Tomorrow night UFC 104 will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a headline bout between light heavyweight champion Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.  Who has the best chance of winning?  Read below to find out’s predictions.

Main Card:

Main Event: Lyoto Machida Vs Mauricio Rua

It appears that many people believe that Machida will be able to stop Shogun within the first few rounds of this light heavyweight title bout.  That doesn’t quite tie up with my own thoughts on the fight.

It’s worth remembering that in the UFC, five of his eight fights have gone to a decision, and it’s only in his last two fights against Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans that he has registered the first two KO’s of his 15 fight career.  Has he suddenly developed knockout power?  I’d need to see more evidence before I’d say yes to that.

Even if he has, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (18-3) will still prove a tough nut to crack.  Despite having fought a number of dangerous strikers in the past like Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem and most recently Chuck Liddell, Rua has only lost three times, and never by TKO or KO from strikes (his record has two submission losses plus the accidental broken arm TKO against Mark Coleman).

So I can certainly see this one going into the later rounds, and conditioning wise that would undoubtedly favor Machida, since Rua’s gas tank is highly suspect.  Beyond that I expect Machida to get the better of the exchanges due to his speed and timing.  Also, though Dana White is predicting a stand-up war I expect to see Machida taking the fight to the ground if the opportunity presents itself and working from the top position.

As for Rua, There is always a chance that he could land a killer blow on Machida’s relatively untested chin, much as he did with the overhand against Chuck Liddell.  Will he have the answer to the riddle of Machida’s elusiveness in order to land that punch though?  I don’t think so.  He is known for his aggressive ‘all guns blazing’ style which has won him many fights, but it is highly unlikely that Machida will be drawn into such a confrontation.

Overall my feeling is that, barring a heavy hand breaching his defenses to land on his often exposed chin, Machida will win this fight.  The main question is when?  I thought about a decision, but based on Rua’s suspect stamina, and the fact that he’s only gone further than the first round six times in 21 fights, I think Machida can wear him down and then take advantage as he fatigues in the later rounds.

I’m going for a TKO victory for Machida in the 4th round.

Co-Main Event: Cain Velasquez Vs Ben Rothwell

Cain Velasquez’s (6-0) impressive start to his UFC career lost a little of it’s luster in his previous win with Cheick Kongo which saw him unable to put away the French striker despite enjoying complete dominance on the ground, while his legs were buckled several times from Kongo’s heavy hands.  Despite that an impressive win over Rothwell would put him firmly back into contention for a shot at the title.

Meanwhile former IFL heavyweight champ, ‘Big’ Ben Rothwell (30-6) will be looking to finally make a name for himself on MMA’s biggest stage after close to nine years on the professional circuit.  He came up short against former UFC champion Andre Arlovski in Affliction last year but has defeated other familiar UFC fighters such as Krzysztof Soszynski (twice) and Ricco Rodriguez in the past couple of years.

Velasquez is a tenacious competitor with excellent wrestling skills and the ability to push the pace for the full 3 rounds.  He is not a particularly heavy hitter despite all but one of his six wins coming by way of TKO.  Instead he generally gets the job done by landing a relentless succession of punishing blows that forces the referee to take matters into his own hands.

It will be difficult to wear down a fairly durable and  larger opponent such as Rothwell though, and Big Ben has enough skill on the ground to ensure that Velasquez won’t get it all his own way if the fight goes to ground.  On the feet Rothwell is definitely the more potent striker and this is his best chance to win, but Velasquez is unlikely to allow him much time to get going in this regard.

I think Rothwell has a decent chance to make an impact here, but overall I expect Velasquez to outwrestle and outwork him en-route to a decision win.

Gleison Tibau Vs Josh Neer

Originally set to face Sean Sherk, 19-6 Gleison Tibau now faces late replacement Josh ‘The Dentist’ Neer on Saturday night.  Coming off a contested decision loss to Melvin Guillard back in June, this is certainly a better match-up for Tibau to get back to winning ways than Sherk would have been, though Neer is no pushover.

On his second stint in the UFC, Josh Neer (25-8-1) has posted a 2-2 record with wins over Din Thomas and Mac Danzig, and losses to Nate Diaz and most recently, Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 101.

Neer is a threat off of his back with 11 of his 25 wins coming by way of submission, which is just as well as I think he’ll be spending a lot of time there in this fight. Tibau will look to take him down and stay busy from the top, and should be canny enough to avoid the submission threat here.

Both fighters came in a couple of pounds over at the weigh-ins and have opted to fight at that way rather than cut.  It doesn’t make a difference to the outcome, I still think Tibau will control the fight and win by decision.

Joe Stevenson Vs Spencer Fisher

Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson’s form has been somewhat patchy in the lightweight division recently.  Two less than stellar performances against  Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez seemed to suggest that he was stagnating and becoming to predictable to keep pace in this competitive division.  He has responded to the criticism however, and after switching training camps went on a convincing win over Nate Diaz at The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale.

Spencer Fisher has been an entertaining competitor in the UFC’s lightweight division for a number of years now, and after a rather dull performance by his standards against Caol Uno at UFC 98 he’ll be looking to turn things up a notch tomorrow night and claim his fourth consecutive win inside the octagon.

This will be no easy task however as Stevenson will be looking to stifle his offense by taking this fight to the ground and using his wrestling advantage.  If  Fisher can lure him into a stand-up battle, which is not completely out of the question, then he will undoubtedly have the upper hand against Stevenson’s slower, more predictable offense.

In the end though, despite a nagging doubt remaining over Stevenson’s recent form I suspect his ground based game-plan is the most likely to succeed.  I’m picking Stevenson to take  a decision victory.

Anthony Johnson Vs Yoshiyuki Yoshida

Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson is amongst the best strikers in the 170lb division as he’s proven in his last two fights with a K.O in a rematch with Kevin Burns and then blasting his way to a first round TKO over Luigi Fioravanti in February.

Meanwhile Yoshiyuki Yoshida suffered a devastating knockout loss at the hands off Josh Koscheck at the UFC: Fight For The Troops event at the tail-end of last year.  Though the Judo stylist has since come back with a submission win over Brandon Wolff, you have to think that lightning may be about to strike twice.

What makes this bout more interesting is that Johnson has just weighed in 6lbs over the limit for this fight after having being rumored to have been required to cut as much as 50lbs in the weeks leading up to the fight.  Yoshida has still agreed to fight so how will this affect the result?

Johnson looked like the severe cut had taken a major toll on him at weigh-ins, and that should play a part tomorrow if Yoshida can drag this fight beyond the first round.  My gut feeling is to stick with my original intention to pick Johnson to get the job done early.  He’ll enter the cage with a very significant weight advantage and will be looking to take care of business quickly.  I still think he can K.O Yoshida in the first.

Undercard: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)

Ryan Bader Vs Eric Shafer

Antoni Hardonk Vs Pat Barry

Yushin Okami Vs Chael Sonnen

Jorge Rivera Vs Rob Kimmons

Kyle Kingsbury Vs Razak Al Hassan

Stefan Struve Vs Chase Gormley