Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Stevenson
Kid Nate: Diego Sanchez is a master of positioning. He's not the greatest submission artist, but his wrestling and jiu jitsu almost always land Diego in a dominant position. In the past couple of years, he's added a dangerous striking game as well. Joe Stevenson is a capable wrestler with a mean guillotine, and passable standup, but Diego has too many advantages. I expect Stevenson to put on a better showing than he has in his last two fights. Still, unless Sanchez can't handle the weight cut, Joe Daddy will be in a world of hurt. Sanchez by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I like Joe Daddy and I think when he is on he is a threat for all but the elite at 155. But the truth is, he folds under the attack of pressure fighters and Diego is nothing if not a pressure fighter. Other than concerns about the weight cut for Sanchez I don't feel too good about Stevenson's chances. Diego is going to press forward on the feet and it'll end up on the ground where Stevenson can't play the "wait for an opening" game with Diego. Sanchez is too good on the ground and he will bash on Joe for three rounds. Stevenson will likely be able to make it to the scorecards, but I don't see him winning there. Diego Sanchez by decision.
Mike Rome: I am honestly not that impressed with Stevenson in general. I think his striking is not so hot, his wrestling is okay, and obviously his grappling needs some work. I think Sanchez is going to run through him. Diego via TKO, round 2.
Nick Thomas: Sanchez has made the cut to 155 successfully and he seems unphased. That spells big trouble for Stevenson. Sanchez will dwarf Stevenson come fight time and control the fight. Sanchez by decision.
Michael Fagan: Too big, too strong, too explosive. Diego's just going to overwhelm Joe here. Diego Sanchez by submission, round 1.
Cannon Jacques: If Sanchez wasn't making the cut to 155 for the first time, this wouldn't be as difficult a pick as it is for me. Stevenson is a really solid fighter who was brutalized by two of the top lightweights in the UFC. As long as Sanchez isn't adversely affected by dropping a significant amount of weight, his size and tenacity should be enough to best Stevenson. Sanchez by TKO, round 2.
Dan Hardy vs. Rory Markham
Kid Nate: Hardy hasn't impressed me. He's a bit dull, with decent striking technique but not a lot of kill shot power. Markham is a sloppy brawler with the ability to land a big shot. Markham is probably the better grappler, but if Akihiro Gono couldn't get Hardy down and beat him on the ground, I don't see Markham doing it. Hardy by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Hardy is on a really solid run, since his loss to David Baron in June of 2006 he hasn't lost a fight except for a single DQ against Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Markham is a hit or miss kind of guy. When he is on he is a dangerous guy, especially in the striking game. I think Hardy is a little bit more solid and he'll have the home crowd behind him which should be enough to lift him to a win. Dan Hardy by TKO, round 2.
Mike Rome: Hardy may have "won" his last fight but that was a load of crap. I don't think either is anything special, I'm going to pick Markham in the upset via TKO in round 3.
Nick Thomas: This should be a good back and forth stand up fight until Markham shows everyone his KO power. Markham can end this fight standing or on the ground. Markham by TKO.
Michael Fagan: Markham exposes himself too much on the feet. I think Hardy will pepper him in a similar fashion as Bisping did to Chris Leben. Dan Hardy by decision.
Cannon Jacques: This may end up being a great matchup, but it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Markham has definite knockout power, and I think that will be the difference in this bout. Markham by TKO, round 2.
Wilson Gouveia vs. Nate Marquardt
Kid Nate: This one should be really fun. Gouveia is a former light heavyweight who packs a serious punch and deadly leg kicks plus solid jiu jitsu. The frighteningly well-rounded Marquardt has been on a tear lately. He's not boring old play-it-safe Nate anymore, he's a man on a mission. The Nate Marquardt that brutalized Martin Kampmann and repeatedly fouled Thales Leites should be able to match Gouveia for balls-out brawling and I think he's the more polished technician as well although I don't recall seeing Nate dealing with a muy thai game as dangerous as Wilson's. Gotta go with my namesake here. Marquardt by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I've been struggling with a desire to pick Gouveia here but my better sense is telling me that Marquardt is just the better fighter. One of the interesting aspects here is that Marquardt is an absolute beast at 185 but Wilson is coming down from 205 so it's hard to tell how Nate deals with not having his usual size advantage. That being said I have to take the solidly well rounded Marquardt to control the fight and eventually wear down and stop Gouveia but an upset is certainly not out of the question. Marquardt via TKO, round 3.
Mike Rome: This is a really hard one. Whenever Gouveia is on a tear, it seems like he blows it, and with Nate coming from such a great camp I think he'll be too much. Marquardt via decision.
Nick Thomas: I have to admit, Gouveia looked impressive against Macdonald. But I'm in love with the new super agressive Marquart. Plus Marquart has the Team Jackson factor. Marquart by decision.
Michael Fagan: Nick says Wilson looked impressive in the MacDonald fight, and I'm not sure I agree. And he looked absolutely horrid in the Jensen and Reljic fights. Marquardt's too good. Nate Marquardt by TKO, round 2.
Cannon Jacques: I don't know where Gouveia will end up fitting into the middleweight picture. However, I know where Marquardt fits in. He can be found near the top. Marquardt should be able to dictate how this fight transpires. Marquardt by TKO, round 3.
Demian Maia vs. Chael Sonnen
Kid Nate: This will be taken as heresy, but the winner of this fight could very well be the future UFC middleweight champion. Chael Sonnen is a game scrapper with solid wrestling skills and the trademark Team Quest lack of gameplan. Sonnen has a knack for falling into submissions and Demian Maia is an absolutely lethal submission artist. I keep expecting Maia to find himself unable to get the fight to the ground and paying for his limited stand-up, but so far he's been able to get the fight to the ground with some amazing guard-pulling and sweeps. Maia by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Sonnen is getting overlooked as a legitimate threat and solid fighter by people in light of the flood of mancrushes on Maia and Sonnen's crazy "I can beat Anderson Silva" talk. He is a grinder and honestly if you look at things objectively you Sonnen has a very good chance at winning. But he's just not the kind of guy that always fights the best gameplan possible. I suppose maybe the first Filho fight taught him to not make dumb mistakes, but I don't think so. Maia by submission in round 2 (after Sonnen wins round 1).
Mike Rome: Really like this fight, I think it should be a number one contender fight. Sonnen should win if he's smart, but he's not, so Maia via submission in round 1.
Nick Thomas: Sonnen said it himself, he won't be able to stop Maia from taking him down. That's rough... cause on the ground, that's all she wrote for Sonnen. Maia by submission.
Michael Fagan: I'm a little worried that Sonnen's size will be a problem, but the gap on the ground is just too much for Chael to make up on the feet. Add in his inability to gameplan or adapt in the cage, and I think we get Demian Maia by submission, round 2.
Cannon Jacques: Maia really impresses me. His ability to utilize top level jiu-jitsu within the context of an MMA scrap is just masterful. I could see Sonnen grinding this out to a decision win, but I think the more likely scenario is Maia ending it like he does most of his fights. Maia by submission, round 2.
Josh Koscheck vs. Paulo Thiago
Kid Nate: Like everyone else, I don't know anything about Paulo Thiago but I do know that Josh Koscheck has added a brutal striking attack to his excellent wrestling game. Koscheck by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Highlight reel KO's are becoming the norm for Koscheck which is honestly kind of cool and is turning me into a fan of a guy I initially never thought I could like. Koscheck by TKO, round 1.
Mike Rome: Koscheck via TKO, round 1
Nick Thomas: Koscheck will be able to keep this on the feet and finish it there. Koscheck by TKO.
Michael Fagan: I think I'd be stupid to pick against Koscheck here. Koscheck by TKO, round 1.
Cannon Jacques: How does Thiago pull off the upset in this one? You tell me, because I certainly don't know. Koscheck should be able to control where this bout goes. Koshcheck by TKO, round 2.