Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale staff picks and predictions

Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson

Tim Burke: Mitrione has surprised me in the UFC thus far, but I don’t like this matchup for him. Nelson’s striking is plodding and predictable, but it’s not like Mitrione’s is better. Nelson can take the fight down if he wants as well. It’s just Roy’s fight to lose. Roy Nelson by decision.

Fraser Coffeen: When it was announced as Nelson vs. Carwin, I picked Nelson without a second thought. Mitrione actually gives me a bit more pause as an opponent. He’s yet to be stopped, and he’s shown that he has heavy power, so if Nelson wades in to land the big KO overhand right, he could get caught. Roy is more well rounded (har har) though, so that should be the difference maker here. Roy Nelson by TKO, round 2.

Dallas Winston: Mitrione has all the tools to beat Nelson -- he’s quicker, stronger, more athletic and his boxing is incrementally straighter and cleaner. However, he seemed quite gunshy and uncomfortable in leading off his combinations from outside against Kongo: if that could be attributed to the risk of eating thunderous counters, I’ll expect the same against Nelson, but if that strictly demonstrated the perils of Kongo’s exceptional distance, then I’ll give Meathead a legit shot here. Actually, the more I think about it, he has a great chance to backpedal and plug away with his long reach, as Nelson’s striking defense and takedowns are not elite. His right hand is, however, and that will likely be the differentiator. Roy Nelson by TKO.

Staff picking Mitrione:
Staff picking Nelson: Stephie, Coach, Fraser, Tim, Dallas

Mike Ricci vs. Colton Smith

Tim Burke: I don’t really like Ricci as a person, but he’s a fairly talented fighter. He’s got pretty good standup, and his takedown defense is good enough to keep Smith off of him for large periods of time. He still can’t hold a candle to the REAL Mike Ricci though, who had the second-best nose in NHL history. Go Canada! Mike Ricci by TKO, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: Like I said in my preview, Smith is super one dimensional. On the show, he was able to just take guys down and control his way to a win. But none of those opponents were as good as Ricci, and certainly none had the benefit of a full camp at one of the best gyms on the planet. As long as Ricci can avoid the takedown or get back to his feet, he will dominate Smith standing. Mike Ricci by KO, round 1.

Dallas Winston: Ricci had the best mentality and skill-set on TUF, but Smith’s relentless takedowns will be well attuned to negate his diversity by forcing a wrestling match. Smith also pursues his shots so tenaciously that most of the knockout blows Ricci can throw will result in being on his back if they don’t land solidly, so the key factors will be his elusive footwork and defensive guard/scrambling. An uneventful grind-fest from Smith wouldn’t be entirely shocking but Ricci should be too well rounded and cerebral. Mike Ricci by submission.

Staff picking Ricci: Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Smith: Coach

Pat Barry vs. Shane del Rosario

Tim Burke: I actually think SDR’s got this. If he wants to bang with Barry he might be in for a long night, but his job is probably on the line here, and he definitely has the takedowns and ground acumen to submit him. I would like to see a KO, but I like fighting smart too. Shane del Rosario by submission, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: I’m just not sold on del Rosario completely. I think he strikes with Barry, and Barry is just more technical. Pat Barry by KO, round 2.

Dallas Winston: It’s del Rosario’s methodical Muay Thai and submissions against the fiery onslaught of HD’s kickboxing. A del Rosario in tip-top shape should win this handily but I’m with Fraser in that I’m still hesitant to trust in him until he shines in the Octagon. Plus, even though this grates on everyone’s nerves for some reason, I really want Barry to chalk up a win and hang around. Pat Barry by TKO.

Staff picking Barry: Coach, Fraser, Dallas
Staff picking Del Rosario: Stephie, Tim

Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner

Tim Burke: This fight is going to be fun, but I think it’s Melvin’s all the way. Varner has solid boxing and wrestling, but so does Guillard. This isn’t like the Lauzon fight where both men were looking to scramble. Guillard does get taken down more than people seem to realize, but his real gift is that he’s able to get right back up. Normally I’d take Guillard by TKO, but Varner’s always had a really good chin and I think it’ll go the distance in a fight of the night candidate. Melvin Guillard by decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Tough call here as these are two guys who both have the ability to lose. I tend to like Varner, and find him often underrated, but this is a bad match-up for him. The way to beat Guillard is with the sub game, and that’s not Varner’s style. He could perhaps outwrestle Guillard, but I see this staying on the feet, allowing Guillard to show off his power. Melvin Guillard by KO, round 1.

Dallas Winston: I’m not sure why I feel so strongly that Guillard will take this, because Varner is perfectly equipped to pinpoint his weakness. He’s still an A-list wrestle-boxer, technical in both categories and he transitions well between the two. I can’t get past the idea that Guillard will just be way too fast and explosive for Varner, who’s submission capabilities are more limited to basic top-side chokes. Amazingly though, he’s yet to lose via strikes, which means we’re in for either a valiant war of attrition or a cringe-worthy beating. Melvin Guillard by hard-earned decision.

Staff picking Guillard: Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Varner: Coach

Jonathan Brookins vs. Dustin Poirier

Tim Burke: Simply put - Poirier is going to smoke Brookins. Poirier is just a much better athlete. He has better standup, and some nice subs as well. I still think Poirier can get himself back into the title picture one day, and this is the first step. Dustin Poirier by submission, round 2.

Dallas Winston: Brookins is such a likable guy and his top-game is downright murderous. I’m too leery to side with him against a quick and well-rounded dynamo like Poirier until he cleans up his entries, as his ultra-porous striking defense is too much of a liability. As with the last match up, Brookins has an iron chin (Jose Aldo is the only fighter to stop him with strikes) and a heart of gold, so he’ll press on until he’s unconscious or the bell sounds. Dustin Poirier by decision.

Staff picking Brookins:
Staff picking Poirier: Stephie, Coach, Fraser, Tim, Dallas

James Head vs. Mike Pyle

Tim Burke: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a fan of Mike Pyle and won’t pick him...ever. And in this case, there’s actually a basis for it. I really like Head’s overall game and even though he’s not a full-time fighter, he has the chops to stifle Pyle and win a decision. I’m going with Head! James Head by decision.

Dallas Winston: I’m high enough on Head that it’s causing me to second guess myself. The only area that was in question at middleweight was his wrestling, but his massive yet well-proportioned frame at welterweight seems to have buttoned up that aspect. Pyle is crafty everywhere but, since I don’t think he can survive with Head standing, he best focus all that experience and intelligence on his takedown prowess, as he’s always struggled with sharp strikers who keep him standing. James Head by TKO.

Staff picking Head: Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Pyle: Stephie Coach

Johnny Bedford vs. Marcos Vinicius

Tim Burke: Vina’s just bigger and stronger. Bedford’s tough, but I think he gets submitted eventually. Marcos Vinicius by submission, round 2.

Dallas Winston: I’m intrigued to see how Vinicius performs as a bantamweight. He’s been an unstoppable finishing machine outside the UFC but I’ve been pretty impressed with Bedford’s multi-faceted game and veteran composure. Johnny Bedford by decision.

Staff picking Bedford: Stephie, Coach, Fraser, Dallas
Staff picking Vinicius: Tim

Rustam Khabilov vs. Vinc Pichel

Tim Burke: Grappler vs. striker. Tough call. Normally I’d take the TUF guy over the untested Russian, but this untested Russian is at Jackson’s and has big-fight experience with One FC. I probably shouldn’t, but I’m a sucker for sambo guys. Rustam Khabilov by decision.

Dallas Winston: Another in the long line of incoming Russian Combat Sambo champions debuts against an under-rated TUFer with ridiculously heavy hands. I thought Pichel could’ve gone to a 3rd against Iaquinta and I really appreciate his sub-savvy for being such a voracious striker. I think he’s got a great chance here but it’s hard to pick against an experienced Jackson/Winklejohn trained fighter who’ll be rock-solid in every aspect. Rustam Khabilov by decision (but don’t overlook Pichel).

Staff picking Khabilov: Stephie, Coach, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Pichel: Fraser

Nick Catone vs. T.J. Waldburger

Tim Burke: Interesting fight. Catone is a big dude and 170 might be a bit of a struggle for him. He’s a very good wrestler with a brown belt, while Whataburger is a sub specialist. I really liked his armbar on Jake Hecht, but I’d be very surprised if he caught Catone. Nick Catone by decision.

Dallas Winston: If Catone can make the cut to welter and maintain even a decent amount of his cardio, strength and agility, this cat will be a monster. He’s a legit wrestler with a BJJ brown belt and functional striking, but gargantuan enough to inspire a pick for pimpster submissionist Waldburger based on my skepticism surrounding the cut. T.J. Waldburger by submission.

Staff picking Catone: Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Whataburger: (LOL @ Whataburger) Stephie, Coach, Dallas

Reuben Duran vs. Hugo Viana

Tim Burke: I still have three fights to go? Seriously? This feels like the longest card ever. Viana’s win over Macapa is better than anything on Duran’s resume (even the Rivera sub). Viana’s gonna be bigger too. Hugo Viana by decision.

Dallas Winston: I’m uncertain about Duran -- he’s shown shades of brilliance but not consistently enough to get a good bead on him. "Wolverine" has meth-bender type of unruly aggression and is also making a weight cut for the first time, which will again be the question mark that steers me in the opposite direction. Viana could be a force if all goes well with the cut though. Reuben Duran by decision.

Staff picking Duran: Stephie, Dallas
Staff picking Viana: Coach, Fraser, Tim

John Cofer vs. Mike Rio

Tim Burke: Wrestling, I guess. Mike Rio by decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Rio’s TUF loss to Andy Ogle did not fill me with confidence in him, as that was a very winnable fight. He has good wrestling, and *should* win this, but I think Cofer is just good enough on the feet to avoid the TD and catch Rio. John Cofer by KO round 1.

Dallas Winston: These two have very similar styles -- Rio was an NAIA standout but Cofer wrestled at the D1 level. Cofer’s stand up might make the difference but I’ll take Rio in a virtual coin-flip bout. Mike Rio by decision.

Staff picking Cofer: Fraser
Staff picking Rio: Stephie, Coach, Tim, Dallas

Tim Elliott vs. Jared Papazian

Tim Burke: I dig this fight. Both Elliott and Papazian have spirit and this should be entertaining. Papazian is dropping to fly after two straight losses. Both were entertaining though. This is tough, but Papazian should edge it out. Jared Papazian by decision.

Dallas Winston: This should be a dog-fight. Elliott’s tough as nails and I really liked what I saw against Dodson whereas Papazian surprisingly wilted against Pague. Tim Elliott by decision.

Staff picking Elliott: Dallas
Staff picking Papazian: Stephie Coach, Fraser, Tim

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