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UFC 161: Facebook Preliminary Card Preview and Prognostications

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UFC 161 will end the night with the light heavyweights, but fight night in Canada begins with lightweights looking to prove they still belong.

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson will make for an interesting main event. Both light heavyweights need to prove themselves given their lackluster, borderline invisible, performances last time out. Thankfully the undercard is packed with interesting fights that are guaranteed to deliver. The Facebook portion is not part of that formula unfortunately but this is why we love MMA: even the pawns are capable of dazzling us with violence.

Mitch Clarke vs. John Maguire (18-5) Lightweight

Both guys are coming off back to back losses. In the UFC, we call this a "lucky to be alive" match. Clarke and Maguire will be battling the psychological anxiety of the chopping block as much as each other.

Clarke has yet to find victory in the UFC, and his competition hasn't exactly been stellar, losing to Anton Kuivanen (1-2 in the UFC) and John Cholish (also 1-2 in the UFC); the recently disgraced Commodities Broker who Dana White claims doesn't know a thing about taxes.

Anyway, while Maguire is also on a two-fight losing streak, his losses have come against bigger men. This will be the first time Maguire has fought at LW, likely having been inspired by T.J. Grant's trail of bloody bread crumbs known as mixed martial artists he's since left in his wake upon moving down.

No, Maguire is no Grant, but he's certainly the favorite.

What both men can do: Mitch Clarke is primarily a wrestler, but with a solid penchant for grappling. He's comfortable when he's on the ground, in top control, looking for the scramble that allows him to sink in a guillotine or a rear naked choke. He also has the homefield advantage.

Maguire is very similar. He wants top control, and is more than capable of nabbing the submission; something he did impressively against DeMarques Johnson at the Gustafsson vs. Silva card. However, Maguire is also a scrapper. He throws a nice, crisp one-two in addition to being a competent grappler, and is more than willing to mix it up wherever the fight goes.

What both men can't do: The problem with this matchup is that Clarke doesn't have an advantage on the ground, is smaller, and won't be able to play rock em sock em robots with Maguire. In other words, he will lose. This fight is mathematical certainty, barring a rule that suddenly allows Clarke to fight with Predator's shoulder cannon.

Prediction: John Maguire by TKO, round 2.

Yves Jabouin (18-8) vs. Dustin Pague (11-7) Bantamweight

This is the perfect fight for the start of the evening; a balls out kickboxing match that will likely be as frenetic (Pague) as it will be eccentric (Jabouin).

Both fighters are coming off losses. Yves suffered his first full knockout loss to Brad Pickett. Pague is reeling from back to back defeats to Ken Stone and Chico "I wish I were Albert" Camus. However, neither guy is likely to play it safe.

Yves has been a Zuffa employee since 2009, debuting with a respectable performance against Rafael Assuncao in the WEC. He's a known commodity, and will be looking to continue that trend against the still inexperienced TUF product. I'm not familiar with Pague's performance from the show, in part because listening to Jason Miller and Michael Bisping frivolously threaten each other for an hour sounds terrible, but he's a good kid with a well rounded high octane game.

What both men can do: Pague will do what he does best; throw strikes with mean intentions, and finish on the ground when able. He's not necessarily a brawler, but Pague does a good job of getting in and out with hard two punch combinations. With a good right, and solid winging left, it's a good start in any battle. He also has a good eye for the submission, and a jab he's willing to double up on.

For Yves, he's a crafty kickboxer; willing to throw lots and lots of spinning kicks and punches to maintain a rhythm that can be hard for opponents to handle. His excellent array of kicks keeps him in most fights.

What both men can't do: The problem with Yves is that he doesn't have a lot of power (the Hougland fight notwithstanding; though you could argue Hougland would have been otherwise finished by someone else). Lacking power is compounded by the fact that he operates like a point fighter; racking up shots landed, but not shots felt. Plus, unlike most strikes that involve spinning, Yves is incredibly predictable with his unorthodox movement.

Plus he's notorious for running out of gas. It's not as bad as it used to be, but a quick pace is a valuable tool to getting him off his game. Pague htis hard enough and has enough reach that I could see him running away with this fight if he's not careful.

Another factor is Yves' takedowns, which he likes to transition from a spinning backfist. Pague is good at moving his hips and legs from his back, but he's not a finisher from the bottom. It's possible they end up on the ground. However, I like Yves to outpoint Dustin. He's clearly the more talented, but I worry about the reach. Pague has moderate power, and if he's chasing Jabouin down all night, Yves' cardio could become a factor. The safe pick is Yves, but I'll go with the unlikely (but gut) pick.

Prediction: Dustin Pague by Decision.