Can the WEC's best lightweights compete in the UFC? We haven't had many opportunities to find out. Donald Cerrone was successful in his UFC debut by defeating Paul Kelly, but Cerrone was considered one of the top lightweights in the WEC. Castillo wasn't able to attain that level of praise. Furthermore, Stevenson's victories over Diaz and Fisher suggest that he is the better overall fighter despite losing to a potential contender in Sotiropoulos and being knocked out cold by Mac Danzig. Castillo's striking in combination with his solid wrestling skills could give Stevenson problems, but Joe "Daddy" has the superior skill-set in this match-up. Barring a sudden knockout blow to the temple, Stevenson catches Castillo in a submission to keep his UFC career alive. Stevenson via submission.
The UFC has been adamant about trimming their roster, and both Cantwell and Diabate are on the chopping block in this light heavyweight showdown. Cantwell has lost two straight, dropping decisions to Brian Stann and Luiz Cane at UFC Fight Night 19 and UFC 97 respectively. Diabate was overwhelmed by Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 120, succumbing to a rear naked choke in the second round of action.
The smart gameplan for Cantwell involves a relentless takedown game as Diabate isn't a master in ground defense tactics. Unfortunately, Cantwell, despite being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, has a propensity to try to stand and bang with his opponents, a poor decision against a taller, lengthier power striker like Diabate. Normally, I'd believe that Cantwell would be eying a knockout of the night honor, but his UFC career is on the line on Thursday night. Cantwell smartly takes Diabate down and finishes him inside the fifteen minute time-frame. Cantwell via submission.
As for my predictions, I like Cantwell to beat Diabate, but I don't think there's much left in the tank for Stevenson. He's been fighting professionally since 16, doesn't take a shot like he used to (not that it was ever his strong suit) and appears generally shop worn. He's certainly still dangerous, but I like Castillo to upset tonight and move up the steep UFC lightweight ladder.