Lightweight Bout: Edson Barboza (19-5) vs. Kevin Lee (16-3)
Nolan Howell: Barboza is likely the most competent striker Lee has ever faced and it will be interesting to see how Lee approaches it, as his only way to victory will be using his wrestling and power submission game once he gets it to the mat. That approach likely favors the grappler here over the course of five rounds, providing he does not get caught on the way in by Barboza or stay too long on the outside and get his explosion worn off his takedowns by Barboza’s leg kicks. Look for it to be on the mat early. Kevin Lee by third-round submission.
Featherweight Bout: Cub Swanson (25-8) vs. Frankie Edgar (22-6-1)
Nolan: While both got finished by Brian Ortega last time out, it seems like that is just a sign they are slightly below one of the biggest surprises in MMA at this stage of the game. Swanson has the more varied game standing and might even be the more technical striker by the books, but Edgar’s tried-and-true fencing approach is enough to confound Swanson as he will dart in and out with combos inside, providing he still has that speed. Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Bout: Chase Sherman (11-4) vs. Justin Willis (6-1)
Nolan: It’s heavyweight MMA, so everything is more or less a coin flip on a given night, but Willis has the higher ceiling of the two while Sherman seems to be a bit of a novelty act. Justin Willis by first-round TKO.
Middleweight Bout: David Branch (21-4) vs. Thiago Santos (17-5)
Nolan: Branch hasn’t been particularly impressive in his UFC return and is on the wrong side of 30. Santos should be capable enough of fending off the grappling of Branch to keep it on the feet and work his bread and butter for another highlight reel stoppage. Thiago Santos by second-round TKO.
Bantamweight Bout: Aljamain Sterling (14-3) vs. Brett Johns (15-0)
Nolan: Johns is the more diverse fighter with his submission skills and judo background and has more avenues to earn the finish, but Sterling’s wrestling give me a bit of pause as the more proven commodity overall, even as an underdog and on a bit of a slide compared to the initial hype. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.
Lightweight Bout: Dan Hooker (15-7) vs. Jim Miller (28-11)
Nolan: You pretty much know what to expect with Jim Miller these days. Fights just as he used to, but everything comes slower and he gets knifed up as the fight goes along. Dan Hooker by split decision.