MMA analysts Ben Fowlkes, Steven Marrocco, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 130 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Rashad Evans (20-1-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (17-8-1)
Fowlkes Just on athleticism and overall skills, Evans would have the edge even if Ortiz weren't taking this on short notice. Evans by decision.
Marrocco In the four years since they first met, Evans has grown far more as a competitor. Ortiz will make it a tough fight, but I see Evans hand raised. Evans by decision.
Wagenheim Back to work for 14-months-inactive Rashad, and back to reality for 36-year-old Tito. Evans by TKO.
Wertheim A fighter with too long a layoff versus one with too short a layoff. Props to Ortiz for a) reinventing himself and b) taking the fight. Evans is younger, more athletic, more versatile (and didn't fight five weeks ago!). Evans by decision.
Vitor Belfort (19-9-0) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3-0, 2 NC)
Fowlkes Belfort is a killer in the first few minutes of every fight. If he doesn't end it before the first horn sounds, however, then he's usually in trouble. Belfort by TKO.
Marrocco His UFC record doesn't reflect it, but Akiyama has shown himself to be tough as nails. If he can push Belfort into later rounds, he will come out ahead. Akiyama by decision.
Wagenheim Not one but two predictions for "Sexyama": a fourth straight Fight of the Night and a third straight loss. Belfort by TKO.
Wertheim There's always the chance that Belfort can get caught by a skilled fighter. But he's simply the better, more versatile fighter. Belfort by decision.
Dennis Hallman (65-13-2, 1 NC) vs. Brian Ebersole (47-14-1, 1 NC)
Fowlkes Both these guys have turned in surprisingly strong performances of late, but Ebersole's size and unpredictability might be too much for the journeyman Hallman. Ebersole by decision.
Marrocco Ebersole is kind of a wild card, but I see him taking Hallman down and winning on points in a fight that goes up, down and around. Ebersole by decision.
Wagenheim Another UFC win and Ebersole's career trajectory really will be pointed upward. Ebersole by decision.
Wertheim Battle of two battled tested veterans, likely nearing the end of the line. Look for a stand-up fight, pardon the pun. Ebersole by decision.
Jorge Rivera (18-8-0) vs. Constantinos Philippou (7-2-0, 1 NC)
Fowlkes In going from Sakara to Philippou, Rivera essentially got a less dangerous version of the same fighter. It's his fight to lose, and he can't afford to. Rivera by TKO.
Marrocco Bisping took something from Rivera; the joy doesn't seem to be there anymore. Philippou loves to stand and trade, and Rivera's been caught many times. Philippou by TKO.
Wagenheim Rivera has the edge in experience -- even if his most recent experience was being illegally kneed by Michael Bisping and his cornermen spat on. Rivera by decision.
Wertheim Where's Rivera head/heart these days? A big fight for both. Philippou by decision.
Rory MacDonald (11-1-0) vs. Mike Pyle (21-7-1)
Fowlkes Pyle has derailed young UFC prospects before, but MacDonald seems to be of a different breed. Experience alone won't beat this kid. MacDonald by decision.
Marrocco MacDonald shook off his demons in his previous outing and looked every bit the future champion. Pyle may delay the inevitable, but he'll still fall. MacDonald by TKO.
Wagenheim The 35-year-old Pyle already has popped the balloon of one rising young star (John Hathaway). Next? Pyle by decision.
Wertheim Potentially fight of the night. MacDonald is coming off a strong win over Nate Diaz and all that training with GSP has to pay off, no? MacDonald by TKO.
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