Our picks for UFC NOLA. We've got Boetsch, Big Ben Rothwell, Yancy Medeiros in an upset, Thiago Tavares, Joe Soto over Birchak and Francisco Rivera by KO. Enjoy the fights.
Tim Boetsch #13 vs Dan Henderson
There are some main events that just don’t make a lot of sense. You can thank Jon Jones for the underwhelming headline match-up between Dan Henderson and Tim Boestch. His alleged hit and run forced the UFC to strip him of the belt and throw Daniel Cormier into a title fight against Anthony Johnson. What should have been an interesting LHW feature between DC and Ryan Bader was scrapped, leaving Hendo vs The Barbarian as the newly-promoted main event.
Get ready to feel nostalgic, because for the first time, we’re going to see Hendo exposed against a guy that four or five years ago, he would have walked through. Keep in mind, Henderson has lost five of his last six, albeit against five former champions, be they UFC champions (Belfort, Machida, Rashad) or Strikeforce champions (DC, Mousasi). As good as he was - and he’s a walk-up start for the Hall of Fame - at 44, we're not sure Hendo can hang with the big boys. He’s been on a noticeable slide since TRT was outlawed. He’s still a good wrestler, make no mistake, and if that right hand lands, well, everyone saw Shogun’s nose. It’s just that he doesn’t have the speed anymore and he doesn't use combinations to set up the right hand. These days, he’s just looking for that one big shot.
There’s an argument to be made that even if Hendo lands that one big shot, it may not be enough, because Boetsch is nothing if not resilient. He’s a big, strong middleweight who likes to bully his opponents against the fence and throw bombs from close range or look for takedowns. He's by no means one of the best in the world, but he's solid everywhere and he'll know the H-bomb is his biggest threat. Hendo has a reputation for being good in the clinch, but at this stage in his career, we think there's a real chance Boetsch overpowers him. In hindsight, Hendo should have called it quits two fights ago and gone out with a win in the rematch against fellow legend Shogun Rua. As it is, if Hendo falls to Boetsch, it's time for him and Dana to have "the talk." BOETSCH TKO
Ben Rothwell #9 vs Matt Mitrione #13
In the heavyweight division, a winning streak can very quickly land you in the top ten. Hell, if Neil Magny was a heavyweight he would have earned a title shot by now, worked his way back up and had a second crack. Big Ben Rothwell has two wins in a row, over Brandon Vera and Alistair Overeem, and he’s ranked ninth. Matt Mitrione has strung three together, over Shawn Jordan, Derrick Lewis and Gabriel Gonzaga, and he’s ranked thirteenth. Make no mistake, the winner of this fight puts themselves in the mix.
Meathead versus Big Ben is a battle of speed versus power. That's not to say Mitrione lacks power, but in his last three fights, he's chosen to push the pace, using his footwork to cut off the cage and dart in and out of range. He sets up his straight left well and his heavy base makes him hard to take down. For a big guy, he has impressive movement and handspeed, but he does have a tendency to get tagged. Big Ben isn't as athletic, but he’s rangy, he's got a hell of a chin and a whole lot of power. He's been known to go full Roth on occassion, bouncing around like a madman and throwing bombs from weird angles, and we could see that again against Mitrione, because it's proven pretty effective.
Mitrione will try to control the pace and distance in this fight, but that’s not going to bother Rothwell. Meathead's always a chance of finding a home for that sledgehammer left hand, but we think his complete lack of head movement is going to bite him in the arse, and Rothwell's going to take him out. ROTHWELL TKO