Tim Burke: Henderson is bigger, stronger, and probably even faster than Melendez. While Gil is the better boxer, I don't think he's going to get much of an opportunity to stick his jab in Bendo's face very often. Henderson is just going to be all over him. Ben Henderson by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Melendez gets a little too much heat for his close fights with Josh Thomson. Some fighters just match up really well against a certain opponent. All that said, the only way I see Melendez really beating Bendo is by hurting him with punches and maintaining dominant positions on the ground. I actually think Melendez is the better boxer, so he could feasibly give Bendo problems on the feet, but the latter part is a much more difficult order. Henderson thrives on his athleticism, strength, improving cardio, leg kicks, scrambles, and wrestling. This won't be a blowout, but I definitely have Bendo taking this one comfortably. Ben Henderson by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I've been pretty excited about this fight for a while, but the more I think about it, the more I think it might be a rather one-sided affair. Pettis showed that there is a recipe for beating Bendo, but I don't think that recipe is in Melendez's playbook. I expect a lot of grinding, which favors the Henderson. Ben Henderson by decision
Zane Simon: Gilbert Melendez and Ben Henderson are both skilled generalists. Neither are quite elite strikers, both are very good wrestlers, and while they're not inexperienced grapplers neither is known as a submission ace. All that being said, Benson Henderson is a special class of athlete. He's bigger, stronger, and faster than Gil, and considering their skill sets should win handily. Ben Henderson by Decision
Dallas Winston: It's somewhat odd that this is Gil's first UFC fight, as Benson is one of the few lightweights who can match his pace, tenacity, power and wrestling. I feel Henderson is still improving and has shown that his striking perimeter is not limited to close range, which is where Gil will prefer to trade. Even though he pulls out some surprises with his gameplan every time, I expect Henderson to assume the role of the more polished striker, staying out on the fringe and using distance weapons (mostly leg kicks) and evasive movement to pull Gil into range. Benson Henderson by decision.
Staff picking Henderson: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Melendez:
Tim Burke: I think Mir's a smart guy that finds ways to win, but Cormier is just a nightmare matchup for him. Mir's chin can't take what Cormier throws, and there's no way for him to take Cormier down short of pulling guard. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Frank Mir is still good enough to beat fringe top 10 and even a few current top 10 HWs. However, Cormier is just a horrific style for him. Cormier is faster, a better athlete, and just plain better than Mir is right now. Is Cormier an ultra-powerful puncher? I don't think so, but Mir reacts VERY poorly to getting hit in the face, and the moment Cormier gets his hands on him it will be over quickly. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I quite like Frank Mir, and his attempts to get back to the top of the mountain are a real highlight of UFC in recent years to me. He's a very talented fighter, who poses a real threat to pretty much every HW. His main trouble is his passivity in the face of danger. In the Carwin and Lesnar (#2) fights, he basically just allowed himself to get KO'd - not exploding when he was in danger. I think he can explode into a submission (like the first Brock fight, or the last Nog fight), but if you are in a position where you are free from sub attempts and you start landing on Mir, you're putting him out. That's exactly what I see Cormier doing here. Daniel Cormier by KO, round 1
Zane Simon: I don't like Frank Mir, there I said it. I find his lethargic fight style maddening, and doubly so when he wins. That said he's repeatedly proved that he's a live dog in any fight, so I'm giving him an extra round to hang in there. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 2
Dallas Winston: Kinda startling that Mir made his UFC debut in November of 2001 and is enjoying co-main status 12 years later, yet is still only age 33. Good to see him getting respect in the comments above though. True story that I've never relayed publicly, because there's no way to avoid sounding like a nerd about it: as a fan, I attended a handful of UFC events in the 40's range and met Frank and his wife Jen, who invited us to their afterparty. Frank (and Phil Baroni) offered to train me if I moved to Vegas. Now, everyone already knows I'm a geek so here's my appreciation for the gesture. Frank Mir by submission.
Staff picking Mir: Dallas
Staff picking Cormier: Mookie, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Tim, Chris
Tim Burke: Even Thomson at his finest can't really challenge Diaz. It seems that many believe Thomson can hold him down long enough to take a decision, but who has ever really done that? Even guys like Clay Guida were barely able to pull it off, and Thomson isn't that awesome at wrestling. I think the loss to Bendo is something people are putting too much stock into when evaluating this fight. Diaz got punched in the eye in the first round. He couldn't see. He'll be able to see this time, and he'll win. Nate Diaz by decision
Mookie Alexander: I like Josh Thomson, but as Fraser said, subtract the Melendez fights and he hasn't looked all the impressive lately. Nate Diaz got his ass handed to him by Ben Henderson, but he's still an elite lightweight, and he's more than capable of beating Thomson with his abilities. Nate Diaz by submission, round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: I have a soft spot for Thomson, but he's past his prime. The only time he has looked really good lately was against Melendez, and I think that's more a result of those two matching up favorably than any return to form for Thomson. He was a great one, but injuries have slowed him quite a bit, and you need to be at the top of your game to beat Diaz these days. Nate Diaz by decision
Zane Simon: This has all the feeling of one of those cards where, despite every fight being competitive there's a clear favorite in each one. I like Thomson, he's hard to finish, scrappy, and can make any fight a war. But I just don't see him winning against Nate Diaz, who's proven he's in the top 5 at LW. Nate Diaz by decision
Dallas Winston: To credit Josh, I don't really see how Gil is a "favorable match-up" for anyone. If Gil is a top-3 lightweight, Josh proved he's at that level. The Diaz brothers aren't susceptible to wrestlers, they're susceptible to control-oriented fighters who can uphold an insane pace throughout and react to the myriad angles and techniques they string together in poor positions. Josh, at his best, can absolutely capitalize on that. It's the "at his best" part that I'm concerned with -- his success seems to be entirely predicated on his explosiveness, which is likely a result of his worn out knee. I wouldn't rule out some precise in-and-out motion and technical striking with takedowns and crazy scrambles mixed in to score a decision, but Nate's range should frustrate him on the feet and his creative grappling should be enough to fend him off or even catch him in a sub. Nate Diaz by decision.
Staff picking Diaz: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Zane, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Thomson: Stephie
Tim Burke: Jordan Mein is awesome. Brown's a grinder, but Mein is miles ahead of him in terms of having a complete MMA game. Jordan Mein by submission, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Matt Brown is a pretty good story. He was on the brink of a UFC release and now he's won his last 4. But let's put his win streak into perspective - Chris Cope and Luis Ramos were (rightfully) immediately released after losing to Brown. Stephen Thompson is 1-1 and looked completely clueless on the ground, something Mein is not. KOing Mike Swick is a win I won't downplay even with Swick's prior inactivity and health problems. Brown has historically failed to beat mid-tier welterweights, particularly those who are well-rounded, possess a submission threat, and can avoid brawling with him. Mein is by no means an immediate top 10 fighter right now, but he's better than Dan Hardy and I expect him to handle Brown fairly easily. Jordan Mein by submission, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: The Bloody Elbow Fighter of the Year for 2012 returns to action! And loses to the more dangerous fighter. Jordan Mein by decision
Zane Simon: Matt Brown is notoriously hard to knock out, but that was the MO on Dan Miller as well. Frankly Mein's victory over Miller was eye opening, and while Brown is much better offensively on his feet, he gets hit a lot. With Mein's surprising power I'm expecting an early, violent finish. Jorden Mein by KO, round 1
Dallas Winston: As a diehard "Immortal" fan, this match up is icky. I'm a big fan of Jordan as well, and I think he's too smart to hang out in close quarters with Brown and that his stand up is rife with too much finesse to let Brown off the hook. Jordan Mein by decision.
Staff picking Mein: Mookie, Fraser, Grant, Stephie, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Brown:
Tim Burke: Grinder vs. wrestler. If it turns into a striking battle, Mendes should take it. I think that Elkins can bring it and make it an ugly fight though. Mendes is the clear favorite, but I wouldn't count Elkins out completely like oddsmakers are. Chad Mendes by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I'd be very surprised to see Elkins pull off the W here. Mendes has the crisper boxing and is the superior wrestler, which would nullify Elkins' strength and usual path to victory. Here's a fun fact I just saw before this went to publish, Darren Elkins has never thrown a leg kick in the UFC. Chad Mendes by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this one features a lot of grinding. I like Elkins more than most, but this is a bad match-up for him, as everything he does, Chad Mendes does better. Chad Mendes by decision
Zane Simon: If it wasn't for Duane Ludwig I'd be picking Elkins here. He's got the awkward, underrated game that can give more conventional fighters fits. But Ludwig looks to be revolutionizing the Alpha Male camp, and with Mendes' already considerable skills, I can't pick against him. Chad Mendes by decision
Dallas Winston: I think Elkins has the edge with his submission grappling and technical position-work; his wrestling is close (takedowns he gets should be dictated by opportunity and timing) but I see a big, wide gap in the striking game. I'm guessing it'll be too difficult for Elkins to implement his strengths. Chad Mendes by decision.
Staff picking Elkins: Chris
Staff picking Mendes: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: Larkin will win a kickboxing battle and he'll be able to keep it standing if Carmont has other ideas. Lorenz Larkin by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Larkin is going to squash Carmont. I cannot elevate the discourse in this discussion. Lorenz Larkin by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Let it be known that Larkin is a much better fighter than Carmont, I'm totally comfortable with that statement. That said, Carmont is one of those fighters, who knows how the game is played, how to score points, and steal rounds. I expect him to make it three rounds and keep the fight maddeningly close. Lorenz Larkin by split decision
Dallas Winston: I don't have a good bead on Carmont yet, other than that his decision to drop a weight class for his UFC entrance was a wise one. I'm kind of a "Monsoon" mark but still surprised no one is taking Carmont. Lorenz Larkin by decision.
Staff picking Larkin: Fraser, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Carmont:
Mookie Alexander: See Zane's post below. Myles Jury by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I like Ramsey, I like the interview he gave. He seems fun, interesting, engaged, a welcome diversion from the standard fighter personality. I even like his fighting style, he's got a flowy, transitional game. But Jury is bigger and stronger, and very athletic. I expect him to take Ramsey down and control him much like the Michael Johnson fight. Myles Jury by unanimous decision
Staff picking Nijem:
Staff picking Jury: Fraser, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Mookie, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: MAN this card is good. I'm not sure Benavidez beats Mighty Mouse in a rematch, but Joe B has the skills to beat just about everyone else at flyweight, including the underrated and talented Uyenoyama. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Benavidez is slipping into that dreaded no. 2 role of the guy who can beat everyone but the best. BC is a great fighter with a nasty sub game. But Benavidez is probably going to smash him. Joseph Benavidez by TKO, round 2
Dallas Winston: I'll go with the crowd, but this is one of many fights with a sweet looking underdog bet. Joey B deserves to be the favorite but Uyenoyama at +450 is appealing for a chance bet. Joe-B-Wan Kenobi by decision.
Staff picking Benavidez: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Uyenoyama:
Mookie Alexander: I like that this fight is on Fox because Jon Anik isn't there to push that horrible "Tim Means Business" nickname. The only thing that has KO'd Means recently is the dreaded Sauna Monster, so as long as he avoids that we should be in for a war. I'm taking Masvidal based on being a better striker. Jorge Masvidal by decision.
Zane Simon: Alright, in other places I've picked Masvidal, but I have this sneaking suspicion that an upset is in the works. Means is good, much better than he looks, and he's got power in his striking. If he can stay aggressive and get in and out of range I think he could make this a dramatic upset. Tim Means by KO
Dallas Winston: This is another live-dog fight. Masvidal would seem to have the edge in every aspect but, like Zane, Means has exuded the potential to do some high-level shit with his stand up (his gangly 75" reach won't hurt either) and Jorge has struggled in big-fight for new promotions (Sengoku, Bellator). Just ... upset alert, I guess. Jorge Masvidal by decision.
Staff picking Means: Zane
Staff picking Masvidal: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: TJ looks like a decent prospect at 135 lbs, and if he can improve his striking I think he can crack the top 10 by the end of the year. I see him outwrestling Viana for the victory. T.J. Dillashaw by unanimous decision.
Dallas Winston: Since there's a pile of match ups I feel the underdog could take, I'll quit playing it safe and switch my pick up for this one, thinking Viana is beastly strong since dropping weight and that Dillashaw might not be able to bully him around, especially with jaw-breaking power shots whizzing by. Hugo Viana by decision.
Staff picking Dillashaw: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Zane, Stephie, Chris
Staff picking Viana: Tim, Dallas
Mookie Alexander: I love watching Njokuani fight, but he hasn't looked good recently. However, he's got better technical kickboxing in my view and Bowling gets hit way too easily. Where the danger comes for Anthony is Roger's power. I'm hoping for a FOTN showing from both men, but I've got Njokuani taking this. Anthony Njokuani by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Njokuani is a very hot and cold fighter, but Bowling loves to brawl and I remember the Njokuani vs. Makdessi fight way too well. If Njokuani can pull any sort of similar form together for Bowling he'll make it a short night. Anthony Njokuani by TKO, round 1
Dallas Winston: Bowling's best asset is his athleticism, and Njokuani Muay Thai should be too mean and methodical for him. Anthony Njokuani by TKO.
Staff picking Njokuani: Fraser, Mookie, Zane, Tim, Chris, Dallas
Staff picking Bowling: Grant, Stephie
Zane Simon: This is gonna get ugly fast. I expect both fighters to look bad in a gassed out slugfest that ends with a referee stoppage, as much due to fatigue as to damage. Yoel Romero by TKO.
Dallas Winston: Romero is an absolute animal and now dropping down to middleweight so, barring fatigue from the steep cut, I expect some vicious steamrolling.
Staff picking Starks: Mookie, Grant, Stephie
Staff picking Romero: Fraser, Zane, Tim, Chris, Dallas