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Ben Henderson vs.
Tim Burke: Leg kicks and wrestling. That's where it's at for Henderson. I don't see Nate having much of an advantage on the feet at all, and I think Ben can work his way around the Stockton Slap. The kicks, which are something neither Diaz brother handles well, will slow Nate down and make him more open to takedowns. Yes, Diaz has awesome submissions, but Henderson simply can't be choked out. WEC all the way, baby.by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I'm a big Ben Henderson fan, but I don't see how he wins this. Nate has better submissions (better than anybody Bendo has ever fought), crisper boxing, and Henderson has a BAD BAD habit of putting himself in bad spots. While likely a product of bad footwork, he gets knocked down in virtually every fight and Diaz can certainly catch him standing. Yes, Ben can take this to the ground, but I don't see Henderson having the cardio nor ability to "grind" a decision. He's going to get picked apart on the feet and when this fight goes to the ground -- I mean it has to, right? -- he will get careless and Nate will capitalize. Nate Diaz by 3rd round armbar.
Anton Tabuena: Henderson can score points by getting a few takedowns, but I don't think Diaz will be ‘controlled' on the ground, so the striking battle will be key here. Bendo has very good movement and his leg kicks can cause trouble with Diaz, but I do think Nate can keep peppering him with punches and win more exchanges. It's a tough fight to pick, and I do think it will be really close especially if it goes to a decision, but I think Diaz can land more and take this fight. Nate Diaz by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm having a tough time here, and I think it's because these guys are both stylistically bad match-ups for each other. Like Mookie says, this thing almost definitely will go to the ground. Once it does, Diaz is a terror - that guillotine on Miller was eye opening in its brutality. Bendo has notoriously tough submission defense, but Diaz is on another level. At the same time, Diaz has always struggled against stronger wrestlers - Guida, Stevenson, Maynard. Standing, Diaz is superior, but I guess I like Bendo's ability to push the pace and control him. Tough, tough fight here. Ben Henderson by decision
Dallas Winston: Dearest readers -- since I've been writing and talking in serious depth about each of these match ups throughout the week, I'm just going to leave my picks with no explanations, but feel free to check out my video analysis of the card with Kid Nate or just peruse the library of Dissections if you're interested on my warped reasoning. P.S. Nate Diaz by Stockton, son.
Staff picking Henderson: Fraser, Grant, Ben, Tim
Staff picking Diaz: Mookie, Anton, Dallas
Tim Burke: I'm going against the board here. Gustafsson is ultra-talented, but I'm not ready to write Shogun off yet. I think he can overcome the reach by getting inside, he can get takedowns from the clinch, and he can blast away on the big Swede. It's a three rounder, and I think his cardio will hold up. Shogun Rua by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Not only has Shogun proven to have severe cardio issues even in round 1, but he's now been knocked down or hurt badly on the feet in 3 of his last 4 fights. He definitely still has that KO power, but unless Gustafsson gets careless, I see him picking Shogun apart from range and badly mangling his face until the 3rd round. Alexander Gustafsson by 3rd round TKO
Anton Tabuena: Shogun isn't SHOGUN anymore, and like the fight with Jones, he will have tons of trouble with Gustafsson's reach. Gustafsson also has more power and a more diverse striking arsenal than that, so I really think it's an uphill battle for Shogun. Sure, the former PRIDE and UFC champ can land shots that can definitely turn the tide, but this is Gustafsson's fight to lose. Alexander Gustafsson by dominant decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Shogun's UFC run has been a minor miracle of dedication, as he somehow pulled off a pretty solid resurrection after a terrible start inside the Octagon. As a result, I'm not yet ready to rule him out. That said, Gustafsson is a beast and will just be too aggressive for the slowed down version of Shogun. Alexander Gustafsson by decision
Staff picking Gustafsson: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Ben
Staff picking Shogun: Tim
Tim Burke: It's a weird fight. If you look at individual skill areas - striking, wrestling, BJJ - Penn is probably better at all of them. But that doesn't mean he's going to win. He'll start strong, but fade late. Just like he always does. Rory MacDonald by decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight would be easier to pick if I could predict which B.J. Penn would show up. I'm done trying to pick based on that. Can Penn beat Rory? Yes. He has the better stand-up and MacDonald's defensive striking wasn't impressive against the elite Che Mills. But if Penn can't finish him in the 1st round it's over. Penn's cardio cannot hold up at WW and I don't know how many more times we need to see it. He has never won a fight (to my knowledge) in which he has lost a round on the judges' scorecards, so that pretty much tells you right there that when he doesn't dominate, he doesn't win. I see Rory capitalizing on that and busting him up with ground-and-pound in rounds 2 and 3 when he tires. Rory MacDonald by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Penn is looking like he is in the best shape he's ever been since his reign at lightweight, and he should have better striking than Rory. He has great takedown defense and if Penn can keep it standing, he should take this. That's a very big ‘if' though, as Rory will also have a massive size advantage to compliment his wrestling. I'll be very glad to be wrong about this, but Penn hasn't looked great at welterweight, and I think Rory will out muscle and out wrestle him to take this fight. It's too bad that Penn decided to get in great shape now and probably retire if he loses, since I think he'd still be a huge force at lightweight and has a much better chance against guys like Henderson or Diaz. Rory MacDonald by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I said this before Penn vs. Diaz and I'll say it again - B.J. Penn at Welterweight is NOT the same fighter at Lightweight. His WW reputation is based pretty much solely on the first Hughes win. That was a good win, but it was also 8 years ago. Since then, he's won exactly 2 fights at 170 - against Duane Ludwig and a shot Hughes. Rory outmuscles Penn here, attacks the cardio, and puts the legend away. Rory MacDonald by TKO, round 2
Staff picking MacDonald: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Penn: Grant, Dallas, Ben
Tim Burke: Brown's tough, but he gets subbed a lot. This seems pretty by-the-numbers. Mike Swick via submission (guillotine), round 1
Mookie Alexander: Matt Brown has a hell of a chin, so I'm thinking Swick just takes advantage of Brown's glaring weakness and that is submission defense. Mike Swick via Swickotine, round 1
Anton Tabuena: Swick should take this one. He's just the better overall fighter. Sorry Luke. Mike Swick by TKO.
Staff picking Brown: Dallas
Staff picking Swick: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Ben, Tim
Tim Burke: Yves is awesome, but Stephens has some wrestling and power, and that'll be enough to get him through. Jeremy Stephens by decision.
Mookie Alexander: There's only one outcome whether you like it or not. Yves Edwards by superior Thugjitsu.
Anton Tabuena: I think the difference maker on this bout would the power advantage from Stephens. Jeremy Stephens by TKO.
Staff picking Edwards: Mookie, Grant, Dallas, Ben, Tim
Staff picking Stephens: Anton, Fraser
Tim Burke: Assuncao is underrated, but Easton tends to fight to the level of his opponent. He looked like he didn't really care against Papazian, but turned it up huge against Menjivar. If he doesn't take Assuncao lightly, it's his fight to lose. Mike Easton by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Easton has been looking great recently, and his speed, power and explosiveness will be very tough for a guy like Assuncao to handle. Mike Easton by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: I can't really articulate why, but I just don't quite like Easton. Something about him doesn't click for me. But I can't deny that he's talented, with explosive wrestling and a great self confidence. Assuncao will be too tentative I think, and will let Easton set the pace, which will be his undoing. Mike Easton by decision
Staff picking Assuncao:
Staff picking Easton: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Ben, Tim
Fraser Coffeen: Proctor was on the largely unseen TUF Live, so people don't know him at all, but he's a pretty solid Joe Lauzon trainee with good hands and a strong ability to close the fight with submissions. I see him catching Nijem early and ending it. Joe Proctor by submission, round 1
Staff picking Nijem: Mookie, Anton, Grant, Dallas, Ben, Tim
Staff picking Proctor: Fraser
Tim Burke: I'm going to go against Fraser on this one. I think that Martinez has really underrated striking and he can definitely hang with Cruickshank on the feet. I'm taking the Jackson guy. Henry Martinez by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Cruikshank is a good enough stand-up fighter, and I suspect that's where this one will be contested. He can do fine on the ground if needed, but I think they will both want to stand, and Cruikshank's superior striking will take the day. Provided he doesn't get lazy, which is a possibility for sure. Daron Cruickshank by decision
Staff picking Cruickshank: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Dallas, Ben
Staff picking Martinez: Grant, Tim
Tim Burke: LeVesseur's wrestling makes him the prohibitive favorite to me, but his abysmal fight IQ could balance the odds out a bit. Trujillo can wrestle too though, so who the hell knows. Can I pick a draw? No? FINE THEN. Marcus LeVesseur by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I have no idea how you can analyze a fight that was made just a few hours ago, so I'm going to go with Leonard Garcia by split decision.
Staff picking LeVesseur: Tim
Staff picking Trujillo: Fraser, Mookie, Dallas
Staff picking Sauna Monsta: Ben
Tim Burke: Siver should be able to handle Phan without too much of a problem. Dennis Siver by decision.
Mookie Alexander: What the hell is this fight doing leading off FX? That's way too low in the pecking order. If Siver wants to contend, he has to beat gatekeepers like Phan. I think he gets it done in entertaining fashion. Dennis Siver by decision
Anton Tabuena: Nam Phan will have better BJJ, but it won't matter since I don't think he will be able to take Siver down enough to capitalize on it. Sorry, Asian brotha isn't getting love from me either. Dennis Siver by Decision
Fraser Coffeen: I can't believe Siver is curtain jerking the prelims with Nam Phan of all people. That's a massive fall from his near contender status last year. Siver is just a vastly superior fighter to Phan, and can outstrike him for days. Dennis Siver by decision
Staff picking Phan: Dallas
Staff picking Siver: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Ben, Tim
Tim Burke: Jorgensen needed a good bounce-back fight, and this is it. Scott Jorgensen by submission (guillotine), round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Jorgensen is going to do whatever he wants with Albert. Scott Jorgensen by submission, round 1.
Staff picking Albert:
Staff picking Jorgensen: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Ben, Tim