Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann (Welterweight): The night's main event is an excellent fight between two highly talented fighters. Sanchez has talked a lot heading into this event about going back to the drawing board and getting things right after being taken down a bad path following his loss to B.J. Penn, and a subsequent loss to John Hathaway. He started that turn around with his win over Paulo Thiago in October, and sounds like he's in a good place in his life as he steps into the cage this week.
Martin Kampmann wants to avoid losing two straight fights after a disappointing split decision loss to Jake Shields last October himself. The talented submission fighter says he wants to get back to his kickboxing and Muay Thai roots in this fight, and looks to strike with Sanchez on Thursday night.
But Sanchez is a relentlessly talented wrestler with an underappreciated striking game of his own. His ground and pound game as well is more adept than Shields', and if he can avoid submissions from Kampmann on the ground I like his chances to be impressive in this fight.
PREDICTION: Sanchez via unanimous decision
Mark Munoz vs. C.B. Dollaway (Middleweight): Munoz has only lost twice in his MMA career, to Matt Hamill at light heavyweight and in a tough split decision loss to Yushin Okami. Dollaway is riding a three fight winning streak in which he's looked more and more impressive each fight. Dollaway wants to get this fight to the ground and submit Munoz, while Munoz will be out to put Dollaway away on the feet. The power edge goes to Munoz, but even though he's a decorated wrestler the two of them may cancel each other out in that department as far as working that in the cage. Ultimately, Munoz hits really hard, and I think he'll be able to catch a too-comfortable-on-his-back Dollaway with enough strikes on the ground to finish this one with ground and pound.
PREDICTION: Munoz via TKO in the second round
Alessio Sakara vs. Chris Weidman (Middleweight): Weidman is a talented wrestler, and though he only brings a 4-0 record into this fight as a late replacement, that skill set could do wonders in this fight. Sakara hasn't fought in almost a year, and though he's won three straight fights, none of his last three opponents are in the UFC still. I think the combination of Weidman's wrestling and finishing ability along with Sakara's long layoff makes this a really tough fight for Sakara, and I'm taking the upset.
PREDICTION: Weidman via unanimous decision
Brian Bowles vs. Damacio Page (Bantamweight): This rematch from their 2008 bout sees both fighters in a very different place in their careers. Bowles hasn't fought since last March when he lost his title to Dominick Cruz and broke his hand badly in the process. Page returned last November from a long layoff himself and lost to Demetrious Johnson. Page is a dangerous opponent, especially with the layoff, but Bowles still has the most power of perhaps anyone in the bantamweight division, and if he can end it quickly the layoff won't matter.
PREDICTION: Bowles via TKO in the first round
PRELIMINARY CARD QUICK PICKS
* Joe Stevenson over Danny Castillo via unanimous decision
* Steve Cantwell over Cyrille Diabate via unanimous decision
* Shane Roller over Thiago Tavares via unanimous decision
* Takeya Mizugaki over Reuben Duran via unanimous decision
* Dongi Yang over Rob Kimmons via unanimous decision
* Rousimar Palhares over Dave Branch via submission in the first round
* Igor Pokrajac over Todd Brown via unanimous decision