Tim Burke: Condit/Kampmann 1 is one of my favorite fights of all time, and now we get a rematch? Jazzed. Psyched. Some other words. I had Condit winning the first fight by taking the first two rounds, and I think he's the one that has improved more since that bout. One thing that Kampmann was able to exploit in that fight was Condit's weak takedown defense, which I think has improved a lot (despite what GSP/Hendricks did). I don't think Kampmann has evolved enough to deal with Condit's amped-up attack and ability to get up if he is taken down. I actually think he can wear Kamp down and finish late. Carlos Condit by TKO, round 4.
Anton Tabuena: I also thought that Condit edged Kampmann during their first meeting. I personally don't care how this one turns out, I just wish it could come close to the entertainment they provided the first time out. As for who has improved more since then, I think it's Condit, so I'm picking him. Carlos Condit by Decision, but please be as good as the first one, k thanks.
Dallas Winston: I didn't walk away from watching Condit's fights with Kampmann and Ellenberger with the feeling that either fighter substantially surpassed the other and deserved the win. But OMG -- we all know that calling a fight or even a measly five-minute round between the Earth's most elite combatants "even" is equivalent to sporting a fanny pack. Sure, it's outrageously sensible and convenient on all fronts, but just .... ewww, and you're ostracized by society. Yes, my burning animosity for MMA judging permeates every opinion. Anyway, one formula for exciting fights in MMA is ultra-potent strikers and submissionists who don't excel at wrestling. Kampmann throws tighter and more accurately but his volume over power approach and porous defense makes Condit the safer choice here. Carlos Condit by decision.
Mookie Alexander: I scored the first fight 29-28 Kampmann. How that fight was perceived inferior to Tyson Griffin/Rafael dos Anjos (also a good fight) is beyond me. Both fighters have made improvements in the 4 years since their first encounter, but I think Condit is juuuuuuust a bit better than Kampmann at this point. Carlos Condit by TKO, round 3.
Connor Ruebusch: I was actually tempted to pick Kampmann here. He's always received far too much hype for his striking, especially considering his tendency to get hit in the face a billion times a fight. But he's tough as nails, recovers well, and has the ground acumen to thwart Condit's excellent submissions and sweeps. However, this is a five round fight, and Carlos Condit has an unmatched ability to fight hard until the final bell. Condit's striking isn't particularly crisp, but he's better than he was the last time these two fought, and his relentless pace will put a lot of pressure on Kampmann in the later rounds. Given Kampmann's porous defense, I see a late stoppage here. Carlos Condit by KO, round four.
Zane Simon: I feel like these two fighters are practically mirror images of each other. They're both high pressure strikers with good bottom ground games. But Condit is more varied and he's less chinny. The biggest thing I think this will come down to is kicking and while Kampmann's not a bad kicker he can't match Condit's variety of technique. I expect that variety to let Condit create more opportunities for the KO. Carlos Condit by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Condit: Stephie, Mookie, Connor, Grant, Zane, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Kampmann:
Donald Cerrone vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Tim Burke: This is another awesome fight. If RDA wants to win this though, he needs to grapple. Evan Dunham beat him (well, I thought he did) in a striking match, and I can't see Dos Anjos hanging with Cerrone for 15 minutes, especially with the range difference. Not many people have smothered Donald Cerrone though, and I can't see it happening here either. Donald Cerrone by decision.
Anton Tabuena: To me, I think this fight is all about distance and pace. Both are very well rounded fighters, but if Dos Anjos can push the pace and keep it tight, he can win this. That being said, I think the more likely scenario is that Cerrone keeps things at kicking range and controls the distance to pull off the W. Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I like the way RdA has improved his wrestling and takedown game, reminding me a little of a lightweight Rani Yahya, though his (at times) nasty striking seems to have been de-emphasized. Cowboy's superior striking and range should be the difference here. RdA is no Vagner Rocha but I expect Cowboy to adopt the same, leg-kick-heavy strategy of keeping him outside. RdA's best bet is to keep both his striking and takedowns in the mix during his entries, which will ultimately dictate his success here. Donald Cerrone by decision.
Mookie Alexander: If dos Anjos can force Cerrone to retreat and possibly work his takedowns, then we have ourselves a very interesting fight. Like Connor Reuben Sandwich, I had RDA beating Dunham and haven't changed my opinion upon re-watch. He's a very good lightweight with much improved striking to complement his ground game, but I think Cerrone is probably the best striker Rafael has faced, and Cowboy's conditioning and superior kickboxing will carry him to victory. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision.
Connor Ruebusch: This is another one that will probably be much closer than the picks imply. Cerrone has been very hit-or-miss lately, though he looked exceptional against KJ Noons, and he skills. On the other hand, Rafael dos Anjos is much better than he's given credit for, and I for one thought he deserved his contentious win over Evan Dunham a few months ago. He also recently bested another strong kickboxer in Anthony Njokuani. Like the main event, however, this one comes down to pace. Like Condit, Cerrone is always in excellent condition, whereas dos Anjos was looking pretty shaky after two rounds of slugging it out with Dunham. He's also going to have a lot of trouble getting Cerrone to the ground where, in any case, Cowboy has some very underrated submission skills. Dos Anjos is good in many areas, but Cowboy's just a tiny bit better in each of them. Donald Cerrone by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: I feel like I'm never impressed by Rafael Dos Anjos. I can't explain why, but even when he wins I'm left with a sense of "meh." On the other hand I have almost the exact opposite feelings about Cerrone. Even when he gets beaten up, I feel interested in seeing him fight. I didn't have a problem with the RDA decision over Dunham, but I do think that it was a close fight and doesn't have a very good sense of punching range, nor does he possess very good defensive Cerrone is a significantly better fighter. Donald Cerrone by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Cerrone: Stephie, Mookie, Connor, Grant, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim
Staff picking RDA:
Tim Burke: Gastelum will get Melancon out of his comfort zone (ie. on the feet) and take a boring decision. Kelvin Gastelum by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Tough one, but when unsure of things, I always just ask myself, ‘who does the UFC want to win?' Kelvin Gastelum by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Melancon went from no-name in Strikeforce to blowing up Baczynski with some serious heaters. I watched all of Brian's Strikeforce fights and was blown away by his handiwork against a very dangerous debut opponent. As much as I'd like to see Melancon repeat, Gastelum should be able to close distance -- rather than stand in Melancon's wheelhouse like Baczynski -- and duck under those loopers to work his wrestling. The best way to freeze a big striker is with takedowns. I will gladly hop on Melancon's bandwagon if I'm wrong. Kelvin Gastelum by submission.
Mookie Alexander: I missed the whole of UFC 162 (personal emergency) and have only seen the GIF of Melancon's savage beating of Seth Baczynski. Not a whole lot to rely on for footage other than his obvious KO power. Gastelum feels like a jack of all trades (par for the course on TUF) and master of none. I'll just keep riding the Kelvin story until he loses. Kelvin Gastelum by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Gastelum impressed me on TUF, but Brian Melancon impressed the hell out of me in his last performance. His sense of distance, ability to apply pressure, and his nuclear left hook are going to give a mediocre striker like Gastelum trouble. Gastelum's wrestling might cost Melancon a few rounds, but I'm seeing another finish for Brian by way of an inside slip followed by another brutal left hook. Brian Melancon by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I don't think that Kelvin Gastelum is much of a prospect. I said it, I can't help it. He's got that perfect mix of skills that look great on TUF, but have less application in the UFC itself, namely being tough and aggressive. When fighters only have a few days between fights those skills really come to bear. And of course they made a huge difference against Uriah Hall's lackadaisical style and attitude. But Melancon is an aggressive, polished striker with huge amounts of power. He handled a monster welterweight in Seth Baczynski; I expect him to take out Gastelum as well. Brian Melancon by TKO, Round 1.
Staff picking Gastelum: Mookie, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Melancon: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Zane
Tim Burke: I'm really not sure how to break this down. McGee is bigger and probably the better wrestler/grappler. Whittaker is the better striker. I generally go with the guy that has more tools in his toolbag, so I'll lean McGee here. Court McGee by decision.
Dallas Winston: I was enthralled by Whittaker's win over Smith, but the gap between Colton and Court is vast. Smith has yet to compete at McGee's level and he's about as one-dimensional as it gets in the UFC, and Whittaker's only concern was the takedown. Hell, he didn't respect Colton's striking, got tagged hard in the first frame, and still didn't respect it en route to the upset. McGee is not a fluid athlete but he's tough as balls, his beard might as well be the mythical golden fleece, and there are too many questions about Whittaker's grappling even though his takedown defense looked saucy. Court McGee by rear-naked choke or decision.
Mookie Alexander: I think McGee has maxed out his potential. He's perfectly capable of putting in fun fights, but he also has cardio issues and lacks powerful punching. Whittaker better not drop his left hand somewhere around his balls like he did against Colton Smith, but I assume that was a way to prepare for Colton's takedowns. This will probably be a FOTN contender and I'll go with the better striker to win it. Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I don't know what it is with Court McGee, but I've never really liked his fights. He's always just come across as another one of those later-season TUF guys who doesn't really excel in any one area. Whittaker surprised a lot of us by knocking out Colton Smith in his last out, and I think he'll have similar success against McGee who, despite his size advantage, just doesn't have the striking skills to hang with the specialists. His toughness makes me think that this one will be close, regardless. Robert Whittaker by Split Decision.
Zane Simon: I definitely think that Whittaker has more upside here, but I have a feeling that McGee may grind this one out. The big x-factor comes in McGee's one sided striking, it was one of the biggest reasons that he had trouble putting away Josh Neer. He hurt Neer with a right kick I believe, but was unable to repeat the technique. Over time he becomes predictable because almost all his offense comes from his left. But he does more experience and I expect him to grind this one out for a painful decision. Court McGee by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking McGee: Stephie, Zane, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim
Staff picking Whittaker: Mookie, Connor, Grant
Tim Burke: I'm going against the grain - I think Perez is a future star in this division, and he won't be handled by Mizu. It's easy to say that Mizugaki's record is uneven because of tough competition, but who has he beaten? Caraway? Yahya? Dude lost to flyweight Chris Cariaso last year, and should have lost to Caraway. I think he's on the other side of the hill sliding down, and Perez propels himself up in the division with a win. Erik Perez by submission, round 2
Anton Tabuena: I'm not quite convinced just yet, but I hope he proves me wrong. Still, I think it's Takeya Mizugaki by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Like the pick above, it's going to take a lot more than convincingly beating Byron Bloodworth and Ken Stone to sway me toward Perez, especially when faced with one of the most experienced and scrappy bantamweights around. Mizu is still only 29 and his record is shaky because he's been thrown in with the who's who of contenders. I am a little worried about his predictability and imperative need to get in and stay at phone-booth range, but the cat is also really hard to finish. Takeya Mizugaki by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Takeya Mizugaki has the most disheartening record in the UFC, except perhaps Sam Stout. How many times can you keep promising yourself that you're finally getting past that hump when your last ten fights were alternating wins and losses? And now that Mizugaki has broken the pattern by beating Bryan Caraway, there are probably some vengeful karmic gods out there looking to restore order. Seriously though, Erik Perez is pretty legit. He's quite well-rounded, and though he's not the top tier that Mizugaki usually loses to, I think he'll take another step forward by crushing the oh-so-crushable dreams of all us JMMA fans desperately hoping for a Japanese fighter to make it in the UFC. Plus, Perez is the only guy I've ever seen rock a button-up shirt during the official decision of a fight with only the top button buttoned, cholo-style. That's legit. Erik Perez by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: This is dangerous fight for Goyito. Or maybe dangerous isn't the right word, but it's a meaningful fight. Pass Mizugaki and he has a legit claim to the title of "Next Big Thing" at bantamweight, which badly needs next big things. Fail here, and he's one of a slew of decent, but not great, young fighters trying to claw their way into the top ten for a shot at one of the division's handful of premiere talent. Mizugaki's good, but he's bound to take this one to a decision, which I think he loses. Erik Perez by Split Decision.
Staff picking Mizugaki: Dallas, Anton
Staff picking Perez: Stephie, Mookie, Connor, Grant, Zane, DSM, Tim
Bubba McDaniel vs.
Tim Burke: Tavares deserves better than this fight with a 5-1 record in the UFC. I just don't see Bubba subbing him. In fact, I see him taking a beating. This ain't Kala Hose, Bubba. Brad Tavares by TKO, round 2
Anton Tabuena: Why did I come in here thinking that I would be the only one picking Tavares? I guess he's not as underrated as I thought he was. Brad Tavares by TKO.
Dallas Winston: Tavares somehow remains a sleeper in the division despite only loss to Aaron Simpson that was far from definitive. When Bubba's on, he has an excellent striking game and his submissions, though probably not relevant here, are even more hazardous. I think Bubba could really cause problems by staying outside and attacking the heavy front leg of Tavares, who has no distance weapon. I'm open to Bubba winning on points but guessing that Tavares will eventually get in the pocket and find the mark. Brad Tavares by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: It's not thatis a terrible fighter, it's that Brad Tavares is much better than him. Also, Bubba's behavior on TUF makes me hesitant to confidently pick him in any fight. Brad Tavares by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: Robert McDaniel? Hahahaha! Brad Tavares by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Brad Tavares has been quietly molding himself into the UFC's Ray Sefo, not on his own, but as the protege of the Kickboxing great himself. Because of it Tavares' striking has evolved by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately it has yet to work wonders on his aggression as he often seems hesitant to pull the trigger and put away lesser fighters. Still, I don't think that will be a big problem here. Brad Tavares by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking McDaniel:
Staff picking Tavares: Stephie, Mookie, Connor, Grant, Zane, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim
Dallas Winston: Dylan was most likable guys on TUF in a while, but I guess my theme for this card is "show me." Many of these guys are jumping into a different stratosphere of competition and I'm not sure Andrews can find Abedi's chin before the latter's newaza kicks in.
Mookie Alexander: Ehhhhhhh, I will cut Abedi a little bit of slack because he fought at welterweight when he should be at his normal middleweight. But I can't overlook his weak ground game (not helped by his takedown defense), cardio issues, and inability to string together effective combinations. Andrews has decent power and I think he uses that to send Papy packing. Dylan Andrews by TKO, round 2.
Connor Ruebusch: Andrews looked incredibly unimpressive against Uriah Hall in the TUF semifinals, but we can attribute that to the ridiculous amount of hype that Hall had built in the house by that point. Now that he's gotten through his actual UFC debut in winning fashion, it's safe to assume that Andrews won't be facing any of the same jitters against Papy Abedi. Abedi, for his part, is a decent fighter, but Andrews' experience will give him the edge here. Dylan Andrews by Submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: Dylan Andrews is basically a trimmed down James Te Huna, and I mean that in a good way. He hits with surprising power and may have been the best prospect on his season of the Ultimate Fighter, if he wasn't already 33. Anyway I think he will find the eminently hittable Papy Abedi and send him out of the UFC. Abedi, even in victory has yet to find any sort of form in the octagon and I don't think it's going to happen here. Dylan Andrews by TKO Round 3.
Staff picking Abedi: Dallas, Anton
Staff picking Andrews: Mookie, Grant, Zane, Stephie, DSM, Tim
Connor Ruebusch: Thatch is a very well-rounded fighter with good transitions from phase to phase. At this point his stellar record against unknowns impresses me more than Edwards' unremarkable record against the UFC's lower tier. Also, Thatch walks out wearing a red fuzzy vest that, apparently, his grandma made for him. There's always Octagon jitters to take into account, but Thatch is a supremely confident guy. Gotta go with Brandon Thatch by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: Given time Edwards big win over Josh Neer doesn't look quite as big and given that everyone he's won or lost to in the UFC has since been released, he's a great test for Thatch to see if he's ready for this level of competition. Ultimately however, I think it is a test Thatch will pass. He looks like one of the true prospects at the bottom of the division and if that's going to be the case he has to be able to get a win of Justin Edwards. Brandon Thatch by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Edwards: Dallas
Staff picking Thatch: Mookie, Connor, Grant, Zane, Stephie, DSM, Anton, Tim
Tim Burke: Is Hioki slick enough to sub Elkins? I'd like to think so, but history says otherwise. Darren Elkins by decision.
Anton Tabuena: I know Hioki is "technically" on a two fight losing streak, but WHY THE HELL IS THIS ON THE PRELIMS? I'd rather watch these guys than random lower level TUF vets. Oh, my prediction, right. Hatsu Hioki by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Words -- Guida, revenge, budo, etc. Child of Shooto by submission.
Mookie Alexander: I get burned far too many times picking a heavily hyped Japanese signing to beat even a mid-tier UFC fighter. So as much as I want to pick Hioki to submit Elkins (which isn't impossible, because Charles Oliveira did it with ease), I assume this ends up being an ugly grinding win for Elkins per usual. Darren Elkins by decision.
Connor Ruebusch: At this point it's starting to seem like the UFC doesn't want Hioki to fulfill his career potential. Elkins is a monster at featherweight, and his grinding style is exactly the sort of thing that gave Hioki such trouble against Guida. Granted, that probably should have been Hioki's fight, but we should know better by now. MMA judges like top position, and unlike Guida, Elkins adept at gaining position and doing enough to damage to stay justifiably ahead on the scorecards. There's also the chance that we see a repeat of Elkins vs. Carvalhio, where Elkins' opponent was so concerned about the takedown that he got clipped by a series of huge punches. I don't really see Hioki getting knocked out, but I do see another disappointing loss for the Japanese fighter, and another impressive win for Elkins. Darren Elkins by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: Dreams crushed, JMMA hope gone. Elkins by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Elkins: Stephie, Mookie, Connor, Grant, Zane, DSM, Tim
Staff picking Hioki: Dallas, Anton
Tim Burke: Skill-wise, I'd lean towards High. But Head is really big, quite strong, and hits hard. This is very tough to figure out. High's got the wrestling though. I'll go with Marcelino Evil, but this is uber-close. Jason High by split decision.
Anton Tabuena: KC Bandit by Decision
Connor Ruebusch: Poor Jason High. The man loses one fight in his UFC debut and gets cut immediately. Then, after a very impressive regional promotion run, he finally gets back into the big leagues, only to be paired up with the toughest prospect in the division. Hopefully he can prove his worth this time around. For some reason, I see High submitting Head in this one. Jason High by Submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: It makes me really happy to see High getting this second opportunity. Head could very easily take this. He has wins over solid competition in Gerald Harris, and Brian Ebersole, but this is truly High's moment to shine. If he's going to make an impact in the UFC he has to do it here. Jason High by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Head: haha Dallas again?
Staff picking High: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, Zane, DSM, Anton, Tim
Connor Ruebusch: I'll be honest. I don't know much about Ben Alloway. But 3 of his 4 losses coming by submission does not bode well against a submission-savvy opponent like Cummings, especially considering how easily Ryan LaFlare was able to take him down in his last fight. Cummings looks like a nicer, lighter Ilir Latifi, and he's about as unimpressive. But he'll probably get the finish here. Zak Cummings by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: It's impossible to get a bead on Cummings coming off of TUF. We've seen time and time again that the reality series shows us very little of a fighters true talents in the UFC. At this point Flip a Coin because anything could happen. Ben Alloway by TKO.
Staff picking Alloway: Zane,
Staff picking Cummings: Mookie, Connor, Grant. Stephie, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim
Connor Ruebusch: Despite being taken down/mat-returned thirteen thousand times by Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last fight, Abel Trujillo is a pretty decent wrestler with lots of power. Bowling, on the other hand, seems to struggle if he can't get an early stoppage. Abel Trujillo by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Bowling seems to really surprise opponents with his speed and agility, giving him a big early advantage as they try to catch up to his pace. Reportedly he's also starting to take training camp and his health more seriously with a considered approach to fighting Trujillo. I'm not sure how that will serve him here, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he'll look like a changed fighter. Roger Bowling by TKO round 1.
Staff picking Bowling: Zane
Staff picking Trujillo: Mookie, Connor, Grant, Stephie, DSM, Dallas, Anton, Tim