Tim Burke: Can KZ dethrone the champ? In a word, no. He can't stand with him for 5 rounds and if really good wrestlers can't take Aldo down, I doubt Zombie can. His best shot is on the ground because he's a fantastic grappler, but he's too reckless on the feet overall. I'm leaning towards an Aldo decision though. Jose Aldo by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I'd love for Jung to be the first Asian UFC champ. (Yes, I know about Sakuraba. He was a tournament champion though, and that was a long time ago). Even Ben Henderson had a huge impact in Korea when he won the belt, so imagine what would happen if Jung scored a victory over Aldo. That being said, it's going to be a lot easier said than done. Stylistically, Aldo should be better on the feet, and while Jung has displayed more submission savvy in his UFC fights, Aldo on paper also has a better jiujitsu pedigree. Plus there's also the matter of trying to ground a guy who high level wrestlers couldn't even hold down. All in all, while I hope I am dead wrong, I think it's going to be Jose Aldo by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: I consistently make incorrect predictions when picking Korean Zombie's fights. So for now I'm going to pick Aldo via inhumane beatdown, but if Dallas Winston picks KZ then I'm switching sides. Why? Because I don't want another sign telling me I should've listened to Dallas Winston. Jose Aldo by TKO, round 3.
David St. Martin: I'm a fan of a dog as much as anyone but even I have my limits. A rusty Zombie coming off a 14-month layoff against a likely disinterested Aldo sounds like a nightmare to me. 'But the toughness, DSM, the TOUGHNESS!' Close your eyes and take a second to think of all the greatest fighters who were experts in taking inhuman amounts of punishment. Back? OK, that exercise should have helped you settle the matter. Aldo fights tough dudes constantly, it hasn't been enough. If Frankie 'King of toughness' Edgar couldn't do it I don't see how Zombie will manage. Not in Brazil. Aldo via Dec.
T.P. Grant: Let's be real, Aldo is winning this fight. The Zombine, heavy footed stance is ripe for a leg kick feast by Aldo, and Jung's total lack of defensive boxing fundamentals also mean Aldo will likely give birth to a face punching a gif or two. Zombie's defense to leg kicks appears to be mostly catching them for takedowns, with an overhand punch for good measure. But we've seen other fighters attempt to use this strategy, and the results have not been pretty. Jung is actually a very able grappler, it is likely more complete than his striking and he may be able to replicate Hominick's success in Aldo's open guard, and Zombie is a killer if he gets the back. But Aldo is not going give up his back in the fight, and it is likely it only hits the mat after Aldo drops KZ with a strike. Jose Aldo by TKO, Round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: The real question is, will Dallas be able to justify a KZ win? Because I sure as hell can't. Which is a shame as I LOVE watching Zombie fight, and will gladly be cheering for him here. I just don't see him having the tools to take out Aldo. Of course, I said the exact same thing about Hominick. And Poirier. And Dallas (and, I guess, Jung) proved me wrong. Still... Jose Aldo by KO, round 3
Dallas Winston: Hi. I'm surprised anyone's questioning my vote since I've never picked against TKZ and have only been wrong once. And, honestly ... people are still over-emphasizing the Roop loss and propagating the "his defense is terrible/nonexistent" theme. His defense, head movement and fight IQ dramatically improved in his recent wins. Match-up wise, Aldo's typically faced specialists and struggled the most with diverse fighters who could mix their striking and takedowns well. He's an amazing striker but not a one-shot guy -- so, while of course Aldo's speed and accuracy presents problems (as they do against anyone), TKZ's durability and propensity to pull off flat-out amazing shit gives him a solid chance as the fight wears on. What I genuinely feel bad about is picking against Aldo so often as of late, which indicates a lack of respect, and just isn't the case at all. A sub is possible but sounds too sensational. Chan Sung Jung by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I just don't see it. Of all the incredible fighters at 145, Korean Zombie might just match up the worst with Jose Aldo. I don't normally like to attribute success to attributes, but I truly believe that Jung is just too slow for the champ. If he can latch on to a leg he might be able to drag Aldo to the mat, but Scarface has really taken sprawl-n'-brawl to a whole new level. Not many strikers can wrestle as well as he can. In fact, of the two combatants, I think it's more likely that Aldo will be the one to land successful takedowns, not Zombie. Both men have suspect cardio, but Aldo showed against Frankie that he can at least keep it together when he starts to tire. KZ tends to go into "accursed power" mode, which just might get him viciously knocked out. Jose Aldo by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Aldo: DSM, Stephie, Grant, Anton, Mookie, Tim, Fraser, Connor
Staff picking Zombie: (c'mon son) Dallas
Tim Burke: Davis has great wrestling, but Machida's a master at keeping people on the outside. Davis just doesn't have the all-round game to mix it up and throw Machida off. Lyoto will fight the same fight he always does, and Davis will get immensely frustrated. Lyoto Machida by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Can Davis take Machida down? Because that's what this bout all boils down to. If he can, he has a real chance of winning, but I just think this will look like the other times that Machida has faced strong wrestlers in the past. Lyoto Machida by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Things Phil Davis will not do tomorrow night: Take Lyoto Machida down; Submit Lyoto Machida; Land any meaningful and hurtful strike against Lyoto Machida; Defeat Lyoto Machida. Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision.
David St. Martin: Sort of a step backwards for Machida here. Not sure how a win over Davis helps him get closer to a title shot but whatever. Machida's faced back-to-back strong wrestlers so Davis' biggest strength doesn't carry as much weight. I'm already cringing imagining Davis' subpar striking trying to deal with Lyoto. Remember that scene in Sgt. Bilko where both boxers think they've been paid to throw the fight? That's what I think this could look like. Both guys are coming off terrible, boring fights so it'll be interesting to see if they try to rise above. Machida via Dec.
T.P. Grant: I want to see Phil Davis take that next step, he is 12 fights into his career, still in his twenties and fantastically talented. But he still needs a legitimizing, contendership win, and he has a chance here against Machida. But it is no easy task, despite Machida likely being on the edge of, if not in the midst, of his decline as a fighter. The problem for Davis is that Machida's style is custom made to give wrestlers nightmares. Machida is elusive, crafty in the clinch, and has still got a good deal of foot speed. This fight could a number a ways, but I do see a finish down any of those paths. Machida either wins a Machida style decision on the feet, Davis gets Machida down at least twice and is able to keep him down, or we get a nip-tuck battle along the fence. I like both fighters, think Machida will win, but will be pleasantly surprised Davis pulls it out. Lyoto Machida by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I kind of feel like we've seen Phil Davis plateau. And it's not a bad plateau by any means - he's really good. Just not this good. Nothing we have seen from him so far is enough to dominate the takedown game against the elusive Dragon, and it sure isn't enough to hang with Machida's vastly superior striking. We'll need to see a seriously improved Davis (or a seriously deteriorated Machida) for the upset here, and I don't think that's happening. Lyoto Machida by decision.
Dallas Winston: Though undoubtedly a top-notch and powerful wrestler, Davis was still forced into making pivotal on-the-fly adjustments to be effective against lesser strikers and sprawl-and-brawlers than Machida. There's a great argument for Machida having the best and definitely the most confounding takedown defense in the game, and match-ups for him don't get much better than this, especially because Davis isn't a commanding finisher on top. Lyoto Machida by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I actually see the value in this matchup for Machida. He may have faced wrestlers before, but Davis is a physical specimen that compares very well to Jones. If Lyoto can revive his old school clinch skills, which he showed flashes of in the Hendo fight, then he should be able to prevent Davis from taking him down. If he can prevent Davis from taking him down, he'll stand a much better chance of stopping Jones' takedowns as well. It's a good test of his grappling skills, which might have been put on the back burner for a while. I don't think that Davis will come forward aggressively enough to get knocked out, however. Ryoto Machida by (laughable) Split Decision.
Staff picking Davis:
Staff picking Machida: Stephie, DSM, Grant, Anton, Mookie, Tim, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Tim Burke: Mutante vs. a welterweight. Yeah, this is going to be ugly. Cezar Mutante by TKO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Wow this card just takes a tailspin into "meh-ville" after the co-main. Cezar Mutante Ninja Turtle by KO, round 1.
T.P. Grant: So yeah, this fight. Totally deserves to be on the main card. Because... both these guys have been out of action for over a year? Ferreira is a wrestler and grappler who likes to just bang on the feet. Santos likes to take guys down and go to work from there. I'll take Ferriera with a big punch, but he can die by the sword. Cezar Ferreira by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Mutante: Grant, Anton, Mookie, DSM, Tim, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Santos: Stephie
Tim Burke: Neither of these guys are going to light up the division. Leites is knows as a grappler but he doesn't mind a standup fight if it comes to him (ie. the Marquardt fight). Watson's going to want to bang and his takedown defense is decent. In a firefight, I'd actually take Leites due to his chin and superior tank. Thales Leites by decision.
T.P. Grant: Leites isn't a great Middleweight, but he is a solid gatekeeper type that could hang out in the UFC and beat up the lower third of the roster and be competitive with the middle third. I feel Watson is right on the edge between that mid and lower tier of Middleweight. So I'll take Leites in not a great fight, and if Watson wins it will likely be a more exciting.Thales Leites by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Much has been made of the idea that every Brazil UFC card is full of Brazil vs. non-Brazil mismatches, but that's not entirely accurate. There have been a fair amount on Brazilians losing on the home turf, though they definitely hold the advantage. I was tempted to pick Leites purely based on the pro-Brazil side (and because I don't think Watson is all that great), but I just think Thales is spent at this point, and won't be able to hang back in the UFC. Tom Watson by KO, round 1.
Dallas Winston: I'm mildly surprised that Leites is such a widespread favorite here. Granted, he's never been KO/TKO'd but he's pretty much lost to every legit striker he's faced save the split to Marquardt, who was docked two full points and still almost won. Watson has, however, been put on his back with frightening regularity in the UFC but both Nedkov and Tavares are stronger than Leites with better wrestling. Leites can match Watson on the feet better than Watson can match Leites on the ground, but I think "Kong's" boxing style will lend him the balance and composure to shuck off the majority of Leites' clinch attempts. Tom Watson by decision.
Staff picking Leites: Stephie, Anton, Mookie, Grant, Tim
Staff picking Watson: DSM, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Tim Burke: I really like Lineker, but Tome presents a big challenge for him. Lineker has great boxing, but Tome can scrap and can get Lineker down. That's his best chance, to get it to the floor. I don't think he can finish Lineker, but I think he can beat him. Upset of the night. Jose Maria Tome by decision.
T.P. Grant: A very interesting fight here. Lineker tends to lose to guys who have some decent grappling skills he struggles. But while Tome is an aggressive grappler he is also a brawler and that plays right into Lineker's game. Tome could get Lineker down and get a win by submission, TKO, or decision. But I think Tome's wildness on his feet costs him and Lineker touches him at some point. John Lineker by KO, Round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Lineker is the smart pick, but I'll play the Brazilian numbers game and go with the upset. Jose Maria Tome by decision.
Dallas Winston: Weird. I thought I'd be the only Tome pick, so good-weird. I have no problem with Lineker being the favorite -- he definitely deserves it. But his advantages are having more UFC experience and boxing; his typical "pace" advantage is purposely amiss. Tome is just as frenetic of a striker but he's more diverse (Lineker is basically a hands-only striker), he'll have 3" of height and he'll also threaten with takedowns and an equally dizzying top game. The best way to disrupt a forward-moving brawler is with takedowns and, though a phenomenal striker, Lineker is a speed/volume guy without serious punching power. P.S. Luta Livre is back. "No Chance" by submission.
Connor Ruebusch: I don't agree that Lineker is a "hands only" guy. He landed some ferocious kicks to the body in his last fight, which did a lot to contribute to the eventual knockout. Tome is a real live dog here, but I have a feeling that Lineker will be able to keep it on the feet and use his superior technique to decapitate Tome. John Lineker by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Lineker: Stephie, Anton, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Connor
Staff picking Tome: Tim, Fraser, Dallas
Tim Burke: Perosh is 41. He's done. Neither of these guys has ever gone to a decision in their careers, and Perosh has never been submitted. Vinny can stop him early with his hands though, as long as he doesn't keep his chin up. Vinny Magalhaes by TKO, round 1
Mookie Alexander: Even if this becomes an awful kickboxing match I'd pick Vinny to win. Vinny Magalhaes by submission, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Perosh has never been submitted and is a fairly able grappler, but I think Vinny wins this fight wherever it goes. I think it hits the mat at some point and for some reason I feel like Vinny flexes his leglock game here. Vinny Magalhaes by Submission (Heel Hook), Round 1.
Dallas Winston: Atrocious match up for Perosh here. His relevant wins were accented by a huge grappling advantage and he just won't have that against Vinny, who's also quicker, more explosive and a better striker. Perosh's huge heart and feisty clinch are his only viable weapons here. Vinny Magalhaes by TKO.
Connor Ruebusch: Pretty much what they said, but I see Perosh playing turtle and surviving to the final horn. Vinny Magalhaes by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Magalhaes: Stephie, Anton, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Tim, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Perosh:
Tim Burke: Nunes is way bigger and a lot better. Amanda Nunes by TKO, round 1
T.P. Grant: Gaff has real power in her hands, but she is very wild. And considering her biggest win, a 10 second KO of Jennifer Maia, was a blitz set up with a fake glove touch, and that the German Tank has lost anytime she has been really forced to grapple, I'll take Nunes. Amanda Nunes by Submission, Round 2.
Staff picking Gaff:
Staff picking Nunes: Stephie, Anton, Nunes, Grant, Tim, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Tim Burke: Magny will look to wrestle, but that plays into Moraes' grappling game. I gotta go with TUF Brazil over TUF 16. Sergio Moraes by submission, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Under no circumstances will I ever have any interest in any fight involving a TUF 16 alum. Sergio Moraes by decision.
T.P. Grant: Oh boy, I have to devote thought to this fight... Moraes is a physical beast and a helluva grappler, so I'll take him. Sergio Moraes by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Forget what the other folks here said, Magny is a solid prospect with a decent potential in the MMA game. He has a good all around game, he's dedicated, and he comes from a decent camp. Trouble is, Moraes is a tough fight. Sergio is a great grappler but he's been more enamored with a tough chinned brawling stand-up game as of late. He can (and should) submit Magny, but instead I think he stands, where his awkward style and tough chin get him by. Sergio Moraes by decision
Staff picking Magny: Dallas
Staff picking Moraes: Stephie, Anton, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Tim, Fraser, Connor
Tim Burke: This should be a gimme for Uncle Creepy. Hopefully his head's on straight, because he should be able to outwrestle, outgrapple, and outstrike Santos. Ian McCall by submission, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Man McCall's head has to be seriously twisted up right now between his run in the UFC and the issues with his soon to be ex-wife. Either McCall will be distracted and get another loss, or take out all his frustrations on Santos' face. I'll guess the later. Ian McCall by TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking McCall: Anton, DSM, Grant, Tim, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Santos: Stephie, Fraser
Tim Burke: This is a ridiculous fight. Was Cheesesteak Morrison busy that night or something? C'mon son. Rani Yahya by north-south choke, round 1
T.P. Grant: Brazil card! A gringo gotta get choked. Rani Yahya by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Clopton:
Staff picking Yahya: Stephie, Anton, Mookie, DSM, Grant, Tim, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Tim Burke: I actually like this fight. They're going to stand and brawl. Barroso has some pop, but he's show a bit of a dodgy chin. I wouldn't count Barroso out, but it's Oliveira's fight to lose. Dat reach. Ednaldo Oliveira by TKO, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Barrroso is a good fighter but has a bad habit of going down when punched hard and Oliveira is a very hard puncher. Ednaldo Oliveira by Knockout, Round 1.
Dallas Winston: I like this fight too, and I think "Bodao" will open some eyes. Oliveira is a ridiculously gangly Thai boxer with a BJJ black belt, but I couldn't help but think he looked a little clumsy and awkward with his length. Barroso has stand up that's decent enough to let him brawl his way into close quarters and put Oliveira on his back. Francimar Barroso by decision.
Staff picking Barroso: Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Oliveira: Stephie, Anton, DSM, Grant, Tim, Fraser
Tim Burke: A what and a who? Marunde's coming to 170 for the first time against a guy who has some losses, but most are to decent names. Viscardi also sounds cooler than Bristol. I've been to Bristol, and it sucks. Viscardi Andrade by decision.
Staff picking Andrade: Anton, DSM, Tim, Fraser, Dallas, Connor
Staff picking Marunde: Stephie, Mookie, Grant