The ferocious start to MMA in 2015 continues this week with UFC 182: Silva vs Diaz. Last week there were some big upsets at the top of the card. It was another 7-3 week for me making it 21-7 on the year. This week we’re in Las Vegas for a pay-per-view at the MGM, and that means big names and star power. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s fighters and how they match up! As always, I look forward to your comments @tchanpoker on Twitter.

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Anderson Silva ($11900) vs Nick Diaz ($8300)

The main event of UFC 183 features one of the best pressure fighters to ever enter a cage against the best counter-striker that MMA has ever seen. Diaz is historically an offensive juggernaut, a man with an off-the-charts 5.63 significant strikes landed per minute. But on the other side, Silva only absorbs a paltry 1.47 SS/minute thanks to his brilliant head movement and ballet-esque footwork. Diaz is younger, but in fight years, the men are fairly similar, as this will be Diaz’s 37th fight in a career that dates back to his 18th birthday. Not only that, the style matchup favors Silva tremendously, as his trademark kicks to the legs and body are exactly where Diaz has historically been weakest. Diaz is the superior technician on the ground, but it’s hard to imagine him hitting a blast double a la Chael Sonnen or a snatch single like Chris Weidman.

I’m in the minority in thinking Diaz will see the final bell, but the Stockton brawler is one of the most durable men in the game. Silva’s most likely path to a stoppage is using his elbows and knees to open up a big cut, another Achilles heel of Diaz’s.

Prediction: Silva by Decision

Tyron Woodley ($9700) vs Kelvin Gastelum ($10300)

Last time out, Gastelum was expected to be in tough against Jake Ellenberger, but blew him out of the water in a dominant first-round stoppage. But this fight is a huge step up in competition for the Ultimate Fighter 17 winner. While Gastelum has face only one top-10 opponent, Woodley has had numerous battles against the UFC’s elite, and done quite well. Woodley’s 91% takedown defense means he likely dictates where this fight goes, but Gastelum’s stock is on such a big upwards trajectory that I have to pick him here.

Prediction: Gastelum by KO/TKO

Joe Lauzon ($9200) vs Al Iaquinta ($10800)

A perennial fan favorite at 155 pounds, Lauzon boasts an astounding 23 finishes in his 24 career wins (11 of 12 in the UFC). In Iaquinta, he faces a man who is turning the corner from prospect to elite fighter under the tutelage of Matt Serra and Ray Longo. Lauzon’s strength is his chain grappling while his weaknesses are his chin and his defense. Iaquinta deserves to be favoured here, but has suffered three submission losses in his last eight fights. While I’m picking the Long Island product, don’t count Lauzon out here.

Prediction: Iaquinta by KO/TKO

Thales Leites ($11800) vs Tim Boetsch ($8000)

Leites is having a surprising career resurgence, quietly winning seven straight. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist has apparently also added major power to his game, with his last two wins coming by (T)KO. Boetsch has never seemed to evolve beyond being a big, powerful bruiser. “The Barbarian” is a live dog based on his power and Leites’ occasional defensive lapses, but the former challenger to Anderson Silva is better in most aspects of the game.

Prediction: Leites by decision

Jordan Mein ($10200) vs Thiago Alves ($9800)

Striking fans are in for a treat here as this is a dynamic battle between two men who boast a combined 27 knockouts in their 49 career wins. Both men are big hitters but also have defensive liabilities. Going purely off the style matchup, I favor Alves and his leg-kick game, but his inactivity (only one fight in the last three years) is a major concern. Because of that inactivity, this fight is a true pick ‘em, but it has “Fight of the Night” written all over it.

Prediction: Alves by KO/TKO

Sara McMann ($10500) vs Miesha Tate ($9400)

The “main event” of the prelim fights, #2 faces #3 in the women’s 135-pound division. Normally a fight like this would have serious title implications, but both women have been thoroughly trounced by champion Ronda Rousey (twice, in the case of Tate). Despite McMann’s awesome pedigree, she has struggled to become elite in all aspects of MMA. In a 3-round fight, she could easily get enough takedowns to steal a decision, but Tate is the more well-rounded fighter, and I like her in an upset here.

Prediction: Tate by decision

Derek Brunson ($11700) vs Ed Herman ($8000)

Although 3-3 in his last six, Derek Brunson is starting to hit his stride and round out his skill sets. He has very good power even in spite of his historically low finish rate. Against an older, slower opponent like Ed Herman, he could definitely find himself a stoppage. But for his part, Herman is still a crafty veteran. His grappling game is still very strong, and he uses some clever and unorthodox setups. If he catches Brunson asleep at the wheel, he could get a finish, but it’s more likely the younger Brunson gets the job done.

Prediction: Brunson by KO/TKO

Ian McCall ($10900) vs John Lineker ($8900)

This is a potential barnburner at 125 pounds, and could even determine the next title challenger for champion Demetrious Johnson. Lineker is a major-league puncher with fight-ending power (4 TKOs/KOs in his last 5 fights), but he has struggled against more technical strikers who aren’t intimidated by him. McCall is the superior wrestler and grappler and while he might not be able to finish Lineker on the ground, he’s very active on the ground and should score a lot of points if the fight gets there.

Prediction: McCall by decision

Rafael Natal ($10700) vs Tom Watson ($9300)

Have only combined for two stoppage wins in 11 UFC outings. Leites usually comes out strong early with solid boxing and good wrestling, but almost always tires out. Watson has questionable takedown defence (given up 20 takedowns in his UFC tenure). Neither men are historically good finishers with just two UFC stoppage wins between them in a combined 11 fights. Expect a close decision with Natal taking the first two rounds and surviving the third.

Prediction: Natal by decision