Tim Burke: This bout is going to go deeper than the first fight obviously, but I’m not sure that Cain can keep JDS on the floor for the time necessary to take a decision. There’s going to be just too much time on the feet, and eventually JDS is going to find his rhythm and start to tag him. Cain is a lot more resilient than the first bout showed though, so I think this should go the distance in a damn good, high-paced fight. Junior dos Santos by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I don't think Cain an hold JDS down for long stretches during their 25 minute bout, and I do think that Dos Santos will win the stand up battle. The only thing that makes me unsure of my pick is Dos Santos' cardio if Cain is able to push a crazy pace and throw of his rhythm 5 rounds. That's not enough to make me change my prediction though, so for me it's still Junior Dos Santos by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Cain’s best chance at a victory is getting the takedowns, holding JDS down and maintaining top position as he rains down his hard ground-and-pound. But JDS is so difficult to hold and even if he is held there, I just have a feeling he’ll be competent fighting off of his back and avoiding Cain’s fists and elbows. On the feet, JDS definitely is far more likely to hurt Velasquez than the other way around. As great a wrestler as Cain is, I’m in the camp of JDS being a potentially dominant champion (something unheard of in UFC HW history) and he’ll continue his reign by stuffing Cain’s takedowns, knocking him out again with a good combo on the feet, and lastly unleashing hammerfists and whatever else it takes to get Herb Dean to stop the fight. Junior dos Santos by KO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: I’m having a tough time seeing how, ultimately, this doesn’t end up being similar to the first fight. I like Cain, but he still has a questionable chin, and JDS still hits really, really hard. I think it will take a bit more time this fight, but still, I see Cigano getting his hands on Cain to the same result. The only thing that makes me nervous is a vague Arlovski/Sylvia 2 vibe I’m getting, but I’m not sold on that. Junior dos Santos by KO round 2
T.P. Grant: I am also feeling the Arlovski/Sylvia 2 vibe and I am embracing it. Both fighters are too good for this to end in 90 seconds again. I’m expecting the back-and-forth battle that we were promised at UFC on Fox 1. Velasquez needs to really take advantage of his cardio and stay on the attack, trap JDS against the cage and clinch him up. From there take JDS down to wear him down and slow the champion down. The path to victory for dos Santos is pretty clear, hit Cain again, hard. I think Cain pushes the pace and survives the first few rounds by clinching and working for takedowns, and by the late rounds JDS has slowed down too much to land a real damaging shot. Cain Velasquez by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Though Cain presents a formidable challenge to any heavyweight and their first match doesn’t entirely influence my decision, I can’t get over the fact that JDS has never even really been challenged in the UFC. There has been nary a moment when I felt he was anything but in total control and either amidst a hail of boxing punishment or on the verge of unloading it. This should hinge entirely on Cain’s ability to shrink the gap while blending his takedowns and striking, and I don’t think he can do it definitively enough to finish or consistently enough to win more rounds on the cards. Junior dos Santos by TKO.
Chris Hall: This one is going to be all JDS again. Cain is a fantastic Heavyweight and will remain at the top of the division for a long time, but Junior is absolutely the worst stylistic matchup for him. Cain’s relentless, but the gaping holes in his striking defense and less than granite chin are going to leave him open to Dos Santos’ boxing prowess. The argument for Cain is that this time he’ll be able to use his wrestling, get JDS down, and break him up with his brutal ground and pound. The only problem is we’ve literally never seen anyone come close to doing this to JDS. In 9 UFC fights, no one has been able to hold him down for a significant amount of time. Cain may be able to get a takedown, but I don’t see any way he’ll be able to hold him there before getting cracked. JDS by TKO
Staff picking JDS: Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Anton
Staff picking Velasquez: Grant
Tim Burke: Miller brother all the way. I love watching Lauzon fight, but this is not a good matchup for him at all. The grind will be turned way up and Lauzon won’t be able to deal. Jim Miller by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I think Lauzon has better boxing and I think he can survive on the ground to make it a close and exciting bout. No one wanted to pick him, but I will. Joe Lauzon by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Two problems with Lauzon - He has not shown any consistent cardio, although his last fight with Varner saw him pull out a 3rd round stoppage. Second problem - When he loses he gets finished. It’s actually what makes Lauzon fights so fun, because when he can’t get the finish he probably will be stopped, but when he does get the finish he does it in incredibly awesome fashion. I actually believe this will be a more competitive fight than people think, but Miller will earn the 2nd round victory. Jim Miller by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Lauzon is at his best when he can blitz you and sub you early. Miller is too good for that, and I don’t see Lauzon being able to get that submission. I like Miller to grind him down here and reassert himself in the division. Jim Miller by decision
T.P. Grant: Totally agree with Fraser here, Miller is too good to get blitzed on the ground. Lauzon is very aggressive on the ground but he takes a lot of risks, while Miller has more of that classic patient BJJ black belt approach, staying defensively sound and waiting for an opening instead of trying to force one. That approach yielded a surprisingly easy victory over Charles Oliveira and I suspect it will work in a similar fashion against Lauzon. Jim Miller by Submission, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: Solid perspectives from Mookie and Fraser. While I’d add Lauzon’s height/length and scary punching power as danger-zones, Miller’s patience, intelligence and diversity should carry him through Lauzon’s early onslaught and allow him to start picking away with strikes to set up a takedown, where I think he can ride out rounds or finish. Jim Miller by decision.
Chris Hall: I’m a big Lauzon fan, but he’s outmatched in this one. Miller is talented enough on the feet that he shouldn’t get caught there. And more than savvy enough on the ground not to get caught by Joe’s crafty submission game. Miller by decision
Staff picking Lauzon: Anton
Staff picking Miller: Fraser, Grant, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris
Tim Burke: This is tough. I really don’t think Boetsch has much to fear in the clinch here though, and he can tire Costa out by putting his weight on him. Costa needs space to box, and he’s just not going to get it. Tim Boetsch by decision
Anton Tabuena: Boetsch will grind this one out. Tim Boetsch by late TKO.
Mookie Alexander: As much as Costa has improved in his last several fights, his best win is still Riki Fukuda. I’m sold on him as a top 10 middleweight (although I think Anderson Silva would beat the brakes off of him) and he’ll be too much for Costa to handle, particularly on the ground. Tim Boetsch by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I like both of these guys, and tend to think people underrate Costa. He’ll have the advantage at distance, but Boetsch should have more power and be able to get inside and rough him up more, which to me, will be the difference maker. Tim Boetsch by decision
T.P. Grant: Rock-em-sock-em Middleweights! I’ll take Boetsch because he can avoid the knock out shot, can do work in the clinch and has proven himself against upper-level competition. Tim Boetsch by decision.
Dallas Winston: The major concern with Philippou’s boxing is that it leaves him without a distance weapon. Relying strictly on his hands forces him to assume the phone-booth range that Boetsch thrives in, and the looming threat of takedowns should throw a wrench into his striking. I do, however, expect Boetsch to chew on his fair share of left hooks and right hands, and Costa could expose his rudimentary striking tendencies. Update: I’d taken Boetsch but, after rewatching Philippou’s economical strategy against Fukuda, and considering that no one has picked him yet, I’ll change it up. Costa Philippou by decision.
Chris Hall: Tim Boetsch’s run in 2012 is probably one of the most incredible in MMA this year. He was essentially set up to lose 3 consecutive times and came out on top in 2 of them already. I think he dodged a big bullet when Weidman pulled out and Costa is just the kind of guy he can beat. Tim Boetsch by decision.
Staff picking Philippou: Dallas
Staff picking Boetsch: Fraser, Grant, Tim, Mookie, Chris, Anton
Tim Burke: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Alan Belcher is overrated and doesn’t belong in title talk. He’s going to get bullied by Okami on the clinch and he’s not going to be given any room to set up his striking. It’s just not a good fight for him. Yushin Okami by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Like Tim, I also think Belcher is overrated, and thinking this over, I see Okami "imposing his will" on Belcher and also really using his jab effectively to keep Belcher at bay. I’m not too psyched about this fight being a crowd-pleaser, so watch this become an amazing war. Yushin Okami by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I’m probably still underrating Belcher, but I just don’t see him being able to stop Okami’s wrestling, either on the mat or from the clinch. Yushin Okami by decision
T.P. Grant: I think Belcher is well and firmly back on the horse since his injury. He is entering his prime as a fighter and still expanding his skill set. I think he beats Okami and moves back towards title contention. Alan Belcher by TKO, Round 3
Dallas Winston: I was initially leaning toward Belcher for his pure toughness, but I don’t that’s enough to overcome what is (still) inevitably a poor match-up. Okami has a few bad habits to watch out for: he retreats in a straight line when pressured (which is how Boetsch caught him), his head position is a little sketchy when dropping levels, and he suffers from strange moments of hesitation with his guard down after he’s cornered his opponent. Okami also has to be wary of Belcher’s kicks when he’s keeping busy with his long jab and straight left, but I think he’ll be more competitive on the feet than Belcher will be in the clinch and on the ground. Yushin Okami by decision.
Chris Hall: Tim’s 100% right that Belcher should be no where near the title discussion. People that threw him in there failed to realize he’s never beaten a top 10 fighter. But, he’s on a good run against solid competition. He looked great in his win over Palhares and it’s time for him to get his chance at the top of the division. Okami’s a great test for him here, and I think he can rise to the challenge. Belcher by TKO
Staff picking Belcher: Grant, Chris
Staff picking Okami: Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Anton
Tim Burke: Losses to Kendall Grove and Jacare Souza have definitely taken the shine off of one of Strikeforce’s top MW prospects. If he takes Leben down and keeps him there, he can win. But he’s gonna get KO’d before that happens consistently. Chris Leben by TKO, round 2
Anton Tabuena: I know he's been out for a year, but have you seen Leben recently? The dude looks like he's in the best shape of his career. Not that it would've changed my pick though, as I would've still picked the normal not-so-ripped Leben over Brunson. Chris Leben by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Unless Leben is completely shot, Brunson isn’t going to do anything in this fight other than take a nap. Chris Leben by KO, round 1
Fraser Coffeen: I hate picking someone coming off a year plus layoff, but when you get KO’d by Jacare of all people, Leben is a real bad fight for you. Chris Leben by KO, round 1
T.P. Grant: Leben is really shopworn, but he is still more than a match for Brunson. Chris Leben by KO, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: In what seems like a squash match, the two aspects that could pay dividends for Brunson are his D2 All-American wrestling credentials and the fact that he’s facing one of the most predictable fighters ever with master strategist Greg Jackson in his corner. Tight-laced counters from a compact stance and enforcing his wrestling without committing to prolonged exchanges in Leben’s guard could foster the upset. Leben is probably more dangerous from his guard than he is on the feet, as he’s much more technical and defensively sound. He has busy hips and an excellent armbar and triangle, leaving Brunson with only the element of control in his favor. Chris Leben by TKO.
Chris Hall: WAR CRIPPLER! Leben by KO
Staff picking Leben: Fraser, Grant, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Anton
Staff picking Brunson:
Tim Burke: I love this fight, and it’s really tough to pick either way. But I think Wineland can stop the shot and beat him up on the feet enough to take a decision. I wouldn’t be surprised by anything though. Eddie Wineland by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Looks like I'm alone on this one again. I think Pickett can win both on the feet and on the ground, and to be honest, I'm surprised people all ended up picking Wineland over him. Brad Pickett by TKO.
T.P. Grant: Gone back and forth on this one. I think Wineland’s wrestling is strong enough to keep Pickett from getting him down and from there Wineland can use his boxing. While Wineland has been working on his jiu jitsu with New Breed in Chicago, Pickett is a crafty submission grappler and being on the ground with him is a risky proposition. This should be a flat out awesome fight. Eddie Wineland by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is going to win FOTN. Wineland has the more powerful hands and great body punching, but Pickett has shown a good ground game, which he used to beat Demetrious Johnson in the WEC, in addition to good striking. Both men can take a hell of a shot, and I really see this as a back-and-forth battle that will see one judge in disagreement with the other two. Eddie Wineland by split decision.
Staff picking Pickett: Anton
Staff picking Wineland: Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Grant
Tim Burke: Perez looks like a decent prospect and he should be able to take this fight over a marginal guy. Erik Perez by submission, round 2
T.P. Grant: Bloodworth because... why not? Byron Bloodworth by Decision.
Staff picking Perez: Fraser, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Anton
Staff picking Bloodworth: Grant
Tim Burke: I’m not as big a fan of Johnson as most (although knocking out Danny Castillo is always cool in my book). I think Jury has a legit shot here, and I’m gonna pick the upset. Myles Jury by submission, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Johnson is developing into a pretty solid fighter and I think he continues to develop with a good win. Michael Johnson by TKO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: I have to chime in on the perplexing match-making here. Jury, still a highly intriguing prospect with utterly volatile offense, was a favorite to win both seasons of TUF, coming in undefeated with 10-straight stoppages in the 1st round. I think this will be highly competitive but fail to understand the benefit of giving Johnson a step down after rattling a top contender in Castillo and throwing Jury in the deep end right off the bat. Michael Johnson by hard-fought decision.
Chris Hall: Michael Johnson had mostly fallen off my radar after his stint on TUF, but he definitely jumped right back with the Castillo KO. He’s been looking great lately and I think he’ll continue that here. Johnson by Decision
Staff picking Johnson: Fraser, Grant, Mookie, Dallas, Anton
Staff picking Jury: Tim
Tim Burke: I’ll just copy/paste my analysis from two weeks ago - "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.
Mookie Alexander: The submission issue isn’t nearly as much of a problem for Guillard as it is the way he handles being hit. It’s actually part of the reason why he was submitted easily by Joe Stevenson and Joe Lauzon. Varner hits hard and has a better chin. Guillard can probably crack any chin, but I see Varner catching him with a hard shot before finishing him with a choke. Jamie Varner by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Same thing I said last time - Guillard loses to submission fighters, but that’s not Varner. Melvin Guillard by KO, round 2
T.P. Grant: I think Varner could make this a really interesting fight. Guillard is in a bit of a funk and his struggles with grappling are well documented. Varner is not weak chinned, he has survived in against fire throwers before and I think he gets this fight down on the ground and gets the win. Jamie Varner by Submission, Round 2.
Chris Hall: This fight is going to be pure fireworks. I don’t have a dog in this one, so I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy. Having to pick, I’ll go with Guillard by KO
Staff picking Guillard: Fraser, Tim, Dallas, Guillard, Anton
Staff picking Varner: Grant, Mookie
Tim Burke: Is Duffee awesome? No. But The Fries is worse, especially standing. He’s basically the perfect matchup for Duffee in his comeback fight. Todd Duffee by KO, round 1
Anton Tabuena: TODDDUFFEE! by TKO
Mookie Alexander: Tim has no idea what he is talking about. Todd Duffee is not only awesome but he’s a god who should never be questioned. His status as an MMA fighter will reach levels so high that Mike Goldberg will be unable to find the proper adjective to describe how utterly amazing and stupendous he is at fighting. Todd Duffee by global destruction, round 1.
T.P. Grant: The MMA world got way too hyped about Duffee back in 2009, and I’m not sure he will ever reach anywhere near the heights expected of him. That said he may be able to handle Philip De Fries, but I’m going to pick against it. Philip De Fries by Decision.
Chris Hall: Yes the Duffee hype went way overboard, but that doesn’t mean he’s a scrub either. He looked good before getting cracked by Russow, and awful getting smashed by Reem. But De Fries is the kind of fighter he can beat. Duffee by KO.
Staff picking Duffee: Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Anton
Staff picking De Fries: Grant, Fraser
Tim Burke: Moraga’s destruction of Ulysses Gomez was very impressive, and his well-rounded skills will give him the advantage here. John Moraga by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I was definitely impressed with Moraga’s debut against Gomez, and his striking as well as his wrestling will give him the edge over Cariaso in the sole flyweight fight of the night. John Moraga by decision.
Staff picking Cariaso: Fraser, Grant
Staff picking Moraga: Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Anton
Tim Burke: Garcia certainly got hooped by the change of opponent. He would have destroyed Cody McKenzie. Holloway? Not so much. I actually think this is a pretty good fight overall. Garcia’s known as a brawler, but most of his wins have come by sub and he just might be smart enough to take this to the ground against a young opponent. But then again, he could just be looking for a FOTN bonus. Max Holloway by decision
Mookie Alexander: Taking a gander at some of Garcia’s submission wins, they’ve come against a string of cans. Literally nobody he has submitted (he’s submitted 9 people) has a Wikipedia page, which generally means they’ve never been even remotely reputable in MMA. Max doesn’t have the power to stop Garcia, but his striking is streets ahead of Leonard’s no matter how many times Joe Rogan tries to convince you Leonard’s right hand is akin to an atomic bomb. Max Holloway by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Clearly we’re going to stand and bang here, and clearly, Holloway is the superior technical striker. In the past, it’s been a bad move to pick Garcia to lose a decision, but that streak seems to have ended lately, so I say Holloway not only wins the fight itself, but also actually wins on the scorecards. Max Holloway by decision
T.P. Grant: I think the original match with Cody McKenzie favored Garcia much more than Holloway. If Garcia is smart about how he fights, he should be able to take Holloway down and submit him, but when was the last time Garcia implemented any sort of game plan? Yeah, that is why I’m picking Holloway. Max Holloway by Decision.
Chris Hall: The only reason to pick Garcia is a complete lack of faith in the judges. While they’ve given us a lot of reason to doubt them, I’m not going to bet that they mess it up again. Max Holloway by decision.
Staff picking Garcia:
Staff picking Holloway: Fraser, Grant, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, Chris, Anton