Travis Browne vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (Heavyweight): The undefeated Browne takes a definite step up in competition after his win over Chad Griggs, and Silva hopes to bounce back from consecutive stoppage losses to Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez. Browne's got the clear advantage in the striking department, and Silva needs to put him on his back to work his ground and pound in this fight. However, one key note about Browne's time in the UFC thus far is just how hard it has been to put him down. He's been on his back a combined 14 seconds in his UFC career, a mark bested by only two other fighters on the roster. Silva may have a tough time getting things there, and he leaves himself open to getting hit far too often to have confidence in him during a striking battle. Because of that, I've got Browne by TKO in the second round.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron (Welterweight): It's been over six years since Ellenberger suffered his first career loss. He gets a chance to avenge that on Friday, in a very different spot than he was in the first time he faced Hieron in a fight. Hieron returns to the UFC himself for the first time in seven years, and will have a tougher time taking the fight from Ellenberger this time around. Ellenberger is a much improved fighter, and though he suffered a stoppage loss to Martin Kampmann his last time out, Hieron's not necessarily the guy who is going to duplicate that. He does hold six (T)KO finishes in his career, but his last KO win came back in 2009. He's got the ability to hurt Ellenberger, but it's going to be a very tough fight overall. Hieron very well could surprise fans in his UFC return, and he could walk out of Minneapolis with a second win over Ellenberger. However, I think Ellenberger is the better fighter in 2012 despite the loss to Kampmann, and I'll take Ellenberger by TKO in the second round.
John Dodson vs. Jussier Formiga (Flyweight): This fight could go in a few different directions on Friday. Dodson's got the speed and striking ability to land and avoid getting into the grappling game of Formiga. If he is able to avoid the ground, he can pepper Formiga with strikes for three rounds, or land a big strike that takes Formiga out. On the other side of that, Formiga has only lost once in his career, and it was by decision against Ian McCall. He may be capable of taking the strikes Dodson throws his way, and he may be able to bring Dodson to the ground. If he does that, he has the submission game to be dangerous to anyone, and if he fails at submissions he could still score points en route to a decision. Dodson's fairly adept at keeping himself and his fights standing, though, so I'm favoring a win by Dodson by decision..
Josh Neer vs. Justin Edwards (Welterweight): It's interesting that in the highlights shown for Edwards by the UFC's pre-fight video, the focused on certain spots in his fights against Clay Harvison and John Maguire. He lost them both by decision. Edwards has some solid wrestling, some solid striking, and some solid submission skills. That's to say, he's not great at any one thing, but he's capable in most others. Up against Neer, he's facing an opponent who is capable of stopping fights by knockout and by submission, having finished 29 of his 33 victories. Really, this is a case where Neer is just better than Edwards everywhere, and should have an advantage wherever the fight takes place. Neer by TKO in the second round.
=====Preliminary Card Quick Picks=====
--Yves Edwards over Jeremy Stephens by decision
--Michael Johnson over Danny Castillo by decision
--Jacob Volkmann over Shane Roller by decision
--Bart Palaszewski over Diego Nunes by decision
--Darren Uyenoyama over Phil Harris by submission in the first round
--Marcus LeVesseur over Carlo Prater by TKO in the second round
--Mike Pierce over Aaron Simpson by decision