The fight cards on the UFC’s calendar continue to fill up, with new fight bookings being announced on a near-daily basis. Here are my thoughts on some of them… Al Iaquinta vs Joe Lauzon These two lightweights and veterans of The Ultimate Fighter reality series have been pegged to square off against each other on the main card for January’s UFC 183 in Las Vegas, which will be headlined by a five round middleweight contest between Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz. I think this should make fun a fun fight in the UFC’s 155 pound division, and a win here would be big for either fighter. Recently victorious against Michael Chiesa, a fighter who has previously defeated Iaquinta, Lauzon will be looking to defeat yet another TUF veteran while simultaneously extending his winning streak to three in a row. Iaquinta’s two losses inside the Octagon have both been by submission. Despite being a talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in his own right, he often gets too aggressive and leaves holes in his defense, which his opponents exploit. Lauzon is the most talented submission artist Iaquinta has ever stepped inside the cage against, so he will definitely need to be on top of his game. After being submitted by Mitch Clarke, “Raging” has strung together a pair of TKO victories over Rodrigo Damm and Ross Pearson, and the Serra-Longo product continues to improve from fight to fight. I think “J-Lau” will be looking to take this fight to the mat, where he likely feels confident he can get the better of the Long Island native, and I feel Iaquinta will want to keep things on the feet, where he will have the advantage with his superior boxing. On paper, this is a very close fight that has numerous potential outcomes that are realistic possibilities, so it is anybody’s guess what the opening lines will be. Kelvin Gastelum vs Tyron Woodley This is a fight I predicted in a recent “matchmaking predictions” article and am happy Joe Silva and the UFC booked it for January’s UFC 183 Pay Per View main card. I think this is going to be a great scrap in the UFC’s welterweight division and will be the first time the 23 year old Gastelum enters a fight as an underdog since his promotional debut in the middleweight division against Urijah Hall, whom he defeated via split decision. The Mexican recently picked up his fifth straight Octagon victory with a first round rear naked choke submission over Jake Ellenberger and extended his undefeated record to 10-0. Ellenberger was the biggest test of his professional mixed martial arts career, and he passed with flying colors. Against Woodley, he is again facing the biggest challenge of his career, except this time, I don’t think he will be favored to win. Coming off his first round knockout win over “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim, I expect the veteran Woodley to open as at least a 2-to-1 favorite over Gastelum, at which point I could see action coming in either way. I think most would be expecting the Strikeforce veteran to hand the 23 year old his first loss, but Gastelum at dog odds would be tough to pass up for many. Josh Koscheck vs Neil Magny On a three fight skid and out of action for a year, Josh Koscheck is returning to the Octagon take on red-hot Neil Magny on the main card of February’s UFC 184 in Los Angeles. This fight does not make much sense, as Koscheck has lost three in a row, while Magny has won five straight. They are two fighters heading in opposite directions; Koscheck is on a decline and on his way out, while Magny keeps getting better every day and continues to impress fight after fight. While this fight does not make much sense, I think it has the potential of being a very entertaining scrap in the UFC’s welterweight division. Despite Koscheck being on a three fight losing streak, he will be the biggest challenge for Magny thus far in his professional mixed martial arts career, so a win over “Kos” would be big for him. On the same note, a win over Magny would be big for Koscheck, as snapping a fighters five fight winning streak would be the pitch-perfect way to end your own three fight losing streak. It would certainly mean a lot more than defeating another welterweight who is on a skid and on his way out. This fight is a real test for both fighters; a win over Koscheck would prove that Magny belongs in the top 15 of the division, and a win over Magny would mean that Koscheck far from being done. As far as the betting odds for this fight are concerned, I think it is anybody’s guess as to where they will open. I would not be surprised to see either welterweight open as the favorite, as I could make a case for either of them. Frank Mir vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva This is a fight in the UFC’s heavyweight division I am very much looking forward to. Mir is currently on a four fight losing streak with a pair of TKO defeats at the hands of Junior dos Santos and Josh Barnett and a pair of unanimous decision losses against Daniel Cormier and Alistair Overeem, so this is undoubtedly a “make or break” fight for the former UFC heavyweight champion. “Bigfoot” is in a similar boat, as he has failed to secure a victory in his past three bouts and testing positive elevated levels of testosterone during a post-fight drug test for one of the bouts. A loss here could get him the boot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get one more chance, considering the division is razor thin and he is still a draw in his native Brazil. This heavyweight scrap will take place on the main card of February’s UFC 184 in Los Angeles and it is one fight I do not expect to go the distance. I hope to see this fight hit the mat, where I would expect a chess-match of submission attempts between the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts. As for the betting odds, it’s another fight that wouldn’t surprise me to see either fighter open as the favorite at the sportsbooks. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson vs Brandon “Ruckus” Thatch This is truly one match-up in the UFC’s welterweight division that I cannot wait to see. This is a fight between two very talented and unorthodox strikers who are known to finish their fights, as they have finished a combined 16 out of 21 professional mixed martial arts bouts inside the distance. Thatch has not seen action in over a year, last defeating the Brazilian veteran Paulo Thiago and improving his winning streak to 10 in a row. While “Ruckus” has been spending time away from the cage and focusing on other aspects of his life, “Wonderboy” has been on a tear, putting together four wins in a row, two of them which came by way of knockout. He has been the betting favorite in all six of his Octagon appearances and I expect that trend to continue heading into this bout against Thatch. That would mean “Ruckus” would be heading into a fight as an underdog for the first time in his career. The reason for that would not only be because Thompson has been active while he’s been taking personal time off, but also because Thompson is also experienced in going the 15 minute distance, while the only time Thatch has ever gone three rounds in his career, he ended up losing on the judges’ scorecards. I see Thompson opening as a 2-to-1 favorite at the sportsbooks in this contest, in which case I think Thatch could be a very live dog. However, “Wonderboy” has a lot of heart and is hard to put away, so if “Ruckus” is not able to get the job done early, he may be in trouble when the fight gets left in the hands of the judges.