Tim Burke: My puppy keeps attacking me and he's oddly like a Diaz brother without the swearing. I think Maynard's over the hill and Nate's gonna sub him. So there. Nate Diaz by submission, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Stylistically, Maynard should be able to take this easily. But I have a feeling he will try to box with Nate for most of the bout, and that's where he'll get worn down in time for Diaz to take the late rounds and a decision win. Nate Diaz by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Tough call. I think both men are on the descending part of their careers. Side note - the UFC's twitter account said "few lightweights have the KO power of Gray Maynard". His last finish was in 2007 on a card headlined by Din Thomas. Don't know what they're trying to project here. I vaguely recall Maynard outboxing Diaz in an ugly fight, but if he's smart he uses his wrestling and makes Diaz uncomfortable fighting outside of his comfort zone. My main concern with Gray is that even in a 3 round fight I don't know if his cardio can hold up, but I think he'll get two rounds out of this to come away with the win. Gray Maynard by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Neither of these guys fills me with confidence these days, so this is a tough pick. Smart, easy pick is Maynard, who should be able to use his wrestling and grind out a decision win. But I think his head has been a mess ever since he failed to stop Edgar in fight #2. It's all about how smart Gray fights - takedowns and grind = Maynard win, striking = Diaz win. I think the mental game makes the difference, and that game doesn't favor the Bully. Nate Diaz by decision
Zane Simon: Man I'd love to bet against Diaz here, his whole attitude after getting cracked by Thomson was pretty hilarious and it made it pretty difficult to take him seriously as a fighter. But the way to beat Nate is with footspeed and kicking. Maynard does neither. If there's a slower lightweight I don't know who it is. I said this going into the Grant fight, but I think that losing his title shots against Edgar stole a part of Maynard that is never coming back. Nate Diaz is no stick and move champ, but I think he makes this happen. Nate Diaz by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Diaz: Fraser, Dallas, Anton, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Maynard: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Grant
Mookie Alexander: With all due respect to Rakoczy, a very talented ex-pro boxer, there's virtually no upside to her winning TUF and being promoted as a contender. She has a 1-3 pro record to her name and is 36 years old. Alas, this will all be proven moot because Pena is going to outclass her on the ground and submit her. Julianna Pena by submission, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Alright, I admit it, I didn't finish this season of TUF. I watched about half of the show, but then got distracted and didn't make it to the end. Of course, I watched every moment of the last 3 season and in the finals picked Ricci, Hall, and Iaquinta, so a fat lot of good that did me. That said, I am surprised to see Rakoczy here, as she seemed to be one of the lesser women on the show. Obviously, I was wrong, but I still don't see enough in her to stop the very impressive Pena. Julianna Pena by decision
Zane Simon: Ugh, flip a coin when it comes to TUF finales. The fighter you see on the show is often a pale (or occasionally overly bright) reflection of who they end up being in the octagon. Honestly Pena's the prospect here, but I'll go with Rakoczy who has shown the kind of come from behind toughness that has a way of stealing the spotlight in TUF finales. Jessica Rakoczy by Decision.
Staff picking Pena: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Dallas, Grant, Tim
Staff picking Rakoczy: Zane
Mookie Alexander: I've hardly watched TUF so I've basically forced myself to catch up and watch all of the older videos on the TUF Youtube page. It'll be interesting to see if Grant can stuff Holdsworth's take-HOLD ON A MINUTE. Holdsworth trains at Team Alpha Male? Well then. Chris Holdsworth by submission (rear naked choke), round 1.
Zane Simon: Alpha Male you say, winner says I. If he's good enough to be in the gym he's probably good enough to beat another mid-level regional talent. Chris Holdsworth by Sub.
Staff picking Grant:
Staff picking Holdsworth: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Dallas, Grant, Fraser, Zane, Tim
Tim Burke: I like the name Jessamyn. It's unique and cool. Jessamyn Duke by TKO, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: Don't see anything Morgan is particularly better at than Duke, although I'm intrigued by Duke having to fight at a size disadvantage for a change. Alas, Duke will outstrike her and then get the submission late in the next round. Jessamyn Duke by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Duke is green, and still has a lot of things to iron out, but she also has world championship potential in her, which I don't quite see in Morgan. Jessamyn Duke by submission, round 1
Zane Simon: Before entering TUF Jessamyn Duke was something of a prospect, or at least she was before Miriam Nakamoto took her lunch money. Still, she's probably one of the brighter young fighters at 135. Morgan is big, and that's a nice help, but Duke should have the size to not get outmuscled. Jessamyn Duke by Submission.
Staff picking Duke: Stephie, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Grant, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Morgan:
Tim Burke: Roxy is a ridiculously good person. Don't listen to anything Thapa has to say about her (not here, elsewhere), because she's tough as nails. I hope she finds happiness at some point, but I don't think it's gonna be in the cage tomorrow night. I hate guard changing. Raquel Pennington by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Modafferi hasn't won a fight in 3 years and is 0-5 in her last 5. There's no way she gets another UFC fight if she loses to Pennington. This fight depends on Modafferi's ability to control the fight and score a few takedowns, because Pennington is the better striker to me. Then there's obviously the gas tank issue that rose when Modafferi lost to Rakoczy. As nice as it would be to see her win, I think Pennington is good enough to beat her. Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Roxanne Modafferi is an awesome human being and a true pioneer of WMMA and I am so glad she is getting a UFC fight. She completely deserves it for all she has done. Sadly, she's getting it at a point where the Women's side of MMA has just passed her by. Her strong submission game is not enough to get the job done against well rounded fighters anymore, and she just gives up too much in terms of pure physicality. Pennington has the physicality in spades, and she will use it here - hopefully it won't be too ugly of an ending. Raquel Pennington by KO round 1
Zane Simon: I have hope for Modafferi moving to a US camp and a full time training schedule. It might just turn her career around. But I can't pick her in a fight until she wins a fight. It's sad, but that's the legacy of going 0-5. Could she win, sure. Hell, Dallas thinks she can. But I'm betting against her until she does. Raquel Pennington by Decision.
Staff picking Modafferi: Dallas
Staff picking Pennington: Stephie, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Tim
Tim Burke: Blanco isn't what we thought he was, and Akira has exceeded expectations. Akira Corassani by decision.
Mookie Alexander: To me, this fight is categorically better than all of the main card fights except the main event. It should be a FOTN contender and I'm going with Blanco to inflict some serious damage on Corassani for the victory. Can't say that with too much confidence because Blanco has not performed particularly well in either of his UFC fights. Maximo Blanco by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Great fight, great fight. Corassani is a classic heel, who remains underappreciated because of it (well that and the fact that he can't stay healthy for more than one fight at a time). Blanco across from him is one of the most underperforming fighters in the UFC. When an overperforming fighter meets and underperforming fighter it should lead to some pretty great action. I'm going to go out on a limb and take Corassani, he's less purely athletic, but he's a much smarter, more level headed fighter and stratagizes well. Mix that in with crisp technical striking and I think he can exploit Blanco's tendency to either hesitate or wing crazy wild strikes. Akira Corassani via TKO round 2.
Staff picking Blanco: Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Grant
Staff picking Corassani: Stephie, DSM, Zane, Tim
Tim Burke: Constrictor. Sorry, Paulo. Rani Yahya by submission, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: I'm super hesitant picking Yahya because Niinimaki looks to be a very good new signing with credible recent wins over Walel Watson and Chase Beebe on his resume as part of a 10 fight win streak. His pro debut was in 2002 with a four year "retirement" from 2007-2010 so odds of a serious title push aren't that big to me. I don't think Niinimaki excels at any particular area like Yahya does with his jiu-jitsu, but the big concern I have with Yahya is his cardio has been awful. Straight up awful. It almost cost him the fight against Mizuto Hirota, so basically if he wants to get a finish he needs to do it in the 1st round. Otherwise Niinimaki will box him up. I'll go with Yahya to win the first two and survive the 3rd. Rani Yahya by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: A battle of the known versus the unknown. We know that Rani Yahya can outgrapple any featherweight on the planet. He can't necessarily finish them, but if the fight is on the ground he's more or less the master of it. Niinimaki, as Mookie says, is sort of a jack of all trades. He wins this fight and suddenly he's in the top 20 and a serious player in the division. But if he loses he could be a fight away from cut. I think the size of the moment and the early voracity of Yahya's grappling gets to him. Rani Yahya by Sub, Round 1.
Staff picking Niinimaki: Stephie
Staff picking Yahya: Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Dallas, Grant, Zane, Tim
Tim Burke: This is kinda weird because of the disparities. Harris is all about block-knocking and Rosholt is supposed to be the college wrestler guy. But I'm not actually sure Jared has what it takes to row into the deep waters of 4 oz. gloves. The obvious predic is that Rosholt bodies Harris and blah blah blah. But I wouldn't be surprised at all with Harris clubbering Jake's brother and making a big splash. So I'ma go that way. Walter Harris by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Walt Harris is a dynamic fighter. He has tons of raw power coupled with the quick feet of a former college basketball player. Rosholt, on the other side is a plodding grinder. His striking has improved, but against higher caliber opponents he has grinder written all over him. I don't know that Harris will be that test, but I'll be interested to see. Jared Rosholt via TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Harris: Tim
Staff picking Rosholt: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Dallas, Grant, Zane
Drew Dober vs. Sean Spencer
Zane Simon: Spencer is the bigger fighter ( a former middleweight) fighting a natural lightweight. But, Spencer is also a pretty mechanical kickboxer with very little power in his hands. He's likely to keep this fight at range where he'll try and peck away at Dober. Unfortunately for him this will play more or less precisely into Dober's strengths. Dober is a mechanical moderate power striker himself so this should end up being a bit of a shootout, where Spencer's length and high end experience will probably still give him the advantage, but just barely. Sean Spencer by Split Decision.
Staff picking Dober:
Staff picking Spencer: Stephie, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Grant, Zane, Tim
Tim Burke: It sucks that Sampo came in overweight, because that's going to hold him back in a division he has the ability to dominate. Dude's good, but unless he wants to fight for the tinyman catchweight belt against John Lineker, he needs to smarten up. Gremlin by sub, round 1.
Zane Simon: Unless the heavens have opened up and changed these fighters drastically there's almost no way Benoit is winning this. He's a brawling power puncher with great athleticism, but few skill tools. Sampo is a better boxer with better defense, a better kicker and a way, way better wrestler with a much better submission game. Benoit could catch him early, but if not he's losing. Joshua Sampo by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Benoit: Stephie, DSM, Fraser, Mookie, Grant
Staff picking Sampo: Dallas, Zane, Tim