Tim Burke: The jab. I think GSP will back Hendricks off with the jab and never let him get inside close enough to throw his version of the H-bomb. GSP is also the better MMA wrestler in my eyes and once Hendricks tires, he should be able to control the fight. I honestly don't expect this to be all that competitive. GSP by decision.
Anton Tabuena: GSP has been rocked on his past few fights, and the thing that makes it interesting here is that if it happens this time, GSP likely won't have his wrestling to fall back on. How will GSP deal with getting hit if he can't take Hendricks down? How will GSP react if this NCAA champ can actually take him down? Those factors make this the most intriguing GSP bout in recent memory, but I still expect him to win with flying colors. He's by far the much more technical striker, and I think he will be able to take this easily. Georges St. Pierre by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: There are two outcomes to be had here: GSP by decision or Hendricks by KO. GSP has a significant reach advantage and does a fantastic job of not getting hit with major strikes. Hendricks is a good wrestler, but his TDD is suspect and GSP is still arguably the best MMA wrestler in the sport. Hendricks' path to victory is basically the lightning left hand, and his ability to cover distance so quickly makes me think he can put anyone out with it. Ehhh, all signs point towards a routine GSP win, but I've also been incredibly non-adventurous with my predictions, so I'll go with the 2% part of me that thinks Hendricks gets the upset win. Johny Hendricks by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I feel like I'm in the same position with GSP that I was in with Anderson Silva right before Chris Weidman beat him. Basically, I can't really make a solid case to pick Hendricks, even though I feel like he could win. Hendricks is the kind of fighter who can catch more experienced/technical guys early with his shocking speed and power, but over time fighters who survive have been able to catch up to Hendricks, slow his charging offense, and make a more even fight. GSP is a master at dictating the pace of his opponents offense and forcing opponents to change their game plans. He's been too good for too long for me to pick against him here. GSP by Unanimous Decision.
T.P. Grant: An interesting fight as GSP looks to turn away a next generation contender with an atomic bomb of a left hand. Hendricks is an excellent wrestler, who has struggled a bit to wrestle in MMA, but when he lands that left hand guys look like they've been hit by a deer slug out of a shotgun. The biggest thing I have coming into this fight is that Hendricks doesn't present new problems for GSP, or even a new combination of old problems. GSP has shown a devotion to his jab, even against lefties, and has dealt with powerful wrestler boxers in his career. Hendricks has an awesome punchers chance, but in a year of champions getting upset as with Silva or challenged as with Jones, I think GSP cruises to a solid win behind his jab and slowing turning up the volume as Hendricks slows. Georges St. Pierre by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I don't think this pick requires any justification. GSP by Unanimous Decision
Connor Ruebusch: I'll say off the bat that I'm predicting a GSP finish, so that I can spend the rest of this paragraph justifying it. Hendricks is a stellar wrestler, but no one works wrestling into their game better than GSP. So it's a virtual certainty that Hendricks will end up on his back multiple times in the fight. And Johny Hendricks on his back looks like something from a bygone era: he clings desperately to his opponent, closing his guard and keeping a tight gable grip behind their back, doing everything in his power to stall for a standup. He just looks uncomfortable, like a natural athlete who suddenly has to think about his every move. GSP, on the other hand, is a masterful guard passer, and a great positional grappler. Once this fight goes to the championship rounds, Hendricks will be tired, and GSP will be fresh as ever. At that point, I expect GSP to start really working on the ground, and getting a submission. It's a long shot, but what the heck. Georges St-Pierre by Submission (arm bar), round 4.
Staff picking Hendricks: Stephie, Mookie, Dallas
Staff picking GSP: Zane, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim
Tim Burke: This is just a weird fight. Chael doesn't seem into it at all, and Rashad isn't likely to play pattycake with him all night the way he did with Nog. I'm honestly shocked that everyone else is picking Sonnen. Rashad completely schooled Phil Davis with his wrestling and Michael Bisping was able to keep Chael off of him. This is definitely a close fight, but I think Rashad just has minor advantages in enough areas to squeak out a decision. Rashad Evans by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Rashad should have the skills to win stylistically as he has good wrestling, and much better striking, but he hasn't exactly looked like he's into it the past few fights. If he's tentative in anyway, that's more than enough reason for me to pick Sonnen as I think he will be able to outwork Rashad enough to win a close decision. Chael Sonnen by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Pretend Alexander Gustafsson beat Jon Jones two months ago. If Chael were to beat Rashad tomorrow night, would you give Chael a title shot? I wouldn't be against it at all, especially since his LHW winning streak of two would be wholly more impressive than Glover Teixeira KOing Ryan Bader. Anyway, the championship level Rashad Evans fustigates Chael Sonnen 100 times out of 100, but the one we've seen over the past year ain't the guy. I actually think Rashad has the better wrestling (offensively and defensively), and definitely has the better and more powerful striking, but the deciding factor to me will be cardio, and if Chael can push that high pace and wear Rashad out, he'll do enough to get 2 rounds. Chael Sonnen by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Chael Sonnen may never reach the heights that Rashad Evans did at his career peak, but I don't know that he'll ever reach Evans' unenthusiastic lows either. When Chael gets beaten in a fight it's usually because his opponent possesses physical or technical tools that Sonnen does not (or because Sonnen decides that he doesn't really know how submission defense works). It's never because Sonnen just didn't show up to fight. Lately I think Rashad's been getting back on the horse early in fights, but it only seems to take one hard shot before he's stepping off the gas and putting himself in survival mode. This will be close, but Chael Sonnen by Split Decision.
T.P. Grant: This is a tough fight to pick. Rashad Evans had runs where he was a Top 10 all time kinda Light Heavyweight, and then he has looked so disinterested that he couldn't keep the gates for the lower third of the division. Chael Sonnen will come in and try his ass off in any fight. Evans has more tools and more talent, but as they say in wrestling hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work. Is it possible 2008 Evans shows up and blasts Sonnen on the feet? Sure, but I'm going with the more likely outcome. Chael Sonnen by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm surprised to see everyone picking Chael so far, as this is a close, tough fight to call. At the same time, I'm picking Chael too, so maybe I shouldn't be. Here's the thing for me - do I think Chael is, overall, the better MMA fighter than Rashad? No I do not. But we all know Chael's gameplan here, and I am struggling to remember the last time Rashad had to doggedly fight off the takedowns of a very skilled wrestler (Jon Jones, I know, but Jones didn't really try to wrestle Evans). So I see Chael keeping up the pressure and wearing out Rashad in a grind. Weird, but true. Chael Sonnen by decision
Connor Ruebusch: Pretty much what these guys said. Rashad just doesn't look like Rashad these days. I'll be happy if he wins, but I see him getting outwrestled and outstruck. Chael mixes it up better than Rashad does, and he doesn't have Rashad's trouble with inconsistency. Chael Sonnen by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Sonnen: Stephie, Zane, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor
Staff picking Evans: Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: Lawler never gets near MacDonald. He'll probably try to charge in, but he's going to either get taken down or eat a stiff jab for his efforts. I haven't seen a fight yet that Rory wasn't the one in control, and Lawler doesn't have the skills to take over the fight. Rory might go to decision, but I think he finishes this. Rory MacDonald by submission, round 2
Anton Tabuena: I'm picking the upset. Rory has been hit a lot before, and if he strikes with Robbie, he's getting slept. And no, Lawler is actually a much more diverse and explosive striker than Ellenberger, so I don't expect this to look anything like that. Robbie Lawler by KO.
Mookie Alexander: Lawler shouldn't have gotten a top 5 opponent based off of a win against Bobby Voelker, but I think this is more of a case where the UFC doesn't want to match up MacDonald against better opposition until either GSP loses or he suddenly wants to fight his training partner. I'm going with the Tristar special here: Jabs with a serving of jabs. Lawler won't catch him (plus Rory's "chin" issues are greatly overblown) and I also think that Rory's size advantage will give Lawler all sorts of problems if he gets taken down. Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Could MacDonald get caught here trying to get flashy with his, not-as-good-as-it-looks, striking? Yes. Lawler is a killer on the feet and has all the tools to wade in on MacDonald and put hands on him if MacDonald decides that he wants to point fight from the outside for three rounds. What's much more likely is that MacDonald will shoot in and body Lawler like he did Nate Diaz. Ultra-violent fantasies aside, I'm going with my head and taking MacDonald in this one. Rory MacDonald via TKO, Round 2.
T.P. Grant: Didn't we just see this with MacDonald vs Ellenberger? Lawler brings amazing power to the table and a little more staying power than Ellenberger, but other than that the skill sets are not wildly different. I'm worried MacDonald's natural killer instinct is being tempered by Tri-Star's defensively based style, but the kid can still throw serious offense and Lawler has no defense other than land a right hand back, which MacDonald will be overly prepared for. I see MacDonald wearing Lawler down and finishing him off late. Rory MacDonald by TKO, Round 3.
Connor Ruebusch: Lawler is a real veteran. He's spent his 31 fights in 11 different organizations, and he's been fighting at a high level since 2002. Rory is hardly a veteran, but he's also been fighting tough competition since the beginning of his career, favorable matchups regardless. I was tempted to pick Rory by submission, since I imagine he'll be spending a lot of time on the ground in this one, but Lawler has only been subbed by superb grapplers--almost all of them better than Rory, who hasn't subbed anybody since his UFC debut. So with that in mind, it's gotta be Rory MacDonald by Unanimous Decision.
Stephie Daniels: OK guys, THIS is one of those times when I'm picking with my heart because I'm a huge Robbie Lawler mark.
Staff picking MacDonald: Zane, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Connor, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Lawler: Stephie, Anton
Tim Burke: I'm still not sold on Woodley. Unless Kos' chin is completely gone, this is a great fight for him. Josh Koscheck by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I don't like this fight. If it doesn't end within the first 5 minutes then the "piss-break-osity" levels increase for this rapidly. Tyron Woodley KOing Jay Hieron in 40 seconds did not make him a must-see fighter overnight. This basically boils down to how badly Josh Koscheck has declined. He nearly beat Johny Hendricks just over a year ago, so perhaps the Lawler loss is a combination of an upset and Lawler's own resurgence. It's clear to me that while he has clearly not looked like a contender since GSP turned him into Popeye, he's good enough to beat Woodley. Josh Koscheck by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I do not like picking this fight. It's not that I don't like the fight, I do. It's a good scrap between two quality fighters who have a lot to prove, both to themselves and fans, about their place in the UFC. That should make for some exciting action, but it also makes this a devil to pick. Is Koscheck as faded as he looks, is Woodley just too gun shy to win against good fighters? I'm not sure. At this point though, I have to go with the younger fighter I can't trust. Tyron Woodley via TKO, Round 1.
T.P. Grant: A tough fight. Woodley is the younger fighter both in years and in fights, but Kos has a fairly similar skill set and has been working it longer and more effectively than Woodley. This is something of a 50/50 fight for me, but Woodley can be neutralized by fighters similar to himself, so I think Kos gets an ugly win. Josh Koscheck by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: This has all the makings of an ugly fight, and it's very difficult to pick. Woodley is the most inconsistent blanket/knockout artist I can think of. He KO'd Jay Hieron and gave Nate Marquardt a very tough fight, only to then take a nap against the fence using Jake Shields as a shawl, waking up contentedly to a decision loss. I don't know what to make of him. Koscheck is in a similar boat. He looked pretty damn good against Hendricks, and then pretty damn terrible against Lawler. He's sometimes chinny, but also packs huge power. His willingness to slug it out could be his downfall or his saving grace against Woodley. I have no idea. Josh Koscheck by Woodley-not-having-a-jab (Unanimous Decision).
Staff picking Woodley: Stephie, Zane, DSM, Anton
Staff picking Kos: Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: Elliott needs to bring a high pace to challenge Bagautinov, who didn't look crazy awesome in his first bout. I'll go with Sambo, but this really is a pick'em. Ali Bagautinov by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Ahh screw it, picking against the Dagestan fighters keeps burning me. I think Elliott is the better fighter, but Bagautinov looks to be a serious prospect in this division. Ali Bagautinov by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: If Ali Bagautinov gets byhe is a major favorite for a title run. This will be his second straight opponent who is much larger than him. Despite KOing Vinicius in his last outing, "The Puncher King" was obviously a bit frustrated by Vinicius' height and strength when grappling. Elliott isn't quite the flyweight gargantua, but he's also much more skilled a wrestler and much stronger and has a much better gas tank than Vinicius did. I hate to pick against the Dagestani (and the UFC's only actual World Combat Sambo Champion) but I don't see him having a big advantage anywhere and several big disadvantages. Tim Elliott via unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Everything Zane says is correct, Elliott had the advantage here. He is the more established in the UFC and the division, he is a strong wrestler who keeps a good pace. But man the Dagestani sambo fighters have been giving wrestlers in the UFC fits recently. They time strikes really well in standing grappling exchanges and I'll go with the less likely outcome. Ali Bagautinov by TKO, Round 1
Connor Ruebusch: Dagestan is to MMA what Cuba is to boxing. The region just keeps creating dynamic, dangerous fighters who, even with seemingly unorthodox methods, keep beating the shit out of their bewildered western foes. The nickname "Puncher King" only cements my belief that Bagautinov has a childlike fondness for violence. Ali Bagautinov by Sambo, round 2.
Staff picking Elliott: Stephie, Zane, Dallas
Staff picking Bagautinov: DSM, Grant, Mookie, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim
Tim Burke: This is probably fight of the night. Both men have skills all over but are always up for a battle on the feet. Cerrone's the more technical striker, but Dunham is sneaky and can probably control where the fight takes place. Dunham would probably be smarter trying to grapple with him, but he won't. Tough call to be honest, but I'll lean WEC. Donald Cerrone by split decision.
Mookie Alexander: I have no idea why Cerrone wants to go to 145 other than the desperation of wanting another title shot, and that he ain't getting one at 155 with his inability to beat any top 10 lightweight, let alone his 0-3 record vs. Henderson and Pettis. Both guys have a tendency to start slowly, but Cerrone is the better striker. If Dunham can make Cerrone fight on the defensive for an extended period time then he will probably win ... I just don't think Dunham has the ability to do that. It will be a fun one I can assure you, and Cerrone wins this firefight. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Beating Donald Cerrone is all about being markedly better than him in at least one area. Henderson was a better wrestler, Anthony Pettis was a better kicker (and probably just better), and Dos Anjos was a better boxer. Dunham might as well be Cerrone without the ability to put on a really quality striking showcase. They both have good cardio, they both start slow, they're both decent grapplers and mediocre wrestlers, but Cerrone has the edge when it comes to a pure striking exchange. Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Staff picking Dunham: DSM
Staff picking Cerrone: Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: I thought Herman could easily have beaten Trevor Smith, and he gave him a hell of a fight. That doesn't really bode well for Herman, who has skill but rarely fights smart. This will be another case of him probably attacking a fighter at their strengths, and losing because of it. Thales Leites by decision.
Zane Simon: It's weird to write this, but I was really impressed with Thales Leites fight against Tom Watson (a fighter with better standup than Ed Herman). Leites got into a rut in the UFC and leaving it seems to have rejuvenated him. He may not be a top ten fighter in today's middleweight division, but I think he's top 20, no problem. Herman, on the other hand, is one of those fighters the UFC has in every division, never really impressive, never really bad, somehow able to stick around for a decade. Herman may retire as a UFC fighter eventually, but he's not winning tonight. Thales Leites by Submission, Round 2.
T.P. Grant: Herman is very willing to engage on the ground with better grapplers, as a result his a good grappler who has a lot of submission losses. I think he falls prey to that tendency again. Thales Leites by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Leites: Stephie, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim
Staff picking Herman: Dallas
Tim Burke: I know Ebersole is crafty and has good skills everywhere, but I've never been overly impressed with him. Story still bringings that grinding game, and he's bigger than Ebersole. Six weeks at Tri-Star couldn't hurt either. Rick Story by decision
Mookie Alexander: I've given up on Rick Story as someone to watch in the division. He's not progressed and has arguably regressed dating back to the Charlie Brenneman loss. Brian Ebersole by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Has Story really fallen this far? I guess so. He blasted Quinn Mulhern not long ago, and took a decision from Brock Jardine, but that's it. Ebersole is a bit mercurial, mostly because he's unorthodox personified, but he has a hard chin, knows how not to take shots, and unless his long injury lay off has really taken something out of him, should be able to win this fight. This is another uncomfortable pick, but Brian Ebersole via Unanimous Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I have faith in Story. I personally love his style, and even though he seems to have lost a certain something since the days when he was battering Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves, he still has a unique style that I want to see persevere. He moves his head, changes levels, attacks the body... everything that most wrestler-boxers don't do, Story does. Ebersole is one of the most veteran fighters in the UFC, but he's one of those guys who doesn't seem to be excellent at any one thing. I expect Story to start with punches at the bottom of Ebersole's hairrow, and follow it right up to his chin. Rick Story by Split Decision.
Staff picking Story: Connor, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Ebersole: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Anton
Tim Burke: Showcase fight for Goyito. Erik Perez by submission, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Figueroa is a fun fighter, but he's not the kind of guy I see as having a future in the UFC. Perez should pick him apart and force a late stoppage. Erik Perez by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: This is probably the first fight pick (remember I'm working down the card) that I'm sure of. Figueroa is basically what you get when you take Erik Perez and remove a lot of his natural athleticism. Perez is just a better fighter all around, and not chinny in the least. I don't think El Feroz could get lucky here. Erik Perez by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Perez: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Figueroa:
Tim Burke: I actually like this fight. Lapsley is unlikely to be ragdolled by High, but it's not a good style matchup for him. High's submission grappling is way ahead of Lapsley's, and that's Lapsley's bread and butter. That means he's going to get submitted himself. Jason High by submission, round 2
Mookie Alexander: I'm not going to pick Lapsley, and I know why. Because I got High, because I got High, because I got Highhhhhhhhh. See what I did there? Know your Afroman references, folks. These are the things I do when I know you probably won't read our picks for all of these fights. Jason High by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: Congratulations on getting to the UFC Anthony Lapsley! I hope they keep you around for more than one fight. Jason High by Submission.
Staff picking Lapsley:
Staff picking High: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: I'm still not sure why Pettis is making his debut at bantam instead of fly, but whatever. Campuzano has looked good at 125 and won't be giving up much size in this bout, which bodes well for him. But Pettis appears to be the craftier and more well-rounded fighter. Sorry Will, bad comeback fight. Sergio Pettis by decision.
Zane Simon: Both these fighters have looked great outside the UFC at Flyweight, but we already have a good look at what Campuzano can do at bantamweight. And the answer is that he tends to lose. If Sergio Pettis is really a prospect he should win this fight. His grappling is great, his striking is powerful, this is his fight to lose. Sergio Pettis by KO, round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: Why does Sergio have to have the same goofy facial hair as his brother? Worst hand-me-down ever. Sergio Pettis by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Pettis: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Campuzano:
Tim Burke: This is going to be a slugfest. And Donovan is going to get finished. Gian Villante by KO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Cody Donovan gets hit in the face a lot and Gian Villante wins primarily by hitting people in the face. Gian Villante by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I hate the light heavyweight division. I really, honestly do. There are about 23 active fighters there and there's no sign that it will get rejuvenated anytime soon. It wasn't that long ago that Villante lost to Chad Griggs... Yes, that Chad Griggs. But considering how they both did against OSP (poorly & very poorly respectively), I'll go with the guy who's just kind of bad. Gian Villante by Knockout.
Staff picking Villante: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Zane, Grant, Fraser, Anton, Connor, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Donovan: