Tim Burke: I don’t think Rockhold will be able to handle Vitor’s speed and power on the feet. Rockhold’s standup game is mainly kick-oriented and the way he punches leaves him wide open. If Jacare Souza and Tim Kennedy could take advantage of it (especially early in fights), a solid counterstriker like Vitor is going to lay him out. Rockhold’s chin will be the key to the fight in my eyes, but this is Vitor’s fight to lose. Vitor Belfort by TKO, round 2
Anton Tabuena: I think Rockhold has the chance to grind it out, take him to deep waters and eventually win a decision, but it’s still tough to pick against Vitor, who has looked great recently (thanks in part to the fountain of youth aka TRT). He can also end it at any moment, so I’m picking Vitor Belfort, by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: This is probably the first main event of the year where I cannot confidently pick the winner. Belfort has the faster hands and better striking, but his primary weapons tend to fade in the later rounds. Rockhold can grind out Belfort (as TP said) and take over in the final 3 rounds to earn a points victory. And yes, Luke hasn’t fought anyone with Vitor’s power or striking, but I would think his striking defense is a tad better than Michael Bisping’s. Luke Rockhold by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I might be picking with my heart here, but I don’t care. Unless he’s fighting one of the absolute best in the world, I’m not picking against Vitor Belfort right now. And Luke Rockhold is a very good fighter - but he’s not one of the absolute best. In fact, I don’t place him significantly above Bisping. Belfort has the KO power, he has the patience, he has the ground skills... he takes this. Vitor Belfort by KO, round 1
David St. Martin: I have a hard time not liking Belfort's chances in this fight. He's riding high after knocking out a top-five middleweight in Michael Bisping and putting Jon Jones in the first real danger he's seen. Rockhold's got it tough, here. Imagine making your UFC debut in the main event of a Brazilian card against a legend like Vitor Belfort. Unless Rockhold can replicate his performances against 'Jacare' Souza, it might be a short night for Luke. Vitor Belfort by TKO round 2
T.P. Grant: Are people really expecting some consistency from Vitor? Who are we going to get in the cage this time? Old Vitor? New Vitor? Mohawk Vitor? Rockhold isn’t a dummy, I fully expect him to go and grind on Vitor for a few rounds to get him tired and then take over the later rounds. Vitor is threat to finish on the feet or on the ground, but that threat greatly diminishes as the fight wears on, even with TRT. Luke Rockhold by Decision.
Zane Simon: I am really fence sitting on this, but when I look at their records, Rockhold has only faced two really good opponents, Jacare and Kennedy and both went to a decision. Belfort has only lost 4 times in the past 7 years, to Overeem, Henderson, Silva, and Jones. That’s a hell of a list and Rockhold’s not on it. Vitor looks like he’s 25 again (however he’s doing that) and while he may not be consistent even his B-game would make a competitive fight. Vitor Belfort by TKO round 2.
Dallas Winston: My gut instincts -- along with my postal connections embedded deep in the heart of the surfactants industry -- tell me that Rockhold is hopped up on Aveda and there’s a 73% chance he’ll piss hot for excessive hair products. I’m of the opinion he’ll cleverly circumvent the system with a fine-tuned masking agent -- and I’m OK with that, as Vitor can still somehow make weight with the Lord Jesus Christ perched on his shoulder. And that will be the difference: God is his co-pilot (but where’s he gonna sit?). Jesus by Vitor punch. (Strike that, reverse it.)
David Castillo: Kind of shocked that so many are picking Belfort. Although to be fair, I thought for sure he’d lose in lackluster Ortiz-like fashion to Bisping, so there’s that. Still, I feel like Rockhold is durable enough to take Vitor into the rounds he typically fades in. In addition, dealing with takedowns, and strikes round after round should limit Vitor’s offense. This is usually how he’s stifled, and I predict this fight will be no differnent. Luke Rockhold by Decision.
Staff picking Belfort: Fraser, DSM, Zane, Anton, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Rockhold: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, David
Tim Burke: Camozzi has looked pretty good lately, but he doesn’t match up well with Jacare at all. His submission defense is probably the weakest part of his game, and he can be taken down. That plays right into what Jacare is good at, and it’s going to be a quick nighty night for Camozzi. Jacare Souza by submission, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: This looks as one sided as most Strikeforce cards before. Jacare by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: Camozzi is a perfectly acceptable gatekeeper, but even on short notice I don’t think there’s really much danger for Jacare in this one. Chris isn’t exceptional in any given part of the sport, and Jacare is going to once again submit a short notice opponent. Jacare by submission, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Maybe I am underrating Camozzi, but this doesn’t seem like a competitive fight. At all. The one X Factor here is Jacare’s wonky chin, but he’s done much better with that in recent years. Jacare Souza by submission, round 1
David St. Martin: I commend Camozzi for taking this fight on short notice but it may not really be a factor. I'm not sure he'd have a great shot against 'Jacare' given a year to prepare, so why not test yourself against one of the best? Fortunately for Camozzi, he was likely focusing on defensive wrestling while slated against Rafael Natal, so much of his original game plan would still be applicable against Souza. I wouldn't want to fight Jacare on the moon, let alone Brazil. I think he takes this fight relatively easily as long as he's in shape. Ronaldo Souza by Submission round 1
T.P. Grant: The question here does Jacare try to work his striking or just take this to the floor. Jacare has good wrestling and good Judo, so I expect he should get Camozzi down at some point. Camozzi is a big strong guy who is improving as a fighter but he is out of his depth here. Jacare Souza by Submission, Round 2.
Zane Simon: I really expect Camozzi to be more competitive than people are giving him credit for in this fight. He’s done well over his UFC career and although that comes with a lackluster slowly paced style it means that he’s not likely to get caught out doing something stupid... but I thought the same thing about Darren Elkins against Chad Mendes. Jacare by Submission round 1
David Castillo: Camozzi won’t just roll over in flour and let Jacare look for the wet spot, but I do expect Jacare to finish this fight comfortably. His grappling is other wordly, and frankly, his striking is better than Camozzi’s at this point, so Souza by whatever he wants. Jacare by submission.
Staff picking Camozzi:
Staff picking Jacare: Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Zane, Anton, Dallas, Tim, David
Tim Burke: This is undoubtedly my favorite fight on the card and the hardest to pick. I’ve gone back and forth a few times. Dos Anjos is the better striker, better wrestler, and has underrated BJJ. Dunham is a great scrambler, all action, and has no quit in him. Nonetheless, RDA is just the better fighter. I bet on Dunham and almost 2-1, but I’m picking RDA here. Rafael dos Anjos by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I always enjoy watching Dunham, but Dos Anjos has improved tremendously recently and I can't really say the same for him. Rafael Dos Anjos by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I’ve kinda "given up" on Dunham in the sense that it’s really clear he will not be a contender. He’s a great action fighter and I’m a big fan of his, but he has a tendency to start really slowly, and it’s cost him wins in the past. dos Anjos however has really impressed in the past year or so. He has made significant improvements as a striker and is already great on the ground. Right now I think RDA is the better overall fighter, and he will defeat Dunham in the evening’s FOTN winner. Rafael dos Anjos by unanimous decision.
David St. Martin: I had such high hopes for Dunham after seeing him live a few years back. He just hasn't progressed to keep up with the rise in his competition. Dos Anjos puts an early pace on people not many can match. I was actually still in the bathroom at UFC 132 when he knocked out George Sotiropoulos. Rafael dos Anjos by Decision
T.P. Grant: DSM put it perfectly about Dunham, he looked really promising and just hasn’t developed the way many expected him to. Rafael dos Anjos seems to be a fighter on the rise and is improving noticeably each time out. Rafael dos Anjos by Decision.
Zane Simon: The fact that Anjos has recently beaten both Njokuani and Bocek means he should possess the skills to beat Dunham in everything Dunham’s good at. He did beat Tibau, a fight Anjos lost, but that speaks to his real strength, conditioning. He’s not a bad fighter, but athletically his biggest talent is his ability to stay fresh late, and that’s not something the dos Anjos is bad enough at to make me feel like it will make the difference. Rafael dos Anjos by decision
David Castillo: Dos Anjos is still a damn good fighter. Frankly, he’s one of my favorite lightweights to watch. His killer instinct on the ground, and on the feet make him an ideal favorite. Dunham is pretty sturdy wherever the fight goes, so I’d expect this one to be pretty nip and tuck, but Dos Anjos pulls ahead eventually. Plus I’d expect him to land some big shots in this fight given Evan’s lack of defense. Rafael dos Anjos by Decision.
Staff picking Dos Anjos: Stephie, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Zane, Anton, Tim, David
Staff picking Dunham: Fraser, Dallas
Tim Burke: I wish the UFC was more proactive about re-arranging fights late, but I guess they’ve been promoting Dias/Lentz as the featured prelim for a while now so they couldn’t bump it. Either way, I think Natal has the fight IQ of a poodle puppy, but this is a perfect style matchup for him. It’s his chin that people get to, and Zeferino is a grappler. He’s in little danger here. Rafael Natal by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Why the hell is this a main card fight? Are we sure Zeferino isn’t Portuguese for zephyr? Rafael Natal by decision.
David St. Martin: Rafael 'Sapo' Natal was my main BJJ instructor while I trained at Renzo's so I'm unabashedly a homer in this one. Even so, I really like his chances here. He's going to have a significant size advantage over Zeferino in addition to having Vinicius 'Draculino' and Phil Nurse in his corner. Joao making a short notice UFC debut doesn't bode well. I haven't seen enough tape on him to tell, but Zeferino doesn't likely claim an advantage over Sapo in any of the main facets of the game. Rafael Natal via TKO round 2
Zane Simon: This fight comes down to Natal fighting smart. I hoped he’d learned a valuable lesson against Andrew Craig, whom he was handling easily before getting KO’d, but it took him a while to figure out that all he had to do to beat Sean Spencer was take him down. Still short notice, Natal acutally being quite good when he keeps his head. Rafael Natal by Submission Round 3
David Castillo: Zeferino has nothing to offer Natal in this fight other than some persistent takedowns. I’d expect Rafael to take this one comfortably, and by comfortably, I mean making it harder on himself than he should, but with his hand raised nonetheless. Rafael Natal by Decision.
Staff picking Natal: Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Zane, Anton, Dallas, Tim, David
Staff picking Zeferino:
Tim Burke: Dias all day. If people think that Lentz is going to outgrapple Dias like he mauled Nunes, they’ve got another thing coming. Dias is extremely slick on the ground and his striking is better than Lentz’s. He’s not going to get smothered - if anything, he can do the smothering. His win over Yuri Alcantara might have been uggs, but it was impressive against a top-level guy. The UFC knows what they have with Dias, and he’s going to prove it by stopping Lentz in his tracks. Hacran Dias by decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is Nik Lentz’s 13th UFC fight. All 13 have been on the preliminary card. I will keep repeating this statistic until he gets cut or appears on the main card. This is another difficult fight to pick as Dias isn’t just some sort of tackling dummy for Lentz, but I’m going with Lentz because it will probably irritate the UFC that he keeps winning and isn’t that entertaining when he does win. Nik Lentz by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’ll take Dias here, but I don’t know why. He’s done nothing but underwhelm, even in victory, and Lentz always seems to fight above his ability. But I can smell the upset wafting on the fight card breeze. Hacran Dias by split decision
David Castillo: I forgot who I picked in the preview, so if I’m choosing someone else, I apologize. But I like Lentz’ ability in this one to keep the fight standing, maintain distance, and keep Dias from positional advantages on the ground, where he stands his only chance. Nik Lentz by Decision.
Staff picking Dias: Zane, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Lentz: Stephie, Fraser, Grant, Anton, Mookie, DSM, David
Tim Burke: Rio can wrestle, but he’s never been in there with a fighter that has Massaranduba’s size and strength. Trinaldo is going to have his way with him. Francisco Trinaldo by submission, round 2
Mookie Alexander: Trinaldo smash. Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Trinaldo seems like a terrible match-up for Rio here. He’s the stronger fighter, and he has good wrestling, which will help nullify Rio’s one area of advantage. I thought Rio had a shot at the UFC after his run on TUF, but he has not shown me much yet, and I don’t think this is the fight for him to start finding his stride. Francisco Trinaldo by decision
Zane Simon: Trinaldo is hugely strong, and for a grappler like Rio that’s usually a bad matchup. I don’t think that even his overly aggressive haymakers will put him in enough danger to give Rio the edge. Trinaldo by TKO round 1
Staff picking Rio
Staff picking Trinaldo: Stephie, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Anton, Dallas, DSM, Tim
Tim Burke: Like the fight above, Cholish is going to have big trouble with Tibau’s size and strength. He’s a good fighter, but this isn’t a good matchup for him. Gleison Tibau by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Tibau pretty much dominates anyone who isn’t in the top 15 and loses to … the top 15. Cholish isn’t a top 15 guy, and Gleison is going to have as many takedowns as he pleases. Gleison Tibau by decision.
Staff picking Cholish: DSM
Staff picking Tibau: Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Anton, Dallas, Tim
Tim Burke: Prazeres is actually a pretty decent fighter, but he’s getting a tough first fight on short notice. Thiago might have lost a few lately, but he’s always been put in there with very high-level competition. Prazeres will eventually get a UFC win or two, but it won’t be against a well-rounded guy like Sam The Eagle. Paulo Thiago by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Fun fact - since that big win over Koscheck (which is over 4 years ago now), Thiago only has 3 wins. Of course, he’s also fought opponents at a much higher level than Prazeres, so unless he’s really shot, this should be win #4. Paulo Thiago by KO, round 1
Zane Simon: Of the new Brazilian prospects getting last minute callups on this card I think Prazeres is the best. He’s a tank built for submissions, and his power takedown game means he’ll probably get them. Thiago has a lot on his plate and I think it’s taken away from his focus and development as a fighter. Michel Prazeres by Submission, round 2
Staff picking Prazeres: Zane
Staff picking Thiago: Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Anton, Dallas, DSM, Tim
Tim Burke: Yuri Alcantara is a top-level bantamweight and I think he’ll get a title shot someday. Seriously. Bantamweight is a great fit for him and he is pretty good everywhere. He’s not about to drop a fight to a late replacement. Yuri Alcantara by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Iliarde Santos isn’t a bad fighter but he’s not a great one either. He overextends his striking, and isn’t a submission ace or wrestling powerhouse. Yuri Alcantara can do everything Santos can but better. Yuri Alcantara by unanimous decision
Staff picking Alcantara: Stephie, Fraser, Grant, Zane, Anton, Mookie, Dallas, DSM, Tim
Staff picking Santos:
Mookie Alexander: I am just amazed that Hollett was given another fight after that disaster of a debut. This one will be his last. Fabio Maldonado by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: It’s been shown that winning over Maldonado isn’t hard, but beating him is nearly impossible. If Hollett better fighter I’d pick him, but he’s just not, and if he’s as passive as he was against Hamill he’ll get run over. Fabio Maldonado by KO, round 1.
Staff picking Hollett:
Staff picking Maldonado: Stephie, Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Anton, Zane, Dallas, DSM, Tim
Tim Burke: Gashimov brings that Dagestani wrestling, and his work at Jackson’s has rounded him out well. Lineker is a beast though, and pretty underrated since his loss to Gaudinot (which came after some ridiculous pre-fight circumstances for the Brazilian). Lineker will need to either keep it upright or get back to his feet, but he’ll get the finish eventually. John Lineker by KO, round 2.
Staff picking Gashimov: Zane
Staff picking Lineker: Fraser, Mookie, Grant, Anton, Dallas, DSM, Stephie, Tim
Tim Burke: Like Fraser says below, this being so low on the card is a joke. This is the best fight that no one is talking about. Formiga is a real talent, and UFC fans just haven’t got to see it yet. He might not be super exciting, but his grappling game is top-notch and he can shut down Cariaso for three rounds. Jussier Formiga by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I can’t believe this is all the way down on Facebook. This is a sleeper pick for fight of the night which really deserves a main card slot. Ah well, at least it’s happening. Should be a really good one, and I see it as a chance for Formiga to show what he’s got inside the Octagon. Jussier Formiga by decision
Staff picking Cariaso: Zane, Dallas
Staff picking Formiga: Stephie, Fraser, Grant, Anton, Mookie, DSM, Tim
Tim Burke: I have Mineiro all the way here. He just blasts away with hard kicks and punches to the head and body, and while Larsen can strike too, I think he’ll be overwhelmed. Lucas Martins by TKO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Tough one here. Neither of these guys is really UFC ready just yet, and I would hesitate to pick either one against most of the roster, but someone has to win. I’ll go with Larsen by virtue of his heart and determination. Jeremy Larsen by decision
Staff picking Larsen: Fraser
Staff picking Martins: Stephie, Grant, Zane, Mookie, Dallas, DSM, Tim