Tim Burke: Boring on the feet or amazing on the ground? This might be the one WW fight where Maia figures he can have the advantage on the feet so he keeps it there, but I think he's going to bring what brought him to the welterweight dance - aggressive grappling. Shields is probably the better straight wrestler, and Mark Munoz proved that Maia can be neutralized. But Shields isn't as big as Munoz and I don't think he can hold him down. Can Maia sub Shields? I don't think so. But it'll make for a helluva fight if he tries. Demian Maia by close decision.
Mookie Alexander: I will cry if this becomes 5 rounds of kickboxing. This needs to be a fight with high level BJJ on display. I favor Maia just about everywhere, and yes, he will be the first man to submit Jake Shields. Demian Maia by rear naked choke, round 3.
Anton Tabuena: Two fantastic grapplers here. Maia should have better BJJ, and even if he did control Fitch, I think Shields should still have better wrestling. I don't really care if my prediction ends up wrong, all I'm hoping for is that this doesn't turn into a sloppy kickboxing bout, because I would really love to see these two go at it on the ground. Tough pick, but I'm going with Maia here. He should be able to hold his own from the bottom, but if he does end up on top, I don't think Shields will be able to do the same. Demian Maia by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Shields' striking is good for nothing but getting into a clinch, which is precisely where Maia needs to be to get this to the ground. Maia's nothing special on the feet, but the man is a virtuoso on the ground, and I think even Jake Shields will struggle with him. Positional grappling with stifling top control: both men possess this, but Maia more so than Shields, and Maia has better submissions. I'm with Mookie here. Demian Maia by Submission, round 3.
David St. Martin: Maia should have the edge over Shields just about everywhere, save for maybe wrestling. I know he's technically winning fights, but Shields seems to be on the decline. Yushin Okami's fate has to be in his head, making him even more likely to try to grind out a win by any means. Maia's just too evolved by this point. Maia via Decision.
Zane Simon: Like Mookie, I'm feeling pretty emotional about watching guys kickbox who can't. Fortunately Maia has been fighting like a windup straightjacket in that the moment he's released by the ref he's charging into grappling action. I hope he doesn't get hyped off his game by Shield's grappling resume, but if Fitch couldn't do it I doubt Maia will give anyone else much of a passing thought on his way into back mount. Demian Maia by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Maia: Anton, Mookie, Connor, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Tim
Staff picking Shields: Dallas
Tim Burke: This is just a weird style matchup. Has Silva learned to pace himself? Will Kim falter to an early onslaught like he did against Condit? In short, yes. I don't think he possesses the ability to keep Silva down. He might take him down once or twice, but he won't keep him down. In fact, I think Silva could even take him down and submit him. Could Silva pound him out? For sure. But I think he takes the back and sinks a choke. Erick Silva by submission, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Let's not pretend Erick Silva wasn't competitive against Jon Fitch, it was basically an even fight or a slight edge to Fitch up until Fitch dominated him in the 3rd. Stun Gun is a bit of a poor man's Fitch (with Judo!) and with a significantly worse gas tank. Silva's ridiculously high pace will give Stun Gun problems, and I don't think Kim has quite the consistent takedown threat to put Silva down with ease the way he's done against Thiago or Siyar. Hopefully Silva fights a little smarter than he did vs. Fitch, as he practically invited Fitch to drag him to the mat at times. Erick Silva by decision.
Anton Tabuena: He would've learned a lot from the Fitch fight, but I think Kim is still going to grind this one out. I think it will be worse for Silva this time too. Dong Hyun Kim by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Tough fight to call. Silva does indeed keep a frenetic pace, but when he doesn't get his customary early finish, as in the Fitch fight, he loses steam. Round 3 didn't go to Fitch because he suddenly discovered how to stymie Silva's grappling. It went to Fitch because Fitch is relentless, and Erick Silva's cardio failed him. Kim has also been improving his striking, whereas Silva's shown the same brand of explosive-but-untechnical striking his whole career. Still, Erick Silva has such a diverse skillset, and is so damn good on the ground, that I see him riding out a competitive decision. He just needs to watch out for the back take. Erick Silva by Handsomeness.
David St. Martin: I'm still pretty firmly seated in business class of the Erik Silva hype train, but Kim is tough to style on (unless you're Condit). Should be interesting to see how Silva responds to his first legitimate UFC loss. Silva via TKO round 2.
Zane Simon: I've noticed that Kim has been getting pretty cocky with his grappling lately, and while I generally like that sort of attitude from a fighter (afterall they're supposed to think they're the best guy in the cage) I think his sense of comfort will cost him against a fighter who can explode quickly into dynamic action like Silva. I'm not sure when it will happen, but sooner or later I expect Kim to get complacent and get hurt badly. Erick Silva by TKO.
Staff picking Kim: Anton, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Silva: Mookie, Connor, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Tim
Matt Hamill vs. Thiago Silva
Tim Burke: Hamill needs to work his wrestling to win this. We shouldn't forget that while Thiago looked good against Feijao, he was losing to Nedkov's wrestling before he pulled out a late sub and Gustafsson controlled him. If Hamill's not a shell of his former self, he could turn this into a boring fight on the ground. But I doubt he'll do that - this will be a kickboxing battle, and neither has the best beard. Silva's the better striker though, so I'll lean that way. Thiago Silva by TKO, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: FACT - Matt Hamill has wins over the two greatest LHWs in UFC history (Jones and Ortiz). FACT - Matt Hamill is going to get bludgeoned tomorrow night. Thiago Silva by some sort of violent maneuver, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Not overly interested in this bout between two veterans who won't really reach the top of the heap at light heavyweight. Even with the hype that Silva used to have, in reality, they both have really sloppy kickboxing. I think Silva should still be the faster and slightly better striker though, and that will win him this fight. Thiago Silva by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Hamill looked terrible just before retiring, and he's looked even worse since coming back. Thiago Silva, on the other hand, looked better than he has in a long time against Feijao, showing an improved understanding of position and strategy on the feet. Silva's gonna stop the takedowns, work his new-and-improved jab, and probably make fun of Matt Hamill after knocking him out. Thiago Silva by Super-Villain-esque TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I don't know if Thiago Silva is still doctoring his protein shakes, but I'm also not sure it matters against a fighter like Matt Hamill. I was sure Hamill would get by Roger Hollett because Hollett was just that bad, but Silva has been in something of a resurgence of late. He's even showing, perhaps, a bit more technique than he did as a young prospect. He'd be on a two fight win streak and 3-1 in his last 4 if he could pass drug tests consistently. The question here shouldn't be about the result, but by how long it will stay official. Thiago Silva by KO, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: Three words -- "Angry Sith Lord." Darth Thiago by TKO.
Staff picking Hamill:
Staff picking Silva: Anton, Mookie, Connor, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: I'm sure it will be fun and that's what a lot of fans like, but these two are just not top-level guys and these kind of irrelevant main card fights don't do a lot for me. Maybe it's just because I haven't had an energy drink yet though. Who knows. Anyway, I'll take the fatter dude. Fabio Maldonado by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Maldonado is like a 205 lbs Brazilian version of Chris Lytle. Loves to throwdown, has a granite chin, and a perplexing lack of KO power. This is a toss-up for me, but I'm going with Maldonado to outbox Beltran and brutalize him with body shots. Fabio Maldonado by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Two guys known for their chins will duke it out until one guy drops. Not really relevant in terms of rankings, but it should be a fun brawl. I think this all boils down to who can land that big shot first, and I think that guy would be Maldonado. Fabio Maldonado by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: Maldonado is the most hittable man to have ever been billed as a boxer. Yes, even more hittable than Frankie Edgar. And people picking him to outbox Beltran forget that, while Maldonado more or less has to rely on his boxing to win, Beltran has the wrestling to take his opponent down whenever he wants. The fact that he's no longer training with Team Nogueira does not bode well for Maldonado's chances on the ground. Mexecutioner by Split Decision.
Zane Simon: Maldonado only has one skill (body punching) and one gear, but it's an excellent skill and a high output gear. It's also more than you can say of Beltran, who's greatest skill to date has been a propensity for absorbing damage. While Conner made mention of Beltran's wrestling, much like Hollett before him, Beltran is exactly the type of fighter who will let Maldonado lean on him against the fence and punch away at his body. He may be able to take the fight down when he wants to, but if he never wants to then it's to very little end. This won't be a war of attrition, as Beltran isn't know for gassing particularly, but it will be a war. Fabio Maldonado by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Beltran: Connor, Dallas
Staff picking Maldonado: Anton, Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Tim
Tim Burke: Leg. Coming off. Thrown into crowd. Riot erupts over leg. Leg is heaved back into cage. Toquinho takes home leg. Rousimar Palhares by submission, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: As one of maybe 7 Mike Pierce fans on this planet, I'm only naturally going to pick him to stomp Palhares. Barring a fluke slip, Pierce will not end up on his back and he won't be insta-subbed by Rousimar. That leaves striking, and Pierce not only has good punching power, but an opponent with a really suspect chin. Mike Pierce by TKO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Palhares either gets a sub, or he gets stopped. I think he's getting stopped. Mike Pierce by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: The best part about Palhares is the fact that he wears the same expression of frustrated confusion whether he wins or loses. The worst part about him is that he's often too perplexed to adapt once he starts losing. Mike Pierce, on the other hand, is tough, adaptable, and savvy. I thought he won his bout with Josh Koscheck, which would make him undefeated since his 2011 split-decision loss to current title challenger Johny Hendricks. Pierce is really the dark horse of the division in my eyes, and I expect him to survive the early guard pulls of Toquinho before gassing the big Brazilian out and putting him away. Mike Pierce by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: It's really hard to mark out on Toquinho these days. I mean I want to, but I've been burned so often recently. Honestly Pierce eats sleeps and breathes for the opportunity to make fighters like Palhares look bad, and he's really good at it. He's got just enough dominating top control to put grapplers on the bottom and keep them there, and enough boxing to hurt them on the feet. I think he's going to take this fight to Palhares with something to prove and make it look easy. Mike Pierce by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Palhares: DSM, Tim
Staff picking Pierce: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Connor, Dallas
Raphael Assuncao vs. T.J. Dillashaw
Tim Burke: Assuncao's weird style will confuse Dillybar for a while, but he tends to wilt late and that's where the fight will be decided. TJ Dillybar by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I'm just going to spam picking Team Alpha Male guys until they lose. TJ Dillashaw by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Actually, Caol Uno already derailed Team Alpha Male's streak in Japan recently, but yes, I'm still picking them to continue their UFC run. TJ Dillashaw by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: TJ Dillashaw has all the hype, but I'm not convinced that he's really on the same level as his Alpha Male teammates yet. Raphael Assuncao has really impressed me recently, particularly his sound one-armed outboxing of Mike Easton. His newfound prowess on the feet, combined with his potent submission game, make him a tough matchup for a wrestler like Dillashaw. And while Dillashaw may have improved Muay Thai, there were a lot of defensive holes apparent in his last outs against Hugo Viana and Issei Tamura. The kid's got power, but he tends to just swing for the fences. If Raphael Assuncao's counter punching is as sharp as it was against Easton (when, again, he had a broken arm) then he'll be able to handle Dillashaw wherever this fight goes. Raphael Assuncao by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: As I said in the preview I did yesterday for this fight, it really comes down to whether Dillashaw has advanced past the point where Assuncao is at right now. Assuncao has been on a tear. He's probably at the peak of his athletic career. It's an incredibly difficult test for both men, but with the strides that Dillashaw has been making lately I expect this to be something of a breakout performance. T.J. Dillashaw by KO.
Staff picking Assuncao: Connor, Dallas
Staff picking Dillashaw: Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Anton, Tim
Tim Burke: Why is Araujo even in the UFC now? Ildemar Alcantara by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Hmmm. Anik does it well, but I wonder if the others pronounce their names properly. Oh, my prediction? Alcantara by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: This is really a tough one to judge. Alcantara had that sick kneebar over Wagner Prado, but I suspect that Prado had never grappled before that bout. Araujo on the other hand has a record filled with submission wins, but closer inspection reveals that these weren't exactly world-beaters he was choking out. Given the fact that Alcantara has been tested (and passed) on the big stage, I'm going to give this one to him. Alcantara by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I went over this fight in detail already in my preview piece and to make a long story short, it's a coin flip. They're both big welterweights and while Alcantara has been a winning fighter thus far in the UFC the two fighters he's beaten have both been cut. Alcantara doesn't really strike, he doesn't really wrestle, and he doesn't really grapple unless he's forced. I expect Araujo to force the action and be too strong to just grind out. Igor Araujo via Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Araujo: Zane
Staff picking Alcantara: Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Grant, Anton, Tim, Connor, Dallas
Tim Burke: Paulo Thiago and T.J. Waldburger each took Mitchell down 6 times and couldn't submit him. Mike Pierce decided not to and just knocked him out. Cabral is one-dimensional, but that dimension is better than Mitchell's. Even if he doesn't sub him, he'll be on top and that'll win him the fight. Yan Cabral by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: David Mitchell should go back to being funny on "Would I Lie to You." He's great on panel shows, not so much at this fighting thing. Yan Cabral by Submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: This is the other side of the coin from the Araujo/Alcantara fight above. Cabral is a great grappler with no UFC experience and a win over Kazushi Sakuraba under his belt. And Mitchell is a very underwhelming UFC vet who has gone 1-3 under the Zuffa banner to date. However I think his experience at the top end will be enough to get by the super 1-dimensional Cabral. I expect this to be a bad kickboxing match between two grapplers with Mitchell getting the better of it for three rounds. David Mitchell via Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Cabral: Mookie, Stephie, Grant, Anton, Tim, Connor
Staff picking Mitchell: DSM, Zane, Dallas
Tim Burke: I wrote out a prediction that was about as vague as possible, and it was horrible. So I deleted it. So there. Chris Cariaso by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Cariaso has that archetypal exciting style: powerful Muay Thai and potent BJJ. Santos has not looked great lately, and I remember how competitive Cariaso was with John Moraga before getting submitted by a very tricky front choke. I see Cariaso putting that heavy left kick across Santos' midsection all night. Chris Cariaso by KO (head kick), round 3.
Zane Simon: Cariaso may be coming off a loss to Jussier Formiga, but for anyone that watched that fight it was obvious he was the better fighter. The same can't be said of Santos coming off his loss to Ian McCall. Both fighters are strikers and while Cariaso doesn't pack the power of Santos, he also has a great chin. That leaves him in an awkward position of having to outpoint Santos for three rounds. Santos doesn't really have a lot to offer beyond boxing however, so I think Cariaso will mix it up nicely with kicks and takedowns for the decision. Chris Cariaso by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Cariaso: Mookie, DSM, Stephie, Zane, Grant, Anton, Tim, Connor, Dallas
Staff picking Santos:
Tim Burke: One of these guys is Brazilian? Really? Who named him? Anyway, Jungle Fight/Bitetti Combat wins > wins in Indiana for me. Alan Patrick by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Alan Patrick is like some kind of Brazilian inverse-Canelo Alvarez. Canelo sounds Mexican but looks Irish. Alan Patrick sounds Irish but looks Brazilian. What does this have to do with his fighting skills? Not a damn thing. But Patrick has been getting his wins in Brazil where, in my opinion, the regional scene provides stiffer competition than the American one, which tends to include a lot of guys with three weeks of training and a desire to "just bang." So I've got to say Alan Patrick by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: Thus far in his career Alan Patrick is not a good fighter. He's athletic and has good size and strength for lightweight, but he's basically a grinding blanket fighter. He has very little striking or Jiu Jitsu and his wrestling seems more power based than technical. On the other side is Whiteley, a power punching lightweight coming out of Chris Lytle's camp. I think Whiteleys more technical striking and all around skill set will let him weather the early hugging and grab the TKO victory late. Garett Whiteley via TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Patrick: Mookie, Grant, Anton, Tim, Connor, Dallas
Staff picking Whiteley: DSM, Stephie, Zane