Tim Burke: Two things worry me here - 1. Latifi can wrestle, and that has historically been Gegard's kryptonite. 2. Mousasi seems to lack motivation at times, especially when his opponent isn't as good as him. It would be very easy to be motivated to fight Gustafsson. Latifi? Not so much. I hope he didn't slam the brakes on his preparation because of the opponent change. I'm still picking Mousasi, but I don't think it's going to be a total blowout. Gegard Mousasi by submission, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Take a wild guess. Gegard Mousasi by TKO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: I'd still pick the same way even if it really was Wanderlei who was competing. Gegard Mousasi by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: I find it kind of funny that Latifi is, to almost everyone, this complete and total unknown. I've actually been aware of his existence for some time, as he is a fixture of the token 1 or 2 MMA fights that kickboxing companies in Europe often toss on their shows. Siyar Bahadurzada came from the same path, but he's the exception as, for the most part, those guys just aren't that great. That said, Latifi does have a decent wrestling game, and that's been a problem area for Mousasi in the past. I'm still not going to actually pick the guy, but his skill set poses issues for Gegard, and an upset is not to be totally ruled out here. Gegard Mousasi by TKO, round 1
Zane Simon: A lot of me can't forget how hot & cold Mousasi can be, I could see this becoming a surprisingly tough UD win. But that's my heart talking. Gegard Mousasi by TKO, round 1
David Castillo: Mousasi generally has trouble against guys who are good at shifting. Latifii isn't that guy, even though Gegard isn't incapable of a tepid performance. Still...he was preparing for Gustafsson, so I don't think a lack of interest/preparation will be a factor. Gegard Mousasi by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I actually think Mousasi can still beat Latifi with a tepid performance, and that his takedown defense is much better than he gets credit for. Gegard Mousasi by TKO.
Staff picking Latifi:
Staff picking Mousasi: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Grant, David, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: I've never really considered myself a big fan of Ross Pearson, but this looks like a pretty favorable fight for him. Couture is a decent fighter but he absolutely should have lost to K.J. Noons. And while Noons is known for his boxing for some reason (even though it's not very good), Pearson brings a much more complete striking game to the table. I can't really see any way that Pearson could lose, barring an injury or very inept judging. Ross Pearson by TKO, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: I like Ross Pearson at 155. At 145 he looked sluggish and a step too slow, but at LW I see him as a solid top 15-20 level gatekeeper. He should be able to keep this on the feet and outstrike Ryan easily. Pearson isn't particularly powerful -- I do believe he's technical and accurate -- so I don't expect a finish. Ross Pearson by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: I really enjoy watching Ryan's fights and seeing him progress, but I do think Ross Pearson might still be on a different level here. Ross Pearson by dominant decision.
Zane Simon: For as bad as Ross was at 145 he's still one of my favorite fighters. At 155 he's capable of going toe-to-toe with Edson Barboza and destroying G-Sot, I can't say the same for Couture. Ross Pearson by TKO, round 2
David Castillo: I don't think this fight will be easy for Pearson, Cole Miller wasn't, but I do think he should win. His boxing will be enough for those necessary small advantages over time, and Couture won't have the kind of dynamic offense to counter Ross' strong boxing and clinchwork. Ross Pearson by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I concur with the reviews of Pearson at 155 vs. 145, mostly because his quickness (hand speed, movement) is so integral to his technical boxing. It's taken Couture a little longer to blossom than some expected, but I believe that's because he's painstakingly crafted a well rounded game. His best shot is to impose his wrestling, scrambling and transition game, but do so without being predictable or telegraphing his takedowns -- and I absolutely feel he has the skills and tenacity to pull off the upset here, as even one key takedown could be maximized enough to sway every round. Also, it would be storybook-like for Ryan to get a win in his UFC debut here. Though I'm tempted to take that long-shot ...
Ross Pearson by decision.
Staff picking Couture:
Staff picking Pearson: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Grant, David, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: The Fries might have a couple of wins in the UFC, but he can't hang with Mitrione on the feet and I doubt he can take him down. Dude's chin isn't stellar either. Matt Mitrione by TKO, round 1.
Mookie Alexander: I'm giving this fight about 6 minutes maximum for something exciting to happen before it turns into the awful mid-tier HW sloppiness we all dread. Mitrione should win this one on the feet and send De Fries packing. Matt Mitrione by TKO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Tough pick, but I think Mitrione can win this standing. Matt Mitrione by TKO.
Zane Simon: Both these fighters have a tendency to get into sloppy fights, but while De Fries has more long term potential, Mitrione is more athletic and has done better against better fighters. Matt Mitrione by Decision
David Castillo: Not much to this fight. Mitrione will defend the takedown, avoid De Fries' takedowns and grappling, and score punches on the feet. Matt Mitrione by TKO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: While De Fries has the high-tech grappling to drastically change the fight's complexion or finish it, that route is obvious enough that Mitrione should be solely focused on preventing it. Meathead by TKO.
Staff picking De Fries:
Staff picking Mitrione: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Grant, David, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: Everyone's overlooking Easton here, but I think he has a solid shot at winning this. If he can keep Pickett off of him, he can win a boxing match. Easton starts slow and tends to fight to the level of his opponent, but I think Pickett will bring out the best Easton we've seen in the UFC thus far. I've felt that Pickett is a tad overrated for a while now, and I'm going with the minor upset. Mike Easton by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Pickett is clearly the type of fighter who will beat just about everyone except the contenders of the 135 lbs division. Easton effectively removed himself from the discussion after Assuncao beat him with one arm. I love watching Pickett fight and I think he'll win comfortably. Brad Pickett by unanimous decision.
Anton Tabuena: I don't think I can pick against One Punch. Brad Pickett by Decision.
Zane Simon: I see this looking a lot like the Assuncao fight. Brad Pickett by Decision.
David Castillo: I don't know. I feel like Easton can win this one with top control, and random haymakers. That and the trick of convincing judges he's controlling the octagon when he isn't. Pickett is the better fighter though. I just wouldn't be surprised if he lost to a bad decision. Brad Pickett by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I'm continually fascinated by the odd blend of Easton's exemplary physical prowess and creeper-gear implementation of it. The aspect that tilts it toward Pickett for me is his under-rated guard game, which should bail him out if/when Easton can hit his takedowns. Brad Pickett by decision.
Staff picking Easton: Tim
Staff picking Pickett: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Mookie, Grant, David, Dallas
Tim Burke: I like watching Garza fight, but he can be bullied. And Brandao is a bully, especially early. He's worked on reining himself in so he doesn't gas early, and it worked well in the Gambino fight. He might have some problems with Garza's length on the feet, but I think he cuts the same path as Dennis Bermudez did - plant him on his back, avoid the subs, and fire away. Diego Brandao by TKO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: I love watching these two guys. They're entertaining and often fight with reckless abandon, especially Garza. I think Brandao is going to catch Garza with some of his hard punches and take home at least one $50k bonus. Diego Brandao by KO (punches), round 1.
Zane Simon: Brandao is the fighter that Leonard Garcia dreams of being. Strong, multi-talented, and with the sort of non-stop aggression that can make any fight exciting. Garza is a good test, but one I think he'll pass. Brandao by KO or Sub, round 2.
David Castillo: I still think Garza's reach will be a huge problem for Brandao. Pablo keeps overachieving, and despite Brandao being stronger, I could see Pablo landing strikes, and weathering the storm. I just won't put my money where my mouth is. Diego Brandao by TKO, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Garza is a bit of a question mark to me, as he seems to still be finding himself as a fighter and experimenting with his wide range of physical attributes and combat skills. Brandao is definitely a bully type, but he does so with violent striking rather than wrestling, and, even though he's still learning how to maximize it, Garza's height/length advantage should come into play here. I'm on the fence until my Dissection on this comes out later today, but for now: Pablo Garza by decision.
Staff picking Brandao: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Grant, David, Tim
Staff picking Garza: Dallas
Tim Burke: Peralta is a very good fighter. Corassani is a very average fighter. Corassani doesn't have a very good chin either. He's going to get blasted. Robbie Peralta by TKO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Peralta is a darkhorse contender at 145 lbs. Corassani ... isn't really that good and he was lucky to win the Andy Ogle fight. Should be a showcase for Robbie. Robert Peralta by TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Peralta is the obvious pick here, but the one thing that gives me pause is that Corassani is Swedish, and the UFC tends to like to give guys a softball in their home country, especially if they're trying to build that country as a market. But Peralta is no softball, and if that was the plan when making this match, then Sean Shelby blew it. Robbie Peralta by KO
David Castillo: Peralta has shown legit ability in his UFC tenure. A very good, conservative but dangerous kickboxing style, this is pretty much everything that doesn't describe Akira, who relies on one shot, and mean mugging. So yea, Peralta has this. Robbie Peralta by Decision.
Dallas Winston: This will be an all-out brawl and, while I have respect for Akira's gameness and skills, I've overlooked Peralta far too many times. Robbie Peralta by TKO.
Staff picking Corassani:
Staff picking Peralta: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Zane, Grant, David, Tim, Dallas
Michael Johnson vs. Reza Madadi
Tim Burke: Johnson is a maddening fighter. Just when you think he understands how to succeed, he comes out and looks horrible. Madadi is totally relentless and Johnson is going to have real problems with that. He's beaten better wrestlers than Madadi (Roller, Castillo) though, and he at least has the ability to keep it standing. Can he? I'm leaning yes, and Madadi's willingness to engage on the feet will cost him. Michael Johnson by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Madadi can give Johnson problems on the ground just based on his submission abilities and Michael's lack of submission defense, but I think Johnson keeps this standing and soundly outstrikes him. Michael Johnson by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Madadi is an overly aggressive submission fighter who's way too willing to trade punches, rather than fight to his strengths. Johnson has been up and down over his UFC career, but he should have no trouble taking Madadi apart. Johnson by Unanimous Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I can not forgive Madadi for being outstruck by Marcello of all people. Johnson is too well rounded for him, and should take this. Michael Johnson by decision
David Castillo: Madadi's best chance is on the ground, but I think Johnson keeps it on the feet, and simply outstrikes, and outmuscles Reza for a comfortable victory. Michael Johnson by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Both are explosive with strong wrestling, but Madadi has focused on complimenting that with submission grappling while Johnson has finessed his striking, footwork and counter-wrestling. Madadi is tough as hell but this should be a terrible adverse match up for him. Michael Johnson by TKO.
Staff picking Johnson: Zane, Fraser, Mookie, David, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking Madadi: Anton, Stephie, Grant
Tim Burke: Seems a little too paint by numbers for me. Cella is like the goat put in front of the tiger in Life of Pi. He's going to get torn to shreds, and you won't be able to look away. Tor Troeng by TKO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Cella is going to sleep again. Tor Troeng by KO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Cool that Tor is one of the rare fighters who not only gets a fight in the UFC before the TUF Season Finale, but he's also fighting in his home town. Not cool for Adam Cella though, because I think he loses. Tor Troeng by dominant Decision.
Zane Simon: I think this has ugly fight all over it. Troeng was a highly touted prospect well before he made it to the Ultimate Fighter, and I think he'll win, but I don't think it will come easy. Call it a gut feeling. Tor Troeng by Split Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: What I said before about softballs for local fighters? Yeah, that's this fight. Tor is meant to go over here, and while I like Cella, I don't think he has anything to stop that from happening. Troeng may not have shown a ton on TUF, but I think he has more in him than what we saw. Tor Troeng by KO
David Castillo: I was far more impressed with Cella's performance before getting obliterated by Hall than by Troeng's performance against Samman before getting iced(in ho-hum fashion I might add). Still, that's not a scientifc way of looking at it, as Troeng at least has a decent resume. Tor Troeng by Decision.
Staff picking Cella:
Staff picking Troeng: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Tim, David, Dallas
Tim Burke: I actually like both fighters and I'm annoyed they got matched up against each other. But Amagov is just awesome, and Chechens scare the crap out of me more than Ronda Rousey does. That's a lot, by the way. Anyway, Amagov has the chops standing and on the ground to stop Spang in his tracks. The only thing that worries me is how the cut will affect his cardio. Meh, it won't matter. He'll get it done quick. Adlan Amagov by TKO, round 1
Zane Simon: Spang's recent interview really turned me into a fan. He seems super enthusiastic for this fight, but for two young fighters Amagov has the better track record. Amagov by Decision.
Dallas Winston: If there's a Fight of the Night sleeper on the prelims, this is it. Amagov is like Chute Boxe meets Russia meets head-lopping wheel kicks, and Spang is a strong-chinned, technical striker with the occasional gaping hole in his defense. The latter aspect mixed with Amagov's speed and power lead me to: Adlan Amagov by decision.
Staff picking Amagov: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Tim, David, Dallas
Staff picking Spang:
Tim Burke: I've watched McGregor's fights and yeah, he looks like a beast. But that's against very, very low competition. Brimage has looked pretty good in the UFC thus far and I don't really think it's fair to diminish his opponents ("Hettes has no striking, Blanco's not very good") in order to discredit his abilities. Brimage fights smart, which is something McGregor doesn't look like he does very well. I'm going with big-fight experience here. Marcus Brimage by decision.
Zane Simon: I am ridiculously excited for this fight, which probably means it will be a terrible letdown. Brimage is a very good, solid fighter, but I really think McGregor is something special. McGregor by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Highly intrigued by McGregor's debut here -- he's a finishing machine and a pleasure to watch. His height and reach could play a big factor, but I think Brimage has the potential to really turn into something special, especially if he continues to improve at this rate, and that his blinding speed will compensate for McGregor's lankier frame.
Staff picking Brimage: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Dallas
Staff picking McGregor: Zane, Mookie, Grant, McGregor
Tim Burke: Alloway is decent. LaFlare is a little better. It really could go either way, but I'll go with the RoC guy. Ryan LaFlare by submission (armbar), round 1
Zane Simon: One of these two prospects didn't have to go through TUF to get into the UFC. Ryan LaFlare by Submission.
Staff picking Alloway: Anton, Stephie
Staff picking LaFlare: Zane, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, David, Dallas
Tim Burke: I still think Kuiper is a decent prospect and while I like Tom Lawlor as a character, I think he's going to have a lot of trouble here. Putting Kuiper on his back would probably be the best course of action, but Kuiper's judo might make that difficult. Meh, he'll still get it done. He's a grinder. Tom Lawlor by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Hesitant to pick Lawlor because sometimes he goes away from his wrestling just to strike (not that he's bad at striking, he's a better wrestler). I like what I've seen from Kuiper so far, but I think Lawlor is going to go the safe route and grind out a victory. Tom Lawlor by unanimous decision.
Dallas Winston: Wow ... I dunno here. Kuiper's shown glimpses of brilliance with his striking, but if Natal can take him down 6 times, Lawlor should be able to impose his takedowns and set them up better with his striking. Tom Lawlor by decision.
Staff picking Kuiper: Anton, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Lawlor: Mookie, Stephie, Grant, Tim, David, Dallas
Tim Burke: For like four minutes, this bout is probably going to be awesome. Abedi will probably get a takedown and they'll beat each other up. Then they'll get up and beat each other senseless in the clinch. Then one of two things will happen - Abedi will connect with a huge shot that sends Yousef to sleepytown. Or Yousef will duck those long enough until Abedi's tank is empty, and he'll submit him. Abedi has the better skillset for sure, but I'm going to go with Yousef's tank here. Besam Yousef by submission, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Neither one of these guys should be in the UFC. I'm just going to gamble and assume that Abedi can't get hurt and finished by Besam Yousef. Papy Abedi by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I have twice expected Abedi to impress me, and twice he has failed. Third time's the charm? Papy Abedi by TKO.
Staff picking Abedi: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Abedi, Dallas
Staff picking Yousef: Tim