Gilbert Melendez vs Jorge Masvidal
Brent Brookhouse - I didn't expect Masvidal to do anywhere near what he did to Noons, but that being said, Gilbert Melendez is not KJ Noons. I think on the feet we see a fairly even fight with both men having their moments. At some point Melendez is taking this to the ground though and he is worlds better there than Jorge. Gilbert Melendez by TKO, round three.
KJ Gould - Masvidal has been one of the most surprising fighters of 2011, and had largely been underrated by everyone going into his fights. He's shown he's got sharp, effective stand up and could hold his own even against much bigger opponents. I just feel Melendez is at least a level above and with news that he's remaining in Strikeforce in the foreseeable future, I think he still has that hungry fighter mentality with something to prove, outclassing Masvidal along the way. Melendez by Decision.
Leland Roling - Masvidal has made the case as a legitimate contender to Melendez's crown with his recent run in Strikeforce, but the talent gap between these top-tier fighters is too vast for me to think Masvidal can win. Masvidal's gameplan will be striking-centric, and Melendez, in my opinion, is a highly-effective distance striker. As Masvidal gets deeper into this fight and lit up by Melendez, he really has no recourse. Melendez has better wrestling, great takedown defense, and excellent cardio. Melendez works over Masvidal standing, then puts his foot on the gas late. Gilbert Melendez via TKO, Round 3
Anton Tabuena - Masvidal seems like the kind of guy you always want to root for. The very game (bread?) fighter always has a chance, but he's up against one of the top lightweights in the world, and he's going to have a tough time handling him. I think this will last a few rounds, with Melendez eventually stopping the fight on the later part of the fight. Gilbert Melendez by late TKO.
Matthew Roth - I like Masvidal a lot but this just is a bad match up for him. Gilbert Melendez is just better at everything Jorge is good at. Power? Gil. Wrestling? Gil. BJJ? Gil. Maybe if this was a game of Call of Duty I'd favor Masvidal but not in this fight. Gilbert Melendez by 3rd round TKO.
David Castillo - For as talented as Masvidal is, he always finds a way to sabotage himself, and his performance, regardless of who he's fighting. I expect him to be sharp(ish), and when he's on top of his game, he has the talent to be an elite fighter. I expect Gilbert to have a tough first round, and possibly two. But that's it. Melendez is still kind of wild on the feet, and it's entirely possible he gets caught. But I can't pick against him. Not when you consider the absolutely destruction of a still really good LW (now FW) in Kawajiri. Gilbert Melendez by decision.
Fraser Coffeen - Masvidal surprised me quite a bit in the Noons fight as he outboxed the boxer with sharp striking. He seems out of his league here, but expect he'll make it a close contest, and may get Melendez in trouble standing. Difference maker will be Gilbert's significant ground advantage, where he can drag Jorge down, rough him up, and in the end, hurt him enough to finish. Gilbert Melendez, round 3, TKO
Ben Thapa - Masvidal is going to shock the world - just like he did against K.J. Noons - and snatch rounds from the heavily favored Melendez with that underrated boxing. I have a feeling Gil will come back in the later rounds, but since everyone here is picking Melendez, I'll go out on a limb and say that Masvidal takes the first three rounds and the decision victory. Jorge Masvidal, decision.
Tim Burke - Masvidal is not going to shock the world here. Jorge has severe motivation issues, and luckily this type of bout is exactly what he needs to get off his duff and train. Unfortunately, he's in there against a guy that mirrors his style. And Gil's better at it. Gil's boxing is pretty underrated, and it's very unlikely he's going to get taken down. In a boxing battle I've got Melendez 95 times out of 100, even if he gets wild and wants to trade like the Thomson fights. I'm surprised that people think Gil will finish Masvidal though, especially by TKO. I've got this going five almost for sure. Gilbert Melendez by decision
Dallas Winston - My thoughts ever since this fight was announced were Masvidal. He's hugely under-rated coming in and most of the discussion pertains to Gil belonging in the UFC rather than the huge threat in front of him. Not to discredit Gil in any way, but I feel like his wins over Aoki and Kawajiri are carrying a little too much weight and that Masvidal's momentum-killing losses to Damm and Imada mar his reputation. Masvidal will have a little height and reach on Gil, his footwork and kickboxing have been insane, his wrestling is drastically improving and he's truly "Gamebred". Jorge Masvidal by decision.
Staff Picking Melendez: Anton, David, Fraser, Leland, Tim, Brookhouse, Gould, Roth
Staff Picking Masvidal: Ben, Dallas
Cristiane Santos vs Hiroko Yamanaka
Brent Brookhouse - Yesterday Dana White said that they have "the 135 pound division and Cyborg." The embarrassing lack of depth at 145 shows through again as Cyborg has sat on the sidelines for over a year and has only fought twice since winning the title and the best they could do was someone no one outside of the hardcores has ever heard of who has no chance to win. Cyborg Santos by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling - Despite the recent renewal of the Strikeforce's deal with Showtime, I'm still down on women's MMA, mainly because it has a tendency to produce fights like this far more often than its counterpart. That's understandable due to the lack of talent, but this is just a one-sided drubbing that holds no interest for me. Cyborg demolishes Yamanaka by brute force. Cristiane ‘Cyborg' Santos via TKO, Round 1
KJ Gould - This is a throw back to the days of Wanderlei Silva beating on some over-matched, undersized Japanese opponents. It's hard to imagine anything less than a brutal Muay Thai beating ending with a Level 3 Tiger Destruction Ultramove. Cyborg Santos by TKO. Round 1
Anton Tabuena - She's improved on her ground game during her time away from MMA, but being out this long will still probably make her a bit rusty. That being said, a rusty Cyborg, is still probably better than everyone in her division. Cyborg by one sided beating.
Matthew Roth - Unknown Japanese lady makes her debut in Strikeforce against Cris Cyborg who may actually be a machine built by Skynet. This isn't ending well for the unknown Japanese lady. Cyborg by TKO.
David Castillo - Yamamaka seems like a kind soul. That's what makes her sacrifice that much more painful to watch. If Hiroko knew how to use her incredible height, I'd give her a chance just to get out of the first round. She doesn't, so she won't. Cyborg by TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen - I hate picking fighters who have been out for so long. But Cyborg is just in a different place than other women's fighters. Yamanaka has decent stand-up skills, but won't have an answer for Cyborg's aggression, which has led her to many victories. I see Cyborg blitzing her hard here and ending it. Cris Cyborg by TKO, round 1.
Ben Thapa - It is a blessing and a curse that Cristiane Cyborg is so far beyond her peers as a mixed martial artist. Hopefully she can make 135 and keep the momentum going in that division as the year turns. In the meantime, I bet she'll revert to her usual pattern of playing with her food a bit before finally ending the fight in the second round with her brand of ultra-violence. Yamanaka will probably give a valiant performance, but get overwhelmed by the non-stop forward motion of Cyborg and eventually be battered into defeat. I'd love to see a hard-fought decision here though, if Yamanaka can do it. Cristiane Cyborg, KO, Round 2.
Tim Burke - Yamanaka seems like a kind soul? She's a dominatrix! She's also completely outclassed here. Cyborg is -900 with good reason - what is Yamanaka going to do to her? Catch her standing? Nyet. Take her down? Nada. Submit her? Pishaw! She's going to have her soul removed from her body and it's going to get TKO'd too. Cris "Cyborg" Santos by TKO.
Dallas Winston - Yamanaka is the tallest fighter Santos has ever faced. She rolled out a nice sprawl and brawl against Shannon Hooper, using her length well by keeping her on the end of some pretty tight punches, and has a solid sub game as well. The problem is that she's a volume puncher with little power and Cyborg should rag-doll her wrestling-wise and avoid subs with massive ground-and-pound. Cristiane Santos by TKO.
Staff Picking Santos: Anton, David, Fraser, Leland, Ben, Tim, Brookhouse, Gould, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Yamanaka:
Gegard Mousasi vs Ovince St. Preux
Brent Brookhouse - I think OSP is a really bad match-up for Mousasi. I'm a fan of Gegard, but I think that the athleticism of OSP is going to be a factor here. I think at one point Mousasi almost gets the finish but OSP is able to win two rounds through top control for the upset win. Ovince St. Preux by decision.
Leland Roling - Interesting fight considering the doubt in Mousasi's wrestling defense and inability to stop Muhammed Lawal from repeatedly putting him on his back. OSP's athleticism coupled with his enormous frame could cause big problems for Mousasi, but I think Mousasi batters OSP's foundation to soften him up and slow him down. Mousasi takes advantage of OSP's defensive lapses, wins by TKO. Gegard Mousasi via TKO.
Anton Tabuena - Mousasi SHOULD take this, cause in my opinion, he's just the better overall fighter... But if he looks like he did on the Jardine fight, OSP can give him a huge run for his money. Still picking Gegard though. Gegard Mousasi by Decision.
KJ Gould - Interesting match up of experience versus athleticism. Mousasi's one of those guys I've had a hard time being impressed with when he was doing well in Japan, and didn't make me a believer until he dismantled Babalu. Of course the loss to King Mo, Draw with Jardine and getting some wins in Dream leaves me feeling the same as before, where as OSP has been on a role for nearly 2 years. Yes Mousasi has faced the better competition over all, I just sense OSP has the style and physicality to neuter a lot of Mousasi's offense to get the judges nod. OSP by Decision.
David Castillo - I'm not sold on St. Preux. His boxing has just enough holes for Mousasi to capitalize on. Yes, Mousasi looked like crap against Jardine, and he's not doing himself any favors by feasting on cans in DREAM, but Mousasi will only ever look bad at this point if he's fighting someone that can take him down. Will Ovince turn this into a ground war? I don't even think so, but even he does, Mousasi is still capable from his back. Still, I fully expect Mousasi to land some on OSP's chin. And I predict OSP won't handle it well. Mousasi by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen - Mousasi has become unfairly overlooked and underrated. He's much better than many give him credit for, particularly standing. St. Preux has promise, and this is a good step up for him, but he hasn't been able to finish any mid to upper tier opponents, and if he tries to get into a 3 round kickboxing battle with Mousasi, he won't be able to keep up. Mousasi by KO, round 1
Ben Thapa - Can we stop with the "Down with OSP" jokes? Can I give Mauro Ranallo a preemptive stern look of disapproval before he busts that out this Saturday? I suspect St. Preux will bully Mousasi early on and surprise Gegard with his athleticism. However, Gegard has shown an adaptability (outside of the King Mo fight) that leads me to believe that he'll get back to his feet or get off the cage and start lighting Ovince up on the feet. That's the moment when we'll see if Ovince has the grit and the skills to impose his gameplan on a high level opponent who is dealing out massive damage in bursts. Great match-up here, but I suspect that Ovince is still too fresh in his career progression to truly dominate Gegard. Mousasi, KO, Round 1.
Tim Burke - OSP is not King Mo. Let's get that out of the way right now. No one has ever bullied Mousasi except for Mo, and OSP is not about to become the second guy to do it. I'm still ridiculously high on Moosassy as a contender, and I think he's going to steamroll St. Preux here. Drop him, submit him while he's hurt. Gegard Mousasi by submission.
Dallas Winston - This match up reminds me a lot of Mousasi vs. Lombard. OSP is freakishly athletic and has the tools to pull off the upset, but even Abongo Humphrey was able to flurry on him standing, reverse position when he was taken down and threaten with subs. If OSP totally changes his tune and fights safely with a focus on control, he could steal a decision. I don't think his raw talent can compensate for Mousasi's proven and prestigious technique in all areas. Gegard Mousasi by TKO.
Staff Picking Mousasi: Anton, David, Fraser, Leland, Ben, Tim, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking St. Preux: Brookhouse, Gould
KJ Noons vs Billy Evangelista
Brent Brookhouse - Noons looked really bad against Masvidal but I'm still thinking that was more fluke than anything. People continue to forget that Noons has had the most success of anyone against Nick Diaz at welterweight. He's much better than Evangelista and should bust him up before stopping him late. KJ Noons by TKO, round three.
Leland Roling - Jorge Masvidal confirmed my suspicions about Evangelista, and Noons, who's a better boxer by far, will likely prove my suspicions once again. Evangelista just doesn't have the technical skills standing to beat better strikers. Noons blasts him. KJ Noons via TKO.
Anton Tabuena - He's the better fighter, and if past fights are an indicator, he also has... better hair. KJ Noons by Decision.
David Castillo - Evangelista has improved over the years, and did better than expected against Masvidal (though you could always chalk it up to Masvidal's occasional indifference), but he'll be forced to stay on the feet against Noons. Which is not where he has the advantage. I don't expect him to get obliterated like Gurgel, but he will be comfortably outboxed. Noons by decision.
KJ Gould - This feels like it could be a little one sided in Noons favour, who also benefits from having a beat of a mean streak and being able to stretch the rule to the limit in terms of getting a last couple of shots in at the bell. I think Noons will be too crafty for Evangelista and rip him to shreds. Noons by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen - Noons let me down in the Masvidal fight, but he's still a very technically sound striker with enough skills to keep the fight standing and outbox Evangelista here. I can't see him finishing, but he should comfortably outpoint Billy here. KJ Noons by Decision
Ben Thapa - Over/under on how many hair touches Noons does? 10? Evangelista has displayed more well-rounded gameplans than Noons ever has, but Noons is rather good at turning fights into straight boxing matches. Nick Diaz and Jorge Masvidal beat him at his own game, but Evangelista has not displayed similar caliber stand-up skills. I'd love to see some improvement out of Billy, but five years and thirteen fights means that this is pretty much what we get. Hard to go against the guy who is better at implementing his gameplan and battering opponents for three rounds. K.J. Noons, decision.
Tim Burke - KJ's the best bet on the card at -190, IMO. Leland nailed it - Billy E. can't hang on the feet with Noons, even if Noons gets all wild like he did in the Heun fight. That's really all it comes down to. Can KJ finish? Doubt it. K.J. Noons by decision.
Dallas Winston - These two are actually somewhat similar except Noons has the more polished technique. Getting unhinged by elite strikers in Diaz and Masvidal ain't no thang. K.J. Noons by decision.
Staff Picking Noons: Anton, David, Fraser, Leland, Ben, Tim, Brookhouse, Gould, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Evangelista:
Jerron Peoples vs Roger Bowling
Brent Brookhouse - I think Bowling/Voelker is just one of those weird stylistic situations where I think Bowling is actually the better fighter but Voelker had the exact right style to offset what he does. Peoples is alright but he's being set up to be the rebound fight here. Roger Bowling by decision.
Leland Roling - Despite what people may think of Bowling from the outcome of the Voelker trilogy, Bowling was a highly-touted prospect for a reason. He's durable, strong, and runs at a high pace. He'll overwhelm Peoples with ease. Roger Bowling via submission
David Castillo - It was a serviceable trilogy while it lasted, and Bowling wasn't the better fighter of the two between himself and Bobby Voelkner, but Bowling is a good fighter. And he's a better one than Peoples, who will try to keep it standing and throw wildly in the process. Jerron's takedown defense is nothing especially stellar, so I expect a one-note performance from Bowling. Bowling by decision.
Ben Thapa - Bowling has to get his groove back. He lost to Voelker due to a couple of technique slips and an attitude of "This guy can't hurt me". This fight is probably a good spot for him to do that and work Peoples over. Roger Bowling KO, Round 2.
Tim Burke - I still see a lot of promise in Bowling. Voelker just had his number for whatever reason. Bowling makes Pellegrino-like stupid mistakes in fights which could cost him against a guy like Jerrod, but I don't see it. Safe gameplan, late TKO. Roger Bowling by TKO.
Dallas Winston - I was shocked Voelker beat Bowling twice. Bowling has quick and fluid stand up and he's an excellent athlete. Unless Voelker stole his budo ... Roger Bowling by TKO.
Staff Picking Peoples: Fraser
Staff Picking Bowling: Anton, David, Leland, Ben, Tim, Brookhouse, Roth, Dallas
Caros Fodor vs Justin Wilcox
Brent Brookhouse - The fact that this fight isn't main eventing a Challengers show should be all you need as proof that the series is done. Fodor is a pain to deal with, but Wilcox should be able to out muscle him for most of the fight before putting Fodor on his back and pounding him out. Justin Wilcox via TKO, round two.
Leland Roling - Wilcox's wrestling combined with his excellent conditioning will overwhelm Fodor in this fight. Justin Wilcox via TKO.
David Castillo - Wilcox all day. I was highly impressed by Justin in his fight with JZ. Cavalcante has always been known for being extremely well rounded, and having rugged standup, and there were moments in that fight when Wilcox was simply outclassing JZ. The man has come a long way since being part of Ishida's lone submission highlight reel. With continued improvement, he's a worthy contender to Gilbert's title. Who is Fodor again? A moderately talented guy who will get taken down at will by someone at the top of their game right now (hate to gush, but I really was impressed in his fight against JZ). Wilcox by TKO, round 2.
Ben Thapa - Fodor gonna surprise y'all and beat this MuscleSherk2 guy. On a more serious note, Fodor is still a rising prospect with improving skills and Wilcox is basically a "what you see is what you get" deal. Don't get me wrong, Wilcox is going to be bringing the wrestleboxer mentality in full force, but I think Fodor will be slippery enough and smart enough on the feet to deal out the damage to Wilcox that JZ tried to. Caros Fodor, KO, Round 2.
Tim Burke - Justin Wilcox is a beast. He did an excellent job of landing shots against JZ and avoiding the counter, and he straight beat the crap out of Rodrigo Damm. Fodor's definitely a quality prospect as well and it kind of sucks that these two have been built on Challengers shows and now sit on the untelevised undercard, but it is what it is. I'll go with Wilcox in an all-out war, simply because he'll control where the fight takes place. Justin Wilcox by decision.
KJ Gould - I support Fodor because of the Matt Hume connection, but otherwise this is a pretty tough fight for the AMC Pankration product. Wilcox has the wrestling and power to present Fodor with a lot of problems, and Fodor certainly has some very evident holes in his game. Being able to gut your way through to get a win will only take you so far, and it might be enough for Fodor against Wilcox this time. Fodor by Decision.
Dallas Winston - Just because I'm taking Wilcox doesn't mean Fodor isn't a salivating new prospect. Not only is Wilcox accelerating rapidly like Fodor, but his striking is looking sharp and powerful and his takedowns should be the ideal tool to halt Fodor's relentless, straight-forward aggression. Justin Wilcox by TKO.
Staff Picking Fodor: Ben, Gould
Staff Picking Wilcox: Anton, David, Fraser, Leland, Tim, Brookhouse, Roth, Dallas
Devin Cole vs Gabriel Salinas-Jones
David Castillo - I'm hoping this fight falls into the "so bad it's good" territory that so many non-Zuffa HW fights fall into so comfortably. The fight certainly has the right ingredients: Salinas-Jones' wrestling has that flavor of Jonathan Weizorek where he looks like he's pushing a wheelbarrow and responding to a night of heavy drinking at the same time when attempting a double leg. Gabriel is no Cormier, but I can see him getting takedowns here and there despite Cole's pedigree. Still, Cole is a bit more rugged, and more durable. And more experienced, for whatever that's worth. Cole by decision.
Fraser Coffeen - Cole could easily wrestle his way to a decision here, but if he does, it won't be pretty. Salinas-Jones has more options here - better stand-up, better submissions. He's also shown his ability to hang in there and get a victory late in a fight, which is not something you see in every Heavyweight. I think he'll be able to catch a tired Cole eventually. Gabriel Salinas-Jones by submission, round 3
Ben Thapa - Fraser said it. Looks like I can finish this post early. If only it were summer, so I could go fish or something... Gabriel Salinas-Jones, sub, Round 2.
Tim Burke - I believe Cole was charged with rape a few years ago and pled down to assault or something. Did a few months in jail. I hope Salinas-Jones knocks him out. Gabriel Salinas-Jones by KO.
Staff Picking Cole: Anton, David
Staff Picking Salinas-Jones: Fraser, Leland, Ben, Tim, Brookhouse, Roth