I try to predict all the matches on all the UFC event cards, so here are my thoughts on the card this weekend.
{note: if the name of a competitor’s home country is not given, it’s USA}

Main Card

* Light Heavyweight bout:
Brandon Vera vs. Jon Jones
This fight should be really really good. A friend of mine helped show me what Jon Jones was capable of doing inside the octagon, and I’ve been a believer ever since. If it weren’t for some illegal strikes in his last fight, he’d be undefeated.
Unfortunately, I’m a bigger believer in Brandon Vera. His only losses are understandable. Most people thought he beat Randy Couture when the judges decided otherwise back in November. Two of his other losses have come by decision to quality opponents (Keith Jardine and former World Champ Tim Sylvia). Vera fights hard and is building a decent resume, especially with a victory over UFC poster boy Frank Mir a couple years ago.
Even though I’m hoping this one gets finished before time expires, I’ll probably find myself on the wrong side of a judge’s decision again, and I’m guessing that Brandon Vera will come out on top. No matter who wins, keep your eyes on both of these guys.
Prediction: Brandon Vera by Decision

* Heavyweight bout:
Brazil – Junior dos Santos vs. Brazil – Gabriel Gonzaga
These are definitely two names that I recognize, and after seeing the hype video packages UFC put together for the Versus network about this fight, I’m definitely excited to watch Junior dos Santos take on Gabriel Gonzaga.
The video package displayed some nice fights for Gonzaga, including his huge win over Mirko Cro Cop. If you look at him, Gonzaga doesn’t appear to be a great fighter, but if you watch him knock people down with his strong hands, you start to believe he’s not a guy you’d want to step into the cage with.
Junior dos Santos, on the other hand, has a great mentor in Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira, and I think dos Santos is going to be more than ready for this all-Brazilian fight. In fact, I like Junior dos Santos’ odds of developing into a great fighter who will someday bring home the Heavyweight Championship.
Prediction: Junior dos Santos by submission

* Heavyweight bout:
France – Cheick Kongo vs. Paul Buentello
Neither of these guys impresses me too much.
Kongo has lost his last two matches, albeit to Heavyweight Championship contenders Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez, and before that he had three easy fights to help him follow up a frustrating split decision loss to Heath Herring.
Paul Buentello lost to the near 7 footer Stefan Struve back in December, and hasn’t won a fight earlier than the third round since losing a fight for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship against Alistair Overeem a couple years ago.  It’s a shame that Buentello hasn’t returned to form, because in between losing to Andrei Arlovski in an attempt to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship and the fight against Overeem, Buentello was on a tear, winning four in a row before the third round even started.
Though it’s tough to decide, I’ll go with Buentello in hopes that the loss by decision to Struve was a result of preparing for one opponent (Duffee) and being forced to fight someone totally different.  Kongo better make a good showing in this fight, or else he might end up looking for work somewhere else.
Prediction:  Paul Buentello by decision

* Middleweight bout:
Italy – Alessio Sakara vs. James Irvin
James Irvin is coming off of a knee injury and hasn’t fought in 20 months since he lost to Anderson Silva in the summer of 2008.
Alessio Sakara is coming off of a split decision victory over Thales Leites, but prior to that he had amassed only 3 wins in 7 fights – all ending in the first round.
I don’t expect this to be a great fight, but it could be, given that Irvin has finished some fights in the first round as well, and I think it will be a good opportunity to see if Sakara is going to be able to extend his winning streak to three, or if James Irvin’s knee can hold up well enough to get him on a roll.
Prediction:  James Irvin by knockout

Preliminary Card

* Lightweight bout:
Clay Guida vs. Shannon Gugerty
Gugerty replaces Sean Sherk due to injury, so immediately my prediction sways in Guida’s favor.
Gugerty does have a record of 12-4, but he’s lost two of his past three, and neither of his opponents were anything special.
Guida has also lost two of his past three, but two of those fights (one win and one loss) were voted Fight Of The Night, both ending in a split decision.  His other loss over the span was by submission to Kenny Florian, and I can’t fault him for getting tapped out by KenFlo.  Guida might not be a top contender at lightweight, but you don’t have to be a top contender to win a preliminary match of an event which UFC doesn’t even assign a number to.
Prediction:  Clay Guida by knockout

* Light Heavyweight bout:
Eliot Marshall vs. Belarus – Vladimir Matyushenko
I really like what Eliot Marshall brings into his fights.  He has only one loss on his record, but that was before he was in UFC.  Since then he has won three fights in UFC, including victories over TUF Finalist Vinnie Magalhaes and TUF cast member Jules Bruchez.
Marshall will have a tough task in this fight, however, as he is matched up against Vlad Matyushenko, a former IFL Light Heavyweight champion whose only losses in the past ten years have come against some of the top names in the business.  He’s coming off of two unanimous victories, so this could be the chance for Eliot to prove he’s a top talent if he can knock off the fighter from Belarus.
Matyushenko is 10 years older than Eliot Marshall, which makes me think to give the edge to Marshall.  I believe this could be a sleeper for Fight Of The Night from the Preliminary Card.
Prediction:  Eliot Marshall by decision

* Lightweight bout
Duane Ludwig vs. Darren Elkins
Though this fight isn’t likely to be on the list of fights scheduled to be televised, I’m thinking that I might get to see it.  Duane Ludwig is an MMA veteran going into his 30th fight, hoping to hit a winning percentage of 66% at the expense of Darren Elkins.  Stepping up for the injured Spencer Fisher, Darren Elkins makes his UFC debut, bringing with him a record of 9-1 with mostly first round knockouts.  Ludwig knows how to end things in the first round as well, with over a dozen of his fights ending before time had expired in the opening round – including the unofficial fastest knockout in UFC history (4 seconds or 11 seconds, depending on whether you go with the official timekeeper’s time or the moment the punch landed).  My first prediction is “fireworks”.
My predicted winner was more tough to decide, but given the fact that UFC didn’t hold on to Ludwig after his huge knockout victory, and the way he has lost a few first round fights himself, I’m picking the new guy.
Prediction:  Darren Elkins

* Welterweight bout:
John Howard vs. Daniel Roberts
John Howard hasn’t lost in two years, amassing 6 victories over that span of time and earning Fight Of The Night honors over a year ago.  Those wins included two split decisions and a unanimous decision, which I tend to think detracts from his resume.
Daniel Roberts has never had a loss, and none of his fights have even gone to decision in the past two years.  That said, he’s never fought in the UFC, either.  Six of his fights in the past two years have been won by submission in the first round.
Nicknames:  Daniel Roberts is called The Ninja (even though he’s an American who doesn’t use Karate, specializing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), and John Howard is known as “Doomsday”.
I’d like to pick Daniel Roberts, but I try not to get tricked into picking guys who don’t have big stage experience, and I like how well rounded “Doomsday” John Howard is.  Either way, I hope to see this fight.
Prediction:  John Howard by knockout

* Heavyweight bout:
Brendan Schaub vs. Chase Gormley
I really thought Brendan Schaub was going to win The Ultimate Fighter, but he let me down against Roy Nelson.  Both of these guys are very similar.  They both lost their UFC debuts to non-traditional fighters (Gormley to Struve – a 7 footer, Schaub to Nelson – the only UFC’er with a gut) at about the 4 minute mark of the first round after coming into the fight undefeated.
I’ve seen more from Schaub through The Ultimate Fighter, so that’s the route I’ll go with my prediction.
Prediction:  Brendan Schaub by knockout

* Welterweight bout:
Mike Pierce vs. Julio Paulino
Mike Pierce is 10-3 with a bunch of decision victories on his resume.
Julio Paulino is 17-2, having won 7 in a row (NONE by decision) since he lost by decision back in late 2007.
Prediction:  Julio Paulino by knockout

* Light Heavyweight bout:
Eric Schafer vs. Jason Brilz
Back in 2007, Eric Schafer lost to Michael Bisping (technical 12/30/06) and to Stephan Bonner.  After winning two fights in GFS, Eric returned to UFC and defeated Houston Alexander and Antonio Mendes.  In his most recent fight, Schafer lost to Ryan Bader by decision, though we at GuysNation think Bader is a force to be reckoned with in the 205 lb light heavyweight division.
Jason Brilz has only suffered one loss dating back to 2001, his past fight back in September against rising star Eliot Marshall by split decision.
This one’s real tough to call because I think both of these guys could get it done, but at the end of the day I have to make a pick so I’ll flip a coin… and go with Eric Schafer.
Prediction:  Eric Schafer by decision

Be sure to check back in after the event as I review the results of my predictions, and don’t forget that the event is being televised SUNDAY NIGHT on VERSUS.  Skip Desperate Housewives and check out some real fighting instead.