On Saturday in scorching Las Vegas, the only thing hotter than the desert will be a ticket to UFC 98 "Evans vs. Machida" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The chief supporting bout to the main event between light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and unbeaten challenger Lyoto Machida is the oft-delayed grudge match between Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. Both former UFC welterweight champions, Hughes and Serra desperately need a win to stay relevant at 170 pounds.
Sherdog.com spoke to dozens of professional fighters and trainers inside the world of mixed martial arts to see whom they favored in the UFC's best grudge match since Tito Ortiz first flipped the bird at Ken Shamrock.
Nick Thompson: Hughes by decision.
Jeff Monson: Tough call, but I think Hughes by close decision.
Roland Sarria: Serra by submission.
Pete Sell: I'm in Vegas with Serra now. He is looking better than I've seen him in years. His ground game is sick and has some new tools, so it will be a problem for Hughes.
Rory Markham: I believe Hughes is back on his game as far as strength and confidence goes. I like Serra, but Hughes is my boy, and I think he is going to be too strong on the ground-and-pound for Serra.
Randy Couture: With Matt Serra's newly mastered striking abilities and his already phenomenal jiu-jitsu and wrestling skill sets, I think he has the potential to be very difficult for Hughes. This could be a pivotal fight for Hughes, considering [it might be] his last outing. He's a tough, experienced fighter that you can never count out, but I believe Serra will win the fight. Could be some interesting fireworks along the way with their personalities, as well. It should be fun.
Marvin Eastman: Serra by submission, second round.
Guy Mezger: I will take Hughes. He outworks Serra but plays it safe, and [it could be] potentially boring.
Stav Economou: I'm really confident that Serra will win this long-overdue fight, but the only thing that makes me a little unsure about Serra is his inactivity in the cage, having fought once a year for the last four years. Still, I'm predicting Matt Serra winning via TKO in the second round.
Michael Guymon: I see Hughes going back to his brutal ground-and-pound style and wearing Serra down. [Hughes wins by] ref stoppage, middle of the third.
Scott Epstein: Serra may pull off another haymaker KO, but I doubt it. Yes, Serra does have a better BJJ game than Hughes, and I can't tell whose hands are better. Hughes might have to pull out his trump card, which is to control Serra with superior wrestling and just throw rabbit punches 'til the bell rings. I really don't see Serra pulling off a sub on Hughes. I'm thinking Hughes. May the best Matt win.
Jonathan Goulet: I will pick … Serra. He will have his chance. I think it will be a nice fight.
Patrick Cote: I'll go with my buddy Matt Serra. I just can't stand Matt Hughes.
Stephane Vigneault: I think Hughes [is] gonna outmuscle Serra and win a decision or a TKO in Round 3. I think Serra is not in the good weight class but, anyway, I think they both [are] gonna retire soon.
Elvis Sinosic: Hughes vs. Serra is an exciting match because it is a grudge match. Both guys don't like each other and will bring that to the cage. Both have victories over [Georges St. Pierre]. Serra is the grappler, Hughes is the wrestler. Can Serra outstrike Hughes before getting taken down? Can Hughes avoid the submission when he gets the takedown? My prediction is that Serra won't land that big punch, though it is possible. Hughes will take Serra down. Serra is a good scrambler, but Hughes has great control. Serra has the ability to sub Hughes, and I wouldn't be surprised if he did. Saying that, I think Hughes will be able to avoid the submissions. Serra is better on the top rather than off his back. Hughes will be on top. Serra hasn't subbed a top fighter in a while, and I don't think Hughes will be the next. Hughes will ground-and-pound and grind out a decision.
Thomas Denny: I am not really excited for the fight. I will go with Serra [by] sub.
Ben Saunders: Serra by Tiger Uppercut, Round 2.
Robin Black: Matt Serra seems like a funny Italian guy, and Matt Hughes seems kinda crusty. I'm gonna go with the pudgy Italian guy. Maybe he'll submit Mr. Crusty. I do know this is going to be an exciting fight. Can't wait.
Pros who picked Hughes: 8
Pros who picked Serra: 10
Mike Sloan contributes to Sherdog.com.