Former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones (21-1-0) finally returns to the octagon tonight.
The current champ Daniel Cormier is injured, but an ambitious youngster, Ovince St. Preux (19-7-0) stepped forward on three weeks notice to challenge Jones. OSP is almost as big as Jones, so he will not enjoy the usual height and reach advantages.
Meanwhile, we also get to see Mighty Mouse Demetrious Johnson tested against an Olympic gold medalist calibre opponent in Henry Cejudo.
Welcome back to The Crossfire.
Kenai Andrews shares his picks on the card:
UFC FIGHT PASS PRELIMS (6:30PM ET/3:30PM PT)
EFRAIN ESCUDERO (25-10-0) VS KEVIN LEE (11-2-0)
Andrews: Both guys looking to avenge losses but Lee was the one of the next big things in the UFC before his loss. If it humbled him, then he should be itching to put on a great performance against Escudero.
Andrews Prediction: Kevin Lee via TKO
MARCOS ROGERIO DE LIMA (13-4-1) VS CLINT HESTER (11-5-0)
Andrews: Hester has lost to better competition, so he should be improved, but both guys go in there looking for the knockout. De Lima is more technical than Headbussa, but if Hester can land, De Lima’s chin will be ready. I think he will catch De Lima before he can pile up enough points.
Andrews Prediction: Clint Hester via TKO
WALT HARRIS (7-4-0) VS CODY EAST (12-1-0)
Andrews: Both guys have a combined one fight of UFC experience and Harris is the bigger guy, having knocked out The Hulk Soa Palelei. This is a pick ’em and I give the nod to Harris who should not have the UFC jitters.
Andrews Predictions: Walt Harris via TKO
TSN 5 PRELIMS (8PM ET/5PM PT)
GLAICO FRANCA (14-3-0) VS JAMES VICK (8-0-0)
Andrews: Vick is Franca’s toughest opponent yet. Can Franca take the taller and bigger Vick to the ground and submit him? Sure. But he’ll have to get past his striking first. Ultimately Vick will be too much for the game Franca.
Andrews Prediction: James Vick via unanimous decision.
#2 CARLA ESPARZA (11-3-0) VS #14 JULIANA LIMA (8-2-0)
Andrews: Tough matchup to call. Esparza can pile up the points with her wrestling and she can strike on the feet to set you up for the shot. Lima’s striking is also good enough to pile up the points. Both faced the champion and lost, but I’m expecting an improved Esparza to take the fight to the ground.
Andrews Prediction: Carla Esparza via unanimous decision
DANNY ROBERTS (12-1-0) VS DOMINIQUE STEELE (14-6-0)
Andrews: Great matchup. I like Danny Roberts and his smooth and efficient striking. But Steele proved he is a bad man when he stunned The Stun Gun. This fight can go either way; Roberts can catch Steele with a well-placed shot or submission on the ground and Steele can overwhelm Roberts with his pressure. I think Steele emerges from this one.
Andrews Prediction: Dominique Steele via unanimous decision
#14 SERGIO PETTIS (13-2-0) VS CHRIS KELADES (9-2-0)
Andrews: Pettis hasn’t finished anybody in three years, but he has many of the technical striking skills of his big brother Anthony. Kelades has the power advantage, but as long as Pettis doesn’t make any big mistakes, I don’t think he can take the fight to the ground for the win.
Andrews Prediction: Sergio Pettis via unanimous decision
MAIN CARD (10PM ET/7PM PT)
YAIR RODRIGUEZ (7-1-0) VS ANDRE FILI (15-3-0)
Andrews: While Fili has lost to the top tier of the division, Rodriguez is trying to get there. The experience of Fili should prove valuable here and it should get him the win over a dangerous opponent.
Andrews Prediction: Andre Fili via unanimous decision
#7 ROBERT WHITTAKER (16-4-0) VS 13 RAFAEL NATAL (21-6-1)
Andrews: Natal just wins but so long as Whittaker goes in there with a killer instinct – which is what Uriah Hall did not do against Natal – and avoids the ground, he should walk out with the decision. The problem is Natal is so crafty. Still have to go with Whittaker.
Andrews Prediction: Robert Whittaker via unanimous decision
#3 ANTHONY PETTIS (18-4-0) VS #8 EDSON BARBOZA (16-4-0)
Andrews: This should be a beautiful fight and a critical one for Pettis. To lose impressively to Barbosa would knock him out of the UFC elite. I think Pettis has the advantage experience-wise, but these two are so good, it only takes a small mistake. Have to go with Showtime.
Andrews Prediction: Anthony Pettis via TKO
DEMETRIOUS JOHNSON (22-2-1) VS #2 HENRY CEJUDO (10-0-0)
Andrews: Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist, but he’s never faced a guy like Johnson in the cage. And vice-versa but Johnson has faced very good wrestlers in Ian McCall, Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez. And Mighty Mouse is so quick and technical that I think he has the experience and wits to avoid the wrestling of Cejudo and outlast Cejudo.
Andrews Predictions: Demetrious Johnson via unanimous decision
#1 JON JONES (21-1-0) VS #6 OVINCE ST. PREUX (19-7-0)
Andrews: This should be a good test for Jones as OSP is explosive and almost as big. He does not want to take many shots from him. Which as Jones hinted during the Embedded series, he will take him down and take the starch out of him. Then, he’ll look for a submission. OSP needs to make Jones work on the feet before his cardio goes ala Anthony Johnson. When the dust settles, Jones will have another submission finish.
Andrews Prediction: Jon Jones via submission