Connor Ruebusch: Consider this my second flip-flop on this fight. After giving Philippou a little too much credit for his takedown defense, and in no part whatsoever due to the convincing words of fellow BE-er Dallas Winston, I've now reanalyzed and decided that he just doesn't have the style to beat Rockhold. Rockhold has never struck me as the type of guy to set the world on fire, but he's so well-rounded where Philippou is sadly one-dimensional. Carmont is a special wrestler, but Philippou had nothing to offer by way of takedown defense in that fight, and Rockhold will be just as hard to reach on the feet as Carmont, who Philippou couldn't land one standing punch on. Rockhold's gonna work the body and legs with his kicks, throw a few slappy shots upstairs and, if the moment presents itself, finish off a tired and frustrated Philippou in the late rounds. Luke Rockhold by TKO, round 4.
Mookie Alexander: I think Philippou's power, while certainly there, is vastly overrated. He's got one clean KO to his name in the UFC (vs. Jared Hamman, whose striking defense is just not there), and the other TKO was the Tim Boetsch mess. Don't get me wrong, he's shown really good boxing in the past, but as a KO artist he's not there. Rockhold is a better overall striker, grappler, and is just a better all-around fighter. Maybe it's me, but I don't really see this being competitive. I'm a big believer in Rockhold and "meh" on Philippou, and Rockhold will get the win. Luke Rockhold by TKO, round 4.
T.P. Grant: Luke Rockhold is a better fighter than he showed in his 2 minutes and thirty odd seconds against Vitor Belfort. Rockhold is a very good grappler, a solid striker, and a very good athlete. Phillippou is a good athlete with serious power, but he has serious holes in his game and did not look good in his first since leaving Serra-Longo. Phillippou might land a big punch, but my bet is on the better overall fighter. Luke Rockhold by Decision.
Iain Kidd: Rockhold reminds me of Bisping in a lot of ways; he's very good at a lot of things, and doesn't have a glaring weakness for opponents to exploit. I think his all-around game will be too much for Costa. Luke Rockhold by Decision.
Zane Simon: I remember hearing somewhere that Philippou really doesn't like grappling if he can help it. Serra/Longo was the kind of environment that would push him to work on the things he liked least, but I have a feeling that his new camp will be a bit less dedicated to him. It's the home of Ryan LaFlare and Gian Villante, so he won't be without training partners, but it's not the same. If that's the case, Philippou without takedown defense is not the same fighter. His boxing is good but it's absolutely predicated on him being able to keep the fight standing at all times. He takes a while to find a good range and rhythm and if he's getting taken down I doubt he can put together more than one winning round. Luke Rockhold by decision.
Dallas Winston: Serra/Longo is an incomparable team but Bellmore is a legit school with solid coaches and fighters. But the camp change seems irrelevant when compared to the long list of stylistic advantages Rockhold will have: height, length, athleticism, excellent cage movement, a fully stocked kickboxing arsenal and underrated Jiu-Jitsu. Costa pretty much has to be in the phone booth to be effective and that's too limited of a window against such a multifarious opponent. Luke Rockhold by decision.
Staff picking Rockhold: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Mookie, Iain, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Philippou:
Connor Ruebusch: Larkin is great at middleweight, and probably would have been fighting at 185 his whole career were it not for the fact that he went twelve fights before his first loss. And neither of Larkin's even feel legitimate, since King Mo tested positive after outwrestling him en route to a ground n' pound finish, and Francis Carmont was somehow given the decision for failing to outwrestle him. I like Tavares, but if one thing strikes me about him, it is his unwillingness to pull the trigger. He seems far too content to ride out decisions, even when it's not at all clear that he's in the lead. This could be the fight wherein Larkin establishes himself as the new dark horse of the middleweight division. Lorenz Larkin by Unanimous Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Can't say I was too impressed with Tavares against Bubba McDaniel, a guy he should've ran through. I like Larkin and think middleweights suits him best, and he'll outstrike Tavares for the decision. Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Larkin struggles with guys who are better wrestlers than him, and that isn't Tavares. Lorenz Larkin by Decision.
Zane Simon: Connor's comments about Tavares failing to pull the trigger are dead on. He's a very underrated kickboxer, but he lets much lesser fighters hang around with him long enough to put himself in trouble. I was expecting him to have developed in between his last two fights, but he looked the same against Fukuda and McDaniel. Larkin is not a lesser fighter, and while he's also guilty of waiting a bit too much on his opponents, the strikes he throws tend to lend and land hard. He may not KO Tavares, I sort of doubt his knockout ability at the highest level, but I think he'll cruz by the Ray Sefo progeny unless Tavares has found some real killer instinct. Lorenz Larkin by Unanimous Decision.
Dallas Winston: I still think Tavares has a great upside based on the strides he's shown for being such a young and inexperienced guy. He's used surprising wrestling prowess to stay afoot against wrestlers but think it's time he uses it offensively to compensate for Larkin's highlight-reel striking. Larkin has the edge in diversity, technique and footwork but Tavares could draw from his power -- both physically and in his hands -- to even things out. Larkin isn't easy to take down but looked quite vulnerable underneath King Mo, so I think that's worth pursuing for Tavares, who should be surprisingly competitive and durable here. Lorenz Larkin by decision.
Staff picking Larkin: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Iain, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Tavares: Tim
Connor Ruebusch: Dillashaw is coached by Duane Ludwig. Mike Easton is coached by Lloyd Irvin. I would rather see Ludwig get a win any day than see Irvin achieve even the smallest bit of success. T.J. Dillashaw by Emotional Pick.
Mookie Alexander: I really do not enjoy most Mike Easton fights. The Brad Pickett fight was definitely fun, but when is Brad Pickett not fun? Dillashaw was competitive with a top 10 guy in Raphael Assuncao and had a case for a decision win, alas he fell short in Brazil. I think Dillashaw has already surpassed Easton in terms of skill, and he'll dominate him tomorrow night.T.J. Dillashaw by unanimous decision.
T.P. Grant: Mike Easton has a bad habit of fighting to level of his competition, while Dillashaw has a history of rising to the occasion. Easton had a lot of hype as a prospect but he really hasn't been progressing the way many hoped. Dillashaw has been improving pretty steadily, his mat work and scrambling is excellent, and he has a nose for the finish. This should be a fairly close fight, if Easton wins it is likely in terrible, wall-and-stall fashion and if Dillashaw wins it will be in some fun fashion. I will root for fun. T.J. Dillashaw by TKO, Round 3.
Zane Simon: Dillashaw definitely has some room for improvement, he has gotten better, but Assuncao provided a very real test for him, showing that he's still at the edges of the top ten. On the other hand, Assuncao blew Easton out of the water and did so with one arm. I felt like Easton had quite a bit of promise for quite a while, but all he's shown me over time is that he's got a lot of raw tools, but his overall game is very disconnected. That kind of fighting opens up a lot of possibilities for a well studied fighter like Dillashaw and I expect the Alpha Male product to blow Easton out of the water here. T.J. Dillashaw by KO, Round 2.
Staff picking Dillashaw: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Iain, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Easton:
Connor Ruebusch: These two men were set to fight each other once before, but things didn't work out. Then, they both fought on last years Fight for the Troops event, each securing an impressive finish. Brunson's last loss was a KO defeat against Jacare Souza after the BJJ phenom began taking his striking seriously. Romero, in turn, was knocked out by Feijao who, despite some inconsistent performances, is a very dangerous striker. Both Brunson and Romero are decorated wrestlers, but Romero has the more impressive record by far, capped off with an Olympic silver medal. All the same, Brunson has shown better submission savvy when it comes to MMA, while Romero has transformed entirely into a striker. This really is a difficult pick to make. Uhm... Yoel Romero by TKO, I guess, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: This is either going to be a fun fight with a finish or one of the worst things you'll watch on TV all year. I don't see Romero as a serious top 5-10 guy, but he's (currently) a good mid-level guy with powerful striking, and I see that being too much for Brunson. Yoel Romero via violence, round 2.
T.P. Grant: I think Romero is far from a perfect fighter, but he now has the ability to train full time and we saw his game take a big jump in terms of his standing striking. He has aways to go and not a lot of time to get there, but Brunson is pretty reliant on his wrestling and submission grappling, and that isn't going to work out for everyone. Yoel Romero by TKO, Round 3.
Zane Simon: A nagging doubt in my head says pick Brunson here. He really showed up against Brian Houston last time out and while Romero seems to be defying all odds of age, sooner or later that's going to stop. But the more intelligent parts of me are telling me that Brunson's performance against an exceptionally green and short notice Houston should not be taken as a great shift in style from a fighter once known as the Human Blanket. Romero can get a little inconsistent at times, but he stays on his feet well and he uses his amazing athleticism to great advantage consistently while striking. I expect that will be the difference maker here. Yoel Romero by KO, Round 1.
Staff picking Brunson: Stephie
Staff picking Romero: Connor, Grant, Iain, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Connor Ruebusch: John Moraga is difficult for me to read. He's shown fantastic boxing at times, and terrible boxing at others. He's shown brilliant grappling at times, but it's difficult for me to shake the four and a half rounds of wrestling and jiu jitsu schooling he received from the flyweight champ. He also faced his first loss in a long time last time out, and he's returning against an unexpected early-UFC-career standout in Dustin Oritz. Still, I have trouble seeing exactly where Ortiz beats Moraga, and if we do get a chance to see some of that slick boxing in the pocket, Moraga should take this. John Moraga by Unanimous Decision.
T.P. Grant: Ortiz scored a pretty solid upset in his last outing, despite getting away with a series of illegal strikes he got away with. Moraga is a legit upper tier Flyweight and he should take this. John Moraga by Submission, Round 1.
Zane Simon: Dustin Ortiz is a much better wrestler than I gave him credit for, and John Moraga is not nearly as good as people think he is, particularly in his counter wrestling. I still think Ortiz tends to check out in fights and doesn't always phase shift well, but there could be an upset brewing here. I see an opportunity for Ortiz and I'm going to take it. Dustin Ortiz by Split Decision.
Staff picking Moraga: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Iain, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Connor, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Ortiz: Zane
Connor Ruebusch: This one's interesting. Miller will likely have trouble getting this to the ground, as he typically only outgrapples those who consent to grapple him. Then again, Sicilia spent plenty of time in the open guard of Godofredo Pepey in his last fight before KOing him, so Miller might just having a willing victim on his hands, except... you know, one that's trying to knock him out. Two fun but inconsistent guys here... Cole Miller by Split Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Oh no. A Cole Miller fight. I swear I never pick these ones correctly. I definitely want to pick Sicilia just on the possibility of KOing Cole, but I'll side with Miller using his slick grappling. Cole Miller by submission, round 1.
T.P. Grant: Cole Miller mark here, so yeah... Cole Miller by Chi Blast KO, Round 1.
Iain Kidd: I see this playing out in a very similar way to Miller vs. Manny, which Miller should have got the decision in. Doing enough on the feet to not let Sicilia land a big bomb, and slick enough on the ground to keep Sicilia guessing. Cole Miller by Decision.
Zane Simon: What's that, Cole Miller just won a fight?... Guess that means he's got a loss coming. Really, though, there's no way to trust Cole Miller in a fight. He's equally willing to give away rounds as dominate them and to get soundly outstruck as he is to outgrapple opponents. Add to that that Sicilia appears to have turned the violence up to 11 for his last couple fights and I could see this getting messy early and not giving Miller a lot of opportunities late. Sam Sicilia by Decision.
Fraser Coffeen: Such a tough one here. Miller should be able to use his reach and grappling to nullify Sicilia's power and get the W, but the key word there is SHOULD. I suspect instead he decides to duke it out with the more heavy handed Sicilia and pays the price for it. Sam Sicilia by KO round 1
Staff picking Miller: Connor, Grant, Mookie, Iain, DSM, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Sicilia: Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Dallas
Connor Ruebusch: I feel like I'm supposed to pick Brenneman here, so I will. Spaniard by Unanimous Decision.
T.P. Grant: Dariush was becoming something of a name on the sport jiu jitsu circuit before about a year ago he announced his retirement from grappling and that he was switching to MMA. He hasn't quite stuck to that, but he is training at King's MMA and has been adding good ground striking to his game and some sneaky knees to his clinch game. On the ground he is clearly talented and aggressive. This should be a fun fight, as Dariush is far from a finished product and Dariush seems to rely a little too much on power for his takedowns, and while his striking is coming along it isn't quite a weapon yet. Brenneman should win this one, but I expect it to be competitive in stretches and if it hits the mat for an extended period of time all bets are off. Charlie Brenneman by Decision.
Zane Simon: This is such a weird fight. Dariush is a super green talent. He's a talent, without question, but has only fought the canniest of cans in his still unbeaten career. He has actual skill as a BJJ competitor, however. He's about as legit as the come without a big handful of world titles to his name. Brenneman however, has faced better competition for longer and there's no reason he shouldn't win this. As T.P. says, all bets are off on the mat, but everywhere else this is Brenneman's fight to lose. Charlie Brenneman by Decision.
Dallas Winston: For whatever it's worth, I believe Dariush is a trainer at Kings MMA and had a decent showing against Kron Gracie on the mats. Also, Brenneman has been at lightweight since leaving the UFC and tore through four-straight with three subs. Brenneman's BJJ knowledge is sound for a wrestler and I think that'll play out as a defensive advantage in top control. Charlie Brenneman by decision.
Staff picking Brenneman: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Iain, Zane, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Dariush:
Connor Ruebusch: Honestly, I'm having that hard a time making this pick. Edwards is one tough bastard, but he's always shown all the problems of a Jorge Gurgel fighter: willing but unrefined striking, decent submissions that necessitate he's all too willing to put himself in poor positions to attempt, and seemingly no gameplan whatsoever. Nijem isn't great (in fact I kind of thought he was Myles Jury when I first saw this fight--oops), but I'm not too impressed by my hometown product, even if I have seen him do some pretty cool Greco stuff at a Muay Thai clinch seminar. Ramsey Nijem by Unanimous Decision.
Mookie Alexander: Oh dear. Justin Edwards by submission, round 2.
T.P. Grant: Ugh, TUF chaff... Justin Edwards by Decision.
Zane Simon: Both Nijem and Edwards are sort of one-skill fighters. Nijem relies on his decent wrestling and unpredictability, while Edwards is more the hard nosed opportunist. And while Nijem looked terrible last time out, eating a bevy of shots on his way to a brutal KO loss, Edwards doesn't really have the striking to take advantage of Nijem's throw anything style. I could be wrong, few fighters are as capable of giving it all away as Nijem, but I have to think he'll confound Edwards on his way to a win. Ramsey Nijem by Unpredictability.
Staff picking Edwards: Stephie, Grant, Iain, DSM, Mookie, Fraser, Anton
Staff picking Nijem: Connor, Zane, Tim, Dallas
Connor Ruebusch: Vallie-Flagg totally should have lost to Yves Edwards, and I'm gonna keep picking against him until I see justice done. Elias Silverio by Unanimous Decision.
Zane Simon: Oh man, both IVF and Silverio are decision machines. They're both principally strikers, and both have very little power. This has ugly fight written all over it... IVF is on a three split decision run, all wins, all split decisions. He's a Jackson fighter, so he's almost certainly going to come in better prepared than Silverio, but I think Silverio is going to break the streak and grab a split of his own. By dint of slightly better Muay Thai, Elias Silverio by Split Decision.
Staff picking Silverio: Connor, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Vallie-Flagg: Stephie, Grant, Iain, Mookie, DSM, Fraser, Anton, Dallas
Brian Houston vs. Trevor Smith
T.P. Grant: Two guys who have looked less than awesome in their recent fights. Smith is fairly slick on the ground and Houston isn't. Trevor Smith by Submission, Round 1.
Zane Simon: Smith is the epitome of the DW Tough Bastard. He may not win every fight he's in, but he's guaranteed to make it an ugly scrap. Houston, for his sins, is still only 5 fights into his career. His UFC experience has so far consisted of getting blasted in the first round, and I gotta think that trend continues. Trevor Smith by Sub, Round 1.
Staff picking Smith: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Iain, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Houston:
Connor Ruebusch: Did you know that, before his UFC debut, VInc Pichel knocked out the "Hello Japan" guy? Both he and Whitely have faced a mix of opponents, some fresh prospects, some veterans on losing streaks. Both faced very tough, well-rounded grapplers in their first UFC fights. I think Whitely has the toughness to show Pichel the door, though. Garret Whiteley by TKO, round 2.
Mookie Alexander: Can I be frank and say that as good as the main card is (for an FS1 card), these prelims are wretched? There's hardly anything here worth my undivided attention. I can't believe Pichel is still in the UFC. Oh well. Garrett Whiteley by decision.
Zane Simon: Is Garett Whiteley a better striker than Vinc Pichel? Almost certainly. Is Garett Whitely a UFC caliber athlete? Almost certainly not. Vinc Pichel by Submission.
Fraser Coffeen: I liked Pichel on TUF - not a tremendous fighter, but the kind of gritty, hard-nosed guy that can do well on the prelims. He had a brutal debut fight in the Octagon and, understandably, lost, but I think he has a bit more to show. Vinc Pichel by TKO round 2.
Dallas Winston: The "Hello Japan Guy" is a pretty legit fighter who beat a prime Rich Clementi on his way up. Just sayin'. Vinc Pichel by decision.
Staff picking Pichel: Stephie, Grant, Iain, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Whiteley: Connor, Mookie
Anton Tabuena: Not really confident on this pick since he does need more seasoning, but it looks like I'll be the only one picking the PXC champ. Louis Smolka by Decision.
Zane Simon: This is going to be a weird fight. Smolka, while huge at 125, is not a great range striker and has shown some vulnerability to the body. Alptekin Ozkilic for all his impressive work against Uyenoyama, very little of it involved successful striking. I still think Ozkilic is the better athlete and the better fighter, but Smolka's size could wreak havoc with his takedown game. Alptekin Ozkilic by TKO, Round 3.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm just not picking a guy called "Da Last Samurai". In the immortal words of Dean Ambrose: Nope. Alptekin Ozkilic by TKO, Round 1
Staff picking Ozkilic: Stephie, Connor, Grant, Iain, Mookie, Zane, DSM, Fraser, Tim, Anton, Dallas
Staff picking Smolka: Anton