The UFC's 2016 campaign continues to roll on, as the promotion heads to Newark, New Jersey, this Saturday, January 30.
Headlining the UFC on FOX 18 main card (8 P.M. EST, FOX) are Anthony Johnson and Ryan Bader, a pair of top-five light heavyweights, both of whom are hoping to earn a title shot with a win this weekend.
Johnson (20-5, 11-5 UFC) is one of the division's heaviest hitters, known for his knockout power and quick finishes. Bader (20-4, 13-4 UFC), a former The Ultimate Fighter winner, is a wrestler riding a five-fight win streak.
For Johnson, the key to victory is always in the standup. With some of the biggest punches at 205 pounds, he's always dangerous on the feet. Bader plays a different game, using his conditioning and athleticism to set up takedowns and control position.
Look for Johnson to storm out early and hunt for the knockout. Bader will patiently keep distance with his jab, much like he did against Johnson's teammate, Rashad Evans, at UFC 192.
And while Bader has been KO'd on more than one occasion, he's learned from his mistakes, and will avoid Johnson's best shots in the opening round. Eventually, Johnson will fade, allowing Bader to turn up the pressure and score the upset via decision.
Co-main event: Josh Barnett vs. Ben Rothwell
Top-ten heavyweights Barnett and Rothwell meet in an important matchup, as both attempt to move closer into title contention.
Barnett (34-7, 6-2 UFC), a former UFC champion, is one of the finest submission wrestlers in the business, known for his dominant ground game. Rothwell (35-9, 5-3 UFC), who is riding an impressive three-fight win streak, is primarily a striker, although he did earn his first stoppage via submission inside the Octagon during his last bout.
As with most heavyweight fights, this contest is likely to end early. And while Rothwell is always dangerous on the feet, Barnett's improved athleticism and cardio is likely to be a factor, as he'll bring the bout to the mat.
Look for Barnett to take this one via submission in the second round.
Jimmie Rivera vs. Iuri Alcantara
New Jersey's Rivera is one of the fastest rising prospects in the UFC's bantamweight division. Alcantara is a seasoned veteran who has fought some of the biggest names in the weight class.
A former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleist, Rivera (18-1, 2-0 UFC) was called up to the UFC less than a year ago, and has looked impressive since his arrival. Rivera, who is in the midst of a 17-fight win streak, possesses the speed and athleticism, along with the power, to hang with the division's top-15 caliber fighters.
Alcantara (32-6 1 NC, 7-3 1 NC UFC), ranked fourteenth, is exactly the type of test that Rivera needs to begin his ascension up the ranks.
Both athletes are complete fighters. They're competent on the feet and on the ground, although elite in neither facet. So expect a back-and-forth affair, with Rivera earning the decision on account of punch volume and takedowns.
Sage Northcutt vs. Bryan Barberena
Few fighters have made as immediate an impact in the UFC as Northcutt. A decorated karate champion, the Texas native stormed into the Octagon in October 2015 after being discovered as part of the promotion's new reality show "Dana White: Lookin' For A Fight."
Two bouts and two stoppage wins later, Northcutt (7-0, 2-0 UFC) is moving up to welterweight, where he will meet Barberena (10-3, 1-1 UFC).
Northcutt, who blew through his opposition at lightweight, will now have to compete against bigger and stronger athletes. And while there are no indications that strength and conditioning will be a problem for Northcutt, the move in weight class will potentially give him some trouble.
Regardless, look for Northcutt to dominate the fight. But unlike his previous two opponents, expect Barberena to make a better fight out of it and withstand Northcutt's early barrage.
Still, Northcutt wins this bout, most likely by stoppage.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Jake Ellenberger
It's been roughly 15 months since Saffiedine (15-4, 1-1 UFC) last competed inside the Octagon, missing out on the entire 2015 campaign with a string of injuries.
Ellenberger (30-10, 9-6 UFC) has been out of action since July, when he suffered a devastating knockout loss.
Saffiedine's game has always predicated on keeping opponents at a distance with his vicious leg kicks. Ellenberger likes to move in close, where his big punches and wrestling once propelled him to the upper end of the division.
The knock on Ellenberger is that his career is in a state of decline. He has lost four out of his last five bouts, but look for him to turn a corner against Saffiedine.
And while Saffiedine is the higher ranked fighter going into this bout, Ellenberger will find a way to withstand the leg-kick assault and move the fight against the cage, where he'll do serious damage and earn the TKO stoppage.