Leland Roling: To be perfectly honest, for most of the lead-up to this fight, I just assumed Overeem would find a way to cave in Lesnar’s skull with a beautiful knee to his dome as he shot in for a takedown, ending the fight moments after the opening bell. I’m not as confident in that prediction, mainly because it’s very specific. So, I’ll hedge all my bets on Overeem simply TKO’ing Lesnar as some point in the first round. Am I confident in that pick? No. Could it go the other way? Yes. Alistair Overeem via KO, Round 1.
Matt Roth: Here’s my thing about this fight. I like that Overeem is fighting in the UFC and I love that Lesnar is back. But I think both have been extremely overrated by fans and media. The most impressive thing about Overeem’s run in 2010 was his K-1 GP win. Lesnar’s return is interesting but does he have the passion and drive to really compete in MMA as a full time fighter or is this weekend the last we’ll see him? I’m picking Overeem as I think this match is set up so that Alistair can take some of Brock’s shine and become a draw for the UFC. Alistair Overeem via TKO, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I will freely admit that the K-1 fan in me is probably coloring my opinion of this fight somewhat, but I think Reem’s striking is the winning factor here. As I see it, to win, Brock either needs to pound Overeem out, or take him down and control him for 25 minutes. I am not sure he has the cardio for option #2, and i think Reem is savvy enough to avoid serious ground damage for #1. As the fight continues, I see Brock tiring, and Reem being able to put together the striking to finish him. Or he just mows him down in 2 minutes, which is also possible. Alistair Overeem by KO, round 2
Tim Burke: I believe that Lesnar will be able to get Overeem to the floor. Maybe more than once. But I don’t think he’ll just be able to lay on him in half guard and tear Overeem apart there. I’ll call the hail mary. Guillotine! Alistair Overeem by submission, round 2.
T.P. Grant: This is a tough fight to pick. Overeem’s defensive wrestling is not good and Lesnar will be able to take him down. I’m also not in love with Overeem’s striking defense which seems much more geared towards kickboxing, using the larger gloves to absorb shots. He is a better all-around grappler than Lesnar and may be the first MMA fighter than can match Lesnar in strength. Both fighters are bullies and have crumbled in the past when faced with an opponent who pushes back. I think Lesnar is more than able to take Overeem down and pound him out but Overeem has more paths to victory. Alistair Overeem by Submission, round 1.
David Castillo: Looks like I’m the first to pick Brock. And if this were years ago, after the Carwin fight, I’d pick Brock everytime and wouldn’t think twice. Traces of the Overeem we saw get chewed up and spit out by LHW’s seemed to show up in the Werdum fight. While I think he’s a legit threat, to anyone, I think Lesnar gets him to the ground. As we saw against Mir, Brock’s top control is formidable. And past opponents had success against Brock on the feet only after defending his takedown (which he still scored on accomplished wrestlers in Velasquez and Carwin): Alistair is obviously not in this category. Overeem wilts, as he’s done in the past, and Brock gets one more shot, loses, then retires. Brock Lesnar by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: Real talk -- no idea on this one. I was thinking Lesnar when this was first announced but his layoff, faulty plumbing and the talk of retirement make me leery. Overeem has a very distinct striking style that is far from that of a typical K-1 standout, and I’m not sure if his tight-range proclivity will be better or worse for Brock. I don’t think AO can "just guillotine him" and that he’ll have just as much of a tendency to fold if Brock takes him down and mashes his head against the cage as Brock will if he tastes some big punches. Not a confident pick, but … Alistair Overeem by TKO.
KJ Gould: I dunno, both guys have big flaws in their games. I still can’t shake how Lesnar flinches and retreats from being hit in his last two fights, plus the big gaps between the fights hasn’t helped either. That said Overeem hasn’t had to face a decent wrestler in YEARS, and Lesnar has taken everyone down he’s faced. The big question is, can Overeem get back up or will Lesnar use a heavy riding game to keep him down and pound on him? It’s hard to know if Lesnar’s heart is still in it or if he’s just collecting a pay check, despite what he and his camp continually say. I just think Lesnar is going to disappoint. Overeem by TKO.
Staff Picking Lesnar: David, Brent
Staff Picking Overeem: Fraser, Tim, Grant, Leland, Dallas, Gould
Nate Diaz vs Donald Cerrone
Brent Brookhouse: Diaz has made strides but he still is pretty flawed in a lot of areas. If Cerrone isn’t winning the stand-up I can see him getting the takedown and being savvy enough to avoid the submissions and busting Nate up from top position. Donald Cerrone by decision.
Leland Roling: I think this is a far tougher fight to pick after Diaz’s win over Takanori Gomi. All of the sloppiness that we saw in Diaz’s stand-up game in previous fights had been erased from his form, and he landed crisp, beautiful straight blows to Gomi’s face over and over again in that fight. If he can reproduce that kind of performance on Friday, Cerrone won’t have an answer. Nate Diaz via decision.
Matt Roth: This is the fight I’m actually looking forward to the most. Both of these guys are super exciting and I can’t help but feel this is a title eliminator. Crazy thought: We could see Cerrone vs Henderson 3 for the UFC Lightweight belt in 2012. I’m hoping that Donald wins just cause he has a great story and I think it’d legitimize his career. Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I like this fight quite a bit, particularly in the stand-up department. And I think that is where this one will take place, as both men are comfortable enough on the ground, but prefer to duke it out. So you’ve got the Diaz style boxing from Nate vs. the more Muay Thai centric game from Cowboy. In the end, Cerrone just has more options in his striking arsenal, and better technique in utilizing those options. His ability to mix it up with kicks will keep him ahead, though I’m not sure it will be enough to finish the tough Diaz. Donald Cerrone by decision
Tim Burke: Cerroe is the better kickboxer, but he can be sloppy at times and Nate’s length might annoy him. Diaz is better than Cerrone on the ground as well. I know Cowboy has been on a huge roll of late, but I don’t see any way he’s a 3-1 favorite here. I really think Diaz can take a close decision in the bout. Nate Diaz by decision.
T.P. Grant: This is going to be a scrap. Both guys love to fight and love to punish their opposites. Cerrone is a superior striker but Diaz is game with his hands. I feel that Cerrone’s kicks will be the difference on the feet and that his defensive wrestling will be enough to avoid Diaz’s jiu jitsu. Donald Cerrone by decision
David Castillo: Decisions, decisions? As awesome as Cerrone is, I think Nate is more than capable of catching him with a submission. Maybe I’m just hung up on Donald’s loss to Henderson in the rematch, but I think Cerrone will shoot just once, and Nate will catch him. I hope I’m wrong because if it goes the distance, it’ll be awesome. But I think Nate is a smart fighter, and he’ll turn this into a grappling match where he’s submitted black belts before. Cerrone can get flustered. Nate Diaz by Guillotine, round 2.
Dallas Winston: Fireworks, the fans win, etc. My key points for Cerrone: lead-leg low kicks to set the tone and control range, takedowns to steal the control points that Nate gives up too easily, fight smart to avoid a brawl and phase-shifting back and forth to dictate the pace. For Diaz: own the striking perimeter, corner and maul with volume punches, don’t give up takedowns or fight from guard unless forced, don’t give away the first two rounds and try to regain ground in the third. Really, I think Cerrone has the more stable chance of winning but Nate is hungrier and more talented at this point. Nate Diaz by submission.
KJ Gould: If I can look past both fighters’ character flaws, Cerrone has a more well rounded striking game versus Diaz’s predominantly Boxing game. Diaz has the edge on the ground, certainly when fighting from his back but Cerrone is no slouch and can defend well. Both look to capitalise with fight ending submissions setup with strikes that put their opponents in danger. Conditioning slightly favours Diaz though I’ve not seen Cerrone’s stamina or endurance late in a fight to fairly comment. For me it’s a pick ‘em, but I can see Diaz spending too much time on his back and the judges not caring for any offense. Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Staff Picking Diaz: Tim, David, Leland, Dallas
Staff Picking Cerrone: Fraser, Grant, Gould, Brookhouse
Jon Fitch vs Johny Hendricks
Brent Brookhouse: Fitch is simply too good at the things that trouble Hendricks (mainly, being better at being Hendricks). It’ll be Fitch’s tenth straight trip to the scorecards, but he should come out on top. Jon Fitch by decision.
Leland Roling: Johny Hendricks may be a NCAA champion, but he still let Rick Story beat him with blue-collar grit. Jon Fitch is the epitome of a blue-collar, grinding style of fighting, and Hendricks is going to have a hard time dealing with his relentless drive for three rounds. Jon Fitch via decision.
Matt Roth: Hendricks’ wrestling is solid but he’s not Jon Fitch. He used to be a NCAA champion but he took a leg kick to the knee. Jon Fitch by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Fitch by Fitching. I mean, honestly, what else is there to say? Georges St. Pierre is the only ranked WW in the world that could face Fitch and cause me to alter my prediction in any way. Jon Fitch by decision
Tim Burke: I’m not usually this bold, but I’ll just say it. If you think Johny Hendricks is going to beat Jon Fitch...you’re crazy. The Fitch hate is ridiculous, and holds very little basis in reality. Aww, he doesn’t finish enough fights for you? Tough. You don’t have to like his style to respect his skills, and he has them in abundance. Hendricks is going to be visibly frustrated for 15 minutes, Jon is going to get his hand raised, and let’s get this man a shot against the winner of Diaz vs. Condit. Please. Jon Fitch by decision.
T.P. Grant: I will pick against Jon Fitch, the next time he fights GSP. Fitch will out grapple and out strike Hendricks, but I think this could be an interesting fight because Hendricks’ wrestling is good enough to force scrambles and put Fitch on his back. In the end Fitch will earn the win, but I think Hendricks will push him at times. Jon Fitch by decision.
David Castillo: I feel like I’m just playing devil’s advocate, but I do believe Hendricks has a real shot here. Fitch is still rudimentary on the feet, whereas Hendricks’ advantage there is that he’s a bit faster. Plus I would infuse some bad, terrible but still useful mmath and argue that Hendricks was more impressive in beating Mike Pierce than Fitch. I think Fitch is an awesome fighter, so I’m no hater but I do think the WW division is catching up to him, and even GSP. This fight becomes a boxing clinch fest and I like Johny to eek out a potentially controversial decision. Johny Hendricks by decision.
Dallas Winston: Dear Tim Burke, I don’t think Fitch is boring, I could care less how frequently he finishes and I actually like the guy. I’ve been really impressed with Hendricks’ hands and I agree with Mr. Castillo in that he’s smart and and quick enough to compensate for Fitch’s superior Camarillo-style grappling. Fitch will probably win and deserves to be the favorite but I’ll take a chance on Hendricks. Johny Hendricks by decision.
KJ Gould: I think Fitch knows his chances of fighting for a title again are dwindling as time goes on and he’ll be determined to push the pace early and relentlessly breakdown Hendricks. Hendricks’ biggest asset is the power in his hands but Fitch’s ability to endure might be the best in the division. Even with the layoff, Fitch’s style doesn’t require as much athleticism or reflexes as the more dynamic fighters out there so I’d think ring rust would be less of a factor. Jon Fitch by Decision.
Staff Picking Fitch: Fraser, Tim, Grant, Leland, Gould, Brookhouse
Staff Picking Hendricks: David, Dallas
Vladimir Matyushenko vs Alexander Gustafsson
Brent Brookhouse: Matyushenko is in the fight for one reason, to be a stepping stone. He’s tough and talented and all that but Gustafsson is becoming a force and by the end of 2012 will be firmly established as a top level contender. Alexander Gustafsson by decision.
Leland Roling: Gustafsson is coming into his own as a legitimate light heavyweight talent, and he can thank Phil Davis for helping him round out his game. The skills he’s picked up from the NCAA champion should come in handy against a wrestling talent like Matyushenko. Gustafsson will use his lengthy reach to pop Matyushenko from range, instigate takedowns, and beating down Matyushenko in the ensuing clinch war after he stuffs the attempts. Alexander Gustafsson via TKO, Round 2.
Matt Roth: The Janitor is old and busted. Gustafsson is the new hotness. I’ve been high on the Mauler just cause I think he has the build and ability present a challenge to Jon Jones in the future. He’s gonna run through Vlad tomorrow night. Alex Gustafsson by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: The Janitor is in a nice elder statesman/gatekeeper role these days, and he’s doing an admirable job at it with only Jon Jones moving past him in his current UFC run. But I think he lets his second young lion through here. Gustafsson is too fast and too explosive with too many tools for the crafty veteran. This could be the coming out party for the young Swede, and I think he’ll capitalize. Alexander Gustafsson by TKO, round 2
Tim Burke: I’ve been a big Mauler fan since before he signed with the UFC, and I love the fact that he’s developing into one of the top prospects at LHW. Vladdy’s still a very tough fight, but Gustafsson has underrated wrestling and better striking than The Janitor. I think it goes to decision because Vladdy’s tough to finish, but it’ll be another impressive performance from Gustafsson. Alexander Gustafsson by decision.
T.P. Grant: Matyushenko is a great test of young fighter’s and while his recent two fight run of stoppage wins might tempt some to pick him it would be fool’s gold. Gustafsson is not going get caught with a punch on the feet. I don’t think Gustafsson will be able to finish a veteran like Vladdy but he will out work the Janitor. Alexander Gustafsson by decision.
David Castillo: It’s easy to forget Matyushenko was actually really impressive in his last outing, but Gustafsson is no Brilz. He’s a legit blue chip prospect who will be able to defend the takedown, and score in the feet. I don’t expect it to be easy at first, but I do expect it to be comfortable. Alexander Gustafsson by TKO, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Really high on Gustafsson. He has the tall and lanky physique to drive foes crazy with his boxing and I’m guessing that his focus on wrestling will pay dividends. I am concerned that no one’s picking a reliable Sherman Tank like Vladdy though, especially considering Gustafsson’s weakness. Alexander Gustafsson by TKO.
KJ Gould: It’s Gustafsson’s time to shine, and Matyushenko is a good scalp to collect when slowly building your standing in the division. I think the younger, more dynamic prospect beats the aging veteran gatekeeper, but probably not as dynamically as say Jon Jones did. Gustafsson by TKO
Staff Picking Matyushenko:
Staff Picking Gustafsson: Fraser, Tim, Grant, David, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent
Nam Phan vs Jimy Hettes
Brent Brookhouse: Phan is a decent mid-level fighter but the hope is that Hettes is something more than that. Phan has never been submitted and is a reasonably big 145’er. That makes me think he can keep the fight standing and if it does go to the ground keep from getting subbed. Hettes has more upside but I like Phan here. Nam Phan by decision.
Leland Roling: I’ve been following Hettes for awhile now, and I’m still curious to see if he can continue to use his one-dimensional submission style to beat well-rounded opponents. Paul Sass seems to have found a way to do it, why not Hettes, right? I think this is a solid litmus test as Phan isn’t an easy guy to submit, and he packs a wallop in his punches to the ribs. Experience also plays a role as Phan isn’t a regional can he can walk all over. With that said, if this hits the ground, Phan is in trouble. Nam Phan via decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Phan is the smart pick. He’s far more experienced, and showed an improved stand-up game against Leonard Garcia in his last fight. But I just don’t think he quite has the ability to put it all together in a meaningful way. Hettes is mostly untested, and he could easily get outpointed over 3 rounds, but I think he pulls it off. Jimy Hettes by submission, round 2
Tim Burke: Simply put, Hettes is really good. He would have been in the UFC long ago if it wasn’t for weird contract issues, and he is a top featherweight prospect in my eyes. I’ve never been impressed with Phan, and I have a feeling I’ll be even less impressed after Friday bight. Jimy Hettes by submission.
T.P. Grant: Jimy Hettes is a fantastic prospect and he is going to be a player in the Featherweight division. That said, Nam Phan is a stiff test for a young fighter, he is well rounded and very experienced. I have to go with Phan here, I feel like his striking is so much better and his grappling is good enough to fend off Hettes’ submissions. Nam Phan by TKO, round 3.
David Castillo: Hettes looked good against Caceres, but that was, well, Cacares. Admittedly Bruce Leroy has looked good since then, but he didn’t look stellar against Hettes in a mostly sloppy affair that was like the Wiezorek/Shipp of grappling (though to be fair, Hettes is actually talented, and so is Caceres to a lesser degree). Still, Phan is too crafty and experienced to get sucked into a grappling war and Hettes will be outmatched on the feet. Nam Phan by KO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: I agree that, even though Phan is a high level BJJ black belt, that he doesn’t want to screw with Hettes on the ground. Hettes is also a fairly accomplished Judoka which he doesn’t get enough credit for and might make the difference here. Overall, Phan is far more diverse and has tackled elite competition, and the guy’s stand up is utterly vicious. He’ll roast ze ribs. Nam Phan by TKO.
KJ Gould: Maybe I’m sleeping on Hettes’ chances to win this fight, but I’m going to stick with what I’m more familiar with and that’s the experience and all around skill of Nam Phan this time round. Nam Phan by TKO.
Staff Picking Phan: Grant, David, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent, Roth
Staff Picking Hettes: Fraser, Tim
Ross Pearson vs Junior Assuncao
Brent Brookhouse: Pearson is a fun guy to watch and this will be a reminder why. He’s going to pop him from range and with combinations when the distance closes. It won’t be a single shot stoppage, but the accumulation should add up quickly. Ross Pearson by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Pearson will win in typical Pearson fashion... peppering Junior from range with combinations and evading any counters that Junior has to offer. Ross Pearson via decision.
Tim Burke: Assuncao is going to want this fight on the floor, and it’s going to be tough to get it there against Pearson. Assuncao will also be facing a guy roughly his size this time around, as opposed to Eddie Yagin. Pearson shouldn’t have much of a problem picking him apart standing. Finishing him is another story. Ross Pearson by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Pearson is a guy who consistently does better than I think he will. He beat Dennis Siver, and I thought he beat Barboza in Rio. I think the big question mark here is his drop to Featherweight. It should give him a power advantage, but sometimes that first cut can be rough. But I think he gets through that and uses his superior striking to take it here. Ross Pearson by decision
T.P. Grant: Pearson is a tough and savvy boxer. When he isn’t faced with a huge reach difference Pearson really goes to work on the feet and in the clinch. His wrestling, British stereotypes aside, is quite good and his scrambles are excellent. Pearson goes to work with his hands early and often. Pearson by TKO, round 1.
David Castillo: I hate to say it, but it kind of depends: which Pearson shows up? The one that got his block knocked off by Cole Miller of all people, or the cagey, boxing savvy dude that nearly beat Edson Barboza? Luckily, Assuncao is not good enough to really capitalize on a Pearson on autopilot. Pearson scores the easy victory. Ross Pearson by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: Mildly befuddled by Pearson’s decision to drop. His advantage has been quick and agile boxing, yet the speedy featherweights will reduce that key edge and I’m not sure what he’ll gain from being bigger and stronger. I think Assuncao’s composure and Capoeira tomfoolery could pose problems on the feet, especially his roundhouse kicks to combat Pearson’s busy head movement. I’m taking Pearson but keeping an eye on Assuncao here. Ross Pearson by decision.
KJ Gould: Yeah, Assuncao needs to get his teeth knocked in after clowning his shorter opponent in his last fight. It helps Ross Pearson has the skills to do it too, making my pick a bit more rational. Pearson by TKO.
Staff Picking Pearson: Tim, Fraser, David, Grant, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent, Roth
Staff Picking Assuncao:
Anthony Njokuani vs Danny Castillo
Brent Brookhouse: Njokuani is a blast to watch fight but Castillo has the exact style that will beat Njokunai damn near every time. Just because I enjoy watching him fight too much to pick against him and since my picks don’t actually matter or anything, I’m picking with what I want to happen. Before Castillo closes distance, he gets kicked in the head and finished. Anthony Njokuani by TKO, round 1.
Leland Roling: As long as Danny Castillo has a wrestling-centric gameplan in mind for Njokuani, he should win here. Danny Castillo via decision.
Tim Burke: I still can’t stand Danny Castillo, but this is a very winnable fight for him if he’s not in love with his hands after the last bout. Castillo needs to floor this immediately, and do some Alpha Male grinding (that’s less creepy than it sounds). Danny Castillo by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Njokuani is a lot of fun standing, but Castillo should have no trouble taking him down and grinding him out there. I’d love to see it go the other way, but smart money goes with the wrestler this time. Danny Castillo by decision
T.P. Grant: Danny Castillo is a tough and well rounded fighter. Njokuani needs to fight against strikers who are willing to play his game to have a chance. Castillo is going to take him down and tap him out. Danny Castillo by Submission.
David Castillo: For all the hype that is often afforded to ‘explosive’, interesting strikers, Njokuani’s bubble burst along time ago to the UFC’s Samuel Sterns at WEC 50. He’s fairly limited, even on the feet, and against Castillo, he’ll have to deal with a crafty wrestler who is adept at submissions (if his camp is any indication at least). I jsut can’t see Anthony avoiding the ground for very long and not being dominated there. And, in my opinion, he won’t. Danny Castillo by decision.
Dallas Winston: Classic striker vs. grappler. Njokuani has decent scrambling and Castillo has big power on the feet. I don’t think the landslide for Castillo reflects how close this fight is but it’s hard not to pick him here. Danny Castillo by TKO.
Staff Picking Njokuani: Brent, Roth
Staff Picking Castillo: Tim, Fraser, David, Grant, Leland, Dallas, Gould
Dong Hyun Kim vs Sean Pierson
Brent Brookhouse: This is a really, really good fight. Kim is a hell of a talent who is getting lost in the shuffle and Pierson can trouble almost anyone. Still, styles make fights and this is a fight that favor’s Kim’s style. Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
Leland Roling: Pierson is a legit, highly-credentialed wrestler, but Dong Hyun Kim’s strength, lengthy frame, and Judo base can eat up wrestlers who aren’t the creme of the crop. Pierson is in for a long night. Dong Hyun Kim via decision.
Tim Burke: I’m a big Pierson fan, but this is an extremely tough matchup for him. Kim’s length and judo are hard to deal with, and while Pierson is a very good MMA wrestler, staying off his back is going to be tough. Sorry Sean, but I gotta go with the Stun Gun. Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: People tend to forget about Kim for some reason, but the man has been in the UFC for 3 ½ years and has only lost once - and that loss is against one of the very top in the division in Condit. In short, Kim is really good. His one trouble area to me is cardio, as I think he fades as the fight goes on, but Pierson doesn’t have the explosive finishing power needed to make Kim pay for those late fight lapses. Pierson should get some nice flashes at the end, but he’ll still come up short. Dong Hyun Kim by decision
T.P. Grant: Dong Hung Kim is a very consistent fighter with good takedowns and an excellent top game. Kim’s top game shut down Nate Diaz’s guard attack and I don’t think Pierson quite has the reugarding skills of the smaller Diaz brother. The Korean is going to have position on Pierson all day and grind out a win. Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
David Castillo: Pierson is an interesting opponent for Kim given his abilities on the feet, and so you could argue there’s some upset potential, but the safe bet is on Kim. While I don’t think Kim is a particularly good striker, I think he’ll avoid damage to anyone not named Carlos Condit. And on the ground, he’s pretty damn underrated, and should dominate Pierson there. Dong Hyun Kim by Rear Naked Choke, round 2.
Dallas Winston: This will be another where I’ll take the favorite but give the underdog a legit chance to surprise. Kim’s striking still leaves much to be desired and Pierson has excellent boxing and a capable combination of Greco and BJJ to stay afoot and hold his own. Dong Hyun Kim by split-decision.
Staff Picking Kim: Tim, Fraser, David, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent, Roth
Staff Picking Pierson:
Jacob Volkmann vs Efrain Escudero
Brent Brookhouse: Volkmann should be able to get takedown after takedown here to wear down Escudero and win comfortably on the scorecards. Jacob Volkmann by decision.
Leland Roling: Volkmann’s endless drive and wrestling should wear down Escudero, making it easy for Volkmann to positionally dominate him in the latter rounds. Jacob Volkmann via decision.
Tim Burke: Wrestling. That’s what it comes down to. Volkmann might be a weirdo, but Escudero isn’t going to be able to stay upright long enough to do damage. Volkmann would be 5-0 at lightweight with a win here. As annoying as he is, he’ll be hard to ignore. Jacob Volkmann by decision.
T.P. Grant: Volkman. I refuse to commit anymore of my mental faculties to this fight. Jacob Volkmann by decision.
David Castillo: I’m picking Escudero out of spite, and I don’t care to admit it. Volkmann is too much of a weirdo for me to appreciate, but he’s the suspicious kind of weirdo, which I guess is the worst kind. To be logical for a second though, I do think Escudero has the ingredients to pull off the victory. Volkmann is still incredibly stiff on the feet and Efrain possesses nothing if not raw power. If he can defend the takedowns long enough, I expect him to land. Efrain Escudero by D’Arce, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Bad match up for Efrain. He’s better standing but he doesn’t have enough power and Volkmann should devour him elsewhere. Jacob Volkmann by submission.
KJ Gould: Unlike Brock Lesnar, Volkmann does have Greg Nelson in his corner. And unlike Nik Lentz, he won’t be messing around with his guard, instead looking to get and stay on top and grind Escudero into the mat. Volkmann is a hard working fighter and I’ve never been sold on Escudero especially when he looked down right lazy against Charles Oliveira. I can see Escudero breaking and being finished by Christmas. Volkmann by Submission.
Staff Picking Volkmann: Tim, Fraser, Grant, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent
Staff Picking Escudero: David, Roth
Matt Riddle vs Luis Ramos
Brent Brookhouse: Riddle is going to wow the judges with his wild punches that don’t actually land. I hate "picking controversy" but I have a feeling Ramos will have done the better work but Riddle’s arms will have moved more and we get a Leonard Garcia-esque decision. Matt Riddle by decision.
Leland Roling: I’d love to give you guys some great insight on Ramos, but the only fights I really paid attention to in his career were his losses. And in those losses, he looked awful. It’s a toss-up, but I’ll go with Riddle. Matt Riddle via decision.
Tim Burke: Beicao’s not very good. Riddle hasn’t progressed like most thought he would. This probably won’t be pretty. But I’ll go with Riddle and his (it’s a running theme!) wrestling. Matt Riddle by decision.
T.P. Grant: I remember when I was really excited about Matt Riddle being in the UFC. A really young, athletic wrestling with a ton of power in his hands getting to cut his teeth in the UFC. Seemed like a can’t miss recipe for a solid fighter. But Riddle comes off like he is still growing up as a fighter and I think Luis Ramos is going to be able to exploit that immaturity, Ramos is a known commodity and I’ll go with that. Riddle might wrestle his way to a win but I see him trying to score a KO and paying for it. Luis Ramos by KO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Riddle seems like a good guy, but too concerned with just having a good time out there and maybe getting a fight of the night bonus. I see him smiling his way to an outpointed decision loss here. Luis Ramos by decision
David Castillo: You could say the jury is still out on Riddle. Once a potential prospect despite getting beat by TIm Credeur on TUF, he seemed to be on the way up until it appeared he hadn’t matured, and now people still joke about his fight with Pierson in which he threw punches like a student in a Billy Blanks class. Still, that’s enough to beat an outmatched fighter like Luis Ramos. Matthew Riddle by decision.
Dallas Winston: I’m OK with the way Riddle has progressed. I attribute his two recent losses to Pierson (veteran with killer boxing) and Benoist (rising star and former Golden Gloves boxer) as many under-rating his opponent’s skills rather than gaping flaws for such an inexperienced fighter. Matt Riddle by decision.
Staff Picking Riddle: Tim, David, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent
Staff Picking Ramos: Fraser, Grant, Roth
Manny Gamburyan vs Diego Nunes
Brent Brookhouse: This fight is perfect for stuff like the UFC on Fuel shows, too bad it’s getting burried here. Diego Nunes by TKO, round 3.
Leland Roling: Nunes’ striking is the major difference here. He lights up Gamburyan from range while avoiding the clinch and his back. Diego Nunes via decision.
Tim Burke: Gamburyan is still amazingly average and inconsistent, while Nunes is a legitimate top-five featherweight. I can’t wait to see Diego beat the brakes off of Manny in this grudge match. Diego Nunes by TKO.
T.P. Grant: Deuego Nunes’ narrow loss to Kenny Florian should not blind fans to his full career. Nunes’ is an elite Featherweight and should get a shot at Jose Aldo’s title in the near future. He will be too much for an inconsistent Manny Gamburyan. Diego Nunes by decision.
David Castillo: While I think Nunes is the better fighter, I could see him having trouble with Manny because I can see Manny making this a clinch fest. Plus I think Manny benefits from being aggressive, and throwing wide looping punches whereas Diego tends to back up: never a good thing in the eyes of the incompetent judges. I’m so tempted to pick Gamburyan, but my heart is determining this one: Diego Nunes by decision.
Dallas Winston: Leland said it. Nunes has some of the quickest striking in the division and Manny, while an animal in the clinch with huge punching power, still tends to wade forward throwing haymakers. Diego Nunes by TKO.
Staff Picking Gamburyan:
Staff Picking Nunes: Tim, Fraser, David, Leland, Dallas, Gould, Brent, Roth