Brent Brookhouse: The worst part about a fight like this is I don't think you get to be "kinda wrong." I think either Sonnen dominates the fight the whole way through or Silva ends it with some sort of incredible violence. I don't think it's anything like last time where there's a late saving sub/TKO..etc. When I think about what Sonnen did to Silva for the majority of their first fight and what he did to Brian Stann (another guy with wrestling defense deficiencies) I really love his chances here. Then I think about the way Sonnen had trouble with Bisping and how often he got tagged and I start to like Silva more. In the end, I'm sticking to my initial feeling that Sonnen just has the chin and tenacity to take this fight. Bisping fights a different kind of style than Silva and Sonnen will fight differently against Silva than he did against Bisping. But I'm ready to be (and hoping I am) spectacularly wrong. Chael Sonnen by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Can Sonnen constantly take him down and grind out a victory? He obviously can, but as much as I would love to see him take that belt, I'm going to have to use my head and pick against him. Why? Because I just don't think he can stop Silva, and I think that banking on him going for 25 minutes without getting badly hurt on the feet, or getting submitted isn't really a safe bet. I do hope I'm wrong, but I'm picking Anderson Silva by Submission.
Fraser Coffeen: I admit, this is a bit of an emotional pick, which I try to avoid. But I find Chael's shtick forced, worn out, and generally annoying, while Silva is the greatest fighter on the planet today. I can not fathom Sonnen winning, and I refuse to try. Anderson Silva by KO, round 2
T.P. Grant: Styles make fights and that is the case here. Sonnen is a flawed fighter but he has the perfect style to Silva fits. That said people have thought a strong wrestler would be the man to beat Silva for years now and we are still waiting for that idea to pan out. Last time Sonnen fought a near perfect fight and couldn't get the job done. I wouldn't be shocked if Sonnen repeats some of that success in this fight and takes rounds from Silva, or even gets a decision. But I find it far more likely that he ends up like, well, every other guy Silva has fought in the UFC, going home without the belt. Anderson Silva by TKO, Round 4.
David Castillo: I don't think Chael's performance in the first fight was a fluke, but I don't think it's revelatory either. In addition, Sonnen looked flat against Michael Bisping. "Pissed off" Silva is 50/50 (sucked against Maia, looked great against Belfort), but I think Silva's (seriously) underrated takedown defense will be the factor here. Silva can afford to miss his shots over 25 minutes. Sonnen can't miss once. The old maxim in MMA holds true here: longer fights favor the more dynamic fighter. Anderson Silva by KO, round 3.
Tim Burke: Anderson all the way. The first fight wasn't 100% Anderson and this likely won't be either, but his takedown defense isn't as bad as people like to think. Chael might take an early round or two, but eventually he's going to get his bell rung and he's going to get submitted Dan Henderson style. That's how I see it going down. Anderson Silva via sub, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Anderson has solid takedown defense but that's just a function of his ultimate trait, his footwork, which is hands down the best in the sport. However, that's exactly what was so far off in their last fight -- Anderson was surprisingly flat-footed, used straight-line retreats and his lightning-fast reactions were amiss on counter angles. Chael's footwork was the best it's ever been and combining it with his straight left and power doubles was the sole factor. Anderson's upset now and the question is whether he'll try to taunt Chael and toy with him ala Leites and Maia or make a definitive statement by pursuing a finish. My instincts point to the latter. Chael's been marvelously immune to strikes -- his only TKO losses are a cut and his corner throwing in the towel -- but I think Anderson will sidestep the bull-rush and empty the clip with tight one-twos or catch him with a high or front kick. Anderson Silva by TKO.
Staff picking Silva: Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Tim, Dallas, Stephie
Staff picking Sonnen: Brookhouse
Brent Brookhouse: Tito is all kinds of broken down and so far past his peak as a fighter that I shouldn't even consider picking him. But Forrest is a headcase of the highest degree, so I don't know that I trust him to just show up and beat up the old man. The first two fights were good, so I'm cool with this fight happening. I'll just pretend that I have confidence that both guys fight to their best ability at this point in time and make the smart pick. Forrest Griffin by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I don't know which trilogy I care less about, this, or Fisher vs. Stout. Either way, it's going to be Forrest Griffin all the way. I'm just hoping that Tito makes it a bit more entertaining. Forrest Griffin by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: For shame Anton - this rules! It's super tough to pick in some ways because you have no idea what state either guy will show up in - Forrest mentally and Tito physically. Both looked pretty run down in those areas in those last fights. I hate picking a guy who has looked as cashed in as Griffin lately, but he still has the physical tools to avoid the Tito takedowns and win a kickboxing match. Forrest Griffin by decision.
T.P. Grant: Do people really want to see this fight? Really? Tito might win one round, but I see this going a lot like Forrest/Tito II were Forrest turned Tito into a glorified heavy bag in the third round. Forrest Griffin by Decision.
David Castillo: I suspect this fight will end up being Griffin's retirement party rather than Tito's. It's the perfect fight for Ortiz. There's something to be said for having your head in the game, and Tito has had his head in the game for as long as the octagon could support the weight of it. Forrest just seems disinterested. Like he knows he cashed in on the TUF craze, and just wants out. That sounds dismissive of a former champion, no less, but he's too convincing when he acts like he doesn't care. I thought Tito looked energized against Lil' Nog. So long as Tito doesn't get hit in the body, I think he outboxes Griffin (like he did in the 1st fight, but for which he rarely gets credit). In fact, I'll go one further. Tito Ortiz by TKO, round 3.
Tim Burke: This bout does nothing for me personally. Tito might be shot but he can still get Griffin to the ground. Can he do it enough to take the fight? Probably not. Will he win on the feet? Probably not. Will Forrest show any sort of killer instinct at all? Probably not. Forrest Griffin by decision.
Dallas Winston: I used to pride myself on being a supporter of Tito when everyone hated him during the Liddell "we had a pact" era. Many consider him a paper champion for his dominant run as the 205 champ and that is precisely unfounded. He's also a good samaritan outside the cage who's done a lot for charities and always makes time for his fans. That being said, I lost a ton of respect for Tito after he claimed he was healthier than he'd ever been and then pulled out the "cracked skull" excuse. I still like the guy and hope goes ballistic with punches (his straight right has drastically improved) and finally -- in what was always my biggest complaint about his style -- tries to pass guard after a takedown. I'd kind of like to see a dramatic win for him but Forrest should know exactly what to expect by now and use his quick striking to fluster him. Actually -- on a whim, out of nothing but sheer respect for being a pioneer and entertaining me over the years, I'll let my heart pick this one. Tito Ortiz by TKO.
Staff picking Griffin: Anton, Fraser, Grant, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Ortiz: David, Dallas, Stephie
Brent Brookhouse: It's a game of aggression. Le doesn't have a ton of single strike power (not the same thing as saying he can't stop guys) so he tries to break guys down with a constant attack. But breaking guys down when you've got cardio issues is a tricky proposition. Cote, on the other hand, has better single strike power (yet lower rate of stoppages, go figure) but doesn't fight with enough aggression to always take advantage of that (see: lower rate of stoppages on strikes). Cote's chin can hold up and he could knock out Le, but I think the real problem here for him is that he's just going to get outworked for two rounds before Le fades, but doesn't get finished. I suspect we see Le's first MMA decision. Cung Le by decision.
Anton Tabuena: With a full gas tank, I think Cung Le has the edge. Without it, Cote trucks him like how Wanderlei did it. He won't be having the same long layoff as last time, so I don't think there will be as much rust as his last bout, but either way, it's still a close fight. Cote is very durable and he packs power, but I just think Cung can pick him apart and keep him guessing. Cung Le by late TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: I suspect Le will be able to get Cote to play his game here - a technical points-based kickboxing fight fought at range. And when Le is fighting that fight, he's really good. He's getting up there in years, so may just not have it anymore, and I don't think he can beat many in the UFC, but against Cote, I'll take him. Cung Le by decision
T.P. Grant: Cote has been scrapping hard to get back into the UFC. He has a iron chin and powerful boxing. I see him getting to Cung and landing something hard to put him away. I've been a long time fan of Cung, from back in his K-1 on ESPN days, but he just does not take MMA that seriously and I don't really see him beating that many guys. His striking at range is excellent, but he drops his hands a lot and gasses out hard. Patrick Cote by TKO, Round 3.
David Castillo: It's hard to say what Cote has these days. If there's a reason not to pick him, it's his low fight IQ. He's durable, and iron chinned (seriously: his fight with Silva wasn't bad and it sadly gets lumped in with the Maia/Lates fights, and I can't think of a single fighter that would have held up after being kicked in the jaw like that), but if Le keeps him at distance, he'll probably stay there. He's never been terribly aggressive, after all. Still, Le isn't very durable, but he did look to be in good shape, if his brief scene in the RZA's new movie was any indication. I hate picking Cung because I can't articulate why, when his best accomplishments have involved C-rate competition, but perhaps that's what Cote is these days. Cung Le by Decision.
Tim Burke: I'm torn. Cote knows why he's in this fight - to bomb away. He just needs to land one solid shot and Le will go down, but getting that shot on the button will be the hard part. He doesn't pressure like Wandy does. Le's not going to stop Cote, but he can win rounds. It seems too predictable to say Le wins two and Cote stops him late, but...I really think that's what will happen. Patrick Cote by TKO, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Good insight by Brent and Tim here. I really expected Cung's style to make him a legitimate force -- his stand up is unreal, well suited to MMA and his San Shou background gives him excellent clinch tactics. Even though rugged boxers in Wand and Smith wore him down, those are big names and big punchers and I'm not sure we can say that a consistent pattern has developed. Le desperately needs some killer instinct and "fight-ending over flash" combinations when the opportunities arise, as they almost always do. Cote is ridiculously durable as the knee injury against Silva and discombobulation on Belcher's slam are his only TKOish flaws. My logical side was leaning Cote, but ... logic is stupid. I think Cung is too smart not to adjust his output and strategy and can out-strike Cote for 3 rounds while avoiding a fight-changing counter punch. Cung Le by decision.
Staff picking Cote: Grant, Tim, Stephie
Staff picking Le: Anton, Fraser, David, Brookhouse, Dallas
Brent Brookhouse: Good fight and a fair measuring stick for Maia at 170. He's going to have too much trouble getting the fight to the ground and too much trouble winning on the feet. It'll be a close one, but Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I don't care if Maia drops down a division, if he still thinks he's a striker, he will lose handily again. I think Kim can keep it on the feet and win with his stand up. Dong Hyun Kim by Decision.
T.P. Grant: The whole Maia has fallen in love with his striking is over blown, but he clearly tied himself in mental knots against Chris Weidman. I think dropping down Maia will clear his head and focus on what he does best: badass sweeps and choke holds. I think Maia does what Nate Diaz could not do and taps out Kim. Demian Maia by Submission, Round 1.
David Castillo: Tough fight for Maia, and the wrong one. Kim is the perfect kryptonite: sturdy takedown defense, rangy technical striking, and a "knows what the hell he's doing" ground game. Maia will try striking first, and when he finds he's not having success, he'll go for the takedown. If he doesn't get it, he'll go back to striking. I've always liked Demian, but where once he showed promise when it came to innovation (like the Sonnen fight), now he just shifts from Plan A to Plan B with no real effort to connect the two like he used to. Could be a very ugly fight. Dong Hyun Kim by Decision.
Tim Burke: I don't think the cut is going to be too hard on Maia, but it's kind of funny because his opponent is still going to be bigger than him. If he fights Kim the way he fought Mark Munoz, this is definitely a fight he can win. If he fights the way he fought Chris Weidman, he's done for. I like both fighters and it sucks that they got matched up, but I think Kim will be a little too inclined to grapple with Maia and it will cost him. Demian Maia by close decision.
Dallas Winston: I agree with Burke again -- Kim's advantage in this fight is control, which is usually applied through takedowns and top control. Though his submission defense is amazing, as evinced against Nate Diaz (who I would assess as close to Maia's level for a dynamic guard), it's tough to pick a guy whose strength is top-control and avoiding subs against a BJJ whiz like Maia. Plus, I don't see why everyone is convinced that Kim is the better striker -- his technique is cleaner but Maia's power in his straight left and body kicks is more prevalent. Maia has the advantage in effective offense where Kim has the edge in control. Demian Maia by decision.
Staff picking Kim: Anton, Fraser, David, Brookhouse
Staff picking Maia: Grant, Tim, Dallas, Stephie
Brent Brookhouse: For real? Chad Mendes by TKO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: This is not even going to be close. Chad Mendes by a lopsided Decision.
T.P. Grant: What did McKenzie do to Joe Silva to deserve this? He has nice little front headlock series, but we've seen that when put up against anyone with real grappling ability McKenzie looks just lost. Chad Mendes by Submission, Round 2.
David Castillo: This will be like watching the shark in Jaws fight Pepe Le Pew. In a shark cage. Underwater. In case that wasn't clear. Other than try to make jokes at Cody's expense, I'm not even sure what to say. Mendes has shown real improvement in his striking, and he already has incredible raw power. It took awhile, but McKenzie is fighting him at a very very bad time. Expect very bad things for Cody's health. Chad Mendes by KO, round 1.
Tim Burke: Little Man vs. Hairy boy. I wouldn't normally pick Mendes by any sort of finish, but I think he can actually do it here. Chad Mendes by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I was genuinely perplexed by this match up until someone in the comments explained that McKenzie asked for the fight when Palaszewski pulled out. No matter what, this is an atrocious match up for Cody, but I respect his cojones immensely. Don't quote me on that. Barring a well-timed haymaker or a spearing knee as Mendes drops levels, McKenzie's size should work against him, as Mendes is quick and his low center of gravity should allow him to pin Cody in the corner and get ultra-deep on his hips/waist for takedowns. Chad Mendes by TKO.
Staff picking Mendes: Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking McKenzie: Stephie
Brent Brookhouse: As I'm filling these predictions out, I'm being reminded that this is a really good card. I don't really like Easton here because of all the reasons the guys below me talk about (fight IQ). I think he's a hell of an exciting fighter and has plenty of talent, but I think these are the kind of fights he is built to lose. His liability is Menjivar's strength. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Now this is a great fight that could go either way. Tough pick, but I think Easton can win this. Mike Easton by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: The power of Easton gives me pause here, but I think Menjivar is too wily to get drawn in by his footwork, and has too many options for where to take the fight. Should be a really good one here, but I like the experience edge to make the difference. Ivan Menjivar by decision
T.P. Grant: When I hear the name Mike Easton I think of two things: #1 A very talented man and #2 A fighter who constantly fights in a way that lets guys back into fights. Easton seems to make odd choices in fights, when he is enjoying clear success striking he initiates a clinch series or shoots for a takedown or stands up when out grappling opponents. Menjivar is not the kind of fighter you can get away with that sort of thing against. Ivan Menjivar by Decision.
David Castillo: Just to be clear, I'd like to see Menjivar win. I think he's one of the more underrated fighters in the game, period and he'll always have my respect for the Uno fight alone. But I don't like this matchup. Easton, even though he's talented, and tough tends to make bad decisions, but I have this feeling that Ivan get caught at some point, despite the lack of KO/TKO losses on his record. This is one of those "call it a hunch" picks. Mike Easton by Decision.
Tim Burke: This is probably going to be the real fight of the night, even if it doesn't actually get the bonus. Menjivar has been one of my favorite fighters for years, and I really think he has the tools to take advantage of Easton's mental lapses. Easton is a very good fighter, but Menjivar's just a bit bettter. Easton could have beaten Jabouin. He'll have a lot more trouble here. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
Dallas Winston: This time I'm digging Grant's breakdown -- Easton has been noticeably methodical, both to his credit and to a fault. That should help against Menjivar, who only needs a fraction of an inch to take over. I'm interested to see if Easton plays the counter game or goes offensive but, while he might have an edge in wrestling and punching power, Menjivar is impressively creative and devastating with his offense and tough to finish. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
Staff picking Easton: Anton, David
Staff picking Menjivar: Fraser, Grant, Brookhouse, Dallas, Stephie
T.P. Grant: Anytime I see a Russian prospect, especially a grappler, I want to see how he looks off his back against a legit grappler. Tibau will certainly provide that test, and I expect Tibau to come out on top. Glesion Tibau by Decision.
David Castillo: That's a great line by Mr. Grant. Even the guys we think of as ‘great', like Fedor, seemed to be deficient in certain areas (typically when it comes to defending against the guard pass). I wouldn't call Tibau a legit grappler in the vein of Werdum, or something, but he's good enough (and large enough) that I think Khabib will be neutralized. Not that Tibau's defense is great or anything, but I think he'll keep the fight standing and be able to take it from there. Gleison Tibau by Decision.
Tim Burke: This is going to be weird. Nurmagomedov is a legit grappler to me, but Tibau's size is what gives me pause. Nurma was able to surprise Shalorus and take him down, but he'll have a much harder time against a middleweight. I don't think Tibau's takedown game is going to be very effective this time out, but surprisingly enough, it might be his standup that could take it. Nurmagomedov's is wild and loose, while Tibau can actually box and accumulate points. I really want to pick Nurma and I hope he wins, but Tibau's just too big. Gleison Tibau by decision.
Dallas Winston: There's no question that Nurmy exceeded expectations against Shalorus, but I couldn't tell if Shalorus wasn't his usual self or if Nurmy's talent made it seem that way. Tibau should be a bigger and better version of the Shalorus that gave Nurmy trouble and won't fade late. His striking defense will be pivotal, as Nurmy has that off-temp and odd-angled Russian boxing style and tagged Shalorus with corkscrew punches, but I like Tibau's straight left, imposing wrestling and submission defense in this one.
Staff picking Nurmagomedov: Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Tibau: Grant, David, Brookhouse, Tim, Dallas, Stephie
Brent Brookhouse: Melvin is awesome because of his combination of strengths, weaknesses and a randomness factor outside the vast majority of fighters. Camoes isn't bad, but "Good Melvin" is better. Melvin Guillard by TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Smart money says Guillard, but Camoes has a good submission game and that's always been Guillard's big weakness. I think Melvin avoids the ground game and lets his hands go here, but I'm nervous about this pick. Melvin Guillard via KO, round 1
T.P. Grant: Guillard should win... but it's Guillard so who freaking knows. Melvin Guillard by TKO, Round 2.
David Castillo: You can never pick Guillard with confidence, but when you do, and you're right, you're typically in for a treat. Camoes is a solid competitor though, but I think Melvin's panicked, insecure scrambles on the ground will be enough to avoid the submission loss. Melvin Guillard by TKO, round 2
Tim Burke: This is actually a great fight for Guillard. Morango has great chops on the ground, but he's going to have to keep Melvin there. That's certainly not an easy proposition. Unless he gets caught in a guillotine or something, it'll be bombs away. Melvin Guillard by TKO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: Camoes is super-tough. In his very first night of pro MMA, he defeated one opponent and then battled with Anderson Silva for almost a half-hour in his second fight of the evening. That along with a TKO to one of my old-school faves in Chute Boxe's Luiz Azeredo are his only TKO losses. He's not a strong wrestler but his ability to attach, usually taking the back, in scrambles and transitions is utterly phenomenal, and that's the scenario I see him creating. Fabricio Camoes by submission.
Staff picking Camoes: Dallas, Stephie
Staff picking Guillard: Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Brookhouse
T.P. Grant: Phillippou is going to knock Fukuda's head off. Constantinos Philippou by TKO, Round 1
David Castillo: Fukuda is too willing to stand in the pocket, and that is simply not a good idea against Philippou. Constantinos Philippou by TKO, round 2.
Tim Burke: I see this differently than my fellow predictors. Fukuda is willing to engage on the feet, but is also constantly looking for takedowns or to engage in the clinch. He went for takedowns relentlessly against Ring and Cantwell, and found success. He will here as well. I don't see Philippou landing the home run shot on a guy like Riki. Riki Fukuda by decision.
Dallas Winston: Costa's always been a scary boxer but Ray Longo and Matt Serra have fine-tuned his footwork, takedown defense and defensive scrambling. Footwork and timing should dictate the takedown vs. boxing battle and I just feel like Costa is surging with confidence right now. He might get the TKO with that soul-crushing uppercut or left hook, but ... Costa Philippou by decision.
Staff picking Fukuda: Anton, Tim
Staff picking Philippou: Fraser, Grant, David, Brookhouse, Dallas, Stephie
Fraser Coffeen: Roller's on a tough 3 fight losing streak, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's not good. He's very talented, but he's been against a higher level of competition and hasn't fared so well. Alessio is more on his level, but he's a bad match-up for Roller, who will struggle to either put him away or maintain three rounds of control. I like Shane, but I think he's on his way out here.
David Castillo: This is a fairly competitive fight in some respects. Roller, despite being fairly talented, isn't an athlete, and that's what hurts him. Maybe that sounds too abstract, but my point is, Roller is a blue collar fighter with white collar credentials (I consider dropping Benson Henderson a "white collar credential"). Alessio is like Roller, but with less power. Shane Roller by submission, round 2.
Tim Burke: Roller's still basically a wrestler with heavy hands and a low fight IQ. Alessio's a vet and can probably win on the feet, but he's probably going to get frustratingly grinded out here. Shane Roller by decision.
Dallas Winston: There's a sound case for Alessio sprawling-and-brawling his way to a win over a prime Diego Sanchez at welterweight, though Diego got the nod. Alessio has extremely under-rated boxing, footwork, takedown and submission defense, which is the exact formula that's proven to be poisonous to Roller, who was really disappointing against Michael Johnson. Alessio might catch him in a sub from the front headlock while defending the shot but I expect a bulletproof display of counter-boxing and movement for a decision. John Alessio by decision.
Staff picking Alessio: Fraser, Dallas
Staff picking Roller: Anton, Grant, David, Brookhouse, Tim, Stephie
Tim Burke: Tractor all the way, baby. Rafaello Oliveira by decision.
Dallas Winston: Izquierdo was awesome against Madadi, who's a better wrestler than Tractor and more aggressive. He rolled out crisp low kicks, some spinning attacks, a functional front kick and a nice straight left. Tractor has gotten in trouble by patiently awaiting opportunities for takedowns on the feet and trading for too long and I think Izquierdo is for real. Yoislandy Izquierdo by TKO.
Staff picking Izqueirdo: Dallas (2nd time I'm the only guy) ←-wrong I'm with ya on this one
Staff picking Oliveira: Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Brookhouse, Tim