The UFC will invade the Windy City on Saturday, January 25th with the main card beginning at 8:00 PM ET. The featured event pits former UFC Lightweight champ Ben Henderson against MMA veteran Josh Thompson.
Josh Thompson (20-5, 5 KO's, 9 Subs) vs. Ben Henderson (19-3, 2 KO's, 8 Subs)
Josh Thompson has been toiling in the shadows of the Strikeforce organization for far too long. After Strikeforce was swallowed whole by the UFC, Thompson made the transition back to an organization he worked for briefly a decade ago. That's right The Punk was a member in good standing of the UFC, registering a 2-1 mark in an era where the lightweight division did not even exist.
But he is back and made a spectacular return by doing something no man has done before - knocking out Nate Diaz. The second-round head kick sent Diaz to the canvas, bloodied and defenseless before a swarming Thompson rushed to finish the job with a flurry of punches. That stunning performance earned Thompson Knockout of the Night honors and a date with the former UFC champ Ben "Smooth" Henderson.
Henderson no longer has the UFC Lightweight belt around his waist but he misses it dearly. In order to regain the gaudy, gold vestige of MMA supremacy he will have to dispatch a very dangerous opponent in Josh Thompson. But let's face it, at this level, they're all dangerous. In his last bout he saw his seven-fight win streak snapped, including three title defenses, by Anthony Pettis who had defeated him once before.
Prediction: You could do much better than this fight to make a few bucks. While many will seduced into betting Henderson due to the relatively low price of -130 in MMA odds, you would be wise to tread lightly. Josh Thompson is a former Strikeforce champ and has the pedigree to hang and bang with a fighter of Henderson's elite caliber.
Thompson may be a better pure striker than Hendo but he doesn't possess the all-around game and athleticism of the former UFC Lightweight king. This one will probably go the distance and should be an interesting chess match. However, Thompson could surprise and ring the same bell he rang in his spectacular KO of Nate Diaz. One would assume Henderson will be doubly motivated to procure a rematch with Pettis in order to get back what was once his. I will cautiously advise a play on Henderson -130 at Ladbrokes.com in my UFC picks.
Stipe Miocic (10-1, 7 KO's, 2 Subs) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (16-7, 9 KO's, 7 Subs)
Don't go to the refrigerator once this one starts. It's a three-round affair but it won't make it that far. Gonzaga is a big heavyweight hitter and if he gets a clean shot at Miocic then it will be lights out. But Miocic is too smart for that. He is a terrific wrestler and hits like a mule though he may find that standing and trading with a bazooka like Gonzaga may not be in his best interest.
Things will get very interesting once the fight hits the mat. I cannot see Gonzaga doing much more than trying to weather a storm of being smothered and covered by Miocic but that doesn't mean he is not perfectly adept at exploiting an opening for a submission. When it is all said and done, and while I appreciate and respect the class of fighter that Gonzaga has faced throughout his long tenure in the UFC (which is only possible if you're that good), I am siding with the younger and more athletic Stipe Miocic.
UFC Pick: Miocic -222 in UFC odds at Ladbrokes.com