Brent Brookhouse: I keep wanting to pick Condit here and then I think of all these reasons not to. Diaz has the relentless attack on the feet and solid grappling on the ground. But there's something that just keeps sticking out for me and that's that I really think Condit's wrestling is being overlooked here. I really do think he has it in him to score takedowns and do damage from the top while being cautious enough to not get caught in a submission. Diaz is going to have great moments and absolutely could (and probably even should) win the fight. That's not hedging my bet, it's just accepting reality. But in the end I think Condit can do enough to win a very close decision by working an underrated takedown/ground and pound attack. Carlos Condit by decision.
Leland Roling: After Nick Diaz completely destroyed B.J. Penn, it's difficult to see a path of victory for a fighter such as Carlos Condit. While he does possess solid wrestling, above average striking, adept grappling chops, and toughness, Diaz is a well-oiled machine that doesn't even stop when Paul Daley lands an atomic bomb on the chin. Lemme correct that. He stops for a split second, gets up, then continues wailing on his opponent. Unless Condit can smother Diaz with positional dominance for the entire fight, I see Diaz battering Condit to victory. Nick Diaz via TKO, Round 3.
Anton Tabuena: My prediction, the fans win regardless cause this will be a great bout no matter how it turns out... As for the fight itself, I think Condit will win the earlier moments, but Diaz will be able to take those shots, then overwhelm him when he gets to set his pace, and make it a Diaz-type of fight. Nick Diaz by late TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: Though I have tried, I just can't see a path to a Condit victory here. Diaz is very hard to KO and he's significantly better on the ground. That just leaves a decision, but I don't see Condit being able to withstand the Diaz barrage for 25 minutes, much less withstand it AND outpoint him at the same time. This should be a great fight, and Condit will make it fun, but I can't see any other outcome. Nick Diaz by TKO, round 4.
Tim Burke: I see two ways Condit wins. One is that bomb he dropped Hardy with, because as much as people point to Nick's stellar chin all the time, he does get dropped a fair amount. The other is something I hadn't thought about until a jiu-jitsu guy from Santa Cruz mentioned it - Condit could stop him via cuts. Both are pretty low-percentage though. I think Nick wears him down with his relentless attack, and Condit will try and tangle on the ground in the latter half of the fight due to losing the standup. And...Diaz will submit him. Yup, I said it. Nick Diaz by submission, round 4.
T.P. Grant: Both Condit and Diaz are great fighters, but at this point I feel Diaz is just better in most regards. Could Condit knock Diaz out? Certainly, Diaz's defensive fundamentals are not present at all and Condit has the killer instinct to be the first guy to finish Diaz. But to really hit Diaz, you have to find time in between punches to throw your own. I think Diaz digs to the body wears Condit down. Nick Diaz by TKO, Round 4.
Ben Thapa: In my head, this is the kind of fight that should be one of the first few videos people cue up to their friends and make new MMA fans. People should be proselytizing with Diaz and Condit fights to begin with, but this could be the modern equivalent of the Frank Shamrock/Tito Ortiz match that got me seriously into the sport. I spent quite a bit of time rambling about narratives and the one storyline I believe has the momentum and the power to continue on in victory is that of Nick Diaz. His boxing, his tenacity, the doubtful impact Condit's kicks are going to have and the pace should have his hand raised in victory. Nick Diaz, KO, Round 4.
David Castillo: As great as this fight is on paper, I'm having trouble really predicting how it'll actually play out. I suspect it won't be quite as chaotic as people think. Both guys, despite being in a lot of great fights are more calculated then they're given credit for, and a lot of those wars have come against fighters who caught them ala Condit/Ellenberger and Diaz/Daley. Still, I think Nick takes this fight. I would have picked Condit, but after watching Diaz beat Penn, I just don't see Carlos weathering the storm over the course of five rounds. And Nick has shown some newfound instincts in being interested in preventing the takedown, and getting right back up: even though Condit isn't a great wrestler to begin with. Even so, Nick is more polished on the ground. Nick keeps the fight standing, and Condit dies by the thousand cuts. Nick Diaz by decision.
Dallas Winston: There are so many weird parallels here to Nate's fight with Cerrone, and I envision the same outcome. Condit is an aggressive, slightly stronger (physically), Muay Thai technician with sick BJJ. I just see Nick trudging into phone-booth range with his incessant and off-tempo boxing and completely owning the rhythm. This match up features a scintillating medley of impenetrable chins, fluid BJJ, technical brawling and raw toughness; I give Nick a fraction of an edge in each category. Nick Diaz by decision.
Staff Picking Diaz: Fraser, Anton, Tim, Grant, Leland, Ben, David, Dallas
Staff Picking Condit: Brent
Staff Picking the Fans: Roth, (And Anton)
Brent Brookhouse: I'd roll with picking Nelson if I trusted him to be able to fight at a high level for three full rounds. But I think we're to the point now where we need to start really treating the whole "looks are deceiving, Nelson has great cardio" talk as what it is. A myth. Nelson is fine when he's controlling the action, but Werdum was confident enough in his striking to have moments against Overeem, if he'd have not abandoned it for the butt scoot. The opening for a knockout is there for Roy, but it's a fast closing window as the fight wears on. Werdum can pick his way to an ugly decision win. Fabricio Werdum by decision.
Leland Roling: The argument against Werdum winning is rooted heavily on Junior dos Santos knocking him out of the UFC back at UFC 117. For some reason, Werdum's chin has been questionable ever since despite going 3-1 in his next 4 fights and going to decision with power puncher Alistair Overeem. Nelson has knockout power, but he's far from an elite striker. Werdum beats him wherever he wants, but I think it turns into a stand-up affair with Werdum edging Nelson the scorecards. Fabricio Werdum via decision
Anton Tabuena: Tough fight to pick, and I expect this to be a really close bout. Werdum has better BJJ, but I don't think he'll be able to keep Nelson down or submit him, and I don't think he can knock him out either. So I think his only path is to outpoint him, and while that can very well happen, I think it would be hard for him to spend 15 minutes trying to avoid that right hand. I'm going with the upset, Roy Nelson by KO.
Fraser Coffeen: This fight gives me troubles. On the one hand, I think Werdum is the superior striker, the superior grappler, and should take this. But he also isn't great about protecting his head, which is bad against a heavy one punch KO guy like Big Roy. He also has a habit of fighting off his back, which is frowned on by judges. So there are a lot of ways Roy can win, and I have a tough time picturing how Werdum wins. All that said, I think Werdum is faster and has more dimensions, so gets it done, but it's close. Fabricio Werdum by decision
Tim Burke: I don't really see this is a a close fight at all. Werdum is better everywhere. Yes, Werdum could get caught by the big right hand, but honestly, Werdum has a good chin despite his defensive woes. His standup still looks sloppy, but it's a lot more varied than Roy's. If Roy works a takedown and tries out his top game, he COULD ride out a decision. But I highly doubt that. It's not going to be a pretty fight, but it's Werdum's to lose. Fabricio Werdum by decision.
T.P. Grant: Werdum struggles with elite strikers who are difficult to take down and good enough on the ground to stand back up. That is not Roy Nelson. Big Country has passable striking, but nothing special and has good top control but he isn't going to stick Werdum in a crucifix position. I think if he tries to roll with Werdum on the mat Nelson will get tapped out. Fabricio Werdum by Submission, Round 3.
Ben Thapa: I believe Roy Nelson will come out and try to implement the same gameplan he had against Two Saints. It likely has a better chance of working too. Werdum is more vulnerable to the takedowns against the cage and Nelson certainly isn't going to get knocked out by Werdum's punches. That being said, I think Werdum fights off the takedowns and barely outpoints Nelson, who'll be hunting the big right hand while recuperating from the energy expended trying to drive Werdum down without giving any limbs up for grabs. It pains me to vote against the Battle Beard, but I'm picking the rangier guy with the better ground game here. Werdum, decision.
David Castillo: Werdum absolutely baffles me. One minute he's going toe to toe with Overeem (in whatever sense you want to interpret that), and the next minute he's getting picked apart by Gonzaga (2nd fight, before the TKO), and Silva (early). I think this is a pretty good matchup for Nelson. He can avoid being submitted, and he packs that raw power that should come in handy against the still awkward-on-the-feet looking Werdum. However, Werdum has a habit of simply getting it done. I have to think he'll get it done against Nelson, who to me didn't look all that great last time. Fabricio Werdum by decision.
Dallas Winston: Big Country is a high level grappler but a master of position rather than submissions. Werdum's credentials trump Nelson's, which only leaves Nelson with landing the overhand meathook, and Werdum compensates for a lack of power in his Muay Thai with excellent quickness for a heavy. Fabricio Werdum by decision.
Staff Picking Nelson: Anton
Staff Picking Werdum: Fraser, Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, Ben, David, Roth, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: I think Tim nails it a few picks down. While Pierce is good, Koscheck is better. If Pierce wins I think it's only if Koscheck gets stupid and I think this is the kind of fight Josh takes far more often than loses. Josh Koscheck by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: As far as underdog picks go, Mike Pierce is as legitimate as they come. And Matt Hughes was absolutely outstriking Josh Koscheck until the hammer landed. So, the possibility is there for Pierce to take advantage of Koscheck's obsession with landing the knockout blow. In this fight, Koscheck must wrestle to win. If he doesn't, we could be in for a shocker. Josh Koscheck via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Pierce always has a chance to upset anyone with his style of fighting, but Koscheck is just the better fighter overall. Josh Koscheck by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: A part of me is still thinking about Fitch/Hendricks and wanting to pick Pierce for the upset, but no. Koscheck is just a lot better, that's all there is to it. Josh Koscheck by KO, round 1.
Tim Burke: Pierce is good. Koscheck is better. Kos is still lazy with his standup and could get caught Sam The Eagle-style again, but I don't see it happening here. Kos will get 15 minutes of cage time in and move onto bigger and better things (like Carlos Condit). Josh Koscheck by decision.
T.P. Grant: I want to pick Pierce. We didn't see Kos really get hit against Hughes, and his surgically repaired eye will be a target for Pierce. That said, Kos is just a better overall fighter, and while I think the fight is competitive, Kos comes out on top. Josh Koscheck by Decision.
Ben Thapa: Knocking out Matt Hughes is not meaningless. BJ Penn gave Diaz a heck of a fight for a while and lost to Diaz 29-28. At the same time, Pierce doesn't get knocked out. He gets outwrestled and outstruck. Koscheck is capable of both, but probably not at the same time. Given his recent pattern of fights, I think Koscheck looks to outstrike Pierce and drops a round while doing it. The upset is certainly possible for Pierce if he can put Koscheck down like St-Pierre did. Koscheck, decision.
David Castillo: Fools. All of you. Well, not really, but I think this is the easiest upset pick of all time. Mike Pierce gave Hendricks and Fitch all they could handle, except both are more durable than Koscheck and can take a much better punch than Koscheck, whose knockout losses to guys like Thiago, and what's-his-face from the TUF card way back when still linger. Pierce will get in his face, and land strikes on Koscheck, who will be rattled early and often. The fact that Kos will have a hard time getting the fight to the ground, and that he loves to indulge the same left jab-right hand combo means Pierce will get his chances. I'll look stupid when Pierce loses. But not this time. Mike Pierce by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I haven't been able to mull this fight over yet. It's not that I'm unimpressed with Koscheck's wins -- but AJ, Semtex and Hughes are his only of significance and he struggles against other elite fighters. I just don't know if Pierce is elite. He can't hang with Koscheck's wrestling, but should stuff his share of takedowns or nullify a few with escapes. Pierce isn't a big power striker but has a nice in-fighting arsena, good, quick elbows and he's never been finished. I'll make my official prediction in the upcoming Dissection but will go bold in the interim. Mike Pierce by TKO.
Staff Picking Koscheck: Fraser, Anton, Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, Ben, Roth
Staff Picking Pierce: David, Dallas*
Brent Brookhouse: This is a really great fight. Jorgensen is a really rugged guy who can go in there and mix it up in an exciting fight with anyone, but he's a flawed enough fighter that Barao's game can exploit some holes. He's much less of a defensive puzzle like Cruz, but more of an attacking force that I think Jorgensen can't withstand for three rounds. Renan Barao by submission, round 3.
Leland Roling: At a glance, I'd go with Jorgensen's experience and wrestling to work over Barao. But beating down Brad Pickett in impressive fashion is no small feat. Barao showed us improvements in that fight, and I think we'll see more against Jorgensen. Renan Barao via decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Like Werdum/Nelson, this one is a tough pick. Jorgensen is really good, with great wrestling and ability to control the fight. He has the skills to grind Barao down here. But so did Pickett on paper, and he got smashed. Barao has the momentum, and I think that, plus his sub games, wins the day here. Renan Barao by submission, round 1.
Tim Burke: Again, I don't see this as all that close. While I've always really liked Jorgensen and root for him, he's in over his head here (literally). Barao's too athletic and Scotty's going have major trouble getting his hands on him. I really think Barao is the guy to give Dominick Cruz a real fight, and he'll prove it here by winning a handy decision over Jorg. Or He'll catch him in a leglock. I'll go with the more likely outcome. Renan Barao by decision.
T.P. Grant: Barao's win streak is amazing, but I'm thinking it ends here. Jorgensen is still a great fighter can beat any Bantamweight not named Dominick Cruz on any given night. Jorgensen is going to grind Barao in the clinch and from top position. Scott Jorgensen by Decision.
Ben Thapa: Jorgensen is going to come in with the intent to wrestle Barao into the ground and fully aware of the power of Barao's knees. If Barao's handlers are as smart as I think they are, they had him working with Grey Maynard when he was in town for Jose Aldo's training camp. Barao's coach, Jair Lourenco, must be a brilliant teacher because I've not seen someone skip steps and go right to the finish in striking or jiu jitsu so successfully before in MMA. As good as Jorgensen is, I don't think he can ward off Barao for a full three rounds. Something is going to slip through and when it does, Barao finishes. Barao, KO, Round 2.
David Castillo: Awesome fight. I'm tempted to pick Scott because I think he do to Barao what he did to Curran. It's easy to be mesmerized by Renao's win over Pickett, and pretend he's the better fighter just because he's the hotter fighter but...no wait, yea that win was damn amazing. Still, I think Jorgensen will fight the conservative fight, and that'll make it tough for Barao, but I think momentum is on his side, along with the fact that he continues to improve while Scott is more or less the same fighter he's been for the last year or two. Renan Barao by decision.
Dallas Winston: I would've liked to had the time to scrutinize Jorg's fight with Curran because I thought there was a legit case for "Big Frog" taking the decision. I thought he out-struck him in the second and third and forced Jorgensen to freeze from the top with dynamic guard activity. Barao might have not have the same level of takedown defense, but his offense is scintillating and Jorgensen's best way to win is least favored by fans. Renan Barao by decision.
Staff Picking Barao: Fraser, Tim, Leland, Brookhouse, Ben, David, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Jorgensen: Anton, Grant
Brent Brookhouse: I really find something neat about Ed Herman's UFC stint. He's been mostly forgettable as a "lost in the shuffle guy" or a "long injury layoff guy" but has finished five of his six UFC wins over some very tough names. Starks is going to get trashed. Ed Herman by TKO, round 1.
Leland Roling: Starks is a one-trick pony while Herman has consistently improved inside the Octagon. He has more tools, is more technical in both the stand-up and ground departments, and has fought better competition. No brainer. Ed Herman via submission.
Fraser Coffeen: As much as I'd like to see the newcomer get ahead of the veteran midcarder, I don't see it happening. Starks will want to use his wrestling to win, but Herman is too experienced, too wise to let that happen. Look for Herman to avoid the takedown, get back to his feet, and outstrike Starks over 3 rounds. Ed Herman by decision.
Tim Burke: Herman beasted Credeur and Noke, both solid fighters. As Fraser said, Starks will have to rely on his wrestling, and that's not easy against a (former) TQ guy. I like the new savage Herman, and it's going to continue Saturday night. Ed Herman by TKO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Herman has been impressive of late and is riding some good momentum. Herman seems more well rounded than Starks. Herman may drop a round, but I think he wins at least two. Ed Herman by Decision.
Ben Thapa: Starks took that fight with Jacoby on short notice. We have not seen him at his best and he'll certainly come in this bout in better shape and with more energy than the grindfest we saw last time out. That being said, Herman has finally gotten over the knee injuries that kept him sidelined for so long and has put together some unusually good finishes. I'm hoping he can deal with the wrestling and get a leg like he did against Noke, but it may be trickier if Starks doesn't look to take many chances. I think Starks can pull off the UD and play it relatively safe. Herman won't be able to stand up or get a limb. Starks, decision.
David Castillo: Herman is the guy that manages to win when it seems like no one else is looking. No one will be looking at him or Starks. Herman is simply the better fighter, and I think he'll get it to the ground and score the submission. Ed Herman by submission, round 2.
Dallas Winston: All of Herman's UFC losses are extremely respectable. He's better everywhere but in pure wrestling and is quite dangerous from his guard. Ed Herman by submission.
Staff Picking Herman: Fraser, Anton, Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, David, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Starks: Ben
Brent Brookhouse: Takedown, violent ground and pound, game over. Dustin Poirier by TKO, round 1.
Leland Roling: Holloway is a fun fighter, full of energy and an insane pace. If Poirier tries to stand and bang with him, it might get risky for him. If he's smart, however, he'll recognize Holloway's weaknesses on the ground. Rooting for Holloway here, but Poirier has more experience and the means to exploit Holloway's weaknesses. Dustin Poirier via submission.
Tim Burke: Damn you, injuries. If Poirier vs. Erik Koch had actually happened, the main card would have been AMAZING. Unfortunately for both of them, Poirier is now on the undercard against a 20-year-old Hawaiian (the youngest fighter in the UFC) with just 4 fights of pro experience. He has some amateur experience, but still. Poirier is way too much, too soon for Holloway. Dustin Poirier by submission, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Holloway is a blitzing banger with out much ground work. He has great hand speed and good boxing, but he just doesn't have the ground skills to hang on this level. Poirier gets him down once, the fight is over. Dustin Poirier by Submission, Round 1.
Ben Thapa: Holloway is going to want to drive the pace in this fight through the stratosphere. Poirier should be able to recognize that and plant Holloway down to keep things more sedate and under control. As that happens again and again, Poirier should be able to get a submission finish on the frenetic Holloway. Poirier, submission, Round 2.
David Castillo: Poirier is part of a very small stable of contenders to Aldo's throne. While I don't think he's ready now, and probably not ever given how awesome Aldo has looked, he's still beyond most in the division, and it's simply criminal to expect Holloway, who is completely inexperienced, to be a proper opponent. The Koch fight would have been insane. Dustin Poirier by submission, round 1.
Dallas Winston: Holloway's insanely frenetic striking should make him a fan-fave. Still, this is a cat with four fights being thrust into the limelight against a top-ten featherweight. Also, Holloway goes by "Lil Evil" and that is borderline blasphemy. Some things are just sacred. Dustin Poirier by submission.
Staff Picking Poirier: Fraser, Anton, Tim, Grant, Leland, Ben, David, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Holloway:
Leland Roling: Incredibly, Caceres made us all eat crow in his last outing against Cole Escovedo. But that doesn't change anything yet. He needs one more test, and Figueroa should provide that. I can't get on the Cacares bandwagon yet, but that could change if he beats Edwin. Edwin Figueroa via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Yes I'm picking Bruce Leeroy. I know it's probably a stupid decision that will lower my prediction percentage, but Figueroa's lone UFC win was against Jason Reinhardt, and Caceres just beat Escovedo. I will probably regret this pick a few seconds after the fight starts, but I'm still picking Alex Caceres by Decision.
Tim Burke: Figueroa is a beast on the feet. He hung with Mayday for three rounds in a hell of a fight, and blasted Jason Reinhardt (not much of an accomplishment, I know). Well, Cacares is Reinhardt-level of opponent to me (ie. punching bag). Cacares is a much better standup fighter than ground fighter though, so at least he has that going for him. Still though. It's Alex Cacares. Figueroa drops him and submits him. Nighty night. Edwin Figueroa by submission, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Really? Alex Caceres? Really? No. Stop it. Edwin Figueroa by TKO, Round 2.
Ben Thapa: That MacDonald fight is why I'm picking Figueroa here. Lots of spirit, better technique and more savvy movement. Caceres has a charmed streak going here and it was more Escovedo being awful than Caceres being good in that match. Figueroa, KO, Round 1.
David Castillo: I'm not on the Caceres bandwagon like everybody else, but I can't deny the improvements in his game. Even though Escovedo was a zombie in that fight, I was still impressed with how he dominated Cole when it got there. Figueroa beating Reinhardt means a lot less than Cacares beating a foot in the coffin Escovedo. I wouldn't mind being wrong, but watching Edwin indulge with MacDonald makes me suspect he'll indulge with Cacares' silly parlor tricks. Alex Caceres by decision.
Dallas Winston: I just see Caceres as a diamond in the rough that is slowly being polished. He's tough as nails and has always shown great instincts for the game, and now his frame (5'9") and length (73" reach) is an advantage at bantamweight because he's still lightning quick. It could be uncharacteristic in retrospect, but I keep imagining the ghastly haymakers Figueroa was hurling in round one against McDonald, whose hands were too fast. The glow ... Alex Caceres by decision.
Staff Picking Caceres: Anton, David, Dallas
Staff Picking Figueroa: Fraser, Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, Ben, Roth
Brent Brookhouse: I guess I'm picking Riddle, but good god...the horrors of his stand-up game. Matt Riddle by decision.
Tim Burke: Martinez is a natural lightweight out of Jackson's camp. Riddle is a large welterweight with good wrestling and bad standup. I'm just gonna go with the bigger man. Matt Riddle by decision.
T. P. Grant: Still waiting for Matt Riddle to do something with his physical abilities and I wonder about his maturity. He started out 5-1 in the UFC and looked to be a solid prospect but it has been a year and half since a win for him. Riddle may be fighting for his job for the first time and I think he may finally be fighting hungry again. Matt Riddle by TKO, Round 3.
Ben Thapa: The size differential is too big here. Riddle should hopefully not be fighting a hallucination of an opponent who stands three inches closer than his actual opponent this time and showcase his wrestling and standup. Riddle, decision.
David Castillo: What everyone else said. Riddle is the much bigger guy, and will be able to bully Martinez. Riddle is never a sure thing, especially with that Billy Blanks crap, but he doesn't need to be sharp to egt the victory in this one. Matt Riddle by decision.
Dallas Winston: MMAMania juggernaut "Ain't No Sunshine" threw me off when he said Martinez, a Greg Jackson product, had a pile of solid wrestling/grappling credentials and was a BJJ black belt. "This is our concern, dude." I give Riddle a little leeway for losing to two deceivingly game newcomers in Benoist and Pierson and respect his resilience for turning it around in the third against Benoist. By God, he will not abide another toe, sir. Matt Riddle by decision.
Staff Picking Riddle: Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, Ben, David, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Martinez: Fraser, Anton
Brent Brookhouse: There are some really, truly bad fighters (from a "fighting in the UFC perspective") on this card. And Cope is probably the worst of them. Matt Brown by submission, round 2.
Leland Roling: Seriously.. Joe Silva must LOVE Matt Brown. Matt Brown via decision.
Tim Burke: U-G-L-Y, this fight ain't got no alibi. It's ugly. Cope has never shown a submission game. Brown's been submitted nine times. Guess that one's out. Brown likes to take guys down if he can. Cope's only real skill is takedown defense. Okay. So we're got a standnbang. Who wins? I'm not gonna go with the TKD guy, that's for sure. So...Matt Brown by decision.
T.P. Grant: Do I really have to pick between two TUF washouts? I'll go with Brown based purely on experience. Matt Brown by Decision.
Ben Thapa: I suspect if I pick against Brown, I may not come back from the PPV party I'm headed to on Saturday night. Jamey, this one's for keeping me safe in your house that night. Hopefully, Brown has wised up to his own atrocious submission defense and keeps this fight standing where he can let his natural craziness go and do something that leads to a win. Brown, sub, Round 3.
David Castillo: Matt Brown may be a journeyman but he's a journeyman technician, whereas Chris Cope is just a journeyman. From TUF. Matt Brown by submission, round 2.
Dallas Winston: Damn ... tough crowd. I will continue to call Matt Brown "The American Kazushi Sakuraba" even though it makes absolutely no sense. He's a killer on the feet, he roasted John Howard in the clinch (and hit a nice foot sweep on him), Hume has improved his offensive grappling but -- obviously -- his sub defense needs some work. Cope can't exploit that, but he kind of grew on me as a poor man's Chuck Liddell for his methodical sprawl-and-brawl. Plus, I respect the comments he gave on Brown leading up to this fight. Matt Brown. "Like water." Matt Brown by TKO.
Staff Picking Brown: Fraser, Anton, Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, Ben, David, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Cope:
Brent Brookhouse: Drag that this one isn't going to be on the FX portion of the card. Stephen Thompson by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Scouting Report, holla! Stephen Thompson via KO.
Tim Burke: Thompson has like 738 straight victories in kickboxing, and 5 in MMA. Great standup. Trains BJJ with Carlos Machado too. Stittgen is a grappler that trains with Clay Guida. How good is Stittgen's wrestling? Dunno. I'll go with Thompson though, since he isn't your average straight kickboxer. Stephen Thompson by TKO, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Most BE readers have heard about Thompson's kickboxing background. An elite striker who also is receiving top notch grappling coaching, Thompson is lethal when he finds his timing and range. Stittgen has a tendency to blitz opponents, but I doubt he can keep up that pace for three rounds or finish Thompson. I think Thompson survives early assault and then finishes after Stittgen slows down. Stephen Thompson by TKO, Round 2.
Ben Thapa: Like Grant says, Thompson has to get past the blitz and then settle into the groove. I think he can do it and we will see one of the better striking exhibitions for a round a half before Stittgen succumbs. Thompson, KO, Round 2.
David Castillo: Thankfully this fight will make the telecast because this fight will end early given the violence the two men's games allows. Stephen Thompson by TKO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: Odd that Thompson will get a clean sweep by the staff, because I think the match up favors Stittgen. Thompson's kickboxing is not the type that transfers well to MMA: it's an upright, hands-low, kicking-centric style that's deadly from the perimeter. Stittgen is a mean, stocky little bull with good boxing and power in tight quarters, plus he seems to be a savvy submission wrestler. I think he's the safer pick, but we all want to see "Wonderboy" go all John Makdessi in his debut. Stephen Thompson by TKO.
Staff Picking Stittgen:
Staff Picking Thompson: Fraser, Anton, Tim, Grant, Leland, Brookhouse, David, Roth, Dallas
Leland Roling: I was ready to pick Kuiper, but then I remembered... he wasn't exactly our highest pick for the Scouting Report before he was signed, and that was mostly based on the fact that he's unproven against better competition. He's crushed every can in Western Europe, but can he blow away an improving Rafael Natal? I can't take a chance yet. Rafael Natal via decision.
Tim Burke: I've been high on Kuiper for a while now. Wow, that sentence sounded weird. Anyway, I used to think Natal was quite good, but he doesn't really fight up to his skill level. Kuiper's judo will either keep it standing or put him on top if he so chooses, and I think he can win the standup over a somewhat-sloppy Sapo. Say that three times fast. I'm calling the upset. Michael Kuiper by decision.
T.P. Grant: After watching Kuiper I was quite impressed at how well rounded his skills appear to be. I think Judo guys have a very tough transition to MMA between taking off the gi and the restrictive rules of modern Judo but Kuiper appears to have navigated it quite well. Natal presented the biggest challenge Kuiper has faced and on the ground I think Natal enjoys a sizable edge, if he can get to top position. I think Kuiper works a stand up fight, keeping things on the feet, but mixing in a few throws to keep Natal honest. Michael Kuiper by Decision.
Ben Thapa: Going with the Brazilian decision machine here. As long as he worked his wallwalking skills, Natal should take this easily from Kuiper. I do like Kuiper's long term potential (The kid's 22 years old!) and think that his attitude of focusing on his striking will help him progress faster than if he went the other route and tried to judo his way up the ladder. Too bad he has to run into Sapo this early. Natal, decision.
David Castillo: Natal has thankfully shored up what holes his game had. That doesn't make him a great fighter, but it does make him a deceptively well rounded fighter. He throws with authority on the feet, and is seasoned on the ground. Kuiper's no pushover, especially for a guy like Natal, but I think he'll pick up the competitive win in this one. Rafael Natal by decision.
Dallas Winston: Kuiper has big power on the feet but I'd say Natal, especially when restricting himself to short, controlled bursts, probably has the more polished striking. Kuiper also looks really smooth for a young purple belt and his newaza is strong, yet he was still taken down a few times fighting on the European circuit. The key for Natal is to refrain from dropping his hands when throwing those four and five-piece combos that get a little sloppy and respecting Kuiper's power. I think "Sapo" can latch a sub in a scramble. Rafael Natal by submission.
Staff Picking Natal: Fraser, Anton, Leland, Ben, David, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Kuiper: Tim, Grant, Brookhouse