The good news about UFC Fight Night 82 is that it was once a pay-per-view and now it will be free on FS1. The bad news is we have to wait to see the heavyweight title fight between Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez. Still, a card that features Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson, plus “Big Country” Roy Nelson will be fun. Let’s break it down.
Johny Hendricks ($10,400) vs Stephen Thompson ($9,000)
In order to become a contender, you have to do away with the middle to bottom part of the division, something Stephen Thompson has done. What he hasn’t done is face someone like Hendricks, the former welterweight champ who has incredible wrestling and big power. Matt Brown is the only loss on Thompson’s record, and Brown took him down five times in that fight en route to a unanimous decision win. Hendricks will get Thompson to the ground. I think it will be a typical fight from Johny: do enough striking each round while adding in the takedowns and ground control. I want to predict a finish here, but I’ll go with Hendricks for the win on the cards.
Pick: Hendricks by decision
Roy Nelson ($10,200) vs Jared Rosholt ($9,200)
I see no reason to consider Rosholt. In his seven UFC fights, he’s finished just one opponent. In the other fights he simply relied on his wrestling, which has worked for him, but it doesn’t generate fantasy points. As for Roy Nelson, he badly needs a win after dropping five of his last six. The good news is Rosholt is nowhere near the level of his last three opponents: Barnett, Overeem, and Mark Hunt. Rosholt is a plodder, and Nelson will find a way to land that big right hand, sending Rosholt to the floor.
Pick: Nelson by KO/TKO
Ovince St. Preux ($10,700) vs Rafael Feijao ($8,700)
This is a must-play fight as Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante has only been to a decision once in his 18 pro fights. He’s either knocking out his opponent or getting knocked out — and he isn’t going to knock out OSP. St. Preux will have considerable advantages in height, reach and speed, and he is also a suffocating wrestler who will likely win all the scrambles. Look for OSP to finish Feijao inside of two rounds.
Pick: St. Preux by KO/TKO
Joseph Benavidez ($10,800) vs Zach Makovsky ($8,600)
Benavidez has four losses in his career, three in title bouts. All four have come at the hands of Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson. He is the #1 contender in the flyweight division and wants one more shot at Johnson. Makovsky, the former Bellator champ, stands in his way. With the exception of his KO loss to Johnson, Benavidez has been taken down 17 times in his losses. Makovsky excels at getting takedowns, and that will likely be the key in this fight. I think Benavidez will do enough to win, but Makovsky will do enough to make it go to the final horn.
Pick: Benavidez by decision
Misha Cirkunov ($11,000) vs Alex Nicholson ($8,400)
Cirkunov knocked out Daniel Jolly in his UFC debut, his fifth straight win with all five coming in the first round. I expect more of the same here against UFC newcomer Nicholson. Look for Cirkunov to overwhelm Nicholson and end his debut in the first round.
Pick: Cirkunov by KO/TKO
Sean Spencer ($10,000) vs Mike Pyle ($9,400)
Pyle had a nice run in 2012 & 2013, but that ended when he was knocked out by Matt Brown. Since then he is just 1-2 in the Octagon, and at age 38, it would be difficult to predict another comeback. But Sean Spencer has been underwhelming in that he is just 3-3 in the UFC with no finishes. He hasn’t been finished yet either, but this fight has stay away written all over it. I don’t think Spencer will finish Pyle and I’m not banking on Pyle knocking out Spencer after losing three of his last four. This will go to the cards, with Spencer winning again with another decision.
Pick: Spencer by decision
Josh Burkman ($10,100) vs KJ Noons ($9,300)
Burkman’s second stint in the UFC hasn’t gone very well, with two losses and a no contest. Now he gets the talented kickboxer KJ Noons, in what should be a stand-and-bang affair. Noons is still susceptible to the takedown, so he will have to be stay busy. Both Burkman and Noons are hittable, and both feature good chins. I like Noons here as he has good power and throws more volume than Burkman. I think he will be able to finish Burkman inside of three rounds.
Pick: Noons by KO/TKO
Derrick Lewis ($9,700) vs Damian Grabowski ($9,700)
The rare pick ’em in Draft Kings MMA, where both fighters have the same salaries. You might remember Grabowski from his brief stint in Bellator. He’s excellent on the ground, so Lewis will not be able to just fire away. And that’s his game, as Lewis has insane power, with 12 knockouts in his 13 wins. He hasn’t done the best job in stopping takedowns, but he done a good job of defending and surviving when there. Lewis will love the six-inch reach advantage he’ll have on Grabowski though, and once he lands it will be over.
Pick: Lewis by KO/TKO
Justin Scoggins ($8,900) vs Ray Borg ($10,500)
This should be an amazing fight, with two fighters working toward contention in the flyweight division. I typically stay away from flyweight fights due to the low percentage of finishes, but Borg and Scoggins have proven they finish fights. So who will take it? Both fighters are adept at getting takedowns and hunting subs, but I like Borg’s ability on the ground better. Look for “The Tazmexican Devil” to lock in a fight-ending choke before time expires.
Pick: Borg by submission
Diego Rivas ($8,800) vs Noad Lahat ($10,600)
Lahat has won his last two UFC fights, outstriking Niklas Backstrom by a ratio of almost 6 to 1. Before that he continually took down Steven Siler en route to a unanimous decision. Rivas is a former TUF Latin America contestant, who was able to get past Rodolfo Rubio Perez in his UFC debut. I think Lahat has more talent and he will get the win, but I have little confidence in him getting the finish, at least not at the cost of $10600. I’ll be staying away from this one, though I firmly believe Lahat will get the W.
Pick: Lahat by decision
Mickey Gall ($10,900) vs Mike Jackson ($8,500)
Gall is the hand-picked opponent for CM Punk’s UFC debut, if and when that ever happens. Jackson is a mystery man, but he’s making his pro debut at age 30, which might tell you all you need to know. Gall is 1-0 as a pro and 2-0 as an amateur, whereas you really can’t find all that much on Jackson. The thing here is being able to spend a big chunk on a guy you’ve never seen fight before. Given the circumstances though, I will be shelling it out on Gall, expecting a finish of some sort early in the fight.
Pick: Gall by submission
Alex White ($9,600) vs Artem Lobov ($9,800)
Lobov was dominated by BJJ black belt Ryan Hall at the TUF 22 finale, a fight in which he landed just two significant strikes over three rounds, one of which was a 10-8 round for Hall. White has dropped two straight, but he has shown himself to be a UFC-caliber fighter. Not sure the same can be said for Lobov. I like White to be the better fighter wherever this fight goes, but Lobov is nothing if not durable, so he will likely make it through the three rounds.
Pick: White by decision