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UFC 96: Previewing and Predicting Matt Brown vs. Pete Sell’s fight-by-fight preview of UFC 96 continues with a fight that stands to be an explosive opener to tomorrow night’s pay-per-view broadcast. Don’t be surprised if Matt Brown and Pete Sell end up walking away with matching “Fight of the Night” bonus checks.

Matt Brown (8-7) vs. Pete Sell (8-4)

There are those that raised eyebrows upon the revelation that Brown vs. Sell was slated for the pay-per-view portion of UFC 96 at the expense of matches involving Brandon Vera and Kendall Grove. But instead of questioning UFC Vice President of Talent Relations Joe Silva, they should be thanking him

Vera and Grove offer great name recognition value but their recent performances in the Octagon have been less than stellar. In their place, the UFC is providing a matchup that could contend for “Fight of the Night.”

Would you rather your hometown team start a struggling veteran quarterback at the expense of a more efficient backup for no other reason than the starter is making $8 million a year?

This is a crucial fight for Sell, who is just 2-4 in a UFC career that has been off-and-on dating back to 2004. A former middleweight, the Matt Serra-trained fighter delivered in a win or go home fight against Josh Burkman at UFC 90 this past October. Sell, a veteran from the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback, recorded a unanimous decision over Burkman, a veteran from the season season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Despite training under Serra, Sell is not very slick on the ground with his greatest attribute being his punching power. Considered a heavy hitter at 185, he is one of the heaviest hitters in the world at 170.

The knockout artist will be looking to take out Brown, who is great at nothing but good at everything. One of the most well-rounded and grittiest fighters in the sport, Brown will look to improve his UFC record to 3-2 on the heels of his second round submission victory over Ryan Thomas this past November at UFC 91.

Training out of Team Jorge Gurgel, Brown will have the hometown crowd behind him. Getting strong reactions for all of his offensive maneuvers could be a difference maker with the judges in a matchup that appears to be evenly contested on paper.

In addition to having the crowd behind him, I believe that Brown’s versatility will also prove the difference in allowing him to walk away the winner.

Prediction: Unanimous decision.

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