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UFC New Orleans Preview

The Big Easy hosts an event this Saturday night that features one of the greatest of all time.

Main Card (Fox Sports 1/Bt Sports 1)
Middleweight: Tim Boetsch vs. Dan Henderson
Heavyweight: Ben Rothwell vs. Matt Mitrione
Lightweight: Dustin Poirier vs. Yancy Medeiros
Featherweight: Thiago Tavares vs. Brian Ortega
Bantamweight: Joe Soto vs. Anthony Birchak
BW: Alex Caceres vs. Francisco Rivera

We take a look at the three main bouts, as a G.O.A.T contender looks to turn back the clock.

Tim Boetsch (#13) vs. Dan Henderson

Tim Boetsch is nicknamed ‘The Barbarian’ for a reason.

He’s a massive middleweight with a ton of heart – it’s worth watching his incredible comeback against Yushin Okami. With a record of 18–8, Boetsch is in trouble – having lost four of his last six fights. Three of his eight losses have come by submission, but that won’t be a concern considering his next opponent.

Dan Henderson (30-13) isn’t a submission specialist – with just one win coming via a submission hold. What he is, though, is a former Pride Welterweight Grand Prix Champion, Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion and UFC Middleweight Tournament Winner. He holds wins over Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono, Rich Franklin, Renzo Gracie, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Michael Bisping, Shogun Rua and last, but certainly not least, Fedor Emelianenko.

He’s guaranteed a hall of fame berth. Unfortunately, time catches up with us all. Now 44, Hendo’s record in the UFC stands at 7-7, and since 2011, Henderson’s gone just 1-5. Hendo has suffered some nasty losses in that time. In his defence, those losses came against Gegard Mousasi, Daniel Cormier, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida – all top class opponents. While Boetsch isn’t at that elite level, he isn’t too far off, and in fact goes into this bout as the oddsmaker’s slender favourite.

Almost half of Henderson’s wins have come by KO (14 in all), likewise with Tim Boetsch (8 in 18).

The numbers would appear to favour Hendo if the fight went to the ground. Indeed, he represented the United States in the 1992 Summer Olympics and 1996 Summer Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling. The numbers on display here though don’t represent a dramatic difference between the two. On the feet, Hendo is now overly reliant on landing his killer right hand (a.k.a the H-Bomb), and the numbers here edge in favour of the Barbarian.

Overall, it’s difficult to see the legendary Henderson lasting the full five rounds without tiring – his great clash with Shogun was over three and a half years ago. Boetsch is simply better placed to win this clash.

Verdict: Tim Boetsch by decision

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Ben Rothwell (#9) vs. Matt Mitrione (#13)

Rothwell’s number of fights (34-9) only tells half the story regarding his experience. He has fought four former or future UFC heavyweight champions – Cain Velasquez, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, and Ricco Rodriguez. Big Ben has won three of his last four bouts, even knocking out former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion and K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Alastair Overeem in his last outing. You don’t achieve 27 wins by KO by not being able to hit hard.

His opponent Matt Mitrione (9-3) beat heavyweight stalwart Gabriel Gonzaga in his most recent encounter, and has finished each of his last three opponents inside the distance. All but one of his wins have come via this method, so it’s also clear where Meathead’s strengths lie.

Perhaps best known for his outspoken and straight personality, Mitrione’s Q&A section on his UFC.com profile is a treasure trove of amusing honesty:

What ranks and titles have you held? “I’m just a nobody”

Favorite grappling technique: “Ummmmm, standing up from the guard”

Favorite striking technique: “The punch in the face.”

This persona also translated to his appearance in The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, where we saw his other side.

This one won’t go the distance. While Rothwell has more experience to draw upon, we’re backing the fresher Mitrione to prevail.

Verdict: Matt Mitrione by KO

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Dustin Poirier vs. Yancy Medeiros 

Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier (17-4) bounced back from his crushing two minute loss to Conor McGregor last year by beating the unheralded Diego Ferreira in similar fashion (a four minute KO) back in April. It was his first fight at lightweight, having fought at featherweight for the duration of his UFC stint. as he faces Yancy Medeiros (11-2).

After a run of three fights without a victory, the Hawaiian has won his last two fights by submission. Nine submission wins between the two indicate where the fight may end up. Although he lost the bout, Poirier had a fantastic grappling and submission battle with former world title contender Chan Sung Jung in 2012 in which he showcased his prowess. This, coupled with his experience against world class opposition, is why he will come out on top of a tricky matchup.

Verdict: Dustin Poirier by submission

About Chris Kelleher

Student whose interests lie in sports ranging from Darts to MMA, with the likes of Golf, Boxing and Soccer in between. Closet wrestling fan and a lover of sports psychology and stiff jabs.