Martin Kampmann vs Thiago Alves
Brent Brookhouse: Great fight on paper and difficult to call. Alves is good enough to beat most 170 pounders in the world, but I feel like the 2012 version of Kampmann is a bit better than the 2012 version of Alves. It isn't going to be easy, but I think he can outwork Alves over three rounds, maybe losing a bit to Alves' aggression in the first before taking over as Thiago fades a bit. Martin Kampmann by decision.
Matt Roth: I think this is one of the better fights of the year. Alves has some scary leg kicks while Kampmann has the better technical striking. Strength advantage goes to Alves while submission game is all Kampmann. I'm going with the agressive fighter with the the power and picking Thiago Alves. Thiago Alves TKO round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Alves hasn't looked that great recently, and he hasn't really beaten anyone of note for quite some time now. I think Kampmann can pick him apart over the course of 15 minutes. Martin Kampmann by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: This is a really tough call. Alves has not defeated anyone close to Kampmann's level in some time, while Kampmann is coming off a win over Rick Story (who beat Alves). But at the same time, Kampmann has a bad habit of getting lured into shootouts with opponents that he should not be shooting it out with, and his style has proved to not score highly with judges. I think Kampmann is a superior fighter at this point, but this is a bad stylistic match-up for him. Thiago Alves by decision
Ben Thapa: In a very weird way, losing to Paul Daley so badly seems to have a fire in Martin Kampmann that was not there before. Since then, he's guillotined Volkmann, decisioned Sam the BOPEagle, battled Jake Shields to a standstill and beat Diego Sanchez into a bloody mush. That's a heck of a streak there. Alves was oddly flat in the Story fight and rebounded with a fun stomping of Papy Abedi, but Kampmann is a better fighter than anyone he's faced since Jon Fitch. Gotta go with the guy turning in better fights against better opponents. Kampmann, decision.
Tim Burke: I'm with Fraser here. Kampmann really can't help himself when it comes to getting sucked into a brawl. And despite his downturn lately, Alves is one of the last guys at 170 you want to get into a straight striking match with. Kampmann doesn't have the takedowns to get Alves off his feet anyway, and while I like Kampmann's striking, it doesn't measure up to Thiago's. This will be an exciting fight, but I see it for the Pitbull. Thiago Alves by decision.
Dallas Winston: I'm absolutely torn here. Initially, though Kampmann is more precise and better from the fringe, his lack of power, head movement and reluctance to enforce his slick sub-grappling led me to believe Alves would maul him on the inside. However, both of Kampmann's decision losses since dropping to 170 were arguably wins or, at least, not convincing defeats. They seem to have shrouded his steady evolution into a smarter and more complete fighter, and he just seems on the way up whereas Alves is at the tail-end of his career. While Alves has beaten much better wrestlers, he performed poorly against the only one who could chain his takedowns and striking together well (Story) and I think Kampmann can do the same. Martin Kampmann by decision.
Staff Picking Kampmann: Anton, Thapa, Grant, Dallas, Brookhouse
Staff Picking Alves: Fraser, Tim, Roth, KJ
Joseph Benavidez vs Yasuhiro Urushitani
Brent Brookhouse: I hate saying that someone has ‘no chance' when they've been good enough to get to the UFC stage. But I feel like Urushitani has as close to no chance as exists at this level. Benavidez by submission, round 1.
Matt Roth: This is probably one of the easiest fights to pick. Benavidez was a top guy at 135 giving up a crazy amount of size. I expect him to run through Urushitani pretty easily. Joseph Benavidez by TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Benavidez was already doing this to much bigger guys. He'll take Urushitani down, and he will dominate. Joseph Benavidez by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: Urushitani faces the same problem so many Japanese fighters face when they make the transition to the UFC - lack of wrestling. He's a striker, and a good one, but has virtually no experience against a really persistent wrestler. And that is exactly where Benavidez shines. He's going to put Urushitani down, and he's going to choke him out. Urushitani is also something of a slow starter, so he may get really steamrolled here. Joseph Benavidez by sub, round 1.
Ben Thapa: Urushitani has been fighting for eleven years and has fought outside Tokyo twice in his nearly thirty fight career. One of those times was in Yokohama and the other in Seoul. Something tells me Urushitani is going to be a little out of his normal zone come fight night. He's definitely a fun fighter who has some pep in his strikes and worthy of second billing, but the guy he's going up against has the skull of Joey Beltran on top of a baby's body (seriously, those vale tudo shorts look like diapers at times). Benavidez probably isn't going to put Urushitani down, but pressure him until the guillotine is there. I have to give this fight to the younger fighter who has traveled more and faced tougher competition. Benavidez, sub, Round 2.
Tim Burke: No offense to Urushitani, but I really wish is was Jussier "Formiga" Da Silva in this spot instead of him. McCall might hold a win over him, but he'd be a lot more competitive than Yasuhiro will be here. Urushitani will be very tough to finish, but Benavidez will control where the fight takes place and can do pretty much whatever he wants. He's -900 for a reason, folks. Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Dallas Winston: If you make a list of all the typical concerns for an overseas product coming into the UFC, almost all of them apply here. Urushitani is a legit talent but Benavidez has been a killer at 135 and has the perfect style to dismantle him. Joseph Benavidez by topside elbow buffet.
Staff Picking Benavidez: Fraser, Thapa, Tim, Grant, Dallas, Brookhouse, Roth, KJ
Staff Picking Urushitani:
Ian McCall vs Demetrious Johnson
Brent Brookhouse: If I thought that a 125 pounder could be a star after one fight, I'd say we're going to see the birth of a star when McCall fights. As is, we're just going to see an elite level fighter win a very entertaining fight. Ian McCall by decision.
Matt Roth: Demetrious Johnson was able to find success at bantamweight by being faster than his opponents. He won't have that kind of advantage against McCall who has been the man at the top at flyweight. Ian McCall is well rounded and should take this. Ian McCall by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Tough fight to pick. This is going to be close, and it could all boil down to their intangibles. I'm going with the guy who I assume has learned a lot from that championship bout against Dominick Cruz. Demetrious Johnson by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: With his wrestling background and good in-and-out boxing, McCall reminds me a lot of Dominick Cruz, though I think McCall's boxing might be better. Cruz was able to use both boxing and wrestling to defeat Johnson, who has struggled against forceful wrestlers like Cruz and Pickett. If McCall can't win on the feet, he can take Mighty Mouse down. This is a close fight, but I'll go with the upset. Ian McCall by decision
Ben Thapa: I like Mighty Mouse here. In spots, he was beating Cruz standing and left himself open for the counter-takedowns that won the rounds. McCall doesn't have Cruz's mass at 125, but he's still a fine dandy on the ground with more submissions and less wrestling. The striking might cancel out too. Tough call. I'll go with Johnson in a Fight of the Night deal that might even go to the (Thulsa Doom voice) Tiebreak Round... Johnson, decision.
Tim Burke: Uncle Creepy is the man, and if you didn't know him before, you're going to be very impressed. He can wrestle, box, and has the versatility to hang with DJ. Johnson is probably a little faster, but McCall is tougher. I think this will probably lose fight of the night to the scrappy main event, but this is a hell of a fight and I think McCall can pull it off. Ian McCall by close decision.
Dallas Winston: Mighty Mouse's best attributes are his quickness, footwork and wrestling, all of which McCall can match quite adequately. Uncle Creepy is probably a better striker as well and will also have a size and strength advantage. All of this in addition to having a warm place in my heart for the greased up, handlebar moustache McCall is sporting seal the deal. Ian McCall by decision.
Staff Picking McCall: Fraser, Tim, Dallas, Brookhouse, Roth
Staff Picking Johnson: Anton, Thapa, Grant, KJ
Court McGee vs Costa Philippou
Tim Burke: I'm not really a fan of either guy to be honest, but McGee should take this. Costa has heavy hands but also has cardio issues, but I think McGee's chin can hold up long enough to take the fight into the later rounds. Once it's there, he should have little problem controlling a winded fighter that carries too much muscle mass. Court McGee by decision.
Matt Roth: This isn't a good fight by any means but Court McGee has developed into a decent low-mid tier fighter. I don't see Costa as much more than a one trick pony. Court McGee by decision.
Ben Thapa: Philippou had a highlight reel bonanza against Jared Hamman last time out. McGee nearly got finished by Dongi Yang (a young prospect I really like) with some hard punches. I think Costa can land those type on McGee and display yet another fun knockout. Philippou, KO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Perhaps my memory is skewed, which is almost a certainty nowadays, but I don't remember Costa gassing against Rivera. He took the Catone fight on short notice and punched Jared Hamman square in the porn-stache. I think Costa is an under-rated, rising prospect who has rounded out his game by improving his takedown defense, footwork and scrambling. McGee has the wrestling to unhinge him but his striking -- especially his defense, as evinced in the Dongi Yang fight -- is sketchy. Costa blazes leather upon McGee's Amish beard (what is up with my apparent facial hair fetish?) and shucks off enough takedowns to win a decision if he can't finish. Costa Philippou by TKO.
Staff Picking McGee: Tim, Anton, Brookhouse, KJ, Roth
Staff Picking Philippou: Fraser, Grant, Dallas
James Te Huna vs Aaron Rosa
Brent Brookhouse: Te Huna is a beast early in fights while Rosa is...just a guy. James Te Huna by TKO, round 1.
Matt Roth: I will be honest. I couldn't pick out Aaron Rosa in a police line up. No idea who he is or what he looks like. Te Huna has punching power and that usually wins fights. James Te Huna by TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I really liked Light Heavyweight Rosa during his Strikeforce stint, and thought it was a horrible move for him to bloat up and go to HW. He's back where he belongs now, but I think the damage has been done to his career. James Te Huna by KO, round 2
Tim Burke: I think Te Huna is one of the more underrated LHW's in the UFC and this fight is right in his wheelhouse. Rosa is a sloppy brawler that won't be able to get the fight to the floor if he needs to. He's got a great chin, but he's getting finished by the big Kiwi. James Te Huna by TKO, round 2.
Ben Thapa: In a world filled with good nicknames, Te Huna is leaving one of the best MMA ones I have ever heard of on the shelf - "Bumblebee". Rosa is a grinder with some submission skills - which should concern Te Huna mightily - but I think power wins out early here. I wouldn't be shocked if Rosa took this into the deep rounds and finished a now exhausted Bumblebee, but I think he leaves a few openings for Te Huna to land some big punches early. Te Huna, KO, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: And I thought my idea of "The Big" for Te Huna's nickname was clever. I realize how old it makes me sound to reference "The Big Kahuna" but, in "Stand By Me," Gordie LaChance was correct in his assessment of Annette Funicello. I might be dead-wrong on Rosa, but I'm not feeling it. (I did, however, appreciate his abrasive elbow- and knee-laden clinch tactics.) While he's a hulking 205er, I think the drop in weight will expose his deficiency in agility, hand-speed and striking defense, and Te Huna is the perfect candidate to do it. James Te Huna by volatile KO.
Staff Picking Te Huna: Anton, Fraser, Tim, Thapa, Grant, Dallas, Brookhouse, KJ, Roth
Staff Picking Rosa:
Anthony Perosh vs Nick Penner
Tim Burke: Penner's Canadian and usually my red and white bias leads me to pick guys like this. But I'm not going to here. Penner is primarily a standup fighter (though he's a purple in BJJ) and he's going to be trouble against Perosh on the ground. And there's where it's going to end up sooner or later. You might look at The Hippo's record and see 4 losses by KO, but Nick Penner will not be the fifth person to do that. Anthony Perosh by submission.
Ben Thapa: I have a hard time taking a fighter seriously if they've lost to Jimmy Ambriz. At least Penner beat Butterbean though. Perosh had better have been working on his stand-up game. Diabate nearly stomped him with leg kicks alone before kindly "letting" Perosh work his rather good top game to victory. The Hippo can be a slow starter though and I think he likes to wear his opponents down before going in for the finish. Perosh, submission, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: I can't underestimate the man with the most apt nickname any longer. "The Hippo," despite having cringe-inducing stand up and statuesque mobility, has a huge heart, sick submissions and just finds a way to ground the fight. I'm baffled that Penner, a dangerous but one-sided striker, is the favorite for this fight when Perosh is on the heels of submitting a more creditable pure kickboxer and MMA fighter in Cyrille Diabate. Penner's low kicks are utterly crushing, which could be a handy tool to rely heavily on. Anthony Perosh by submission.
Staff Picking Perosh: Tim, Thapa, Grant, Anton, Brookhouse, Dallas, KJ, Roth
Staff Picking Penner: Fraser
Cole Miller vs Steven Siler
Anton Tabuena: If he doesn't run into problems making 145, he should take this. Cole Miller by Submission.
Tim Burke: I dislike fights with these weird storylines. "He beat my brother! Rawr!" Regardless, Cole Miller is going to be a beast at featherweight and Siler will be his first victim. Angry Cole Miller is fun to watch, and this will be no different. Cole Miller by submission.
Ben Thapa: I like the storyline a bit here - about Miller's weight drop, not the Siler beating his brother thing. Cole has been fighting better guys at a higher weight for a while now and hopefully, he keeps his aggressiveness through the cut and puts on a great display of "Welcome to the Big Show". Miller, sub, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: I'm all in favor of Cole confronting the bully who stole his little brother's lunch box at the bus stop. He's a wildly talented submissionist and freakishly gangly for 145. Though his lack of wrestling and striking defense are concerns, he's made great strides in counter-punching and returning his hands to his chin. If he fights with emotion, I can see that precipitating a late turnaround from Siler, who's tough to finish and could capitalize if Cole drains his gas tank early. Cole Miller by submission.
Staff Picking Miller: Anton, Fraser, Tim, Thapa, Grant, Brookhouse, Dallas, KJ, Roth
Staff Picking Siler:
Kyle Noke vs Andrew Craig
Tim Burke: I still think Noke is pretty good despite getting savaged by Ed Herman. Craig actually looks like a bright prospect but Noke is too much, too soon. Kyle Noke by TKO.
Ben Thapa: Ed Herman is a beast. I don't look down on Noke for that fight. However, Craig is a rising star and he's training with some smart coaches in Houston. I think he can steal this decision from the 31 year old veteran. Going with the youth movement! Craig, decision.
Dallas Winston: As usual, I'll give due credit to the underdog here. Craig is a stout combination of Muay Thai, wrestling and submissions. He also excels at punishing opponents who seek out takedowns with a cat-like sprawl coupled with nasty knees and elbows. Still, he's inexperienced, Noke is not, and I figured the Aussie would make some waves in the division. Kyle Noke by late submission.
Staff Picking Noke: Fraser, Tim, Anton, Brookhouse, KJ, Roth, Dallas
Staff Picking Craig: Thapa, Grant
T.J. Waldburger vs Jake Hecht
Tim Burke: Whataburger once got knocked out by Ricardo Funch. True story. Jake Hecht by TKO.
Ben Thapa: Hecht is the guy who figured out how to make elbows punish an uncareful wrestler against Rich Attonito. I think he can wend his way to another brutal victory again here. I think I'm picking too many finishes, but this looks like the kind of card where that can happen. Hecht, KO, Round 2.
Dallas Winston: Turns out "wend" is a word, but I'm not so sure on "uncareful." Regardless, Sensei Thapa speaks with correctivity and I see Hecht's Liborio black belt, wrestling and ability to batter aspiring takedown artists with strikes as an unhappy meal for Waldburger (this is all terrible, I realize). Jake Hecht by TKO.
Staff Picking Waldburger:
Staff Picking Hecht: Fraser, Tim, Thapa, Grant, Anton, Brookhouse, Dallas, KJ, Roth
Mackens Semerzier vs Daniel Pineda
Tim Burke: People keep saying that Mackens is way better than his record indicates, and I've never really seen it. If I believed that Mack would take the fight somewhere that he could get a sub, I'd pick him. But I think he's gonna choose to blast away, and he's the one that's going to get worn down, taken down, and submitted. Sorry Mack. Daniel Pineda by submission.
Ben Thapa: Semerzier is a junkyard dog. I really enjoyed the Peralta fight last time out - up until the headbutt - and think he's just too advanced for Pineda. Semerzier, decision.
Dallas Winston: Well, Pineda's record is more extensive but just as suspicious as Mackens', and the latter's is punctuated by top-level opposition. I see Mackens as just a little bit better in every area, except submission creativity -- Pineda is fun to watch and will recklessly attack with submissions from any position. Mackens Semerzier by TKO.
Staff Picking Semerzier: Fraser, Thapa, Anton, Dallas, KJ
Staff Picking Pineda: Tim, Grant, Brookhouse, Roth
Oli Thompson vs Shawn Jordan
Tim Burke: Call me crazy, but I like Shawn Jordan. Strikeforce never die! Shawn Jordan by submission
Ben Thapa: I kinda like Oli Thompson and the "Strongman who is way better than Mariusz at MMA" dynamic, but am having a hard time picking against Jordan, who's got a longer career under his belt. Eh, I'll go for it. Thompson, sub, Round 1!
Dallas Winston: I like Jordan as well. He's a Sherman Tank who moves like a Mercedes and has excellent hand-speed and boxing. Plus, if all else fails, he's quite a capable wrestler with solid submission knowledge. Oli is definitely a legit prospect but every move is painfully rigid like he's eternally flexing his muscles. Shawn Jordan by TKO.
Staff Picking Thompson: Fraser, Thapa, Grant, KJ
Staff Picking Jordan: Tim, Anton, Brookhouse, Dallas, Roth