Luke Thomas: Vera is incredibly durable and defensively very strong. Whatever criticisms one has of Vera, poor defense is rarely a charge that's levied. The problem has always an inability to pull the trigger, at least since his year long layoff. Vera told USA Today his plan was to time Jones, pick his spots and attack in the tiny opening he thinks Jones will leave. To me that sounds a lot like more of the same. Jones will find Vera won't go away unless there's a bad ref stoppage, but being offensive in the clinch, getting time to reset and use speed to his advantage, Jones will take a hard fought decision. Jones by decision.
Kid Nate: A very very tough fight to call because Brandon Vera on paper and Brandon Vera in the Octagon are two entirely different propositions. On paper, Vera's polished Muay Thai game should be able to overcome Jones' unpolished improvising. And his Greco-Roman skills should allow him to (mostly) keep the fight standing and even if it goes down, Vera's jiu jitsu advantage should be manifest. But alas, Vera has a bad habit of coasting through fights, getting sucked into pointless clinch battles and not going for the kill. If he loiters in Jones' clinch, he'll go flying. Jones by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Vera is extremely talented, so it's a real shame to see so many people think this is a gimmie fight for Jones. Still, Vera did it to himself with his reluctance to use his full talents against the better fighters he has faced. If he can find the desire to fight his fight it could turn into a very long night for Jones. Jon has unorthodox (and relatively unpolished) striking, and a very good wrestling game, it's just a matter of him being able to use it effectively against someone with more experience and a well rounded game. I'm going with the mild upset here. I think the fight is mostly contested standing where Vera is better and can work his way to a decision win. Brandon Vera by decision.
Mike Fagan: Jon Jones will steamroll Brandon Vera. We've been waiting for that "old Brandon Vera" to come back for the last three years with no sign of a reemergence. Instead, Vera fights with the aggressiveness of a 13 year old kid on his first date, too scared to make any move at all. Jones is a monstrous beast at 205, and if Vera's standup gives him any problems, he'll ragdoll Vera as he's done with everyone else so far. Vera's crafty enough to survive, but this won't be close. Jon Jones by super unanimous decision.
Chris Nelson: This has the potential to be a stinker or a raging battle - and, despite my better instincts, I'm leaning toward the latter. Jones won't let Vera play the counter style he's been prone to in recent bouts. Instead, "Bones" will feel out the striking situation for a round before putting Vera on the mat, taking mount, and finishing. Jones via TKO, round two.
Nick Thomas: Jones has been phenomenal and this fight will be a interesting test to see if Jones can hang with the big boys. Jones will have the reach and wrestling advantage here. Going with Jones by decision.
Leland Roling: Brandon Vera needs to prove that he can implement a solid gameplan and inflict damage before I'll ever pick him again. He's burned me too many times. Jon Jones has stated he may try to stand in order to beat Vera at his strengths, and I imagine if that's true -- that's a huge mistake. Jones should be working for the takedown and using his strength to maul Vera, so I'm holding my breath as to whether Jones can produce a win. Jon Jones via decision.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Luke Thomas: Dos Santos' power is so alarming that it's hard to see a way he doesn't win here. I don't blame anyone for picking JDS and I agree with the criticisms that Gonzaga overvalues his own striking. But there is still a lot we don't know about dos Santos' ground development, which is a relevant question at the UFC level. I'll gamble here and suggest Gonzaga tells us a lot about JDS' game that we need to know. Gonzaga by submission.
Kid Nate: Dos Santos really hasn't been tested on the ground in his UFC career. If Gonzaga can focus on what he does best, he should be able to take Dos Santos down and submit him. But Gonzaga thinks he's a stand up warrior so I expect he'll try to trade with Dos Santos to disastrous effect. Dos Santos by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse:If I trusted Gonzaga to try for a takedown I'd really like him at the current odds, but I don't trust him to do anything but stand and bang. Junior is better at that. So it's an easy pick. Gonzaga will last one round and then wilt and get stopped. Junior Dos Santos by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Gonzaga looks good for about two minutes before his mind shuts off again. Dos Santos is the worst kind of fight for Gonzaga - a guy that can brutalize you with punishment over fifteen minutes. Dos Santos's ground game is the X-factor, but unless Gabe can submit him within the first few minutes, I'm not sure it matters. Junior dos Santos by TKO, round 2.
Chris Nelson: I have no doubt that Gonzaga has the far superior ground game here, but Cigano has honest-to-goodness dynamite in his fists and Napao's chin remains a huge liability. Dos Santos via TKO, round one.
Nick Thomas: You just can't pick against Dos Santos, especially when you have him against someone that isn't scared to stand and trade. Dos Santos by TKO.
Leland Roling: Dos Santos is probably going to win... and I've battled with this pick for days. Gonzaga's camp is saying he's being highly undervalued, and I think he is to an extent. While he has some striking capabilities, Dos Santos is strong, speedy, and works a nice, strong jab in combination with his overhand. Gonzaga's ground game might give Dos Santos problems, but I don't see it being the x-factor. Sadly, I will pick Dos Santos, but I'll be pulling for a bettor's upset. Dos Santos via TKO
Cheick Kongo vs. Paul Buentello
Luke Thomas: This is going to look similar to the vicious beating Overeem handed Buentello. Too bad. With "El Rey" he's got the best entrance song in MMA. Kongo by TKO.
Kid Nate: Kongo has a nice arsenal of standing strikes. Buentello has a hard right straight punch. Kongo should be able to beat Buentello standing or take him down and pound him out on the ground. Buentello snuck back into the UFC because they were in a defensive signing mode. He'll be gone very soon. Kongo by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I'm not really sure where the idea that Buentello was doing great against Struve came from, but fighting a bigger striker who has more power, more diverse striking and more technique is going to make for a really long, really bad night for Paul. Cheick Kongo by KO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: This is an awful matchup for Buentello. Kongo's bigger, longer, and more technical standing up, which is bad news in an ultimate kickboxing fight. Cheick Kongo by TKO, round 2.
Chris Nelson: Buentello is one of the best characters in MMA, but he just isn't going to be able to hang with the next-gen heavyweights. Kongo isn't Velasquez or Lesnar, but I see him pummeling the burrito eater nonetheless. Kongo via TKO, round three.
Nick Thomas: Kongo is going to be hungry after going 0-2. Kongo by decision.
Leland Roling: Kongo should be the winner here as he has length, power, and a solid Muay Thai background. Buentello can provide one punch knockout power, but Kongo's length is going to be an absolute nightmare trying to wade through. Cheick Kongo via TKO, Round 1.
James Irvin vs. Alessio Sakara
Luke Thomas: Jesus. I don't really know what to say here. Two troubled fighters with defensive liabilities. At this weight class Irvin for sure has the better power, but what about the stamina? He seemed badly dehydrated at the weigh-ins. Sakara is nothing to write home about in terms of UFC level either, but he's got enough hand technique to make it competitive. I don't know, this is a coin flip, really. I'll go Sakara.
Kid Nate: Battle of the weak chins here. Whoever connects first could well be putting the other guy to sleep. I'm tempted to go with Sakara here because he's been improving and Irvin is cutting a lot of weight to make 185lbs. But Irvin just has way more power than Sakara. Irvin by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Without the long layoff coupled with his first cut to 185 lbs I'd probably pick Irvin. Those two factors are rough on their own, but combined? That seems like a recipe for disaster. Alessio Sakara by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: At the risk of putting faith in Alessio Sakara's chin, Irvin's drug problem, weight cut, and knee injury is not a storm I want to weather. Alessio Sakara by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: I was picking Sakara here anyway, but after seeing the living corpse of James Irvin weigh in this afternoon, I'm double-picking Sakara. Sakara via TKO, round one.
Nick Thomas: Irvin is a risky pick with a long layoff and a debut at 185. As long as Sakara doesn't get caught in the stand up, it's Sakara by decision.
Leland Roling: Long layoff, new weight cut to 185 pounds, and a propensity to blow out knees while stepping up stairs... it's tough to pick Irvin here. He's exciting, has a lot of power, but for some strange reason -- I feel like Sakara is beginning to come into his own as a middle-of-the-road veteran who can, at the very least, outlast Irvin. Definitely a wishful pick here in Alessio Sakara via TKO, Round 2.
Clay Guida vs. Shannon Gugerty
Luke Thomas: There is no good reason Gugerty should win this. Guida by decision.
Kid Nate: Clay Guida ought to be the fighter nicknamed "The NightMare" because unless three rounds of being on your back is what you're craving, he's a terrible opponent. He'll do the same thing to Gugerty he does to everyone else. Guida by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Push to cage, takedown, punch, punch, punch, punch, stand up, push to cage, takedown, punch, punch, punch, punch. Clay Guida by decision.
Mike Fagan: Brent pretty much called the whole fight. Clay Guida by decision.
Chris Nelson: As much as I'd love to pick Gugerty in a shocker, I don't think there'll be any surprises in this one. Guida via decision.
Nick Thomas: Guida shouldn't be a -500 favorite but he'll still take this. Guida by decision.
Leland Roling: The combination of Clay Guida's insane conditioning and relentless pace should be too much for Gugerty in this battle. While Gugerty may actually have something to offer in the striking department as Guida has never been able to improve drastically in his delivery of blows, Guida could likely takedown Gugerty at will and wear him out considerably over the course of the fight. Barring a surprise guillotine from Gugerty, Guida should take this one. Clay Guida via decision.
Eliot Marshall vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Luke Thomas: Marshall's tall and his sprawl is slow, which is going to cost him badly against Matyushenko. Marshall has decent guard play, but not spectacular and I don't think he's going to sweep the base-heavy Belarussian. Matyushenko is being brought in to test up and comers and I don't see this one passing the test. Matyshuenko by decision.
Kid Nate: Matyushenko is another veteran the UFC re-signed to keep out of Strikeforce. These two guys have put on some of the most painfully boring matches in recent memory. I saw Marshall clinch his way to a decision over Jason Brilz live at UFC 103 and really don't ever care to see him fight again. I used to be a big Vladdy fan back in the day, but he's slowed with age and his game was always dull to begin with. I don't think that Matyushenko is the dominating wrestler he used to be so I'm going with Marshall by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: I really like Vladimir, but I never feel bad when I don't get to see one of his fights. Slow, grinding win for him here though. Vladimir Matyushenko by decision.
Mike Fagan: Matyushenko has losses to (Vernon) White, Ortiz, Arlovski, and (Little) Nogueira. I don't see Marshall joining that list. Vladimir Matyushenko by decision.
Chris Nelson: You know what I love about this fight? The fact that I'll never have to see it. Matyushenko via decision.
Nick Thomas: Tough fight to call here. Matyushenko by a close decision.
Leland Roling: Matyushenko's striking has shown some drastic improvement with flashes of combinations reminiscent of Killer Instinct. Igor Pokrajac ate a few "K-K-Killer" combos in their battle, and Matyushenko is enjoying a nice winning streak despite being such an aged veteran. If Vladimir can move through Marshall's reach and height to land punches, he should win this easily, but that will be his main obstacle in this fight. On the floor, I think Matyushenko's wrestling is good enough to give him the nod. Vladimir Matyushenko via unanimous decision.
Duane Ludwig vs. Darren Elkins
Luke Thomas: Sorry, but I think Ludwig is long, long past his prime. And even then this would be close. Elkins by submission.
Kid Nate: Ludwig is being rewarded here for stepping up on short notice. He should be able to finish the green Elkins. Ludwig by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I'm really having trouble with this one. Elkins didn't finish Gideon Ray, so that makes me think he wouldn't be able to finish Ludwig. But Duane never really developed the complete game to be able to handle guys who can put him on his back. Still, let's roll with experience. Duane Ludwig by TKO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: Ludwig should have enough here, though I'm not going to be shocked if he falls on his face. Duane Ludwig by decision.
Chris Nelson: Ludwig looked pretty atrocious at the weigh-in and, honestly, hasn't looked very impressive in the ring/cage for a couple years now. I'll take an admitted flyer on Elkins via submission, round one.
Nick Thomas: Ludwig by TKO.
Leland Roling: Ludwig previously had to deal with a striker in Spencer Fisher, but it looks like he'll switch gears and try to defend being beaten to a pulp on his back. While Ludwig can be toppled by a good wrestler, I'll go with the veteran striker via TKO as Elkins just doesn't have the finishing wins to make me believe he can crush Ludwig over three rounds without being caught. Duane Ludwig via TKO, Round 2.
John Howard vs. Daniel Roberts
Luke Thomas: I smell upset. Roberts by TKO.
Kid Nate: Roberts is coming in undefeated after chewing through a roster of nobodies and has-beens like UFC 4 veteran Anthony Macias. Howard was ready to step up and face Anthony Johnson. A more seasoned Roberts maybe could win this, but not one this green. Howard by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Howard is drastically overrated. He was going to get murdered by Johnson. Roberts resume may not look like much, but he's got really good finishing ability and I think he can wear Howard down and finish him. Daniel Roberts by TKO, round 3.
Mike Fagan: Howard may have been ready to step up and fight Anthony Johnson, but he wasn't about to step up and beat him. I like Roberts here for the upset. Daniel Roberts by decision.
Chris Nelson: Howard may be 3-0 in the UFC, but it's a dubious 3-0. His decisions over Chris Wilson and Tamdan McCrory were close shaves, and he was losing to Dennis Hallman before he pulled out a hail Mary in the last 10 seconds. Gimme the neophyte Roberts for the upset. Roberts via decision.
Nick Thomas: I'd love to pick Roberts here but I think Howard will win on pure stamina. Howard by decision.
Leland Roling: While both men have some solid wrestling, I think this could ultimately come down to the better striker. Howard is a much more seasoned puncher than Roberts, and as long as Howard can maintain his feet -- he should win this by out punching Roberts. John Howard via decision.
Brendan Schaub vs. Chase Gormley
Luke Thomas: Gormley isn't the athlete Schaub is nor is he going to win in any standing exchange. Schaub by TKO.
Kid Nate: Gormley did not look UFC caliber against Stefan Struve at UFC 104. He's undersized, underskilled and slow. He also kept going for leg locks and winding up on his back. Schaub ought to be able to blast Gormley right on out of the UFC. Schaub by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: This isn't going to be pretty, but it should get Schaub a win. Brendan Schaub by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Schaub's gonna take this, but I'm not sure he has any future at 265. Brendan Schaub by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: I'm not entirely sure what Chase Gormley is doing in the UFC, but he must be at least theoretically better than what he showed against Stefan Struve. Nonetheless, unless he catches Schaub with a lucky one on the button, I'm giving the nod to the former footballer. Schaub via decision.
Nick Thomas: Gormley will gas bad after failed takedowns. Schaub by decision.
Leland Roling: This is another tough call in my mind, but Gormley did look rather green in his first fight in the UFC despite being backed by Black House. Schaub has high level boxing and jiu-jitsu in his skill-set, but he needs to learn to work it smoothly into his overall MMA game in an actual fight. He's managed to do it well against lesser competition, and I think he'll be able to do it against Gormley as well. Brendan Schaub via TKO.
Mike Pierce vs. Julio Paulino
Luke Thomas: Paulino is a tough bastard, but Pierce has been ultra impressive with his strength, control and surprising boxing. Pierce by TKO.
Kid Nate: Pierce has been fierce in his UFC run, beating Brock Larson and giving Jon Fitch all he could handle. Paulino is making his UFC debut and frankly he's being thrown to the sharks. Pierce by dominating decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Mike Pierce is the better fighter and has faced tougher competition. It's an easy call. Mike Pierce by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Damn Nate stole my "gave Fitch all he could handle" line. That's pretty much what it comes down to though. Mike Pierce by TKO, round 1.
Chris Nelson: Pretty easy call here: Pierce is one of the most rapidly improving welterweights the UFC has, and his wrestling base is going to make him a handful for anyone he runs up against. Pierce via decision.
Nick Thomas: I've been very impressed with Pierce since his debut. Pierce by decision.
Leland Roling: Mike Pierce has some distinct advantages in this fight. His training partner, Rick Story, holds a decision win over Paulino, and he could provide unique insight as to how to defeat Paulino. Pierce also has a roughneck style of blasting through opponents, explosively taking them down, and wearing them out over the course of three rounds. Outstanding wrestling should prevail. Mike Pierce via TKO, Round 2.
Jason Brilz vs. Eric Schafer
Luke Thomas: Well, another "I don't know". But I tend to think Brilz is just going to wear down the highly vulnerable Schafer. Brilz by decision.
Kid Nate: Here are two guys I never want to see fight again. At least the loser should be on his way out of the UFC. Brilz has better wrestling, Schafer better jiu jitsu. I predict they'll settle their differences via some really bad kickboxing. Schafer by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Schafer will finish if they go to the ground, and can probably win on points if they decide to stand up. Eric Schafer by submission, round 1.
Mike Fagan: How the hell did Jason Brilz beat Tim Boetsch? Eric Scahfer by submission, round 2.
Chris Nelson: Brilz takes Schafer down early and turns this into Wrestlemania. Schafer could potentially sub him from the bottom, but more likely it'll be Brilz via decision.
Nick Thomas: As soon as this hits the ground, it's over. Schafer by submission.
Leland Roling: I like Schafer here. Brilz is basically going to try to lay on top of Schafer, and he isn't exactly the most damaging fighter on the planet. Schafer should hopefully pull off a submission and end this snoozer. Schafer by submission.