Tim Burke: I picked Cain in the first one and JDS in the second, so I might as well go three for three in my wrong picks. I think Anton did an excellent job of explaining it below, so go read that. You back? Cool. Okay, that about covers it. I'm done! Junior dos Santos by TKO, round 4
Anton Tabuena: The first two fights were basically decided by one punch. JDS landed a bomb that KO'd Cain on the first fight, and although he wasn't able to secure a finish it was the huge punch that dropped JDS and turned the tide. A rocked and tired JDS has proven he can still get up from those takedowns, so with this likely to have a lot of time on the feet, who has a better chance of repeating with that big shot? I think that's going to be Dos Santos. Also, can I just say that after taking that beating on the second fight, Dos Santos even seemed to be the fresher fighter during the latter rounds. Hopefully on this third bout, Rogan and Goldie would already have let go of that damn ‘Cardio Cain' narrative. Junior Dos Santos by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I don't get people who think that Cain and JDS fighting 75 times is a bad thing. Heavyweight is not producing any serious contenders right now (or at least anyone who is a threat to Cain or JDS), and the next best heavyweight is planning to drop to 205 AND is Cain's teammate. So that leaves Werdum, Barnett, and maybe Travis Browne as the next best 3, and all of them would be comprehensively pulverized by Cain or JDS (who already smashed Werdum). Anyway, I've picked JDS the first two times, but the 2nd fight was a real eye opener. I think as much as JDS gets lauded for his boxing, Cain is tighter with his punches and has the superior footwork. JDS has the ability to KO Cain with one punch, but Cain just has more paths to victory, and I think he takes the rubber match by beating JDS at his own game. Cain Velasquez by TKO, round 3.
T.P. Grant: This is a great rivalry for the Heavyweight division as these two are clearly the best of their generation and both could be considered All-Time Greats by the time their careers are over. This makes the third time I've picked Cain heading into their fights, I've always seen a trilogy coming and Cain taking two of three. JDS certainly has the tools to win, he is only ever one punch away from getting the belt, but Cain's wrestling is just too big a factor for him not to be the smart pick. These two might end up fighting five times and unless something drastically changes I'll pick Cain as the favorite each time. Cain Velasquez by Decision.
Zane Simon: I'd love to pick JDS here, I think his standup is actually evolving. Hell, he KO'd Mark Hunt with a wheel kick. But the fight is about more than just who strikes better. I think that cain has the ability to continually take JDS out of his element and even if JDS can get back up over and over again it changes the way he fights. Cain's path to victory is clearer because he can follow almost the exact same game plan as the last time out and expect similar results. JDS has to have made significant changes to his defense, grappling and footwork and I just don't think that's likely. Cain Velasquez by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I got to tell you - I have no idea. I picked JDS KO last time, then felt stupid. This time, I'm tempted to pick Cain, but is it just because he won last time? I guess I fall back on my general rule for rematches - go with the smarter fighter. Here, I think that's Cain. So, Cain right? Yeah, but what about his chin? Good point - so JDS, right? Aaargh - so difficult!! Cain Velasquez by TKO round 3
David Castillo: I'm still in the camp of ‘this is too close to call'. While people talk about the first fight being fluky, I don't see how the second fight with JDS getting destroyed on the feet is any less fluky. I don't think Cain is the better striker, for example, just like I don't think Cain is chinny. One of the reasons why I favor JDS is because even with his brain lying in a pool of blood near the judges, he still managed a modest comeback. If JDS is relatively cogent, and hasn't been rocked, I kind of like JDS' chances in general. I favor him to eek out the win in fact. This is just one of those matchups IMO where these guys could fight 100 times, and each fight would be a coin toss. Junior dos Santos by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I don't even know, man. I'm just so hyped about this matchup. Who doesn't love a heavyweight rubber match? This is a classic trilogy in the making, and there's likely at least another two fights in the not-too-distant future. I actually believe that JDS was unduly affected by outside factors in the last fight, and even in his dilapidated condition he was still able to land some punishing shots in the later rounds. I don't think Cain can repeat his success, because JDS has the advantage of knowing exactly what holes need shoring up. Hopefully he's taking Cain seriously now, and has a gameplan to stifle the wrestling and punish the faulty boxing of the current champion. Junior Dos Santos by KO, round 3.
Staff picking Velasquez: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Zane, DSM, Fraser
Staff picking Dos Santos: Anton, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Tim Burke: Cormier couldn't knock out Frank Mir, so I don't see him doing it to Nelson. I never considered Cormier to be especially fast, but he's definitely faster than Big Country. Roy's size won't make a difference - he said it himself, Cormier's technique covers that. So what happens? Cormier outwrestles him and beats him to the punch. That's it. Daniel Cormier by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Roy Nelson will always have that power, so he will have a chance to win at any point, but Cormier should be the better overall fighter and he should take this pretty easily. If I'm wrong, and it ends up as an excellent fight, who knows, maybe they can rematch at 205. Either way, I think it's Daniel Cormier by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Joe Rogan is going to talk about how amazing Roy Nelson is on the ground. Roy Nelson will proceed to whiff on every single right hand he throws as Cormier lands counter punches of his own. Oh, and Cormier is probably going to take Nelson down as well. What I'm saying here is that Roy Nelson is going to be beaten pillar to post, but in true Roy Nelson fashion, that guy will not be finished. Daniel Cormier by 30-26 unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Despite his lackluster showing against Mir, it is important to remember that DC has pretty much smashed every other Heavyweight in his career. Nelson has a ceiling and when he hits that ceiling he hits it hard. This is going to be a beating. Daniel Cormier by Decision.
Zane Simon: If Daniel Cormier is capable of circling to his left he's capable of beating Roy Nelson. If Nelson's recent weight cutting have improved his foot speed he could make this a more interesting, competitive fight, but the Roy Nelson of the past has little chance of beating Daniel Cormier right now. Unless, of course, Cormier throws sense and game planning out the window. Daniel Cormier by Decision.
David Castillo: Nothing much to report here. Cormier is as good as it damn near gets at HW, whereas I've never been on the Roy Nelson bandwagon. He relies too much on a single punch and while his grappling is good, it's not lights out, nor is it complimented by a stellar wrestling. And certainly not the kind that would threaten a guy like Cormier, who should wrestle-box his way to victory. Daniel Cormier by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Roy Nelson has power, but Stipe Miocic proves that he really doesn't know how to use it. Cormier is a pretty solid kickboxer for a wrestler. Scratch that, he's a pretty solid kickboxer in general, and I can't say the same about Roy. This one probably takes place mostly on the feet, and Cormier has the distinct advantage there. Daniel Cormier by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Cormier: Mookie, Grant, Anton, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Nelson: Stephie
Tim Burke: Melendez is the better boxer, the better wrestler, and will have little problem with Diego's pace. So how is he supposed to win? Yell YES until Melendez taps out? If it doesn't work for Bryan Danielson, it ain't gonna work for him. Nyet. Gilbert Melendez by decision.
Anton Tabuena: With those two very questionable decision wins against Kampmann and Gomi (where he also missed weight), Sanchez only has one clear cut win since 2009 to couple with three other loses. He hasn't looked good since that Paulo Thiago bout a while back, and frankly, I don't get why a lot of people still have him at such high regard. Melendez should be better at every single area, and barring more questionable scorecards, he should take this pretty easily. Gilbert Melendez by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I'm very worried about this fight. Not because I don't think Gilbert will completely outclass Diego, that's really not in doubt ... but it's Texas, and their judges are ... not the best. I'm going to play it safe and say Diego clearly loses the fight but wins a scorecard for some inexplicable reason. Gilbert Melendez by 30-27, 30-27, 28-29 split decision.
T.P. Grant: Basically Sanchez's whole path to winning right now is using activity and aggression to win on the scorecards. Melendez is better of every aspect of fighting and I expect this to be a scientific taking apart of Sanchez. Gilbert Melendez by Decision.
Zane Simon: I am really hoping that Gilbert Melendez feels like he has something to prove here, because Diego Sanchez is ripe to be made an example of. Sanchez has looked miserable lately, but, coupled with that misery, is a mind bending ability to throw opponents off their stride and steal rounds from judges. I'm hoping that Gilbert takes that to heart and gets Diego out of there quick. Gilbert Melendez via KO, Round 1.
David Castillo: Yea, yea Gilbert by Decision. My interest is in how this fight turns out of it's a scramble fest. Will Diego remember that he's still the guy that actually looked good despite losing in a grapplefest to Marcelo Garcia? If he can muster his ability to scramble and create chaos on the ground, maybe he pulls off a miracle. Like everyone else, I'm not bettin on it but it's a thought experiment. Gilbert Melendez by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Gil is one of the best boxers in a stacked division, and Diego is one of the most hittable fighters in two stacked divisions. Endlessly shooting for desperate takedowns won't do the trick this time, and Melendez is less hittable than Kampmann by about 1000%. Sorry Diego, but this time the answer is NO. Gilbert Melendez by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Melendez: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Sanchez:
Tim Burke: Gonzaga's gonna get cracked pretty quickly if he keeps it on the feet. It's the usual GG prediction - does he fight smart or chuck knuckles? I'll lean smart this time. Probably dumb. Gabriel Gonzaga by submission, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: He gets KO'd or he gets a finish. I think the latter is more likely here. Gabriel Gonzaga by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: Gonzaga toggles good performances by getting brutally KO'd by anyone who has punching power, isn't weird like Dave Herman, and is fairly athletic. Shawn Jordan by KO, round 1.
T.P. Grant: I guess I'm a Shawn Jordan doubter, because I never seem to pick him to win. Gonzaga has looked fairly good since coming back from retirement and has really focused on using his grappling. Jordan is kind of a wall-n-stall guy, I think Gonzaga finds a way to lock something up because he a very skilled heavyweight grappler, and there are not many of those. Gabriel Gonzaga by Submission, Round 1.
Zane Simon: Shawn Jordan's signing to the UFC was all about untapped potential and, much to my surprise, I think he might just reach that potential. Jordan really is an athletic marvel, but with limited cage time, he's always prone to doing something silly and getting shut down. I see him on an upswing however so I'm taking Shawn Jordan by KO.
David Castillo: I think Gonzaga is good enough to win these fights even in his diminished state. Jordan is absolutely a live opponent, but the possibility of getting taken down and submitted is too great IMO. Gabriel Gonzaga by submission.
Connor Ruebusch: I'm almost certain I'm going to be wrong here. A Jordan blitz is very likely, and I don't know how Gabe will deal with that kind of assault. Hopefully better than Barry. Gabriel Gonzaga by Submission, round 1.
Staff picking Gonzaga: Grant, Stephie, Anton, David, Tim, Connor
Staff picking Jordan: Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Dallas
Tim Burke: What a brutal first fight for Montague. He's going to get outwrestled and outstruck unfortunately. John Dodson by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I'm excited that Mongoose is finally in the UFC, but John Dodson hits really hard. That's enough for me. John Dodson by TKO, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Tough to call Flyweight fights just because we are still figuring out what guys are legit. I'll go with the track record of John Dodson and his superball style kung fu. John Dodson by Decision.
Zane Simon: Is Darrell Montague a good fighter? Hell yeah he is! Is John Dodson a much better fighter? Almost certainly... I expect Dodson to give Montague a brutal debut in the UFC. John Dodson by TKO, Round 2.
David Castillo: I'm tempted to change my pick now that I see the numbers. Montague is exactly the kind of fighter that frustrated him while he was growing up MMA wise; a mobile, hard to hit versatile striker with chops on the ground as well. Nonetheless, if McCall could catch Darrell...Dodson's power is too great an equalizer. John Dodson by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Looks like I'm going to be the stupid contrarian once again, but I've never been particularly impressed by John Dodson. This is probably because, as a technique geek, I have a natural bias against fighters who seem to rely more on athleticism than technical prowess. Nonetheless, Dodson has looked less than impressive before, and I feel that people are forgetting that fact just because he was able to lay hands on the quite hittable flyweight champ. Power and speed are potent, but I'll take well-rounded technician this time. Darrell Montague by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Dodson: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane Simon, DSM, Fraser, David, Dallas
Staff picking Montague: Connor
Tim Burke: Dollaway aspires to be what Boetsch is - a smart wrestler with heart and resilience. He has taken advantage of two guys that gassed out to squeeze out victories in his last two bouts. That's not going to happen this time. Tim Boetsch by decision.
Zane Simon: I don't see Dolloway doing to Boetsch what Munoz just did to him, and I think Boetsch will have a big chip on his shoulder. I just wish I could say I think this won't end up as a three round grind as well. Tim Boetsch by Decision.
David Castillo: Perfect matchup for Boetsch- Dolloway isn't durable, whereas Tim is one of the toughest, most durable guys around. It helps that he's aggressive, and hits relatively hard whereas CB can be timid, and tends to get rocked. Tim Boetsch by TKO, round 2.
Connor Ruebusch: I was completely unimpressed with Dolloway in his last out, a split decision win over Daniel Sarafian that I felt he should have lost. Dolloway was too caught up in whatever awful smell he's constantly experiencing to dodge Sarafian's punches and knees, and Tim Boetsch has both of those things in spades, plus mastery over the mysterious art that is Redneck Judo. Tim Boetsch by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Boetsch: Grant, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Dollaway:
Tim Burke: I still think Marquardt's good, but he sure didn't look it against Ellenberger. Lombard is probably going to be exhausted late in this fight due to the weight cut, and that's when he can take advantage. I don't think he can strike with Lombard - he'll likely eat a counter and get dropped at least once - but taking this deep is what matters. Unfortunately, I'm not sure his chin is up for that anymore. Hector Lombard by KO, round 1
Anton Tabuena: Marquardt has had a crazy past few years that has gone up and down. UFC contender, to UFC washout, to Strikeforce Champion, and now on danger of being released again. Lombard, on the other hand, apart from a gimmie win (stylistically) against Palhares, hasn't looked great in the UFC either. Tough pick to be honest, but I think Nate should be the more dynamic striker, and he should be able to be good enough to pick him apart. Nate Marquardt by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I think Marquardt has hit a wall. Defensively, he has looked less than stellar in his last two fights, and as long as Lombard commits to even a semblance of an aggressive gameplan, it's going to be a short night. Hector Lombard by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I was pretty surprised to see that Marquardt might be a favorite in this one (at least I think that's what I saw. I don't follow betting.) Lombard's poor performances have been in a pretty set pattern. He doesn't pull the trigger fast enough, and he gets gassed when he grapples too much. I think the drop in weight will up his confidence and I think he's going to put hands all over Marquardt who looked great against Tyron Woodley, but has looked less than stellar since. I don't know that anyone will get knocked out, but I think it will be fairly one sided. Hector Lombard by Unanimous Decision.
David Castillo: I'm only picking Lombard because I feel like even in defeat, he always manages to catch his opponents with one of his Cuban heaters, and I don't feel like Nate will be able to weather the early storm. Hector Lombard by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: Nate absorbed some bombs from Tyron Woodley when he won the Strikeforce title, but I'm not sure if he'll be able to weather Lombard's power the same way. Jake Ellenberger thinks not. Hector Lombard by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Lombard: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Marquardt: Anton
Tim Burke: I'm biased as a Kaufman fan because she's from BC, but she has a lot going for her here. The biggest thing is the size difference - Sarah's cutting from 150 and will likely be close to that in the cage, while Eye is a natural flyweight. Kaufman can box from the outside or work in the clinch and I don't think there's much Eye can do to stop her. I highly doubt there will be a finish, but BC's best fighter (sorry Rory) is getting her hand raised. Sarah Kaufman by decision.
Zane Simon: I wish I could be higher on Kaufman right now. As a former champion I want to think that she's still a dominant force in WMMA, but I have a feeling that she may be on her decline. She hasn't won a clear decision in any of her past three fights and I don't think she has the power in her punches to threaten fighters on the feet and I think Eye has the athleticism to keep Kaufman from a Bisping-like stick and move and take down performance. It'll be close, but Jessica Eye by Split Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: This fight is awesome, and should so be on some main card. Based on their careers so far, Kaufman is the easy favorite, but like Zane said it's all about where they are right now. Kaufman seems like her best days are behind her - Eye's are still ahead. It's hard not to think about Eye just rolling over Zoila here - I'll take the rising fighter. Jessica Eye by decision
David Castillo: This fight is either as close as it looks on paper, or a total wash by Kaufman. I feel like Kaufman's smart boxing should be the key to victory, but Eye has been on a tear, and I like her power and aggression to lead the way. Expect this one to be very very close. Jessica Eye by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Sometimes I feel that Kaufmann has a reputation for technical striking that she doesn't deserve. Her defense leaves something to be desired, and I'm not sure that she has the power to put away most bantamweights. Eye, on the other hand, packs a serious punch, and I see her brawling her way through Kaufmann's guard to get the win. Jessica Eye by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Eye: Stephie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Kaufman: Mookie, Grant, Anton, Tim
Tim Burke: Unfortunately, I can't see Sotiropoulos' chin holding up here. Noons doesn't exactly have insane power, but he has more than enough to lay it on George. And he has the takedown defense to take away his opponent's only real path to victory. K.J. Noons by KO, round 2
Anton Tabuena: Stylistic nightmare for Sots here. Noons will have much better striking, and Sotiropoulos won't be able to take him down and control him enough to use his jiu jitsu. K.J Noons by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Sotiropoulos has serviceable offensive boxing, great submissions, and a slick ground game. However, his takedowns are not impressive and in addition to looking 116 years old, he gets hit a lot. Noons is going to box him up and mess up his face. KJ Noons by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: If Sotiropoulos had a kicking game I'd probably be a lot closer to picking him here. Both are such one dimensional strikers, and it's a dimension that Noons is clearly better in. Add to that that Sots can be a bit chinny and Noons is notoriously hard headed and it's hard not to think that Noons will have plenty of opportunities to hurt Sotriopoulos and finish him off. K.J. Noons by TKO, Round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: I pick Noons almost every time, and he consistently lets me down. The guy has won 1 fight in 3 years and is on a 1-5 run. That's bad folks. Yes, he should outbox Sot, but I see a bad fight here with Sot using just enough grappling control to get the win. George Sotiropolous by Decision
David Castillo: George is looking like too much of a spent force. And this is his worst matchup; someone who can defend his takedowns and who can box. And who has power. KJ Noons by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: Seriously, what is G-Sot going to do to Noons? He can't outstrike him, he can't weather his power, and he can't take him down--Noons is an underrated wrestler. Noons isn't always impressive, but he's rarely as unimpressive as Sotiropoulos has been lately. KJ Noons by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Noons: Mookie, Anton, Zane, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Sotiropoulos: Grant, Stephie, DSM, Fraser
Tim Burke: I don't see Amagov as one-dimensional despite what he's shown in the cage thus far. He has grappling chops and good sambo. Whataburger is going to have trouble taking him down and he's definitely going to have trouble submitting him. I think Amagov can outpoint him on the feet, maybe even finish him. Adlan Amagov by decision.
Zane Simon: I know, I know in a battle between a guy who just strikes and a guy who just grapples, take the grappler. But I am a straight up mark for Amagov's creative kicking game. If he can keep Waldburger on the outside I think he could turn this into a real show. Adlan Amagov by TKO, Round 2.
Connor Ruebusch: I'm picking Amagov solely because I want to see him win with something spectacular. I don't care if its unlikely against a UFC caliber fighter, it's what I want. Adlan Amagov by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Amagov: Zane, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Waldburger: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, DSM, Fraser, David
Tim Burke: Ferguson has been out a long time, and all people remember is that Michael Johnson beat him. It's easy to forget that he broke his arm in the first round of that fight. He's a pretty talented guy overall and should be able to run through Rio here. Tony Ferguson by TKO, round 2
Zane Simon: Somewhere a UFC executive that Mike Rio has wronged sat down at his desk and wrote down a list of guys who would make terrible matchups. Tony Ferguson by assault.
Fraser Coffeen: Mike Rio is a fighter who should be better than he is. I still don't get how he couldn't deal with Andy Ogle on TUF, and if he couldn't figure that out, he's certainly not going to manage much here. Tony Ferguson by KO round 1
Staff picking Ferguson: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Rio:
Tim Burke: Touchy Fili. Hey, that's kinda funny. Andre Fili by decision.
Mookie Alexander: "Touchy" Fili is arguably one of the worst nicknames in the UFC. Oh ... I'm supposed to pick this fight. Andre Fili by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I'm not blown away by Fili's striking as an Alpha Male product, but he is an Alpha Male product and he's winning. Larsen is just sort of generic and thus far has proved to be a cut below the low end of UFC competition.
Fraser Coffeen: Larsen is a reasonably tough guy, but that will only take you so far - and a spot on TUF is about as far as it gets you. There are just too many ways for Larsen to lose here. He could be held down and grinded out, he could be KO'd. Nothing against the guy, but this looks like the end of his UFC tenure. Andree Fili by KO round 1
Staff picking Fili: Mookie, Stephie, Grant, Anton, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Larsen:
Tim Burke: Why is Pague even still around? Oh yeah, to lose to the Japanese prospect. Kyoji Horiguchi by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Stoked about seeing his debut as Kyoji is one of the most entertaining prospects from Japan in quite some time now. I still think he's a bit too green for a lot of the higher level guys in the UFC, but I think he's more than capable of beating Pague. Kyoji Horiguchi by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I've pretty much tried my best to stay away from picking Japanese prospects to succeed in the UFC, but Horiguchi might break that mold. Worst case scenario is Pague grinds him out, otherwise Kyoji styles on him and punches him really hard in the face. Kyoji Horiguchi by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Unless Horiguchi is just an abysmal failure of a prospect he should blow Pague out of the water here. Kyoji Horiguchi by TKO.
Staff picking Horiguchi: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Fraser, David, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Pague: