A pair of top-ten heavyweights headlines this Saturday's UFC Fight Night (10 P.M. EST, FOX Sports 1) card, with veterans Frank Mir and Mark Hunt squaring off in the evening's main event.
A former UFC champion and decorated submission artist, Mir (18-10, 16-10 UFC) has been competing inside the Octagon for nearly 15 years. And while Mir has always relied on his high-caliber Brazilian jiu jitsu, the UFC's tenth-ranked heavyweight has improved his striking game in recent years, adding some depth to his overall mixed martial arts game.
With Hunt (11-10-1, 6-4-1 UFC), it's always been about the striking. A former K-1 kickboxing champion, Hunt possesses some of the heaviest and most accurate punches in the UFC, evidenced by his impressive knockout record and multiple performance bonuses.
Returning to the Octagon for the first time since UFC 193, when he stopped Antonio "Big Foot" Silva with strikes, Hunt will likely use looping hooks to advance inside and negate Mir's reach advantage. From there, Hunt has the ability to uncork uppercuts and overhands while dirty boxing, but he'll have to be mindful of Mir's array of grappling trickery.
Mir, who owns a four-inch height advantage over Hunt, has, of late, showed an increased desire to stand and trade shots with opponents. After knocking out Todd Duffee with a devastating left-hook last July in San Diego, Mir dropped a contentious decision to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 191, but certainly displayed his ability to compete with the lower half of the division's top-ten.
Much of this bout will come down to patience and conditioning, as both men will likely enter fight night near the maximum weight allowance of 265 pounds. And while Hunt will pressure forward, he has an ability to fade, especially in five round fights. Mir will need to remain cautious to avoid knockout punches, which Hunt routinely lands on taller and longer opponents.
Only clouding the analysis are the seven common opponents the two share; Hunt and Mir have both faced Silva, Cheick Kongo, Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, Josh Barnett, Roy Nelson, and Mirko Cro Cop to mixed results. In the end; however, Mir has the more diverse skillset. So don't be surprised if the former UFC champion keeps his distance on the feet for the first few rounds and then adjusts to a more wrestling and grappling game towards the third.
Frank Mir wins by submission.
Co-main event: Neil Magny vs. Hector Lombard
The changing of the welterweight guard and emergence of a new generation of fighters can take a huge leap forward on Saturday, when Magny (17-4, 10-3 UFC), one of the UFC's most active and rapidly improving talents, squares off against Lombard (34-4-1 2 NC, 3-2 1 NC UFC).
A former contestant on The Ultimate Fighter, Magny has proven himself adept at keeping distance and using his athleticism and cardio to beat opponents on the feet. And while Magny has been submitted inside the Octagon, he has increasingly demonstrated an ability to keep the fight standing.
Lombard, a former Olympic medalist, makes his return to competition following a failed test for performance enhancing drugs after UFC 182. Coming off a yearlong suspension, Lombard will need to quickly shake off the cage rust, as his explosive style and disadvantage in the height and reach departments may prove to be his undoing against the evasive Magny.
Fighting for the first time in nearly 15 months, Lombard will likely push forward and look for the knockout punch against the taller and longer Magny. But eventually his conditioning and lack of cardio and endurance will surface.
And after fifteen minutes, Neil Magny will earn the decision by evading Lombard's best punches and using counter striking, footwork, and aggression to impress the judges.
Jake Matthews vs. Johnny Case
A bout between highly touted lightweights, this contest between Matthews (9-1, 3-1 UFC) and Case (22-4, 4-0 UFC) is a strong contender for the evening's Fight of the Night.
An Australian national, Matthews is just 21 years old and the type of next-generation star the UFC is trying to groom overseas. He's competent in every aspect of MMA and possesses the high-level athleticism to push the pace and land strikes against the cage. Matthews can also grind opponents down and bring the bout to the ground, where he has solid submission skills. But Case is exactly the type of athlete who can handle Matthews' best stuff.
A winner of 12-straight bouts, Case is looking to make a run towards the UFC rankings. Case, who is predominantly a striker, has shown an ability to win in the clinch and on the ground. He also has a significant experience edge in this bout, which will come in handy when trying to remain active while Matthews attempts to tie up the action.
In the end, Case will need to demonstrate his ground game and employ takedowns to score points round by round. Case will be able to out strike Matthews, but the young Australian will score with takedowns of his own, so Case will offer a diverse attack en route to the decision win.
Daniel Kelly vs. Antonio Carlos Jr.
A former Olympic Judoka, Kelly (10-1, 3-1 UFC) takes on TUF Brazil heavyweight winner Carlos Jr. (5-1 1 NC, 2-1 1 NC UFC) in a middleweight bout.
Kelly's game is pretty straightforward. He pressures with strikes and clinches against the cage. And much like his fellow Judo practitioners, Kelly looks for trips and takedowns to impose dominance.
Carlos Jr. possesses a much broader skillset. Able to land knockout strikes, Carlos Jr.'s best asset is still his jiu jitsu, which will come in handy should Kelly force the fight to the ground.
But after fifteen minutes, neither man will assert his dominance, and Kelly will walk away with a close, if not split, verdict.
James Te Huna vs. Steve Bosse
Once a winner of four straight in the UFC's light heavyweight division, Te Huna (16-8, 5-4 UFC) has fallen on hard times over the last three years, losing three consecutive bouts since 2013.
Bosse (10-2, 0-1 UFC), a former minor league hockey enforcer, has made just one appearance inside the Octagon, suffering a devastating knockout loss at last April's UFC 186.
In all likelihood, this fight will not be pretty, as both Te Huna and Bosse are not the most refined, stylistically. But the pair could provide some fireworks as both have everything to lose here.
For Te Huna, a fourth straight loss would likely end his run with the UFC. Bosse could earn his walking papers after just a second defeat, laying the framework for a back-and-forth slugfest.
And while Bosse does possess a puncher's chance, Te Huna has faced a much higher level of competition for far longer.
Despite 20 months away from the Octagon, James Te Huna wins via knockout.