UFC Fight Night predictions: Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson

No Fabricio Werdum. No Cain Velasquez. No Stipe Miocic, for that matter. This weekend's UFC card in Las Vegas looks nothing like it was supposed to -- and it won't air on pay-per-view as a result. Injuries to Werdum and Velasquez derailed a heavyweight championship fight.

In the meantime, we've still got plenty of fights to discuss from the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Let's take a closer look at Saturday's UFC Fight Night main card. Don't agree with these picks? Let MMA Live Analyst Brett Okamoto know on Twitter: @bokamotoESPN.

Main event

Johny Hendricks (17-3) vs. Stephen Thompson (11-1)


Odds: Hendricks -210; Thompson +175

Can Thompson wrestle? Odds are, we're about to find out.

Thompson is a lifelong kickboxer who, admittedly, had zero wrestling ability when he made his professional MMA debut in 2010. He has had six years to fill that hole, and all signs indicate he has done a good job doing so. For this fight, he flew in a 2016 Olympic Games hopeful in Canadian wrestler Matt Miller. He has also worked with former UFC middleweight champion (and collegiate wrestler) Chris Weidman in recent camps.

Not that Hendricks will exclusively look to wrestle Saturday, but it seems inevitable he'll have opportunities there. Hendricks hasn't fought anyone exactly like Thompson before, but when he has run up against kickboxing specialists with length, he has rushed them. Hendricks is great closing distance and fighting in a phone booth. He'll want to be in tight quarters with Thompson, which will lend itself to takedowns.

The biggest no-no against Thompson is standing too much in front of him, at that middle range where his kicks are most effective. It's very clear by now he's quite good at timing shots with opponents' movement and surprising them with strikes they don't see coming. Thanks to a background in karate, he's an effective counterstriker, which can make him difficult to move forward on. Once he hits you with counterpunches and you back off, that's when the leg kicks come in from the outside. Eat too many of those, your mobility is compromised and he has forced you into that big no-no: standing stationary in front of him.

Countering Hendricks is easier said than done, though. His closing speed is top-notch and he moves his head pretty well as he comes in. He also has two high-caliber weapons to think about. If you don't respect his wrestling, he'll get into your hips and dump you on your head. Respect his wrestling too much, he sneaks the left hand through and you wake up on the other side of the cage after skidding across the canvas.

The biggest keys for Thompson will be using his footwork and counterboxing to keep Hendricks at a distance as much as possible. And if/when he is taken down, he needs to at least force Hendricks to expend a lot of energy and work quickly back to his feet. I think the fight's switching to five rounds helps Thompson more than it hurts him, as it gives him more time to land a big shot, but if he's blindsided by Hendricks' pressure, I could see situations where he's forced into a marathon effort to stand back up, only to get dragged back down again. If Hendricks is able to control the pace in that way, Thompson might never look comfortable Saturday.

PREDICTION: All of Hendricks' setbacks have been self-inflicted. When he's on weight and in shape, few (if any) are better. HENDRICKS BY SECOND-ROUND KNOCKOUT

Rest of main card

Roy Nelson (20-12) vs. Jared Rosholt (14-2), heavyweights

Tough sledding for Big Country lately, but Rosholt might be the least dangerous heavyweight in the world. Nelson catches him sooner or later.
Prediction: Nelson by TKO

Ovince Saint Preux (18-7) vs. Rafael Cavalcante (12-6), light heavyweights

OSP's not going to show Cavalcante anything he hasn't seen before, but that'll still be good enough for a win.
Prediction: Saint Preux by submission

Joseph Benavidez (23-4) vs. Zach Makovsky (19-6), flyweights

As has been the case in many of Benavidez's recent fights, a finish might be hard to come by, but he should extend the win streak here.
Prediction: Benavidez by decision

Misha Cirkunov (10-2) vs. Alex Nicholson (6-1), light heavyweights

Showcase fight for Cirkunov, who is the closest thing to a prospect the UFC's light heavyweight division has right now.
Prediction: Cirkunov by first-round submission

Mike Pyle (26-11-1) vs. Sean Spencer (12-4), welterweights

Pyle has more skill, but Spencer has fewer miles on his odometer. You never really know which one of those factors is going to prevail.
Prediction: Spencer by decision