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UFC Fight Night 82 Hendricks vs Thompson: Wrestling Observer Panel Picks

If I’ve learned one thing in the world of UFC in 2016, it’s that UFC thinks that the value of a Fabricio Werdum fight is about $60. I say this because tonight’s card was originally scheduled for PPV and when the Werdum heavyweight title defence was pulled from the card, it became a free television show. As a PPV, this show would’ve been a tough sell but as a free card, it’s pretty damned good.

Former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks returns to the Octagon on his road back to the title, a rising heavyweight takes on a fan favorite but fading contender in Roy Nelson, two former Strikeforce fighters square off with title contention or irrelevancy on line, and two top 10 flyweights will meet in what is perhaps the most relevant fight on the show in terms of an immediate title contender. In the last of our panel picks, two former welterweights move down a weight class in an effort to jumpstart their careers. All of this AND Mickey Gall facing the King of Pop to get a chance to face former WWE Champion CM Punk in the summer!

Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks:

  • John Pollock (11-4; .733) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Mike Sawyer (10-5; .667) – Tough Talk MMA
  • Josh Nason (10-5; .667) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor , WON Twitter guy
  • Steve Juon (9-6; .600) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Mike Sempervive (9-6; .600) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Ryan Frederick (9-6; .600) – UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
  • Consensus picks (8-6; .571)
  • Favorites (8-7; .533)
  • Dave Meltzer (8-7; .533)– Wrestling Observer founder
  • Front Row Brian (7-8; .467) – MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, Podcast host
  • Paul Fontaine (7-8; .467) – founder, writer
  • David Bixenspan (7-8; .467) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host

Johny Hendricks (17-3) vs Steven Thompson (11-1)

Remember Johny Hendricks? The guy who’s struggled the last couple of years with his weight? The guy who took GSP to the limit in his final fight, with many believing he actually won the fight? The guy who had a 2 fight, 10 round series with Robbie Lawler that was as even as it could possibly be, coming out of the end of it without his title? Ya, that guy. He’s back and taking on a Karate fighter with a lot of hype and an impressive record and he’s out to prove that he should get the next shot at the 170 lb title. Thompson can knock out anyone with his kicks out of nowhere and this should be a great main event. It’s the first time Hendricks has fought on free TV in almost four years in an interesting note. Our panel does not think there's much of a doubt in this one.

Hendricks (sizable favorite): Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Pollock, Front Row Brian, Frederick, Juon, Fontaine, Bix, Meltzer

Roy Nelson (20-12) vs Jared Rosholt (14-2)

For the 2nd straight week, we have Heavyweights squaring off in the co-main event. Nelson was the TUF 10 champion, which seems like eons ago. In more recent times, he’s lost 6 of his last 7 fights but he’s also fought guys ranked ahead of him for the most part. Rosholt has the exact opposite UFC record, going 6-1 against mostly guys at or below his level although he did score a win over big Stefan Struve in his last fight. But he’s done so in non-typical Heavyweight fashion, grinding out decision wins in all but one of those fights. With a win over Nelson, he’ll likely move into the top 10 and start facing guys at the top of the division.

Nelson (moderate favorite): Sempervive, Sawyer, Pollock, Frederick, Meltzer
Rosholt: Nason, Front Row Brian, Juon, Fontaine, Bix

Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (12-6) vs Ovince St Preux (18-7)
Light Heavyweights

Feijao has struggled since coming over from Strikeforce when UFC absorbed the company in 2013. He’s got just one win in 4 UFC fights and this won’t get any easier for him tonight. OSP has fought twice as many times in the same time frame and has a 6-2 record, which propelled him into the top 10. His last 5 wins have all been by finish, with 4 of them coming in the first round. It’s unlikely that either of these guys will ever contend for a title but there should be some great action here. Once  again, there's no doubt amongst our panel that OSP will emerge victorious. 

OSP (big favorite): Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Pollock, Front Row Brian, Frederick, Juon, Fontaine, Bix, Meltzer

Joseph Benavidez (23-4) vs Zach Makovsky (19-6)

If flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson didn’t exist, Benavidez would be unbeaten in the UFC and in fact going back to a split decision loss to current Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz in WEC in 2010. Sandwiched around his 11 wins in that time are two losses to Johnson. It’s tough to justify giving him a third shot at the belt but Benavidez is doing what he can to make that happen. His opponent, Makosvsky, should be someone he can handle as he comes in with losses in 2 of his last 3 fights. Benavidez really has almost nothing to gain here with a win but everything to lose.

Benavidez (huge favorite): Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Pollock, Front Row Brian, Frederick, Juon, Bix, Meltzer
Makovsky: Fontaine

Josh Burkman (27-12) vs KJ Noons (13-8)

Burkman has had some fun fights since returning to UFC but unfortunately for him, he’s failed to score a victory and has been finished his last two times out. This has led him to make the drop to 155 lbs for the first time in his career as he hopes to get back on the winning track. In fact, his last UFC win was in 2007 and since that time, he’s lost 6 times in the Octagon (with one later being changed to a no-contest). Noons has fought 2 of his last 3 fights at Welterweight but returns to his more familiar weight class here. The former Elite XC Lightweight Champion is one of only two fighters to have KO’d Nick Diaz and has the power to stop anyone in the division.

Burkman (moderate favorite) – Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Pollock, Front Row Brian, Frederick, Juon, Bix, Meltzer
Noons: Fontaine

Two unanimous picks and two near-unanimous picks here and we’re split right down the middle in the co-main event.