B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian
Luke Thomas: I do wonder if Penn's had enough sparring in this camp, but I'm comfortable having seen the all-star that's passed through Hawaii that he has. And while Florian has accomplished what very few professional athletes can ever boast - that he has consistently worked hard to maximize his potential - I'm not sure he's shored up liabilities more than he's added really special talent. Is Florian's BJJ, for example, better than it was 4 years ago? Sure, but not dramatically so. Florian's other newly acquired skill sets, boxing/kickboxing and wrestling, are actually traits he didn't really have before. Penn's had his issues, but he's already been a world champion in two different sports. And his only loss at lightweight was to Pulver in 2002 in what was Penn's fourth fight. There just isn't enough evidence for me to convincingly pick Kenny. Penn by TKO, round 4.
Kid Nate: Florian has reach and a decent leg kick game, but that's the only advantage I can see that he has on B.J. Penn. The champion has far more punching power, an incredible takedown defense, and peerless jiu jitsu. Penn by TKO in 4.
Brent Brookhouse: BJ Penn is the best fighter in the world at 155 pounds. I just want to remind everyone of that fact as his personality makes a lot of people want to discount that. Florian is a very good fighter and his improvement over the past few years should be recognized. But beyond this magic bullet theory that Kenny can work an almost entirely kick based offense there aren't really any ways for him to win. Penn is better standing and will win on the feet and he is better on the ground and will win there too. Penn by TKO, round 2.
Michael Rome: Florian can win, I just don't think it's likely. BJ will handle the kicks and win just about every exchange standing. Kenny's only way to win is to go to the body a lot and try to break BJ down. I just don't see it happening. Kenny is tough though, it won't be a blowout. BJ Penn via TKO, round 4.
Mike Fagan: B.J. Penn's just going to be too much for Kenny Florian. I think Kenny's game enough to get out of the first two rounds, but I expect Penn to finish in the third or fourth. B.J. Penn by submission, round 3.
Eugene Schelfaut: Florian will come out looking not for the finish, but instead for the win. The problem, however, is that BJ will be doing the inverse, and with the skill set to implement that finish both on the feet and the mat. BJ Penn via TKO, round 3.
Leland Roling: For Florian, it once again comes down to how much he's improved. Has he improved enough to defeat the talent that BJ possesses? I think Florian makes a war out of this bout, but BJ will be able to inflict damage early that'll eventually break Kenny down. I could see Kenny winning, but I can't honestly pick him with so many unknowns. BJ Penn via TKO, Round 3.
Nick Thomas: Penn has all the advantages over Florian expect for cardio, maybe. Penn will pepper Florian with the trademark jab and the end this on the ground. Penn by submission.
Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
Luke Thomas: How these two clash physically will tell the story of the entire fight. If Griffin is able to at least moderately control and off balance Silva, he'll take it. If Silva is able to avoid getting bossed in the clinch or outside tripped and can use distancing/accuracy to damage Griffin, it's his. I'm betting Griffin tries desperately to lean on Silva, but he'll take a ton of damage on the way. Silva by decision.
Kid Nate: My biggest concern with this fight is that both Silva and Griffin are counter-strikers and that could lead to an epic snooze-fest. The only silver lining is that I have a hard time seeing Griffin implementing his hit and run game against Silva. Forrest has to know that he won't be able to pitty-pat his way to a decision. That will work to Silva's advantage. Silva by TKO in 2.
Brent Brookhouse: People are confusing the James Irvin match with "proof" that Anderson is a lock to be able to hang with the big boys at 205. The truth is, Forrest is a giant 205 and while it won't look like it at the weigh-ins, once he rehydrates he is going to be much bigger fighter than Anderson. Beyond that Anderson just isn't used to handling that kind of weight grinding on him in a tough fight. I think this fight hinges on Forrest being able to make it dirty. If he can cut off the cage and get Silva against the cage he will work takedowns and a safe top game. It probably won't be the most action-packed fight but it will be a tense one. I don't think Forrest will finish him, but I don't think he'll need to. Forrest Griffin by close decision.
Michael Rome: In an outside kickboxing match, Silva wins easily. I don't think that is what will happen here. I believe Forrest is going to try to make this an ugly fight up against the cage, and try to outwork Silva en route to taking him down. Forrest is not looking to kickbox with Silva. Even so, I think that eventually Silva will catch him. Anderson Silva via KO, round 3, but I honestly believe Forrest is an active dog. He's a top 5 fighter a weightclass above Silva, and he isn't giving up 4-6 inches like most of Silva's opponents.
Mike Fagan: Second verse, same as the first. I find it hard to conjure a scenario that ends up with Griffin finishing Silva. In addition, his style meshes terribly with Silva's counter striking. Anderson Silva by decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: The strength advantage for Griffin will be negligible, if existent. The probability of Anderson Silva ending Griffin's night while Griffin works for a chance to gain top position is too great to be ignored. Forrest will make it interesting, but he will lose. Anderson Silva via KO, round 2.
Leland Roling: The only way Griffin can win is if he can use dirty boxing techniques in a clinch against Silva. The questions arise whether he has the power to actually hold Silva, and if he can avoid Silva's Thai plum and getting blasted while trying to implement that gameplan. He can't outstrike Silva, and taking him down for a ground and pound clinic isn't going to happen either. Anderson Silva via KO, Round 2.
Nick Thomas: Griffin will definitely have the size advantage and might try to take Silva down but Silva is going to catch Griffin sooner or later. Silva by TKO.
Amir Sadollah vs. Johny Hendricks
Luke Thomas: Unless Hendricks let's his showmanship and recklessness get the best of him, this is his fight to lose. Sadollah has range and more proficient technical standing movement, but Hendricks will take down Sadollah and likely avoid the sub en route to a decision. Hendricks by decision.
Kid Nate: Despite Amir's run through the TUF house and two submissions of C.B. Dollaway, I have a hard time seeing him beat Hendricks. But Hendricks is so similar to Dollaway, better wrestler, but fewer MMA fights. And if his teammate Jake Rosholt is any indicator, the Team Takedown crew can be submitted. Still I have to go with Hendricks' athleticism and power here. Hendricks by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Amir has been out for way too long for me to feel confident about anything. It can really damage a young fighter to spend that much time out of the cage. Then again, maybe it helped him to spend that much time working in training. It's a real crapshoot but I think the UFC knew something in making this fight. They are high on Amir so I don't think they'd put him in the cage with Hendricks unless he could handle it. Amir Sadollah by submission, round 2.
Michael Rome: Tough call. Hendricks can definitely take the decision, but Amir has a pretty good track record against smothering wrestlers. I'm going to go with Amir via submission, round 2.
Mike Fagan: This is a pretty stiff test for a TUF winner coming off a year layoff. With only one pro fight under his belt, I'm going to go with experience and take Johny Hendricks by decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: I would be more confident in Sadollah if he was not coming off an injury. Amir Sadollah via TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Very tough fight to call. Hendricks' wrestling credentials are off the chart, but Sadollah has great all-around skills. Oh yeah, Hendricks has atrocious stand-up defense, and it's ultimately his biggest weakness. Amir Sadollah via TKO, Round 2
Nick Thomas: Tough fight for Sadollah here but I think he has trained hard enough. Hendricks will take this to the ground at some point and that's where Sadollah will catch him. Sadollah by submission.
Ricardo Almeida vs. Kendall Grove
Luke Thomas: If Grove is injured then perhaps that changes the equation, but I'm not sure the 2002 Almeida is back. He doen't even really throw leg kicks like he used to. And his win over Horwich is a bit of sleight of hand. Horwich has lost three straight and is now up to 13 overall in his professional career. Granted, Grove's takedown defense against Tanner came at a time when Tanner's wrestling wasn't where it needed to be, but Grove still looked sharp. I think Almeida's in for a tough, close but ultimately long night. Grove by decision.
Kid Nate: It's really hard to get pumped about this fight. Grove got knocked well out of contention a while back and Almeida is headed down to welterweight after this fight. Grove has the reach to batter Almeida on the feet, but he's not known for using his jab or outside kicks. I see Almeida by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: This is my "gut pick special" for the event. I don't think Grove will get caught with a submission and Almeida tends to get a little too hesitant which may allow Grove to catch him. I may be wrong in the end...but Kendall Grove by TKO, round 1.
Michael Rome: Pretty hard fight to pick, but it doesn't interest me much. I think Almeida can survive Grove's onslaught standing and get him down for a submission. Almeida via submission, round 1.
Mike Fagan: This is a pretty good bit of matchmaking. Grove's size will come into play in two opposite ways. The first being that he doesn't properly utilize it to maintain proper distance. The other being that those long limbs will look like Thanksgiving dinner for Almeida. I like Ricardo Almeida by submission, round 2.
Eugene Schelfaut: My betting game parlay revolves around the outcome of this fight. If Almeida cannot finish Grove, I think he will lose the decision. That being said, Almeida finishes Kendall Grove. Ricardo Almeida via submission, round 2.
Leland Roling: I can't pick Grove here. Almeida used to be one of the top middleweights in the world, and his jiu-jitsu is worlds beyond what Grove possesses. It really comes down to whether Grove can catch Almeida standing by using his size, but I think Almeida can avoid the early onslaught and defeat Grove. Ricardo Almeida via submission, Round 1
Nick Thomas: I was going to pick Grove until I read that Grove is coming into this fight with a minor rib injury. Almeida by submission.
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Josh Neer
Luke Thomas: I do highly respect Pellegrino's technical proficiency and aggression, but I'm not sure he can be a closer against Neer. Add to that Neer's size and you've got the makings for a Pellegrino who will have to be in superb condition to keep his style of attack effective. I'm not sure he can do that. Neer by decision.
Kid Nate: This one on the other hand I expect to be a brawl. Both of these guys are tough as nails and like to hit or fight on the ground. I think Pellegrino is the more polished, but I think Neer has the better mojo. Neer by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Pellegrino always seems to fight just good enough to lose. I just think he's talented enough to eventually win one of these tough fights. Also, I believe in karma catching up to Neer. Pellegrino by decision.
Michael Rome: Another fight that's hard to pick but I can't get myself to care about it. I'm taking Neer by decision in a coinflip.
Mike Fagan: Mac Danzig picked Neer apart with footwork and head movement until he got caught in a triangle. Mark Dellagrotte has improved Batman's footwork tremendously in their time together. I expect Pellegrino to follow Danzig's blueprint. Kurt Pellegrino by decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: I can't complain about the prospect of seeing blood at the start of a PPV. I'm feeling Neer to bag a TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Great fight here, but I think Pellegrino can put Neer to the ground and punish him much like he did Diaz, without being submitted. Kurt Pellegrino via decision.
Nick Thomas: Really hard fight to predict. But I'm going to give the slight edge to Neer by being the bigger fighter. Neer by decision.
Aaron Riley vs. Shane Nelson
Luke Thomas: I'm going to say I do think Nelson's speed might give Riley some fits early on, but perhaps Riley has enough durability to make it work. Riley by decision.
Kid Nate: Riley should get his revenge here. Riley by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: There's not really any reason to change your pick if you took Riley last time. Riley by decision.
Michael Rome: Riley is too good standing, I think he'll get the nod this time. Riley via TKO.
Mike Fagan: I expect Riley to avenge the bad stoppage here. Aaron Riley by decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Nelson will be on the losing end of the exchanges, but I don't see him being finished by Riley. Aaron Riley via decision.
Leland Roling: Riley is way more experienced, battle-tested, and he should erase the memory of the early stoppage in their first match-up. Aaron Riley via decision.
Nick Thomas: As long as this doesn't end with another early stoppage, this fight is all Riley's. Riley by decision.
Tamdan McCrory vs. John Howard
Luke Thomas: McCrory will be put off balance here with continuous takedowns and other disruptions of momentum. McCrory's blitzkrieging style plays nicely into Howard's wrestling, but over the course of three rounds I wonder if he'll hold up. I'm betting he likely will. Tamdan McCrory via decision.
Kid Nate: Howard surprised me by beating Chris Wilson and I think he can get inside on McCrory and batter him in the clinch. Howard by decison.
Brent Brookhouse: I'm about as high on McCrory as I was on Wilson, and Howard handled Wilson. I'm still thinking Tamdan can handle him. If I'm wrong then I'm probably done picking against Howard. Tamdan McCrory by submission, round 2.
Michael Rome: I just don't know enough about Howard to pick him over McCrory, who is solid if unspectacular. McCrory by decision.
Mike Fagan: McCrory's proved himself against stiffer competition. Tamdan McCrory by decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Howard will end the fight with strikes from top position. I have to at least pick one underdog. John Howard via TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Very tough fight to pick, probably one of the toughest. I'll take McCrory simply based on the reach factor, otherwise it's a true toss-up. Tamdan McCrory via decision.
Nick Thomas: McCrory has a crazy height and reach advantage here. McCrory by TKO.
Alessio Sakara vs. Thales Leites
Luke Thomas: Unless Leites is psychologically damaged from the Silva fight and the long road back to top performance, this is his fight to lose. Sakara just cannot seem to get his defensive wrestling over the hump. Leites via submission, round 2.
Kid Nate: Leites should mop up the floor with Sakara. Leites by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: This is a waste of time. Leites by submission, round 2.
Michael Rome: This should be a slam dunk. Even if Sakara lands Leites will be fine, and Leites is actually the better striker of the two. Going with Leites via submission, he has a lot to prove here.
Mike Fagan: I wonder what happens when you take a one-dimensional European without much power and put him in against a BJJ wiz with a strong chin? I think it's Thales Leites by submission, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: Leites can't lose this fight. Thales Leites via submission, round 2.
Leland Roling: Sakara can't stop submissions, plain and simple. Thales Leites via submission, Round 1.
Nick Thomas: Just like Jon Fitch, Leites goes from main event to undercard. Leites gets the takedown and submits Sakara easily. Leites by submission.
Matt Riddle vs. Dan Cramer
Luke Thomas: I don't think this fight is half bad. Both of these guys would very competitive on the smaller shows, so I don't mind them fighting on the undercard here. But between them, Riddle is both the better athlete and wrestler. That should be enough. Riddle by decision.
Kid Nate: I think Riddle is a much more serious prospect than Cramer and expect him to dominate in this fight. Riddle by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Riddle is a guy who I am actually kind of high on. If they handle his development right I think he could be a Chris Leben type guy filling in on fight night main events and everything somewhere down the road. I know that doesn't sound like I'm saying much but it says that he could fill in a valuable organizational role. He's probably not a future champ or anything, but he'll have a job for a while. Matt Riddle by KO, round 1.
Eugene Schelfaut: This is a pick more against Dan Cramer than for Riddle. Matt Riddle via KO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Matt Riddle should be able to stuff Cramer, use his range, and pepper him. Matt Riddle via TKO, Round 2.
Nick Thomas: Riddle by wrestling and a decision win.
George Sotiropoulos vs. George Roop
Luke Thomas: I do think the ring rust will affect Sotiropoulos, but Roop just isn't the same submission grappler the Australian is. Sotiropoulos via submission, round 2.
Kid Nate: Shouldn't be a very close fight. Sotiroplous by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Not even a contest. George S. by submission, round 1.
Michael Rome: Sotiropolous should rout him. Sotiropolous via decision.
Mike Fagan: Should be interesting to see how Sotiropoulos looks after a year off. George Roop shouldn't provide much, especially on short notice. George Sotiropoulos by decision.
Eugene Schelfaut: Sotiropoulos gets back into the fight groove. George Sotiropoulos via submission, round 2.
Leland Roling: Roop should get trounced in this contest. George Sotiropoulos via TKO, Round 2.
Nick Thomas: Sotiropoulos by submission.
Jesse Lennox vs. Danillo Villefort
Luke Thomas: What does Lennox really have that Mike Campbell didn't? Villefort via submission, round 1.
Kid Nate: Couple of WEC refugees here. Villefort has a highly touted jiu jitsu game, I expect him to get the win. Villefort by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Villefort by decision.
Michael Rome: No idea, I'll follow Fagan who is following the books and take Danillo Villefort via decision.
Mike Fagan: I'll follow the books and take Danillo Villefort by TKO, round 2.
Eugene Schelfaut: This is what I hear will go down. Danillo Villefort via submission, round 2.
Leland Roling: Villefort is a monster, but Lennox has solid wrestling. The hype is surrounding Villefort though, and he was impressive in the WEC. Danillo Villefort via TKO, Round 2.
Nick Thomas: Villefort by submission.