Tim Burke: I want Shogun to win by KO, so that's what I picked. If it doesn't happen in the first 10 minutes though, Chael will take a decision. Shogun Rua by TKO, round 2
Dallas Winston: I have no idea on this one. We've seen Shogun ricochet around the cage like his ass was on fire, leaving only vapor trails and cadavers behind him, or fairly sluggish performances that present serious questions about how much longer his knee can hold up. We've seen Sonnen bellow out a death metal chorus whilst Babalu contorted his leg, or a shockingly reinvented technician with tight boxing and phenomenal takedown entries to complement his already stifling top game. I'm leaning Sonnen simply because he's managed to improve drastically at the tail end of his career whereas Shogun seems to lose a venom with each outing. I'm fascinated to see how Sonnen's preference for high half-guard jives with Shogun's prowess with escapes and sweeps from deep half, and just to see the grappling interplay in general. Shogun's classic Chute Boxe style still leaves him susceptible to takedowns while he's planted and throwing, and I don't feel confident enough to predict a leg lock, so I'll go with the consistency of Sonnen's pressure. P.S. Bisping has better takedown defense than Shogun. Chael Sonnen by decision.
T.P. Grant: Rua is a shell of the 2005 monster that he once was, but Sonnen isn't a particularly good Light Heavyweight. Sonnen's best chance here is to make it a grinding clinch and grappling fight and drag Shogun into deep waters similar to how Mark Coleman was able to at UFC 93. One big problem however, Sonnen isn't a physical beast of a former Heavyweight champion. Rua beats Sonnen up on the feet and has the guard game to frustrate Sonnen on the ground. Rua likes to hunt for footlocks, but rarely finishes them, maybe he gets one this weekend. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua by Submission (Toe Hold), Round 2
Mookie Alexander: Let me make this very clear, Chael Sonnen is not a top 10 light heavyweight. Never has been, never will. But 2013 Shogun is pretty much the perfect type of fight for Sonnen to dominate. Sonnen will probably take Shogun down with little resistance, and the moment he senses that Shogun is tiring he's pretty much got the fight in the bag. Can Shogun get his first submission win in forever? Sure, Chael is prone to that, but only on the basis that I can physically swap 2013 Shogun with 2005 Shogun. Don't think I won't totally lose my marbles if Chael gets KO'd, though. Chael Sonnen by decision.
David St. Martin: While I'm interested to see how Shogun may have improved working with Freddie Roach I'm just not ready to believe it makes a difference. Unless Rua hitched a ride with Dana to Germany to get some sort of Illuminati knee replacement I have to go with Chael here. We're no longer talking about Silva or Jones. Sonnen via Dec.
Fraser Coffeen: Wait a minute, WHAT? I am picking a bit late, and so far, only ONE other person has picked Shogun? Maybe I am crazy, but this seems like a super easy pick to me. Sonnen has never been much at LHW, and while I guess he could take Shogun down and smother him, he's also going to have to do so while avoiding getting blasted by Shogun. No, this is not Pride Shogun, but I think his decline is still overrated. Shogun Rua by KO round 3
Staff picking Shogun: Grant, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Sonnen: Stephie ALWAYS picks the Eagle (one of the few times I actually pick because I love him), Mookie, DSM, Dallas
Tim Burke: Overeem's not going to take Browne as lightly as he did Bigfoot. Browne probably knows that he might be better off on the floor, but I think he'll just get guillotined for trying that. Alistair Overeem by submission (guillotine), round 1
Dallas Winston: Though the Bigfoot KO is fresh on our minds, Overeem was dominating the fight up to that point and I'm not sure Hapa has the same power in his hands nor will to persevere. Browne is unbelievably graceful and athletic for a 6'7" heavyweight and I'm still really high on him. However, he enjoyed a big striking advantage in his marquee wins and doubt he has the grappling chops to put Overeem on his back. Overeem has always stalked straight forward with that weird, crouched stance and left his chin exposed when uncorking his signature left hook and leaping knee, so that will always pose some risks against a quick striker like Browne. I think Browne's best chance is get on his bike, use his agility to make Overeem chase him and then pick away at holes. I like Overeem for doing his same ol' thang sans another Bigfoot episode. Alistair Overeem by TKO.
T.P. Grant: This is a tough fight to pick because it is so hard what to make of the 2013 version Overeem. The guy we saw step into the cage back in February was not overly impressive. Reem goes down when he gets hit square by a power puncher, he isn't a wizard defensively, and he has been fighting in pro MMA since 1999. His PED use has extended his career undoubtedly, but there is a limit to what they can accomplish. Browne is a tough, hard hitting fighter, who I think would have been fodder for the Overeem of 2010, but walks away with the win against the current rendition of the Demolition man. Travis Browne by TKO, Round 2.
Mookie Alexander: I am not confident in my Overeem pick, but I'm also well behind in the staff standings so I have to take a chance on Overeem's chin (oh no!) and hope that Browne is unable to cope with Alistair's vicious knees. Alistair Overeem by Uber KO, round 1.
David St. Martin: I need to see Overeem take another truly one-sided beating in the UFC before picking against him. Both he and Brown have sorta fluky losses to Bigfoot Silva that get harder to take seriously after watching another destruction at the hands of Cain Velasquez. I think Brown actually believes he can hang with Overeem on the feet and in that case the edge has to go to Alistair. Overeem via TKO round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: This is a really tough one as it's a battle between two fighters who have a definite ability to underwhelm. Reem is undoubtedly the better fighter historically, but does he have the chin to survive against Browne, and will he actually use his defensive capabilities this time? I'm hoping the Bigfoot fight was the needed slap across the face to wisen him up. Alistair Overeem by KO round 1
Staff picking Browne: Stephie, Grant
Staff picking Overeem: DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Tim Burke: I think Alcantara can be a star, but why is he getting Faber so quickly? Either way, Faber's on of the few guys in the division that's a bad style matchup for him. Wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. Urijah Faber by decision.
Dallas Winston: This is Alcantara's first big step toward the apex of the division, and his Thai/BJJ combo has been highly effective and served him well. What's either missing or unknown is the wrestling aspect, and it's hard to imagine him contesting one of the best wrestlers, phase shifters and scramblers in the game. Alcantara did show some scrappy transitions but nothing that leads me to believe he'll have the same success against Faber. Urijah Faber by rear-naked choke.
T.P. Grant: Oh, Faber is fighting a Brazilian, is he from Nova Uniao? No? Yeah ok Faber gonna win. Alcantara is a good fighter but Faber is a great MMA grappler, maybe all-time kinda great when it comes to rolling on the mat with punches. Urijah Faber by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: When in doubt, remember that this is a non-title fight and Faber has been unbeatable in this realm. Maybe if Alcantara is slick he can play some head games and carry a novelty belt and somehow convince Faber it's a title fight. Otherwise? I love Alcantara, he school Omigawa and Ricardo Lamas, but Faber is too much for him. Urijah Faber by submission, round 2.
David St. Martin: I like Alcantara, but not against Faber. A huge sticking point for me is that Faber has been in against the elite of the division while Yuri makes a living beating up guys without Wikipedia pages. This is Alcantara's first real shot at the big times and I don't see it going well. Faber via TKO round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Faber still beats everyone that's not a champion. Some day, that will change, but that day is not today. Urijah Faber by decision
Staff picking Alcantara:
Staff picking Faber: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Tim Burke: I'm not going to beat around the bush here - I don't like either of these guys. While many are interested in this bout, I'm not at all. I'll take Pyle because he's got ground chops and Brown's still very submittable (is that a word?). Mike Pyle by submission, round 2
Dallas Winston: Brown is one of my faves, but I'm not digging this match up. Despite being a long and lanky striker, his voracity is in phone-booth range rather than at a distance, and he's more of a wear-you-down volume-striker than a one-shot guy. Pyle's standing defense has always been shaky but his chin and durability have kept him alive on most occasions, and his superbly timed power shots have all come at close range. The kicker is that the tight quarters also favor Pyle's arsenal of trips and throws from the clinch, and I don't think Brown can survive on the mat for long and definitely shouldn't be able to hang as well as Pyle can with him on the feet. As much as I'd love to be typing "Matt Brown by ridgehand decapitation" ... Mike Pyle by submission (armbar comes to mind?)
T.P. Grant: Brown has been a sneaky good striker for a while now. He mixes together strikes, goes high lows, and even works in some angles. He has shored up his grappling, and that is good because Pyle is a solid submission grappler. I think Brown walks away a winner because he has gotten progressively better at keeping it on the feet and escaping back to his feet. Matt Brown by TKO, Round 3.
Mookie Alexander: I'm tired of picking against Matt Brown so I'm sure that the one time I do pick him is when the winning streak gets snapped. But seriously, Pyle's chin is way worse than Brown's, and as long as it stays standing I'll take Brown's striking over Pyle's (admittedly much improved) striking any day of the week. Luke Thomas by beard, round 2.
David St. Martin: My lasting memory of the Brown-Mein bout was Matt looking just a little unconscious from being rocked. I know Brown came back to win, but I just can't shake that image of him being dropped. I'm expecting a great fight with Pyle just barely edging out Brown. Pyle via Dec.
Fraser Coffeen: Who would have imagined that in 2013 Brown vs. Pyle would be an exciting fight between two men on serious runs in the division? Crazy. These are both solid fighters who know what they're doing in there. This will come down to the little things, and I see the difference maker being Brown's ability to explode and close the show. Matt Brown by KO, round 2
Staff picking Brown: Stephie, Grant, Mookie, Fraser
Staff picking Pyle: DSM, Dallas, Tim
Tim Burke: I want to pick Howard, but his UFC record didn't tell the story of his UFC career. I thought he lost the decisions to Chris Wilson and Tamdan McCrory (remember them?), and Dennis Hallman owned him for their whole fight until he let up a bit early and got KO'd with 5 seconds to go. He's not going to be able to floor Hall like Gastelum did, and he's going to get clubbered. Uriah Hall by TKO, round 3
Dallas Winston: I'm as excited about Hall as anyone, but his showing against Gastelum was disappointing, mostly because the mistakes were mental and highly avoidable; i.e. dropping his hands and leaning back on the fence against a wrestler in his first official UFC fight. Howard hits like Hiroshima and has triple Hall's experience in UFC fights, total fights and against top competition, so I'm giving him more of a chance than the consensus. But the drastic height difference and Hall's "Mr. Fantastic" reach (80.5") only intensify what is already somewhat of a lopsided striking comparison. Uriah Hall by late TKO.
T.P. Grant: This is an interesting fight. Howard is a fighter with thudding power and is a strong grappler. Hall is a quick and flashy striker but he can be out worked, out muscled, and isn't the invincible superman he was made out to be, and when it comes to killing superman who is better for the job than Doomsday? John Howard by TKO, Round 1.
Mookie Alexander: John Howard is not going to contend at middleweight, and especially not at 5'7". That said, he's a heavier handed puncher than Hall and a reach and height disadvantage didn't stop Kelvin Gastelum from getting to Uriah, whose tendency to back up in a straight line is Kampmann-esque. I hope that Hall has learned his lesson from the Gastelum fight, and all things considered he's the superior striker and he should be able to get the victory. Uriah Hall by decision.
Fraser Coffeen: This is all about Hall's focus. I get the sense that he became overwhelmed by TUF and the expectations placed on him from the show, leading to him underperforming against Gastelum. With some time away and back in his comfort zone, he'll be more himself here. I hope. Still, Howard is a rough opponent for him as Howard is a very good technical striker. But he'll have a reach disadvantage here, which may be tough to deal with for a striker of Howard's style. Uriah Hall by decision
Staff picking Hall: DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Howard: Stephie, Grant
Michael Johnson vs. Joe Lauzon
Tim Burke: What type of sub does Lauzon finish with? I'll go aaaaarmbar (say it like Chris Jericho). Joe Lauzon by submission, round 2.
Dallas Winston: The reason I'm frustrated with Johnson is because he has great potential and has already shown substantial improvement while battling competition that's pretty stiff for a TUF'er. Mental lapses, being behind in BJJ and fading after the 1st round are all understandable, but not when they've become a trend, and not in the face of a wildman with the creative transitions of J-Lau. Joe Lauzon by submission.
Mookie Alexander: This is a mismatch. Lauzon's gas tank has improved to the point where he can be competitive in the later rounds, but it's not necessary against a guy who has shown consistent problems with defensive grappling and submission defense. Johnson should've stuck with the 200 and 400 meters instead. Joe Lauzon by submission, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Lauzon is going to win in some dynamic, exciting, submission based way. Joe Lauzon by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Johnson:
Staff picking Lauzon: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Tim Burke: Mayday all day. Pickett's fun to watch, but McDonald is a step above him. Michael McDonald by decision.
Dallas Winston: This is one of those fights that seems like it should be super close, but I just feel like it might not be. "Mayday" is a unique package of youth, diversity, quickness and astounding technical proficiency. Pickett kind of matches him in all those areas, but his punches get a bit wide and telegraphed (as per the Wineland fight) and I just don't think he can catch, overpower and ground MacDonald enough to win the fight, nor outstrike him in the long run. He's explosive and gritty and I expect him to have his moments. Michael MacDonald by decision.
T.P. Grant: Very good, interesting fight here. McDonald is a fantastic young talent who can do it all, Pickett is a skilled, crafty veteran. I think this is a pretty close fight that could go either way, McDonald is more than able to knock Pickett out, I think Pickett might be able to out grapple McDonald, but most of the ways I see this going involve McDonald getting his hand raised. Michael McDonald by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is possibly the best fight on the entire card, and it just shows you the power in Michael McDonald's hands.... Michael McDonald by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking McDonald: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Mookie, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Pickett: Fraser
Tim Burke: While I like Holloway, I'm not sure what he can do in there on the feet with McGregor. Conor McGregor by TKO, round 2.
Dallas Winston: Pretty odd matchmaking for one of the youngest and most talented guys on the UFC's roster. The straight technical match up of their striking should be a treat, but McGregor has way too much power, ferocity and accuracy for Holloway's methodical outlook of gradually chipping away. Actually, Holloway might be more technical everywhere, but McGregor's merciless delivery and killer instinct should outweigh everything else. I am open to Holloway doing something creative and unexpected to force a grappling match, which could equalize things. Conor McGregor by late TKO.
T.P. Grant: Holloway is a tough guy to get a read on. He was a sacrificial lamb in his first fight in the UFC, on extreme short notice. He then got a fairly easy fight and then won a fight many thought he was would lose against Justin Lawrence. Holloway then managed to win a fight against Leonard Garcia many thought he lost, then he drops a split decision. Could Holloway come out and work a body attack on McGregor? Maybe, but McGregor, in my view, is way too good for Holloway on the feet and on the ground. This is a set up fight for McGregor to look good in. Conor McGregor by TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Holloway:
Staff picking McGregor: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Tim Burke: Brown's gonna smother. Mike Brown by decision.
Dallas Winston: A prime Mike Brown takes this fight handily by replicating the Darren Elkins strategy, which Siler succumbed to a little too easy for my taste. I've been pretty straightlaced so far, so I'll go out on a limb and guess that Siler's height and nonstop combinations can keep Brown from getting inside, though it's not a confident pick. Steven Siler by decision.
T.P. Grant: I want Brown to win this one, he was once the best Featherweight in the world and is a likeable guy. But more than a year off during a "retirement" and now coming back to fight a guy a decade younger than him, I think Brown is gonna have a rough time with Siler, who is a sneaky good fighter. Steven Siler by Decision.
Staff picking Brown: Stephie, DSM, Tim
Staff picking Siler: Grant, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas
Dallas Winston: This fight changes significantly if Pineda can survive Brandao's early onslaught in the first half of the fight. But Diego's speed and power will probably prevent that. Diego Brandao by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: If Pineda had trouble dealing with Antonio Carvalho's striking then Brandao is going to plant his head in the 17th row. I'm sure Brandao can submit Pineda with ease, but this one is ending in a knockout. Diego Brandao by KO round 1.
T.P. Grant: Murder, death, kill. Pineda's only chance to survive for a round and half and then try to take it over late. Diego Brandao by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Brandao: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Pineda:
Dallas Winston: Can't see Cole keeping Manny at range, stifling the takedown nor gaining much ground with his excellent Jiu-Jitsu under Manny's rock-solid base. Manny Gamburyan by decision.
T.P. Grant: Homer pick! Cole Miller by Submission, Round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Oh dammit we have to pick a Cole Miller fight? I swear I don't think I've gotten one right since 2011. I don't think Gamburyan has ever been submitted so I'll ride with Cole Miller by decision.
Staff picking Gamburyan: Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Miller: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Mookie, Fraser
T.P. Grant: OSP likes being on top, Donovan isn't a killer off his back. Ovince St. Preux by Decision
Staff picking Donovan: DSM
Staff picking OSP: Stephie, Grant, Mookie, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
T.P. Grant: Two former TUF guys? Neither one has really delved into the real UFC as Nijem has just been paired with TUF guys, but I think that experience pays off. Ramsey Nijem by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Vick improved a lot during his TUF run, but he's still super green. Nijem does a good job separating the upper echelon TUF guys from the rest of the pack, and at least for now, I don't think Vick makes the cut. Ramsey Nijem by decision
Staff picking Nijem: Mookie, Grant, Fraser, Dallas, Tim
Staff picking Vick: Stephie, DSM