Two of the best lightweights in the world will meet for the UFC lightweight championship Saturday at "UFC 125: Resolution" when champion Frankie Edgar defends his title for the second time when he faces top challenger Gray Maynard in a rematch of a 2008 bout which Maynard won. Also on the card, Chris Leben faces former WEC light-heavyweight champion Brian Stann in a middleweight bout.
Here's what your fearless MMA For Real prognosticators see happening come Saturday night from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Lightweight Championship: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
Matt Bishop - Everyone knows I'm probably the world's biggest Gray Maynard mark because of his affiliation to my great university, Michigan State University. Saturday is going to be a watershed day for MSU. The football team is going to beat Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, completing a 12-1 season, then Maynard is going to bring MSU its second UFC championship when he beats Frankie Edgar. It's not going to be easy, though. I think this is going to be a very close fight and Edgar really needs to assert himself on the feet. Maynard is going to get his takedowns and I was more impressed than I had been in the past with his ground-and-pound against Kenny Florian. He absolutely needs to damage and wear out Edgar on the ground, thus slowing him down on the feet. That's the key. If not, Edgar is going to run around Maynard. We saw Maynard's will win out the first time and I think that happens again here. Maynard via decision.
Kelvin Hunt - I really don't see much changing from the first fight. Maynard is the much larger fighter and should still be able to put Edgar on his back and keep him there IF he wants to do so. However, Maynard may feel the need to try and prove that he can strike with the more technical Edgar which would certainly be a mistake...as that almost cost him against Nate Diaz a while back. I think Maynard knows what he needs to do to get that coveted lightweight title and he'll fight the smart, albeit lackluster way. Maynard via decision.
Charles Walker - Who would've thought that this would headline a New Year's card with the title on the line a year ago? Either way, this fight is somewhat intriguing to me. Neither man has the most exciting style in the lightweight division but both are consistent fighters. Many have written off Edgar seeing as how Maynard remains the only blemish on the champ's record and Maynard is still unbeaten. What this fight comes down to is a good gameplan. It is really hard for me to break this fight down as I feel Edgar is a totally different fighter now then he was in their 2008 bout and he is riding high off beating BJ Penn twice. The only thing that keeps me reluctant from picking a successful title defense for Frankie is Gray's size. In a weight division like the 155, size DOES matter. Gray's big frame (for a lightweight) gives him the ability to smother guys if need be. He won't be as easy of a target for Edgar as BJ was while Edgar was on his bicycle and if Frankie gets even minutely within range, Gray will grab him and send him crashing to the mat with his wrestling. I think if Edgar implements a Roger Huerta-esque gameplan of being the aggressor while staying far enough out of range for him to stifle him, he'll outpoint the Bully. And I think that's what he'll do. Edgar via decision.
Rich Wyatt - I'm expecting Saturday's world lightweight title fight to be much better than many fans are anticipating. Despite both fighters coming from a grappling background, the way they employ grappling as part of their fighting game plan is very different. This should lead to an intriguing style matchup. Which fighter will dictate the pace and which will be able to impose their will? I think that Maynard will come out strong early but I see Edgar getting stronger as the fight progresses and earning a very close win. Edgar def. Maynard by decision.
Matt Bishop - After the momentum he gained in the middle of 2010, this seems like a bit of a step back for Chris Leben, but if he looks at his fight with Brian Stann like that, he could be in for a rude awakening. I expect Leben to win this fight, though. He has more overall skills than Stann and has the chin to take Stann's best shots, I think. Once Stann figures out he can't finish Leben standing, he's in for a tough journey. Stann gasses and Leben stops him. Leben via TKO, round 2.
Kelvin Hunt - Well...we certainly know this one is going to be entertaining as both guys like to play rock'em/sock'em until somebody drops. Leben is the more well-rounded fighter though and probably has the better gas tank. I think Leben outlasts a fading Stann and either wins a decision or finishes him late.
Charles Walker - All my Brian Stann jokes aside, this is a cool co-main event. Doesn't really have the name value that we'd expect with a card headlined by two relative non-draws but Leben does somehow have a fanbase. I actually like Brian Stann in this fight. Leben's had a great 2010 but he fought two guys who seemed to have cardio issues in their fights (Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama) and Jay Silva (why was he called up?). Stann is a guy that's able on the feet and has a much improved ground game, not to mention he's a pretty hefty middleweight. Look for Leben to score early but Stann to get out of danger in the later rounds. Stann via decision.
Rich Wyatt - I'll be honest and say that I would prefer that Brian Stann win this fight. I'm pulling for him here, but I'm unsure if he will be able to withstand Leben's power throughout this three round match. Stann has superior athleticism, a great training camp and lots of ability and toughness but Leben is a very experienced veteran with some power and what appears to be a renewed focus that saw him have a very successful 2010. For whatever reason I've never been a fan of watching "The Crippler" fight, but......Chris Leben def. Brian Stann by TKO in the 2nd round.
Matt Bishop - Has one fighter in his prime fallen harder and farther than Brandon Vera? It's really something. Look at Vera's recent wins: Reese Andy, Mike Patt and Krzysztof Soszynski. Not exactly the cream of the light-heavyweight crop. If he loses this fight, he's gone from the UFC. That would be three straight losses. And I think Thiago Silva is the guy to hand Vera his walking papers. Silva is good on the ground and has powerful strikes. Vera is going to try to kick him all day and Silva will make his eat leather. Silva's chin has been questioned in the past, but Vera hasn't knocked anyone, even Keith Jardine, out at 205. Bye bye, Brandon. Silva via TKO, round 2.
Kelvin Hunt - I'm looking forward to this one. Both well rounded guys with Silva being a little more decorated on the ground. Vera probably has the edge standing and in wrestling IF he decides to use it. I think Vera knows that is probably it for him if he loses, and it's a chance to get back in the mix with a win over a quality opponent who hasn't fought in quite some time. I like Vera in this one via decision.
Charles Walker - This should've been the co-main event in my mind but I can understand why it wasn't. This is a do or die situation for Brandon Vera and in some ways for Silva too. A loss for either will send them plummeting down the ranks and it'll be a tough climb in the light heavyweight division. Many have already written off Vera but I guess I'm going to be different yet again. Thiago's never impressed me and has shown to be both hittable and susceptible to guys that won't jump into a fire fight with him. For all the bad wrap Vera gets he's a decent counter striker and when he's able to find his rhythm can pick apart any opponent. If Vera plays it safe, I think he has the tools and the length to score points frequently throughout the three rounds. Despite the Jon Jones beatdown, Vera has shown a decent chin and for the most part is able to take little damage. Therefore, I'm going with Vera via decision.
Rich Wyatt - Few fighters over the past few years have been more frustrating to watch than Brandon Vera. The guy has a lot of natural ability but hasn't been able to put it together to make any kind of run at the title. His knockout of Silva on Saturday night should be a great way for Brandon, Lloyd Irvin and the rest of the team to ring in 2011. Brandon Vera over Thiago Silva by TKO in the 2nd round.
Matt Bishop - Real interesting fight! Kim is quietly undefeated and is 4-0 (with one no contest) in the UFC and Diaz has put together two nice wins at welterweight. Solid matchmaking again here by Joe Silva. Kim is a big, strong welterweight and we know Nate Diaz is lanky. I wouldn't advise Kim to stand with Diaz, though. I think he should take him down and work ground-and-pound and that will be his best chance for success. Diaz is a very dangerous fighter in all areas of the game and certainly is fun to watch. We know he'll be the better conditioned fighter, but will it make a difference? Time will tell, but I'm going to go with Kim via decision.
Kelvin Hunt - I'm looking forward to this one as well. If this fight stays standing, it's Diaz fight to win. I think Kim will try to mix it up a bit with his wrestling/judo similar to how he beat Amir Sadollah. However, Diaz is much more dangerous from his back. This one could go either way, but I'm go with Diaz via decision.
Charles Walker - Another solid scrap! Nate Diaz has looked great at 170 and so has Kim, so this is one of those fights that's going to be tough to call. Both guys are long and lanky, which will negate their reaches more than likely. Diaz is probably the better striker as he uses his brother's voluminous punch approach. I'd give Kim the slight advantage at grappling with his judo background and ability to use throws and also his ability to control guys from top position. I'd give Diaz the nod in jiu jitsu. So with that said, I see both guys negated each others strengths and the judges having a tough time calling this one. I'll go with Kim by a narrow split decision.
Rich Wyatt - I'm going against my instinct in this one. I see Nate Diaz as being the more naturally talented fighter. Something tells me that Kim might just implement the right game plan here, though, to smother some of Nate's offense and earn a workmanlike decision win. Dong Hyun Kim over Nate Diaz by decision.
Matt Bishop - Clay Guida has shown he's hittable in the past. Takanori Gomi, as we know, hits people hard. Guida has never faced someone like Gomi in the power department, but as long as Guida doesn't pull a Tyson Griffin, I think he's going to be in good shape. If he does, Gomi probably stops him. If Guida fights his usual fight (which would be very smart in this case), he can win a decision. I think Guida does that. Guida via decision.
Kelvin Hunt - If Gomi lands a haymaker, it's lights out. If he can't stop Guida's takedowns...it'll be a long night. Gomi isn't one for gameplanning much and has become a headhunter pretty much. Guida is known to be able to get 'lit up' so it could get interesting, but again I have to go with Guida via decision.
Charles Walker - I'm still a Gomi fan and his destruction of Tyson Griffin gives me hope against Clay Guida. However, I see Gomi starting strong early, able to land some bomb and maybe even drop The Carpenter before the workhorse takes over and hugs the Fireball Kid. Guida by decision.
Rich Wyatt - Although Takanori Gomi is possibly now past his prime as an elite lightweight, he should still have more than enough to get this victory against Clay Guida. I do think that Gomi could possibly still have enough for another championship run and this weekend provides him the perfect opportunity to remind fans of that fact and to get great exposure on a PPV event. Takanori Gomi over Clay Guida by decision.