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Friday, February 4, 2011
The experts weigh in on UFC 126

Here are our picks for UFC 126:

Ryan Bader versus Jon Jones

Jon Anik: Jones by TKO -- Ryan Bader should have the cardio edge and needs to use his wrestling to sap Jon Jones' energy -- easier said than done against one of the best athletes MMA has ever seen. Jones' wingspan is 84 inches. That is 7 feet … and a huge advantage. Jonny Bones seems a lock to be a future UFC champion. Bader eventually succumbs.
Josh Gross: Jones by decision -- The public isn't giving Bader the shot he deserves. From a quick unofficial poll of my Twitter followers, just three out of 58 respondents picked the 27-year-old wrestler to upend Jones. Bader's chances are better than that, but I'm with the masses on this one.
Franklin McNeil: Jones by decision -- Determination will get Bader through this fight, but it won't lead him to victory. In addition to having faced better overall UFC competition, Jones' athleticism, speed, size and unorthodox style will offset any wrestling edge Bader might possess.
Chuck Mindenhall: Jones by decision -- There's no such thing as an undefeated cakewalk, and Jones won't find one in Bader. What he will find, though, is a safe distance for freelance striking to set up what for a wrestler is considered the deepest of deep water -- making him fight from his back.
Brett Okamoto: Jones by TKO -- To me, there's a difference between being a prospect in a division and being a prospect to become No. 1 pound-for-pound. Bader has a chance to have a successful career; Jones has a chance to go down as one of the best ever when it's all said and done. I don't think this fight will be very close.
Darius Ortiz: Jones by decision -- God-given talent or blue-collar work ethic? I'm going with Jones' funk and finesse in this one.

Miguel Torres versus Antonio Banuelos

Anik: Torres by submission -- The former WEC bantamweight king finally makes his UFC debut and is the biggest favorite on the card. Finally training the way he should be, this space says Miguel Torres is the hungrier fighter and, put simply, won't be denied.
Gross: Torres by TKO -- One of several sleepers on the card, Torres-Banuelos could be the best of the night if the bantamweights' styles properly align. The shorter Banuelos likes to wing power punches, which will leave him open to being countered. Expect a buzz saw of a fight.
McNeil: Torres by TKO -- With Firas Zahabi now calling the shots, Torres has become a more disciplined fighter. The former WEC bantamweight champ will use his reach to pick Banuelos apart.
Mindenhall: Torres by decision -- It's sort of unusual to have a six-inch height disparity in a bantamweight fight, and yet that disparity -- the spindly Torres is 5-foot-9, the brick-like Banuelos 5-3 -- could work both ways. So what happens? Torres is the feistier, busier fighter.
Okamoto: Torres by decision -- Torres will be faster and more effective on the feet -- more slick and technical on the ground. Banuelos is solid in every area but, minus clipping Torres on the chin, I don't see him finishing the fight and he won't outpoint him.
Ortiz: Torres by TKO -- Torres is foaming at the mouth to get his career back on track. A more controlled attack and better game plan should help see him through Banuelos with ease.

Jake Ellenberger versus Carlos Eduardo Rocha

Anik: Ellenberger by TKO -- Huge discrepancy in both experience and level of competition, as Carlos Eduardo Rocha makes his United States debut. A submission is not out of the question for the Brazilian, but Jake Ellenberger is too powerful a wrestler and striker to slip up in this spot.
Gross: Ellenberger by decision -- Gut-check time for Rocha. Either he does or doesn't have the game to match up against a strong, experienced wrestler. Ellenberger can do many things. At the top of the list: he must control where the fight takes place.
McNeil: Ellenberger by decision -- In this wrestler-versus-submission artist matchup, the stand-up game will play a key role. That favors Ellenberger, who can begin talking title shot with an impressive win.
Mindenhall: Ellenberger by decision -- As a wrestler who can dictate the fight and hurt you on the feet, Ellenberger is always a tough out -- especially for a guy with the slickest jiu-jitsu that he'll never get a chance to demonstrate.
Okamoto: Ellenberger by TKO -- Very tough matchup for Rocha, who obviously has skills on the ground but is going against a top-notch wrestler with great submission defense and power in his hands. Interestingly, it's also his second fight outside of Germany. Sure pulled a tough card for his U.S. debut.
Ortiz: Ellenberger by decision -- Danke shame! I like Rocha's backstory, but submitting third-tier fighters on the German circuit isn't proper preparation for an experienced vet like Ellenberger. Rocha is being fed to the lions in this one.

Forrest Griffin versus Rich Franklin

Anik: Franklin by decision -- In the matchup of former champions, Forrest Griffin may be the more active striker, but Rich Franklin will be more effective. "Ace" knows how to score points while avoiding crowd-pleasing damage. The year-plus layoff won't help Griffin, either.
Gross: Griffin by decision -- Size and pressure should pay off big time for Griffin. Franklin doesn't make many mistakes, so it's incumbent on Griffin to force them. I think he can later in the fight and he'll work his way to a points win.
McNeil: Franklin by decision -- The former 185-pound champ now feels comfortable at 205 and that spells doom for Griffin. The more elusive Franklin will take advantage of Griffin's cage rust and cruise to victory.
Mindenhall: Franklin by TKO -- Franklin feels the long shadow being cast by the main event fighters, having lost to Belfort and Silva (twice). The difference between them and Griffin? Power. Griffin hasn't won by KO or TKO in more than five years (since UFC 55), and he won't outpoint Ace.
Okamoto: Griffin by decision -- Tough fight to call. I think conditioning comes into play at some point and you have to give a slight nod to Griffin in that area over the 36-year-old Franklin.
Ortiz: Franklin by decision -- Ace has a knack for racking up points and capitalizing on mistakes. Griffin might finish with a flurry, but by then it'll be too little, too late.

Vitor Belfort versus Anderson Silva

Anik: Silva by TKO -- Vitor Belfort is must-see TV and the most powerful party Anderson Silva will have faced in the Octagon. But Silva is just too slick and too motivated following his near-loss to Chael Sonnen in August. Silva will neutralize Belfort's power with movement and technique, eventually getting the TKO in Round 3.
Gross: Silva by decision -- Belfort traditionally has problems against grinders, which isn't how Silva approaches fighting. The challenger has more than enough experience and the correct style to go the distance, but he'll have too much trouble scoring offensively to become the first fighter to defeat Silva in the UFC.
McNeil: Silva by decision -- Footwork will decide the outcome of this fight between these former pugilists, with Silva playing elusive boxer to Belfort's slugger approach. And while the ground game could come into play, it won't too often. This bout will primarily be a stand-up affair, with Silva avoiding danger to retain his crown.
Mindenhall: Silva by KO -- In his last fight Silva looked vulnerable, the one before that bored. Against Belfort, who's basting this notion that he's got the superior stand-up and is set on proving it, Spider will look exactly like a man licking his lips.
Okamoto: Silva by KO -- Belfort is going to want to get inside to bully Silva and negate his movement. That's not a bad strategy but Silva is so long and his punches are so accurate, I just don't see Belfort being able to close in without taking significant punishment in the process.
Ortiz: Silva by KO -- Belfort's gung-ho style will play right into Silva's hands -- literally. Silva picks apart Belfort, breaks his spirit (and maybe a few bones in the process) before stopping him by Round 3.

You've read what we have to say. Now it's your turn. Vote for the last men standing at UFC 126 here.

Jon Anik is the host of "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at Jon_Anik.

Josh Gross covers MMA for Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at Franklin_McNeil.

Chuck Mindenhall covers MMA for and is a features writer at FIGHT! magazine. He can be followed on Twitter at @ChuckMindenhall.

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.

Darius Ortiz is the boxing and MMA editor for