Tim Burke: This is a strange fight. Moraga hasn't really shown what brought him to the dance in the UFC thus far. Cariaso controlled him while debatably winning the first and definitely winning the second before making a stupid mistake and getting subbed. I'm not sure why people keep saying that Moraga has cruised in the UFC thus far - Cariaso controlled that fight until the finish. And while Moraga KO'd Gomez, he's not really known for power. He could manhandle DJ in the clinch or against the fence, but Johnson's just too quick to engage like that. The key to beating DJ is to test his chin like Dodson did. Moraga's just not going to find it. Demetrious Johnson by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I just think Johnson is the better overall fighter. Demetrious Johnson by Dominant Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Other than Benavidez (with improved striking) and Dodson (with improved cardio), I don't see anyone beating Mighty Mouse at flyweight. His speed, timing, footwork, and wrestling consistently prove too much for his opponents to handle. Moraga is a very impressive talent, but Mighty Mouse is just the better fighter at this point. Demetrious Johnson by 49-46 unanimous decision.
Dallas Winston: We haven't seen the ceiling for Moraga's potential yet, mostly because he's trounced his UFC opponents and hasn't been put in a dangerous position/situation. His only loss is a decision to John Dodson and Moraga is a big boy who's gradually descended from featherweight to flyweight. He'll have 3" of height on DJ and should be the bigger and stronger man, and might even have the ability to overpower the champ with his wrestling. Mighty Mouse's speed, footwork and in-and-out striking must be on-point to maintain a cushion of space and avoid brawling in close quarters. I'm picking DJ but seem to be more open to an upset here than most -- I can see Moraga chipping away with elbows and causing serious damage in the clinch. Demetrious Johnson by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I actually like Moraga for this fight. I think he's the darkest horse of the year so far. But I also have doubts. Mighty Mouse has stopped faster, more athletic men, men with more power, and probably better wrestlers. Moraga has what it takes, but he'll need the perfect strategy, whereas Mighty Mouse can come in with the same old strategy as always and do well. I'm rooting for Moraga, but I'm picking Demetrious Johnson by Unanimous Decision.
David Castillo: Demetrious Johnson is basically Frankie Edgar if Edgar fought in a softer division; in other words, get used to his dominance (yea I know, I should have stuck quotations over it because his fights go to a decision). I love watching Demetrious fight though. Like Edgar, he seems to have made a concerted effort to be more aggressive in subtle ways. Moraga's a really tough fight, but just like with McDonald against Barao, it's too early for the challenger. Demetrious Johnson by Decision.
Zane Simon: Not only do I not understand the hate that the flyweights get, I especially don't understand the hate DJ gets. Sure you could argue that Uncle Creepy handled him in their first fight, but when he got a second crack, Johnson adjusted perfectly and shut him down. His fight against Dodson was ridiculously exciting and his newly developed clinch game is really interesting. Moraga has fought twice in the UFC. While both fights were decisive, Cariaso has proved to be a hot & cold fighter and Ulysses Gomez is gone. I think he's too unproven and has too many technical holes to handle top level competition. I really wish he'd gotten a no. 1 contender fight before this. Demetrious Johnson by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Johnson: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Connor, Mookie, David, Tim, Zane, DSM
Staff picking Moraga:
Tim Burke: Does Rory like to get hit? Yeah, a bit. Can Ellenberger turn people's lights off with one shot? Yeah, he can. But that doesn't mean he will here. His best bet is to take Rory down and lay on him, which is something he's good at. Ellenberger has somewhat suspect takedown D himself though, so it wouldn't surprise me if Rory employed that same gameplan. The difference is that Rory has way better GnP. Basically, while Jake could catch him at any point in the first half of the fight, Rory's the more talented guy overall and can go 15 if necessary. Rory MacDonald by TKO, round 2.
Anton Tabuena: Jake hits hard and he always has a chance to put anyone out, but I do believe that Rory is better and more technical both on the ground and standing. Rory MacDonald by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight cannot be boring. I doubt Rory can get Ellenberger to the ground, but can Ellenberger take down Rory? I'm not so sure. I think MacDonald is the better overall striker, but Ellenberger has the more powerful hands and devastating knees in the clinch. For Rory to win I believe he has to pick apart Jake from range, stuff any potential takedowns, and don't get into a firefight with a harder puncher. I'm leaning towards an even first round before the fight opens up and Ellenberger catches Rory with a right hand and puts him away. Jake Ellenberger by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I definitely think Rory is the safer and more sensible pick, but I think I might take a chance on Jake here. Though Condit is an exceptionally diverse kickboxer, Jake's wrestle-boxing style could be a more effective example of how Che Mills approached Rory early: tight, crisp and short combinations that are unreeled with good balance so as to smoothly shift into defensive clinching to repel takedowns. The big X-factor is the stellar fringe-striking arsenal Rory frazzled B.J. Penn with, as Jake is without a distance weapon. Still, I don't expect Rory to stay out on the bubble for the whole fight and he'll eventually have to wander into Ellenberger's nasty wheelhouse. Jake Ellenberger by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: Rory has a decent jab, and a nice array of kicks, which should serve him well against Ellenberger, who will certainly want to make this a toe-to-toe slugfest affair. If he's smart, Rory will fight to stay out of the phone booth, like some unsettling sociopathic Ron Burgundy, and then wrestle Ellenberger to pieces in the later rounds. I'm picking this as the fight in which Rory MacDonald justifies the hype. Rory MacDonald by Unanimous Decision.
David Castillo: I feel foolish for entertaining the idea that MacDonald is gonna do anything other than fight the most conservative fight possible, but Ellenberger's ridiculous power makes predicting any fight a gamble. Having said that, MacDonald will fight an incredibly conservative fight. I'm predicting Rory to basically lean against Ellenberger in the clinch, jab, and attempt takedowns until he gets them. I'm rooting for Jake here, but Rory knows when to pick his battles, and he'll know what battles to pick against Ellenberger; any battle that doesn't involve exchanging punches. Rory MacDonald by Decision.
Zane Simon: Jake Ellenberger is a known quantity. More and more, at the highest levels of the sport that doesn't cut it. And it's not just being known, it's that his striking really consists only of boxing, and his wrestling, while powerful isn't necessarily controlling. Guys he takes down tend to find the space to get back up. Compared to Rory, I just don't think it's enough tools to survive the fight. I think he'll get lit up by kicks from the outside and put on the end of Rory's long jab. And from there he'll be forced into predictable shots. Rory MacDonald by TKO Round 3 (provided he doesn't decide to dance his way to a decision).
Staff picking Ellenberger: Stephie, Dallas, Mookie
Staff picking MacDonald: Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Tim, Zane, DSM
Tim Burke: Voelker has one tool in his toolbelt - the ability to take punishment. The guy is Maldonado-like sometimes, and gives it right back. But Lawler has that kind of rare power that can just obliterate guys out of nowhere, and he's probably going to crack Voelker early. If Voelker gets it into the second half of the fight though, he's got a shot. Lawler will fade, and Voelker comes on strong late. A big upset wouldn't surprise me here, but I'll go with Lawler's hands here. Robbie Lawler by TKO, round 1
Anton Tabuena: Robbie Lawler by hulk smash.
Mookie Alexander: Robbie Lawler will not turn into a contender at 170 lbs, even with the Koscheck win. However, he's still fun to watch and has dynamite power, which is bad news for Voelker. Robbie Lawler by ruthless KO, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I admit to being something of a mark for Lawler, but oddly enough, this fight gives me more concern than the previously scheduled fights. That's because this SHOULD be a no-brainer, Lawler KO win easy. But Lawler has lost a lot of fights in recent years, and I worry how much he has left. Still, he may have lost, but he hasn't lost to anyone quite at Voelker's level yet (though Larkin is close), so I'll go with the Ruthless One again. Robbie Lawler by KO round 1.
Dallas Winston: Despite being a late addition for Siyar, Voelker has the kind of no-bullshit brawling to make Lawler work for this. He's a solid striker with good power, but most of that comes in the form of tight-quarters in-fighting whereas Robbie is by far the more polished and technical striker in open space. We might see Robbie tested off his back here, but I think his timing, dynamic boxing and hand-speed will make the difference. Robbie Lawler by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: Since he knocked out Koscheck everyone seems to have forgotten that Robbie Lawler is not the same man he was in his prime, approximately six hundred years ago. Voelker is being severely underestimated as a result. Still, Voelker isn't quite at Lawler's level so, while dangerous, I don't think he'll be able to survive the veteran's power. Robbie Lawler by TKO, round 2.
David Castillo: Not much to say in this one. Lawler is basically a better version of Voelker. Voelker is the version of Lawler begging for change with fingerless gloves, which admittedly is an insensitive analogy. Still, I think people underestimate how much Lawler has improved despite doing essentially the same thing to win fights. Huge talent discrepancy in this one with Robbie wasting no time. Robbie Lawler by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: I can't help think of Melvin Manhoef and of Josh Koscheck when I think of this fight. Bobby Voelker is a more well rounded fighter than Manhoef, but just generally a worse fighter than Koscheck. Lawler has used his years in exile to become a crafty vet, he has the ability to occasionally dive into a sub, but that's not really Voelker's forte. I expect Voelker to charge in and try to put a hurting on Lawler and get snuffed for his efforts. Robbie Lawler by KO Round 1.
Staff picking Lawler: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Mookie, Dallas, Connor, David, Tim, Zane, DSM
Staff picking Voelker:
Tim Burke: Andrade will probably fade under the pressure. And this shouldn't be on the main card. Liz Carmouche by decision.
Dallas Winston: Andrade is a solid and young (21) Brazilian prospect with a hard-nosed clinch and grappling acumen. She really has one top-shelf opponent in Chute Boxe's Jennifer Maia, who recently bested Zoila Gurgel at Invicta 5 and out-hustled Andrade to a decision. Carmouche fights with a similar style, is probably a superior scrambler and has exceptional experience against legit competition, so I think it's more likely she'll impose her top game and ground-and-pound. Andrade is clever with clinch throws and trips so Liz will have to maintain her balance and poise at all times. Liz Carmouch by GnP TKO.
David Castillo: Andrade's pretty solid on the ground but I don't see her capable of being able to handle Liz' strength in this one. I don't know if it's really that much more complicated than that. Andrade could probably stand to move down in weight, which she can't do if she wants to fight in the UFC, but that doesn't erase that disadvantage. Andrade's guillotine is her best shot, but a power choke like that won't work on someone as strong as Carmouche. Liz Carmouche by TKO.
Zane Simon: I'm actually really happy this fight is happening. Liz Carmouche has been impressive in defeat, but she's never beaten a winning fighter. She has a lot she needs to prove in order to really earn her place at the top of the sport. I'm afraid a fight against Tate would have resulted in another disappointing (and potentially one sided) loss. Andrade will be competitive, but she's not a particularly spectacular fighter. If Jennifer Maia could bully her I think Carmouche will be able to horse her around the octagon. Liz Carmouch by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Andrade:
Staff picking Carmouche: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Connor, Tim, David, Zane, DSM
Tim Burke: Chiesa might be one of the weakest TUF winners ever, and Masvidal as a late replacement is a nightmare for him. Jorge is extremely talented, and his only weak link is the mental game. When the fight is important, he's mentally there. When it's not, he doesn't care and it shows. This is extremely important to him, and he's going to totally outwork Chiesa here. Jorge Masvidal by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I would've preferred to see Chiesa/Madadi but Madadi is currently fighting the Swedish court system. Masvidal is a much better striker than Chiesa, but I wouldn't count Chiesa out based on that. If his wrestling is good enough to get Masvidal to the ground then he can make things interesting and possibly work for his favorite RNC. Otherwise, Masvidal wins but doesn't finish. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I like Chiesa and think he has a lot of potential in the UFC. He's a good wrestler who does a great job turning his wrestling game into submissions. He also showed good heart against Kuivanen. But man are they throwing him in the deep end here. Masvidal is tough, with a huge edge in striking and I think enough grappling/wrestling acumen to keep it standing and bust up Chiesa. But Chiesa has proven me wrong before, and as a fan, I wouldn't mind seeing him do it again. Jorge Masvidal by decision
Connor Ruebusch: Like Fraser said. The UFC does not seem keen to bring their TUF boy along slowly this time. Chiesa's had a lot of tough fights already and pulled it out, though, so I'm picking him here. Masvidal is pretty sharp, but he's so inconsistent, I don't really know what to think of him. All I can envision is that, against Melendez, he was content to get picked apart for four and a half minutes every round only to try for a telegraphed flying knee in the last thirty seconds. If he brings the same lack of motivation to this fight, then the tough bastard that is Michael Chiesa might very well put him to sleep. Michael Chiesa by Rear Naked Choke, round 3.
Dallas Winston: Chiesa is a surprisingly effective wrestler who transforms his lanky frame into overbearing leverage on the mat. He's also a great scrambler for his size. While Masvidal can be a little flat, stay in the same gear and noticeably lack memorable offensive outbursts, his unwavering poise, strong balance while striking and calculating demeanor is well suited to unhinge Chiesa. I have trouble envisioning Chiesa powering Masvidal to the floor when elite lightweight Gilbert Melendez struggled to with any efficacy, especially since that's basically Chiesa's only path to victory here. Jorge Masvidal by decision.
David Castillo: The most significant factor in this fight will be Chiesa's striking. He's gonna have to win with it if he does. Masvidal basically invalidates the best part of Chiesa's game in that he has incredible takedown defense. Jorge Masvidal by Decision.
Zane Simon: Michael Chiesa has surprised me consistently. I thought he didn't have the skills to win TUF, he did. I thought he'd struggle against the vastly more athletic Kuivanen, he didn't. But that's all a poor build up to fighting a guy like Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal is a deeply skilled fighter. He has a polished striking game, an excellent takedown transition game, and the athleticism to keep this fight right where he wants it. Chiesa is good and fun and will be around for a long time, but this fight will be his wakeup call. Jorge Masvidal by KO Round 2.
Staff picking Chiesa: Stephie, Connor
Staff picking Masvidal: Anton, Fraser, Grant, Dallas, Tim, David, Zane, DSM
Tim Burke: Means has power, but he won't be able to handle Castillo's wrestling. Hard to use your power from the bottom. Danny Castillo by unanimous decision.
Mookie Alexander: If Means had trouble with Masvidal's takedowns then Castillo is going to work him. Danny Castillo by unanimous decision.
Dallas Winston: In line with my comments on Masvidal/Chiesa above, I think Means struggled with Masvidal's takedowns because they were seamlessly integrated amidst a hail of sharp strikes, whereas Castillo is much more obvious about his intention to close distance and work takedowns. In other words, the sprawl-and-brawl strategy will play a much larger role here, and it hasn't been easy for Castillo to shrink the gap against rangy opponents with good footwork and takedown defense. Castillo should be the favorite but I'm leaning Means for his substantial 4" advantage in height and reach. Tim Means by (TKO?) hard-fought decision.
David Castillo: Though Means can threaten Castillo with his power, I don't see how he defends Castillo's takedown at any point. Castillo is like most Alpha Male products; if he wants the fight on the ground, he'll get it there through sheer force of will. Means hasn't always defended the takedown in King of the Cage. Smells like valid MMAth to me. Danny Castillo by Submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: Alright I need to take at least one mark pick per card, and this is it for me. I'm a Tim Means mark. He has some of the tightest, most powerful combination boxing in MMA, partly due to his gigantic freakish arms. Castillo is a solid fighter, but he may have the potential to suffer most from the Duane Ludwig treatment as it might make him more likely to try and stand and trade with Means. I think this is the breakout moment for the "Dirty Bird." Tim Means by KO.
Staff picking Castillo: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, Mookie, Tim, David
Staff picking Means: Dallas, Zane, DSM
Tim Burke: Guillard loses himself more fights than anything. Danzig is smart and could get an opportunity if Guillard slips up, but I think he catches Mac early and puts him on wax. Melvin Guillard by TKO, round 1.
Anton Tabuena: Guillard has all the tools to win this, but I think he will find a way to lose this one too. Mac Danzig by Submission.
Mookie Alexander: Guillard should absolutely win, but I'm thinking Danzig wobbles him with a missed jab, Guillard does the stanky leg, gives up his back, and Danzig sinks in a rear naked choke. He then eats two stalks of celery in celebratory fashion. Mac Danzig by submission, round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: I think Melvin Guillard, king of inconsistency, gives his poor fans yet another reason to think that he's turned things around. Melvin Guillard by Unanimous Decision.
David Castillo: I can't change my prediction from the previews can I? If I said Melvin by TKO, it's probably because I didn't actually think any of this through. Now that I have, I'm leaning towards Danzig because he's clearly the better technical fighter. But there's a reason Guillard is so polarizing and that's because he's still got that power that makes us believe he's better than he is. I still feel like for as bad a matchup as this is for Melvin, it's equally bad for Mac. Danzig is kind of plodding (a very skilled plodder). Melvin capitalizes? I have no idea. Flip a coin. Melvin it is. Melvin Guillard by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Mac is a highly skilled veteran with a beefy chin and no glaring weaknesses. He's super-technical on the floor and will dominate Melvin if he can get him there, but I'm not sure Mac's wrestling is up to par. To exploit Melvin's known Achilles Heel, one must either employ wrestling or daze him on the feet. Danzig would benefit from harmonizing both of those options and alternating his attacks at a high pace. For as much shit as Melvin takes, his strengths are just as established as his flaws. I'll take a chance that he can eke out a decision with his Judo-based clinch and his explosive hands and footwork. Melvin Guillard by decision.
Zane Simon: There is no good reason to pick a fighter to win this fight. Danzig is skilled and has a lot of heart, but he's just not a top talent fighter. No one aspect of his game is excellent and he'll never be as quick or strong as Guillard. But, at this point, it's fair to say that Guillard is never going to be a top fighter either. He's dogged with inconsistency, whether it's submission defense or just an unmatched ability to check out mid fight. I'll take Danzig for the sake of fact that I can at least trust him to spend the whole fight focused on the guy in front of him. Mac Danzig by Split Decision.
Staff picking Danzig: Anton, Mookie, Zane, DSM
Staff picking Guillard: Stephie, Fraser, Grant, Connor, David, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: This is a tough call. If Edwards can get him to the floor, I think he can submit him. But Cruickshank has good takedown D. On the feet, this could be an amazing fight. I hope it stays that way, and since I always take the old guys vs. the new guy, I'll go with Thugjitsu here. Yves Edwards by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Good test for Cruickshank at this stage of his career. I think he's good enough to pass it. Daron Cruickshank by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: This fight rules. TKD vs. ThugJitsu. It's a tough fight for Cruickshank, but I think he has the stand-up and all around game to pull it off. Daron Cruickshank by decision
Connor Ruebusch: John Makdessi has turned into a really versatile striker, with far better hands and distance control than Yves Edwards, and Cruickshank held his own with him for most of their fight. I think that Cruickshank will have rethought some things in training, and will come into this one eager for another brutal victory akin to his win over Henry Martinez. Either way, I'm psyched for this fight. Daron Cruickshank by KO, round 2.
David Castillo: Fantastic fight, but one I think Daron is able to take by sheer attrition. While I think Edwards is the better fighter on paper, he's also the one with enough fights on his resume to be worn down at this point. Obviously, he still wants to be here, and it's a testament to his commitment that he is, but I like Cruickshank to maintain distance with his varied kicks. Daron Cruickshank (good lord is this last name a pain to type properly on a consistent basis) isn't a lock, but I feel like his style provides him a good matchup in this one. Daron Cruickshank by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Yves has to slow down sometime. I hope it's not now though. I'm digging Cruickshank's style but he seems to be much more threatening with kicks out on the fringe than inside the pocket, which is where Makdessi moved to swing the momentum his way with his boxing. Personally, I think Cruickshank could simplify things a bit and rely on a medley of his quick, cleaving high kicks and wrestling background to control the tempo. I'm a huge Cruickshank fan but Yves is a fucking pioneer, and I think his knack for artful combos at toe-to-toe range will be the pivotal factor. Yves Edwards by exciting decision.
Zane Simon: Cruickshank has the unfortunate tendency to block punches with his face. As a fighter he really likes to kick and eat leather. But the Thugjitsu Master has the lacadasical fighting style that can let a high pressure fighter get in on him and hurt him. Because of that, and Cruikshank's raw athletic tools and unexpected variety I think he has a clear avenue to catch Yves and put him away. Time makes fools of us all and while watching Edwards sleep Stephens was gorgeous, I think it was a brief interlude for a fighter on his way to retirement. Daron Cruickshank by KO Round 1.
Staff picking Cruickshank: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Mookie, Connor, David, Zane, DSM
Staff picking Edwards: Grant, Tim, Dallas
Tim Burke: This is likely going to be a blowout. We've all seen Herman look ineffective in his last two fights, but he usually eats guys like Smith for breakfast. Ed Herman by submission, round 1.
David Castillo: Weakest fight on the card by far. This could be fantastic though if it goes to the ground, because we simply don't see enough STANDANDBANG, but on the ground with submissions ala Stevenson/Sitoropoulas (do I get hipster points for liking this ground battle more than Sakuraba/Newton? Sakuraba/Newton always felt too much like a gentleman's agreement sort of thing whereas Joe "Daddy" and George were out to collect some tracheas that night). Anyway, Herman will make enough questionable decisions to give Smith a chance, which should make it entertaining, but he's still the better fighter here. Ed Herman by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Smith has a formidable combination of wrestling and submission savvy that might be overlooked here. Herman has solid counter-wrestling and better striking but Smith could coast to a decision if he can impose his takedowns. Ed Herman by decision.
Zane Simon: In the matchup of guys who do almost the exact same thing this will probably turn into a battle of weaknesses. So, get ready for three rounds of bad kickboxing that sees Ed Herman take the fight based on his superior cage savvy and UFC experience. Ed Herman by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Herman: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Mookie, Connor, Dallas, Zane, DSM
Staff picking Smith:
Germaine de Randamie vs. Julie Kedzie
Tim Burke: The odds are even, which is pretty nuts. The Iron Lady doesn't have a lot of experience, or great takedown defense. Kedzie isn't going to be challenging for the title, but she's tough and has a unique style. This seems like a pretty easy pick. Julie Kedzie by submission, round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: There's a chance that Kedzie gets overwhelmed here and Germaine goes all Cyborg on her for the early win. But if that doesn't happen, I suspect the drop back down to 135 will be tough for Randamie, allowing Kedzie to take over as the fight moves on. So can Kedzie survive early? I say yes. Julie Kedzie by decision
David Castillo: Germaine needs to figure out how to effectively battle takedowns, and getting back to her feet. Her training at AKA might prove to be useful here, but the biggest problem is that for all of de Randamie's excellence on the feet, she's not a lights out puncher. That's probably more important than some brief AKA experience, but then who knows. Julie Kedzie by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Castillo nailed it. De Randamie is an elite kickboxer but she lacks show-stopping power and her weaknesses elsewhere have been her undoing. Kedzie should be intelligent and well rounded enough to survive the blitz on the feet and exploit her grappling advantage. Julie Kedzie by submission.
Zane Simon: I actually think that de Randamie will probably take this. Kedzie likes to strike, a lot. But she's not a particularly polished puncher, and leaves her with a lot of defensive openings. Does she have the skills to dominate in other areas? Yes. Will she get to them early enough to win? I don't know. It's really hard to pick against Fireball, she's one of the fighters I respect most in this sport and I want to see her do well. But I wonder if this isn't going to be a bad fight for her. I expect her to drop the first two rounds close and maybe take the third to lose. Germaine de Randamie by Split Decision.
Staff picking De Randamie: Zane
Staff picking Kedzie: Stephie, Anton, Fraser, Grant, David, Connor, Dallas, DSM
Tim Burke: I have no idea what to expect here, but I do remember that Riley was a pretty solid boxer back in the day. If his jaw doesn't break, I don't see any reason why he can't beat Salas. Aaron Riley by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Aaron Riley is still fighting? Okay then. Justin Salas by unanimous decision.
David Castillo: Despite the layoff, Riley should be active enough on the feet to give Salas problems; especially with his brutal knees in the middle of the cage. Aaron Riley by Decision.
Zane Simon: Losing to Tim Means is no real reason to sleep on Salas. He may not be the most polished striker, but he's a serviceable wrestle-boxer. Riley, on the other hand, get's a lot of respect for sticking around to take another fight after a two year layoff, but I'd be surprised if the sport hasn't passed him by. A decent fighter in another era (and yeah I know he's only 32), but I'd be pleased and surprised if he was competitive here. Justin Salas by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Riley: Fraser, Connor, Tim, David, Dallas
Staff picking Salas: Stephie, Anton, Grant, Zane, DSM
Tim Burke: I don't really think Meza is UFC-caliber, he just had the right connections and took a fight on almost no notice, so he's getting another one. Albert's no world-beater either, but he's faced some stiff competition in the UFC thus far. I think he can take this. John Albert by TKO, round 1
David Castillo: Fraser is making the smart pick, so somebody has to make the dumb one. I like Albert because he's "the athlete" in this one, which is code for has more ways to win. He's much better on the feet, and while he keeps losing by submission in the first round, he's losing to really good fighters. Meza isn't, and isn't technically spectacular either. John Albert by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen: Fun fact, Albert has only won 1 fight since 2009. 2009. Meza is not fantastic, but he's at a good camp, and I think he gets it done. Yaotzin Meza by submission, round 2.
Dallas Winston: I'm much more enthused by Albert's scrappy showings against strong competition than his win/loss record, and Meza simply hasn't shown anything yet to indicate he's on par with the caliber of opposition that Albert fell to, and he displayed the cunning instinct that leads me to believe he can finish this one. John Albert by TKO.
Zane Simon: John Albert seems like a nice dude, but he has demonstrated the ability to give away any fight he's in. Dallas mentioned the other day that he's seen flashes of brilliance from Albert, and that's true but they buried deep within flashes of a guy who's gotten subbed in the first round of his last three fights. I don't know that that will happen here, but maybe in round 2. Yaotzin Meza by Submission Round 2.
Staff picking Albert: Stephie, Anton, David, Tim, Mookie, Dallas, DSM
Staff picking Meza: Fraser, Grant, Connor, Zane