Date: Saturday, October 8, 2011, at 9:00 p.m. ET
Location: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
Frankie Edgar [c] vs. Gray Maynard
Brent Brookhouse: I was very, very high on the second fight (yes, I’m bragging about being on of the few repeating it was a good fight before it happened). I have a feeling that we’re going to see Gray grind out two rounds via takedowns and Edgar get two rounds on his quick striking. Without a Maynard bomb landing, I don’t think he really is a guy who can win the stand-up against Edgar. So it comes down to that fifth round and I think Edgar just has more ways to get it done and he should take a close 48-47 decision. Frankie Edgar by decision.
Mike Fagan: My memory told me that Maynard dominated the first fight, but the numbers are interesting. Maynard did take Edgar down at will (9 times out of 10 attempts), but the striking numbers actually favored the current champ. Outside of the first round, Edgar outstuck Maynard in every round at UFC 125, and he did so with enough volume to edge Maynard over the entire fight as well. I have no clue who to pick here. Frankie Edgar by decision.
Leland Roling: I really haven’t focused any energy on who wins this fight because the advantages and disadvantages, since we’ve seen the fight twice, are so clear, yet so difficult to predict if they will apply in this third fight. Maynard could out wrestle Edgar. Edgar can out strike Maynard. Wrestling was less of a factor in their second fight, which makes me believe Maynard may come back with that mindset in the final chapter. I’ll throw down some cash on Maynard, but Edgar’s speed in the stand-up prevails unless Maynard finds a way to neutralize him. Frankie Edgar via decision.
Fraser: The past two fights have shown that these two are almost dead even, which means this one comes down to the mental game. Who has the toughness to win? Edgar impressed me a lot with his comeback last time out, and I really don’t like the attitude Maynard is bringing in to this fight. He has a chip on his shoulder, and I think that frustration will be his undoing. Frankie Edgar via Decision
Anton Tabuena: Unless he gets clipped again, I think this will pretty much look like rounds 2-4. Close rounds, but mostly with Edgar winning more exchanges and eventually outpoiting him after 5 rounds. Frankie Edgar by Decision.
Staff picking Edgar: Tim, Fraser, Anton, Fagan, Leland, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Maynard:
Jose Aldo [c] vs. Kenny Florian
Brent Brookhouse: I was leaning toward taking Florian just because I felt Hominick exposed some ways to get to Aldo. But then I remembered that Florian had trouble with Nunes, who is like Aldo but not nearly as good. And Hominick is better than Florian. I maintain that it’s misguided thinking that 145 is a bad weight class that is just waiting for a bunch of 155’ers to drop and take it over. 145 is pretty solid, and Aldo is really good. Jose Aldo by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Kenny Florian doesn’t choke in big fights. He’s just not good enough to beat the very best. Jose Aldo by TKO, round four.
Leland Roling: Florian is 35 years old and is banking on experience to beat Aldo. Of all the arguments for Florian that I’ve heard this week, none of them make any sense. Florian is going to out wrestle Aldo? For five rounds? No. Aldo’s speed will kill Florian. Jose Aldo via TKO.
Fraser: I’m not yet sold on the idea of Jose Aldo as a top 5 pound for pound fighter. The later rounds against Hominick just had too many issues. But stylistically, he’s a bad opponent for Florian, who we have yet to see really comfortable at 145. This is closer than some people think, but it’s still the champ's fight to lose. Jose Aldo via Decision.
Anton Tabuena: Kenny’s best bet is to try and clinch with him in the fence, use his wrestling to try and wear out Aldo. His cardio might not be as good as when he was at 155, and his wrestling may not be on a top level, but I still think he’s better than Aldo in those two areas. Because of those two factors, I think this will be a much closer fight than what most people think. That being said, I think it Kenny would need to put on an absolutely perfect fight to win it, and that will be tough, going against a guy who is faster, and has better striking and BJJ. Jose Aldo by Decision.
Staff picking Aldo: Tim, Fraser, Anton, Fagan, Leland, Brookhouse
Staff picking Florian: Dallas
Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
Brent Brookhouse: I just don’t feel like Stann is particularly good. His power at 185 is much better than it was at 205, which is a good thing, but Sonnen is huge and can outwrestle Stann with ease if he wants. Chael Sonnen by decision.
Mike Fagan: Given his layoff, I suppose it wouldn’t be much of a shock to me if Stann had his hand raised, but that Phil Davis fight wasn’t that long ago, either. Chael Sonnen by decision.
Leland Roling: Fact or Fiction: Brian Stann finds a way to stop Chael Sonnen’s wrestling. “Can you imagine? Wait... Are we live?” Chael Sonnen via decision.
Fraser: For years, Chael Sonnen was a B level fighter. Then he got all the pieces to line up perfectly and pulled off a great run to the title fight with Silva. But with a year layoff and a ton of outside distractions, I don’t think he’ll recapture that magic. Logic says Chael’s wrestling wins it, but I think his moment has passed. Brian Stann via KO.
Anton Tabuena: This is by far, the best fight on the card stylistically. Stann is strong and explosive, but Chael is very tough and gritty, and always manages to find a way to survive (or even win) standing up, long enough to bring the fight to the ground. His weakness has always been his submission defense, but that won’t be an issue here. Chael Sonnen by Decision.
Staff picking Sonnen: Tim, Anton, Fagan, Leland, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Stann: Fraser
Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Phan
Brent Brookhouse: You can make a case that Garcia lost his last eight fights. I also refuse to play along with the idea that he has “great” power given that he hardly ever stops anyone with strikes. Phan has more ways to win, Garcia becomes worse and more predictable every fight and should get cut after this loss. But, of course, there’s a perception of the “right way to fight” by certain people in charge and I’m sure if Dan Hardy and Pat Barry are MMA’s Arturo Gatti (I’m still laughing at that) I guess that makes Garcia some sort of MMA Michael Katsidis. Nam Phan by decision.
Mike Fagan: I imagine judges are mesmerized by Garcia’s style like little children are mesmerized by a shiny pinwheel. Hopefully Phan finds a way to turn off the wind for 15 minutes. Nam Phan by decision.
Leland Roling: It must suck for Garcia to know that everyone is against him simply because judges are incompetent. I also love roasted ribs. Nam Phan via decision.
Fraser: The trouble with Leonard Garcia is that he only has one real thing to offer opponents, and that’s his brawling style. Phan has seen it, and (arguably) beaten it. Phan will be ready this time, and he’s a smart enough fighter to come in with the right plan. Nam Phan via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Judges will be different, but Garcia’s gameplan won’t be. Asian brother will finally get some love. Nam Phan by Decision.
Staff picking Garcia:
Staff picking Phan: Tim, Fraser, Anton, Fagan, Leland, Brookhouse, Dallas
Joe Lauzon vs. Melvin Guillard
Brent Brookhouse: I can’t say it enough, Lauzon’s rep is based entirely on UFC hype off his Pulver win and almost not at all on what he has done since. Other than Jeremy Stephens, his wins have been over less than UFC caliber talent. He’s going to get thrashed by a better fighter on Saturday night. Melvin Guillard by TKO, round one.
Mike Fagan: I’m tentative to buy into the “new Melvin Guillard” hype since all it takes is one brain dead mistake to be thrown back into Dana White’s “wasted talent” dog house. He’s been dominant in his last two fights against a couple solid lightweights, though, and it’s really hard not to get excited about him. Melvin Guillard by TKO, round two.
Leland Roling: Lauzon tugs at my heart a bit, mainly because he’s dabbles in nerd culture like I do at my day job. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time seeing him deal with Guillard’s speed and increasingly better wrestling. If Lauzon can’t get this fight to the ground, Guillard zaps him. Melvin Guillard via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: I like Lauzon. He’s tough, and very talented. He’s got good boxing, great jiujitsu, and he always brings it. All of his fights are guaranteed to be entertaining, and if he can take this to the ground, he will win by sub... But I’m not sure if he can do it. I think Guillard will fend off a few takedown attempts before landing one of those bombs that would change the outcome of the fight. Melvin Guillard by TKO.
Staff picking Lauzon:
Staff picking Guillard: Tim, Fraser, Anton, Fagan, Leland, Dallas
Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago
Brent Brookhouse: Paying attention to what Santiago did against Stann is pointless in this fight. It’s not impossible that Maia submits Santiago, but Jorge’s BJJ game is solid enough that I don’t see a tap coming. Maia will have to win this over three rounds of takedowns and positional control, and I honestly like Santiago to take two rounds on the feet. Jorge Santiago by decision.
Mike Fagan: People fall in love with fighters who put on great fights, which is why Santiago had high hopes after his two classics with Kazuo Misaki. Unfortunately, Misaki wouldn’t last very long in the UFC middleweight division, and scraping by victories against a guy like that isn’t a great testament to your skill level. Demian Maia by decision.
Leland Roling: I’ve never been impressed with Jorge Santiago. He can be an explosive fighter, unpredictable at times, and he’s well-rounded. His defenses are far too porous however, and he should be more skilled on the ground in my opinion. It’s feasible that Maia has actually improved enough to beat Santiago standing. On the ground, Maia dominates. Demian Maia via decision.
Fraser: Sorry Santiago, I had high hopes for you on your UFC debut, but that Stann fight did not impress. He has a shot here, especially if Maia gets too enamored with his developing stand-up game, which will play to Santiago's strengths. Hopefully Maia goes to the mat, where he should dominate. Demian Maia via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Santiago’s biggest weakness is his chin, but that’s not something that Maia would be exploiting. If he can keep it standing, he will win this. I’m not sure if he can do that, but I’m still picking the underdog here. Jorge Santiago by the upset decision.
Staff picking Maia: Tim, Fraser, Fagan, Leland, Dallas
Staff picking Santiago: Anton, Brookhouse
Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens
Brent Brookhouse: I don’t see Stephens being able to win enough of the fight on the feet to take a decision, and I don’t think Pettis can stop Jeremy given his chin. That means if it gets stopped it’ll be Stephens doing the stopping, if it goes to decision it should be Pettis who did enough work to get the win. I like it to go all three rounds with Pettis just being able to overwhelm Stephens with his speed and takedowns if he feels like it. Anthony Pettis by decision.
Mike Fagan: Can someone tell me why I always confused Jeremy Stephens and Spencer Fisher? Anthony Pettis by decision.
Fraser: Pettis is best against another young fighter ready to throw it all into a fight and get caught up in Pettis's flashy style. Stephens is a veteran with enough experience to avoid that. I may be underrating Pettis severely here, but I'm going with the veteran. Jeremy Stephens via TKO.
Leland Roling: Stephens is a fantastic bettor’s pick here. He’s powerful on the feet, respectable enough on the ground to escape bad positions, tough, and improving in all areas. He’s also only 25 years old. People have forgotten what got Pettis where he is today. He’s an advanced striker, and Stephens won’t be able to mimic the movement of Guida. I think Pettis picks apart Stephens from distance with kicks, dropping Stephens’ defenses enough to pepper him with punches. Anthony Pettis via decision.
Anton Tabuena: What a stacked card. This undercard bout is the fight that I am really looking forward to the most on this card. Two excellent and somewhat ‘fancy’ strikers who are more than willing to slug it out until someone goes down. I’m picking Stephens here. They’re both fast strikers, but I think Stephens hits harder and has a pretty solid chin. That’s going to be the difference here. Jeremy Stephens by Decision.
Staff picking Pettis: Tim, Leland, Fagan, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Stephens: Fraser, Anton
Joey Beltran vs. Stipe Miocic
Brent Brookhouse: Very good matchmaking here. I like Beltran’s ability to just gut his way through fights. Stipe has good skills but the bright lights of the Octagon do get to guys and facing someone who isn’t going to back down is just a horrible thing for Miocic to face when trying to adjust to the UFC atmosphere. Joey Beltran by decision.
Mike Fagan: Win or lose, Joey Beltran probably takes a hell of a beating. Stipe Miocic by decision.
Leland Roling: I ranked Miocic at #5 on the 2011 World MMA Scouting Report. I was actually scolded by those around Stipe for not ranking him higher. A fighter like Joey Beltran is the very reason he was ranked at #5. Stipe’s poor strength of record, propensity to fight down to his opponents, and sloppiness at times doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for me. He could KO Beltran in the first round, but Beltran, stylistically, has all the tools to upset Miocic on Saturday. I hope Miocic wins, but the buck’s on Beltran. Joey Beltran via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Miocic has great wrestling, and good boxing, which makes it understandable that he’s the favorite here. But he hasn’t fought anyone notable yet, and going against a gritty dude such as Beltran on his UFC debut isn’t an easy thing to do. I’m going for the upset here. Joey Beltran by TKO.
Staff picking Beltran: Anton, Leland, Brookhouse
Staff picking Miocic: Tim, Fraser, Fagan, Dallas
Zhang Tie Quan vs. Darren Elkins
Brent Brookhouse: Elkins is simply the better fighter. Darren Elkins by decision.
Mike Fagan: One billion people’s mild disinterest rests on Zhang Tie Quan’s shoulders. Zhang Tie Quan by decision.
Leland Roling: This fight doesn’t have a whole lot of relevance, but it is an intriguing match-up that gives us a sense if either fighter is skirting by on luck. Garza’s recent run makes Quan’s win seem lucky, Elkins was gifted a decision against Omigawa. Time to settle whether either of these guys is legit. I’ll go with Elkins. Darren Elkins via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Elkins didn’t win his fight against Omigawa, and while Zhang isn’t really as good or as proven as Omigawa and Oliveira, I think the former URCC champ is good enough to beat Elkins. Zhang Tie Quan by Submission.
Staff picking Zhang: Fraser, Anton, Fagan
Staff picking Elkins: Tim, Leland, Brookhouse, Dallas
Aaron Simpson vs. Eric Schafer
Brent Brookhouse: I really like Eric Schafer, but this is a bad matchup for him. Aaron Simpson by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Eric Schafer tested the cut to middleweight at an XFO show in Island Lake, Illinois, which is where my dad moved after my parents split up. Also, “island lake” is a bad oxymoron. Aaron Simpson by decision.
Leland Roling: Schafer’s Jiu-Jitsu isn’t good enough to handle better wrestlers who have the strength to power out of his grips. Unless he’s bulked up his strength and extending his cardio, Simpson will blow through him on the floor. Ideally however, Simpson maintains the feet and punches Schafer out. Aaron Simpson via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Schafer will be bigger, and will have better BJJ, but I think Simpson is better on the rest of the departments. Aaron Simpson by Decision.
Staff picking Simpson: Tim, Fraser, Anton, Leland, Fagan, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Schafer:
Steve Cantwell vs. Mike Massenzio
Brent Brookhouse: Whenever I point out how I was super high on Jim Miller well before he signed with the UFC, feel free to bring me back down to earth by pointing out how high I was on Cantwell. I can’t quit on him now though. Steve Cantwell by TKO, round three.
Mike Fagan: Is there anything more exciting than two guys fighting for their jobs? Steve Cantwell by decision.
Leland Roling: Cantwell is hit-or-miss, mostly miss as he’s put on some awful performances inside the Octagon lately. Massenzio’s wrestling can be effective, but it’s never been sustainable or consistent as time passes. Cantwell’s grappling is good enough to threaten Massenzio, and Cantwell should be better on the feet. I’ll stress “should” as he’s disappointed in the past. Steve Cantwell via decision.
Fraser: Both are 1-3 in the Octagon, and are probably fighting for their jobs here. Cantwell has impressed me more in the past with his brief WEC Light Heavyweight title run, but that was too long ago. Mike Massenzio via decision.
Staff picking Cantwell: Tim, Anton, Leland, Fagan, Brookhouse, Dallas
Staff picking Massenzio: Fraser