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UFC on Fox 18 Extended Preview

<p>UFC returns to Fox tonight with a card dotted with interesting matches and a couple that seem intended to introduce newer fans to some of its rising talent.&nbsp; They&rsquo;ve used this formula to success with fighters like Paige VanZant and undoubtedly hope to do the same with Sage Northcutt who will be facing Bryan Barberena on short notice.&nbsp; Northcutt&rsquo;s original opponent, an injured Andrew Holbrook pulled out of the fight on January 22.</p> <p>The card will be headlined by a light heavyweight confrontation between two top competitors vying to stay in the hunt for a title shot, possible as early as 2016.&nbsp; Anthony &ldquo;Rumble&rdquo; Johnson (20-5 MMA, 11-5 UFC) returns to take on Ryan Bader (20-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC), and the co-main features two heavyweight favorites when Josh Barnett collides with &ldquo;Big&rdquo; Ben Rothwell.&nbsp; It may not have the same star power as previous UFC on Fox outings, but it&rsquo;s fairly rounded and has a high stakes main event worth watching.&nbsp; Let&rsquo;s take a look at the matches.</p> <h2>Anthony Johnson vs. Ryan Bader</h2> <p>Ah, the classic battle between a world class wrestler and a fighter whose kryptonite is the rear naked choke.&nbsp; Four of Rumble&rsquo;s five losses ended in this fashion.&nbsp; Fighters like Koscheck and Cormier who have successfully put Johnson on his back usually do so by maintaining constant pressure and waiting for him to eventually wilt.&nbsp; Does Bader have this ability?&nbsp; Love him or hate him, Ryan Bader has been hitting the sweet spot lately between mixing successful standup strategies with his takedown game, but like man, he&rsquo;s never been hit by anyone with hands like Johnson.&nbsp; Bader has one of the most consistent records in the division, but he has also never quite been able to cross the threshold between a gatekeeper and a truly elite light heavyweight.&nbsp; Defeating Johnson, the last person to stake a claim for the light heavyweight title, would help put him in the hunt for a shot, probably against either Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones depending on how that situation pans out.</p> <p>Johnson has the reach and knockout power to end this in one punch.&nbsp; He&rsquo;s rendered putty some of the most durable chins currently competing in the division.&nbsp; Antonio Rogerio Nogueira went to sleep in just 44 seconds, and Alexander Gustafsson, last year&rsquo;s most hyped prospect to defeat then-champ Jon Jones, was done before the halfway mark of the opening frame.&nbsp; A disciplined Rumble has the ability to win this one, but he&rsquo;s got to keep this one on the feet.&nbsp; It won&rsquo;t be surprising to see him attempt at least one head kick KO during this one and utilize his surprising speed and footwork to keep Bader off balance.</p> <p><strong>Prediction: Anthony Johnson wins by first round TKO</strong></p> <h2>Josh Barnett vs. Ben Rothwell</h2> <p>Former heavyweight champ Josh Barnett (34-7), one of the most decorated wrestlers the division has ever seen, will face on and off again knockout artist Ben Rothwell (35-9).&nbsp; Rothwell has put together a string of three straight wins, his longest streak in the UFC, while looking more impressive than ever in his last couple of outings.&nbsp; He returned after a one year suspension in 2014 to knockout Alistair Overeem, winning the fight as a large underdog, and he went on to submit Matt Mitrione in the first round of a 2015 victory.</p> <p>He likely will not have the chops on the ground to roll with Barnett though.&nbsp; Barnett suffered a nasty TKO via elbows while attempting to drag Travis Browne to the ground at the end of 2013, but he&rsquo;s been successful before and since that loss.&nbsp; In 2014 he became the first person to submit Dean Lister in a grappling contest at Metamoris IV, and in September he took Roy Nelson all five rounds for a decisive win.&nbsp; Barnett isn&rsquo;t just a great grappler, he&rsquo;s also one of the best tacticians in the sport.&nbsp; Look for him to use this skills to win another one.</p> <p><strong>Prediction: Josh Barnett wins via second round submission.</strong></p> <h2>Iuri Alcantara vs. Jimmie Rivera</h2> <p>Have you heard of Jimmie Rivera (18-1)?&nbsp; Rivera is another young prospect looking to showcase his skill set on tonight&rsquo;s event in a clash against fellow bantamweight Iuri Alcantara (33-6).&nbsp; Rivera began his career at 18, went 7-0 as an amateur, and turned pro just two years later.&nbsp; Rivera made his rounds before being signed by the UFC.&nbsp; He&rsquo;s competed without loss within Bellator, WSOF, KOTC, and most recently won the CFFC bantamweight championship.&nbsp; Within the UFC, he&rsquo;s 2-0 with wins over Marcus Bridge and Pedro Munhoz.</p> <p>Alcantara&rsquo;s record is a bit strange.&nbsp; Though he debuted in 2003, he only had nine fights in his first five years as a pro, and 31 occurred over the last eight years.&nbsp; Alcantara submitted Francisco Trinaldo in a 2010 match-up and KO&rsquo;ed Ricardo Lamas, a former future title challenger, in a 2010 WEC match.&nbsp; Though he has eleven fights in the UFC, he has yet to have success of that caliber within the organization. &nbsp;</p> <p>Both fighters are hit or miss and neither has shown anything particularly remarkable yet.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s a bit more telling considering Alcantara has had considerably longer to move up in competition.&nbsp; Rivera will likely be defeated sometime in 2016 but tonight will not be the night.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s another decision that should go his way.</p> <p><strong>Prediction: Jimmie Rivera wins via unanimous decision.</strong></p> <h2>Sage Northcutt vs. Bryan Barberena</h2> <p>Bryan Barberena (10-3) isn&rsquo;t exactly fodder, but the fight is meant to showcase Northcutt (7-0), an undefeated prospect at 170.&nbsp; Northcutt picked up three wins with Legacy FC, two in his most recent outing with the promotion, before receiving the call from the UFC.&nbsp; Northcutt is 2-0 in the UFC with wins over Francisco Trevino and Cody Pfister.&nbsp; He looks to continue the roll against Barberena who is taking the fight on short notice.&nbsp; We&rsquo;re giving this one to Northcutt, but we&rsquo;re going for the controversial win.</p> <p><strong>Prediction: Sage Northcutt wins via split decision.</strong></p>

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UFC on Fox 18 Extended Preview - MMA Articles - Rough Copy