The Ultimate Fighting Championship will head back to Canada for UFC 161. Injuries forced several matchup changes, most recently, the co-main event featuring Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antônio Rogério Nogueira — which was cancelled after the latter pulled out due to a back injury.
Chael Sonnen tried to fill in for Nogueira, but visa issues ended up killing that possibility.
Now, Roy Nelson (who agreed to step in with only two weeks’ notice) and Stipe Miocic (who was originally set to fight Soa Palelei on the undercard) will meet in the co-main event.
Here are my predictions for the entire UFC 161 fight card set for June 15, at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Canada:
Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson
Simply put, Evans (17-3-1, 6 KOs) looked horrible during his previous fight against Nogueira. Both men barely engaged during the encounter, and Evans seemed to forget the fact that he’s actually one of the best wrestlers in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division, barely trying to get the fight to the ground. Rashad’s decision to hold a light-sparring session with Nogueira resulted in a unanimous decision for the latter. Even worse, it ended all talks about a potential fight against middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Henderson (29-9-0, 13 KOs) is also coming off a loss, getting out-pointed during his UFC 157 encounter against Lyoto Machida. Like Rashad, Henderson’s loss also cost him a potential title shot, as he’s no longer in the running for a shot at light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
I’d normally pick a focused Evans over the 42 year-old Henderson, but it’s hard to tell which Rashad will show up. Henderson’s wrestling is good enough to force a standup battle, meaning he’ll have 15 minutes to look for Evan’s chin if that ends of being the case. Given the fact Rashad has only completed one takedown in his last two fights; he likely won’t have much luck getting Henderson to the ground at UFC 161, meaning he’ll be in for another long night.
Prediction: Henderson wins via KO.
Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic
Miocic isn’t exactly one of the most recognized fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division, but that doesn’t mean victory is guaranteed for Nelson (19-7-0, 12 KOs) at UFC 161.
Miocic (9-1-0, 7 KOs) is the technically superior boxer, and he’ll also enjoy a 7-inch reach advantage.
Nelson will have a significant edge on the ground, but getting Miocic there won’t be easy. Stipe is a solid wrestler, and that combined with his solid boxing skills might prove to be too much for Nelson who probably won’t be at his very best at UFC 161.
Prediction: Miocic wins via TKO.
Ryan Jimmo vs. Igor Pokrajac
Jimmo’s 17-fight win streak was snapped when he faced James Te Huna earlier in the year, so he’ll be highly motivated to bounce back with a win at UFC 161.
Pokrajac (25-9-0, 13 KOs) has knockout power in his hands, and he’ll also be hungry for a win given how bad he’s looked inside the Octagon recently.
However, Jimmo (17-2-0, 7 KOs) is also a competent striker, and his diverse arsenal should allow him to control the striking exchanges.
Prediction: Jimmo wins via decision.
Alexis Davis vs. Rosi Sexton
Sexton (13-2-0, 7 submissions) and Davis (13-5-0, 7 submissions) will step inside the Octagon for the first time at UFC 161. Both are solid grapplers, but Davis is clearly the better striker. Davis is also the bigger, stronger fighter, making this her fight to lose.
Prediction: Davis wins via decision.
Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan
Jordan (14-4-0, 10 KOs) is coming off a TKO victory against Mike Russow, while Barry (8-5-0, 6 KOs) knocked out Shane del Rosario during his last outing. Both men are willing to trade punches with just about anyone, but Barry is the technically superior striker with a more diverse arsenal of strikes to go with it. Barry’s takedown defense should be good enough to keep the fight upright; meaning their UFC 161 encounter will likely turn into an entertaining brawl.
Prediction: Barry wins via KO.
Tyron Woodley defeats Jake Shields
Sam Stout defeats James Krause
Sean Pierson defeats Kenny Robertson
Roland Delorme defeats Edwin Figueroa
John Maguire defeats Mitch Clarke
Yves Jabouin defeats Dustin Pague
Previous fight card predictions (UFC on Fuel TV 10): 10-2