The UFC returns to pay-per-view on Saturday night with another stop in Houston, Texas for UFC 192. They bring a deep card to the Lone Star State for the first event in Houston since UFC 166 in October 2013, with a title fight and other fights with title implications making up the card. The main card airs on pay-per-view at 10 PM eastern time. Preliminary bout action can be seen kicking off at 6:15 PM eastern time on UFC Fight Pass before heading over to FS1 at 8 PM eastern time.
The UFC Light Heavyweight Championship is on the line in the main event as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier makes his first title defense against the challenger, Alexander Gustafsson. In the co-main event bout, it will be a title eliminator bout in the welterweight division as former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks takes on Tyron Woodley. Also on the card is a light heavyweight bout between contenders as former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans takes on Ryan Bader. Let's take a deeper look into the action on the card and bring you five storylines to keep an eye on at UFC 192 on Saturday night.
1. Can Alexander Gustafsson unseat Daniel Cormier as the current top of the light heavyweight division?
Alexander Gustafsson is getting a second chance to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in the main event of UFC 192 on Saturday night when he challenges current champion Daniel Cormier. Gustafsson's title opportunity was met with a lot of criticism as he is coming off of a loss to Anthony Johnson in his last fight, and many thought Ryan Bader and his four-fight win streak should have been the man fighting Cormier. Regardless of that, Gustafsson will be looking to do something he was unable to do in his first title shot, and that is walk away with the belt around his waist. The last time he got this opportunity, he came up just short in losing to Jon Jones in perhaps the greatest title fight in UFC history, at UFC 165 in September 2013. Two years later, he gets a fresh champion in Cormier, who won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship when he submitted Johnson at UFC 187 in May, which followed the title being stripped from Jones.
Cormier provides Gustafsson with a completely different challenge from Jones, but just an equally as hard fight. Cormier is a world-class wrestler with knockout power in his hands. Gustafsson is going to have a huge height and reach advantage that he will want to exploit. He has to watch out for the dangerous right hand from Cormier, though, something that he ate at the hands of Johnson. Gustafsson had talked about how he considered retiring following the loss to Johnson, and any time that happens to a fighter, you have to question their mental state heading into their next fight. Cormier has also been using his mouth and excellent speaking ability to attempt to get into the head of Gustafsson. Gustafsson has been shaking it off, but it could play into the hands of both men on Saturday night.
Gustafsson is going to have to use his length to keep Cormier away from him. If Cormier is able to get inside the pocket and use his excellent dirty boxing skills in the clinch, it is going to be a tough night in the Octagon for Gustafsson. Gustafsson excels at footwork and circling away from the opponent after his attacks. He isn't going to out-wrestle Cormier, and he has a hard time eating a good punch. Gustafsson's three losses have come to Jones, Johnson and Phil Davis, three strong wrestlers with solid punching power. Cormier is another in that line of opponent. This is Cormier's fight to lose, and I see him being able to finish Gustafsson and continue his quest to goad Jon Jones back into the Octagon.
2. Who stakes their claim to the next title shot at 170 pounds when Johny Hendricks and Tyron Woodley meet?
Former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks will meet Tyron Woodley in the co-main event of UFC 192 in a fight that has been many years in the making. It is a battle that goes back to when both men were wrestlers in college. They met in the Big 12 Finals, and it ended in a lot of controversy. It was a close match, but at one point during the match, Hendricks' fingers ended up in the mouth of Woodley, and there were claims of Woodley biting Hendricks. Woodley was penalized a point, which made the difference in Hendricks winning and then going on to becoming an NCAA Champion twice. Woodley has been wanting another shot at Hendricks since both entered the sport. Woodley has been calling out Hendricks for months, and the fight finally goes down on Saturday night.
It is a pivotal bout in the welterweight division as it will likely determine who fights the winner of the January bout between Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit. Hendricks lost the championship to Lawler, but he holds wins over both men. Woodley holds a win over Condit. High stakes are on the line when Hendricks and Woodley step inside the Octagon, and it will be interesting how the fight turns out. It could be explosive on the feet, but it also has the chance to be a battle of attrition with battles in the clinch and with the wrestling. Hendricks has been a better overall performer, but recently has lacked that killer instinct that made him the most dangerous fighter at 170 pounds. Woodley has some power as well, but Hendricks has never been finished. Woodley has back in Strikeforce by Nate Marquardt. I give the edge in this bout to Hendricks and pick him to win on Saturday night.
3. Will Rashad Evans be able to shake off the knee injuries when he meets Ryan Bader?
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans makes his long-awaited return on Saturday night when he meets Ryan Bader, holder of a four-fight win streak. This fight could also have title implications on the line at 205 pounds, as Evans is riding a two-fight win streak himself. Evans has been out of action since a November 2013 win over Chael Sonnen as he has had multiple knee surgeries, in similar vein to Dominick Cruz, but he is finally able to return to action. Bader was chomping at the bits to fight Daniel Cormier for the title, but was passed over in favor of Alexander Gustafsson, and an impressive win over Evans could make a statement that he should be next. Of course, there is Jon Jones laying in wait, which could impact what happens for the winner.
At his best, Evans is one of the best light heavyweights in UFC history, with several big wins and being a former champion. If he is truly 100%, he is a top-five fighter, maybe even top-three alongside Jones, Cormier and Anthony Johnson. A win would almost assuredly mean he will get the next opportunity at the main event winner, even if Jones is getting closer to a return. Cage rust could play a huge factor, but Evans has gone through some periods of time where he has missed an extended amount of action, though the two years is the longest layoff of his career. It will be interesting to see if the knee injuries affect his wrestling skill, which is his best aspect of his skills, but he also has a ton of power. Bader is a good wrestler and has solid striking, but he doesn't match up well against Evans. This has the potential to be a boring battle as well as Evans may fight cautiously and Bader isn't the most aggressive fighter. I see Evans taking the win, though, and Bader just not being able to get over the hump.
4. Sage Northcutt makes his UFC debut with a lot of hype. Will he live up to it?
Sage Northcutt is 19-years-old, the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, and he makes his UFC debut on Saturday night. He is getting a lot of hype coming into his debut, especially for someone fight on the Fight Pass portion of the preliminary card. He is from Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston, and he was featured on Dana White's new Fight Pass show, "Looking For A Fight". He is 5-0 in his professional career, one that started less than a year ago. He does have one loss as an amateur, but that came in his very first fight. All five of his wins have come by stoppage, and he has only been out of the first round once.
He's going to get a lot of attention for his looks as he looks more like a model than a fighter. He has been practicing martial arts all of his life, and he does have an attitude about him. That is why the UFC is drawn to him, the personality, and all indications show that he can become a popular, and hated, fighter, if he can back up his skills. It might be early for a 19-year-old, but it is his chance to show that he is for real. He fights Francisco Trevino, who is coming off of his first career loss that ended his perfect 12-0 record. It will be the first time that Northcutt cuts to 155 pounds, and he gets a tough opponent. He's being thrown to the wolves right away, but many expect him to live up to the hype. If he does, the UFC has a potential new star on their hands.
5. What else is there to look for on the card?
The UFC 192 card is loaded with 13 fights, and many solid fights. Also on the main card is a heavyweight battle between former LSU football player Shawn Jordan and Ruslan Magomedov. Opening the main card is a pivotal bout in the women's bantamweight division as Jessica Eye meets former TUF winner Julianna Pena. Eye is coming off a tough loss to Miesha Tate in a title eliminator bout in July, and she is eager to step back in the Octagon and get back into the win column and erase the disappointing memory of the Tate fight. Pena is getting a huge step up in competition in the form of Eye, but she has the potential to compete for the title in the future, and fights aren't getting easier when climbing the ladder.
Headlining the preliminary card is a flyweight battle between former title challengers as Joseph Benavidez takes on Ali Bagautinov. Also on the card is a featherweight bout between former TUF winner Yair Rodriguez and Dan Hooker, an exciting welterweight clash between Alan Jouban and Albert Tumenov, and Rose Namajunas finally makes her long-awaited return when she takes on Angela Hill. Among the fights that will be airing on Fight Pass is a flyweight battle between former title challenger Chris Cariaso and prospect Sergio Pettis, the younger brother of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The UFC 192 card is truly a deep card for fight fans.
Full UFC 192 Fight Card, Betting Odds and Predictions
MAIN CARD (PPV- 10 PM ET/7 PM PT)
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: (C) Daniel Cormier vs. (#2) Alexander Gustafsson
Betting Odds: Cormier (-340), Gustafsson (+280)
Prediction: Cormier by knockout in round 3
Welterweights: (#1) Johny Hendricks vs. (#3) Tyron Woodley
Betting Odds: Hendricks (-350), Woodley (+290)
Prediction: Hendricks by decision
Light Heavyweights: (#4) Ryan Bader vs. (#5) Rashad Evans
Betting Odds: Bader (+150), Evans (-170)
Prediction: Evans by decision
Heavyweights: Shawn Jordan vs. Ruslan Magomedov
Betting Odds: Jordan (+140), Magomedov (-160)
Prediction: Jordan by knockout in round 2
Women's Bantamweights: (#6) Jessica Eye vs. (#12) Julianna Pena
Betting Odds: Eye (+205), Pena (-245)
Prediction: Eye by decision
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX SPORTS 1- 8 PM ET/5 PM PT)
Flyweights: (#1) Joseph Benavidez vs. (#14) Ali Bagautinov
Betting Odds: Benavidez (-340), Bagautinov (+280)
Prediction: Benavidez by decision
Featherweights: Yair Rodriguez vs. Dan Hooker
Betting Odds: Rodriguez (-300), Hooker (+250)
Prediction: Rodriguez by submission in round 3
Welterweights: Alan Jouban vs. Albert Tumenov
Betting Odds: Jouban (+220), Tumenov (-260)
Prediction: Jouban by knockout in round 2
Women's Strawweights: (#4) Rose Namajunas vs. Angela Hill
Betting Odds: Namajunas (-260), Hill (+220)
Prediction: Namajunas by submission in round 2
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS- 6:15 PM ET/3:15 PM PT)
Lightweights: Adriano Martins vs. Islam Makhachev
Betting Odds: Martins (-105), Makhachev (-115)
Prediction: Makhachev by decision
Lightweights: Francisco Trevino vs. Sage Northcutt
Betting Odds: Trevino (+375), Northcutt (-470)
Prediction: Northcutt by knockout in round 2
Flyweights: (#10) Chris Cariaso vs. Sergio Pettis
Betting Odds: Cariaso (+155), Pettis (-175)
Prediction: Pettis by decision
Heavyweights: Derrick Lewis vs. Viktor Pesta
Betting Odds: Lewis (+140), Pesta (-160)
Prediction: Lewis by knockout in round 1