Dominick Cruz vs Demetrious Johnson
Mike Fagan - What makes Cruz tough is his movement (not his footwork) and his ability to control distance. He’ll have a 2" reach advantage on a guy who is in the same spot as a lot of UFC lightweights this time last year (hint: flyweight). Johnson’s four-fight run has been impressive, but it stops with the champ. Dominick Cruz by decision
Fraser - I think no matter where this fight goes, Cruz remains in control. On the feet, he has the edge. In the takedown game, Cruz has surprisingly good takedowns, and quality takedown defense. On the ground, Cruz has superb escapes and ability to scramble back to his feet, and good top control. Johnson has the speed advantage, but that’s about it, and it’s not enough. Dominick Cruz via decision
Tim Burke - It’s all about Dominick’s takedown defense to me. DJ needs to get the fight to the floor to win, and I just can’t see him doing it consistently enough against a solid wrestler like Cruz. Cruz will pick him apart with his frustrating striking game and cruise to a wide, but spirited W. Dominick Cruz by decision
KJ Gould - Usually I can’t pick against an AMC Pankration guy and while I’m sure Matt Hume has a solid strategy and gameplan going into the fight I’m not sure ho well Johnson can execute it. Cruz’s footwork may become predictable if studied enough but it’s still unorthodox and hard to train for. Having more experience at the top level and being well rounded will help as well especially if he uses his reach and I don’t think Johnson has the power to change the fight if he managed to clip the champ. Dominick Cruz by decision
Matt Roth - This is a really easy fight to pick. Though he hasn’t been marketed at all, Dominick Cruz is the most dominant champion not named Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre. The WEC went all in with Miguel Torres and the UFC was banking on Faber beating him. Neither panned out. Gotta pick the champion and say Dominick Cruz wins a 5 round decision.
Anton Tabuena - Cruz is bigger, has better wrestling, and striking, so it will be really tough for Johnson to pull off a victory here. Oh, and I still don't think DJ deserved that decision over Torres. Either way, it's going to be Dominick Cruz by a lopsided Decision.
Staff Picking Cruz: Roth, Fraser, Tim, KJ, Fagan, Anton
Staff Picking Johnson:
Stefan Struve vs Pat Barry
Mike Fagan - Until Struve can show me he’ll fight to his height, he’ll get no love from me. (On a side note, I love that our kickboxing guy is picking Struve and our grappling guy is picking Barry.) Pat Barry by TKO, round one
Fraser - I had a whole argument for Barry written up, then deleted it because it felt wrong. Here’s the thing - Barry is not a great finisher. And Struve is a guy who stays alive in fights long past when you think he’s done, and still manages to pull off the win. I think Struve has some scares here, but ends up Kongo-ing Barry once again. Stefan Struve via TKO
Tim Burke - I’m torn here. Anyone fighting Stefan Struve is gonna light him up a bit, that’s a given. But how much has Barry improved on the ground? If Struve can get it there (and I think he can) he holds a major advantage. He could even pull guard. My instincts are screaming no, but this Old Milwaukee is screaming yes. Stefan Struve via submission
KJ Gould - I think this fight will come down to leg kicks. Struve has long legs that are asking to be kicked and Barry will be happy to oblige them. Struve is good off his back and Barry probably won’t want to engage him, even if you believe in the old wrasslin’ saying of ‘You’re all the same size when it hits the ground’. But then Sports Entertainment was never big on guard work. I think Barry has what it takes to chop the Dutch Elm down. Pat Barry by Leg Kicks TKO.
Matt Roth - Hrm...Matt Roth picking Pat Barry? I thought I was super negative right guys? Despite his kickboxing skills being overstated, Barry still has legit stand up. And Stefan Struve is like a German Sheppard puppy. He just doesn’t realize how big he is. Pat Barry isn’t the greatest but he’s good enough. Pat Barry by Leg Kicks.
Anton Tabuena - With this big size difference, I'm thinking Struve finally learns how to use his reach effectively on the stand up, and eventually finishes on the ground. Stefan Struve by Submission.
Staff Picking Struve: Fraser, Tim, Anton
Staff Picking Barry: Roth, KJ, Fagan
Anthony Johnson vs Charlie Brenneman
Mike Fagan - Did anyone else find it funny that Johnson’s character fought at middleweight in Warrior? Cause I did. Anthony Johnson by TKO, round two
Fraser - Johnson has a pretty good wrestling game, but it’s not as good as Brenneman’s. Which means he’ll need to win it on the feet with his boxing. And in a boxing vs. wrestler bout, I tend to go with the wrestler. Johnson could throw in a wildcard by being ridiculously overweight, but I hope we don’t see that. Charlie Brenneman via decision
Tim Burke - Brenneman is overhyped. If Rick Story had time to prepare for a wrestler, Charlie never would have beaten him. I don’t believe that his wrestling is so much better than Rumble’s that he’ll be able to dictate where the fight takes place, and he’ll get lit up on the feet. Anthony Johnson via TKO
KJ Gould - Brenneman capitalised on an unrested Story that would have got wrecked by Nate Marquardt with or without TRT.. His wrestling is very good but let’s see how he does against an opponent who has fully prepared for the fight and has some of the best KO power in the division. Anthony Johnson via KO.
Matt Roth - Everyone is waiting patiently for Anthony Johnson to develop into the fighter that everyone thinks he could be. I think he’s finally turned the corner and can be that guy. At least I hope he has. I’m not really sure that his wrestling is better than Brenneman’s but I’m willing to roll with Rumble in this fight. Anthony Johnson via TKO.
Staff Picking Johnson: Roth, Tim, KJ, Fagan, Anton
Staff Picking Brenneman: Fraser
Matt Wiman vs Mac Danzig
Mike Fagan - Danzig is a smaller, poor man’s Martin Kampmann -- technically sound, but lacking that "it" factor to move into the upper echelon. Matt Wiman by decision
Fraser - I’ve found myself more and more impressed by Wiman lately, which is astounding considering he’s been in the UFC midcard for 5 years. But that Cole Miller fight may have been his finest performance yet. This is a close one, but that tenacious top control and attack Wiman showed against Miller should be enough to keep Danzig down as well. Matt Wiman via decision
Tim Burke - Danzig is going to get muscled all over the place and there’s not a thing he can do about it. I can’t see any way Danzig wins this. Matt Wiman by decision
KJ Gould - We’ve yet to see Mac Danzig’s vegan powers unleashed in the UFC. Maybe it’s because he never graduated Vegan Academy, or maybe it’s because he’s not from Toronto. He does come across as thinking he’s better than others though, so he’s got the attitude down-pat. This is a rematch from last year where Wiman guillotined Danzig and referee Yves Lavigne stopped it early believing Danzig was out when he really wasn’t. So invested in this fight at the time I had to look that information up just now. This time around and only just over a year later I think Wiman can still edge him though perhaps not finish him. Matt Wiman by decision.
Matt Roth - Wiman is handsome and has developed into a legitimate lightweight. I personally thought he did enough to beat Dennis Siver which to me says he’s ready to compete with the top of the division. I’m not sold on Danzig. I think he could be a ridiculous fighter at 145 but at 155 he just seems really small. Matt Wiman by Decision.
Anton Tabuena - Looks like I'm the only one who thinks Danzig is good enough to take this. Mac Danzig by Decision.
Staff Picking Wiman: Roth, Fraser, Tim, KJ, Fagan
Staff Picking Danzig: Anton
Yves Edwards vs Rafaello Oliveira
Mike Fagan - Both guys are on the lower rung of UFC lightweights in 2011, so I’ll take the guy with age on his side. Rafaello Oliveira by TKO, round two
Fraser - Yves Edwards is awesome and a legend, but he’s been on the downward side for a LONG time. I know he was supposed to be back, but I didn’t really buy it. He had way too much trouble with Cody McKenzie, and that Stout KO was just nasty. I’m impressed he’s coming back from it, but I fear this may be his last hurrah in the Octagon. Rafaello Oliveira via TKO
Tim Burke - I’m torn here. I’m a huge Thugjitsu fan, but Yves isn’t the same guy he used to be. And that Stout KO might have sent him much further down the road to retirement. Tractor is nothing special, but I think he has the stifling game to shut Yves down and take a boring win to stay in the UFC. Rafaello Oliveira by decision
KJ Gould - Edwards may be on a descent in his career, but not all Oliveiras are created equally. Rafaello has struggled in the UFC losing to Andre Winner and Nick Lentz and has had to get wins outside to get a chance to fight in The Octagon™ again. Edwards is still a dangerous fighter that can blast fools and I can’t see Rafaello overwhelming him. Yves Edwards by TKO.
Matt Roth - I’m a fan of Yves Edwards. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few left but I’ll ride with him till he retires. I haven’t really been impressed with Oliveira so far in the UFC and think that Yves has the skills to put a hurting on Tractor. That’s what my gut tells me and my gut is rarely wrong. Yves Edwards by TKO.
Staff Picking Edwards: Roth, KJ
Staff Picking Oliveira: Fraser, Tim, Fagan, Anton
Michael Johnson vs Paul Sass
Mike Fagan - Rashad Evans raved about Michael Johnson at his UFC Q&A appearance. Michael Johnson by decision
Fraser - I don’t like Johnson as the fight progresses, and if it gets into the later rounds I fear he may be in trouble. But his wrestling should carry him over the less experienced Sass. Michael Johnson via TKO.
Tim Burke - This is one where I’m going to disagree with the masses and go Sass all the way. Yes, Johnson can put him on his back, but that’s right where Sass wants to be. Johnson has had trouble with sub guys his entire career, and it’s not going to change in DC. Sassangle. Paul Sass via submission
KJ Gould - I think Paul Sass has the unofficial world record for most number of consecutive MMA wins by triangle choke at 7 in a row. He’s yet to face a great top game wrestler who can stifle his guard and Lightweight is full of those sorts of fighters. Is Johnson a good enough wrestler on top to shutdown Sass? Can Sass switch it up again and heelhook Johnson? Knowing exactly what Sass’ strategy will be should mean Johnson has prepared for him and show why a single skill-set hasn’t cut it in high level MMA for years. Michael Johnson by TKO.
Matt Roth - Johnson fights outta the better camp and has shown massive improvement since his time on the Ultimate Fighter. Paul Sass is definitely skill but I’m not sold on him. I’m sold on Johnson as a future contender at 155. Especially since he’s working with Rashad Evans and some high level kickboxers in Tyrone Spong and Cosmo Alexander every day. Michael Johnson by TKO.
Staff Picking Johnson: Roth, Fraser, KJ, Fagan, Anton
Staff Picking Sass: Tim
Mike Easton vs Byron Bloodworth
Mike Fagan - Holy crap is Byron Bloodworth an MMA name for the ages. Mike Easton by decision
Fraser - I’m torn, because I don’t generally like picking guys on a two year layoff (Easton) or inexperienced fighters making their debuts on short notice (Bloodworth). So... ? In the end, I’ll go with the fighter with more big match experience. Mike Easton via decision
Tim Burke - I honestly don’t know enough about Bloodworth to pick him, other than he has a pretty cool Might and Magic (remember that?) kind of name. Sounds like a wizard. And I’d take The Hulk over a wizard any day. Mike Easton via TKO
KJ Gould - Easton hasn’t fought in 2 years but has enough experience to send Byron Bloodworth back to the pages of Comic Book villainy. Or the regional circuit. Whichever. Mike Easton by decision.
Matt Roth - Bloodworth may be the best name for a fighter ever. He isn’t the best fighter ever though. Mike Easton hasn’t fought in 2 years because of injuries but he’s still super talented. He should be able to win pretty easily. Mike Easton TKO in the first.
Staff Picking Easton: Roth, Fraser, Tim, KJ, Fagan, Anton
Staff Picking Bloodworth:
Shane Roller vs T.J. Grant
Mike Fagan - Roller’s part of the failed Team Takedown experiment, but his record isn’t all that bad in retrospect. Losses to Bendo, Pettis, and Guillard -- and being 32 years of age -- indicate he’ll never reach that upper crust, but he should be a solid enough lightweight. Shane Roller by decision
Fraser - I lean towards Roller anyway, and Grant making the cut to 155 for the first time puts it over the edge for me. Shane Roller via submission
Tim Burke - This seems like another easy one to me. Grant’s primary weapon is wrestling. Yes, he’s submitted a lot of guys, but none in the big leagues. He’s a tough dude, and it surprises me that he can make 155, but he needs to put guys on their back to get going, and Roller’s gonna be a tough task in that department. Shane Roller’s game is full of gaping flaws, but he’s a way better wrestler than Grant and he can avoid getting caught for 15 minutes. Roller by decision
KJ Gould - Both guys can wrestle, both guys can win by submission with Roller being a Grapplers Quest veteran. Which may not mean much. Grant’s cutting to Lightweight after being beaten by a Middleweight who had cut down to Welterweight. Such is the nature of this sport. It’s hard to pick this fight without seeing how both guys look at weigh ins, though time off tends to be a much bigger factor than a bad weight cut. Being out for a year is enough for me to lean towards Roller and if the cut for Grant looks bad I think it’s a wrap before either guy has even laced … err, Velcro’d gloves. Shane Roller by decision
Matt Roth - Shane Roller isn’t the best but he sure as hell isn’t the worst. He’s actually pretty solid when he uses his wrestling. He just really don’t like using it all that much. And if he did he’d be a lot higher ranked. I’m not sold on the Team Takedown system but he should steamroll TJ this weekend. Shane Roller by Decision.
Staff Picking Roller: Fraser, Tim, KJ, Fagan, Roth, Anton
Staff Picking Grant:
Josh Neer vs Keith Wisniewski
Mike Fagan - Speaking of lighter, poor man’s versions of guys: Josh Neer and Chris Lytle. Josh Neer by decision
Tim Burke - I didn’t realize we were making picks for Wild Bill’s Fight Nights now. Why are two washed up guys from the midwest fighting on a card in DC? I’ll go with the Dentist, because that’s a more admirable profession than whatever a "Polish Connection" is. Honestly though, I bet this a helluva fight. Both of these guys are tough to finish. Josh Neer via TKO ]
KJ Gould - I hate dentists. I may hate trying to pronounce Polish surnames even more. There are 9 other MMA fighters with pro records that share the surname Wisniewski and at least one of them is directly related to Keith. Both Wisniewski and Neer are on a similar winning streak from regional shows so it’s a pick ‘em. I’ll pick the single syllable surname this time out. Josh Neer by TKO
Matt Roth - Nice to see the Dentist get another shot at the UFC. Lord knows he’s at the top of the list of great regional level fighters with a ton of upside. Please note the sarcasm just incase you don’t. He’s still a better fighter and should win easily. Josh Neer via Decision.
Staff Picking Neer: Roth, Fraser, Tim, KJ, Fagan, Anton
Staff Picking Wisniewski:
Walel Watson vs Joseph Sandoval
Mike Fagan - There’s a part in Johnny Cash’s At San Quentin (or At Folsom Prison, I forget) where the warden pages for a prisoner with the last name of Sandoval. And he doesn’t know if it’s pronounced "San-doh-VAHL" or "San-DOH-vuhl." That always stuck out to me. Joseph Sandoval by decision
Tim Burke - I cannot, in good conscience, pick someone who uses the nickname "The Gazelle". Not happening. a 5’11 bantamweight is kind of amusing though. Joseph Sandoval by decision
KJ Gould - Watson likes to choke people. A lot. It probably has something to do with having long arms and legs relative to the weight class. He’ll have a 5 inch height advantage to his opponent Joseph Sandoval and who knows what the reach advantage will be. I’m wondering if this fight was booked so Barry vs Struve wasn’t the only odd looking fight on the card. Sandoval is undefeated but has half as many fights as Watson and tends to alternate between TKOs and Decisions. He has one submission on his record, but it’s due to strikes. He’s due a decision win statistically speaking, but I can see Watson putting him to sleep via blood or air constriction. Walel Watson by Submission (Choke)
Matt Roth - I will be honest. I’m not really familiar with either fighter. I really just picked on who has a stronger name. It worked for me when I was a kid and would help my dad with his NFL pick’em by choosing the animal or person who was more ferocious. Sandoval just seems like a strong name. Joseph Sandoval by Decision.
Staff Picking Watson: KJ
Staff Picking Sandoval: Roth, Fraser, Fagan, Anton, Tim