KJ Gould: This may be the hardest pick of the night. It’s easy to get caught up in the Jon Jones hype storm, but Machida remains one of the most awkward fighters out there. We’ve seen what Jones can do in the clinch, but Machida is hard to engage and is very good defensively from -- would you believe it -- training in Sumo. Also because of this I’m not sure how much of the fight will take place on the ground. I think this will simply come down to Machida’s straight line attack of Karate versus Jones’ curve line attack of Muay Thai. Can Machida get inside and do damage with his crafty footwork, or has Jones learned enough in his young career to angle to the outside as Machida’s coming in and put pressure on him to go for a finish like Shogun did? Could it be Machida who works sneaky trips if he ends up catching a kick from Jones, and would he choose to work on top on the ground or just use trips to wear down Jones who has to get up again? Could we see a dangerous guard used from Jones lanky legs and could we see Machida caught off guard and submitted? There are loads of unknown variables in this fight and an in-shape Machida should be seen as the biggest test of Jones’ career thus far. I’m going to take a gamble and call for an upset. Machida by TKO.
T.P. Grant: Jon Jones fights are becoming the hardest fights to pick. It is completely reasonable and defensible to expect him to walk into the cage and dominate. But there are so many unanswered questions about Jones, what does he look like off his back? How would his cardio hold up in a truly close fight? How quickly can he recover when he is hurt? Lyoto Machida maybe the fighter to make Jones pay for his inability to throw more than one or two strike combos, his training in both Judo and Sumo may allow him to fend off Jones’ clinch game. Or it may not. All I know is that Machida is known for throwing hard, accurate strikes and has solidly struck every opponent he has faced square on the jaw at least once. This fight literally could have any outcome from a quick Jones highlight reel win to an ugly spilt decision, but I’ll jump off the cliff with KJ. I say Jon Jones gets squarely punched by Machida and does not like it one bit. Machida by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke - During the rise of Bones, I've often wondered if Machida's unique elusive style could be the answer to Jones' length and ridiculous athleticism. Now that it has come about, I'm not confident in Machida's chances. Machida's normal method of staying on the outside for long periods of time isn't something Bones is likely to put up with, and his wrestling will likely be too much for Machida to handle, sumo or not. Jones is going to tool him. Jon Jones by TKO.
David Castillo: Honestly, I expect an ugly fight. I think Machida can avoid the takedown since they typically come from the clinch with Jones, and on the feet it’s not like they’re gonna be exchanging like Shogun and Henderson. Jones will keep range, Machida will stay outside, and whatever action occurs on the inside will likely get canceled out. It’s kind of a bad fight for Jones in terms of the public perception, and whether or not he’s liable to look good, but who knows...maybe I’m overselling Machida’s chances. Still, I don’t feel like Machida will be active enough to secure himself a victory. Jones by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen - Wow, so much Machida love! I seriously contemplated picking Lyoto earlier this week, and I still think he has a shot, but I’m going with the champ for a few reason. 1) Lyoto really only has one area where he may have an advantage and that is inside/in the clinch. 2) Jones is a smart, strategic fighter who will not give the fight away by letting Lyoto control him inside. 3) I have not seen anything from Lyoto off his back that tells me he has an answer for Jones’s mighty top control. It’s a great, close fight, but I think Jones slowly ups the pace, puts just a bit more hurt on Lyoto every time, and eventually gets ahead of him. Jon Jones by TKO, round 4.
Ben Thapa: I think people are making too much of Machida’s long-past sumo training and judo. The man is difficult to take down, but nobody we’ve seen in the Octagon has given Jones much of a problem at all with his takedowns. Jon has the timing and the power to finish those. That being said, once he gets on the ground, Machida is probably popping right back up and isn’t going to give up an easy submission like Bader did. On the feet, I think Machida can find the range, explode at the right times to score points and frustrate Jones all night long. This will be a growing experience for the young champion. Lyoto Machida by decision.
Dallas Winston: I was convinced that Rampage could upset Jones but I don’t have much hope for Lyoto, which makes no sense. The catalyst of Jones’ offense is his dynamic cage motion, which is precisely what distinguished Machida initially. Maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on it, but I thought Machida’s footwork and motion against Rampage was uncharacteristically shoddy and the main reason he lost. If he can revivify the vintage "Machida-era" footwork and striking I think he’ll give Jones a good run but still struggle to fend off his takedowns. Jon Jones by decision.
Staff Picking Jones: Castillo, Burke, Coffeen, Dallas
Staff Picking Machida: Grant, Gould, Brookhouse, Thapa
Frank Mir vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Brent Brookhouse: It’s pretty easy to pick Mir here. I mean, other than assuming Nogueira is healthier this time around, there’s no reason to expect much different from the first fight other than maybe Big Nog making it to a decision. But I’ve made this very clear in the past, I will not be picking against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira any time soon. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by decision.
T.P. Grant: This fight is pretty simple to me. Frank Mir has real heavyweight go-to-sleep power and Nogueira gets hit flush in the face by every man he fights. Unless Mir is completely overlooking Nogueira this should be a repeat of the first match. Mir by KO, round 1.
KJ Gould: I like that Mir is training with Ricky Lundell. A LOT. If you’ve not heard of Lundell as a trainer, I think you may do soon enough. Just know he’s a BJJ blackbelt that was able to be a walk on for Cael Sanderson’s Iowa State Cyclones at the D1 level with no Folkstyle background. I think his experience with high level Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling gives him better insights than most in the importance of staying on top in MMA. Of course all this might be a non-factor, since Mir is more than capable of beating Nogueira on the feet and Nogueira may favor fighting from the guard anyway. If it does end up on the ground, I can see Mir doing his best to shut Nogueira’s guard down. I just don’t think a win over Schaub means Nogeuira has had a total career resurgence and Mir is constantly adding more relevant tools to his belt to succeed at high level MMA. Frank Mir by TKO.
David Castillo: Mir, all day, everyday. I do think Nog is better now than the flicking corpse we got in their first match, but it’s still a bad match-up for Nog. Mir is a big guy, and I think he has enough power in his hands to put Nog away yet again. Nog’s no longer a jiu jitsu fighter at this point and Mir is the better striker at this point. Mir may not have better fundamentals, but I expect him to maintain effective offense - and if he’s being effective, that means he’s landing. Frank Mir by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen - Second verse, same as the first. These guys aren’t going to roll their way to a jiu jitsu battle, as much as I’d like to see that. This will be a stand-up fight. Mir surprised us with his improved stand-up last time - this time it’s even better, just not a surprise. The way to beat Mir standing is to be explosive, and while Big Nog is many things, that ain’t one of them. Frank Mir by decision.
Ben Thapa: I’m still not sold on the Mir hype wagon. In his last three fights, he decisioned a pneumonia-ridden Roy Nelson, miraculously finished a decrepit Cro Cop (in one of the worst main events ever) and capitalized on several dumb mistakes by Kongo. Big Nog nearly finished Couture a couple times, got starched by Cain and had the feel good moment of UFC: Rio when he knocked out the rising Brendan Schaub. I don’t expect this to be a brilliant technical match on the ground, but I do think Nog still has the smarts to not make a series of terrible mistakes Mir can take advantage of on the feet and the boxing chops to batter Mir for a few rounds. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by decision.
Dallas Winston: I’m actually a big fan of both fighters but agree with Mr. Grant. It sure seems like Mir’s punching power and improved wrestling offer many more avenues to victory, especially considering Nog’s standing defense. Frank Mir by decision.
Staff Picking Mir: Grant, Gould, Coffeen, Dallas
Staff Picking Nogueira: Brookhouse, Thapa
Tito Ortiz vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Brent Brookhouse: I initially was willing to write Ortiz off here. I don’t think he’s a very good fighter anymore but then I really looked at the recent fights from both guys. As long as Tito is smart, he’s going to take Nogueira down pretty much at will and tear him up with elbows. This isn’t another guy who is simply a bad style match-up and can keep the fight standing. This is a guy with really bad takedown defense. Tito Ortiz by TKO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Both of these fighters are easy to dismiss as both on are on the declining ends of their careers, but they have both made efforts to round out their game. Tito’s striking, while not excellent is much improved, and Nogueria showed impressive strides in defensive wrestling in his match with Phil Davis. I expect a good deal of this match to take place on the feet, where I feel Nogueira has the technical advantage while Tito has the power. On the mat, Tito I think actually has the advantage as he will likely be on top and able to use his base to deliver elbows at a sedate pace. If Tito fades in rounds two and three, as he has been prone to do lately, I think slightly smaller Nog gets his hand raise. Nogueira by Decision
KJ Gould: Yeah, I can’t see Ortiz doing much here. Lil’ Nog is the better striker, and Ortiz is not the wrestler Davis is who had problems taking Nog down until he switched to Single-Leg takedowns, something I have a hard time recalling Ortiz ever doing. Ortiz will try to strike on the feet, Lil Nog should be able to pick him apart, Ortiz will try to shoot Double-Legs, Nogueira will stuff them, Ortiz will get frustrated but will be unable to adjust thus losing a lopsided decision. Nogueira by decision.
David Castillo: I don’t think Lil Nog has terrible takedown defense. Sure it’s rudimentary, and Davis had little trouble getting him down once he switched to single legs, but Ortiz is not the kind of wrestler capable of adjusting like that. Still having said that, I don’t like what I see from Nog. He’s got skills on the feet, and has a mean half guard, but he gets hit a lot. Ortiz may not be a power puncher, but he’s been fighting with conviction lately. In stark contrast to Nog, who doesn’t. I’m being bold here, and not for boldness sake. Ortiz by Guillotine, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Tito Ortiz gets beat when he faces guys who are better strikers than him (unless those guys are Ryan Bader), and Nog is a better striker. Nog gets beat when he faces guys who are better wrestlers than him, and Tito is a better wrestler. So, a pick em? Well, it would be if Tito fought like a wrestler. But he doesn’t. Tito likes to stand and trade. He’ll do so again here, and he’ll get picked apart for it. Nogueira by decision.
Ben Thapa: I’ve been accused of jiu jitsu bias before and sometimes it’s been true. I don’t think it applies here and the first round of Phil Davis vs. Lil Nog seems to bear my logic out. Lil Nog shut down those half-hearted double leg takedowns of Davis and won the edge on the feet. I don’t see this as being as vicious a beatdown as the second half of the Evans/Ortiz fight was, but I do believe that Tito won’t adjust in the second and third rounds by abandoning the cage double legs he likes so much. All Lil Nog has to do is watch out for that sneaky left Tito works and stay smart. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by decision.
Dallas Winston: I thought Nog’s hands, takedown defense and scrambling looked pretty damn sharp against Bader and Davis, and he will exact vengeance for judges worshipping too much the takedown with a surprisingly crisp sprawl and brawl. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by TKO.
Staff Picking Ortiz: Brookhouse, Castillo
Staff Picking Nogueira: Grant, Gould, Coffeen, Thapa, Dallas
Claude Patrick vs Brian Ebersole
Brent Brookhouse: I don’t like Brian Ebersole for some reason. I think it’s that I don’t really think he’s all that good combined with some weird personality thing that just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know why, but somehow I was shocked when reminded that Patrick was 3-0 in the UFC. I’m not even picking based on who I do or don’t like, it’s simply a style match-up thing. I think this turns out to be one of the worst fights of the night and one that Patrick wins. At least the home crowd will be happy. Claude Patrick by decision.
KJ Gould: Catch-As-Catch-Can! Ebersole and Frank Shamrock, back together! I’m not sure how much help Frank Shamrock will truly be for Ebersole especially since Shamrock seems to have shied away from his grappling roots and focused far more on striking at the tail end of his career. Having shot knees doesn’t help either, but it makes you wonder how much he’s forgotten when having to endure him on Strikeforce commentary. I’d like to think he’s helped Ebersole on the finer points of Kneebars or maybe helped out with organising his strength and conditioning, but who knows really. Ebersole is experienced and unorthodox enough to give most mid-level fighters problems, and he also has the ability to finish when the tide turns in his favor. Patrick is on a role and is riding a 13 fight win streak in a 14-1 record, but who has he beaten? Ebersole beating Lytle and running through Hallman is more impressive than Patrick’s entire record, even his 3 fights in the UFC. I can see Ebersole being a test Patrick’s not ready to pass just yet in his career. Ebersole by TKO.
T.P. Grant: Brian Ebersole is the more experienced, more tested fighter and I think Claude Patrick will be out gritted over the course of this fight. Ebersole by Decision
David Castillo: I hate picking Patrick. His fight with Roberts was terrible, and the action Ebersole brings to the cage has been the opposite of that. Still, I think Claude has the type of top game to neutralize Brian’s ground game. As he showed against Roberts, he’s more than willing to grind out a uninteresting decision. Not to sound like the guy that complains about "wrestlers wrestling" (I defend Jon Fitch), but Patrick is a limited fighter, and his few strengths play into Ebersole’s few weaknesses. Patrick by Decision.
Ben Thapa: Tasers are illegal in the cage. Despite Ebersole’s crowd-pleasing pluck and improving skills so late in life, Patrick has the ground game to stay out of trouble and the aggression to control Ebersole. Claude Patrick by decision.
Dallas Winston: I could be dead wrong but I see Ebersole’s strength and aggression dictating this one. Every one of Patrick’s subs came from a dominant perch, which I don’t see him getting here. Brian Ebersole by TKO.
Staff Picking Patrick: Brookhouse, Castillo, Thapa
Staff Picking Ebersole: Grant, Gould, Coffeen, Dallas
Mark Hominick vs Chan Sung Jung
Brent Brookhouse: Bad, bad, bad fight for Jung. He’s going to run into strike after strike and while his chin is good, it’s not that good. Mark Hominick by TKO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Chan Sung Jung is a fun fighter, but his brawling style is not going to serve him well against a striker on the level of Mark Hominick. I fully expect the Canadian to survive an early storm, find his range and the work over the Korean Zombie. On the ground I think Hominick is able to escape from the bottom and damage from the top. Hominick by TKO, round 3.
KJ Gould: Hominick all the way. This is one of the clearer examples of two fighters at different levels competing, with Hominick showing how big the gap in skill and ability is as he dismantles Jung wherever the fight goes. I think it stays on the feet, and while Jung is durable he’ll get beaten soundly and fairly with none of that Leonard-Garcia-esque judging nonsense needed. Hominick puts him away whenever he wants. Hominick by KO Round 1.
David Castillo: Ugly fight for Jung. Hominick doesn’t always fight to the best of his abilities (see the Grispi loss), but Jung doesn’t have the skills to exploit Hominick even on his worst day. I do think Jung can have success on the ground, but that would require patience, and sound technique on the feet when they do exchange. Jung may not be the brawling goon from an extra in a Double Dragon game that Leonard Garcia is, but Hominick ‘minds the gap’, and will pepper shots through his defense with ease. Hominick by TKO, two minutes into Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Yeah, this is a disaster for Jung. Hominick is just way too precise and will pick him apart. But the Roop fight aside, Jung is notoriously hard to finish, and Hominick has no issues pointing a guy into oblivion if needed. Mark Hominick by decision.
Ben Thapa: There are two MMA-related shirts that I own. One is the Don’t Be Scared Homie steez and the other is of the Korean Zombie in a graveyard holding his own arm. It is unreservedly awesome and Jung’s fights reflect that ethos. I can’t pick against Chan Sun Jung, even if my brain tells me Hominick is a better puncher. I feel as though KZ can walk through those punches, put Hominick against the wall and push him down for three rounds. Or get another gigantic hematoma on Hominick’s face going. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Elephant man redux... Chan Sun Jung by decision.
Dallas Winston: Damn, haters. I feel like his uncharacteristically disappointing showing against Roop sucked out any and all hopes for Jung and the first match with Garcia is held against him. Coming up overseas, he was a smooth killer on the mat and his sub-wrestling game is better than Hominick’s, who also happens to have five losses via submission. Throw in his solid chin and reach advantage and … mark it, dude. Chan Sung Jung by submission.
Staff Picking Hominick: Grant, Gould, Castillo, Brookhouse, Coffeen
Staff Picking Jung: Thapa, Dallas
Krzysztof Soszynski vs Igor Pokrajac
Brent Brookhouse: As the guy who has to liveblog this one, thanks a lot, UFC. Pokrajac is really good at stopping really average talent. I’d put Krzysztof in the "above average" group where Pokrajac gets beat down over a couple rounds before getting finished. Krzysztof Soszynski by TKO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Soszynski has proven himself an able gatekeeper for entry into the UFC’s Light Heavyweight divisson and Igor Pokrajac shall not pass. Soszynski by kimura
KJ Gould: Hmm, it’s tempting to pick K-Sos from experience, but I’m battling my prejudice against spelling Polish names once again. Croation names aren’t a problem though. Pokrajac is coming off a win, but then who the hell is Todd Brown other than a 0-2 UFC fighter who lost to Patrick Cote his first fight after leaving? Yeah, my social tolerance is clearly improving. K-Sos by Submission (Kimura)
David Castillo: Soszynski, like Bonnar, is a durable gatekeeper type. Pokrajac is a gatekeeper too, but less durable. There’s no reason why Krzysztof shouldn’t do what Stephan Bonnar did to Igor. Soszynski by TKO, round 1.
Ben Thapa: Krzysztof made me crack a giant smile with his Aussie Aussie chant at UFC 110 after the unfortunate ending to the first Bonnar fight. Burke hates him. K-Sos trains with Munoz and the Reign guys regularly, so I think he’s refining his abilities to put people down and get his favorite submission - the kimura. Krzysztof Soszynski by submission, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Pokrajac might have the more polished sub-game but K-Sos should be a little stronger and better everywhere Pokrajac excels. Unless the Croatian can connect on a homerun, Krzysztof Soszynski by TKO.
Staff Picking Soszynski: Brookhouse, Grant, Gouldszynski, Castillo, Coffeen, Thapa, Dallas
Staff Picking Pokrajac:
John Makdessi vs Dennis Hallman
Brent Brookhouse: Hallman will likely look good early but Makdessi tends to get things going as he figures out timing on the fly. Hallman is going to start getting caught in the second and, while I think he makes it to the cards, I don’t think he can win two rounds against Makdessi. John Makdessi by decision.
T.P. Grant: Dennis Hallman is a great veteran on MMA and is 2-0 lifetime against the great Matt Hughes, but I’m not sure the modern Lightweight division is the place to breath life into his career. Too many good fighters at 155 lbs and he is running head long into one of them. John Makdessi will be too fast and too fresh later in the fight for Hallman to over come, and as Hallman slows down I fully expect Makdessi to pour on the spinning kicks. Makdessi by TKO, round 3
KJ Gould: Hallman deserved a beating in his last fight for two reasons, both of which presented themselves during the course of his loss to Brian Ebersole. I’m of course talking about spending too much time on his back, and for being sponsored by Training Mask. Ahem. Hallman is clearly being used as a step up in competition for Makdessi and if Hallman’s destruction at the hands of Ebersole was anything to go by, it’s hard to think Makdessi won’t find similar success against ‘Superman’. It’s a shame as I’d like to see more Submission Wrestling from Hallman. Oh well. Makdessi by TKO.
David Castillo: I’m shocked that Hallman is back in the mix in the UFC after washing out with a loss to Jorge Rivera in 2005. Although not as shocking as his bikini at UFC 133, I tend to favor him in this fight. Makdessi, for all of his skills, hasn’t fought anyone of real consequence. Hallman will be focused to get the fight to the ground where Makdessi’s striking won’t mean much, but I can’t ignore Hallman’s history of gassing terrible. Makdessi by TKO, round 3.
Ben Thapa: Am I alone in saying that I thought the Hallman banana hammock was hilarious? And so is his complete ownage of Matt Hughes? A fighter can be caught once, but to do it twice inside 20 seconds means that he has Hughes’ number dialed in. Remember that Hallman was winning the Howard fight until that last minute KO and Makdessi has a tendency to go Shlemenko at times with his spinning strikes. I am going to juke here and say Hallman by late submission. Hallman, submission, Round 3.
Dallas Winston: No Ben, you are not alone. Makdessi is an exciting and creative new prospect but his takedown defense is unproven and his grappling is unseen. Audinwood barely attempted any takedowns and Watson is a slick sub-guy but not a strong wrestler. His appearance at the weigh ins and missing the mark make me even more nervous about it, but Dennis Hallman by submission.
Staff Picking Makdessi: Gould, Grant, Castillo, Brookhouse, Coffeen
Staff Picking Hallman: Thapa, Dallas
Yves Jabouin vs Walel Watson
Brent Brookhouse: Really difficult fight to pick because I feel like I need more information on Walel at this level than we have. Jabouin is a gamer with flaws and this kind of strikes me as a fight that was set up with a purpose in mind. Watson by submission, round 2
T.P. Grant: Yves Jabouin is a great guy to test young Bantamweights and Walel Watson made a good impression on UFC and in his debut at UFC on Versus 6. The 27-year-old Watson is looking to climb the ranks in a division still sorting itself out while Yves is fighting to stay relevant. That said I think Yves fights desperate here and lets his heavy hands go, putting the young lion to sleep. Jabouin via KO, round 2.
KJ Gould: Jabouin has more experience, being a WEC vet before moving to the UFC, Watson is an up and comer looking to make a name for himself. Jabouin looks to TKO guys, Watson though has a string of success with a variety of chokes -- the most efficient submission fight ender. Jabouin being caught with a flying triangle at the hands of Pablo Garza may have been a one-time only deal as almost anyone can be caught off guard, but I can see Watson hunting for guillotines and anacondas should Jabouin mistakenly present his neck for them. I think Watson continues his rise and Jabouin is a good scalp to collect. Watson by submission.
David Castillo: I like what I saw from Watson, but he’s clearly dealing with a better fighter. Yves Jaboiun’s fight with Hominick was a personal favorite of mine. But he lost for the same reason he loses in every other fight: a really bad gas tank. I’m not sure Watson is the guy to exploit that, but Yves lacks power, and so I think Watson will be there all night, with just enough time to lean on Jaboiun and threaten with a submission. Watson by Guillotine, round 2.
Ben Thapa: The Brazilians booed Jabouin for slowing this fight down to a pace where he wouldn’t gas out in the Loveland fight, but Yves did get the (split) decision win. Walael gets all of his subs done in the first or early in the second. Jabouin can pull this one long and get the nod again. Jabouin by decision.
Dallas Winston: Watson might turn out to be a serious talent with Jones-like proportions for the weight class, but as of now he’s in deep waters with a powerful and technical striker. Yves Jabouin by TKO.
Staff Picking Jabouin: Grant, Coffeen, Dallas
Staff Picking Watson: Brookhouse, Gould, Castillo
Mark Bocek vs Nik Lentz
Brent Brookhouse: I like Bocek here on his ability to finish the fight at any point vs. Lentz being more of an opportunistic guy. I don’t really think there’s an area where the fight can go that Bocek isn’t more dangerous and slightly better. Mark Bocek by decision.
KJ Gould: I can’t pick against Minnesota MMA guys out of principal, since I really rate Greg Nelson as an MMA coach. Of course that doesn’t mean all his fighters follow his advice to the ‘T’ and can get in all sorts of problems like Lentz did against Oliveira. Both Lentz and Bocek are veterans with the Canadian being a bit more experienced UFC-wise. I just think Lentz’s clinch game against the wall is a big factor, plus his general improvement in looking for finishes might surprise a few people. Some say Wall’n’Stall, I say Lentz’n’Fence. The Carnie by Decision.
T.P. Grant: The name Nik Lentz receives almost as much venom from fans as Jon Fitch. His style is decried as "Wall and Stall" or "Lay and Pray", but the man has real skills, just ask Brock Lesnar and is excellent at drawing fighters into his game. Mark Bocek is a very underrate fighter also, lost in the shuffle of lightweight. His grappling is flat out excellent and should be enough to counter Lentz’s brand of fighting and earn a submission win. Bocek by Submission
David Castillo: Bocek, Bocek, Bocek. As much as I enjoy the fact that Lentz came out of his "lay and pray" shell for the Bronx fight, he’s still not quite as talented as Mark, and if anything, the best comparison I’d make for Lentz is as a poor man’s version of Bocek. Let’s not forget Mark has been consistent, and fought a very close fight with Jim Miller. He’s the much more polished fighter, and Lentz isn’t dynamic enough to end the fight early. Bocek by D’Arce, round 1.
Ben Thapa: I believe in Nik Lentz as a UFC-caliber fighter, but I also believe in Bocek’s ability to flip Lentz over and work on Nik until the submission comes. Lentz won’t stop coming forwards and he’ll be able to get out of quite a few submission attempts by Bocek, but those wear you down and when you get tired, you make mistakes. Can Nik avoid these mistakes? This seems an awful lot like the Bendo/Miller fight to me, with Bocek being the more dangerous submission fighter, but Lentz having the stamina and the situational awareness even after two high paced rounds (which he’ll need to build his points lead) to squeak out and maintain his lead. Calling the upset here in Nik Lentz by decision.
Dallas Winston: This seems to be a stylistic nightmare for Lentz. Bocek is slow in all aspects on the feet but has surprising power and is quite graceful on the ground and in scrambles. I don’t see many options for Lentz, who also has a tendency to drop his hands when trading in the pocket. Mark Bocek by submission.
Staff Picking Bocek: Brookhouse, Castillo, Coffeen, Grant, Dallas
Staff Picking Lentz: Gould, Thapa
Rich Attonito vs Jake Hecht
KJ Gould: Everyone should support Rich Attonito for TKO’ing Jamie Yager last year. Attonito and Hecht have similar records but since Attonito has the UFC experience and this is a debut for Hecht, those good ol’ Octagon jitters may well be a factor. Attonito by Decision.
David Castillo: I do support Attonite for TKO’ing Yager. And that’s why I’m picking him here. But also because Hecht isn’t UFC-level. He’s a top position kind of fighter, and if you want a blueprint for what to expect, watch Hecth’s loss to Che Mills. Attonito will defend his takedowns with ease, and score some savage punches on the feet. Attonito by TKO, round 1.
Ben Thapa: Hecht loves the early rush out and takedown strategy. Problem is that Attonito sprawls pretty effectively. Tape shows Hecht to be a fighter who prefers to control his opponent and deal out little bits of damage over time, rather than busting some heads, passing guard and/or grabbing smooth submissions like a fledgling elite fighter should be doing. Rich decisioned Daniel Roberts back at UFC Live on Versus 4 and looked like he wasn’t ever in danger. This is a similar stylistic match-up and I bet Attonito can get to Hecht’s back and finish from there. Attonito, submission, Round 2.
T.P. Grant: I also support Attonio for KO’ing Yager. That said I also suppor Jake Hecht’s 100% legit credentials for making his UFC debut, a 10-2 prospect with wrestling and boxing experience to go with a Ricardo Liborio black belt makes him high on my list of new welterweights I want to see compete. Jake Hecht by Decision
Dallas Winston: Hecht, on paper, reminds me of Lance Benoist, who was a firecracker in his debut. Hecht is a Liborio black belt, a good wrestler and a former Golden Gloves boxer. I took Attonito in my preview but I’ll change it up and take a chance on Jake Hecht by decision.
Staff Picking Attonito: Brookhouse, Gould, Castillo, Coffeen, Thapa
Staff Picking Hecht: Dallas, Grant
Mitch Clarke vs John Cholish
KJ Gould: I’m assuming this is 9-0 Canadian Mitch Clarke making his UFC debut taking on New York’s John Cholish, who will also be entering The Octagon for the first time. Very similar fighters who like to grapple. Cholish does have a win over former TUFer Marc Stevens at a Strikeforce event, but otherwise both have fought at the regional level. Could we see another phenom emerge from the Great White North, or will the tough New Yorker prevail? Both have wrestling backgrounds, Cholish getting his mat time at Cornell while Clarke’s experience is with the Canadian CIS program (think Canadian NCAA). Clarke making his UFC debut in front of a partisan crowd will either boost him or overwhelm him. It’s a hard pick, but since Cornell is one of the top Division I universities for Wrestling in the USA I would think that would have to give Cholish the edge in a hard fought decision. Cholish by decision.
David Castillo: I favor Cholish. Against Marc Stevens, Cholish looks relatively fluid, on the feet, and on the ground, where he has solid chops with his ground and pound. He’s not world class, but I think the fact that he’s more dynamic than Clark, who is your standard wrestle-sort-of-boxer type, will net him the victory. Cholish by Decision.
Ben Thapa: Cholish is a genuinely witty person - and a pretty mean fighter in his own right. I watched the Stevens kneebar live and what I took away from that - other than Cholish’s odd gait that looks quite a bit like Sherriff Bullock’s from Deadwood - is that Cholish is apt to bust out a dangerous submission at any given time. It clicks in his head in a way that it doesn’t for many fighters with more years in the sport. Clark looks like a tough, game opponent, but I doubt he has the chops to stifle Cholish for three rounds. Cholish, submission, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: I’m not overly familiar with Clarke but know Cholish is a well-trained beast with a better level of competition. John Cholish by TKO.
T.P. Grant: I’m also not overly familiar with either fighter but what I do know about Cholish I like. Cholish by Decision
Staff Picking Clarke: Coffeen
Staff Picking Cholish: Brookhouse, Gould, Castillo, Thapa, Dallas