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UFC Fight Night 68 New Orleans Observer main card picks & mini-preview: Dan Henderson vs. Tim Boetsch

UFC Fight Night New Orleans

By Josh Nason, WrestlingObserver.com

Telling someone when to quit their profession can’t be an easy thing. I’ve never had to do it, and I certainly wouldn’t want that to happen to me. My wife and I are going through a similar situation with my father-in-law who is considering retirement after a long, long career in the insurance industry. He’s earned the right to enjoy the fruits of his labor with his wife, but as he’s said, what do I do then?

In pro sports, we run into this all the time and as fans, it’s easy for us to armchair quarterback and yell at the TV for guys or girls to hang it up. ‘You have enough money!’ we say. I’d love to have your lie! we say. But it’s easy for us: we switch off the TV or the computer and we move on from a game or a season or a team. For the competitors, they can’t do that as easily. Again, what do they do then?

Two weeks after Andrei Arlovski showed us that we should have stopped telling him to retire a long time ago, we arrive at the latest case of should he or shouldn’t he with Daniel Jeffrey Henderson who fights Tim Boetsch tonight in New Orleans.

Is this the fight? Is this the fight that finally knocks Henderson out of the sport? We’ve thought that before, but he kept on going. Fedor. Shogun twice. Belfort. Daniel Cormier. He keeps going, but he’s also stopped winning. He’s got his hand raised just once in his last six outings (the Shogun rematch) and has been finished in his last three losses. It’s fun to talk about “the H Bomb” but he’s 44 years old. How can he keep going with a loss?

As Arlovski proved, there’s the chance a little more is left in the tank. But in Henderson’s case, let’s just hope the chassis and engine isn’t shot first.

Last week's picks: In UFC Brazil picks from Saturday, Dave Meltzer, Josh Nason, Mike Sempervive, David Bixenspan, Steve Juon, David Bixenspan, Mike Sawyer, and Jack Encarnacao each went 3-2. John Pollock and Front Row Brian went 2-3. 

Finally, if you're out and about today, download episode 2 of Josh Nason's Punch-Out with guest star Jeremy Botter of Bleacher Report MMA fame. 

*****

Jack Encarnacao (50-15 | .769) Sherdog Rewind host, The Lapsed Fan podcast co-chair, Steve Austin impersonator

Mike Sempervive (45-20 | .692) Wrestling Observer Live co-host | Big Audio Nightmare

Steve Juon (45-20 | .692) AngryMarks founder, MMA Mania writer

John Pollock (44-21 | .676) Fight Network personality, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, The MMA Report host

David Bixenspan (43-22 | .661) Figure Four Weekly writer, Observer Daily Update writer, podcast host

Dave Meltzer (40-25 | .615) Wrestling Observer founder & writer, occasional cougher

Front Row Brian (39-26 | .600) MMA newsbreaker, Twitter personality, podcast host

- Josh Nason (37-28 | .569)
 Wrestling Observer digital media and content guy, WON Twitter enabler

Mike Sawyer (36-29 | .553)
 Tough Talk MMA, 2014 picks panel champion 

***** 

> Tim Boetsch (18-8) vs. Dan Henderson (30-13)
Middleweights

After a four-fight win streak in 2011-12 brought Boetsch to middleweight relevance, losses in three of his last four (which easily could have been all of them) brought him back down to MMA Middle Earth. He rebounded with a fun win over Brad Tavares in his home state of Maine, but the Thales Leites Comeback Train ran him over in January. He’s 34, a gatekeeper, and has other businesses. A loss here could mean his exit from the UFC and from the sport.

Henderson: FRB, Encarnacao, Sawyer
Boetsch (favorite): Nason, Bix, Pollock, Juon, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Ben Rothwell (34-9) vs. Matt Mitrione (9-3)
Heavyweights

In his last outing, Rothwell had great luck and terrible luck. In his September clash against Alistair Overeem, he shocked everyone by knocking out AO in the first round. That was his first fight in a year after testing positive due to elevated testosterone levels and things were looking up...except he suffered nerve damage in his arm that he initially diagnosed as a broken bone. Then, there was this. He’s been out of action since then.

Mitrione continues to be one of the sport’s refreshing voices, not afraid to call out UFC management for its new policies against sponsors. He’s long since shed his “Meathead” gimmick and has turned into an entertaining and skilled fighter. Father Time isn’t on his side (he turns 37 in July), but punching power is. He’s won his last three by first round T/KO -- the last two spanning a combined 2:40.

Rothwell: Bix, Juon, Sawyer
Mitrione (favorite): Nason, FRB, Encarnacao, Pollock, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Dustin Poirier (17-4) vs. Yancy “Street” Medeiros (11-2-0-1)
Lightweights

Now back at lightweight, Poirier rebounded from his loss to Conor McGregor with a dominant first round win over “Mutante” Ferreira in April. He’s 4-2 since 2013 with his last three victories coming via KO. Medeiros made his Octagon debut in 2013 and is just 2-2-0-1, but he’s won two straight with submission victories in both. And if you don’t know what Yancy Street is, c’mon now.

Poirier (favorite): Nason, Bix, FRB, Encarnacao, Pollock, Juon, Sawyer, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Thiago Tavares (19-5-1) vs. Brian Ortega (8-0-1)
Featherweights

I saw Tavares fight in person in Bangor, ME, last August, and I wonder what he thought of the town. A UFC vet since 2007 (!!!), Double T hasn’t fought more than twice a year since 2008. He’s won two straight including the aforementioned featherweight debut in Ban-gore, not Bangah. Remember that.

Ortega is an injury replacement for Zubaira Tukhugov. You’ll remember him from his July 2014 submission win in his UFC debut, one that had many people thinking good things were ahead. However, he tested positive for drostanolone (anabolic steroid) and was suspended for nine months. Soon, a violation like that will keep a talented 24-year-old out a longer. Stakes are high.

Tavares (favorite): Bix, FRB, Encarnacao, Nason, Pollock, Juon, Sawyer, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Joe Soto (15-3) vs. Anthony Birchak (11-2)
Bantamweights

Soto picked a hell of a way to make his UFC debut after eight years in the sport: a UFC title shot. Remember that? It’s been a long time (August) since Soto was the primary beneficiary of being the only somewhat qualified male bantamweight at UFC 177, headlining one of the most injury-riddled, weakest PPV cards in UFC history. Before Soto lost via 5th round KO, he had won six straight.

His estranged opponent on that August night was Birchak who later made his Octagon debut with a first round submission loss in December to Ian Entwistle. Before that, he had won five in a row. Yet, he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. With a win, can we get this man a Wikipedia page? Somehow, he’s verified on Twitter with less than 3300 followers. What the what?

Soto (favorite): Nason, Bix, Encarnacao, Pollock, Juon, Sawyer, Sempervive, Meltzer
Birchak: FRB

Big D will have your coverage of the event starting in the afternoon. Be here!