Tim Burke: Wrestling. Ryan Bader by decision.
Anton Tabuena: Unlike most people, I actually think Bader has a chance to make this ugly and pull off a win. That being said, even if Glover hasn't exactly looked like the world beater and title contender that everyone hypes him out to be, stylistically he's still the logical pick for this fight. Glover Teixeira by TKO.
Zane Simon: Ryan Bader is better than the bottom twenty light heavyweights in the UFC, and better than 95% of the light heavyweights in the the world. He really is. He has exceptional strength, decent power, and a strong wrestling base. But against those top ten fighters he's just too slow to get takedowns effectively and his striking isn't polished enough to out strike any top fighters. Unless he can find a way to grind Teixeira into the cage for three rounds I can't see him getting this one. Glover Teixeira by TKO, Round 3.
Mookie Alexander: The whole "Maldonado rocked Teixeira" thing is not that much different from people questioning Rory MacDonald's chin based on a few good shots Che Mills landed. Teixeira is the superior grappler, striker,and submission specialist. Does Bader have a chance? Sure, but only a small one based on either landing one hell of a right hand or grinding Teixeira out for at least 3 rounds. I don't see either one of those things happening. Glover Teixeira by KO, round 2.
David Castillo: Seems like a pretty cut and dry fight. While I don't think Teixeira will look as dominant as predicted, he will win. It's a very good matchup for him stylistically. Bader doesn't get enough credit for being a solid LHW, but ‘credit' won't translate into victory. Glover Teixeira by Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: The last person I said was completely unimpressive in a pick was Dustin Poirier, and he just dismantled Erik Koch with relative ease, so what the hell do I know? Still, Ryan Bader is another one of those guys. Both Teixeira and Bader can hit hard, and neither is a particularly skilled boxer. But Teixera has far better jiu jitsu as well as decent takedowns, so I see him dominating Bader in every aspect of the game by doing what he does best and mixing it up. Glover Teixera by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Bader: Tim
Staff picking Teixeira: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, DSM, David, Dallas, Zane, Connor, Anton, Fraser
Anton Tabuena: Okami has not only faced much better fighters in his career, but I also think the style match up favors him. He isn't likely to lose the striking battle or get blasted on the feet, and I also think he can stuff majority of those takedowns to take a decision. Yushin Okami by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: I'm not comfortable picking Jacare in this one (even though I will). As hyped as Jacare has been, what is his best win? A close decision over Tim Kennedy? There's dominating Ed Herman and Derek Brunson and then there is Yushin Okami. As stylistically unpleasant as Okami's fights tend to be, it's effective enough for the Japanese fighter to get the wins. He has a good jab, very good takedown defense, and I don't think he's been submitted. For Jacare to win this he needs to at least be more competent on the feet than Okami, which could go a long way into at least winning a kickboxing battle for 15 minutes. This is a close close fight to predict, and ultimately I'll go with Jacare by unanimous decision.
David Castillo: I still can't tell who this is a bad matchup for. I feel like Okami has improved enough on the feet to make Jacare uncomfortable. But I also think Jacare has improved enough on the feet to make Okami uncomfortable as well. Decisions, decisions....Ronaldo Souza by Decision.
Zane Simon: I feel like there's some serious "I hope that Jacare wins, because it will keep things interesting" picking going on here. The truth is, this is exactly the type of fight that Okami tends to look great in, a contest against a fighter who can strike ok, and grapple (in this case really well) but can't wrestle. Okami is a big, strong workhorse of a fighter who can keep people on the end of his jab, frustrate them, and then grind away their hope. Unless Jacare can seriously hurt Okami standing he's going to find himself as the lesser half of a point kickboxing battle. Yushin Okami by Unanimous Decision.
Connor Ruebusch: I tend to pick against Okami a lot, and it's cost me on more than one occasion. The dude is a spoiler, through and through, and I'm almost never confident picking him to lose anymore. But Jacare is becoming a really well-rounded martial artist. His BJJ is obviously some of the best in the sport, and I don't agree that he has poor wrestling. His striking leaves something to be desired, but it's coming along. And, like Zane said, I'd really like Jacare to win because it will improve the interest of the entire middleweight division which, in the wake of Anderson Silva's decapitation, is quickly becoming a weight class stacked with exciting contenders. Jacare by Submission, Round 3.
Staff picking Okami: Dallas, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Jacare: Stephie, Grant, DSM, David, Mookie, Connor, Tim, Fraser
Anton Tabuena: Easy. Team Alpha Male gets to continue their impressive streak this year. Joe Benavidez by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: What was that about squash matches benefiting the Brazilian fighter? Benavidez won't be taken down and he's the vastly superior striker soooooo .... Joseph Benavidez by TKO, round 2.
David Castillo: Joseph Benavidez is a bad matchup for most fighters in his division, and Formiga is no different. Formiga's a stud, and will remain a veteran in the UFC for years to come, but handling Benavidez is beyond his abilities as a fighter. Joseph Benavidez by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I remember watching Formiga when he was the no. 1 flyweight in the world and thinking, "Is this it? Back control makes you the worlds best flyweight?" The answer of course is yes and no. It did at the time, it doesn't now. Formiga is a decent fighter, and one who still has a lot of ability to develop, but his UFC run has been something of a wakeup call for those who thought he had any real business as the best man under 135. I'm looking for Benavidez to take the opportunity to show off a little of his new striking and brutalize Formiga for a first round KO. Joseph Benavidez by KO, Round 1.
Connor Ruebusch: Alpha Male gonna Alpha Male. The number two flyweight will cement his status as number two flyweight against the man from a bygone era, probably tearing Formiga's head off in the process. Joseph Benavidez by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Benavidez: Stephie, Mookie, Grant, DSM, David, Dallas, Zane, Connor, Tim, Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Formiga:
Zane Simon: This will be a great opportunity to see if Hallmann can drop a division. He says he cuts from 185 so that there's no way he could ever make featherweight, but this fight may make him rethink the boldness of that statement. I expect him to look valiant, not winning, but valiant. Francisco Trinaldo via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Hallmann:
Staff picking Trinaldo: Stephie, Grant, DSM, David, Mookie, Dallas, Zane, Connor, Tim, Anton, Fraser
Zane Simon: Expect this fight to go nothing like you think it will. Troeng has a habit of surprising doubters. He didn't show his best stuff on TUF 18, but he has a nice distance Muay Thai counter-striking approach. He phase shifts by throwing, tripping, and dragging people from the clinch when they try and close distance and is incredibly aggressive with ground and pound. Natal, on the other hand, has trouble staying focused. He's a great submission grappler with technical top control and he has the athleticism to stay competitive on the feet, but he tends to get overconfident and passive in fights. It'll cost him here. Tor Troeng by TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Natal: Stephie, Grant, DSM, David, Dallas, Connor, Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Troeng: Mookie, Zane, Tim
Zane Simon: Vinicius has worked his way down from featherweight to flyweight looking to find the point where his size will make up for his lack of skill. I think sooner or later the UFC is going to realize that that won't actually happen ever. I'm betting that happens here. Ali Bagautinov by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Bagautinov: Mookie, Dallas, Zane, Connor, Tim, Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Vinicius: Stephie, Grant, DSM
David Castillo: I can't remember what I said during my "prognostications" (which are increasingly becoming synonymous with "arbitrary guesses"), but I'm pretty sure I favored Arantes' high kick to Souza's one punch at a time strategy. Felipe Arantes by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: I really like Edmilson Souza, he's got a nice flashy boxing game that I think will translate nicely as he continues to develop in the UFC. That said, I doubted Arantes' technical mettle last time out and got burned royall. I'm not making that mistake again even if I don't expect him to look as dominant here. Felipe Arantes by Unanimous Decision.
Staff picking Arantes: Stephie, Grant, DSM, David, Mookie, Dallas, Zane, Connor, Tim, Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Souza:
Junior Hernandez vs.
Zane Simon: It's been awhile since a hot prospect has come out of the Miletich Fight System, but I'd say Hernandez is the real thing. He started out as something of a sloppy brawler, but the last couple years have seen him really put a lot of polish on his striking skills and become a very technical fighter. He's all stand up, but so is Martins and Martins is still in the un-polished brawler stage. Martin may have just dropped from lightweight to bantam, Hernandez was fighting at light just last year I believe, so I don't think that will make much difference. Junior Hernandez by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Hernandez: Grant, DSM, David, Mookie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Martins: Stephie, Dallas, Connor, Tim, Anton
Zane Simon: I keep thinking that I've gotten to the last fight on the card, and I keep being wrong. This is not a fight card big on names. Silverio is a Muay Thai striker that likes to work primarily from the clinch. Zeferino is something of a jack of all trades who strikes from the outside and has an under-polished, but aggressive submission game. I think Silverio's desire to close distance will end up costing him takedowns where Zeferino will probably snag something surprising. Joao Zeferino by Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Silverio: Stephie, Grant, DSM, Mookie
Staff picking Zeferino: Dallas, Zane, Connor, Anton, Tim, Fraser
David Castillo: Jorge won't win his 6th consecutive fight by RNC because Wisnieswki is actually a decent grappler (despite being an Aoki punchline), but he will win his 7th consecutive fight. Ivan Jorge by Decision.
Zane Simon: As Castillo said above, Wisniewski is actually a decent grappler, and he's bigger, and he has more fights against high level competition. He may have lost them all, but I think this has kickboxing match written all over it. And it's a kickboxing match I think Wisniewski wins. Keith Wisniewski by Split Decision.
Staff picking Jorge: Stephie, Grant, DSM, David, Mookie, Dallas, Connor, Tim, Anton, Fraser
Staff picking Wisniewski: Zane
Zane Simon: I wish I could trust one of these fighters more. They both look like good young prospects. Spence has solid technical boxing and while he hasn't shown off a ton of power he may have the size at welterweight to effectively sprawl and brawl. Villefort is one of those fighters who's pretty decent at a lot of things and hyper aggresive, but not great at anything. He gets hit a lot when he strikes and he grapples extremely aggressively but often seems to give up position for sub opportunities. I still think that aggression will make the difference here and he'll overwhelm Spencer for the rear naked choke. Yuri Villefort by Submission (RNC), Round 2.
Staff picking Spencer: Stephie, Grant, DSM
Staff picking Villefort: Mookie, Dallas, Zane, Connor, Tim, Anton, Fraser