brian Bowles
  9. Mike Easton
  10. Ivan Menjivar

Featherweight

Champion: Jose Aldo

  1. Chad Mendes
  2. Ricardo Lamas
  3. Frankie Edgar
  4. Chan Sung Jung
  5. Cub Swanson
  6. Dennis Siver
  7. Dustin Poirier
  8. Nik Lentz
  9. Clay Guida
  10. Erik Koch

Lightweight

Champion: Benson Henderson

  1. Gilbert Melendez
  2. Anthony Pettis
  3. Gray Maynard
  4. Nate Diaz
  5. Jim Miller
  6. Donald Cerrone
  7. TJ Grant
  8. Rafael dos Anjos
  9. Joe Lauzon
  10. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Welterweight

Champion: Georges St.-Pierre

  1. Johny Hendricks
  2. Carlos Condit
  3. Nick Diaz
  4. Rory MacDonald
  5. Demian Maia
  6. Jake Ellenberger
  7. Martin Kampmann
  8. Tarec Saffiedine
  9. Josh Koscheck
  10. Robbie Lawler

Middleweight

Champion: Anderson Silva

  1. Chris Weidman
  2. Vitor Belfort
  3. Michael Bisping
  4. Yushin Okami
  5. Constantinos Philippou
  6. Luke Rockhold
  7. Mark Munoz
  8. Hector Lombard
  9. Chael Sonnen
  10. Ronaldo Souza

Light Heavyweight

Champion: Jon Jones

  1. Lyoto Machida
  2. Alexander Gustafsson
  3. Dan Henderson
  4. Glover Teixeira
  5. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  6. Mauricio Rua
  7. Rashad Evans
  8. Phil Davis
  9. Ryan Bader
  10. Gegard Mousasi

Heavyweight

Champion: Cain Velasquez

  1. Junior dos Santos
  2. Fabricio Werdum
  3. Daniel Cormier
  4. Antonio Silva
  5. Frank Mir
  6. Alistair Overeem
  7. Roy Nelson
  8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  9. Stefan Struve
  10. Shane Carwin

Official UFC Rankings – 18th February 2013

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Now that UFC on Fuel TV 7: Barao vs. McDonald is out of the way the stable of media personalities have once again voted for their UFC Rankings. Here is the update list:

Pound For Pound

  1. Anderson Silva
  2. Jon Jones
  3. Georges St-Pierre
  4. Jose Aldo
  5. Benson Henderson
  6. Cain Velasquez
  7. Dominick Cruz
  8. Demetrious Johnson
  9. Renan Barao
  10. Dan Henderson

Flyweight

Champion: Demetrious Johnson

  1. Joseph Benavidez
  2. John Dodson
  3. Ian McCall
  4. John Moraga
  5. Jussier Da Silva
  6. Louis Gaudinot
  7. Chris Cariaso
  8. Darren Uyenoyama
  9. John Lineker
  10. Timonthy Elliott

Bantamweight

Champion: Dominick Cruz

  1. Renan Barao (Interim Bantamweight Champion)
  2. Urijah Faber
  3. Michael McDonald
  4. Eddie Wineland
  5. Brad Pickett
  6. Rafael Assuncao
  7. Brian Bowles
  8. Scott Jorgensen
  9. Mike Easton
  10. Ivan Menjivar

Featherweight

Champion: Jose Aldo

  1. Chad Mendes
  2. Ricardo Lamas
  3. Chan Sung Jung
  4. Frankie Edgar
  5. Cub Swanson
  6. Dennis Siver
  7. Dustin Poirier
  8. Erik Koch
  9. Nik Lentz
  10. Clay Guida

Lightweight

Champion: Benson Henderson

  1. Gilbert Melendez
  2. Anthony Pettis
  3. Gray Maynard
  4. Nate Diaz
  5. Jim Miller
  6. Donald Cerrone
  7. TJ Grant
  8. Rafael dos Anjos
  9. Joe Lauzon
  10. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Welterweight

Champion: Georges St-Pierre

  1. Johny Hendricks
  2. Carlos Condit
  3. Nick Diaz
  4. Rory MacDonald
  5. Demian Maia
  6. Jake Ellenberger
  7. Martin Kampmann
  8. Josh Koscheck
  9. Jon Fitch
  10. Tarec Saffiedine

Middleweight

Champion: Anderson Silva

  1. Chris Weidman
  2. Vitor Belfort
  3. Michael Bisping
  4. Yushin Okami
  5. Constantinos Philippou
  6. Mark Munoz
  7. Luke Rockhold
  8. Hector Lombard
  9. Alan Belcher
  10. Chael Sonnen

Light Heavyweight

Champion: Jon Jones

  1. Dan Henderson
  2. Lyoto Machida
  3. Alexander Gustafsson
  4. Glover Teixeira
  5. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  6. Rashad Evans
  7. Mauricio Rua
  8. Phil Davis
  9. Ryan Bader
  10. Gegard Mousasi

Heavyweight

Champion: Cain Velasquez

  1. Junior dos Santos
  2. Fabricio Werdum
  3. Daniel Cormier
  4. Antonio Silva
  5. Frank Mir
  6. Alistair Overeem
  7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  8. Roy Nelson
  9. Stefan Struve
  10. Shane Carwin

What to you make of the latest ranking? Anyone out of place? What changes would you make? Be sure yo let us know.

Ross Stevenson

Why I think Frankie really could be the Answer

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I’m insanely excited for tonight’s UFC 156 card from top to bottom, as aside from the main event we have top level matches, between massive names with potential title implications in four divisions. However, the main event Featherweight title match between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar is standing out as something special.

Ill admit to being one of those who poked fun at the marketing of it as a superfight, on account of Frankie Edgar coming off two losses, but the more I think about it, the more I think that Frankie really could be the man to take the 145lb belt from Jose Aldo.

First, lets address those losses that Frankie had to Benson Henderson.

Coming off a 3-0-1 streak in title matches against the markedly larger BJ Penn and Gray Maynard in which he took a pile of damage, Frankie again stepped into the Octagon opposite a man who walks around a good 20 or more pounds heavier than him. The difference in height and reach was tangible.

In the first fight, it was a sudden upkick and the effect that it had on Frankie that made the difference and in the end, it was a wafer thin decision that gave the belt to Benson.

So close was the decision, that the UFC awarded a rematch for the Lightweight belt for the THIRD TIME IN SUCCESSION. In that rematch at UFC 150 in August, Frankie avoided an upkick, avoided any semi-concussions that resulted in half a round of scrambling, as he had in his previous three fights and as a result, the eventual decision was split.

Benson got the nod from two judges, much to Frankie’s evident frustration and the great wailing and gnashing of teeth from many folks who thought he’d won. Indeed, there’s compelling evidence to say that the judges got it wrong, as the FightMetric stats for the bout show that it should have been a draw or a win for Edgar as he landed more significant strikes and had more grappling success as well.

The moral of the story is that over six fights and three years, Frankie Edgar assembled a 3-2-1 record that could easily have been 5-0-1 (even I’m not gonna claim that the comeback to a draw in the first Maynard fight was anything but a miracle) against the very best that Lightweight has to offer.

He achieved this against men who were significantly larger than him, and in the end it took a truly exceptional competitor in the shale of Benson Henderson to take him to the edge of two razor thin, microscopically fine decisions.

It must be remembered that Henderson combines the body mass of a welterweight with the quickness and flexibility of the taekwondo, wrestling and jiujitsu disciplines which shaped his skill-set, giving him the size advantage over Edgar, but also parity in terms of mobility.

So what we have to conclude, is that all 0-2 streaks are not equal and Frankie basically went 50 minutes with a much larger athlete of the same standard, and arguably deserved a draw…

Second, lets look at what makes Jose Aldo so unbeatable, so special.

In a word, Aldo is explosive. He’s a fighter that can finish with his fists, his knees, his legs or with his considerable jiujitsu skills. His rise to prominence, started by his still highlight-reel staple jumping knee knockout of Cub Swanson has shown that unlike so many knockout artists who have come into the UFC with big names only to be ground out by the resident cadre of wrestlers, Jose Aldo, like Anderson Silva has a solution.

Aldo’s leg kicks are a thing of legend and a nightmare for the classic American mixed martial artist who combines a wrestling base with striking skills. The tendency of wrestlers such as Mike Brown, Urijah Faber, Mark Hominick and Chad Mendes to have a prominent lead leg, the better to propel them into deep double leg takedowns has left them seeing that leg chopped down by inside leg kicks and Aldo stepping inside to punish his unbalanced opponent with knees and punches.

That’s not to say Aldo is a one trick pony as his submission game is top notch, (he’s a BJJ black belt who rolls with the likes of Marlon Sandro, Anderson Silva and Big Nog) and his killer instinct striking is immense. This was best shown against Mendes last year where he escaped a grapple against the cage, and knowing Mendes would attempt to resecure the grappling advantage, Aldo spun and aimed a knee where he expected Chad’s head to be. Lights out, cue celebration.

On the surface, Frankie Edgar is just such a wrestler-boxer and should present no new or significant threat to Aldo’s already established dominance of this division. It’s also worth noting that Frankie is STILL smaller than his opponent, as Aldo walks around heavier than Frankie’s normal weight and still has a noticeable height advantage.

Except… here’s why I think Frankie is different.

For a start, Frankie is used to fighter much bigger guys and having secured regular takedowns against Penn, Maynard and Henderson, all of whom were between 165-180lbs on fight night and survived their hardest shots, the 160lb (ish) Aldo shouldn’t seem all that threatening.

Of course, Aldo presents an entirely different kickboxing assault from anything Frankie faced at Lightweight, but by the same token Frankie’s boxing is a far more evolved beast than what Aldo has faced at Featherweight.

Even more than that, Frankie combines his boxing and wrestling into a seamless whole that merges clever angles and effective combinations to close distance, cause damage and either move away before a counter strike, OR to suddenly change level and secure a takedown.

Frankie doesn’t stand still, he doesn’t plant his lead leg and his takedowns are fast, explosive and rarely telegraphed. Suddenly, Aldo’s leg kicks may not be the deciding factor in this match.

Of course, taking Aldo down isn’t necessarily the best idea, but Frankie is a Brown Belt in BJJ under Renzo Gracie, so he’s no slouch on the mat.

There’s also the question of cardio and experience. Frankie has gone into the championship rounds of his last six fights, while Aldo has hit the time limit in only three of his six previous bouts. Sure, that’s a testament to his finishing ability but it does give Frankie a considerable experience advantage in the fourth and fifth rounds, as well as the fact that he’s fought twice since Aldo last competed. Look at their fighting time in 2012 – Aldo 4:59 compared to Edgar’s 50:00.

For all that the betting odds put Frankie at an almost 2/1 outsider, I can’t help but think that his particular blend of wrestling and boxing, so much smoother and more refined than most of his compatriots, combined with his speed, heart and the fact that Aldo hasn’t fought in a year thanks to a foot injury (which may further compromise his mobility) means that Frankie could really do something special tonight.

Of course, Aldo is the favourite to end that match by KO especially in the early rounds, but the longer it goes on the better Frankie’s chances of a late TKO or decision victory become.

Either way, tonight almost feels like the Featherweight Division’s coming out party in the UFC, the first time there has been a truly special buzz around one of the 145lb title’s defences. For my money, I wouldn’t bet against Frankie. As he says, he’s heard this ‘unbeatable champion’ story before…

If you’re not fired up already, check out the UFC’s short and to the point preview video, making excellent use of one of my favourite 90s alternative tunes here.

UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar Preview

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Sat, 02 Feb 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

It may be their third event in as many weeks, but this is the first proper UFC pay per view of the year and as much as last week’s FOX card was stacked, this event beats it hands down.

The main event is billed as a superfight, and a year ago it would truly have been just that. Twelve months ago, Jose Aldo (20-1) had just retained his Featherweight title with a knockout of the year contender against Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar was looking ahead to his fourth defence of the Lightweight title having disposed of BJ Penn and Gray Maynard against all the odds.

Now, however the picture is a little different. Injury has kept Aldo inactive since his memorable victory and crowd dive in Brazil and Edgar has suffered back to back decision defeats, no longer owns the Lightweight belt and boasts a record of (15-3-1).

However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t still a compelling fight. Despite labouring to overcome Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian in his first UFC matches, Aldo showed against Mendes exactly why he’s rated as a top 3 pound for pound talent. Incredible speed, precise, powerful and varied kicks, great takedown defence and a formidable jiujitsu game should the bout go to the floor make Aldo a scary proposition for anyone.

Aldo’s only career defeat came by a second round submission back in 2005 and since then he’s been wrecking the careers of wrestlers, kickboxers, submission specialists a d everyone in between.

I’ve complained a lot recently about guys coming off defeats getting a title shot, but I don’t really mind in the case of Frankie Edgar. You see, Edgar literally punched well above his weight in the 155lb division, as a fighter who is of a size more usually associated with the 145lb class and could probably make 135lb without too much difficulty he was competing against guys who naturally weighed between ten and thirty pounds more than him.

In that light, his wins over BJ Penn and Gray Maynard are all the more remarkable and his wafer thin decision losses to Benson Henderson almost carry a feeling that Henderson should have been handicapped somehow.

Relieved of the Lightweight title, Edgar drops to Featherweight and immediately skips to the front of the queue as the most marketable and credible threat to Aldo’s belt.

While Aldo has made a habit of beating up wrestler-boxers, he’s never yet faced one with Edgar’s sheer level of excellence. Edgar’s movement, hand speed and ability to switch levels and land sudden, inescapable takedowns befuddled most at 155lbs and for once, he’ll be fighting a guy who only weighs a wee bit more than him.

I find myself genuinely unable to predict this fight. If Aldo can land his trademark leg kicks early and dictate distance, Edgar could be in for a long (or brief) night, but if Edgar boxes on the outside, evades the leg kicks and finds the timing for his takedowns he could easily decision or knock the champion out.

In the co-main event slot, we have the return of two of the Light Heavyweight division’s old horses looking for a big win to return them to title contention as Rashad Evans (17-2-1) faces Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5).

Evans is the consensus #2 light heavyweight in the world, but having been unable to do much in his title challenge against former teammate Jon Jones last April his chances of a speedy rematch don’t look great. The option of cutting to middleweight seems to be one Rashad isn’t too happy to contemplate so he’d rather earn himself another shot.

Nogueira was billed as the top free agent at 205lbs when he signed for the UFC back in 2009 but a run of stogy performances against wrestlers mean that it’s only his debut against Luis Cane and his most recent win over Tito Ortiz which have really been memorable.

Here we have two well rounded and experienced fighters, with a jiujitsu specialist and Olympic calibre boxer facing off with a wrestler who has some of the sharpest MMA boxing in the division.

Like the main event, I’m loathe to predict this as both of these guys are capable of highlight reel KOs, grinding out decision wins or just having an off day at the office. We’ll need to see which version of ‘Suga’ or ‘Lil Nog’ turn up…

Astonishingly in a lowly mid card slot, we find Alistair Overeem (36-11) returning from his year long drugs ban to re-earn a shot at the UFC title if he can overcome this years designated gatekeeper, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (17-4)

What can I say about Overeem, a K1 Grand Prix champion who fought in Pride as a light heavyweight before packing on about sixty pounds of muscle mass in a suspiciously short time frame and went on a twelve fight unbeaten streak to stand as arguably the biggest challenge to UFC champ Cain Velasquez.

Silva on the other hand, you can either see as the dominant, heavy handed jiujitsu machine that the UFC are trying to portray him as, or you can see him as the somewhat overmatched fighter with a glass jaw who is still riding his one great moment, his 2011 TKO of Fedor Emelianenko.

I’m not saying for one second that Silva isn’t legit and wouldn’t squash me like a bug, but at the elite level he’s been badly exposed by Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez in the past year and a half, and his TKO win over Travis Browne had more to do with Browne pulling a tendon in his leg than it did to Silva’s dominance.

Put it this way, I see this as much as a gimme win for Overeem as he’s gonna get. Like Velasquez, the UFC brass are feeding Silva to him to give him a highlight reel win to carry into his near inevitable title match.

Funny, that’s how WWE used the Big Show for years as well…

… the difference is, that this is MMA and Bigfoot could easily upset the script. If Overeem puts in a tired performance as he did against Fabricio Werdum or Bigfoot gets the fight to the ground, this one could easily be less clear cut than my cynicism expects…

Wait, the awesome fights aren’t over yet! Now we have the interesting-again Jon Fitch (24-4-1-1) fresh from his exciting (yes, I said exciting) win over Erick Silva facing off with arguably the only man at 170bs that Fitch might have second thoughts going to the ground with, Demian Maia (17-4).

Fitch has made a career out of taking fighters down and rubbing his chest and shoulders into their face for fifteen minutes before being awarded a unanimous decision victory. However, following the shock of losing two rounds against BJ Penn (Fitch brutalised Penn in the third to earn a draw) and following that up with KO loss to Johny Hendricks, Fitch appeared to have embraced the desire to finish fights, or at least try to and thus make them fun to watch in his tussle with Silva.

Maia spent a long time as the designated jiujitsu guy at Middleweight, subbing most guys but occasionally getting knocked the hell out or decisioned by quality wrestlers or strikers he couldn’t get close enough to. Since dropping to welterweight, where he adds a strength advantage to his jiujitsu acumen, he’s looked a bit scary and in his last match became the first competitor to finish noted grinder Rick Story with a nasty looking neck crank submission.

Now, does Fitch try and take Maia down, knowing what he’s capable of off his back? Does Maia try and pull guard in Fitch, knowing what he’s capable of on top? Does both or either fighter decide to see how it plays out striking before going to their usual gameplan?

If you’re the kind of MMA ‘fan’ who chants ‘stand them up’ after ten seconds on the ground or boos a fight where guys aren’t throwing haymakers or flying knees, this one might not be for you. However to me, it’s as interesting a styles clash as anything on the card and I’m very interested to see how it plays out.

Rounding off the main card is a bout that could so easily have been for the inaugural Flyweight title if only Ian McCall (11-3-1) had been a bit more focused and put Demtrious Johnson away last March. Instead, the bout was ruled a draw and Johnson went on to win the belt against Joseph Benavidez (16-3) after defeating McCall in the rematch.

McCall is still seeking his first win in the UFC, while Benavidez has still never been stopped and has only lost to guys who ended up going on to win title belts.

Admittedly, two of McCall’s losses are to the same champions (Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson) and he comes into this match as very much the man with more to lose. Like a job. 0-2-1 is not an Octagon record that does much for your hopes of future employment with the UFC.

Sadly, because I’m a huge fan of Uncle Creepy, I see Benavidez winning this as he’s bigger and finishes more of his fights. Of course, I’d be only too happy if McCall took the win back to Team Oyama, because the UFC flyweight division needs characters as much as it needs off the peg Team Alpha Male jocks…

The pick of the preliminary card is easily the FX main event between Evan Dunham (13-3) and Gleison Tibau (26-8), two guys who’ve pretty much spent the last few years just outside the top ten of the Lightweight division, reliably putting on fun fights and generally losing to guys on their way towards title contention.

This is a quite stunning card and I’m very much looking forward to staying up till silly am UK time to watch it. For viewing details wherever you are, please check www.ufc.com

MAIN (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
• Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar – for featherweight title
• Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
• Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva
• Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia
• Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall

PRELIMINARY (FX, 8 p.m. ET)
• Evan Dunham vs. Gleison Tibau
• Jay Hieron vs. Tyron Woodley
• Bobby Green vs. Jacob Volkmann
• Yves Edwards vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg

PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 7 p.m. ET)
• Chico Camus vs. Dustin Kimura
• Edwin Figueroa vs. Francisco Rivera