This Saturday the UFC brings a top-notch world championship card to free television as the UFC on FOX hits Chicago! In the main event, rivals TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao will fight for the bantamweight world title, for the second time in two years.
In the co-main event, women's bantamweight contenders Miesha Tate and Jessica Eye vie for the top challenger spot in their division. Further down the card, action-fighters Joe Lauzon and Takanori Gomi face off in a lightweight scrap that has Fight of the Night potential.
Read on for our full analysis and picks, and then let us know who you're picking, and why, on Facebook and Twitter!
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TJ Dillashaw (12-2) vs. Renan Barao (35-2)
Trying to figure out how, exactly, TJ Dillashaw upset Renan Barao and took his title at UFC 173 last May isn't easy. Dillashaw looked better than ever, despite still being very young in his career.
So, it is possible he peaked at the right moment under the watchful eye of striking coach Duane Ludwig. Dillashaw was able to match or exceed Barao's speed -- probably the first person to ever do that -- with both his feet and hands.
If Dillashaw is simply better and faster than Barao, than the Brazilian doesn't have a great chance of regaining his title this Saturday. However, this fight may not be that easy to predict.
Credit to Dillashaw, he hurt Barao badly in the first round. From then on out, the defending champion was not the same.
Perhaps if Dillashaw isn't able to daze Barao so early in this one, the former champ will be able to get off more offense of his own. This one could end up being a patient, waiting game, or the two rivals could clash in the center of the Octagon from the start.
In either case, it's almost an unpredictable fight. Barao has had time to rest and recover. Perhaps he'll be able to cut off the ring and corner Dillashaw a bit better this time.
Or, maybe Dillashaw has continued to improve his striking and overall game, making it an even easier fight for him. He's certainly said as much in pre-fight interviews.
In our mind, it's a pick 'em bout. Dillashaw is just as likely to give Barao fits with his quick hands and takedowns as Barao is to connect with an overhand right or knee of his own.
Prediction: Dillashaw by decision
Miesha Tate (16-5) vs. Jessica Eye (11-2)
This UFC on FOX co-main event has title shot implications. Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will defend her belt next month at UFC 190, and it seems likely that the winner of this bout between Tate and Eye will be the next to challenge for the belt.
Tate has looked solid in winning three straight since losing for a second time to Ronda Rousey. Eye has had a rocky road in terms of formal wins, losses and no-contests in the UFC, thus far, but she's actually looked quite good in the Octagon over three fights.
Her last bout was a nasty TKO win via exploding ear, back in November at UFC 180. Hopefully Eye has used the time of to improve and heal, so she will be primed for the biggest fight of her career.
Tate is coming off a win and broken orbital in December. The former world champ will want to close the distance and take Eye to the mat, for certain.
Eye's boxing is sharp and if the fight is decided on the feet, she'll likely be the victor. Tate's wrestling and submission grappling on the mat is excellent, however, and she should have the advantage there.
This is very hard to pick but we like Tate's experience and grappling ability in this matchup.
Prediction: Tate by decision
Edson Barboza (15-3) vs. Paul Felder (10-0)
Seventh-ranked lightweight Barboza has won five of his last seven fights, with losses only coming against top lightweights Michael Johnson and Donald Cerrone. Felder is undefeated so far, and this fight represents his big chance to jump into the lightweight division's top 10.
Barboza and Felder are both dynamic and powerful with their strikes.
Felder will want to get in Barboza's face and not give him space to land his nasty kicks. If he does, it still won't be an easy fight because Barboza has solid grappling.
We think Barboza has a slight speed edge here and think that he can edge out the newcomer if his conditioning is on point.
Prediction: Barboza by decision
Joe Lauzon (24-11) vs. Takanori Gomi (35-10)
This may end up being the fight of the night. Lauzon and Gomi are both action fighters who mix powerful strikes in with good grappling.
Gomi's grappling strength is his wrestling, while Lauzon is a submission machine on the mat. On the feet, Lauzon throws and lands with more volume, but Gomi has the single-shot power advantage.
On the feet, this fight is unpredictable. If Lauzon can establish his jab and stay tight, defensively, and use good footwork, he could have the edge and stay clear of Gomi's big haymakers.
The taller "JLau" could find a lot of success in the clinch, however, with his nasty elbow strikes. Should he be able to pin Gomi against the cage, lean on him and do some damage, while watching out for strikes on separation (or better yet, being first to hit on separation), Lauzon could wear down the former world champion.
Gomi will want to move around well, mix in takedown attempts with his quick and powerful punches. Lauzon is dangerous off his back, however, and could threaten the "Fireball Kid" even if he is taken down.
If Lauzon manages to take Gomi down a few times, however, he'll probably have his best chance of victory. Gomi is squirmy and savvy, but he leaves holes for a submission fighter of Lauzon's caliber and could get caught.
Both men are coming off losses, but Gomi has looked good over the past few years, overall, and Lauzon has still won two out of his last three bouts. Watch out for the first big bomb or takedown to land, because either could go a long way in deciding this fight.
Prediction: Lauzon by third-round submission
Gian Villante (13-5) vs. Tom Lawlor (9-5-1)
The very good and very colorful Tom Lawlor has not competed since 2013, and he'll be moving up a weight class in his return bout. What's more, he'll be doing so against a top-15 ranked contender in Gian Villante.
This fight could come down to which wrestler is more successful in the grappling department, or their wrestling could cancel out and this could turn into a slugfest. In either case, we're not sure who has the advantage.
Will Lawlor be full of energy at 205 pounds, with two years off from competition, or will he be undersized and rusty? Villante is on a roll, but will his conditioning hold up against Lawlor -- who has fought some of the best in the world?
Prediction: Lawlor by close decision
Jim Miller (24-6) vs. Danny Castillo (17-8)
Castillo is dynamic and strong enough to take anyone out on any given day, but the smart pick here has to be Miller. Miller may not be as quick as Castillo, but he's so well-rounded and dangerous with his boxing and elbows on the feet, as well as on the ground with his submissions, that he still has to be considered one of the best in the world.
Prediction: Miller by decision
Kenny Robertson (15-3) vs. Ben Saunders (18-6-2)
Saunders will have a tough time keeping the good wrestler Robertson off of him, here. Conversely, Robertson will have to be very careful on the feet in striking exchanges, and on the ground, even if he ends up on top.
Saunders has finishing ability on the feet and on the mat, off his back.
Prediction: Saunders by decision
Eddie Wineland (21-10) vs. Bryan Caraway (19-8)
This should be a fast-paced and fun bantamweight contender's affair. Wineland is the more dangerous striker on the feet but Caraway has good wrestling and ground ability.
Prediction: Wineland by third-round TKO
Daron Cruickshank (16-6) vs. James Krause (21-7)
Cruickshank looked a bit off in his last outing but at his best, he's a good wrestler with unpredictable and dangerous strikes on the feet. Krause is well-rounded as a dangerous submission fighter and solid striker.
We'll give Krause the slight edge because of his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills.
Prediction: Krause by decision
Ramsey Nijem (9-5) vs. Andrew Holbrook (9-0)
Holbrook is a serious lightweight prospect making his debut against the tough veteran Nijem. Nijem has fought tougher competition and is well rounded, but Holbrook is a killer on the ground with his submissions.
Prediction: Holbrook by decision
Jessamyn Duke (3-2) vs. Elizabeth Phillips (3-3)
Duke's range and solid knees in the clinch work for her here, but Phillips is tough to stop and hard-headed.
Prediction: Duke by decision
Zak Cummings (17-4) vs. Dominique Steele (13-5)
Steele will face a stiff test in his UFC debut in the hard-wrestling Cummings.
Prediction: Cummings by decision