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UFC on Fox 7: Benson Henderson v. Gilbert Melendez

Benson Henderson (L) and  former Strikeforce champion Gilbert melendez go at it. Screenshot courtesy UFC.com.

Another free UFC event this weekend features many intriguing matchups, including a lightweight title match, a long-anticipated heavyweight fight, and a Canadian from Lethbridge, Alberta, who impressed in his first Octagon appearance.

Lightweight

The headliner is lightweight champ Benson 'Smooth' Henderson putting his belt on the line against former Strikeforce champion Gilbert 'El Nino' Melendez. It’s a fight many have wanted to see for a while, due mainly to the fact that neither has an ‘off’ button. Each has only two losses.

I tend not to give props to fighters until they’ve proved themselves in the big show. As good as Melendez is, his resume is not up to snuff when compared with UFC fighters. But Melendez is just too talented and hard-working for this to be an easy fight for Henderson.

The champion will put his size and more varied toolkit to use in dominating the fight, despite the best efforts of the challenger. Even though he’s been a champion, a fighter’s first UFC appearance brings with it a new level of adrenaline dump. But perhaps the challenger’s most difficult task will be taking on a champion who somehow keeps improving.

Henderson will finish this fight via TKO or submission in the third round.

Heavyweight

Former heavyweight champion and longtime contender Frank Mir was called out by the winner of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament, the undefeated Daniel Cormier. Cormier is an Olympic wrestler who trains with current champion Cain Velasquez and boasts  quick-twitch fists which could spell doom for many in the division. Speed kills.

Mir, who is one of the most dangerous Brazilian jiu Jitsu fighters in the UFC, has had difficulty with heavy-hitting elite wrestlers. Both Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar used their wrestling to control Mir and finish him with punches, against the fence and on the ground respectively. The problem for Mir with these opponents is his BJJ makes him not only fearless to go to the mat, but he encourages it. Yet all it takes is a few bombs to make their way through to his skullcap and he’s toast.

What Mir should have learned from his losses to Carwin and Lesnar is that not everyone can be fought with the same game plan. Being able to come up with a different approach is important, especially in the HW division, where fighters sport a wide range of weight, height, and body styles.

Mir is a far more technical striker, so his  best bet is to keep the fight standing. But Cormier is no slouch in the stand-up, and his hands are dangerously fast and accurate. If the fight does go down, Mir needs to isolate an arm in order to reverse and work with top position.

Distance and footwork will be key in this fight. Cormier will need to change levels and get inside, and Mir will need to keep Cormier outside and strike like a cobra with combinations.

In a pre-fight interview Mir stated Cormier is too light for HW and should move to light heavyweight. This reeks of disrespect. Mir has been around a long time, and he’s no dummy, but hard-hitting wrestlers just may be his Achilles heel. That’s why Cormier called out Mir.

Cormier via TKO in round 2.

Welterweight

Lethbridge native Jordan Mein takes on a tough Matt Brown who boasts an impressive four fight win streak that includes three KO/TKOs. It’s a big test for the Canadian, who recently finished Dan Miller with punches before the first round was over, after pushing through adversity and several submission attempts that came close.

There have been several upper echelon Canadians in the UFC over the years, starting with Dave Beneteau in the early 90’s, former champion Carlos Newton, and more recently fighters like Sam Stout,  Mark Hominick, and now Rory MacDonald, whom many think has a legit shot at the welterweight belt currently held by his friend and training partner, Georges St. Pierre.

Regardless of the outcome, Canada---the country UFC president Dana White says has the best fans in the world---continues to produce top notch fighters, all the way from left coast to right.

Click here for the entire card.

Follow me on Twitter @RenkoStyranka

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