Brent Brookhouse: I like Cormier here. I don't think either man has a particular advantage in the stand-up and I'd give Cormier an obvious edge in wrestling and Barnett a clear edge in overall grappling (as in submissions and ground transitions). I also can't stand Barnett, so what little uncertainty I had is overcome by personal feelings. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 3.
KJ Gould: People were rightly stunned by the striking display Cormier put on against Bigfoot Silva, which may be why some feel the speed and power will be enough for Cormier to beat the experienced veteran that is Josh Barnett. There's also the belief that because Cormier competed at the Olympic level, Barnett doesn't stand a chance in taking him down. Barnett has proven in past fights that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and has more ways to take someone down than shoot a double-leg, and I think this is getting largely ignored. His striking is also underrated, perhaps because it's overshadowed by his grappling acumen. Knowing who he gets to train his striking with, I think a combination of experience and technique will overcome athleticism this time out. Josh Barnett by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: It's easy to overlook just how good Josh Barnett is. He can be written off by some because of his drug testing past, the fact that he has not faced elite heavyweights in some time, and to some due to his pro wrestling persona. But Barnett is really, really good. Only 3 men have ever defeated him - Rizzo, Cro Cop, and Minotauro, all in their absolute primes at the time. Cormier has a bright future, but Barnett is a true elite. He has too many tools in his arsenal, and will be able to break Cormier down as the fight progresses. Josh Barnett by submission, round 2.
Tim Burke: I'm leaning the same way as KJ and Fraser. Josh Barnett is extraordinarily crafty and I definitely think he can get Cormier to the ground. I don't think he'd mind getting taken down himself either. On the feet, I'd give a slight advantage to Barnett. Cardio might be the biggest factor in a dogfight, but I'm going with The Warmaster. Josh Barnett by decision.
Dallas Winston: I thought I would be one of the few giving the nod to Josh. Cormier has been amazing, but out-striking Monson and Bigfoot, the latter of whom he had a serious quickness advantage over, isn't convincing enough to pick him here. Josh's boxing is under-rated and Cormier's wrestling advantage will only lead him into submission territory. Josh Barnett by submission.
David Castillo: Josh Barnett is only forgotten because he has yet to figure out how to pass a roid test. Were that not the case, people would still speak of him highly, and I fully agree that this will be a stern, perhaps even insurmountable test for DC. However, I can't pick against Cormier. He's too quick on the feet, where he'll have the advantage in power. Josh's boxing is good, but it's not great. Aleks tore into him before gassing, and his striking is at its most effective when it leads to takedowns, which he won't get against DC. Plus, I think age and lack of activity will be factors. It should be a very competitive fight, but I expect DC to win. Cormier by decision.
Staff picking Barnett: KJ, Fraser, Stephie, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Cormier: Brookhouse, David
Brent Brookhouse: Thomson's career hasn't seen the improvement that Melendez's has, be it due to injury or just a different threshold of actual individual talent. This won't be an easy fight but Melendez will pull away around the 3rd round. Gilbert Melendez by decision.
KJ Gould: Thomson is a tough lightweight, but I think this match is fairly pointless other than it technically being a rubber match. El Nino got a fairly solid decision over Thomson in their last fight, and I see the same happening this time if not a TKO finish because Melendez is constantly trying to prove he deserves better than being stuck in Strikeforce, and is one of the best lightweights in the world. Gilbert Melendez by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: I love both of these guys, think their first two fights are both incredible, but this is not a great match-up. Ever since the first fight, Melendez has been steadily improving, while Thomson has been declining, mainly due to injuries. Thomson looked good against Noons, and he'll make this another exciting fight, but Melendez is just too good at this point. Gilbert Melendez via decision
Tim Burke: I'm not sure if Thomson is physically capable of repeating his performance against Gil in their first bout. He used a push kick masterfully to keep Melendez out of range and Gil couldn't adjust. In the second fight he completely abandoned that and wanted to brawl, which clearly wasn't the right decision (though it made for one of the best fights of the year). I think Thomson shouldn't be written off completely and is definitely capable of winning this if he can execute his gameplan to perfection. But Melendez has improved so much, you just have to go with him. Should be fun as hell though. Gilbert Melendez by decision.
Dallas Winston: I'll just echo what's already been said: Josh Thomson was hell on wheels in his prime. The key element of his kickboxing and wrestling was the ability explode into motion with quickness and power, and that's exactly what seems to be amiss after the 1st-round nowadays. Even when he beat Melendez, who has never been finished, he had to out-hustle him with an insane work-rate for 5 rounds. Thomson has never been stopped either, so he'll have to dig deep in later rounds to avoid that here. Gilbert Melendez by decision.
David Castillo: Melendez just might be the best LW in the world right now. Of course I'm not picking the challenger, who seems more concerned with letting people what he thinks of Obama, and continues to struggle with injuries. Even a healthy Thomson doesn't stack up to Gilbert at this stage of his career. Melendez has come a long way from struggling with Hiroyuki Takaya, and frankly, I think his bout with Masvidal was masterful. Although I know I'm in the minority. He'll control the action on the feet, and will get takedowns when he wants them. Melendez by decision.
Staff picking Thomson:
Staff picking Melendez: KJ, Fraser, Stephie, Tim, Dallas, David
Brent Brookhouse: Kyle is dangerous in every fight but Feijao is just as dangerous and a bit better, so that takes care of that for me. Rafael Cavalcante by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Feijao is a technically solid and, importantly, patient striker. He knows how to wait, and he knows how to finish when it's time. Kyle is too reckless, and that will make the difference here. Rafael Cavalcante by TKO round 1
Tim Burke: I actually think Kyle's recklessness is what's going to win him the fight. Feijao is definitely technically sound, but he didn't engage much in their first bout because he didn't know what Kyle was doing to do, and gassed in the second round which led to the Kyle KO. Feijao should take this to the ground like he did in the second round of their first fight. It's the biggest advantage he has. Standing and trading with Mike Kyle is bad news, and I think he's going to try and do that to prove something. I'm goin with MAK. Mike Kyle by TKO, round 1
KJ Gould: I remember when Cavalcante was tipped to be the future of the Light Heavyweight division several years ago, based mostly on being with Black House and being praised by the likes of Anderson Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. For a while he progressed nicely, until he ran into Mike Kyle the first time, back in 2009 for Strikeforce. Kyle is as tough as they come, and when you consider his only two losses in recent years have come at Heavyweight to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, it's easy to forget how good he is at this level. A focused Cavalcante should win the rematch, but it's much closer than some people are making it out to be. Cavalcante by TKO.
Dallas Winston: I actually think Kyle has harnessed his raw aggression well with boxing improvements. He's pumping a long jab and pivoting left to keep his opponent centered in his power zone, and throwing hard often. He's also a huge light-heavy and tough as nails, so I agree this is a razor-thin fight. Overall, Feijao is too technical and just needs to avoid the big bomb, and I agree with Tim that he'd be wise to spring a surprise double leg and hunt for submissions. Feijao by submission.
David Castillo: Feijao is still quality, and on paper, he's the smart pick, but not by a wide margin. Kyle's power is pretty evil, and he does a better job nowadays of shoring up the holes in his game. However, Feijao should recognize the stakes in this fight...knowing a loss will stick him the WAMMA pit. He's obviously the more well rounded fighter, and I expect that to be pay dividends late in the fight. Feijao by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Cavalcante: Fraser, KJ, Dallas, David, Brookhouse
Staff picking Kyle: Stephie, Tim
Brent Brookhouse: Burrell is better and I think they're pretty high on him. Thus, better positioning than expected on the main card.
Fraser Coffeen: Here's where the picks get tough and I feel like I'm picking fights on a Tachi Palace show. And this is on the main card? Rough. I have not much confidence in pretty much every pick from here on down. Nah-Shon Burrell via decision
Tim Burke: Nah-Shon's actually a decent fighter, but there's no way in hell this should be on the main card over established names. Spang...isn't that good. Why isn't Nah-Shon fighting Ricky Legere, the guy that beat Spang in his last bout? Odd. Anyway, this is Burrell's fight all day. Nah-Shon Burrell by decision.
KJ Gould: Spang, bad. Burrell, good. Both should be on the prelims. Burrell by decision.
Dallas Winston: I really like Spang's chances here. Even though Burrell has more fights, Spang has more martial arts experience, more polished kickboxing and BJJ and will also have the height/reach advantage. I'm going to play it safe and pick Burrell with the disclaimer that Spang is a legit "live dog." Nah-Shon Burrell by decision.
David Castillo: I was wondering when we'd get to the fights that remind us that this is a strikeforce show. Unlike Dallas, I'll take my chances and pick the less experienced, but slightly more dynamic prelim fighter. Chris Spang by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Burrell: Fraser, Tim, KJ, Dallas, Brookhouse
Staff picking Spang: Stephie, David
Fraser Coffeen: It pains me to pick against JZ, really it does. I picked him in all of his last 3 fights, but it's time to face the music. The guy has not had a definitive win since the Hero's tournament in 2007 as injuries have taken it all out of this former Lightweight king. I would absolutely love to get this pick wrong. Isaac Vallie-Flagg via decision
Tim Burke: I cannot, in good conscience, pick against JZ. He beat Josh Thomson but got robbed by the judges. I think he can beat a dude named Isaac, even if he is pretty good. Gesias Cavalcante by split decision.
KJ Gould: During the days when there was this romanticism with the quality of fighters in Japan, especially at the lighter weights, Gesias Cavalcante was right up there among the greats like Shinya Aoki, Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Shaolin Ribeiro. Cavalcante in recent years has had a string of bad luck, whether it's suffering the wrath of bad judges, or a no contest caused by an accidental eye poke. Vallie-Flag just hasn't fought the level of competition Cavalcante has, but this is a great step up for him and a feather in his cap should he win. I don't think Cavalcante has fallen that far yet, and should get the win. Cavalcante by decision.
Dallas Winston: JZ's definitely a step slower, but I'm not sure he's declined as badly as everyone things. Vallie-Flagg was taken down and almost choked out by Melancon in his last welterweight bout, and I think JZ is still quick enough to dictate the tempo and work his ground game. JZ Cavalcante by submission.
David Castillo: JZ's decline has been significant (Wilcox was absolutely throttling him in their scrap), but not significant enough to lose to someone like Vallie-Flagg. He's still formidable on the feet, but especially on the ground. It's either the easy way, or the really easy way for JZ's path to victory. JZ Cavalcante by submission.
Staff picking Cavalcante: Stephie, Tim, KJ, Dallas, David, Brookhouse
Staff picking Vallie-Flagg: Fraser
Tim Burke: Finally Guto's getting a fight. Dude hasn't been in the cage in like 19 months, and he's been signed with Strikeforce for almost a year. Zwicker probably should have been at LHW a long time ago, but this is a really tough test for his first bout. He's got heavy hands, but Inocente is worlds ahead of him in terms of well-roundedness. Pretty easy pick. Guto Inocente by decision.
Dallas Winston: Guto! It's about damn time. Zwicker is tough as nails and a big puncher, but Guto should be too quick and violent for him. I see him capitalizing on the feet with low kicks and fast handiwork before locking on a submission on the mat. Guto Inocente by submission.
David Castillo: A nice scrap that should end in the first given the ability on display, but I'm going with Inocente for simply being the better, more dynamic fighter. Guto Inocente by submission.
Staff picking Zwicker: Fraser, KJ
Staff picking Inocente: Stephie, Tim, Dallas, David, Brookhouse
Tim Burke: Villante was on the 2011 BE Scouting Report, but he just never really panned out. He got dusted by Chad Griggs and dropped back to 205, but lost to Lorenz Larkin there. He's rebounded with two wins over marginal guys though. I'd say that Villante would probably have a better chance if he took the fight to the floor, but I think he can outstrike Mehmen too. I'm not exactly confident with the pick, but I'll go Gian Villante by decision.
Dallas Winston: This should be a slugfest. Mehmen is truly a "caveman" and will come out swinging. He's a monster 205er and a load in the clinch too. Villante will have to out-box the brawler and use his speed and technique to survive the early onslaught. Gian Villante by decision.
David Castillo: I'm not counting on Gian surviving Mehmen's onslaught. Derrick Mehmen by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Villante: Stephie, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Mehmen: Fraser, KJ, David, Brookhouse
Tim Burke: This is actually an excellent prospect matchup and should be on the main card. Villefort was the # 1 welterweight on the 2011 BE Scouting Report, Mulhern was # 8. Mulhern rebounded from a loss to Jason High in his SF debut to win two fights, while Villefort has been out for close to two years with various injuries. I think Villefort is the better fighter but 2 years off is a long time, even if you're only 21. This could be better than almost anything on the card. I want Mulhern to win, but logic says Yuri Villefort by decision.
Dallas Winston: Mulhern has sick Jiu-Jitsu but lacks physical strength and quickness, and I see Villefort peppering on the feet, bullying him in the clinch and having the BJJ savvy to avoid Mulhern's clever submission attempts. Yuri Villefort by TKO.
David Castillo: Villefort should be able to keep the fight standing, and rough up Mulhern wherever the fight goes. Yuri Villefort by decision.
Staff picking Mulhern:
Staff picking Villefort: Fraser, Stephie, KJ, Tim, Dallas, David, Brookhouse
Tim Burke: James Terry is a tank at 155. Unless Bobby Green Lauzon's him a few times, I don't think he's going to be able to do a whole lot. James Terry by decision
Dallas Winston: This fight will be a firecracker. James Terry has some ridiculous kickboxing prowess and he's been wrestling since age 5. Green is just as high-paced and aggressive but much wilder, so I expect an exciting back-and-forth match in which Terry's striking and wrestling technique prevails. James Terry by decision.
David Castillo: I forgot about that Lauzon fight. Poor Tom Atencio. Anyway, I like Terry in this fight though not by much. I think Green is pretty scrappy, but he's not as polished, and perhaps that'll be the difference. James Terry by Decision.
Staff picking Terry: Fraser, KJ, Tim, Dallas, David, Brookhouse
Staff picking Green: Stephie