ufc 104 preview machidaYesterday we broke down the UFC 104 under card matches but this Friday we’re now shifting our focus to the pay-per-view portion of the evening.

Champ Lyoto Machida meets former PRIDE star Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in tomorrow’s headlining fight and a Cain Velasquez vs. Ben Rothwell heavyweight tilt handles co-main event duties.

Here we go…

Lyoto Machida (15-0) vs. Mauricio Rua (21-3): These two Brazilian light heavyweights face off this weekend with the champ’s belt on the line. Although Rua used to be a PRIDE star, he has had a lackluster move from Japan into the Octagon as evidenced by his bouts with Forrest Griffin (submission loss) and Mark Coleman (empty gas tank against 40+ year old).  Although Rua looked better in last outing against Liddell, it’s hardly an indicator he’s ready to dethrone the nearly untouchable Machida. The wise move for Mauricio would be to get things to the ground but Lyoto is well prepared to handle any situation.

Cain Velasquez (6-0) vs. Ben Rothwell (36-6): Not much love for Rothwell in the odds here but hardcore fans know not to sleep on Ben. Velasquez showed he still has a long ways to go in evolving as a mixed martial artist and this could once again be as apparent in the Rothwell match as it was against Frenchman Cheick Kongo at UFC 99. Rothwell’s keys to victory are staying aggressive in the pocket and effectively sprawling to stuff the takedown attempts of Cain. Velasquez will need to realize he must deliver as much damage from dominant positions whenever possible to give himself the best chance at walking away still undefeated. This really, honestly could go either way.

Spencer Fisher (27-4) vs. Joe Stevenson (40-10): This could very well be one of the more action-packed fights of the night right here. Lightweights Fisher and Stevenson seek to become true contenders in the crowded division with a win on Saturday. Stevenson will have to rely on his excellent wrestling base and Jiu Jitsu game if he can get the fight to the mat after weathering and early stand-up storm likely delivered by Fisher. A lot is on the line for these guys and I expect fireworks.

Anthony Johnson (9-2) vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida (14-3): Both welterweights are coming off nice wins and have an interesting style match-up. While Johnson has displayed devastating striking abilities, Yoshida may capitalize on a takedown opening and flip the switch on his world-class Judo. I’m sensing KO (Johnson) or Submission (Yoshida) of the Night honors stemming from this clash.

Josh Neer (34-8) vs. Gleison Tibau (25-6): Not sure why this is on the main card as it holds little importance for the lightweight division and neither fighter receives a warm welcome from crowds but alas it is scheduled for air time. These middle-to-back-of-the-pack 155’ers will almost certainly grapple for the majority of the match. Neer has much trouble with solid wrestlers and Tibau is at home with the takedown followed by a healthy dose of BJJ honed via American Top Team. Look for Neer to keep things on the feet but potentially come off as increasingly frustrated as he cannot answer Tibau’s wrestling into the later rounds.