Tim Burke: I'm not sure how Alex wins this to be honest. Jon Jones by sub, round 3
Anton Tabuena: If Jones does what he says, and really goes to stand with Gustafsson for majority of this fight, this will be a much closer fight than it really is, as while both are talented strikers, the challenger does have the skills and the power to secure an upset. That being said, it's still not a clear path to victory for the Swede. It will be intriguing to see who controls the distance better standing up, but their past fights are any indication, that points towards Jones. That being said, Jones will also have his wrestling, and I really do feel like if and when he gets top control, his ground and pound will once again be too overwhelming. I'll be rooting for the upset, but there's not much that can convince me to think to pick against him. Jon Jones by TKO.
Dallas Winston: Yes, it's encouraging to have a fighter who's unusually comparable to Jones in height, reach and striking, but the wrestling, clinch and grappling aspects are still all Bones. That means Gus has to whittle the fight down to a striking match up to avoid takedowns and/or catch Jones on the feet, which is entirely plausible. However, all the hype over length and size will probably actualize as an edge for Jones' entries, as he'll be able to cover ground and snare up a single or double like no other that Gustafsson's encountered, with the obscene leverage he generates on his clinch throws and the spidery extension he gets from his arms when threading them through for choke attempts. Jon Jones by some type of head/neck choke (guillotine, D'arce, RNC, head/arm, etc.)
T.P. Grant: Pretty easy pick, while the marketing is all about the faulty reach numbers, fighting isn't about how long a guy's arms or legs are. Jones is fantastic at fighting his fight, and his skill set is expanding every fight. Seeing how Jones reacts to the sickening toe injury he suffered will be interesting, but Jones blends together striking, clinch work, and ground grappler in a masterful and natural way, he wins. Jon Jones by TKO, Round 3.
Mookie Alexander: Gustafsson actually has a better chance than most people believe. His boxing is sharp, powerful, and it's his best chance to upset Jones. Now, if he gets taken down (and his TDD is very good) then he's going to get smushed. I'll take that option. Jon Jones by submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: There's picking the underdog, and then there's picking a dog. Unless Jones starts mysteriously losing digits again he should have this fight pretty well in hand. Gus isn't a bad striker, but he's not exactly electric either. He often gets caught hard by strikes he should see coming and leaves a lot of defensive openings. He counters that with good footwork and a frenetic pace, but these aren't skills that Jones will have trouble matching. If there were a path to victory for Gustafsson I might be tempted to pick him just for fun, but there isn't. So, Jon Jones by Submission, Round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Hey, has anyone noticed how long these guys' arms are? Anyone? The arms are so long I think my head might just explode. That sure would be a fantastic marketing angle for this fight. Jones by submission, round 2
David Castillo: I'm on board with everyone else on this. Jones is simply too capable of dictating where the fight takes place. I like Gustafsson's ability to land punches if the fight stays on the feet for extended periods of time, but Jones is smart enough to know Alex is threatening, and how to neutralize him. Jon Jones by Decision.
Staff picking Jones: Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Staff picking Gustafsson:
Tim Burke: While Wineland is good, it says something about the bantamweight division when a guy that's 2-2 in the UFC is getting a title shot. Barao's better everywhere except maybe defensive wrestling and one-punch power. Wineland is going to get worn out on the feet though, and that's going to lead to him on his back and him tapping out. Renan Barao by sub, round 3
Anton Tabuena: Wineland does have good hands and big power so he has a chance, but Barao will be faster, more technical, and has a less predictable striking game. I think that will be the key here. Renan Barao by Decision.
Dallas Winston: Agree with Anton above. Wineland has polished boxing technique and a grasp of range that can damage, finish or cause fits for any bantamweight. His defense leaves a little to be desired, especially in the face of Barao's straighter/tighter strikes and the looming threat of a takedown, the latter of which seriously tips the scales toward the interim champ. Renan Barao by stunning strikes and pouncing submission.
T.P. Grant: I'm a fan of Wineland, he can wrestle, he can box, and his ground grappling is getting better. He has some power, but Barao is so good I have to favor the Brazilian. I don't think Wineland will let this get to the ground, but on the feet I feel like Barao has the superior striking. Renan Barao by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Wineland has very good boxing ... but that's part of the problem. When he strikes he attacks with boxing, and Barao by default is the superior striker. I don't think Barao is going to easily take down Wineland, but once he does his top game is world class and I think he gets in an arm-triangle choke. Renan Barao by submission, round 3.
Zane Simon: Wineland is a great standup fighter. He's got solid boxing, good power, great handspeed. But he's not much of a kicker, at which point he presents a very similar skill set to Michael McDonald. While McDonald was able to crack Barao a few times and showed that pure boxing is not the Brazilian's best asset he was eventually overwhelmed by a more dynamic kicking game and Barao's laserlike grappling offense. I expect this fight to be much the same. Renan Barao by Submission, Round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: If there's a path to a Wineland victory it's in his wrestling. I expect to see him try to clinch and take Barao down, using a strength advantage to control the fight. But, when the fists start flying, Wineland will be only too happy to get in that dogfight, and while he may have the KO power advantage, Barao is I think just too technical. Renan Barao by KO, round 3
David Castillo: Brutal fight for Wineland. Even though I think Wineland will look solid in the first three minutes, this fight is gonna get away from him very fast once he starts to lose steam while Barao is just getting warmed up. Renan Barao by RNC, round 3.
Staff picking Barao: Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Staff picking Wineland:
Anton Tabuena: As with most of Schaub's fights this will likely end in two ways, with him using his more technical skills to get him a victory, or his opponent managing to eventually land a big shot on his chin. Despite that embarrassing showing at Metamoris 2, Schaub does have an ever improving ground game to couple with his striking now, so I'm thinking he manages to last to the end of the fight this time. Brendan Schaub by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I actually think Meathead is way more technical than Schaub on the feet, and he's faster, more accurate and has a longer reach. I expect him to keep Schaub at range with straight, fast heaters and use his footwork and speed to hold his own well enough on the defensive end with clinching and grappling/scrambling. Plus, I give the edge in chin resilience to Mitrione, who seems to be his own worst enemy -- his Fight I.Q. and mental fortitude should be the biggest concerns. Matt Mitrione by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: You want to know how impressive Schaub's jiu-jitsu is? He's going to win with a submission that I've completely made up. Brendan Schaub by inverted mounted half-guard triangle gogoplata heel hook.
T.P. Grant: This is a tough fight to call, Schaub is the better wrestler, has some power, is a black belt in Schaubing, and is willing to do what it takes to win. But then there is the fact that Mitrione is a big, strong athlete who is actually kinda fluid on his feet for a Heavyweight, has some power, and Schaub is chinny. This fight ends two ways in my eyes, a god awful Schaub win that includes holding Mitrione down or Mitrione touching Schuab hard enough to put him out. I'll go with Schaub getting a safe win. Brendan Schaub by Decision.
Zane Simon: I may not like Matt Mitrione much as a person, but I've always been somewhat impressed with him as a fighter. He has great power, and surprising footspeed. Schaub is a better wrestler against fighters who absolutely have no takedown defense, but Mitrione's only losses have been to capable one punch KO artist Roy Nelson and expert grinder Cheick Kongo. Shaub may have the grind ability to hold down Lavar Johnson and the KO ability to tag a faded Cro Cop, but I don't see him having the overall game to win this one. Matt Mitrione by KO, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm with Grant that if Schaub wins, it's ugly. But I don't see him having the ability to consistently shut down Mitrione's offense, as Mitrione is bigger and has decent enough movement. I see Schaub struggling with Mitrione much as he struggled against Rothwell, with the heavier puncher eventually landing that big shot. Matt Mitrione by KO, round 1
David Castillo: I think Schaub might be getting some undue flak for his performance at Metamoris. Well, ok, maybe not. But still, he's a solid fighter who has really only lost through what I consider mental errors. He's still a threat on the feet so long as he doesn't overcommit, and it's quite possible he goes full throttle Metamoris in this one, leaving Mitrione little time to land strikes, which is the only way he wins. Brendan Schaub by Decision.
Staff picking Mitrione: Stephie, Zane, DSM, Tim, Fraser, Dallas
Staff picking Schaub: Grant, Anton, Mookie, David
Anton Tabuena: He gets to continue his impressive run. Constantinos Philippou by TKO.
Dallas Winston: Tough one to call, mostly because I don't have a good, reliable bead on Carmont or his ceiling. His range and grappling will be key here, as Costa will look to behead him with short combinations whilst darting out of contact range. A single takedown or ground spell will dramatically tilt things in Carmont's favor, so Costa has to be more consistently effective overall with little to no lapses. Costa Philippou by decision.
Mookie Alexander: This is a no-brainer. Philippou has the better boxing, has underrated takedown defense, and is in general just a better fighter who can probably keep the fight on the feet, dish out punishment and not get hit back in return. The winner here is unquestionably Francis Carmont by unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: It can be easily argued that Carmont has not legitimately won a round in his last two UFC fights, now he is getting in there against a legit Top 10 Middleweight with none of the usual weaknesses that Carmont usual goes to work with. Constantinos Philippou by KO, Round 1
Zane Simon: This has ugly written all over it. I have no desire whatsoever to pick Carmont to win this, but my gut is telling me three rounds of lay-n-pray for a decision win in which he does absolutely no damage. Francis Carmont by Split Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Carmont is no dummy on how to win fights, and the path here is clear - close the distance, get the clinch, don't let Philippou box. That's a gameplan he can implement, ugly though it may be. Francis Carmont by decision.
David Castillo: I agree with Fraser's analysis on this one, but I also think that unlike most of Carmont's opposition, Philippou will muster enough offense inside to make Carmont fill just uneasy enough to finally convince the judges that he's capable of losing a round that involves Carmont unsuccessfully pressing his opponent up against the cage. Constantinos Philippou by Decision.
Staff picking Carmont: Francis Carmont, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Philippou: Mookie, Grant, Stephie, Anton, DSM, Tim, David, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: Khabib has looked good against his opponents, but Healy done the same against clearly better opposition, and looked even more incredible when he got another step up in competition during his last win against a guy like Jim Miller. (Yes, I'm ignoring that No-Contest, because let's face it, smoking weed weeks before your fight doesn't and shouldn't really matter). Pat Healy by Decision.
Dallas Winston: I want to say Healy was losing early until his cyborg-like stalking finally wore Miller down. Conceptually, this is a two-dimensional fighter in Healy (takedowns, grappling) versus a three-dimensional terror in Nurmy, who also won't face the same significant size disadvantage that others have against Healy. Healy is phenomenal on the mat but just has more work to force the fight there, and Nurmy matches him much better on the ground that Healy matches him on the feet. Khabib Nurmagomedov by decision.
T.P. Grant: Great match, but rough for Healy coming off what was the biggest win of his career. Gets popped positive, losing his win bonus and other bonuses, and now he gets Nurmagomedov, a real killer. Nurmagomedov comes in looking to wreck guys and while Healy is a big, physical guy I think he gets out done in this match. Khabib Nurmagomedov by SAMBO!
Zane Simon: Healy is sort of the big fish at 155. Much like Gray Maynard he's a hulking lightweight who likes to grind away at opponents with a suffocating clinch/top game and underrated boxing. However I think his desire to lock horns with Nurmagomedov is going to spell disaster as there are few fighters who can put as much power and technique into their grappling offense as Khabib. I wouldn't be surprised to see Healy hulk through this one, but I'm going with the more dynamic fighter. Khabib Nurmagomedov by Unanimous Decision.
David Castillo: Gotta agree with the BW clan on this one. I feel like these are the fights Healy tends to lose; fights where not only is he not the underdog, but his opponent is quietly very good, while also presenting a very tough stylistic matchup. This should very very close though. Given Healy's losses (Anthony Torres??), I feel like he's a fighter who lives/dies by his mentality, and I don't believe his mind is in the best place. Khabib Nurmagomedov by Split Decision.
Staff picking Healy: Stephie, Anton
Staff picking Nurmagomedov: Grant, Zane, DSM, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Dallas Winston: Myles Jury is a wrecking machine. He's similar to the rare breed of fighters with excellent technique and fundamentals who still brawl like street-fighters (Diaz brothers, Penn, Cub Swanson), and Ricci, being a technical/finesse guy, won't be able to rely on that alone nor withstand Jury's raw ferocity and size. Myles Jury by TKO.
T.P. Grant: Remember when Ricci was an elite prospect? Well now is his 27-years-old and his best wins are over a teenage Jordan Mein and a guy whose name is almost Rory MacDonald. Not saying Ricci can't or won't turn it around, but he is facing a young up-and-coming killer in Jury. Myles Jury by Decision.
Zane Simon: Ricci is athletic, but he appears to have fallen into that "well rounded" fallacy that suggests he should be trying to be great in all areas and results in him being mediocre at everything. Jury has had brief stints of similarly poor judgement, but appears to be finding himself now as a rangy power striker. Ricci's not unhittable and as such I expect him to get hit. Myles Jury by TKO, Round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: Jury has quietly evolved into arguably the best prospect from the past handful of seasons of TUF. Ricci meanwhile has pretty much plateaued already, and that plateau is a few steps lower than where you can find Jury right now. Myles Jury by KO, round 1
Staff picking Jury: Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Staff picking Ricci:
Dallas Winston: Menjivar is one of the most respected and established vets in the game, but he's not devoid of questionable decisions and lackadaisical moments. Reis a solid pick-up and both tough and well rounded enough to pull off the upset here, but that will be predicated on whether Menjivar gives him a chance to do so. This one's worth a look for any chance-bettors out there. Ivan Menjivar by decision.
T.P. Grant: Love me some Wilson Reis and his sophisticated half guard game, but Ivan Menjivar is a tough due to fight on short notice. Menjivar does have a tendency to fight in ways that don't favor him, his striking is enough to get him a win here. Ivan Menjivar by TKO, Round 1.
Zane Simon: Bantamweight is such a stagnant division. The top 10 is well established, the gatekeepers are well established, and most of the prospects are having a terrible time making their way up the ranks. I'm going to go with the upset here, if for no other reason than that I'm tired of seeing the same few fighters "in the mix." Wilson Reis by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Menjivar: Grant, Stephie, Anton, DSM, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Staff picking Reis: Zane
Anton Tabuena: Picking him mostly because I'm hoping for more of those sick spinning ninja celebrations. Stephen Thompson by TKO.
Dallas Winston: Wonderboy showed some subtle but promising improvements in his last fight, and it seems he'd just have to stay out of Clements' wheelhouse and work his long-range hocus pocus. Stephen Thompson by decision.
Zane Simon: Both Clements and Thompson have a penchant for flashy, crazy shit. But Clements is coming off a long injury layoff, has trouble making weight, and is fighting a division above his natural weight class. Stephen Thompson may not be the wonder-prospect he was once dubbed as, but I think his variety and Clements willingness to eat punches will get him the win here. Stephen Thompson by Unanimous Decision in a welterweight gasfest.
Staff picking Clements: Grant, Stephie, DSM
Staff picking Thompson: Anton, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: Apart from having an excellent ground game, this former PXC star has been improving his stand up game as of late, and I think he will take this. Since it hasn't happened yet in his career though, I do hope he finally wins by Kimura this time. Dustin by Kimura.
Dallas Winston: I was blown away by Kimura's debut, sensing he has the potential to be a force. The way he chained together smooth submission/sweep attempts was a thing of beauty but, since Gagnon is well versed on the ground, this will be a test of his secondary skills. Dustin Kimura by decision.
Zane Simon: This really is a toss up fight. Gagnon is a skilled fighter with good power and a strong submission arsenal, but suspect cardio. Kimura, on the other hand, is very much a scrambler. He was impressive in his debut win over Chico Camus with an exciting three rounds of scrapping before locking in the late submission. I think that Kimura may have the ability to outlast Gagnon, but I think that Gagnon's ability to lock in something tight quickly will be too big a factor to overcome. Mitch Gagnon by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Gagnon: Grant, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Mookie, Fraser, David
Staff picking Kimura: Anton, DSM, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: I think it's pretty obvious that I'm a sucker for Traditional Martial Arts being applied really well in MMA. John Makdessi by TKO.
Zane Simon: I feel like I remember being surprised at how decent a fighter Renee Forte is, but I can't remember exactly why. I do however remember exactly why I think that Makdessi is a great fighter and since Forte is more likely to try and brawl than he is to try and outgrapple Makdessi I expect this to be a great fight for the Canadian to show off a little. John Makdessi by TKO, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Tae Kwon Do for the win! Yeah sure, Makdessi totally let me down against Hallman. And then against Njokuani. But screw that, TKD! Shotokan! Do your thing Makdessi. John Makdessi by decision
Staff picking Makdessi: Grant, Stephie, Anton, Zane, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, David, Dallas
Staff picking Forte: Tim
Anton Tabuena: *Tosses coin*
Zane Simon: Ronson is a decent prospect, and very much a skilled generalist. His striking is crisp, his grappling is decent, but I don't know that he has any one area where he can clearly dominate this fight. Prazeres, on the other hand is the owner of two things, a huge power double leg and a crushing top submission game. He's a strong lightweight, even if he's a bit short for 155 and presents a set of skills and a level of physicality that I don't think Ronson will be prepared to deal with. Michel Prazeres by Submission, Round 1.
Fraser Coffeen: Prazeres, clearly. I mean, c'mon, the guy holds a win over ANDERSON SILVA. I know because it's right there on his record. Michael Prazeres by sub, round 1
Staff picking Ronson: Stephie, Anton, Mookie, Dallas
Staff picking Prazeres: Grant, Zane, Tim, Fraser, David
Anton Tabuena: Bruce Leeroy, if you don't count that overturned win because of weed, has now won 4 of his past 5 bouts, with that only "loss" coming from a highly controversial decision. Who would've thought he'd be this good and successful coming out of TUF and those two losses as he entered the UFC? Alex Caceres by Decision.
Zane Simon: As Anton pointed out, Caceres is a sneaky good fighter, and someone who may have a future as a top contender at bantamweight if he can keep himself mentally checked into fights, and pass his drug tests. That should be easier to do now with the new marijuana regulations. I expect him to get by the over-performing Delorme, who offers a strong grappling game and not much else. Alex Caceres by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Delorme: Grant, Stephie, DSM, Tim, Mookie
Staff picking Caceres: Anton, Zane, Fraser, David, Dallas
Anton Tabuena: Polish buzzsaw, or 37-year-old Josh Barnett food? Daniel Omielanczuk by Submission.
T.P. Grant: NANDOR THE BARBARIAN! Nandor Guelmino by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Wow. This is a UFC fight. Daniel Omelette by submission.
Zane Simon: Please, please just give me one decent heavyweight prospect. Daniel Omielanczuk by KO.
Fraser Coffeen: Look, I'm not going to act like I really am some sort of expert on these guys, but from a bit of YouTube watching, here's what I can say: Mr. O has good leg kicks and a horrible tendency to keep his chin up. But he's also much bigger and should be able to control the ground game easily, as Nando is just not very coordinated on the mat. If Guelmino can counterpunch, he can get the KO. If not, O takedown, O smother, O sub. Daniel Omielanczuk by submission round 1
Staff picking Guelmino: Grant, Stephie, Dallas
Staff picking Omielanczuk: Anton, Zane, Mookie, Tim, DSM, Fraser, David
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