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UFC on FOX 18 Observer Panel Picks Anthony Johnson vs Ryan Bader

UFC on FOX 18 airs Saturday evening, or afternoon depending on where you are. The first big FOX show of 2016 brings us a #1 contender’s bout at Light Heavyweight between former title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and perennial contender Ryan Bader. Two interesting bouts in the Heavyweight and Bantamweight division involving fighters just outside of title contention are also featured. In the opener of the main card, it should be the coming out party for “Super” Sage Northcutt, as he has his first fight on TV in the UFC after his first two aired on Fight Pass.

It should be fun card with title implications  both in the near and distant future. The show kicks off on Fight Pass at 3:30 pm eastern with 3 fights. The action moves over to FS 1 at 5 with that portion of the prelims and the main card kicks off on FOX at 8.  

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 (8-2; .800) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Mike Sawyer (7-3; .700) – Tough Talk MMA
  • Josh Nason (6-4; .600) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
  • Steve Juon (6-4; .600) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Mike Sempervive (6-4; .600) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Ryan Frederick (6-4; .600) – WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
  • Consensus picks (5-4; .556)
  • Front Row Brian (5-5; .500) – MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
  • Paul Fontaine (5-5; .500) – MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer
  • Favorites (5-5; .500)
  • Dave Meltzer (4-6; .400)– Wrestling Observer founder
  • David Bixenspan (4-6; .400) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host

Light Heavyweights Anthony Johnson (20-5) vs Ryan Bader (20-4)

Ryan Bader has been on a tear, running up 5 straight wins as he works his way toward the title shot that’s eluded him his entire career. He hasn’t looked terribly impressive in doing so, however. Should he get past Rumble, there’s no way he can be denied that shot though. Johnson has perhaps the best power of anyone in all of MMA and has competed in every weight class from Welterweight all the way up to Heavyweight. He’s found his sweet spot at 205 and while making weight has been an issue in the past, he weight in yesterday with his jeans on so he obviously felt confident he’d make it with no issues.

Johnson (big favorite) – Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Pollock, Meltzer

Bader – Front Row Brian, Fontaine, Bixenspan

Heavyweights Josh Barnett (34-7) vs Ben Rothwell (35-9)

Barnett is a former UFC champion who is coming off a very impressive win over top 10 fighter Roy Nelson. It would’ve seemed unlikely that Barnett would ever get back into title contention but with the combination of a weak heavyweight division and the impressive wins he’s had, he could get there with a win over Rothwell. Rothwell has 3 straight wins over top competition and got a lot of attention with his post-fight promo last time out. He’s been very vocal about wanting a title shot and, like Barnett, he’s only one or two wins away from getting there. This is a big fight for both guys.

Barnett (slight favorite) – Sempervive, Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Fontaine, Bixenspan

Rothwell – Nason, Front Row Brian, Pollock, Meltzer

Bantamweights Iuri Alcantara (33-6) vs Jimmie Rivera (18-1)

These two got some screen time in the “Road to the Octagon” special that aired online as well as on FOX last weekend. Rivera in particular came off extremely likeable. He’s kind of come out of nowhere with that impressive record but he’s a tough veteran who should have the support of the locals in New Jersey. Alcantara’s been a title contender since moving over from WEC in 2011 but a couple of key losses have kept him away from the elite in the division. The title picture at 135 seems pretty tied up with the Dillashaw/Cruz/Faber trio but the winner here could end up right at that next level of contenders once all  of that shakes out.

Rivera (moderate favorite) – Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Front Row Brian, Juon, Frederick, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bixenspan

Alcantara - Pollock

Welterweights Sage Northcutt (7-0) vs Bryan Barberena (10-3)

Northcutt, aka Zack Morris 2.0, is a future star in case you didn’t know. He’s finished every one of his pro opponents, including both of his UFC fights. He’s starting to get some negative backlash from fans who feel he’s overpushed and also that his squeaky clean image, including quoting bible verses in his promos, may be a little fake. All that aside, he’s relentless in the Octagon and this should be a showcase fight for him. Barbarena took the fight on two weeks notice and as a result, it’s being contested at 170, rather than at 155 where these two normally fight. Barbarena has looked okay in his two previous UFC fights but anything but a stoppage win for Northcutt would be a big surprise and a blow  to the UFC’s future plans.

Northcutt (big favorite) – Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Front Row Brian, Juon, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Meltzer

Barberena - Bixenspan

Welterweights Tarec Saffiedine (15-4) vs Jake Ellenberger (30-10)

A battle of veteran Welterweights headlines the FS 1 prelims and rounds out our panel picks. Saffiedine is back after nearly 16 months away. He was last seen getting KO’d by Rory McDonald at UFC Halifax and will be in his first non-Main event for UFC here. The former Strikeforce Champion is still just 29 and could be a future title challenger should he rack up a few big wins. Ellenberger is probably fighting for his job tonight. He suffered a brutal first round KO at the hands of Wonderboy Thompson last time out and that was his 4th loss in his last 5  fights. That said, the guys he lost to were all top names in the division in Robbie Lawler, Rory McDonald, Kelvin Gastelum and Thompson. Ellenberger may have lost a step but can he dip into the well and pull out a win here? We’ll have to see, although odds are certainly against it.

Saffiedine (big favorite) – Sempervive, Nason, Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Pollock, Meltzer, Bixenspan

Ellenberger – Front Row Brian, Fontaine

Ryan Frederick will be providing live coverage of the show starting with the Fight Pass prelims. In the meantime, check out the following content relating to this show:

UFC on FOX 18 Draft Kings Playbook

UFC on FOX 18 weigh-ins results and video