Jake Ellenberger vs. Diego Sanchez
Brent Brookhouse: Maybe I’m just riding high on my being the only BE staffer to pick Condit over Diaz, but I’m going to be alone on another main event for this show. I really like Ellenberger in the first round but I think Sanchez’s tenacity and pace wears him out over the second and third and he takes a narrow decision. Ellenberger is very good, but there’s something about Sanchez’s toughness and ability to draw slugfests out of people despite it being a bad idea for them that has me leaning his way. Diego Sanchez by decision.
KJ Gould: As durable as Diego Sanchez is known to be, I just can’t see any other result than him getting trucked by Jake Ellenberger. Sanchez almost always gets himself into a firefight, and Ellenberger seems like one of those power punchers in the division that can end anyone’s night just by connecting. Ellenberger is also on a curve where he can continue to get better, but this will be as good as it gets with Sanchez. Jake Ellenberger by KO.
Leland Roling: Ellenberger’s power will undoubtedly find a home on Sanchez’s chin in this fight. It’s inevitable when Sanchez’s means to winning stand-up battles is solely based on output and gutsiness rather than actual skill. Furthermore, he doesn’t have the wrestling to take down Ellenberger and impose his will from top control. In my mind, that’s his only means to victory unless he’s improved dramatically on the feet. Jake Ellenberger by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: Ellenberger has better wrestling, better striking, and more power in his hands. Sanchez is very durable and he will be tough to stop, but I don’t see how he wins this, unless the judges somehow gives it to him again. Jake Ellenberger by Decision.
David Castillo: Not only has Sanchez plateaued, but he’s sort of gotten worse. He’s no longer the incredible scrambler he used to be on the ground (how does he sweep Koscheck effortlessly and then get laid on by Guida?), and his striking is just not good. I don’t think this is a gimme for Ellenberger, who still has cardio issues. But I’m picking him because this matchup is just evil for Diego on paper. He’s not gonna get Jake down, and any punch that lands will have him doing those ‘yes’ cartwheels of his. Ellenberger by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Once upon a time, I think Diego had the skills to win this on sheer determination and work. But he seems to be slipping lately, and his return to WW has not been fantastic. I think he is too predictable, and a more skilled fighter like Ellenberger takes him. Add in Ellenberger’s big punching power, and I think this is a rough night for The Dream. Jake Ellenberger by KO, round 1
T.P. Grant: I’ve been beating this drum for a while, but there is a new breed of Welterweight on the rise. The old guard of 2007 and 2008 fame is on the way out and kids like Ellenberger are on the rise. Diego has some good skills, but Ellengerger is a better wrestler, a better striker and has the best KO power in the division. Sanchez is still the same fighter he has been 2007: high energy, fast pace, boxing and GNP attack. He also keeps his chin out and head up straight. Ellengerger lands a big bomb or two and the night is over. Jake Ellenberger by KO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Fraser read my mind. In fact, Diego’s sheer determination and hard work have been his best attributes, but unfortunately his only ones. Predictability is a huge concern, as Diego has gotten by for years by wildly flailing his hands while bull-rushing forward to work takedowns. His striking has definitely improved to an adequate level, but adequate won’t cut it against a brick-fisted boxer like Ellenberger, who has the heaviest hands in the division by a wide margin. Plus, Diego’s rabid frenzy secured him more takedowns than his skill or technique and the Berger is more polished than him in that department as well. I respect Diego’s heart and spirit but expect him to take a prolonged beating. He’s only been finished once and I think this will be the second. Jake Ellenberger by TKO.
Tim Burke: 1. Not sure how a guy can have the heaviest hands in a division that has Paul Daley in it. 2. Jake Ellenberger does get hit a fair amount, and tends to have some trouble with guys that have an active guard. I’m not really on the Ellenberger bandwagon as much as everyone else (the Howard and Rocha fighters should have been bigger eye-openers for people) and I think this fight is a lot closer than people are saying it is. But Ellenberger has the wrestling to negate Sanchez, and that’s enough for me. Jake Ellenberger by decision.
Ben Thapa: I agree that the Howard and Rocha fights show that Ellenberger has trouble putting away feisty opponents. However, he did ride out the tumults and win rounds, which is exactly what he is going to do against Sanchez. Sorry Diego, but unless you can pull out a submission, I don’t see any route to victory for you. Ellenberger, decision.
Staff picking Ellenberger: David, Anton, Leland, Fraser, KJ, Grant, Dallas, Tim, Ben, Roth
Staff picking Sanchez: Brookhouse
Dave Herman vs. Stefan Struve
Brent Brookhouse: Utilizing reach is not as easy as people ike to pretend it is. Tall does not mean it’s just "jab and you win." It takes years and years of dedicated training and carefully bringing a fighter along for boxers with great jabs to really master the skill. Struve is getting a bit better at it but the rules of MMA make it really easy to rush inside range. Luckily, Struve is good inside when he isn’t just being reckless (which is a major issue for him). I just look at the level of competition between these two and what I think they both bring to the table and I think Herman is a fun fighter, but one with even more flaws than I see with Stefan. Stefan Struve by submission, round 2.
KJ Gould: Reach advantage is pointless if the fighter doesn’t know how to use it, and that seems to describe Stefan Struve to a T. Herman can neutralise Struve’s submission attempts while beating him up fairly easily on the ground, and I can’t see Struve having anything on the feet that will phase Herman. Dave Herman by Decision.
Leland Roling: I was going to pick Struve here, but... it’s tough to look past guys walking right through his defenses and bombing on him consistently. Herman opens up from the start and zaps Struve. Dave Herman by TKO.
Anton Tabuena: I have a bad feeling that Stefan Struve will get KO’d again here, and while that has a very real chance of happening, I think Struve has all the tools to win this if he fights smart(er). Stefan Struve by TKO.
David Castillo: Struve doesn’t have to worry about his total lack of distance perception in this one. Herman will oblige him anywhere, and watching him struggle with Einemo, who we know is terrible, doesn’t reflect well on his chances against Struve, who despite having terrible fight IQ at least fights with the intent to finish at all times. I’m shocked Struve is still relevant, but for all of his faults, he’s exciting to watch. Stefan Struve by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Both of these guys excel in their ability to take a beating and stay dangerous in a fight. The difference maker for me is that Herman will keep fighting for the finish, and I think that will get him by, but it’s close. Fun fight. Dave Herman by TKO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: A pretty interesting heavyweight fight, if not terribly relevant. Karmatic justice demands that Herman get caught in a classic Struve triangle. But I find that pretty unlikely as Struve, despite being a great grappler, never looks to take fights to the mat. On the feet I think Herman walks right up to Struve and puts hands on him. Dave Herman by KO, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: Along with Pat Barry, these are probably my favorite heavies on the roster. Egads! Struve has nine UFC fights and twenty-seven overall and he’s still just a wee twenty-three years of age. Yes, he’s undoubtedly a bit uncoordinated on the feet -- but go put a four-foot broomstick in each hand and try to box someone gracefully. He reminds me of Kampmann in that he prefers his somewhat awkward striking when his ground game is actually silky smooth. We have plenty of straight-laced, consummate sportsmen in MMA. That’s why I enjoy having a guy like Dave Herman, who stumbles into the cage looking like an unshaven miscreant that was just resuscitated after a three-day bender, babbling about how Jiu Jitsu "doesn’t work" and casting an equal amount of dazed smiles and wild haymakers. I give Struve a good chance because Herman loves being punched in the face and making stupid mistakes, but … Dave Herman by something awesome in a ridiculously entertaining decision.
Tim Burke: I’m with Castillo on this one. Dave Herman doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing in the there half the time. A bigger, stronger Struve has the ability to submit him (despite Herman saying BJJ doesn’t work). Herman will win the first round. But Struve should win the fight. Stefan Struve by submission.
Ben Thapa: This is one of those fights where anything can happen. Both these guys cast aside any regard for defense when attacking and since this is at heavyweight, a KO could happen at almost any given time or a submission could be slapped on. In his past fights, Struve has shown that he has to be outright knocked out or he’ll claw his way back to victory and that Herman doesn’t quite have the power to put him down and out immediately. Struve, submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Herman: Fraser, Leland, KJ, Grant, Dallas, Roth
Staff picking Struve: David, Anton, Tim, Ben, Brookhouse
Ronny Markes vs. Aaron Simpson
Brent Brookhouse: Three fights in and I’m remembering what a good card this is. I’m writing in my picks ater pretty much everyone else had already written in theirs and I’m pretty amazed that there is only one person right now who is picking Simpson. I just feel like Simpson has beaten guys who are better than Markes and don’t feel like Markes has anything that Simpson can’t handle. Aaron Simpson by decision.
KJ Gould: I’m generally wary of calling a fighter too old to compete, as that’s when they go out and surprise people. I just think Markes being younger and having proven conditioning will be too much for Simpson. Markes fighting out of one of the top emerging Brazilian camps in the world doesn’t hurt, either. Ronny Markes by decision.
Leland Roling: Excellent match-up, although it won’t be a crowd pleaser if Markes gets his grips on Simpson. As David pointed out, durability is a key factor along with conditioning. Markes has the larger capacity, and he’s gone the distance consistently without completely sapping himself. He can endure Simpson, possibly finishing him in the later rounds. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. He survives, but loses. Ronny Markes by decision.
David Castillo: It’s precisely because Simpson is not a 6 time Czech Republic National Wrestling Champion that Markes will have a much more difficult time putting Simpson on his back. So it’s a good matchup. Simpson, like Sanchez, hasn’t progressed much, and if anything, his flaws seem to be increasingly on display, regardless of his competition. Whether due to cardio or just bad gameplanning, I like Markes as the more durable fighter in this one. Ronny Markes by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Simpson by decision is the obvious and smart pick, but I’m not sure. The fact that Markes comes from Nova Uniao makes me think hard here. Simpson is very predictable, and the Nova team is smart. I think Markes comes in prepared, stops the takedown, and is able to take this. Ronny Markes by decision.
T.P. Grant: We’ve seen a lot of ageless wonders in MMA, but I think Simpson’s age is starting to catch up with him. A fantastic wrestler, I’ve never loved the rest of his skill set. If he was going to make a run in the UFC, it was in 2010, not in 2012. He is a great athlete and wrestler who started to focus on MMA a little too late. Markes is a young killer who comes in looking to put hands on Simspon, wear him out and then finish him. Ronny Markes by TKO, Round 3.
Dallas Winston: I’d say Simpson’s boxing has definitely sharpened up and he's stringing it together with his takedowns nicely. Markes is unique for a high-level BJJ guy in that he’s an adept wrestler with good cardio and malicious Muay Thai. The way he handled Vemola at 205 bodes well for his prowess at 185 as long he doesn’t suffer from the steep cut. Ronny Markes by decision.
Tim Burke: As Dallas said, my main concern for Markes is the cut. It might sap his cardio, and a grinder like A-Train (who admittedly has had cardio issues as well) might be able to take advantage of it. Despite all the talk of Simpson being older and his skills degrading, he’s 6-2 in the UFC and on a three-fight winning streak. I’m very torn on this one, but I’m going to lean slightly towards Simpson (and an ugly fight). Aaron Simpson by decision.
Ben Thapa: Jair Lourenco is the best coach out there that you probably haven’t heard of. Renan Barao is another one of his products in the UFC and there are more gestating like those facehuggers from the Alien movies down there. Simpson is a warrior through and through, but I believe that Markes will have a speed advantage and a timing advantage to do enough damage to win rounds. Markes, decision.
Staff picking Markes: David, Leland, Fraser, KJ, Grant, Dallas, Ben
Staff picking Simpson: Anton, Tim, Brookhouse, Roth
Philip De Fries vs. Stipe Miocic
Brent Brookhouse: I’m hoping like hell Miocic’s debut was an issue of nerves or something along those lines. The video I’d seen of him before his debut was so much better than what he showed against Joey Beltran so I’ll stick with him. Stipe Miocic by decision.
KJ Gould: Blech. This has horrible fight written all over it. I’m not sure anyone wins, really. Miocic’s first impression was far from a good one, and we’ve not had many British fighters pan out recently. Having said that, De Fries’ win over Broughton was more impressive than Miocic’s win over Beltran in my opinion. I can see De Fries getting the takedowns early and try to work a top control BJJ game but may not finish. De Fries by Decision.
Leland Roling: De Fries is an enticing underdog pick here, mainly because Miocic looked like crap against Beltran. If Miocic hasn’t fixed those conditioning issues, De Fries could be dangerous late in the ballgame. He’s a submission specialist with a lot of success from back control. Miocic needs to maintain distance, pepper De Fries, and stay away from the ground. Stipe Miocic via TKO.
David Castillo: I’m sure Stipe has potential, but I have a difficult time forgetting the sting of listening to Joe Rogan sell him as some sort of blue chip prospect while watching him struggle against Joey Beltran, and look downright lethargic at times. Miocic won’t have to look much better in order to win. Stipe Miocic by decision.
T.P. Grant: I get tired just thinking about this fight. This is going to be a good old fashion heavyweight huff-and-puffer. I think Miocic is better than he showed in his first UFC fight. He passed through the first fight and honestly a pretty tough test for a young heavyweight in Beltran. I feel pretty good about taking Miocic for a stoppage win. Stipe Miocic by TKO, Round 3.
Dallas Winston: I have a feeling that many will change their tune on Miocic after this fight. He lived up to his gushing praise by dominating Beltran in the first but then his cardio flatlined. However, that was his UFC debut and the first time in his career he’d seen the third round. He’s a burly 240-pounds with elite agility and athleticism for a heavy, and his wrestling pedigree makes him difficult to manipulate. De Fries is a pimp on the mat but average at best with striking and takedowns, so I expect Miocic to employ his D1 wrestling to stay afoot and shower De Fries with an endless barrage of low kicks. Stipe Miocic by TKO.
Tim Burke: Stipe is still an top heavyweight prospect to me, despite his UFC debut not being what people thought it would be. Beltran is a grinder that works to sap guys cardio. It worked on Stipe. The Fries is not the same type of fighter, and if Stipe can stay off his back (which he should be able to do with his wrestling), he’s going to light the Englishman up. Stipe Miocic by TKO.
Ben Thapa: Burke said it well and Miocic has the benefit of having gone through a stiffer test than The Cooked Potato Strips did (Beltran > Broughton). Miocic, KO, Round 2.
Staff picking De Fries: KJ
Staff picking Miocic: David, Anton, Leland, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Tim, Ben, Brookhouse, Roth
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Walel Watson
Brent Brookhouse: I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a good read on either guy, which is probably an issue given how many times I’ve seen them. But I’m a sucker for freakish reach and haven’t found Dillashaw to be particularly impressive. Walel Watson by TKO, round 2.
KJ Gould: Watson may be being slept on. He’s starting to put his long limbs to good use in his striking, and he’s always had a penchant for using his long arms to get a variety of fight ending chokes on opponents. Dillashaw is a solid, athletic wrestler, but may be a bit gun shy after getting TKO’d by John Dodson. Watson’s also a bit more seasoned and had a pretty close fight with Yves Jabouin his last time out. Dillashaw can get the takedown but might put himself into a guard submission if he gets lazy. T.J. Dillashaw by Decision.
Leland Roling: Dillashaw will wrestlebox his way to an easy victory, Team Alpha Male style. T.J. Dillashaw by decision.
T.P. Grant: I normally pick against non-TUF winners, but I think Dillashaw is a solid fighter. Waston is an interesting prospect but Dillashaw is a well rounded fighter and I think he out works Watson. T.J. Dillashaw by Decision.
David Castillo: Dillashaw is a solid fighter despite getting knocked out by Dodson’s forearm, but then again, Dodson is pretty much "for real". Watson isn’t more spectacular on any one area than TJ, so I expect him to pick up the comfortable victory. T.J. Dillashaw by TKO, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Realizing I might be ripe for a post-fight revelation, I’m not sold on Dillashaw and think that he’s coasting on the Team Alpha Male laurels thus far. Realistically, he’s five fights deep with decent striking and good wrestling, but got tagged by Dustin Pague because of his predictable head-movement and position just like he did with Dodson. Watson has an unfathomable reach length of 75" and will have nearly a half-foot in height on Dillashaw. He’s also shown a clever knack to hurl uppercuts and vicious kicks directly to the same striking zone where Dillashaw always puts his melon. It might be a longshot but the slithery grappling skills Watson showed against Jabouin lead me to believe he can pull off the upset. Walel Watson by TKO.
Tim Burke: I was going to say pretty much exactly what Leland already said. So, just look up for what I think. T.J. Dillishaw by decision.
Ben Thapa: Like Dallas, I see some good potential and timing in Walel Watson’s game and I think Dillashaw will be immobile enough to be hit, stunned and then submitted.The Jabouin fight was a draw in my opinion and I don’t think Dillashaw is up to that level yet. Watson, submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Dillishaw: Grant, David, Anton, Leland, KJ, Fraser, Tim, Roth
Staff picking Watson: Dallas, Ben, Brookhouse
John Albert vs. Ivan Menjivar
Brent Brookhouse: Blah, I’m not exactly excited to watch this one, but I like Ivan. So...there’s that. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
KJ Gould: Menjivar is a veteran finally able to fight at a weight class he’s not severely undersized for. Albert may be a Dennis Hallman product, but he has a horrid nickname, and I won’t pick him out of principal. Ivan Menjivar by TKO.
Leland Roling: I can’t believe Albert made it as far as he did. Kudos to him, but this is way too much, too soon. Ivan Menjivar by TKO.
Anton Tabuena: This isn’t going to be close. Ivan Menjivar by Submission.
T.P. Grant: Hmmmm UFC veteran vs TUF contestant that didn’t win the show.... I’m going with Menjivar, he has been in the cage with top flight Bantamweights and held his own. Albert is in over his head here I think. Ivan Menjivar by TKO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: I’m open to Albert surprising us and showing us he’s better than a typical TUF castaway. He absolutely brutalized Dustin Pague and snatched the gift-wrap ala Shamrock vs. Lober 1 to exact a "gimme your lunch money" type of beatdown. Menjivar is easily the more polished and diverse fighter, but I wouldn’t rule out Albert thwacking him on the feet. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
Tim Burke: Ivan Menjivar is one of my favorite fighters of all time and if you don’t pick him in this fight, we’re gonna have problems son. Ivan Menjivar by TKO.
Ben Thapa: Albert working Pague over was awesome and really opened my eyes to the possibility that TUF isn’t a wasteland designed to sell advertising, instead of building/showcasing real talent. Menjivar is a gigantic step up from Pague though. That’s a really rough opponent for a second UFC fight. I bet this is Fight of the Night and Menjivar takes a good, solid decision. Menjivar, decision.
David Castillo: I think Albert will acquit himself well, but Menjivar is not the type to make dumb mistakes, and he continues to look sharper the older he gets. He’s a fine wine, that Ivan. And he’s a fine wine that’s gonna whoop some ass with flair. Ivan Menjivar by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Albert:
Staff picking Menjivar: Grant, Anton, Leland, KJ, Fraser, Dallas, Tim, Ben, Brookhouse, David, Roth
Jonathan Brookins vs. Vagner Rocha
Brent Brookhouse: I expect Brookins to show a lot of improvement heading in here. This is a great fight in a lot of ways. Jonathan Brookins by close decision.
KJ Gould: I’m not sold on Brookins, from over all skill to durability. Of Rocha’s two losses, one was to Donald Cerrone and he went the distance. Both haven’t fought since September of last year, but I think Rocha is just the better over all fighter and could TKO or Sub Brookins without too much trouble. Vagner Rocha by Submission.
Leland Roling: Brookins should be able to beat up Rocha on the feet in this match-up. His fight IQ hasn’t been good in recent bouts, but his training camp should be able to fix that here as it is relatively easy to see where Rocha’s strength lies. Brookins showcases his strikes, wins on the feet over three rounds. Jonathan Brookins by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Rocha is coming in on relatively short notice, and I think Brookins will be able to avoid sub attempts and win this one by being relentless with his takedowns. If I’m right, this fight won’t look very pretty. Jonathan Brookins by Decision.
T.P. Grant: For all the flak Brookins takes for his boxing, his grappling is really quite good, but it always seems to be Plan B for him. While Rocha’s A game is on the mat, he doesn’t have much to fear from Brookins on the feet. I think Rocha’s only way to loose this fight is being too laid back and allowing Brookins to dictate the fight, because I think he has an edge everywhere but a standing clinch. Vagner Rocha by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Rocha’s complete inability to deal with Cerrone’s stand-up was a surprise. It’s not that he was beat up on the feet (Cerrone does that to people), it’s that he didn’t have any plan for how to avoid that, which is pretty much exactly how everyone knew the fight would go. He strikes me as one of those fighters that must have the fight in his preferred area, and if it doesn’t go there, he’s stumped. Hopefully Brookins is smart enough to not fall into that trap. Jonathan Brookins by decision.
Dallas Winston: Man, I love JB, but I can’t see this as anything other than a horrible match up for him. I’ve yet to see him use his striking effectively and his bread and butter is his lateral drop, single leg against the cage and his overbearing submission grappling. Rocha will be quite a leviathan for 145 at a wide-shouldered 5’11". His striking isn’t flattering either, but he has a kitchen sink for a chin, he’s a decent wrestler and his BJJ credentials are top-notch. Brookins’ best bet is to phase-shift and use his control advantage to keep forcing Rocha into different positions with busy offense, but never allowing him to settle in. I’m not sure Brookins’ wrestling, size and striking will be enough to compensate for Rocha’s scorching ground game. Vagner Rocha by decision.
Tim Burke: Brookins has never looked impressive to me. His standup is weak and his grappling is way too loose for my tastes. Rocha is surprisingly solid I think he’ll look very good against someone his own size. Brookins has the wrestling, but Rocha has the better sub game, and dare I say it, the better standup. This is Rocha’s fight to lose, IMO. Vagner Rocha by decision.
Ben Thapa: Rocha with a real camp behind him and fighting at the right weight class beats Jonathan Brookins any day. I do like the calmly intense demeanor of Brookins inside the cage and the lateral drop, but I don’t think he’s put together enough standup or anti-grappling to stay out of Rocha’s wheelhouse. Rocha, decision.
David Castillo: Even though Brookins has a fantastic ability to eat shots for no reason whatsoever, he’s a damn good grappler. I expect him to win a pretty lackluster decision Jon Fitch-style (although to be fair, I don’t consider Fitch boring, and certainly not in the Hendricks fight). Jonathan Brookins by decision.
Staff picking Brookins: Anton, Leland, Fraser, Brookhouse, David
Staff picking Rocha: Grant, KJ, Dallas, Ben, Roth, Burke
Sean Loeffler vs. Buddy Roberts
Brent Brookhouse: Sean Loeffler is alright, but Buddy Roberts is named BUDDY ROBERTS! Badstreet USA really IS the baddest street in the whole USA. I’ve also been informed that Badstreet USA is nasty and hot...and the further down the block you went, the badder it got. Old Man Loeffler he done give the cops a call. He might as well call the Army or the United States Marines,'cause can't nobody handle this Badstreet scene. (also I think Buddy is actually the better fighter). Buddy Roberts by TKO, round 2.
KJ Gould: Loeffler has more than twice the experience on the regional circuit, Roberts trains out of the better camp. Both make their UFC debut, and both have a similar win-loss ratio, while height and age are almost identical. Both are capable of finishing through TKO or Submission, so it could be a pick ‘em. I’ll lean towards Loeffler on the experience factor. Sean Loeffler by Decision.
T.P. Grant: I’m going to go with Loeffler because I feel he has more offensive tools in his belt than Roberts. Sean Loeffler by TKO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Roberts is a solid light-heavy out of Jackson’s MMA who is dropping to 185 for the first time and fresh off a respectable win over the hard-nosed Tony Lopez. Loeffler is a good-sized and experienced middleweight with thunderous hands and penchant for stoppages and I think he’ll be more composed on the big stage. Sean Loeffler by TKO.
Tim Burke: If Buddy Roberts comes out to Badstreet USA, he’ll be my new favorite fighter. I think he has the tools to avoid Loeffler’s bombs and control the fight. FREEBIRDS! Buddy Roberts by decision.
Ben Thapa: In a very even match-up, I go with the larger man with the better camp and corners. Roberts, KO, Round 1.
David Castillo: Tough matchup for both men. It’s even, and they have to consider the "octagon jitters" the announce team will write dissertations about. All things being equal, I like Loeffler because Dallas picked him, and I almost always agree with him. Sean Loeffler by KO, round 2.
Staff picking Loeffler: Grant, Anton, Leland, KJ, Fraser, Dallas, David, Roth
Staff picking Roberts: Tim, Ben, Brookhouse
Anton Kuivanen vs. Justin Salas
Brent Brookhouse: Salas should just grind away here and take the decision. Justin Salas by decision.
Leland Roling: Pitting two Scouting Report prospects against each other? How dare you Joe Silva. I’ll go with the man we ranked higher, Justin Salas. He’s improving in all areas, and Kuivanen is still a hesitant striker who doesn’t react to pressure that well. Salas’ wrestling should be the difference. Justin Salas by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I’m picking the guy with the better and more awesome first name. Anton Kuivanen by Submission.
T.P. Grant: I’m going to pick the upset here. Kuivanen is a very hyped prospect out of Europe, but I think Salas’ wrestling chops see him through on this one. Salas has fought some notable fighters and come out on top and I think he is getting overlooked for a glossy record. Justin Salas by Decision.
KJ Gould: I’ll defer to Leland Rolling’s scouting report and pick who he has ranked higher. Kuivanen is on a slightly longer streak than Salas, and may have turned a corner in his career, but Europe as a whole is still behind North America from an MMA gym standpoint, and Grudge in Colorado has been doing this for a while now. Justin Salas by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I really like Kuaivanen and I’m pleased he’s been picked up. He’s a crafty and well rounded gamer with admirable technique across the board. His biggest concern -- takedown defense -- is unfortunately the exact area where Salas excels. I’ll be rooting for Kuivanen but just don’t think his takedown defense can hang with Salas D1 wrestling or that he’s dangerous enough off his back to submit. Justin Salas by decision.
Tim Burke: Like they said. Kuivanen’s from Europe. Salas can wrestle. Seems like an obvious one to me. Justin Salas by decision
Ben Thapa: Rough match-up for Scouting Report fans, but should be a very fun early bout for us to watch. The match-up here depends on whether Kuivanen can keep Salas from smothering him and deal enough damage on the feet to take rounds or knock him out. I don’t think he can, but it should be a great tactical battle to watch. Salas, decision.
David Castillo: Even though Salas has the easy path to victory, I expect this to look like a Tyron Woodley/Nathan Coy fight. A little more interesting than expected, but with a predictable result. Justin Salas by decision.
Staff picking Kuivanen: Anton
Staff picking Salas: Grant, Leland, KJ, Fraser, Dallas, Tim, Ben, Brookhouse, David, Roth
Bernardo Magalhaes vs. Tim Means
Brent Brookhouse: Means is fodder here. Bernardo Magalhaes by submission, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Trekko is a very bright prospect, and has wins over quality guys like Adrian Pang (twice), and Rob Hill. Bernardo Magalhaes by Decision.
T.P. Grant: Means is a tough dude and has put together a hell of a run in KOTC, but I don’t think his grappling is up to snuff for the UFC Lightweight Division. Means is a banger and I think Mahalhaes is going to take him down, wear him out and tap him. Bernardo Magalhaes by Submission, Round 1.
KJ Gould: At this stage in both their careers, Magalhaes is more than capable of getting a decision win over Means. Magalhaes by Decision.
Dallas Winston: "Dirty Bird" Means is a tough S.O.B. with good wrestling, strength and considerable punching power. He’ll have a size advantage here as well, all of which are the makings for an upset, especially if Means can keep it standing. I’ll side with the precarious BJJ of "Trekko" to earn him a catch or a decision, though I’m hesitant on the pick. Bernardo Magalhaes by decision.
Tim Burke: Means is a nasty fighter, and there’s a terrible strip club not far from here nicknamed the Dirty Bird, so I’m tempted to take him. But coming in on such short notice is very tough, and what little I’ve seen of Magalhaes has been impressive. I’ll go with the groupthink. Bernardo Magalhaes by decision.
Ben Thapa: Swami Guru predicts that we see a repeat of the Rafael Natal and Michael Kuiper match, with Magalhaes grinding out a decision despite being lit up a few times. Late notice bouts are tough and I would love it if the hungry Means surprised us all and walked off with a KO victory and another fight coming. Magalhaes, decision.
David Castillo: KOTC produces some interesting fighters every now and then, but Tim Means is no Diego Sanchez. Magalhaes should get to the ground, eventually, but expect a blowout if he doesn’t and gets winded early. Still. Bernardo Magalhaes by decision.
Staff picking Magalhaes: Grant, Anton, Leland, KJ, Fraser, Dallas, Tim, Ben, Brookhouse, David, Roth
Staff picking Means: