It wasn’t the best of years for #2-ranked Johny Hendricks (17-3-0) in 2015.
The former UFC welterweight champion had to pull out of a UFC 192 bout with Tyron Woodley with medical complications while cutting weight. The bottom line is needs is an impressive win and quickly reaffirm his position as a top contender.
Meanwhile, #8-ranked Stephen Thompson (11-1-0) has an opportunity to leapfrog in the rankings with a victory.
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Welcome back to The Crossfire.
Kenai Andrews checks in with his thoughts on the main card matchups:
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MIKE PYLE (26-11-1) VS SEAN SPENCER (12-4-0)
Andrews: Both guys are coming off losses and need a win to avoid the UFC bubble. While Pyle likes to look for submissions more, Spencer tends to be be active on the feet and I think his striking will overcome Pyle’s ground game.
Andrews Prediction: Sean Spencer via unanimous decision.
MISHA CIRKUNOV (10-2-0) VS ALEX NICHOLSON (6-1-0)
Andrews: Cirkunov will be welcoming Nicholson to the UFC and it’s no secret The Spartan is a heavy hitter. He has an impressive 83% knockout ratio, but Cirkunov prides himself on fighting intelligently. I think Misha will avoid the slugfest and score enough points to come away with the decision.
Andrews Prediction: Misha Cirkunov via unanimous decision.
#1 JOSEPH BENAVIDEZ (23-4-0) VS #8 ZACH MAKOVSKY (19-6-0)
Andrews: Zach likes to secure the takedown and work from the ground. The problem is that Benavidez works there too, but can get it done on the feet too. Joe-Jitsu isn’t the top contender for nothing. I have to go with Benavidez.
Andrews Prediction: Joseph Benavidez via unanimous decision.
#6 OVINCE ST. PREUX (18-7-0) VS #13 RAFAEL CAVALCANTE (12-6-0, 1NC)
Andrews: It’s time for OSP to show and prove. His ground weaknesses have been exposed in his last few fights, but here he has a fighter, a former Strikeforce champion, willing to stand and bang for a while. Like OSP did against Shogun, he will capture the moment.
Andrews Prediction: Ovince St. Preux via TKO.
#11 ROY NELSON (21-12-0) VS #12 JARED ROSHOLT (14-2-0)
Andrews: Nelson has three-fight losing streak, so it’s obvious he needs a big win here. He can’t let an up-and-comer like Rosholt come in and steal a unanimous decision. Rosholt showed with Stefan Struve he can take you down and frustrate you. Can he frustrate Nelson? It’s possible but I think Nelson will catch Rosholt before he can score enough points.
Andrews Prediction: Roy Nelson via TKO.
#2 JOHNY HENDRICKS (17-3-0) VS #8 STEPHEN THOMPSON (11-1-0)
Andrews: No secrets here. Thompson needs to keep the distance to use his kickboxing, and Hendricks needs to close the distance to avoid the kicks of Thompson and utilize his wrestling. Who can enforce their game? After seeing what Thompson did to Jake Ellenberger, I am a believer in The Wonderboy.
Andrews Prediction: Stephen Thompson via TKO.