Brent Brookhouse: My thing where I said I think GSP should have had a tune-up fight wasn't based on thinking this is a fight he can't win. But rather than it's unfair to treat him like he should be expected to perform at the levels he has to this point in his career after 18 months off and a major knee surgery. We saw Shogun look like crap against Mark Coleman after knee injuries and time off, Patrick Cote talked about how hard it is to come back from a knee injury, we hear it all the time from elite athletes. The good news is, I think a 75% GSP is good enough to beat Condit because of their respective styles. Georges St. Pierre by decision.
Tim Burke: Wrestling is the key. Condit simply won't be able to stay off his back long enough to mount any major offense. He's a very versatile striker for sure, but he's going to have trouble trying to time GSP, and once he gets the hang of it...he'll be staring at the ceiling again. I believe GSP will look for a finish for sure. But Condit is pretty damn hard to put away, so I see it going all five. Georges St. Pierre by decision.
Anton Tabuena: A GSP that comes in anywhere near to his past self, will definitely spell trouble for Condit. So unless this injury has severely hampered his speed and explosiveness, I don't think Condit can stop his takedowns. I can see Condit getting up a few times after having an active guard, but I do think GSP will be able to get takedown after takedown and maybe even secure a late finish. Georges St. Pierre by late TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I'm going to hop on board and pick a GSP finish. That video where GSP talks about his lack of desire affecting his "safe" performances is totally believable, in my opinion. In fact, that's way more logical than saying "Matt Serra ruined GSP forever" even though GSP promptly finished 3 of his next 5 fights and savagely mauled Jon Fitch. For the first time in years it feels like he's not an invincible figure, and not fighting in the past 19 months will do that to you. I expect him to put in a vintage GSP performance by working his jab on Condit, getting the takedowns, passing guard, firing hard elbows to the noggin, and he'll go for submissions. Condit isn't an easy guy to finish and he's realistically the first opponent for GSP since B.J. Penn who is good-to-great in every facet of the sport, which means that GSP cannot just simply neutralize one specific specialty like he did against Shields, Koscheck, Alves, etc. To me, this has the makings of an incredibly entertaining fight, and I see Condit making a mistake on the ground in the later rounds that will prove to be costly. GSP by submission, round 4.
Ben Thapa: There is no way Condit is stopping GSP's takedowns - chasse kick schmasse kick. The technical mistakes that Rory MacDonald made will not be made by St-Pierre and Condit will have no choice but to roll and give up an arm. I think GSP goes for his bread and butter submission after a few punches from mount and gets it after tiring Condit out some. GSP, sub, Round 3.
T.P. Grant: The only thing that would give me pause to take St. Pierre is the layoff. GSP's work ethic and professional demeanor I doubt he would have taken this fight if there was any doubt about his ability to be at his physical best. Condit presents interesting problem on the feet as he has real one punch power, a reach advantage, and real skill at combination striking. All of that means nothing if he is on his back and that is right where I think he will be. GSP is going to work his knee tap and double leg, pass guard and get position. He will mix things up a little and stand with Condit at times, and get a decision. Georges St. Pierre by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: When this was discussed as a fight pre-injury, I didn't think much of Condit's chances. Now, I'm not so sure. The layoff is a huge factor, and I was very impressed by the way Condit used a well constructed game-plan to defeat Diaz (sorry haters). That said, this is still GSP. He's been talking a lot about having the fire again and I am inclined to believe him. I think he comes out to make a statement here. Georges St. Pierre by TKO, round 2
Staff picking GSP: Coach, Grant, Fraser, Ben, Tim, Dallas, Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Condit: Stephie
Brent Brookhouse: This is such a kick-ass great fight. Hendricks and Kampmann are both entirely deserving contenders and the winner of this fight and Nick Diaz make the welterweight division appealing enough that I don't really understand the desire from everyone for GSP to leave the division. I'm going to stick with Hendricks because Kampmann is a guy who either edges by or comes up short and Hendricks isn't a guy you're going to have a lot of luck "edging by." Johny Hendricks by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: Hendricks all the way. Look, I like Martin Kampmann. But his last three wins were all come-from-behinds (yes, Story won the first round of their bout), and Hendricks is a different breed of wrestler than what Kampmann's faced so far. Hendricks didn't teach Kampmann every wrestling trick he knows when they trained together, and he's going to put The Hitman on his back. Hendricks is going to get out in front early, and he's not going to let Kampmann back into the fight. Why would Hendricks want to tangle with a proficient kickboxer when he can take the fight into his wheelhouse? It's as simple as that to me. Johny Hendricks by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Hendricks has big power, and Kampmann has shown some lapses with his defensive striking so it makes it logical to pick Hendricks. I'm veering away from that though, and I'm picking the underdog. Aside from having that big heart he's displayed recently, I do think Kampmann should be the better overall fighter, and I think he can find a way to win this one. Martin Kampmann by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: I'm going with Kampmann, but I'm not terribly confident due to his uncanny ability to get punched in the face. That said, he's the most technical striker Hendricks has faced -- Koscheck and Story were able to land good strikes on him -- and Kampmann has great takedown defense. I see Hendricks probably knocking down/rocking Kampmann early, but ultimately fading as Kampmann picks him apart in rounds 2 and 3. Martin Kampmann by 29-28 decision.
Ben Thapa: Johny is the highest level wrestler to jump fully into MMA at a viable age. Dude had Olympics written all over him. His striking may still be raw, but Johny hits hard and he can take anybody in the division down. Kampmann has lost to a worse takedown artist in Shields (two years ago) and has been hit many times by less imposing physical presences in more recent fights. He's not going to be able to stuff the takedowns enough or clinch up to get those cool trips he loves against Hendricks. Hendricks, decision.
T.P. Grant: I like Hendricks as a prospect, but I think his striking still has a ways to go before he is ready to stand with the upper level of Welterweight. Hendricks very well could be able to use his wrestling to win this match, but once on the ground Kampmann is a very good grappler. I think Kampmann out lasts Hendricks and beats him up on the feet late. Martin Kampmann by TKO, Round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: Hendricks is a good wrestler with big power who has proven himself lately. But I'm not picking against Martin Kampmann right now, no way. He's more technical on the feet, good enough to not just be ground down on the mat to a decision, and most importantly, he just finds a way to win. Martin Kampmann by TKO, round 2
Staff picking Hendricks: Stephie, Coach, Ben, Dallas, Tim, Brookhouse
Staff picking Kampmann: Grant, Fraser, Mookie, Anton
Brent Brookhouse: Tom Lawlor is still around? Francis Carmont is still around? Both of these guys are totally...okay. Fight stays on the feet, Carmont is better there. Francis Carmont by decision.
Tim Burke: Earth to UFC - Carmont's not Canadian. He's French. There's a difference between French and French Canadian guys. Just because he trains in Montreal and he's GSP's homie doesn't mean he should be taking up a main card spot with freakin' Tom Lawlor. And I'm kind of shocked by what I'm reading below. I don't believe for a second that Lawlor is a better striker than Carmont, and he doesn't want to tangle with him on the ground either. I don't think Carmont's awesome either, but he's a helluva lot better than Tom Lawlor. Francis Carmont by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Je ne pense pas que Francis Carmont est le meilleur combattant que Tom Lawlor. Mais Lawlor n'est bon pas quand il ... yeah I can't continue this. I tried. Anyway, I don't think Carmont is a big prospect, and beating Karlos Vemola doesn't help the cause, but Lawlor, as T.P mentions below, has had issues with strong grapplers. Lawlor definitely has the striking advantage in my book, but Carmont will probably catch him with something on the ground and force Lawlor to tap. Francis Carmont by submission, round 2.
Ben Thapa: I flat out think Tom Lawlor is a better fighter than Francis Carmont. No slight is intended to the Frenchman/Canuck, but Lawlor's hopefully in full health. I think he'll be ready to blast the doors off with a nasty sub attack after thumping the overconfident Carmont in the stand-up. Lawlor, sub, Round 1.
T.P. Grant: Tom Lawlor will come in with some goofy and oddly relevant outfit for the weigh ins and endear himself to MMA fans, but I don't think he will win this fight. Lawlor is a strong wrestler, but he isn't the best grappler once on the ground. He struggles when faced with better ground grapplers and Carmont has a knack for submissions. Francis Carmont by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Lawlor: Coach, Ben, Dallas
Staff picking Carmont: Stephie, Grant, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Brookhouse, Anton
Brent Brookhouse: Nick Ring is super bad on the feet, no matter what anyone tells you. Costa is going to rough him up. Ring has a path to victory if he can find enough takedowns but Costa should win this. Philippou by TKO, round 3.
Tim Burke: Ring likes to get hit. Costa likes hitting people. Ring will probably get dazed early and try to take the fight to the ground, but he's not going to find much success with that. Costa Philippou by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Nick Ring should probably 1-3 in the UFC. Costa Philippou by decision.
T.P. Grant: I suppose I'll go with Philippou, but I really don't have a great way to explain how I came to that conclusion. These are two Middleweights I have not been overly impressed with, but I guess that is just the nature of that weight class. Constantinos Philippou by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: These are two solid guys, both of whom I enjoy watching. Neither one is a world-beater, but this is a quality fight. Costa is a bit more one dimensional than Ring, as he puts the full emphasis on his boxing, but it's a pretty good dimension, and he keeps winning with it. I expect he'll do what he does best here - pick Ring apart and bust him up to outpoint him over 15 minutes. Costa Philippou by decision
Ben Thapa: I agree with Fraser here. Philippou just got done beating Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Fukuda (who apparently retired Tom DeBlass last weekend) and Ring very obviously lost to that same Fukuda a while back. I hate doing the whole MMA math thing, but this is a pretty clear cut case of Philippou handling a common opponent much better than Ring did. I'll spring for a finish here. Philippou, KO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Just chiming in to quickly say that Ring is being seriously over-looked and is my pick for the best underdog bet on the card. Still leaning Costa but Ring has a great chance of neutralizing his boxing with low kicks, counter-strikes and circling and the occasional takedown attempt. Costa Philippou by decision.
Staff picking Philippou: Stephie, Grant, Fraser, Ben, Dallas, Tim, Brookhouse
Staff picking Ring: Coach
Brent Brookhouse: Hominick looks like a shell, I like the guy, but I can't pick him until I see something that renews my faith in his place in the sport. Pablo Garza by TKO, round 1.
Tim Burke: I know Hominick is Canadian, but he's not from Montreal so this really doesn't deserve any special placement. Being on the main card is kind of ridiculous, especially with each guy on losing streaks. As far as the fight goes, it's a good style matchup at least. Garza's long on the feet and has some crafty movies, while Hominick is still technically proficient. Garza's way better on the ground though, and Hominick's chin seems to be on it's way out. Garza just has more ways to win. I kinda hope Hominick proves me wrong though. Hominick did almost beat Yagin even though he got dropped.I keep going back and forth. Eff it, Canada all the way. Mark Hominick by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I really hate to do this, but Hominick is finished. Look at this recent stretch of fights. The war vs. Yves Jabouin, getting a second head vs. Jose Aldo, KO'd by Korean Zombie, and dropped twice by Eddie Yagin. He's quite possibly battle worn and for that reason alone I'm picking Garza to do something nasty. Pablo Garza by KO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Not sure what to make of Hominick at this point. He was an elite featherweight, but he is now on a three fight skid and has looked like trash his last two fights. I'm not in love with Garza either, who is the one Zuffa fighter who fell into a Tiequan Zhang guillotine. I think Hominick finally gets off slide and gets a win here. Mark Hominick by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I've been a big Hominick fan for ages (as a stand-up guy, I'm pretty much obligated to), and these last few fights have been rough. After 10 years in the game, a UFC world title shot, and losing his long-time mentor, I'm just not confident there is a lot left in Mark Hominick. Which is sad. Garza is a fine striker who will have a reach advantage. Yes he has some losses, but those tend to be due to his submission defense, which is not an area of strength for Hominick. I hate to do it, but... Pablo Garza by TKO, round 1
Ben Thapa: Hominick and Garza is a really tight match-up. Their strengths match up well, although I believe Garza is the better grappler off his back. The gut feeling here is that Hominick is like Miguel Torres - running on fumes - and Garza will jump all over this for an easy decision. Garza, decision.
Staff picking Hominick: Coach, Grant, Dallas, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Garza: Stephie, Fraser, Ben, Mookie, Brookhouse
Brent Brookhouse: I'll go ahead and be the guy that picks Sakara. I don't really have a good reason beyond just thinking he's slightly better at the kind of fight they're going to have. You know...as long as he doesn't take one flush on the chin. Alessio Sakara by decision.
Tim Burke: This is all Cote to me. Two hard hitters, but one has an iron chin and the other has one that falters. Sakara's probably the better boxer, but Cote's the better martial artist and he can choose where the fight takes place. He can stop Sakara on the ground or on the feet. I'll say he picks up a KOTN candidate on the feet. Patrick Cote by KO, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Patrick Cote's last UFC win was before Barack Obama was even nominated as the Presidential candidate for the democratic party. Ouch. The year 2008 also represents the last time Alessio Sakara fought twice in a year. Cote's chin is granite and he hits pretty hard, Sakara's chin is not granite and I see Alessio getting put to sleep here. The lead-up to the KO will definitely not disappoint. Patrick Cote by KO, round 1
Ben Thapa: I still maintain that Thales Leites won the fight with Sakara and will hold a grudge against the Italian for that. However, emotions aren't necessary here. Sakara is weak to the determined takedown and has not improved that much in his SEVEN YEARS as a UFC fighter. Cote should be able to plant Sakara and punch him up a few times en route to a dominant decision. Cote, decision.
Staff picking Cote: Stephie, Coach, Fraser, Ben, Mookie, Grant, Dallas, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Sakara: Brookhouse
Brent Brookhouse: I like guys like Griggs who make something out of very little. He's a tough guy, a gritty fighter, and also...not that good. Diabate has his flaws but I don't know that Griggs is the guy that exploits them. Cyrille Diabate by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: It still shocks me that this bout opened with Griggs as a slight favorite. Are you kidding me? Mutton chops and some brawling are not going to take out a seriously good muay thai striker. Griggs isn't good enough to keep this on the ground for very long either, if he can get it there in the first place. Diabate is going to pick his spots and beat the tar out of The Gravedigger. Cyrille Diabate by TKO, round 2
Mookie Alexander: Griggs pretty much has no chance for various reasons, most notably that Diabate will soundly outstrike him, but can the UFC please book Griggs vs. Joey Beltran at some point? Pretty please? Diabate by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: I've been pleasantly surprised by Diabate's UFC run. I figured he would be too old and left behind, but he's put together a very respectable 3-2 record. He has his flaws, but if you feed him a less technical striker who doesn't really use the ground, he will eat that person alive. Griggs? Less technical striker who doesn't really use the ground. Cyrille Diabate by TKO round 2
Staff picking Diabate: Stephie, Coach, Mookie, Fraser, Ben, Grant, Dallas, Tim, Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Griggs:
Brent Brookhouse: Mookie kind of stole my thunder below, Makdessi doesn't have the kind of reliable power to keep Stout off him. Stout can bang on the feet and, if he's getting picked apart, has the game to get takedowns and go ahead and grind out the win. Sam Stout by decision.
Tim Burke: Does Stout go the safe route and look to take it to the ground? I don't think he will this time. He did that to pick up a much-needed W, and he knows what's expected of him here. Makdessi has the ability to keep Stout off balance and take a points decision on the feet here, unlike his bout with a strong muay thai guy like Anthony Njokuani. Will he though? I don't think so. Stout's too crafty to get stuck on the outside all night dodging crescent kicks. He'll land his shots and take the decision. Sam Stout by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I thought this would be FOTN caliber, then I remembered Makdessi is pretty one-dimensional and not powerful enough to stop a guy like Stout. It's very possible Stout strikes with him, but ultimately wins it with takedowns like he did against Spencer Fisher last June. Sam Stout by unanimous decision.
Ben Thapa: The Sam Stout rejuvenation machine should keep on chugging through a serious threat to the FOTN award battle here. I see him taking Makdessi down, but not being able to keep the other Canuck there long. Thus, we'll see the typical Sam Stout fight - which is totally up Dana White's alley. Stout, decision.
Staff picking Makdessi: Stephie, Coach, Anton
Staff picking Stout: Mookie, Fraser, Ben, Grant, Dallas, Brookhouse
Brent Brookhouse: This card has some really awesome fights and some that kind of suck which makes it...pretty much a standard MMA card. This falls in the awesome category though. RDA has better power in his punches, Bocek has the better wrestling though and this could simply come down to who spends more time on top on the ground. If it stays on the feet though, dos Anjos has the edge. Mark Bocek by decision.
Tim Burke: This is just excellent matchmaking from Joe Silva. I'm with Grant, I would love to see this on the ground. Bocek's wrestling is a big advantage for him, but RDA has good takedown D and better standup than Bocek. I've been a big Dos Anjos fan for a long time now, and I feel like he still has the ability to crack into the top 15 at some point. This is going to be a big step in his breakthrough. Rafael dos Anjos by decision.
T.P. Grant: I really, really hope this fight ends up on the ground. Both are fantastic grapplers, Anjos a real killer instinct on the ground and Bocek's work with Marcelo Garcia is paying dividends. I think Bocek's wrestling ability and strong top position wins the day. Mark Bocek by Decision.
Staff picking Bocek: Stephie coach, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Dos Anjos: Mookie, Tim
Tim Burke: Pato obviously looked a thousand times better in his second UFC fight in comparison to his first, and he should look just as comfortable here. Carvalho hits hard and Damm's chin has failed him before, but I think this will go the distance. Damm wants it on the ground, but Carvalho is going to shrug off his takedowns and duke it out for 15. Antonio Carvalho by decision.
Staff picking Carvalho: Stephie coach, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Tim, Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Damm: Dallas
Tim Burke: I really don't like this fight. Menjivar is one of my favorite fighters and has been around forever, but he's starting to look older and older each time out. He's still an awesome fighter though, and I'd normally pick him without a second thought against a guy making his UFC debut. But what I know of Gashimov scares me a bit, and this might be a bad fight for Ivan. Gashimov hasn't competed in 16 months though. I'm leaning Menjivar here, but I'm betting on Gashimov since he's over a 2-1 dog. Ivan Menjivar by TKO, round 2.
Ben Thapa: Coach Riordan and I know how good the Dagestanis are at fighting. Gashimov is super-dangerous to Menjivar, long a hardcore fan favorite, here. Menjivar probably won't succumb to an armbar, but he likely is going to get planted on the ground and punched at. Ivan's had a few occasions where a sure-fire FOTN effort was taken away by something even greater on the card above. I really hope this fight turns into that kind of battle and that we see how good both Menjivar and Gashimov can be. But, I doubt it tilts to the Canadian/El Salvadorian favor over three rounds. Gashimov, decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Poor Menjivar. Not long ago he was in title contention, one of the contenders to fight for an interim title with Cruz out. One dull loss to Easton and that's all over. I fear that he won't make another run near the top, but he still has plenty to take out a far less experienced opponent in Gashimov. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
Staff picking Gashimov: Coach, Ben
Staff picking Menjivar: Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Dallas, Tim, Brookhouse, Anton
Tim Burke: I pick against Siler every time and he's made me look stupid every time. This time is different though. Elkins is the kind of grinder that will put it on Siler and not give an inch for the entire 15 minutes. Elkins was impressive against Brandao, and he'll continue along the path to contention with a win here. Darren Elkins by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I see nothing to indicate that Siler can stop Elkins from grinding him down. Darren Elkins via decision
Ben Thapa: I suspect Siler has gotten a few tastes of the royal jelly that is winning and that Darren Elkins isn't the one to rip the honeyed spoon from his mouth. Siler, decision.
Staff picking Elkins: Stephie, Coach, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Siler: Ben, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: I'm making this pick entirely believing I'm making a losing pick. But out of principle I can't pick Riddle. I guess I think Maguire finds a way to get it done here while Riddle shadowboxes. John Maguire by decision.
Tim Burke: As much as I like gypsy jiu jitsu, I don't think Maguire is going to be able to deal with what Riddle brings to the table. It's actually similar to the Hathaway fight in the fact that he'll either be stuck on the outside trying unsuccessfully to land punches, or he'll be on his back after a takedown attempt of his own goes sideways. It's just a bad fight for Maguire. Matt Riddle by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Riddle will fire his warning shots by hitting the air around Maguire, then use his size and wrestling to stifle Maguire, who I think is much better suited at 155 than 170. Riddle by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Maguire stumbled against Hathaway, but I still think he has a lot of potential. His problem here will be the reach disadvantage. Riddle is not great, but he's aggressive and scrappy and aggressive and scrappy tend to win judges over. I think this will be a close one, with Riddle eking out a mildly controversial decision win. Matt Riddle by decision
Ben Thapa: This is like picking between banana or tapioca pudding, when you want chocolate pudding. Or even a Pudding Pop, really. I commend Riddle for stepping up, but frown upon the Zuffa matchmakers for going to Riddle as a back-up fighter when he just got mini-suspended for a positive marijuana test. There are other fighters out there - like the ones that have been locked up in Strikeforce for all this time - and they have no suspensions or recent positive drug tests to concern sponsors, fans and regulators. Stepping down from my not-so-lofty soapbox platform now. Riddle, decision.
T.P. Grant: Moar Windmills!!! Matt Riddle by Split Decision.
Staff picking Maguire: Brookhouse, Anton
Staff picking Riddle: Stephie, Coach, Fraser, Ben, Mookie, Grant, Tim, Dallas