Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann
Tim Burke: I still think it’s weird that they’re doing this at LHW. Sure, Wandy wasn’t want to fight at 185 anymore. That’s cool. But he should at least be fighting an actual LHW then! Either way, I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make. Wandy’s chin is not elite anymore, and I think Stann’s is still pretty good. Don’t like doing it, but I gotta turn this prediction ship around! Brian Stann by TKO, round 2
Mookie Alexander: I’m going to hate myself on Sunday morning knowing I’m throwing away a pick in the staff standings. Here’s my horrendous simpleton reasoning for Wanderlei over Stann - Wanderlei is a better fighter at 205, while Stann was pretty average and losing to Krzyzstof Soszynski at LHW. That Wanderlei looks shot at this stage in his career will not dissuade me from my single "PRIDE NEVER DIE" moment. Stann should win this, but let’s keep this recent string of upsets going. Wanderlei Silva by TKO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: I’m guessing they brought Wanderlei to get Japanese fans nostalgic, but all this fight is going to do, is get them depressed. I hate to say it, but it’s going to be Brian Stann by KO.
Fraser Coffeen: I’m with Mookie on this one. Silva at 205 is a better fit, while Stann was pretty average at 205. Mookie’s being generous by saying he lost to K-Sos - he also lost to Steve Cantwell. That’s no good. Stann’s punches can absolutely add up, but for Wanderlei, the danger is the one punch KO, and that’s not Stann’s game. Over 5 rounds, I see Wand eventually getting him in a compromising position, then showing off that killer instinct he still possesses. I’m probably wrong on this, but screw it. Wanderlei Silva by KO, round 2
David Castillo: As much as I hate to admit it, this fight should be pretty straightforward: Stann’s punches will do more harm to Silva’s face than Silva’s punches will do to Stann’s. Brian Stann by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I’m so happy that I can pick who I want to win nowadays rather than who should win. Wanderlei Silva by berserk Pride-era KO.
Staff picking Silva: Fraser, Mookie, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Stann: Anton, Stephie, Grant, David, Tim
Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve
Tim Burke: I hate this. Hunt is the bestest ever, and he’s going to get taken down and submitted. I hope and pray for an epic walkoff KO, but I think we’re going to see a quick tap instead. Stefan Struve by submission, round 1
Mookie Alexander: This is Struve’s fight to lose. I think he’s learning how to use his reach effectively (at least offensively) and could keep Hunt at bay based on that. Struve hasn’t shown much of a good takedown game, but he’ll probably just pull guard at some point and grab an arm. Of course, I will go nuts like any MMA fan should if Hunt wins by KO. Stefan Struve by submission, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Hunt can definitely land one shot that can KO him early, but I think Struve should be good enough to get a takedown or even pull guard to submit him. Stefan Struve by Submission.
Fraser Coffeen: I picked Hunt over Kongo, and I’d pick him over a decent number of UFC Heavyweights. Sadly, Stefan Struve isn’t one of them. Despite some improvements in this area, Hunt’s kryptonite has been, and remains, submissions. When he went on his bad 6 fight losing streak, 5 were via sub, 4 of those in under 2 minutes. Struve is quite good at the sub, and that makes him a bad match-up for the former K-1 champ. Stefan Struve by submission, round 1
David Castillo: Struve is the better HW, but the better fighter doesn’t always win, especially when the better fighter is prone to questionable strategy. Every card has to have at least one gamble, and I’m gambling on Hunt to be amped being back in Japan, allowing to score a knockout over the hittable Struve, reach disadvantage be damned. Mark Hunt by KO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: Two of my favorite heavies here, so I hate to see one lose. I agree that Struve pulling guard to implement what has always been his best aspect -- his submission grappling -- is his best option and the most likely outcome. I will respectfully disagree that Struve’s made significant strides in applying his reach, and he still allows himself to be backed onto the fence rather than circle out and also keeps his hands frighteningly low. The range aspect will probably dictate most of this fight, and Hunt is one of the best in the game at connecting with close-range fight-enders, and he’ll also have the quickness and chin advantages. I’m taking Hunt because Struve has plenty of time to lose and learn, but the clock’s ticking for the Super Samoan. Mark Hunt by left-hook KO.
Staff picking Hunt: David, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Struve: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Grant, Fraser, Tim
Takanori Gomi vs. Diego Sanchez
Tim Burke: FIREBALL KID! Hopefully Gomi’s awake for the weigh-ins and the fight, because he was passed out at the press conference. Unfortunately, Gomi’s historically easy to tire out and Sanchez has a great tank. He’s also a huge 155er. This is just like the Hunt fight for me - my heart is firmly in Pride Never Die mode. But logic dictates that this is Diego’s fight to lose. Diego Sanchez by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Sanchez is going to tire Gomi out with his relentless pace and pressure. And when that’s finished, Diego will take him down in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and work his ground-and-pound and YUS yelling as he’s punching. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: I’m going out on a limb here and choose the underdog. I think Gomi will be able to stuff a few takedowns, and Sanchez will also try to strike with Gomi for an extended period. If I’m right and he tries those robot punches charging in, he will taste Gomi’s power. Takanori Gomi by TKO.
David Castillo: I would have picked Sanchez over Gomi even in his prime. Diego doesn’t have much in the way of wrestling prowess, but he’s persistent, and that’ll pay off. Expect some pretty heavy exchanges in the early going though. Diego Sanchez by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I’ve never picked against Gomi and reckon I won’t start today. Diego’s chin and pressure are serious concerns, but he best watch his step on those wild, charging bull-rush flurries. GOMI HEAD NEVER DIE! Takanori Gomi by KO.
Staff picking Gomi: Anton, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Sanchez: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, David, Tim
Hector Lombard vs. Yushin Okami
Tim Burke: Get your smother on, Yushin! Yes, Lombard is hard to take down. But he can be pushed around the cage, and I think Okami will clinch him to death in a dreadfully boring fight. Yushin Okami by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I think Okami’s best hope of winning this one is working his strong jab and taking Lombard down. While I do think he can land his jab effectively, Lombard’s pretty damn difficult to get to the ground. I’ll take Lombard’s more powerful striking game for the victory. I must admit, this could very well be an ugly fight. Hector Lombard by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: Tough pick, and it can go either way, but I think Okami has more tools on his belt. Yushin Okami by Decision.
David Castillo: I can’t pick with confidence, but I’m taking Okami to jab his way to a grindy, ugly decision, with the worst in both fighters being revealed. Yushin Okami by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I think this fight has just as much potential to bring the best out in each. I don’t see Okami taking Lombard down. In fact, I could be wrong, but I don’t remember anyone taking Lombard down. FightMetric has Mousasi taking him down, but I believe Mousasi got on top during a scramble and after a Lombard leg lock attempt. I also don’t envision Okami finishing him, meaning he’ll have to out-hustle him for all 3 rounds, which is tough for a rangy fighter to do with jabs. Unless he can sight in his straight left or somehow pull off a miraculous submission, Lombard’s potent offense and burly clinch should get him a TKO or the judges’ nod. Hector Lombard by TKO.
Staff picking Lombard: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Okami: Anton, David, Tim
Mizuto Hirota vs. Rani Yahya
Tim Burke: I still have trouble seeing Yahya as a legit 145er when he fought at 135 for so long. And he’s taking on a guy that’s coming down from 155 with pretty good takedown defense and a lot of tenacity. I like Hirota here. Mizuto Hirota by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I originally picked Yahya but switched it to Hirota. As much as I love watching Rani Yahya tool people on the ground, I think he only has one submission win outside of the 1st round. Hirota’s only submission loss was when Shinya Aoki grotesquely broke his arm. I see Hirota outstriking Yahya -- okay, that’s not a hard thing to do -- and fending off Yahya’s attempts to take the fight to the ground to earn the W in his new home at 145. Mizuto Hirota by unanimous decision.
David Castillo: The problem for Yahya is that Hirota has such a strong base, it’ll be difficult for him to score anything close to takedown. For that reason, I’m predicting some Hirota on Kitaoka-like violence. Mizuto Hirota by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Nice to see Hirota getting some respect here. He’s basically a tank-sized featherweight with excellent Judo and clinch skills and a basic but effective short-range brawling game. Despite being known for the Aoki sub, that’s the only time he’s been caught and his submission defense is quite sound. Mizuto Hirota by sprawl-and-brawl grind-fest.
Staff picking Hirota: Anton, Fraser, Mookie, David, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Yahya: Stephie, Grant, Chris
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Tim Burke: I think this is where people finally find out about Siyar’s limitations. I don’t think he can keep it on the feet for any length of time at all, and he’s going to get blown out on the ground. Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Bahadurzada has some humongous KO power, and I think he can definitely hurt Stun Gun if it stays on the feet for an ext... wait, Bahadurzada is with the Blackzillians? Well then … Dong Hyun Kim by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: Siyar has crazy power, but unless he gets to unload on the opening seconds of each round, he won’t be able to use it off his back. Dong Hyun Kim by Submission.
Fraser Coffeen: Is simply training with the Blackzilians enough to pick against someone? Not exactly, but when I am already leaning towards Kim due to his superior wrestling, it is enough to seal my pick. Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
Dallas Winston: Minor soapbox, but the Blackzilians have come a long way as a premiere fight team in MMA, and in a very short time. The heart of the issue is that Kim has one of the best and most frenetic top games in MMA and Siyar will be vulnerable to takedowns anytime he plants his feet to throw power. Dong Hyun Kim by late submission.
Staff picking Bahadurzada: Stephie, Chris
Staff picking Kim: Anton, Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Riki Fukuda vs. Brad Tavares
Tim Burke: I like Fukuda and he’s tough as nails, but I think Tavares matches up with him well in wrestling and cardio. I’m leaning towards the Hawaiian. Brad Tavares by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Fukuda is going to clinch, muscle and grind his way to a decision win and it won’t be pretty to watch. Riki Fukuda by unanimous decision.
Dallas Winston: Tough one to call here. Fukuda’s entries are silky smooth but I don’t think Tavares will be caught off-guard or worried about the strikes he sets up his takedowns with. Tavares’ takedown defense is on-point, his open-space striking is better and more powerful and he’s a mauler in the clinch. I see Tavares catching Fukuda more on the feet with significant strikes than I do Fukuda landing and doing anything of meaning with his wrestling. Hell, I don’t even really think Tavares lost the Simpson fight, unless holding someone on the fence translates to fighting superiority, so his sole defeat is highly respectable. Brad Tavares by decision.
Staff picking Fukuda: Anton, Grant, Fraser, Mookie, Chris
Staff picking Tavares: Stephie, Tim, Dallas
Bryan Caraway vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Mookie Alexander: Just saw that Mizugaki won his last fight, which means he loses this by default. Bryan Caraway by unanimous decision.
Tim Burke: Bryan Caraway isn’t as good as Takeya Mizugaki. He can’t outwrestle him or outstrike him, and he won’t sub him. Mizugaki is finally going to win two in a row! Huzzah! Takeya Mizugaki by decision.
Dallas Winston: I actually do think Caraway’s wrestling is steep enough to put Mizu on his back. Not in the clinch, where Mizu is a load, but with a fast double leg from outside. Still, Mizugaki has more weapons and more paths to victory. Takeya Mizugaki by decision.
Staff picking Caraway: Stephie, Grant, Fraser, Mookie, Chris
Staff picking Mizugaki: Anton, Dallas
Cristiano Marcello vs. Kazuki Tokudome
Tim Burke: The who and the what? I thought these guys were the pre-event entertainment. Tokodome is apparently a hell of a juggler. Seriously, I can’t believe there’s a regular Pancrase fighter in the UFC. Wow. Cristiano Marcello by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I have such a hard time picking Marcello. The guy has great jiu jitsu, but in his UFC run he has just flat out refused to use it, instead relying on his striking which is just plain bad. That said, he did manage to outstrike Madadi to a victory. I have admittedly seen very little from Tokudome, but he doesn’t strike me as a particularly dangerous striker. And so, despite my better judgement, I’ll say Marcello pulls off another sloppy kickboxing victory. Cristiano Marcello by decision.
Dallas Winston: I was leaning Tokudome for his background in Pancakes and because I’ve been frustrated with Marcello, but he’s really a grappling specialist and this should be a good stylistic match up for Cristiano. Cristiano Marcello by decision.
Staff picking Marcello: Fraser, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Tokudome: Grant, Anton, Stephie, Mookie
Alex Caceres vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Tim Burke: This fight looks pretty even on paper, and Kang hasn’t fought anyone better than Cacares. I’m really not sure what will happen here, but I’ll go with the guy who has UFC experience. Alex Caceres by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Part of the reason Caceres looks so great is he’s fighting bad competition. His best win is a significantly declined Cole Escovedo. Caceres’ wins have come against guys who went a combined 0-8 in the UFC and have since been cut. Even if you want to argue he beat Edwin Figueroa, he’s only 1-2 in the UFC with that win coming against the mighty Jason Reinhardt. The last time Caceres fought really talented competition, he put up a good fight against Jimy Hettes before tapping out. I think we’ll get an identical result here against Kang. Kyung Ho Kang by submission, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Caceres has looked great recently, and I actually enjoy watching him fight. I think Kang is a serious prospect though, and I think the former Road FC champ can win on the ground. Kyung Ho Kang by Submission.
Dallas Winston: Mookie is mysteriously missing Damacio Page, who was a perennial top 10-20 bantamweight for most of his career, and Cacares, who’s known for his striking, utterly dominated him on the mat. Just to be a pain in the ass, I’d argue that he absolutely beat Figueroa, who fought quite competitively with top contender Michael McDonald in his debut. That being said, I have no idea why he’s getting consecutive bouts with dangerous UFC first-timers instead of a chance to climb the division’s ladder. Alex Caceres by decision.
Staff picking Caceres: Stephie, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Kang: Grant, Anton, Mookie, Fraser
Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
Tim Burke: Guimaraes didn’t look very good against Stittgen. Lim is apparently pretty talented (if he makes it to the octagon). I’ll go with the guy that tapped Joe Rogan. Hyun Gyu Lim by decision.
Anton Tabuena: As long as he manages his weight cut properly, this is Hyun Gyu Lim’s fight to lose. He’s bigger, longer, and I think he also has better overall skills. Hyun Gyu Lim by TKO.
Dallas Winston: KTT all day. "Ace" Lim by TKO.
Staff picking Guimaraes: Stephie, Grant, Chris
Staff picking Lim: Anton, Mookie, Fraser, Dall